How to Win SSDI Case in Front of Judge

How to Win SSDI Case in Front of Judge

Most people lose their original SSDI claim; in fact, 70% of claims are denied. That doesn’t mean your claim is over, just that you will will need to ask for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge so you can explain your case in person. Most claims can be won at this stage, but it is best to be as prepared as possible so that you don’t have to go even further into the appeals process and wait even longer.

Here are some tips so that you understand what happened and how best to go forward in the future:

Hire a Qualified Disability Advocate or Attorney You Are Comfortable With

While many people choose to represent themselves, you will benefit from having an experienced advocate by your side. While there are no rules against representing yourself, it is generally not in your best interest to go to court alone. Even experienced attorneys usually hire other attorneys to represent them in court if they are involved in personal litigation.

Preparing Your Case

The first thing we can help with is evaluating your case and helping you decide the best way to present it to the judge. The ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) hears many cases throughout the year, but your disability attorney will help you organize your presentation so that the judge understands the seriousness of your case. Make sure your attorney has copies of all your paperwork, including medical exams and work information.

Helping You Stay Calm

The first benefit of bringing an attorney with you is that you know that you are not alone. Most people are nervous when involved in courtroom proceedings, but you will feel better knowing that you are with someone who has been through this before many times and is on your side. The more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to remember everything important you wanted to tell the judge.

Your Physical Presentation

Your attorney can also help you with your physical presentation. Courts expect a certain amount of decorum, and your attorney can help you to understand what kind of clothing and demeanor will most impress the ALJ. While you are not going to be putting on a show, being appropriate goes a long way when presenting your case in court.

That doesn’t mean that you should go out and buy a nice suit like you think an attorney might wear to court, or that you have to feel as though you have to go overboard with how servile you act toward the judge. It is more important to be neat, clean, and respectful looking and to be civil and polite with the judge.

Know Your Case

Your lawyer can help you better if you know your case thoroughly and can help explain why it is necessary for you to have SSDI. Keep up with any changes and make sure your attorney gets new information. It is never good to have a surprised attorney in court, and it could potentially keep your attorney from representing you as fully. Knowing your full medical history is important, and there are free and reduced-price services that may be able to help you develop your record.

You don’t need to become a medical expert, but you should be able to show evidence about your injuries and your treatment over a period of time. Never forget that nobody knows as well as you do how your disability is affecting your day-to-day life and ability to work. 

Never Minimize Your Disability

Many people have trouble letting go of their pride, and may not want to admit that there are some things they can’t do anymore. You probably have a picture in your head of the way you used to be, and all the things you used to be able to do. It can be really hard to admit that you aren’t the person you were before.

Get rid of those ideas, because the ALJ is not there to look down on you for your injury. Explain how your disability affects your specific abilities and how that makes it difficult if not impossible for you to continue to perform your job duties. You will not be judged as a person based on your ability to perform certain job functions.

Never Exaggerate Your Disability

Many people go the opposite way, and try to exaggerate the extent of their injuries. This is a sure way to anger a trier of fact, who has dealt with many cases like yours before and will probably immediately know if you are being dishonest. Once the ALJ finds out that someone is dishonest, that will become part of that person’s record and could affect the ability of that person to ever prevail in an SSDI case. This is the scenario we see on television, where someone in a personal injury lawsuit claims to be seriously injured and then a detective brings pictures of the person dancing the tango and skydiving.

While your experience in a disability hearing will not be that dramatic, you do need to remember to always be honest. Sometimes people exaggerate because they are worried that the judge won’t take them seriously otherwise. Don’t worry about the fact that there are people in the world who have worse injuries than you. The judge is only there that day to evaluate your case.

Use an Expert to Explain How Your Injuries Are Affecting You

Someone such as an occupational therapist can provide evidence as to how your disability keeps you from doing your particular job, and can also provide information on how your disability will keep you from transferring your skills so that you are able to do another job. This is important so you can show the Court why you didn’t just go get a different job when you became injured. An occupational therapist can show the judge why someone with your injury will no longer be able to do what is expected at your job.

Do Not Miss Your Hearing

Just like with other important appointments, it is crucial to be present and show up on time for your appointment. If you expect a potential time conflict, go ahead and move to continue your hearing in advance. If you simply miss your hearing without a very good reason, the ALJ is going to default you, and you will lose your case. You may not be able to move on from this point after you lose by default at this hearing.

Keep In Touch With Your Attorney

As soon as you have a disability attorney, make sure you keep in close contact. If your attorney calls you, call back as soon as possible. By the same token, make sure you advise your attorney every time you get new information that may apply to your case. There are many times where a client did not give the attorney information crucial to the case, and it resulted in losing the case. Don’t worry about bothering your attorney if you have crucial information to share. Your attorney chose to help clients with disability claims and wants you to call.

Be Patient

It can take up to 2 years from the start of your claim before you get a date in court. Waiting for a long time can be frustrating, especially when you can’t work and you have to figure out how to live without your regular income. Don’t let the ALJ see if you are feeling anxious about how much time has passed. Your initial hearing is your best chance at winning your claim, so you want to take full advantage of it when your day finally arrives.

At Joel Thrift Law, we understand how frustrating it is to deal with the SSDI process, especially when it seems as though it should be easier to get something you feel you have a right to. Especially if you worked for a long time before your injury, you may be wondering why the process is so difficult to get benefits to which you should be entitled. 

Even though there are many similarities in cases, your case is still different from other cases in important ways. We at Joel Thrift Law will help so that when you go to court, the judge will see why your case is so important. If you or someone you love has a potential or active disability claim, give us a call today.

How Long Does it Take to Reinstate SSDI?

How Long Does it Take to Reinstate SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides monthly benefits to individuals who can no longer work due to a disabling medical condition. To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked enough years to accumulate work credits. The Social Security Administration grants work credits according to yearly wage amounts. For people who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to financially assist low-income disabled children and adults.

When a medical condition improves enough to allow an SSDI recipient to return to work, their benefits will stop as soon as they receive their first check. In some cases, they may return to work for several months only to discover symptoms of their condition returning. Or, they may injure themselves while on the job because they weren’t physically ready to return to work. Whatever the reason someone needs to restart SSDI benefits, the SSA offers “expedited reinstatement” to apply for SSDI without completing a new disability application.

What is an Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) for SSDI?

An EXR avoids filling out an entire disability application while shortening the time it takes to start getting monthly benefits. In addition, when you apply for expedited reinstatement, the SSA may approve you for provisional benefits for as long as six months.

Qualifying for SSDI initially meant you had to prove to SSA disability evaluators that you could not maintain substantial gainful activity (SGA) that gave you income of no more than $1260 per month. If you return to work and start earning over that amount, you no long qualify for SSDI. You must always notify the SSA whenever you obtain employment while getting SSDI payments.

You are eligible for EXR if your income earnings fall below the substantial gainful activity amount set for 2020 and you applied and were approved for SSDI within the last five years. For example, someone who was approved for SSDI in 2013, reentered the work force in 2017 but became disabled again in 2020, they would not be eligible for expedited reinstatement of their SSDI benefits. Instead, they would have to file a new application complete with new medical documentation and updated information about their condition. Also, if the SSA approves an EXR request, the claimant may be entitled for up to a year of retroactive payments from the date the EXR request was filed. Eligibility for retroactive benefits varies from case to case and does not apply to everyone filing an EXR request.

What Happens After You Apply for an EXR for SSDI?

The SSA will sent your EXR application to a local disability determination agency that reviews criteria establishing the definition of a disability. In addition, the agency will examine your medical documentation and doctor’s reports to determine if you have had any improvements in your condition since you first applied for SSDI. According to the SSA, a medical improvement is evidence that your condition is not as severe as it was when you initially qualified for SSDI. Medical improvement must also be substantial enough to allow you work and earn “gainful” income.

Medical improvement must be directly related to a person’s ability to remain employed and to the impairment for which you were previously receiving SSDI. For example, if you were receiving SSDI for irritable bowel syndrome, returned to work when you responded well to treatment but had to stop working due to a return of SBI, the SSA cannot deny your EXR because they state you are no longer anemic.

In most cases, the claim of a medical improvement involving an EXR is difficult to prove, especially when you have past and present medical documentation proving you have received a clinical diagnosis of your disabling condition.

What is the Provisional Benefit Period?

While waiting for an EXR to be approved, the SSA will pay temporary benefits for up to six months. However, provisional SSDI benefits will stop when you receive a decision about an EXR request or if you earn income above the substantial gainful activity amount. Provisional benefits will also be discontinued if you turn 65 years old (full retirement age) before a decision is reached. If your expedited reinstatement request is denied, you do not have to repay provisional benefits as long as no overpayments were involved.

Monthly provisional benefits are generally equal to what you were receiving while on SSDI. Occasionally, this amount is adjusted if underpayments, overpayments or cost of living increases enacted by Congress have been established since your last benefit payment. Additionally, you are also entitled to health insurance while receiving provisional benefits. SSDI recipients are usually covered by Medicare.If your EXR is denied, Medicare will stop paying for your health costs.

What About Dependent Benefits and Reinstating SSDI Benefits?

If a spouse or child was receiving SSDI or SSI based on your income and their disability benefits ceased due to your income, their benefits will resume following approval of your EXR. Be aware that the SSA does not restart spousal, disabled child or parent’s benefits automatically. Reinstatement of their benefits must be requested online, by telephone or by mail.

Can You Appeal an Expedited Reinstatement Denial?

Yes, you can appeal an EXR but the appeal must be filed within 60 days of receiving your denial letter. The document you need to send to the SSA is called a “Request for Reconsideration”. Your local disability determination agency will review your application to determine if an error was made in denying your request.

Denials of Requests for Reconsideration can be appealed within 60 days of receiving a denial letter. This appeal will be held in a courtroom where an administrative law judge (ALJ) will preside over the case. The appeals process at this point resembles the appeals process in other types of disability appeals.

If an ALJ denies your second Request for Consideration, you have another chance to appeal the denial by taking it to the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews why the ALJ decided to deny your request. Sometimes, an ALJ may make a procedural or legal error that the Appeal Council will catch and overturn. They will also examine all documents included in your case. You are allowed to provide the Appeals Council additional information pertinent to your medical disability.

Once the Appeals Council is finished reviewing your Request for Consideration, they will take one of three possible actions:

  • Deny the request. If this occurs you can file another appeal in Federal District Court
  • Overturn the denial made by the ALJ and approve your SSDI benefits case
  • Remand your appeal back to an ALJ for the purpose of having the ALJ reconsider your case. At this point, the ALJ will either issue another denial or approve your case

If the Appeals Council flatly denies your case, you cannot ask that it be sent back to the ALJ. The only option is appeal again at the federal level. An Appeals Council that remands a case to an ALJ has probably found some type of technical error or a failure on the part of the ALJ to consider all the medical evidence you provided. Remands by Appeals Council happens in about two out of every 100 disability appeals. Less than three percent of all disability appeals are approved by an Appeals Council.

How Do You Appeal an EXR at the Federal Level?

You will need to file a civil complaint at a U.S. District Court nearest your location. Civil complaints are simply concise statements describing your disability and other aspects of your case. When you file an appeal at the federal level you are essentially not suing the SSA. Instead, the defendant named in your appeal’s complaint is the current commissioner of the Social Security Administration. 

The SSA cannot assist you in completing a civil complaint since the case involves the SSA Commissioner. If you do not have a disability attorney at this point in the appeals process, it is likely your civil complaint will be rejected due to legal omissions and errors. The SSA and other disability experts strongly advise anyone to hire an experienced disability lawyer who give your case the legal expertise it needs to stand a chance at being approved in a Federal District Court.

Contact Joel Thrift Today for Legal Help with Reinstating Your SSDI Benefits

The amount of paperwork and legal knowledge required to ultimately get an EXR approved is extensive and complex in nature. Don’t just start filing appeals without having a disability attorney representing your best interests throughout the appeals process. Call today to schedule an immediate consultation appointment at Joel Thrift Law Offices.

These 49 Disabilities Qualify for SSDI

What disabilities qualify for ssdi?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays monthly benefits to individuals who have accumulated enough work credits to qualify for the program. The number of work credits you have is based on how much you earn in one year. The Social Security Administration allows workers to earn no more than four credits per year. As of 2020, the SSA will give you one credit for every $1410 you earn. The maximum of four credits is allotted once you have earned $5640 in one year.

In most cases, SSDI applicants need 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI. Twenty of those credits must have been earned over the past 10 years. However, if you are under 50 years old and have a qualifying disability, the SSA may approve your SSDI application with fewer than 40 credits.

What are Disability Requirements Established by the SSA?

When you apply for SSDI, you need to prove that:

  • You are incapable of doing work you previously did (for example, if you are a house painter, you must prove you can no longer climb ladders, lift objects, stand on  your feet for hours, etc)
  • You prove you cannot adjust to other types of employment due to your disability
  • You prove you have had your disability for at least one year or it is expected to continue for one year
  • You prove your disability has a negative prognosis (resulting in death)

The SSA further considers an SSDI applicant’s education level, age, and transferrable skills (if any) when determining whether to approve or deny a claim. Disability examiners at the SSA look at the Blue Book of Medical Conditions first when evaluating claims. If the disability indicated in an SSDI application is listed in the Blue Book and symptoms match impairment criteria, the examiner will likely approve the claim.

Medical conditions included in the Blue Book describe impairments affecting all major physiological systems. The SSA states these impairments represent conditions potentially severe enough to prevent someone from performing “gainful activity”, the term used by the SSA for earning income through employment. Many of the conditions are expected to be permanent conditions that will not improve with treatment.

What Happens When Your Disability is not Listed in the SSA’s Blue Book?

Disabilities not listed in the Blue Book may still be approved for SSDI by relying on criteria set by the SSA’s medical-vocational allowance (MVA) program. An MVA approval means that even though a disability failed to meet SSA requirements, the claimant is considered to have a disability severe enough to prevent them from substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial gainful activity is simply a term used by the SSA to indicate a claimant cannot work and earn income sufficient to pay for housing, food, and other life essentials.

For 2020, the SSA allows you to receive SSDI payments while still receiving SGA amounts of $1260 for nonblind individuals and $2110 for blind individuals

What Disabilities Qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance?

Information about disabilities is taken from the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments

 

Disorders of the Immune System

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Systemic vasculitis
  • Scleroderma
  • Polymyositis/dermatomyositis
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • HIV

The SSA accepts the following diagnostic imaging tests when applying for SSDI for an immune system disorder: x-rays, angiography, CAT scans, MRIs or radionuclear bone scans. You must show you cannot work due to symptoms that include but are not limited to severe fatigue, extreme weight loss, fever and general malaise. If an immune system disorder has impaired your cognitive abilities, you must send documented test results proving your reduced ability to focus, remember or think clearly.

Disorders of the Cardiovascular System

  • Chronic heart failure
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Recurring heart arrhythmia
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart transplant
  • Aorta aneurysm
  • Chronic venous insufficiency
  • Peripheral arterial disease

The SSA requires detailed medical documents and reports proving diagnosis of the disease, response to treatments and a longitudinal record containing at least three months of treatment and observation results.

Disorders of the Musculoskeletal System

  • Severe joint dysfunction caused by arthritis, osteoarthritis, bone cancer, etc.
  • Reconstructive joint surgery/joint replacement of any weight-bearing joint (knees, hips, ankles)
  • Spine disorders
  • Limb amputation
  • Fractures of the pelvis, tibia, femur or tarsal bones
  • Severe soft tissue injuries (burns, chemical injuries)

To qualify for SSDI for a musculoskeletal disorder, the SSA must find extreme limitations regarding your ability to walk, use your arms or move without pain.

Disorders of the Digestive System

  • Chronic liver disease (hepatitis)
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging severe enough to require a blood transfusion
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Severe weight loss/inability to gain weight due to any GI disorder
  • Liver transplant
  • Crohn’s disease

Some digestive system disorders may be difficult to get approved for SSDI. The SSA considers these disorders more responsive to treatment. They want extensive documentation showing you have tried several different types of treatment and how you responded to each treatment.

Disorders of the Respiratory System

  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic pulmonary hypertension
  • COPD
  • Lung transplant
  • Respiratory failure
  • Lung cancer

Medical evidence indicating you have a respiratory disorder severe enough to prevent you from working is needed to prove your case. Pulmonary function tests show just how difficult it is for you to inhale enough oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Even if you rely on supplemental oxygen to breathe, the SSA still requires clinical reports establishing the chronic severity of your respiratory disease.

Other common disabilities that qualify for SSDI include:

  • Thyroid diseases
  • Obesity (people who are severely obese generally suffer from chronic, disabling disorders due to their obesity)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy/Recurring seizures

Schedule a consultation appointment at Joel Thrift Law if you believe you have a disability that prevents you from substantial gainful activity. Even though your medical condition does not have a separate listing in the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, you could still qualify and be approved for SSDI with an experienced disability attorney handling your case.

What Mental Disorders Qualify for SSDI?

Mental illnesses are typically harder to get approved by the SSA unless they are severe enough to warrant institutionalization. Mental disorders listed in the Blue Book include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Autism/autism spectrum disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety/panic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • PTSD
  • Intellectual/cognitive impairment disorders

While a physical health problem is easily substantiated with diagnostic scans, lab tests, and other empirical evaluations, a mental illness diagnosis is initially viewed as a subjective diagnosis by SSA disability examiners. To qualify for SSDI, a mental illness must have prevented the individual from working for at least six months. The inability to work due to mental illness should be supported by extensive documentation proving the person has had and is continuing to comply with psychological and pharmacological treatments.

Written testimonies from caregivers, relatives, and close friends who interact with the claimant on a daily basis will also help the SSA lean towards approval of SSDI benefits. Testimonies should detail the difficulties the person has in completing tasks essential for their well-being. For example, a caregiver who spends several hours a day with someone who is taking medication for schizophrenia may describe the problems the person has with remembering, concentrating, and relating to others.

One reason why the SSA denies many SSDI benefit applications is they discover the person has been noncompliant with treatments prescribed by their physician. The majority of mental illness symptoms can be managed as long as the individual takes medication as directed and follows through on counseling appointments. Alternately,  schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders are the most difficult to treat with antipsychotic drugs primarily because of side effects and the need for frequent dosage adjustments. Also, if you were recently diagnosed with a mental illness such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or a personality disorder and have just started taking medications, the SSA will immediately deny your SSDI claim due to a lack of duration of your mental illness.

Understanding which disabilities may qualify for SSDI, gathering medical reports, and navigating complicated rules when applying for disability benefits is both stressful and time-consuming. Joel Thrift Law can help relieve the stress of applying for SSDI by managing your case from start to finish. Call today to make a consultation appointment and start the process of getting the financial assistance you need and deserve.
 

What You Need to Know when Social Security Sends You to their Doctor

What You Need to Know when Social Security Sends You to their Doctor

If you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you may receive a letter requiring you to take a consultative examination (CE). A CE exam is designed to evaluate your current medical condition and limitations. Receiving a CE request means the disability claims examiner in your state could not determine whether you have a disability, and the severity of the disability, based on the medical information you included in your application for SSDI benefits.  

Each state has a Disability Determination Services (DDS) that reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration (SSA). The DDS makes recommendations to the SSA on whether a person is disabled under the Social Security law.

SSDI provides monthly benefits if you have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Before receiving these disability benefits, however, you must prove that you cannot continue working in your most recent job or other jobs for which you may be qualified. Medical records play a key role in proving that you have a disability, which is why a claims examiner wants as much information as possible from your medical file. 

On one hand, you may be reluctant to have a CE, especially if you believe you provided SSA with sufficient information about your disability. On the other hand, by not complying with the CE request, you may jeopardize your opportunity to receive disability benefits. 

Can Your Doctor Perform The Consultative Examination?

While SSA hires independent physicians or psychologists to perform CEs, the SSA says it prefers receiving medical information from the doctor treating the person with a disability. This is why a disability claims examiner might contact the treating physician’s office for the missing information. In your case, it’s possible that you may have already taken a test, assessment, or examination that the disability claims examiner reviewing your application requires. If so, your doctor’s office can send the documents to the examiner. 

In fact, your doctor can conduct the CE if the SSA considers your doctor is qualified, equipped, and willing to do the examination at the fee set by SSA. There is an advantage to having your doctor do the exam, especially if you have been seeing the doctor for quite some time and your doctor can provide relevant details about treating your disability. In this type of situation, SSA will look at the notes your doctor writes about your condition, and your doctor’s opinion or whether your condition is improving, and if, and when, you can go back to work.

While it may be ideal to have your doctor do the CE, this may not happen for several reasons: 

  • Your doctor may not agree to the fee that SSA pays for doing the exam.
  • SSA may want a specialist to do the exam and your doctor may not have the medical specialty SSA requires. For instance, if you have a mental-related disability, SSA would want an examination done by a psychologist or psychologist, rather than a general practitioner. 
  • The claims examiner may have found inconsistencies or conflicts in your file that your doctor’s notes or your other medical records cannot resolve.
  • You may have a reason for wanting another healthcare provider to perform the CE.

If you prefer that your doctor conduct the CE, talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor won’t agree to it, then follow through with the previously scheduled CE.  Be sure to go to the CE at the indicated date, time, and location. Social Security pays for the CE and reimburses you for transportation  If you cannot make the appointment, call and reschedule for another time. Failing to get a CE means that the disability claims examiner may decide that you are not disabled and deny your claim.

What to Expect at a Consultative Examination

The type of CE required depends on the information a claims examiner needs to resolve unanswered questions about your disability. For instance, you may not need an examination if an X-ray, blood test, or other laboratory tests will provide the medical information the disability examiner needs. 

If the doctor asks you about your current condition, tell the doctor about any new symptoms or physical changes that have occurred since you filed your disability claim. For example, if you have a back injury that is now limiting your mobility, describe how this change has impacted your daily activities. In addition, mention any hospitalizations or surgeries you have had due to complications from your disability. You can send this updated information to your disability claims examiner if you haven’t already done so.

The doctor may ask you why you believe your disability prevents you from working. Be specific and honest in answering the questions and include how your health or mental condition affects your ability to do your current job.

After your CE, the doctor sends your test results or the outcome of your examination to the DDS. While each disability case is different, a doctor’s report usually includes:

  • Diagnosis and prognosis of a condition 
  • Results of a test, examination, or lab work
  • A statement about the patient’s ability to work, what type of work activities the patient can still do despite the patient’s disability, or the patient’s inability to work.

Keep in mind that the doctor doing the CE will not treat or prescribe medication for your disability or complications caused by your disability. But, the doctor may note your complaints or other health issues in a report to the DDS.

Approval or Denial After the Examination? It’s Hard to Know

It’s difficult to know exactly how a CE impacts a decision on approval for disability benefits. The disability claims examiner may only want certain information about your condition, which is why you might have a brief examination. In contrast, a more extensive examination could mean that the examiner believes that you provided very few documents to substantiate your injury claim. Or, it may appear to the examiner that you have not been to a doctor in a long time; otherwise, you would have more recent medical records. 

Claims examiners have denied disability benefits based on a lack of information, reasoning that a person claiming to have a serious disability would have gone to the doctor more often for treatment. Besides your medical records, the examiner takes into account your work history, educational background, and other factors before making a decision whether to approve or deny disability benefits.

If the DDS denies your claim, you have a right to appeal the decision. If you decide to appeal, you have within 60 days of the denial to file a written request for an appeal. The appeals process consists of four levels:

  • Reconsideration. SSA will have a claims examiner who was not part of the original decision-making process review your claim. You can submit new evidence for consideration. 
  • A hearing before an administrative law judge. If you cannot attend in person, you can request a hearing to appeal the reconsideration decision via the Internet. 
  • A Social Security’s Appeals Council review. The council will review the administrative law judge’s decision. 
  • A review by the federal courts. Your case will be sent to the federal court in the district in which you live. 

The appeals process is complex, and there’s no guarantee that you will receive approval, even if you appeal. Besides that, appearing before an administrative law judge to answer questions and counter the DSS’s reasonings for your denial can be intimidating when doing it on your own. Keep in mind that the appeals process can take a year or even longer, and your finances may suffer during this time because of your inability to work due to your disability. What’s more, managing your health condition while handling a lengthy appeal may not be in your best interest. 

Some applicants who were denied benefits seek legal advice from a Social Security disability lawyer before moving forward in the appeals process. A lawyer whose practice focuses on Social Security disability knows what information SSA expects to receive before making a determination on whether to approve or deny an SSDI benefits application. Besides being knowledgeable about Social Security’s expectations, a disability lawyer takes the pressure off of their clients by representing them from the beginning to the end of a disability case. 

Not Sure About a Consultative Examination? Contact Joel Thrift Law Today 

A consultative examination is more than just a routine visit with a doctor. At Joel Thrift Law, we can review your disability claim application and advise you of any preparations you may need to make before going to your CE. Our established Social Security disability law firm handles all aspects of disability claims, from filing the initial application, collecting documentation to build a solid claim, to representing claimants in the appeals process.  

If you have been denied disability benefits, we can help you navigate every step of the appeals process, if necessary. Do not jeopardize your case by going it alone. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

How is Social Security Disability Calculated

How is Social Security Disability Calculated

Living with a disability is not a comfortable condition to experience. Due to physical or mental defects, people suffering from this disease will be subject to some restrictions. Also, they may not be able to complete their tasks at home and work as before. When one of the family members no longer pursues his or her life goals, he/she may feel sad and think that life is painful.

One needs the greatest and extensive support from his family, relatives, friends, and others, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or psychological.

This is where the Social Security Administration comes to help. It provides benefits to people who are accidentally injured and disabled due to various reasons. It will continue to provide help until the injured person returns to work. Before receiving disability compensation and benefits, the loss will be determined and evaluated according to the system strategy of claim approval.

In terms of standardized procedures, this may indeed require time and effort. Long and complicated procedures may force claimants to withdraw their petitions.

Determining if you are eligible for Social Security disability:

Here are the steps to help you determine if you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Can you continue with your previous job?

The crucial thing is to show that you can’t continue your previous work. To do this, you will need a professional witness to appear in court to discuss your physical or mental limitations. The Social Security Administration may send its experts to testify against you, so you must have a disability lawyer ready for questioning.

Can you do another job?

After proving that you cannot complete the previous work, SSA may consider other work you can perform. Factors to be considered when making the decision are your previous work age, education, disability, and experience.

What is the extent of your disability?

Your disability should be severe enough to prevent you from engaging in other basic activities to get social security benefits. Joel Thrift Law will spend time with you and your doctor to make a plan to document your condition and show that you have a severe disability.

An experienced disability lawyer will help you determine whether your condition is eligible for disability benefits. It is important to provide Joel Thrift lawyer with proper supporting documents so that she can fully understand your situation.

Are you working at the moment?

Generally, an average monthly income of more than 1,000 USA dollars will disqualify you from receiving Social Security disability benefits. There are some exceptions, and we recommend that you consult an experienced local disability lawyer.

Is social security disability allowance taxable?

Your Social Security Disability/Insurance (SSD/SSI) benefits may be taxable. It will depend on how you archive and whether you have other sources of income. If the source of income in the past year is social security benefits, then these benefits will likely be exempt from income tax. If you have already made other money, you will need to calculate whether the adjusted total income is higher than the IRS’s current limit.

The only source of income for social security disability

The income from your benefits will usually be less than the government’s limit, and these incomes are not subject to federal taxes. This rule applies to situations where all married couples declare jointly, and neither spouse receives any income other than their SSD/SSI benefits.

Other sources of income-calculations and restrictions

If any individual or spouse (married couple) receives income from other sources, you should fill out IRS 1040 form to calculate whether you have any taxable income. The attached form will explain how to perform these calculations and will provide limits to determine which of your income is taxable. Generally, if an individual submits an adjusted income of more than 25,000 US dollars, they may be taxed. If their adjusted income exceeds 32,000 US dollars, the entire application must be taxed.

Although these rules may seem simple, it is wise to consult a tax expert to review your specific facts. A qualified tax professional or financial planner will meet with you and your spouse to collect the necessary details, data, and information. He will need all our tax documents. It will include but is not limited to the following:

  • Bill payment
  • Checking and savings account statements.
  • Form 1099
  • W-2
  • Interest payment
  • Medical fees
  • Investment income

Once all this information has been collected, your tax advisor should be able to determine the federal, state, or local taxes that your disability benefit will pay.

When preparing for a hearing with the judge, a lawyer may even be helpful to you. The lawyer you hire can prepare hearing recommendations for you. Unless you get paid, most lawyers who handle such cases will not get paid. If your case is approved, payment will usually be made from the Social Security Administration Office first, and then your money will be paid to you. It’s a great benefit for you, so you don’t need to spend money when hiring a lawyer.

For those applying for disability allowance, it is important to hire an experienced disability lawyer to represent you. Joel Thrift Law will help you present a compelling case to increase your chances of receiving disability benefits. An experienced disability claims lawyer will provide you with a free consultation and will not charge any fees until you receive Social Security disability benefits.

How much supplementary income will SSA provide you, and what benefits can you get?

If you or a family member you are unable to work due to a work injury or serious illness, you can apply for social security benefits to the Social Security Bureau.

How often can I get Social Security Disability Benefits?

After the application is approved, you will begin to receive benefits in approximately six months. You will receive social security benefits every month.

What is my income?

The amount of your monthly disability allowance is based on your average lifetime income. You can estimate your benefits from the SSA benefits calculator on their website. As a guide, the following are the social security disability standards:

Previous year: Substantial Gain Activity -Non-blind, blind, trial period

Current year: Substantial Gain Activity Non-blind, blind, trial period

What are the benefits?

In addition to the monthly amount, you may also qualify for other benefits. Other social security benefits you may be eligible for are:

  • Medicaid
  • Food stamps
  • Services under the work ticket plan
  • Medical insurance (after two years)

When can I get medical insurance?

After receiving the disability allowance for two years, you will be covered.

Is my family eligible for benefits?

Yes. Some family members can be eligible for benefits. They include:

  • If your child is under 18 years old and studying full-time in school
  • Your spouse, if he is financially supporting your disabled or a child under 16 years
  • If your spouse, over 62 years old

How many benefits can a family member get?

Every family member is eligible for benefits with a monthly disability rate of 50%.

Adjust your benefits:

Your social security benefits may be changed as needed. In the following cases, your benefits may be changed or stopped:

  • Your condition improves
  • The cost of living increases
  • Any changes in your workability
  • Change of your nationality
  • You are married or divorced

What can make my social security benefits permanently or temporarily terminated?

  • You have an outstanding arrest warrant
  • You are found guilty
  • You will also receive a railway pension

What caused my social security benefits to decrease?

If you receive other government subsidies, your Social Security disability benefit may be reduced. social security benefits may be decreased in the following situations:

  • Depending on your work for which you have not paid social security taxes, you will receive a pension.
  • If your employer has not withheld social security taxes from your salary.
  • You are receiving workers’ compensation.

 Social Security Disability Lawyers:

What will social security disability changes happen? Social security disability lawyers are experts on disability law. Hiring a disability lawyer can help you increase your chances of receiving disability benefits and may affect your application’s speed from the day you start receiving benefits. If you have questions about the Social Security disability application or have a case where you did not receive benefits in the previous year, please consider contacting an experienced disability lawyer.

If you seek a Social Security disability claim, the best chance of getting a hearing and winning the claim is to hire an attorney with experience in Social Security disability law. Once you think you have a claim, start looking for an SSD lawyer to represent you.  

Why You Should Contact Joel Thrift Law 

If you are looking for a professional disability lawyer to help you deal with your current case and bring some old and forgotten cases back to life, Joel Thrift Law will be at your service. We have experienced lawyers with the expertise needed to help you resolve messy paperwork, appeals, and government-requested forms to secure your claim. At Joel Thrift Law, our client satisfaction is our main priority. Call us today and get free quotes on all our services.

Obtaining Social Security Disability for COPD

Obtaining Social Security Disability for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) isn’t just one disease but a constellation of lung disorders that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. No cure for COPD currently exists but oxygen supplementation, bronchodilators and oral steroids can help slow progression of the disease and provide some symptom relief. Early signs of COPD involve coughing that produces mucus, becoming short of breath easily, tightness in the chest area and a whistling or wheezing noise when the person breathes. Individuals with COPD often suffer from recurring respiratory infections that exacerbate symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD globally. In fact, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. COPD is also one of the top health reasons people seek social security disability benefits when they can no longer work or even take care of themselves. Not only does COPD make it difficult to breath, this chronic disease can also reduce functioning of major organs due to low oxygen levels in the bloodstream and compromise of the immune system.

The Social Security System does provide SSD for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and medical conditions arising from complications of COPD. Individuals over 50 years old typically have an easier time being approved because the SSA uses a medical-vocational grid to determine eligibility. Unless younger claimants can prove their COPD symptoms are moderately severe or severe, they may be need to appeal several times before getting approved for SSD benefits.

What is the SSA’s Medical-Vocational Grid?

The Social Security Administration considers the ability for individuals over 50 to perform old skills or learn new skills is limited compared to people under 50. For this reason, SSA application evaluators rely on “grids” to determine SSD eligibility for older people with COPD. Factors included in the medical-vocational grid include:

  • Age
  • Education level (high school/college grad/vocational certifications)
  • Previous employment/skills related to that employment
  • Any new skills learned after leaving previous employment sector
  • Claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC)

An example of how the SSA determines approval of COPD disability when this grid is used would be rule 201.3. This rules states that a person of “advanced age” (over 55) who is skilled or semi-skilled with transferable skills but limited education is considered “not disabled” if their COPD symptoms are not severe enough to prevent them from working.

Residual Functioning Capacity

The Social Security Administration defines residual functioning capacity as a claimant’s “ability to work full-time on a sustained basis”. The medical documentation provided by applicants is vital to ensuring the SSA gets a clear, objective picture of what the applicant can and cannot do. RFC ratings are given to evaluate a person’s ability to perform sedentary work, light to medium work or heavy work. Being initially approved for disability benefits for COPD means proving that you could not sit and do some kind of work without experiencing symptoms severe enough to dangerously affect your health. If an applicant cannot prove advanced COPD with medical documents and reports, the SSA is likely to deny the request. However, be aware that the older an applicant is, the more likely the SSA will approve your SSD application.

The SSA will only accept RFC documentation from physicians or other licensed medical professional specializing in lung disorders. Details on RFC paperwork should include exactly how much weight an applicant can lift safely, how long they can stand or walk without experiencing health problems and how their inability to breathe properly affects employment potential. This allows the SSA to create an RFC assessment based on doctor reports and results of one or more breathing tests.

Applicants should also ensure physicians include all other health issues on reports regardless if they are associated complications of COPD. Even if you are applying specifically for SSD benefits because of COPD, the Social Security Administration’s board of evalutors will look at all other health problems that could potentially make the difference between being approved or being denied.

What is Pulmonary Function Testing and Why Is It Important for Determining SSD Eligibility for COPD?

Multiple pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are necessary for assessing lung functioning. In addition to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, PFTs are also given to people with asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and scleroderma. The most common type of PFT is called a spirometry test. If you are planning to apply for SSD benefits for COPD, you will need detailed documentation regarding the results of multiple PFTs.

Spirometry–calculates how much air a patient can inhale and exhale as well as how quickly lungs can empty themselves of oxygen in one second. You will be asked to exhale as much air as possible into a tube connected to a spirometer machine.

Lung Diffusion Capacity–this test analyzes how quickly a person’s red blood cells can transport oxygen to the lungs. LDCs are important to getting approved for SSD if you have COPD because it also shows the amount of damage done to blood vessels connecting the lungs and heart

Body Plethysmography--by measuring how much air remains in the lungs after exhaling, doctors can tell how badly COPD has damaged lung capacity. Body plethysmographies are also useful for adjusting medications, oxygen supplementation and use of bronchodilators

Cardiopulmonary Stress Test–CSTs involve patients walking on treadmills or riding a stationary bicycle. Doctors record respiration and heart rate to determine severity level of COPD or other progressive respiratory disease. While performing some kind of exercise, patients will breathe into a tube attached to a machine that provides physicians with results. People with moderate to severe COPD may only be able to walk or ride a bicycle for a few seconds before feeling dizzy or weak. This type of medical information is vital to increasing your chances of being approved for disability benefits for COPD 

Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide Test–people with COPD and asthma may need to take this test to determine if abnormal levels of nitric oxide exist in their bloodstream. By measuring how much nitric oxide is in exhaled breaths, the FENO test tells physicians if lungs are inflamed and dysfunctional

Pulse Oximetry Test–another test to analyze oxygen levels in red blood cells. Since COPD prevents the lungs from absorbing and dispersing oxygen molecules into the bloodstream, doctors can tell how much oxygen is available for the body to utilize.

Arterial Blood Gas Test--a blood sample is taken from the wrist for this test. Arteries with low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels means lungs are unable to exhale enough carbon dioxide to prevent dangerously high amounts from causing additional health problems

Why Would the SSA Deny a Disability Claim for COPD?

Be aware that the Social Security Administration does not make attempts to contact an applicant’s treating physicians, surgeons or other healthcare professional upon receiving a first SSD request claim. Applicants are expected to include all essential documentation in their application packet. The SSA also expects all forms to be filled out correctly and completely. Finding one or two simple errors on SSD applications could give them reason to deny someone their SSD benefits.

Another reason COPD disability benefits are denied is due to lack of evidence that the person was ever hospitalized for COPD or suffered complications severe enough to warrant emergency treatment. Being diagnosed with COPD is not enough for the SSA to approve disability benefits. To increase their chances of being approved, applicants should be able to show they have been hospitalized at least three times over a 12-month period for symptoms related to COPD. These symptoms are not limited to breathing difficulties and could involve heart, circulatory or neurological issues caused by lack of oxygen.

The Social Security Administration will never accept a physician’s statement asserting their patient is “disabled” without descriptions of the patient’s disability and contextual information indicating the patient’s level of disability. Disability attorneys handling COPD applications for SSA benefits often request attending physicians complete a unique medical source statement form that delineates accurate information. Sometimes called “solid supporting” documents, these attorney-directed forms often make all the difference during an appeals hearing following an initial denial from the SSA.

What Happens If the SSA Denies Your Application for COPD Disability Benefits?

The SSA provides several options for applicants who have had their initial claim denied for COPD disability benefits. The first option is to request an appeal within 60 days of receiving a denial letter in the mail. This first appeal level is called “reconsideration” and involves a comprehensive review of the denied claim by an SSA evaluator was not part of the initial evaluation. In addition, applicants are allowed to submit new medical evidence regarding the severity of their COPD.

If the reconsideration appeal results in another denial, the applicant can file an appeal with an administrative law judge (ALJ). Although anyone filing for disability for any medical reason is strongly recommended to hire an experienced disability attorney to handle their case, a second appeal demands the legal expertise of an SSA attorney. Denial by an ALJ means you are likely not to receive benefits for at least another year or more since another appeal involves the federal court.

COPD is a progressive, serious illness that can reduce quality of life and leave you financially unstable because you can’t work. Don’t delay in receiving SSD benefits can you need by contacting Joel Thrift today. From initial filing of your claim to receiving your approval notice in the mail, disability attorney Joel Thrift will manage your claim successfully using in-depth knowledge of exactly what the SSA expects from disability applications. Call to schedule an appointment.

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.

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.