The Social Security disability program is a government-provided safety net for those who suffer a medical condition that prevents them from earning an income through work. Unfortunately, those that legitimately qualify for the program can sometimes fall through the gaping holes in this “safety net.”
Social Security benefits are notoriously difficult to get because the process is complicated, confusing, and time-consuming. Those who need these benefits are often left to struggle financially while they wade through government red-tape. There must be a better way to get the benefits that you deserve.
At Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP, we have made it our mission to help the disabled apply for the benefits that they are entitled to. We take the guesswork out of the process for you, helping you identify the programs that you are eligible for and guiding you through the application process. We can also help you identify and gather the proper medical documentation and paperwork that the Social Security Administration requires from applicants, and we can thoroughly review your application for accuracy.
If you have a medical condition or injury that prevents you from working, you may qualify for enrollment in a Social Security program. For help choosing the right program for you and navigating the complicated application process, turn to an experienced Social Security disability attorney from Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP. To discuss your situation with a seasoned attorney, call us at (205) 324-1212, and let’s set up a free initial consultation.
Choosing the Right Program
“Social Security benefits” is a blanket phrase that can refer to a variety of different benefit programs. Before submitting an application to the Social Security Administration, you need to narrow down which program you are eligible to apply for. When talking about Social Security benefits, there are typically two different benefit programs that you need to consider: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
Social Security Disability Insurance, also referred to as SSDI, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an insurance policy against injury or a disabling condition. SSDI is a program that is funded exclusively through FICA payroll tax deductions. These deductions are taken out of employee paychecks each pay period. Those who pay into the system may be eligible for SSDI coverage if they are the victim of a severe injury or debilitating medical condition that prevents them from returning to work.
To qualify for coverage, an individual must have a qualifying work history and have paid into the system by contributing to Social Security taxes. In addition to a qualifying work history as outlined by the Social Security Administration, an individual must also be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.
The amount of money that you may be able to receive from a successful SSDI claim will typically depend on your lifetime earnings. An SSDI benefit is calculated by examining a person’s average covered earnings over the time that they were working. This ends up being your average indexed monthly earnings or AIME. This amount is entered into a formula that will then calculate your monthly SSDI benefit amount. The Social Security Administration has an online calculator that may help you estimate what you may be able to receive in the way of benefits for a successful SSDI claim.
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits, is a separate program that is available to individuals that have limited income and resources. Instead of being funded through payroll taxes, this program is entirely funded through general taxes. It is a needs-based benefit that offers financial assistance to those who meet certain medical and income requirements. SSI benefits may also be available to those who are 65 or over, even if they do not have a qualifying medical disability, as long as they meet certain income guidelines.
The monthly payment for SSI benefits can vary depending on a person’s individual financial situation or their financial situation combined with that of their spouse. The state that you live in may also impact how much you are able to receive in the way of benefits. States like Alabama offer additional SSI assistance to their residents, which means a person getting federal money, may also get an additional stipend from the state. An individual may qualify to receive both SSDI and SSI benefits, depending on their situation.
What Is a Debilitating Condition and Which Conditions Qualify?
Having a disability isn’t always the same thing as having a “qualifying disabling condition” in the eyes of the Social Security Administration. There are stringent guidelines that the administration will consider when determining whether an injury or medical condition qualifies a person for federal benefits. Benefits are typically not paid out to those who suffer a partial disability or those who will be disabled in the short term. In general, the administration will consider people in the following circumstances:
- A person is now unable to do the work that they previously did
- The SSA finds that a person cannot adequately adjust to other work due to their condition
- The diagnosed condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in the person’s death
In addition to these guidelines, a medical condition or injury must be listed as a qualifying impairment by the Social Security Administration. The administration offers a complete listing of the conditions that may enable a person to qualify for benefits. Conditions are broken down into searchable categories depending on the system of the body that the condition impacts. Some of the most common conditions that may qualify a person to be eligible for benefits include:
- Various types of cancers
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Respiratory illnesses including cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and lung transplants
- Cardiovascular disorders such as chronic heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and peripheral arterial disease
- Neurological conditions like brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis
- Immune system disorders, including lupus
- Digestive disorders like chronic liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease
- Skin conditions such as bullous disease
- Mental health disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- Congenital disorders
Certain injuries may also be considered qualifying conditions. These injuries can include things like:
- Spinal injuries
- Neck injuries
- Severe burns
Applying for Benefits
One of the most strenuous parts of the Social Security process is making the actual application. Many people find the application process to be time-consuming and complicated. There is a wide range of paperwork and documentation that must be attached for the application to have even a chance at successfully making its way through the system and earning an individual their due government benefits. Before sitting down to fill out an application, try to make sure that you have all the proper identifying information on hand. The identifying information that the Social Security Administration will need to have includes:
- Social Security number
- Proof of age
- A summary of your employment history
- Your most recent W-2 and tax forms
You may also need to have:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of U.S. citizenship
- Military paperwork
- Income verification information such as workers compensation claims, pay stubs, settlement agreements, pension documents, and any other paperwork related to your financial situation
Once you have all your important personal information on hand, you will need to begin the process of gathering all your pertinent medical information. This includes all medical documentation about your diagnosis and how your condition is being treated. This can be one of the most daunting parts of the application process. Gathering medical information and ensuring that it covers the necessary aspects of your condition can be a challenge.
In general, the Social Security Administration will want to see accurate records which include:
- All medical records and medical notations from doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, and caseworkers who have diagnosed or treated your condition
- The names, addresses, and phone numbers of every doctor, hospital, clinic, caseworker, and testing facility that you have visited pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of your condition or injury
- Complete list of medications that you take, including names and dosages
- All laboratory test results pertaining to your condition or injury, including blood work, x-rays, MRI scans, and other diagnostic tests
Understand that even if you take the time to gather all this information, that is no guarantee that you will file a successful claim. Initial claims are often denied, and claims can be rejected for something as simple as a mistake in a date or missing details. Having an attorney help you prepare an application is one way to increase your chances of obtaining a positive outcome for your situation. However, if you have already filed a claim and been rejected, there is still hope. An attorney can also help you fight denials and guide you through the appeals process.
How an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer in Birmingham Can Help
No matter which stage of the process you are in, a Birmingham attorney with Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP can help increase your chances of filing a claim that achieves a favorable outcome. Our experienced attorneys know what the Social Security Administration looks for in an application. We can help you determine which benefits you qualify for and help you navigate the application process, checking for accuracy and helping you secure the documentation you need to strengthen your claim.
If you’ve applied and been denied already, it may not be too late to get an experienced attorney to help you mount an appeal. The appeals process can be lengthy and includes various stages, depending on how far up the chain your claim needs to go. At Farris, Riley & Pitt, LLP, we can help you fight your denial and represent you throughout the appeals process.
Ready to go after the Social Security benefits you deserve? Contact us today by calling (205) 324-1212, and let’s talk about how we can help you get the money you need. The initial consultation is free, so call us today and let’s get started.