Filing for Social Security Disability benefits can be complicated. Our firm understands how this process works, what evidence you may need, and what it takes to get you the benefits you deserve in a timely manner.
If you live in Forest City, a Social Security Disability lawyer from our office would like to help you with your claim. By retaining our services, you do not have to worry about collecting evidence, meeting with the Social Security Administration (SSA), or navigating the appeals process by yourself.
An Overview Of Social Security Disability Programs
You may be entitled to draw Social Security Disability benefits if you are disabled. Social Security offers two separate benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
There are medical and non-medical requirements for each program. The type of condition you have, as well as how much money you earn, will determine which type of benefit you should apply for.
Social Security Disability Insurance
This is a program that workers fund when a portion of their earnings is withheld and paid into the Social Security trust fund. If you are then forced to stop working due to a severe physical or mental impairment, you continue to be “insured” for a period of time after you stop working.
SSDI covers those who:
- Are considered legally disabled or blind
- Have worked at a qualifying job for a minimum number of years (the minimum depends on how old you are)
- Have paid enough Social Security taxes to qualify for the program
- Are the spouse, child, or disabled adult child of someone who qualifies for SSDI
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has more information on how to qualify for SSDI. In addition, free consultations are available at our office. A team member would be happy to review your case and determine the best way to help you.
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a program designed to help disabled individuals who do not have a qualifying work record or whose “insured” period has expired. Per the SSA, you could be eligible if:
- You have a very limited income
- You do not have other assets on which you can fall back
- You are retirement age or older
- You are under retirement age, but you have a severe disability or long-term illness that keeps you from making more than the maximum allowable income
The “under retirement age” category includes severely disabled children who cannot receive a regular education and who are not expected to be able to support themselves financially when they grow up.
Medicare And Medicaid
Depending on the type of benefit that you are qualified to receive, you may be entitled to Medicare and/ or Medicaid medical insurance benefits to help cover your healthcare costs. Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can help determine if you qualify and, if so, how this affects your ability to file for Social Security Disability.
Do I Qualify For SSDI Or SSI Benefits?
The SSA considers many factors when determining eligibility, including:
- Work history
- Education level
- Assets, income, and other resources
- The severity and limiting effects of your physical and/or mental impairments
That being said, you may be eligible if:
- You have a severe impairment that has kept you from being able to work for at least 12 months, or
- You have a severe impairment that will more than likely keep you from working for at least 12 months in the near future, or
- Your condition is expected to result in your death
More details about what you need to qualify for Social Security Disability are included below.
The SSA will want to see extensive proof of where and how much you have (or have not) worked, such as:
- Lists of employers
- Tax filings and other information about wages and benefits earned
- The dates when you started and stopped work at each job, including the date you stopped working due to your disability
We can help you collect all of the evidence you require, as determined by which type of benefit you apply for.
You must have sufficient work credits in the years preceding your disability to be covered or “insured” for the program. These credits work like this:
- You accrue credits by making Social Security contributions from your earnings.
- The more you contribute, the more credits you earn.
- Working “under the table” or for cash that is not reported to the IRS will not assist you in earning work credits.
The Social Security Administration will calculate your work credits and determine your insured status. However, this process is very complicated. It is not unheard of for Social Security to miscalculate claimants’ work credits. If this happens to you, our firm will contact the SSA and ask them to reconsider their decision.
No work credits are required to qualify for SSI. However, there are limitations to the allowed amount of income and resources that you have. They may vary based on:
- Whether you are single or married
- What types of assistance, refunds, or other benefits you receive (some do not count towards the maximum allowable income level, and some do)
- Where you currently live
Income And Resource Limitations
The SSI program is designed to assist those who do not have the resources to assist themselves. Thus, they place a limit on your monthly household resources and income.
For example, your countable resources cannot exceed more than $2,000 in value for an individual and $3,000 in value for a couple. Countable resources include things you own – in other words, your assets. However, there are several assets that do not count, including:
- Real or personal property that you use as your residence
- One vehicle
- Household goods
- Personal effects
Countable income does include:
- Any money earned from working regularly
- Your spouse’s income
- Any other benefits you draw
- Other in-kind benefits, such as food or shelter
Calculating your countable income is a complex process. It is very important to get this calculation right, as it will determine your eligibility for SSI benefits. The team at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC knows how to run these calculations accurately.
Both the SSDI and SSI programs use the same standard when determining medical eligibility: the Social Security definition of disability.
As defined by SSA, disability is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
The list of qualifying disabilities is slightly different for adults and children. Examples of qualifying disabilities for adult applicants include but are not limited to:
- Cardiovascular conditions, such as chronic heart failure or disease
- Musculoskeletal conditions, such as an amputated limb or severe back problems
- Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
- Immune conditions, such as lupus or HIV
- Skin conditions, such as severe burns or scar tissue
- Hearing, speech, or visual impairments
- Certain types of cancer
No matter what type of disability you have, it must be well-documented by:
- An official diagnosis from a qualified medical professional
- Medical records of your treatment for your physical and mental conditions
- Expert testimony confirming the impairments keep you from being able to perform not only your past work but also other work that is generally available in the economy
Partial or short-term disabilities do not qualify you for Social Security Disability. You must have a total, long-term disability and be able to prove this disability to the SSA’s satisfaction.
How Much Could I Receive Through SSDI In Forest City?
A Forest City Social Security Disability lawyer from our firm can assess your situation to help determine the monthly amount you would receive from SSA. The amount you receive depends on factors like your:
- Household income
- Work history
- Qualifying benefits
For 2022, the average SSDI payment for disabled workers in North Carolina is $1,358 a month. The maximum monthly amount for individuals in the state is $3,345.
You can qualify for the maximum amount if you paid into the program throughout your working years and reached full retirement age before drawing benefits.
How Much Could I Receive Through SSI In Forest City?
You may also qualify for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits on a monthly basis in Forest City. North Carolina offers individuals a maximum of $841 a month through SSI in 2022. Couples can receive up to $1,261 monthly.
Our team can review the facts of your case and determine the amount of benefits you are eligible to receive. Our disability attorneys are passionate advocates for the hard-working people of Forest City and will fight to get you the SSDI or SSI benefits you need.
How Do I File A Claim For Social Security Disability?
If you are over 18, there are a number of ways you can file a claim for disability benefits with Social Security. You may even have the option of applying online.
If you want to file a child’s claim or a derivative claim, such as a Disabled Widow(er) or Disabled Adult Child claim, or another SSI claim not eligible for the online application, you must apply either by phone or in person at your local Social Security office.
One of our Social Security Disability lawyers serving Forest City can help you figure out how to apply. We can then start the process of determining what types of evidence you need and filling out the right forms to get your claim moving.
The Determination Process
Once you have collected and submitted all of the evidence the SSA requires, you might have to wait for several months as they consider your case. The speed of the process may depend on:
- The SSA’s current workload and backlog
- How complicated your case is (e.g., if you have a very long work or medical history, consideration could take longer)
- Whether or not you submitted all required documentation in the proper manner and to the appropriate agency
- Whether or not the SSA has to ask you to submit or resubmit evidence
Having competent legal representation at each stage can streamline the application process. We know what types of evidence to submit and where to send them. With our help, you only need to apply once, and your case is less likely to be delayed by clerical or technical issues.
How Does SSD Work With Other Disability Benefits?
Our team understands that you may draw on other forms of benefits after sustaining a disabling condition in Forest City. Some forms of income do not impact your SSDI payments.
However, some programs can impact the amount of benefits you receive through the SSDI program. The government may lower your monthly amount if you also receive:
- Workers’ compensation
- Certain other disability programs
What Are My Options If My Claim Is Denied?
If SSA denies your claim, you do have the option of going through several levels of appeals. However, after a hearing is held, you cannot appeal just because you do not agree with the judge’s decision. You must base your appeal on legal argument, pointing out where the judge did not follow Social Security rules and regulations in evaluating your case.
The appeals process may proceed as follows:
- Reconsideration: The SSA will send your claim back to a state agency to obtain medical evidence and make a new decision regarding your disability.
- Hearing: The hearing level is important because you get the chance to appear in front of a judge (and to have an attorney from our firm appear with you) and explain why you need benefits.
- Appeals Council: Review at the Appeals Council level is very technical and requires knowledge of the regulations governing the disability process.
- Federal Court: This is the final resort. If you have strong evidence showing that the SSA has mishandled your claim, the Federal Court may agree to hear your case and render a new decision.
Appealing On Time
After a denial, it is very important to appeal in a timely fashion. The usual time limit is 60 days after you receive the denial. If you choose not to appeal or if you miss the deadline, you can file a new claim at a later date. However, there are ramifications to doing so, such as the effect on your date of disability and the possible payments you would be able to collect.
With that said, you should expect the appeals process to take some time, even if you file everything promptly and correctly. It is not uncommon to wait months or even years for your case to work its way through the system.
Is It Okay To Receive Out-of-State Representation?
Before you make any final decisions about who you want to represent you in your Social Security Disability case, you should consider several different factors:
- Whether you have met or will meet your attorney in person prior to the hearing day
- Whether you can easily get your questions answered either by an attorney or by competent staff
- Whether you receive a satisfactory level of customer service from this organization
You may be better served by a law firm closer to home and can get to know you and your case through in-person meetings. Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC offers a free consultation to anyone thinking of hiring legal representation for their Social Security Disability claim. This gives you an opportunity to learn more about your options at no cost or obligation.
We Provide Attentive Legal Services
The attorneys at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC take a personal approach to representing our clients. We strive to provide you with a level of customer service that is beyond satisfactory, and our caring, competent team members are always here to help by:
- Exploring all possible options: We can carefully review your case to determine which benefits you qualify for and how you should apply for them.
- Meeting you where you are: If you are too sick to travel, we can make arrangements to accommodate you for a consultation.
- Staying in touch: You can count on us to provide regular updates, informing you about your case’s progress and what the next steps may be. In addition, clients are welcome to call us with questions or updates whenever they need to.
- Providing honest advice: We work hard to answer all your questions and let you know what you can expect.
- Remaining professional: The claims process is stressful and very personal. You may find it easier to make intelligent legal decisions if you have access to an outside perspective.
Richard, one of our Social Security Disability clients, confirms that we “updated me on everything, explained everything to me and went over it several times.” Making sure our clients are comfortable with the claims process is one of our top priorities.
How Much Will A Social Security Attorney Cost?
Representative fees for Social Security Disability claims are set by federal regulation. However, it is important to note that we will not charge you any attorney’s fees unless you get your money. You owe us no fees upfront. Financial considerations do not have to stop you from getting the legal assistance you want.
In addition, we may incur costs during the course of representing you, such as the cost of obtaining your medical records. At the end of your case, we will ask you for reimbursement of those costs.
What Should I Do While My Social Security Disability Claim Is Pending?
Because of the long wait times, we always encourage clients to use the time to their advantage. The most important things you can do are:
Get Medical Treatment
You should obtain medical treatment for every condition you have, whether physical or mental, or both. The judge at a hearing cannot just accept your word about what is wrong with you: you must have medical evidence to support your claim.
Ways to obtain the necessary evidence include:
- Getting established with a primary care provider
- Getting referrals to specialists, if needed
- Telling your doctors exactly what is going on with you, including how much pain you are in, how you are limited in your daily activities, etc.
If you have any questions or concerns about receiving necessary medical care – for example, if you are uninsured – let us know right away. We may be able to help you obtain the treatment and documentary evidence that you need to improve your quality of life and provide the SSA with what they need to grant benefits.
Let Us Know What Is Going On With You
Keeping our office informed if you get a new phone number, change address, or develop a new medical problem is extremely important. If we cannot get in touch with you, we cannot provide you with good representation. Also, new medical diagnoses or changes in existing diagnoses can change your eligibility for benefits.
At Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, we care deeply for our clients’ well-being. We want to do everything possible to get the benefits you need to support yourself and your family. You can help us do this by updating us with every change in your condition or living arrangements.
Take Time For Yourself
This is a lengthy process that may require you to stay in it for the long haul. It is important to take time to relax and spend time with family as you wait for results. It may help to remember that, once we accept your case, we will fight by your side for as long as it takes.
Getting Help With Your Disability Claim
The bottom line is that our services can make the process of filing for Social Security Disability much smoother and less taxing for you. Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today for a free consultation.
A lawyer from our firm who serves Forest City, North Carolina can explain your options and take charge of your case.