Dedra Wood & Associates provides disability services representation to residents of Abilene, TX and Surrounding Areas.
Frequently asked questions about Social Security Disability
AN ADVOCATE'S ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
What is Social Security Disability?
The Federal Government, through the Social Security Administration, has an insurance program that is paid each time SS is deducted and you get a paycheck, or if you are self-employed, each time you pay self-employment tax. It is an insurance policy that pays a limited amount of benefits, similar to old-age retirement, in the event that you become disabled during your working life, and the disability has lasted, or is expected to last for a year or more, or result in death.
How Do You Apply For Social Security Disability?
You can apply for Social Security Disability online at ssa.gov or by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting your nearest Social Security Office. In certain cases, Dedra Wood & Associates will file your initial claim for you. Keep in mind that many cases are denied at the initial level and that you only have 60 days to appeal your decision. If you are denied your disability benefits please feel free to contact Dedra Wood & Associates for a free consultation.
When Should You File for Social Security Disability?
It is best to file for Social Security Disability as soon as you are no longer able to work because of a severe physical or mental impairment or a combination of both that has lasted or is expected to last for twelve months or result in death.
How Does Social Security Determine Whether or Not You Are Disabled?
Social Security uses the following questions in sequence to evaluate your claim:
1.Are you working? If you are working full time, you are not eligible to file for disability benefits, working is defined as performing a substantial gainful activity (SGA) which means you are involved in some type of work that requires physical and mental activity and that is being performed either for pay or profit. SSA allows individuals to work part-time, if the gross wages do not exceed the maximum amount allowed by SSA. The maximum allowed to earn part time and still be eligible to file for Social Security Disability changes periodically. However, you must keep in mind that your daily activities in combination with your physical or mental impairments are part of the disability determination process.
2.Do You Have A Severe Impairment? If so, How Long Will It Last? A severe impairment is one that significantly limits your physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities. You must provide evidence that your condition(s) are severe and expected to last for at least 12 months, or result in death.
3.Is Your Impairment Found in Social Security List of Disabling Impairments? If your condition meets or equals the criteria set forth in the list of physical and mental disorders presumptively determined to be automatically disabling by the Social Security Administration, then you may be found disabled.
4.Can You Do Your Past Relevant Work? Your past relevant work is any work that you have performed within 15 years prior to the onset date of your disability. Social Security will decide whether or not your diagnosed medical condition(s) prevents you from returning to work. If you believe that their determination is wrong, you have the right to appeal, however, if you can return to work, you will not be found disabled. In some cases where you return to work and may have been off work twelve months or more, you may be entitled to a "Closed Period of Disability" meaning a lumpsum backpay for the time you were off.
5.Can You Do Any Other Type of Work? This is the level at which most cases are decided. The Social Security Administration takes into account your age, education, past work experience, and your residual functional capacity (what you can do despite your impairment(s) to determine if there is any job you could perform in the national economy. It is not the role of the Social Security Administration to find you a job, nor to prove that you could obtain one of the jobs identified in their determination.
What Evidence Do You Need?
Medical evidence from your medical providers, clinics, hospitals, which will provide progress notes and physical/mental examinations, tests and therapy notes. It is very helpful to have your doctor's support of your condition(s) and his or her opinion of your ability to work. However, not mandatory in some cases. Medical opinions or statements must be backed up with objective evidence, such as X-rays, MRI's, CT Scan, Blood Work, etc. clinical evidence and examinations.
How Long Does The Process Take?
Once the Initial Application is filed, it should take from 60 to 120 days to receive a decision. If you are denied, there are two appeal steps. They are:1.Reconsideration This appeal must be filed within 60 days after your denial. When you appeal, you are requesting a review of your case. A person who was not involved in the first decision will review and make a new decision. This could take up to 90 days. 2.Hearing If you are denied at the reconsideration level, the next step is to Request a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge within 60 days. The average time period to be scheduled a hearing is six months to one year from the date that you requested your hearing. At your hearing the Administrative Law Judge will ask you questions under oath first, then your representative will ask you questions as well to give the Administrative Law Judge a good clear picture of why you cannot work and what you can and cannot do despite your impairments. The time period to receive your written decision could take up to six months, depending on the complexity of your case and the workload of the Office of Hearing Operations.
Do You Need A Representative?
It has been our experience that a representative who specializes in representing Social Security Disability clients will know the process in obtaining your disability benefits and will obtain and gather evidence and present your case to Social Security to prove your disability and deal directly with Social Security on your behalf. Dedra Wood will accompany you to your hearing, present your case to the Judge and cross-examine any medical or vocational experts appointed by the Administrative Law Judge. We devote a considerable amount of time to the proper development and preparation of your case. We have knowledge of the federal laws and regulations and medical listings pertaining to Social Security Disability.
What Does a Representative Cost?
We represent clients on a contingency fee basis; that is, if we are not successful in obtaining your benefits, you will not owe a fee. If the fee is contingent, and you are due back benefits, the fee is 25%, not to exceed $6000 dollars which is the maximum set by Social Security. If you do not receive back pay of your benefits, there is no fee.
When Should I Contact Your Office?
It is best to contact us after you have been denied on your initial application. In some cases, we represent individuals with the initial application. In either case, it is imperative that you comply with the 60-day deadline to appeal and that you contact an advocate as soon as you receive a denial.