Most people know that successfully applying for Social Security Disability is extraordinarily difficult. As of 2019, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the ten-year average rate for successful initial applications for disability was slightly less than one in three; even with repeat applications, the final approval rate is less than two in three. Whatever the reasons for this poor initial success fate, it is clear that the services of a skilled Social Security Disability attorney will bring a higher likelihood of success for your claim.
You should also be aware that another program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is also offered through the SSA. It provides cash benefits to disabled persons who have low income and resources. There is no requirement for prior work history to be eligible for SSI benefits.
How Do I Qualify to Apply for Social Security Disability?
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must meet two essential requirements. To do so, you must:
Be insured; that is, you have to have worked long enough to be covered by SSDI or meet one of the exceptions:
- You are an adult who had never worked because of a disability that began before you were 22
- You are under age 19 and may qualify for benefits if a parent is collecting SSDI or retirement benefits or is deceased
- If your spouse or former spouse is qualified for benefits or qualified before dying, you may be able to collect those benefit
Have a qualifying disability, as defined by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) five criteria. Those criteria are:
- Are you working now? If you are currently working and are making more than $1,310 a month, the SSA will usually determine that you are not disabled. If you are not employed or make less than the maximum amount, the SSA will move on to apply the additional four criteria to your application.
- Is your condition “severe”? To be considered severe, your condition must significantly limit basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering, that you can perform. This limitation of your activities must have been in place for at least 12 months prior to the application. If your answer is yes, the SSA moves on to consider question 3.
- Is your disability one of the listed conditions? The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions for various bodily systems that are defined as sufficiently severe to preven gainful employment. Among the kinds of conditions on this list are cancer, legal blindness, and serious heart problems. If your condition is not on the list, further review is required. In addition, at this stage, the SSA may handle your claim with one of its two expedited approval initiatives for cases, such as leukemia or ALS, that are virtually always approved and, alternatively, for cases in which SSA computer screening shows have a high probability of success.
- Can you do the work you did before? If you can, then you aren’t disabled. If you can no longer do that specific kind of work, the SSA’s analysis proceeds to the final step.
- Is there any kind of work you can do? The SSA considers your medical condition, age, education, past work history, and any transferable skills you may have to see if there might be other work you can do. If the SSA decides you can do other work, your application will be denied. If they decide that you can’t, you will receive benefits.
What Benefits Do I Get If I Am Approved?
The average SSDI payment ranges from approximately $800 to $1,800 per month, with a maximum benefit of $3,011. The coverage is somewhat less than half of your pre-disability income. Benefits may also be available for your children. You will also be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program previously known as food stamps.
What Makes It So Hard to Get Approved?
The SSA often denies even qualified claims. Among the more common reasons for these denials are:
- Failure to cooperate with SSA – If the SSA makes requests of you, it is vital that you respond promptly. This responsiveness to the SSA is one area where using an experienced SSDI attorney can be critical to your success. The attorney’s understanding of and familiarity with the application process can contribute greatly to the potential success of your application.
- Insufficient medical evidence – The documentation that supports your application must be strong. A skilled SSDI attorney will understand how to put this documentation together effectively.
- Prior denials – In a distinction that a lawyer will probably understand better than you, you should not file a new application if you are denied. Rather, you should appeal the denial.
- Too much income – As explained above, if you make too much money, you aren’t, in the SSA’s view, disabled at all, or at least not too disabled to work.
- Failure to follow medical advice – If you ignore your doctor’s advice or have long gaps in your treatment record, the SSA believes that either you are not disabled or you are not giving them sufficient information to evaluate your claim.
How Do I Appeal a Denial?
If your application is denied, you may request an appeal within 60 days after the denial. There are four kinds of appeal: reconsideration, hearing before an administrative law judge, review by the SSA appeals council, or a review in federal court. Your denial letter will guide you on which level of appeal to choose.
How Can Using a Lawyer Help?
An experienced SSDI attorney will be able to help you answer the criteria questions correctly and convincingly. This attorney’s skill will also help you avoid the mistakes that can make it so difficult to be approved. The attorney will be able to assist with putting your application together, making sure that all required records are in the file, and correcting any mistakes. Further, if it becomes necessary, an SSDI attorney can represent you at a hearing to argue on behalf of your application. Statistically, your chances of a successful application increase when you have professional representation.
The social security disability lawyers at Iscoe Law Firm – serving Miami, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Fort Lauderdale, and Broward County – stand ready to help. We’re here for you, and because we care, we are available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. If you or a loved one needs help applying for social security disability benefits, don’t wait to contact us online or call us at 800-800-6500 today.