What is a “Fully Favorable” Decision and What Would That Mean For My SSDI Claim?

What is a “Fully Favorable” Decision and What Would That Mean For My SSDI Claim?

A “fully favorable” decision is rendered by an administrative law judge (ALJ) after evaluating a second appeal filed by a SSDI claimant. This means the ALJ has essentially overturned the denial handed down during the first appeal (reconsideration) and the claimant will now begin receiving monthly disability benefits. In addition, a fully favorable decision also means the ALJ has determined the onset date of a disabling medical condition included in the claimant’s original application is correct. In other words, the individual receiving an ALJ’s fully favorable will receive back pay starting when their medical condition made it impossible for them to work.

What is a “Partially Favorable” Decision?

When an ALJ delivers a partially favorable decision, this indicates the judge did indeed find the individual is fully disabled but that the disability did not begin on the alleged onset date. The ALJ will instead determine the onset dateafter examining the claimant’s medical documents and work records. Partially favorable decisions means claimants won’t receive any retroactive payments dating back to the onset date they asserted in their original disability application.

Neither a partially favorable nor a fully favorable decision impacts the amount of SSDI monthly benefits you expect to receive. The primary difference between fully favorable and partially favorable decisions is an ALJ accepting the original onset date or replacing that date with one the judge considers to be more accurate.

Can I Appeal a Partially Favorable Decision?

Yes, you can. Depending on how much retroactive pay you lose when an ALJ renders a partially favorable decision, you might want to consider appealing this decision to the Social Security Appeals Council. Always consult with an experienced disability attorney before filing an appeal to the Appeals Council.

The Social Security Appeals Council doesn’t automatically accept all requests for appealing an ALJ decision. However, they will review your case and decide to take the case or send it back to an administrative law judge for additional review.

An example of the possible difference between a fully favorable decision and a partially favorable decision might go something like this:

  • You submit your first application for SSDI to the Social Security Administration. You claim the onset date of your disability is May 1, 2018
  • The SSA denies your application. You file an appeal to an ALJ.
  • On May 1, 2020, the ALJ approves your SSDI application and gives you a fully favorable decision
  • You begin receiving monthly benefits plus receive retroactive pay dated from May 1, 2018

If your SSDI monthly benefits are $2000, then you should receive 24 months of retroactive pay. This amounts to $48,000.

Now, what happens if the ALJ hands down a partially favorable decision and determines your disability onset date is May 1, 2019 instead of May 1, 2018? What it means is that instead of receiving $48,000 in retroactive pay, you will only be entitled to half of that amount, or $24,000.

Any disability lawyer will strongly urge SSDI applicants who have received a partially favorable decision from an ALJ and want to appeal to consult with a seasoned disability attorney who can give you solid legal advice regarding your ability to win an appeal.

What Happens If I Want to Appeal a Social Security Appeals Council Decision?

If the SSA, administrative law judge and Appeal Council has either denied or give you a partially favorable decision that you do not agree with, a final appeal can be made at the federal level. At this point, your appeal becomes a civil suit that must be filed in a Federal district court. It cannot be filed online and there is a fee to file an appeal with a Federal district court. You may have this fee waived if you can show you are unable to pay the fee.

SSDI appeals filed at the federal level are considered “complaints” rather than appeals. Essentially, you are suing the Social Security Administration and associated appeal level entities for denying your disability benefits. Attorneys representing the SSA will defend the denial in court. If you take a denial this far, be aware it could take a year or longer to receive a final determination from a Federal district court judge.

What is the Definition of a Disability Onset Date? 

The date on which you became physically and/or mentally unable to work is the disability onset date. For example, if you were in a terrible car accident and sustained permanent paralysis of your legs, the date of your accident is your disability onset date. Alternately, if you had been working as a paralegal for the past five years and began experiencing worsening symptoms of COPD, your disability onset date would be the last day you were able to work, whether it was eight hours or four hours. In other words, a person diagnosed with mild COPD symptoms on May 1, 2019 who continued to work until May 1, 2020 cannot assert their disability onset date was the day they learned they had COPD.

To determine if they agree with a claimant’s disability onset date, the SSA will look at the following:

  • Statement of applicant regarding onset date that is included on the official disability report
  • The applicants Work Activity Report indicating when they could no longer work
  • Medical documentation proving the progressive worsening of symptoms that prevent the applicant from working (should include doctor’s reports of physical exams, lab tests and anything else supporting the disability onset date claim)

SSDI claimants with severe mental illnesses need to put the onset date of their psychological disability on a special form called the “Report on Individual with Mental Impairment”. Evidence evaluated by the SSA for determining accuracy of onset date for mental illnesses include:

  • Comprehensive medical reports written by psychiatrists, physicians and psychologists
  • Medical history documenting when symptoms first appeared (specifically, when the person first sought help for symptoms)
  • Hospitalization records (length of stay, medications prescribed)
  • Detailed statements by one or more hospital staff members describing patient’s behaviors (these statements could support the earliest onset date of the disability)

In some cases, the SSA may contact an applicant’s parents, siblings, previous employers and other relevant individuals when they are unsure of a disability onset date. However, they can only do this with the applicant’s permission.

How Will I Be Notified of a Fully Favorable Decision?

The Social Security Administration will also notify you of an approval or denial by sending a letter to your address through the mail. They will never call or email claimants to inform them of a decision. If your appeal is approved, your award letter will contain the following information:

  • How much your SSDI monthly benefit will be (this amount may change on a yearly basis depending on Congressionally-passed increases due to inflation, cost of living, etc)
  • When your first disability payment will be direct deposited into your account
  • List of online services provided by the Social Security Administration

With the SSA being such a vast and sometimes unpredictable federal department, you could receive a payment before you receive an actual approval letter in the mail. When a fully favorable decision involves remittance of retroactive pay, you will receive your back pay as a lump sum separate from your monthly disability payment.

Should I Hire a Disability Lawyer to Handle My Appeals Case?

Over half of all SSDI claims are initially denied due to paperwork errors and lack of sufficient medical documentation proving an applicant is disabled. If you applied for SSDI and receive a denial letter, contact Joel Thrift as soon as possible to schedule a consultation appointment. At this point in the appeals process, you need the legal expertise of an experienced disability attorney like Joel Thrift to ensure the best possible outcome of appealing to an administrative law judge–a fully favorable decision. Mr. Thrift will manage your case from start to finish so you don’t have to worry about filing court papers, filling out complicated forms or gathering pertinent medical documents. Disability attorneys also present records of your daily activities and cross-examine medical and vocational experts when necessary.

Don’t wait any longer to appeal your denied SSDI claim. Contact Joel Thrift Law today for immediate assistance.

Can My SSDI Backpay be Garnished for Child Support?

Can My SSDI Backpay be Garnished for Child Support?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides a financial cushion to cover your living expenses if a medical condition or injury prevents you from working. Make no mistake about it, getting approved for disability benefits can take a long time. However, once you get approved, you may get backpay, also called “past-due benefits.” Backpay is the amount of money owed to you from the date of your eligibility to the date you were granted benefits. 

If your disability restricts you from working and your financial resources are dwindling, you may have trouble paying your bills while waiting to get approved for SSDI benefits. What’s more, if you have court-ordered obligations, such as child support, you may fall behind in your payments. Your commitment to pay child support does not stop because you have a disability. So, if you become delinquent with your child support payments, your SSDI backpay can be garnished. A court can include your SSDI backpay and monthly disability benefits when calculating your monthly child support obligation. And, because of this, the benefits can be seized to pay your back child support.

Generally, Social Security and other federal benefits are exempt from garnishment by creditors and bill collectors. But, under certain circumstances, some federal benefits, liked SSDI and SSDI backpay, can be seized to satisfy a debt or legal obligation. Let’s take a closer look at when backpay comes into the SSDI application process and why backpay is subject to garnishment. 

Applying for Disability Benefits

If you have paid Social Security taxes through your jobs over a certain amount of years, you are eligible to apply for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers you disabled if you have a medical condition that has lasted for 12 months or longer or an illness, such as cancer, that is expected to cause your death. Besides SSDI, SSA operates the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which assists disabled, aged, and blind people with little to no income. The benefits provide for the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Unlike SSDI, a person’s employment history is not a strong factor in applying and getting approved for SSI benefits. Eligibility is based on an applicant’s income and assets. 

The SSDI application asks for the date you claim your disability began, which SSA calls the “alleged onset date” of your disability. Along with your SSDI application, you can include your employment history, medical records, the medical treatment you are receiving for your disability, and other documents that support your disability claim. Once your claim is approved, SSA makes its determination as to when your disability began, which the SSA calls the “established onset date.”

If you are fortunate, you can get approved for disability benefits on your first try. But, that is not likely since the SSA denies the majority of claims at the initial application level. However, in cases of a terminal illness, like cancer, approval can come within two months. Once your initial application is denied, the appeals process begins. 

If SSA denies your initial claim, you can ask SSA to reconsider your application. At this point, applicants include additional information that may have been missing in the initial application. If your application is denied on the reconsideration level, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. It can take up to a year to get a hearing before a judge. And, once again, there is no guarantee that the judge will approve your application. If this is the case, you can take the next step and have the application reviewed by an Appeals Council. The final step in the appeals process is taking the case to a federal court. 

It can take anywhere from months to possibly two years or more to go through the SSDI process. Keep in mind that backpay accumulates for claimants who eventually get approved for disability benefits. 

Backpay Accumulates During the Application Process

Backpay accrues from the date that you initially applied for SSDI benefits to the date that you were approved. Backpay does not go back any further than 12 months prior to filing your application for SSDI benefits. In addition to backpay, you may be eligible to receive retroactive pay if SSA approves. Retroactive pay is awarded from the alleged onset date— the date you claim your disability began—to the date that SSA approves your application. 

A word of caution: Do not expect to receive your disability benefits immediately because, in most cases, applicants usually have to wait five months before SSA begins paying benefits. The SSA, however, has an exception. The five-month waiting period is not required if an application had a prior period of disability that ended within 60 months (five years) before the current period of disability began. 

SSA has a mandatory five-month waiting period primarily because SSA wants to make sure that applicants have a long-term disability before awarding benefits. SSA does not pay benefits for short-term disability.  While you will get your first disability payment in the sixth month, backpay usually begins within the first two months of being appproved. 

Exceptions to the Garnishment Rule 

Federal benefits are usually protected from garnishment, which occurs when a creditor or debt collector obtains a court order to take money from a debtor’s wages or bank account to pay a debt. The debt could include regular debts, such as medical bills, personal loans, or credit card bills, for example. Social Security retirement, SSDI, and SSI are among the federal benefits protected from garnishment. 

The government, however, allows certain creditors to garnish federal benefits. The way it usually works is a bill collector or creditor asks a court to issue an order garnishing a certain portion of the debtor’s wages until the debt is paid. How do you know if a creditor or collector has a garnishment against you? Some states require creditors to send a notice to the debtors while in other states, debtors find out through their banks when their accounts are frozen or a portion of their wages is withheld.

Federal government departments can garnish benefits, too. For example, the IRS can garnish your disability benefits to pay outstanding income taxes. The IRS can take up to 15 percent of the monthly benefits until the debt is paid. When it comes to SSI, however, the IRS cannot garnish these benefits to pay delinquent federal taxes. 

The federal government can also attach SSDI benefits and backpay when you are delinquent with child support payments. What’s more, the other parent can bring an action to garnish disability benefits and backpay to enforce a child support or alimony obligation. In this instance, there is no appeal to SSA or any other federal agency over garnishing benefits for past-due income taxes, child support, or alimony payments. If you do not agree with a garnishment, you can challenge the action in court. It is advisable to speak with a Social Security disability attorney before taking legal action. 

In addition, if your personal income has decreased because of your disability, paying your current level of child support may become a financial strain. Depending on your relationship with the other parent, you may be able to work out an agreement on making reduced child support payments. It may be helpful to get the modification approved by the court. In this way, both sides can legally enforce the agreement. 

Alternatively, you can ask the court for a child support modification hearing. You may want to have a legal consultation with an attorney who can best represent your interests in court. Your lawyer can explain to the judge why the original child support order should be modified now that you have a disability and a reduced income. Generally, a judge considers a number of factors when determining child support, including the income of both parents. 

Need Help in Getting Disability Benefits? Contact Joel Thrift Law Today

Without a doubt, applying for Social Security disability benefits can be confusing, and having those benefits garnished can be frustrating. Make today your turning point by contacting Joel Thrift Law. Our firm can assist you in every step of this complex process, from filing the initial application to appearing before a judge during an appeals hearing, We understand how SSA determines disability and know what documents can strengthen a disability claim. 

If your benefits have been garnished for child support or are in jeopardy of being garnished, contact us immediately to determine how we can help you with this situation. The Social Security Administration limits your time to apply for disability benefits or appeal a decision, so do not miss your opportunity to get the benefits to which you are entitled. Call Joel Thrift Law to schedule a consultation.

Can you get Social Security Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Can you get Social Security Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder affecting the large intestine. More women than men are diagnosed with IBS, especially women in their 30s and 40s who have a family history of the disorder. However, teens and young adults can get IBS as well.

Symptoms of IBS vary in severity. Mild IBS is manageable and should not impede a person’s ability to work and earn a living. Severe IBS symptoms rarely respond to standard treatments and will negatively impact an individual’s ability to maintain employment. These symptoms include:

  • Unexpected episodes of explosive diarrhea
  • Alternating cycles of diarrhea and constipation
  • Abdominal pain and cramping that worsens after eating
  • Excessive bloating and gas
  • Difficulty urinating/incontinence
  • Dehydration caused by diarrhea and occasional vomiting
  • Anemia/malnutrition
  • Weight loss/problem gaining weight
  • Lack of sleep due to nighttime diarrhea
  • Rectal pain/bleeding

While the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome isn’t known, doctors speculate the disorder emerges from a combination of several medical issues involving abnormal contractions of the intestinal muscles, inflammation of the intestines and nervous system dysfunction. Some research has also indicated IBS occurs when an imbalance of gut microflora (“good” and “bad” bacteria) alters normal gastrointestinal processes.

Mild IBS is treated by making dietary changes and taking medications that relax intestinal muscles, reduce diarrhea and relieve constipation. Alternative therapies such as psychotherapy, acupuncture and taking probiotic supplements may also help decrease symptoms.

Does the Social Security Administration View Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a Disability?

The SSA’s Blue Book of Medical Conditions lists IBS under Digestive System impairments (Section 5.00). Although the SSA calls IBS “inflammatory bowel disease”, the two clinical terms refer to the same disorder. The SSA states that IBS could  “cause complications such as obstruction and/or co-occur with manifestations in other systems”.

The SSA does consider IBS as a potentially disabling condition warranting monthly disability benefits. To be approved for IBS disability, you must submit documentation that clearly proves the following:

  • A clinical diagnose determined by imaging scans, biopsy, endoscopy or operative conclusions
  • Obstructions in the colon or small intestine that required hospitalization for surgery or intestinal decompression. Hospitalizations must have occurred two or more times in one year, with each hospital stay separated by at least 60 days.

The SSA also accepts the following from IBS patients applying for disability if they do not have small intestine obstructions:

  • Anemia (hemoglobin tests must show less than 10.0 g/dL)
  • A test result of less than 3.0 gdL for serum albumin
  • Clinical documentation of severe abdominal cramping and pain that cannot be relieved with prescription medications
  • Perineal disease accompanied by draining fistula or abscess
  • Weight loss of 10 percent or more (based on BMI indexes)
  • Necessity for daily supplemental nutrition via a venous catheter or gastronomy

When evaluating a disability claim for IBS or any other medical issue, the SSA will carefully examine all medical documentation, including physician reports regarding the applicant’s physical and mental abilities in relation to employment possibilities. If you are applying for SSI or SSDI for irritable bowel syndrome, be aware the SSA considers how long you can sit, stand or walk without experiencing difficulty as well as how capable you are of lifting, pushing and carrying weighted items. SSA evaluators will also take into account when you were initially diagnosed with IBS, how much work you have missed due to IBS symptoms (if you are still employed) and how well you have responded to various treatments.

How Do I File for IBS Disability Benefits?

The SSA accepts disability applications in person, over the phone or online. You will need to make an appointment with the SSA office nearest your location to apply. You do not need an appointment when you apply online or by phone.

After you have submitted your disability claim, the SSA will review the application and all accompanying documents. They may contact you if they have questions about the claim or request additional information before they continue processing the application.

Once a decision is made, the SSA will send a letter either approving or denying your claim. You will not be contacted via email or phone by the SSA when a decision is reached.

In addition to medical documents proving you have been diagnosed with IBS, you will also need to include a copy of your birth certificate, military discharge papers if you were in the military prior to 1968 and tax returns for the previous year (if applicable). Individuals not born in the U.S.will have to include proof of citizenship in their application packet (passport, certificate of naturalization or citizenship).

Checking the status of your application can be done online by logging into your SSA account or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

Why Would My IBS Disability Application Be Denied by the Social Security Administration?

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of many medical conditions the SSA is disinclined to approve for disability benefits. However, people with severe IBS are typically approved for SSDI or SSI after appealing an initial denial with the assistance of an experienced disability attorney. A primary reason for denying disability applications is that the SSA has not been given sufficient documentation proving a person’s IBS symptoms will continue to be chronically debilitating. Since mild to moderate IBS symptoms tend to come and go, the SSA will not approve disability applications from people with intermittent symptoms.

If the SSA does deny your IBS claim, it is probably due to one or more of the following:

  • SSA determined you can still perform work you have done in the past
  • SSA determined you can perform work that you have not done in the past (for example, someone who previously worked on an auto assembly line but had to quit because of IBS may be able to find work that allows them to take frequent breaks)
  • Your age and education level. People over 50 who do not have a college degree are approved for disability much more often than younger individuals with college degrees
  • Your application failed to provide sufficient medical documentation proving you can no longer work due to IBS

How Do I Appeal a Denial for IBS Disability Benefits?

An appeal (reconsideration) should be filed as soon as a letter of denial is received. You only have 60 days from the time you receive a denial letter before you can no longer file an appeal. Do not file a new claim if you have been denied. The SSA will deny it again and it could significantly delay the appeals process. However, if you miss meeting the 60-day deadline, you should then file a new disability claim.

Any new medical evidence you have that proves your IBS is worsening or not responding to treatment should be brought up at the reconsideration appeal stage. It is possible you could get approved at this point if new documentation shows considerable deterioration of your health. However, most reconsideration appeals are denied and must be taken to the next stage of the appeals process.

In most cases, appeals claims are decided within three to four months of being received by the SSA. Getting an appeal approved means you will shortly begin receiving monthly disability benefits.

Denied appeals are allowed to be appealed again within 60 days of the decision. This time, you must request an appeals hearing that is held before an administrative law judge (ALJ). These “second appeal” hearings are heard by a judge who knows nothing about your case. The Social Security Administration gives you the choice of attending the hearing in person or attending the hearing via video. Before an ALJ decides to approve or deny your appeal, they examine your original application and all documentation included in your application to determine if administrative mistakes were made. You cannot submit new medical documents at the ALJ stage of the appeals process.

Be aware that it could take as long as six to nine months to get an ALJ hearing scheduled and another several months after the hearing is over to receive the judge’s determination.

When Should I Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

Certain medical conditions are almost always approved initially for disability by the SSA, such as aggressive cancers, early onset Alzheimer’s disease, acute leukemia, severe developmental disorders and serious mental illnesses. Any medical condition that does not present immediately debilitating symptoms resistant to treatment is likely to be denied for disability benefits.

If your IBS disability application has been denied for the first time, consider hiring a disability lawyer to handle the reconsideration phase of the appeals process. Filing appeal after appeal, especially when you reach the Appeals Council or Federal Court appeal stage, involves completing and filing extensive paperwork with the courts while trying to deal with the financial stress of being unable to work. Social Security disability lawyers have worked with the SSA and know exactly what SSA evaluators are looking for when it comes to approving a disability claim.

Disability lawyer Joel Thrift will ensure you receive a fair hearing, file appeals that skillfully challenge denials and significantly expedite the time it takes to get an approval so you can start receiving your disability benefits. If you have irritable bowel syndrome and can no longer work, call Joel Thrift today to schedule an appointment.

Will my Stimulus Impact the SSDI Income Limit for 2020?

Will my Stimulus Impact the SSDI Income Limit for 2020?

The Social Security Administration relies on the U.S. average wage index to determine how much a person’s income can be and still qualify for SSDI. For 2020, the SSA has determined that disabled individuals on SSDI can make up $1260 per month and remain eligible to receive SSDI benefits. Blind SSDI recipients can earn up to $2110 before they no longer qualify for SSDI.  However, SSDI recipients are not bound by limits on unearned income. Examples of unearned income include investment and interest earnings or spousal income.

Will My SSDI Benefits Decrease If I Receive a Stimulus Payment from the Government?

Stimulus payments will not affect monthly SSDI, SSI or Social Security payments.There is no need to report stimulus payments to the SSA as income. In addition, stimulus payments are not taxable and will not count as a resource unless you have not spent the payment one year after receiving it.

What Should I Do If I am on SSDI But Haven’t Received a Stimulus Payment Yet?

As long as individuals receiving SSDI have a valid Social Security number and are not claimed as a dependent on a parent or guardian’s tax return, they should receive an economic impact payment totaling $1200. If you are on SSDI and have children under the age of 17 who live with you at six months out of the year, you should also receive another $500 per child.

Can SSDI Recipients Have Their Stimulus Payments Garnished?

No. Stimulus payments cannot be garnished for past due taxes or a student loan default. However, SSDI recipients who are behind in child support payments will likely see their payment reduced or eliminated altogether to pay for past due child support.

What Else Should SSDI Recipients Know About Economic Impact Payments?

Railroad and veteran retirement beneficiaries and recipients of SSI and SSDI who have not filed tax returns for the past three years will need to enter their payment information on the IRS website. This is also necessary if you have a minor child who qualifies for the $500 payment. You will not automatically receive the extra $500 payment for children under 17 in the household unless you provide information to the IRS.

Even if the government decides to issue another economic impact payment to U.S. citizens this year, that payment will not change the amount of your monthly SSDI benefits. SSDI benefits only change if you earn income over the limit established for 2020.

If you do see a reduction in your SSDI benefits after receiving a stimulus payment and don’t know why the SSA has decreased your benefits, contact Joel Thrift Law to schedule an appointment. Trying to resolve an issue with SSA is usually stressful and time-consuming, with different representatives providing different answers to your inquires. We can help you resolve problems as quickly as possible so you don’t have to deal with complex SSA rules and regulations.

What happens to SSDI benefits at death?

What happens to SSDI benefits at death?

A family member of an individual who passes away while receiving SSDI benefits should always contact the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. Unless the SSA is informed of an SSDI beneficiary’s death, checks or direct deposits will continue occurring until the SSA’s system is flagged about the person’s death. However, the system may not be flagged for several months.

Any SSDI checks recieved after the beneficiary has died will need to be returned to the SSA. More specifically, if an SSDI beneficiary receives a check on March 5 and passes away a week later, the beneficiary’s spouse or other family member can keep the check. However, if a SSDI recipient passes away in March and you recieve a check in April, you must return that check to the SSA. Failure to return SSDI benefits you are not entitled to can result in court action or even jail time.

Are Spouses or Children Entitled to a Deceased’s SSDI Benefits?

If the beneficiary’s surviving spouse was living with the deceased at the time of their death, they may be eligible to receive a lump sum, one-time payment of $255. The Social Security Administration also provides survivor’s benefits to eligibile widows and widowers over age 60 or over age 50 and disabled. Unmarried children of deceased beneficiaries who are 18 years old or younger may also be eligible for monthly survivor’s benefits.

Be aware that survivor’s benefits and SSDI benefits are two entirely different things. Spouses and children of deceased recipients of SSDI cannot continue receiving the same SSDI benefits. Instead, the Social Security Administration will determine if they are eligible for either a lump sum payment or monthly survivor’s benefits.

Who Else May Receive Survivor’s Benefits?

A deceased SSDI recipient must have worked a certain amount of years before spouses or children can receive survivor’s benefits. However, if the deceased had no children under the age of 18, then the parents of the deceased, a surviving spouse not living with the deceased or adult children may be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits. For deceased SSDI recipients with no immediate family, a person who is legally representating the deceased’s estate may qualify for survivor’s benefits.

What Happens to SSDI Claims in Process When an Applicant Dies?

When a parent or spouses passes away while in the process of filing a claim for SSDI, the children or spouse of the deceased may be entitled to open another SSDI claim. They may also be permitted to simply finish processing the claim the deceased had already started.

Understanding the Social Security Administration’s guidelines for determining eligibility for survivers of an SSDI beneficiary is complicated and time-consuming. In addition, contacting an SSA representative on the phone can result in long wait times and incomplete answers to your questions. Disability attorney Joel Thrift can provide the expert legal assistance and personal attention you are searching for to determine your eligibility as quick as possible.

For all your disability, worker’s compensation and personal injury law needs, call Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a consultation appointment.

Is it a good idea to appeal your SSDI denial online or with an Attorney?

Is it a good idea to appeal your SSDI denial online or with an Attorney?

After waiting three to five months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide on your disability application, it’s disheartening to read a letter stating that you were denied benefits. Fortunately, you can appeal SSA’s decision or submit a new application, and speed up the process by filing online. But, should you simply upload more files and hope that the SSA agrees with you?

Before pursuing an appeal on your own, it’s a good idea to speak with a Social Security disability attorney who knows about the complex Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) appeals process. An attorney who regularly handles such cases can take the pressure off of you so you can focus on the illness or injury that prevents you from working. 

Use Medical Records That Support Your Disability Claim

Your medical records are a key part of your disability appeal. The files provide a history of your illness or injury and how your deteriorating condition limits your ability to work. Without up-to-date documents that detail the extent of your illness or injury, SSA’s disability examiner and medical team will more than likely deny your request for reconsideration. 

A disability attorney can review the files you submitted in your initial application and recommend adding new or missing information that can strengthen your appeal. What’s more, with your written permission, an attorney can request the files in a timely manner on your behalf. 

Get Statements to Support Your Disability Claim 

How has your illness or injury affected your ability to work? A disability lawyer can provide written statements from others to answer the question and affirm your claim of disability. For example, a doctor, occupational or physical therapist, or a psychologist who has treated you over a long period of time can offer insight into your condition and offer opinions about your recovery.  

Your family members and close friends may also contribute statements on how your condition has impacted your quality of life. For instance, your inability to work can hit your household finances hard and lead to a decline in your family’s quality of life, especially if you are the only one working and have dependents. What’s more, if your condition has resulted in a diagnosis of clinical depression, your family members would also feel the impact of your mental state. 

The more information you provide SSA about your life-changing condition, the more your chances increase for getting approved for disability benefits. 

Appealing Your Case to a Judge

If you are at the point where the SSA has denied your reconsideration request, you can ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge. Appearing before a judge to explain why you should receive disability benefits is unnerving. But, you can avoid the stress by having a Social Security disability attorney represent you at the hearing. 

Before the hearing, your lawyer can write legal briefs and provide other documents for the judge to review. Depending on the type of injury or illness you suffered, a medical expert could testify at the hearing about the nature of your medical condition. Your attorney can help you prepare in advance to respond to questions the judge may ask about your impairment.  

Contact Joel Thrift Law

If you are worried about an SSA disability denial, Joel Thrift Law can help you. Our firm handles all aspects of Social Security disability cases, from filing the initial application to the multilevel appeals process.

When you are struggling with a health condition, the last thing you want to do is figure out what to file online that would convince SSA to approve your request for disability benefits. At Joel Thrift Law, we know the type of documents, data, and other information SSA looks for when reviewing SSDI requests. 

SSA gives you 60 days from the date of the denial notice to file an appeal. So, time is of the essence. Call Joel Thrift Law today so that we start working on your appeal. 

Will I be able to claim SSDI for COVID19?

Will I be able to claim SSDI for COVID19?

Because COVID-19 isn’t a long-term chronic illness, there is still much to be determined about how those who recover from the virus will be affected in the coming weeks and months. While it is unlikely that an individual would be able to claim Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) as a direct result of contracting Coronavirus, if they experience other chronic illnesses that were initially caused by the virus or aggravated by it, they may be able to claim benefits for those conditions. However, the federal government is working to help those who receive Supplemental Security Income or SSI to receive an economic impact payment to help offset lost wages and other costs associated with the pandemic. Keep reading to learn more. 

I Currently Receive SSI Benefits, How Can I get my COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment?

For individuals who are receiving SSI benefits and did not file 2018 or 2019 federal income taxes and have qualifying children under age 17 in the home, it’s important not to wait for an automatic economic impact check to be sent in the mail. To make sure you receive your qualifying payment, you should visit the IRS website as soon as possible and enter in the information for Non-Filers. 

It is essential for SSI recipients with dependent children who did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019 to complete this information as soon as possible, as they will not be eligible to receive additional payments for eligible dependents after May 5, 2020. If you do not provide this information to the IRS as soon as possible, you will only be eligible for the base payment of $1,200 at this time. To be eligible for the additional $500 economic impact payment for each dependent child, you would be required to file income taxes for the 2020 tax year. 

Information for Direct Express Card Holders

If you are a Direct Express Card Holder, you can still use the Non-Filer tool on the IRS website, but your payment will not be sent to your Direct Express card. Instead, you can receive your economic impact payment via a non-Direct Express bank account or in the mail. Worried about how the economic impact payments will affect your SSI benefits? They won’t! The Social Security Administration will not be considering these payments as income for SSI recipients, and they will be excluded from any of your resources for 12 months.

Beware of Scammers

Additionally, it’s important that SSI recipients are aware of potential COVID-19 scammers that may try to take advantage of the current situation. To protect yourself, do not give out personal or banking information over the phone to anyone claiming to be calling from the US Treasury Dept., the IRS, or the Social Security Administration. If you would like more information regarding potential COVID-19 scams, please visit the Treasury’s website and report suspected economic impact payment fraud. 

Contact Joel Thrift Law Today

Interested in learning more about the SSDI and SSI claims process? Please give us a call at (404) 618-4816 or contact our experienced attorneys today for more information and be sure to schedule a free initial consultation. 

Finding Your Theme of Your Social Security Case

Finding Your Theme of Your Social Security Case

The first thing I do when I review a new Social Security case is determine the theme of the case. Ultimately, the theme is the reason you cannot work, but I like to call it theme because of what that word means. The dictionary defines the word “theme” as an idea that “pervades a work of art or literature.” Your theme needs to pervade your case. Your medical records, your answers on paperwork, your testimony, and anything else related to your case needs to reflect the theme of your case. Your theme needs to pervade your case. 

What is a good theme? This might seem like a simple question, but it’s not. I ask new clients all the time why they can’t work and some will say things like, “I can’t drive a truck anymore because my blood pressure is too high” or “I can’t do my warehouse job because I can’t stand for a long time.” Depending on your age, those are likely losing themes.

In order to get your theme, you need to start with the most basic things that every employer requires. Every employer requires you to show up on time, stay on task, and only take scheduled breaks. Employers will not let your take naps or elevate your legs above your heart for several hours a day. To get your theme, think about which of your symptoms would be a deal breaker for any employer. Do you have fatigue that would require extra breaks? Do you need to lie down during the day to relieve pain? Would you have flare ups of your symptoms several times a month that would cause you to call in sick too often? These are winning themes. 

If you are over fifty or fifty-five, the rules are different. The ability to do past work becomes much more important and the skills you learned in those jobs are important. For more information about those rules, I’ve written this linked article. For now, just know that the theme of your case will likely be why you are reduced to sedentary or light work and why you cannot do your past work.

Once you have your theme, use it. When you go to your doctor, tell your doctor about the symptoms that match your theme. If you have flare-ups of your symptoms that keep you in bed all day from time to time, tell your doctor and make sure it is documented. If your theme is the need to lie down, tell your doctor that lying down helps with your pain. When you fill out your function report, make sure your answers match your theme. When you fill out your job history, remember your theme. Again, your theme needs to pervade your case. Lastly, never exaggerate. It’s not necessary and will only hurt your credibility. 

Where is my SSDI Backpay?

Where is my SSDI Backpay?

In most SSDI/SSI claims, where an individual is awarded benefits, they will be entitled to past-due benefits or “backpay.” Typically, these past-due benefits can be dated to the day the claim was originally filed or in certain instances, to a date even further back in time. Why does this happen? The reason for this backpay issue boils down to the fact that Social Security disability claims can take a very long time to process. Since most people are denied one or more times before being awarded benefits, many SSDI and SSI claims can take anywhere from several months to years. However, the amount of disability backpay benefits you may be entitled to depend on several different factors. And the amount of time you must wait to receive these benefits can vary as well. Keep reading to learn more.

How Does the Social Security Administration Determine Backpay Benefits?

1. Application Date

Typically, with Social Security disability claims, applicants can receive backpay benefits dating back to the date that they originally filed their claim. Depending on your claim, you may also be able to receive retroactive benefits dating back to a full year before your original application date. When working with the Social Security Administration, this year is known as the “retroactive period.” 

However, this retroactive period does not apply to SSI claims. With SSI disability claims, applicants may be eligible for benefits dating back to the first month after their original application date. This date is typically referred to as a “protective filing date” and will be an important date to remember as you go through the claims process.

2. Date of Disability

Even more important than your filing dates is the onset date of your disability—or the date that your disability first began. When you fill out your SSDI claim forms, you must indicate the date you believe you first experienced your disability, this is called the “alleged onset date” of your disability. However, when you are approved for benefits, an “established onset date” will be determined by an administrative law judge assigned to your case during the appeals process or the DDS disability examiner. An established onset date is determined based on your work history and medical records.

3. The 5-month Waiting Period

The final factor that affects your disability payments is the 5-month waiting period. For SSDI applicants who have been approved for benefits with an established onset date, 5 months’ worth of benefits will be removed from the beginning of your disability. This is often referred to as the “date of entitlement” and doesn’t kick in until 5 months from your established onset date. 

For those who have had an examiner or judge determine that your onset date is 17 or more months before your application date, you will likely be entitled to 12 months of retroactive benefits, prior to the protective filing date.

What Happens If I’m Awarded Backpay?

If you were approved for both SSDI and SSI benefits, there is a chance that you may end up waiting longer to receive your backpay than if you had only been awarded SSDI benefits. Backpay that is owed for an approved SSDI claim is received in a lump sum but an exact payment window can be somewhat unpredictable. 

Consult with a Social Security Attorney at Joel Thrift Law

If you are unsure whether you are entitled to backpay for an SSDI or SSI claim, speaking with an experienced Social Security attorney can be extremely helpful. Please give us a call at (404) 618-4816 or contact our friendly SSDI specialists today for more information. 

How is SSDI Calculated in Georgia

How is SSDI Calculated in Georgia

If you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits or SSDI, the payment you receive each month is based on your average lifetime income earnings before your disability started. And the amount of monthly benefits that you receive is not based on the type of disability you have or how much money you currently have in the bank. Most people who are awarded benefits receive anywhere from $800 to $1,800 per month. But if you are receiving disability payments from other sources, your payments could be reduced. Keep reading to learn more about SSDI payments in Georgia.

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance in Georgia

Georgia residents can apply for SSDI benefits through their local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices. The Social Security Administration has two programs available that are designed to provide disability payments for individuals who have been disabled and are no longer able to work and support themselves or their families. These two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income or SSI. And while some states may have other programs available, Georgia doesn’t offer short-term disability benefits.

Georgia State Disability Benefits

Social Security disability insurance requires that applicants have worked and paid into Social Security for a certain period of time to be eligible to receive payments. This differs from SSI, which is based on limited income and resources and provides benefits for those who are disabled and cannot work. Currently, the average SSDI payment is $1,258 and the maximum monthly payment you can receive from this program in 2020 is $3,011 for those who file at full retirement age—66 years and 2 months. 

How is SSDI Calculated in Georgia?

For individuals who are eligible for SSDI benefits, the payment amount you receive each month is based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability developed. In order to count towards the amount of SSDI benefits you will receive, your previous lifetime earnings must be covered under the Social Security program. “Covered earnings” are wages that you received from any job that paid into Social Security. If you have ever gotten a paycheck that had a portion of your wages withheld for FICA or other Social Security taxes, that money counts as covered earnings and will likely go towards determining your final benefit amount. While there may be a few exceptions, most of your previous wages should be counted as covered earnings.

Your Social security disability benefits are based on your average covered earnings that were earned over a certain period of time. This time frame is referred to as the average indexed monthly earnings or AIME. Once this number has been determined, a formula is used to calculate your primary insurance amount or PIA—this is the basic figure that the Social Security Administration uses to calculate your entitled benefit amount.

It is possible to access your entire earnings history by checking your annual Social Security Statement. The Social Security Administration makes it very easy to access this and other important information on its website. All you need to do to check your statement is to log on to my Social Security. They have also provided a number of handy benefits calculators, that makes it super easy to get an estimate of your disability payments—should you be approved for SSDI. Additionally, you can call your local Social Security office and ask them to provide you with an estimate of your benefit payout.

Getting Disability Help in Georgia

Interested in learning more about the SSDI claims process? Call (404) 618-4816 or contact the friendly Social Security attorneys as Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a free initial consultation.