How To Apply for Social Security Benefits? How Can Hiring a Georgia Lawyer Help? Work Credit Requirements Calculating Your Disability Payment Frequently Asked Questions
Have you filed for Social Security Disability and been turned down? The denial of a social security claim can have a devastating impact on an individual, especially when that might have been the main source of income for your family. Harrison & Fortier, P.C. understands that and offers experienced attorneys and staff that will help you navigate through the process. Although the majority of the time the initial applications are denied, that doesn’t mean you are not entitled to benefits. It simply means that you unfortunately must go through the appeals process, one that is often overwhelming and intimidating. It is important that you hire an attorney that has years of legal experience is assisting clients through each step of the disability process. Almost 60% of all first time applicants are denied disability benefits, and almost 90% turn to an attorney to help them at some point in the process. Hiring an attorney can increase your chances of winning your claim and reduce denials due to missing paperwork, technical issues or common errors. Ms. Harrison’s staff has years of legal experience in assisting clients through each step of the disability process. They will closely monitor your claim, complete necessary forms, order and review evidence from your physicians, arrange special medical or psychological evaluations as necessary to help win your case and answer any questions you may have during the course of your claim. Garnett Harrison is a trained professional that will assist you in preparing your case. Applicants who use the expertise of a knowledgeable attorney have a greater likelihood of obtaining benefits. Harrison & Fortier, P.C. will stand by you through the arduous process and walk you through the steps needed to challenge a denial. With so much on the line, we are prepared to argue your case during the Georgia Social Security disability denial and reconsideration process. Our experienced attorney will ensure your medical documents are up-to-date and medically substantiate your condition. Ms. Harrison is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives which you can access at http://www.nosscr.org. The National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives (NOSSCR) was established in 1979. It is an association of more than 3,900 attorneys and other advocates who represent Social Security and Supplemental Security Income claimants. Their members are committed to providing high quality representation for claimants, to maintaining a system of full and fair adjudication for every claimant, and to advocating for beneficial change in the disability determination and adjudication process. Depending on the strength of your medical evidence, its timely submission may sometimes result in an “on-the-record” decision by Social Security, thereby avoiding the necessity of going to a hearing before an administrative law judge. This can mean your benefits may be available to you much sooner If you are in need of legal assistance with a Social Security Disability claim, call Harrison & Fortier, P.C. at (912) 882-1131. An initial consultation is free of charge. If Ms. Harrison agrees to handle your claim, fees are typically contingent in nature, which means fees are due only if you recover benefits. There are no costs to file Social Security Disability claims. The only expenses that any client has are the cost of medical records from their doctors.
Are you disabled and unable to work?
You can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov or call a toll free number 1-800-772-1213 and make an appointment at a local Social Security office to file the claim in person, which will take a few hours. You can also file by telephone. Plan for a disability claims interview to last about one hour. A Starter Kit is also available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. You will need to be prepared for your first meeting. Make sure you have documents that contain your social security number, a birth certificate, the names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, and any medical professionals you consulted. Include the dates of all of your visits for medical care and name the medication and dosage of all drugs you’re taking. All medical records must be included as well as lab and test results. Please go to www.socialsecurity.gov, create an online account and you will be able to print out your social security earnings report. You need to be able to talk about the type of work you did and bring a copy of your most recent Wage and Tax Statement (W-2 Form).
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits in Georgia
Retaining an attorney can greatly increase your chances for approval. Your attorney can keep track of the status of your claim, speak with social security regarding any questions that may arise. Your attorney will prepare your claim. That means that your attorney will gather all the medical evidence that will be required and may choose to submit additionally information regarding your previous occupation history and make sure that your claim meets the Social Security Administration’s requirements. And most importantly, if your application is denied, your attorney can file an appeal on your behalf and will be with you every step of the way.
How can hiring a Georgia Lawyer help me if I am denied?
There are 4 levels of appeal through which your claim could proceed.
Appealing a Denied Social Security Disability Claim
- Reconsideration– after your initial application has been denied, your attorney has 60 days to file a request for reconsideration. During the reconsideration process, someone other than the person who denied the claim, a new claims examiner will reconsider your evidence. You may submit new evidence at this time and it will be considered.
- Hearing– If your request for reconsideration was denied, this is now the best possibility of success. You have 60 days after receiving the SSA’s decision to request an appeal. An experienced lawyer will then do several things to ensure the best possibility for success. Your attorney will prepare you for the hearing, perhaps subpoena witnesses that might be vital to improving your claim, question the witnesses and experts from Social Security and argue your case before the Judge.
- Appeals Council– If you do not believe that the Judge made the right decision, you are allowed by law to ask for a review to the Appeals Council.
- Federal Court– You may choose to file a lawsuit if your claim is not chosen for a review in front of an ALJ in Federal District court.
The criteria for being approved for disability is outlined a 5 step process. That process includes: Are you working?
Am I eligible for Social Security Benefits?
SSA will not consider a person for disability if they earn over a certain amount each month. If the individual is making less, the Social Security Administration will consider the case based on the medical conditions. How extreme is your medical condition?
In other words, in order to rule you disabled, the Social Security Administration must decide that your condition will prevent you from performing the basic functions of your job and that it will last at least a year. Is your condition on the Social Security’s “List of Disabling Condition?”
Some of the conditions that may lead to social security disability are:
- Mental and emotional disorder such as depression, panic attacks, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, autism, PTSD, sleep disorders;
- Immune disorders such as MS, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and Rheumatoid Arthritis;
- Musculoskeletal problems such as fibromyalgia, back and spine conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, arthritis, fractures;
- Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease and heart failure.
- Speech and senses issues such as vision, hearing, and speech loss;
- Digestive tract issues such as liver disease, hepatitis, IBS, and Crohn’s Disease.
- Malignant neoplastic diseases such as lymphoma, most kinds of cancer and leukemia.
- Metabolic disorders that affect multiple body systems such as lyme disease.
Based on your injury or illness, the agency will review your claim and decide whether you are capable of performing the work you did before the injury or illness. If they can’t, they will move to step 5. Work eligibility test
In addition to the above requirements, you must meet 2 tests, the duration of work test and the recent work test to qualify for benefits. You can see this at http://socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.pdf.
The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. The rules are as follows: Before age 24–You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts. Age 24 to 31–You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27). Age 31 or older–In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart below. Unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.
Social Security Disability Work Credit Requirements
|DISABLED AT AGE||CREDITS NEEDED||YEARS OF WORK|
|31 through 42||20||5|
|62 or older||40||10|
- Workplace accidents/workers’ compensation: Many people think that workplace accidents leave injured workers only one option: workers’ compensation. This is simply not true. If you have been hurt on the job and you can no longer work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits as well as workers’ compensation. The best way to find out is to call Harrison & Fortier, P.C. about your job site injury.
- Car accidents: Our advocates help the victims of motor vehicle accidents move forward with their lives when they can no longer work. More than just car accidents, if you have been injured in a truck accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident or pedestrian accident and cannot work, talk with us about your options.
- Accidents at home: We also represent people who have been injured in accidents at home or on another’s property. These include slip-and-fall accidents, falls down stairs, injuries from falling objects and animal attacks.
- Other accidents: No matter what type of accident you have been involved in, from swimming pool accidents, to construction site accidents, accidents caused by dangerous and defective products or by dangerous road conditions, you may be able to file a Social Security Disability claim if you can no longer work.
The two types of Social Security Disability Benefits:
- Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD or SSDI) Disability insurance benefits cover millions of people now that have worked recently but cannot work now due to an injury or illness. This is the most used benefit provided by the SSA. In addition, dependents, including your children and spouse may also be eligible to receive benefits if the parent qualifies for SSDI.
- DAC- Disabled Adult Child Benefits: Disabled children may be eligible for benefits if their parents receive SSD, or Social Security disability or is deceased. The disabled children must be between the ages of 18 and 22.
The amount you receive each month will be based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. It is not based on how severe your disability is or how much income you have. However, if you are receiving disability payments from other sources, as discussed below, your payment may be reduced.
How much will I receive if I am determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration?
The amount of money you will receive from Social Security on a monthly basis is unique for every individual. This is due to the fact that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a complex weighted formula in order to calculate benefits for each person. Social Security bases your retirement and disability benefits on the amount of income on which you’ve paid Social Security taxes—called “covered earnings.” Your average covered earnings over a period of years is known as your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). A formula is applied to your AIME to calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA)—the base figure the SSA uses in setting your benefit amount. The formula consists of fixed percentages of different amounts of income (called “bend points,” which are adjusted each year). For example, in 2011, 90% of the first $749 of your AIME was added to your PIA, plus 32% of your AIME from $749 to $4,517, plus 15% of your AIME over $4,517. The amounts are added up to come up with your PIA. Most SSDI recipients receive between $300 and $2,200. The average SSDI payment in 2014 is $1,148. The maximum disability benefit in 2014 is $2,642. To see your entire covered earnings history, you can check your annual Social Security Statement. While the Social Security Administration has stopped mailing out annual Social Security Statements to many people, you can check your statement online at www.ssa.gov/mystatement/. (If you want to enter salary information yourself rather than rely on your earnings record and Social Security’s estimate of your future earnings, you can use the SSA’s online benefits calculator at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.htm.) While many people will be approved for disability benefits based on medical conditions included in the SSA impairment listing manual, many more will be approved based on consideration for their current limitations, age, educational level and past work experience. Talk to us about your situation. Call us at 912-882-1131. SSI is short for Supplemental Security Income. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind or those who have a disability and who do not own much or have a lot of income. SSI is for those workers who have not earned enough quarters in their work history (less than 40 quarters). It is income based. You must have income of less than $2,000 a month to qualify. SSI is not just for adults. Monthly benefits may go to disabled and blind children too. To learn about the benefits for which you may be eligible, call Harrison & Fortier, P.C. at 912-882-1131. We’ll be glad to talk with you about all of your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income concerns, and give you clear answers to your questions.
Calculating Your Social Security Disability Payment
What are the costs of filing for Social Security Disability? There are no costs to file Social Security Disability claims. The only expenses that any client has are the cost of medical records from their doctors. There is no charge by our firm for an initial consultation and attorney’s fees are not charged unless or until a claim is successful. These charges, if any, are approved by Social Security to ensure fairness. The fee is generally 25% of any past due benefit received by the Claimant but not greater than $6,100.00. If your case is not successful, you are not charged any fee. We get paid by the government when we win your case. This means that you don’t have to hesitate to pick up the phone and call us. It means that you don’t have to put off getting the help you need just because you’re feeling strapped for cash. How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits? You can file for Social Security disability benefits on the very same day you become disabled. If you’ve suffered serious illness or injury and expect to be out of work for a year or more don’t delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits. If I get Social Security disability benefits, will I get Medicare? If you are approved for any kind of Social Security disability benefit other than SSDI you will get Medicare after you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for two years. I am still on sick leave from my employer. Can I file for Social Security disability now or do I have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted? No, you do not have to wait until the sick leave is exhausted. You should file for Social Security disability benefits now if you believe that you will be out of work for a year or more. Can someone win Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and not win Social Security Disability (SSD)? Many people can receive both. The definition of disability is the same for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) and the appeals process is the same for both. If you haven’t worked recently, you may not be eligible for SSD. You may still get SSDI if you can prove a recent disability and are poor. Alternatively, you could receive SSD and not get SSI. This usually happens when a person’s income is too high to qualify for SSI. How does Social Security determine if I am disabled? Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State agencies (usually called Disability Determination Services or DDSs). Subsequent appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided in a DDS or by an administrative law judge in the SSA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The DDS will look at your medical records and consider your health problems, your age, education and work experience. It will be up to Social Security to determine if you can do the same work you did in the past. If you are unable to fulfill the requirements of the job you previously held, Social Security is supposed to decide whether there might be some other job you can do considering the limitation of your health, age, education, and work experience. The Social Security procedure on disability evaluation can be found at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ How do I know if I will be found disabled? There is no easy way to answer that question. After you file your claim, the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Georgia receives the case. This person, after consulting with your doctor, will make the initial decision about your claim. If the claim is denied, you can request a reconsideration of the case, which is then sent to another examiner at the DDS. Eventually the claimant may request a hearing and the case is then sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for Social Security to make an independent decision. While you have no idea what the outcome will be of your case, an individual should make the decision to apply for Social Security disability benefits based on their physical or mental condition and their ability to return to the job. What do I need to know about my disability? You must be able to answer questions about your medical condition such as when it began, how it limits your ability to work, what medical tests and treatment you have received, and what they conclude. You will be asked if you are working. If you are and make over a certain amount each month, you generally will not be considered disabled. You must be able to answer whether or not your medical condition limits what you can do. For example – can you sit, walk, and talk? Can you remember what you are told? Lastly, it will be determined if your medical condition is on a List of Impairments that describe disabilities so severe that you are automatically qualified as disabled by law. They include impaired growth, musculoskeletal system impairment, and sense and speed impaired. For a complete list of impairments please see: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/listing-impairments.htm If I am approved for Social Security disability benefits, how much will I get? It depends on how much you worked and earned in the past. For disabled widow’s or widower’s benefits, it depends how much the late husband or wife worked and earned. For disabled adult child benefits, it depends how much the parent worked and earned. For all types of SSDI benefits, there is a base amount that an individual with no other income receives. Other income that an individual has reduces the amount of SSDI that he or she can receive. The Social Security Administration website www.socialsecurity.gov provides a list of monthly income amounts on Social Security Disability. How much will my benefits be and can my family get benefits? There is a formula that depends on how long you worked and earned in the past. For a disabled widow or widower, the same formula applied to your late husband or wife. For a disabled adult child, the amount would depend on how much the parent worked and earned. The Social Security Administration website www.socialsecurity.gov provides a list of monthly income amounts on Social Security Disability. If you decide to work and want to continue earning your Social Security disability and Medicare benefits, Harrison & Fortier, P.C. can help you navigate the trial work period so you are not penalized for attempting to return to work. We hope you do not become disabled, but if you do, Harrison & Fortier, P.C. can help you file a successful claim and help you challenge any denial of your benefits. How far back will they pay benefits if I am found disabled? For Disability Insurance Benefits and for Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits, the benefits cannot begin until five months have passed after the person becomes disabled. In addition, benefits cannot be paid more than one year prior to the date of the claim. For a Disabled Adult Child, there is no five-month waiting period before benefits begin, but benefits cannot be paid more than six months prior to the date of the claim. SSDI benefits cannot be paid prior to the start of the month following the date of the claim. If you were wrongfully denied social security disability benefits, Harrison & Fortier, P.C., about filing a claim. Can I still get Workers’ Compensation benefits if I apply for Social Security disability? You can receive Social Security disability benefits even while you are receiving workers’ compensation. However, there is a reduction in Social Security disability benefits which are offset because you are also receiving workers’ compensation benefits. In some states, the workers’ compensation benefits are actually reduced when the worker is also receiving Social Security disability benefits. I got hurt on the job. I am drawing workers’ compensation benefits. Can I file a claim for Social Security disability benefits now even though I’m receiving workers’ compensation benefits? Yes, you can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. It is best to file the Social Security disability claims as soon as possible because otherwise there may be a gap between the time the workers’ compensation ends and the Social Security disability benefits begin. What if I was staying home with the kids – can I qualify for Social Security disability? If you have worked five out of the last 10 years, you may have enough earnings to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. It depends on how many years you have been a homemaker. The only exception might be for those under the age of 31 who have not spent many years on the job. Remember, as a homemaker, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), regardless of your work history. I was hurt in a car accident but should be able to return to work. Should I file for Social Security disability benefits? Yes, if you expect that your injuries will keep you out of work for at least a year you should file for Social Security disability benefits. If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits or have any further questions about the application process, don’t hesitate to call. Let our experienced attorneys get you what you deserve. What makes a case a good case? The best cases are those where the medical and financial evidence is extremely strong. In particular, the strongest cases are those in which your doctor supplies a thorough narrative. At Harrison & Fortier, P.C.,we make sure your application is complete and accurate before submitting it to the Social Security Administration.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to get answers is to talk with us at Harrison & Fortier, P.C. Call us at 912-882-1131. You can start by filling out our Social Security Intake Form here.