Social Security Disability (SSD) is available to individuals who have contributed to a Social Security Account. These individuals earn “quarters of coverage” based on their contributions. The required number of quarters an individual must work are five (5) out of the last ten (10) years. For a younger individual (under the age of 30), the amount of quarters of coverage required will be reduced.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need based program for individuals who are not covered by the SSD program. The benefits are determined based on individual income and assets. The standard to determine disability eligibility is the same as the SSD program.

Who Is Disabled

To be eligible for either of the benefits an individual must demonstrate that he or she is “totally disabled” and unable to engage in substantial gainful activities. The individual must prove that they have a physical or mental impairment or a combination of impairments which is severe enough to prevent them from performing their previous work or any other work for at least twelve months or the condition is expected to result in death.

A younger individual needs to show that they will not be able to do any work. Once the person reaches fifty and beyond the burden becomes less stringent and an individual may in fact be able to obtain benefits by showing that they are incapable of performing their past jobs and they do not have the skills or capacity to perform other types of work.

The Application

To begin a Social Security Claim an individual must file an application with the Social Security Administration. After meeting with one of our qualified attorneys and providing us with all the necessary information needed to file your application, we will then submit it on your behalf.

The Denial

Although a significant number of applications are approved initially, an even larger number of applications are denied. In large part the decision is based on the cooperation of treating physicians. If the treating physician is thorough and supportive of the claimant, then there is a good chance the application can be approved initially. However, if the application is denied, the claimant will have the right to request an appeal within sixty (60) days of the denial plus five (5) for mailing. Our office can request the hearing on your behalf.

Request A Hearing

At the hearing which will usually take over one year before it is scheduled the claimant will appear before a Federal Administrative Law Judge with their attorney. As part of the hearing process, medical records have to be obtained, reviewed and organized. They will be presented to the Administrative Law Judge along with a written statement by the attorney summarizing the arguments on the claimant’s behalf quoting the appropriate Social Security regulations.

Once the hearing has been scheduled then we will practice with the claimant before the hearing so that he or she is thoroughly prepared and also is relaxed at the hearing itself. It will not be helpful for a claimant to be so nervous that they cannot properly testify. The hearing is a closed affair with the Administrative Law Judge, the judge’s assistant, the claimant and their attorney. In some cases there may be either a medical or vocational expert or both.

The claimant will give testimony along with any experts. The hearing will take anywhere between one half hour to an hour. Once the hearing has terminated the Judge will then prepare a written decision which depending on the particular office can take anywhere between one to six months. If the decision is favorable, the claimant will receive an Award Letter explaining their benefits and they will start receiving those benefits shortly thereafter.

An attorney’s fee of 25% of the fee normally with a maximum of $6,000.00 will automatically be withheld and then forwarded to the attorney. The claimant will not be responsible for paying the attorney’s fee except in those rare situations where the Social Security Administration neglects to hold those fees.

If the decision is unfavorable then a decision will be made by our office whether a further appeal would be warranted. If we feel that a strong case was presented and the Judge’s decision was incorrect then we will file an appeal to the Appeal’s Council of the SSA again with 60 days plus five for mailing. That decision can take several years and so we prefer to be successful at the hearing. If the Appeal Council claim is unsuccessful and a further appeal can be made to the Federal District Court and those appeals are very often successful.

If you believe that you may have a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits or Social Security Income Benefits then you should feel free to contact our office at your convenience. Our office has had almost 40 years of experience in this area and we have handled thousands of hearings. We are well equipped to handle your case and we will do so with the upmost care.

If you have questions or concerns about Elder Law issues, please don’t hesitate to contact the Elder Law Attorneys with Russo Law Group, P.C.

Of Counsel

Crysti Farra