Social Security CasesAREAS OF EXPERTISE
It is critical that questions regarding your particular case be addressed by an attorney who practices this area of the law. My office does not charge for a personal consultation. Attorney fees are only awarded based on a percentage of the recovery of benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions and the Answers
- 1. How many types of programs related to disabilities benefits may be available from the Social Security Administration? Two – social security disability insurance benefits and supplemental disability benefits.
- 2. What are Social Security Disability Insurance benefits? (SSD) The federal government provides for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits when a person has paid into the social security system, (1) has met the earnings requirements of the law and (2) it is determined that he/she has been/will be DISABLED from substantial work for one continuous year or more.
- 3. What are Supplemental Security Insurance benefits? (SSI) this is a needs-based program. A person may be eligible if (1) he/she has never worked, or has earnings in recent years that have been low enough to result in a small social security benefit, or no benefits at all and (2) it is determined that he/she has been/will be DISABLED from substantial work for one continuous year or more.
NOTE: MINORS who are found to be disabled under the social security rules and regulations for at least one continuous year or more, can also be eligible for these benefits.
- 4. Can a person be eligible to receive benefits from both programs? Yes. This can occur if the person has very low earnings during the prior years before he/she became disabled.
- 5. What is the basic procedure?
- A. The first step is to file the INITIAL CLAIM for SSD and/or SSI at the local Social Security Office. Usually, after a few months your claim will be denied and you will receive a denial letter. Do not get discouraged and do not try to make sense of the decision. Contact the Social Security Office to get the appeal forms.
- B. The second step is to APPEAL THE INITIAL DENIAL WITHIN 60 DAYS (plus 5 days for mailing). You will be requesting a RECONSIDERATION of your application. Usually, after another few months you will be denied again and you will receive a second denial letter. Again, do not get discouraged and do not try to make sense of this decision. Contact the social security office to get the appeal forms.
- C. The third step is to APPEAL THE SECOND DENIAL WITHIN 60 DAYS (plus 5 days for mailing). You will be requesting a HEARING. It can take 8-14 months or so, to be able to present your case to an Administrative Law Judge. THIS WILL BE YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT YOUR ENTIRE MEDICAL EVIDENCE AND TO PROVIDE DETAILED TESTIMONY RELATED TO YOUR CLAIM THAT YOU ARE MEDICALLY DISABLED FROM PERFORMING SUBSTANTIAL EMPLOYMENT.
- 6. When should a person request the assistance of an attorney? AN ATTORNEY CAN ASSIST YOU AT ANY STEP IN THE PROCESS. It is critical that you make contact with an attorney regarding your interest in pursuing any of the SSD and SSI benefits from the very outset. The attorney can provide detailed information regarding the requirements that must be met to acquire any benefits. The attorney can review the existing medical evidence and advise whether other type of medical testing will be necessary to prove your case.
NOTE: It is likely that with or without an attorney, your case will be denied at the first two stages. However, the attorney can make a huge difference in making sure that your case is well prepared, both in terms of the medical evidence and the testimony, once you proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you win and get benefits, the attorney will usually get a set percentage of past benefits due. Therefore, it is better that you take advantage of having an attorney assist you from the very outset, since the attorney fees will likely be the same.
- 7. If you lose at the hearing stage, can you appeal the decision? YES. However, the odds of prevailing at this stage are substantially reduced. At this stage there is a question whether to appeal the hearing decision or just begin a new application. It is critical that you discuss this matter with an attorney or social security administration representative before making a decision.
The process of obtaining SSD and/or SSI benefits can be extremely frustrating and disheartening. An attorney can be instrumental in the development and preparation of your case so that your chances of acquiring these benefits are increased dramatically.
For further information call the law office of Sylvia Lopez at (661) 324-5911.