How Does SSDI Back Pay Work?

How Does SSDI Back Pay Work?

The process to get Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is a long one. Even if you’re approved as soon as possible, it can still take some time before you start to see those benefits. If you’re initially declined and later win benefits upon appeal, a lot more time will pass where you don’t see any money coming in to cover your disability costs. 

Fortunately, SSDI includes back pay in which you can be retroactively awarded the benefits you would have received had your claim been approved right away. There are a few factors to keep in mind about back pay to ensure you’re getting all the benefits you deserve. Learn all the details about how back pay works.

How Much Back Pay Is Awarded?

The specific amount of back pay you receive can vary quite a bit based on a variety of factors. For the most part, your back pay depends on the date the Social Security Administration determines that your disability began. This will be the official established onset date determined by a Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiner or administrative law judge. Medical records will be required to establish a specific date.

SSDI back pay works a bit differently than SSI back pay. While SSI back pay is provided incrementally to not put too much strain on Social Security services in general, SSDI back pay is provided in one lump sum, so you’ll be awarded the back pay in a single instance to make up for the coverage lost during the length of the approval process.

How Far Back Does Back Pay Stretch?

While back pay can stretch back as far as the official established onset date, there is a limit to how far back that coverage can go. At most, back pay can be awarded from up to 12 months before the date of your application. If your established onset date is more than 12 months prior to your application date, you will only receive coverage from those 12 months.

It’s also important to remember that there’s an established five-month waiting period when applying for SSDI. If you’re approved before the five-month waiting period is over, you won’t be entitled to any back pay. The 12-month limit also applies. For example, if you finally receive your benefits 18 months after your application, and your established onset date is the day you applied, then you’ll only be awarded back pay for the past 12 months rather than the full 18.

When Is Back Pay Awarded?

Planning for your back pay is a bit unpredictable. There are instances in which you may get back pay shortly after your disability benefits are approved, or you may have already been receiving disability payments for a while once your back pay is applied. In some cases, you may find the back pay in your account without any kind of notice before your regular benefits even start coming in. 

Back Pay As Income

SSDI and SSI work a bit differently and involve a new set of rules when you apply for both. The most noticeable difference is that your back pay under SSDI will count as income when determining the SSI you qualify for. This is because back pay is treated as funds you had access to throughout your disability period. That means your SSI will likely be reduced in response to the additional countable income. 

Hire a Disability Attorney for Back Pay Issues

Dealing with back pay when trying to get disability benefits can be a long and frustrating process. Having an experienced attorney at your side throughout the case will make the entire process easier and increase your chances of getting all the benefits you deserve. That’s where Joel Thrift Law is happy to help. We have a long history of success with Social Security and disability cases, and we’re happy to help you get the benefits you deserve in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Get in touch with our team today, and we can schedule you for a free consultation.

How Many Times Can You Appeal a Social Security Disability Claim?

How Many Times Can You Appeal a Social Security Disability Claim?

Nothing is more frightening than getting a denial letter from the Social Security Administration when you are disabled and cannot work. Unfortunately, this happens to millions of people each day. If this has happened to you recently, don’t despair. You have the right to appeal this decision several times in front of an Appeals Council and an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

An appeal should be filed as soon as possible if you receive a denial from the SSA. Also, never just re-apply if you have been denied disability benefits. Re-filing does nothing to ensure you will be approved and it may complicate filing an appeal at a later date.

To avoid further delays with getting the benefits you deserve, call the Law Office of Joel Thrift today to schedule a consultation with an experienced disability attorney. Our legal team has successfully litigated first, second and third disability claims appeals for clients who are unable to work due to a disabling physical or psychological condition.

The First Appeal: Reconsideration

Upon receiving your first denial letter, you can file an appeal called a “reconsideration”. This begins a claim review by individuals not involved in the original review and ultimate denial. Reconsideration appeals must be filed within 60 days or the SSA will close your disability case. In most cases, a reconsideration appeal does not require you to be physically present. New evidence is allowed during the reconsideration process.

The Second Appeal: Administrative Law Judge Hearing

After a reconsideration denial, you can move on to the second appeal phase involving a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This appeal must also be filed within 60 days of a reconsideration denial. Before rendering a decision, an ALJ judge will evaluate medical evidence already submitted proving your disability and determine if the initial appeal reviewers made process errors regarding their denial determination. Having a disability attorney represent you in front of an ALJ can significantly increase your chance of the judge overturning a reconsideration decision.

The Third Appeal: Appeals Council

You can file an appeal with the SSA Appeals Council if an ALJ denies your claim. The Appeals Council will also evaluate all aspects of the ALJ’s decision for possible technical errors. They can further remand (return) your case to the same ALJ who denied your claim and order another hearing. In other words, an Appeals Council can overturn an ALJ’s decision, uphold an ALJ’s decision or remand your claim.

The Fourth and Final Appeal: Filing a Federal Lawsuit

When a disability claim is denied three times, you can take your claim to the federal level by filing it with a U.S. District Court in your city or state. You will need to be represented by a disability attorney at this point who will submit a written complaint to the appropriate district court. Once the SSA receives your attorney’s complaint, an SSA lawyer will file a response in district court. This response contains the reasons why the SSA has consistently denied to approve your claim.

Why Does the Social Security Administration Deny Disability Claims?

Lack of adequate medical documentation proving a disability, incomplete or wrongly filled out paperwork and inability to show you have followed through with prescribed treatments are leading reasons why disability claims are routinely denied. The disability attorneys at Joel Thrift Law genuinely care about our clients who cannot work through no fault of their own and will work tirelessly to get you approved for monthly benefits.

Call the Law Office of Joel Thrift today for immediate assistance with your disability claim denials.

How Long Does Will it Take for A Disability Lawyer to Win your Disability Appeal?

How Long Does Will it Take for A Disability Lawyer to Win your Disability Appeal?

Denial of Social Security disability claims is not uncommon. In fact, over half of all first-time disability applications are denied by the Social Security Administration. Although an appeals process is available to those who think they were wrongfully denied, this process is lengthy, stressful and complicated.

Having an experienced disability attorney who knows how to present a legally tight disability case to the SSA can substantially increase your chances of being quickly approved for monthly benefits. If your disability claim has been denied, contact Joel Thrift Law today for immediate assistance.

Why You Should Hire an Atlanta Disability Attorney to Manage Your Disability Appeal

The Social Security Administration offers four types of appeals: reconsideration, appealing to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and presenting your case to an Appeals Council Review Board. If your claim is denied by all three appeals processes, you have the option of taking your disability claim to a Federal Court.

Hiring a disability lawyer to file a reconsideration appeal following receipt of a first-time denial will shorten the time it takes to get approved. Disability attorneys like Joel Thrift specialize in:

  • Completing disability claims that concisely prove you have met SSA criteria for being disabled and unable to perform work
  • Gathering medical documents to clearly demonstrate all your impairments
  • Communicating expeditiously with your physicians in ways that will bolster your claim

If you handled a reconsideration appeal by yourself and received a denial, the next step is to hire a disability lawyer who can file an appeal with an ALJ. No new medical evidence is allowed to be submitted during this “second” appeal stage. Instead, an administrative law judge reviews why your claim was denied by SSA claims processors to determine if the right decision was made. Your disability attorney knows how to write a “brief” that presents a solid argument why the ALJ should reconsider the original decision. Additionally, your lawyer can expedite the process by providing the ALJ with a prewritten decision the judge may use. This saves time by performing a task the judge would normally have to take several weeks to do.

Rarely does a disability claim reach the final two stages of the appeals process–the Appeals Council or Federal Court–when you have a disability attorney handling your claim. Don’t let financial instability worry you for months or even years if you are disabled and can no longer work. Schedule a consultation appointment at Joel Thrift Law today before you submit your first claim to the SSA.

Wait Times for Appealing a Denied Disability Claim

Depending on how understaffed or busy your local Social Security Administration office is, you could wait up to six to nine months to receive a reply regarding a reconsideration appeal. Since the majority of reconsideration appeals are denied, you can expect to wait a full year to receive a reply from the SSA after sending your denied claim to an administrative law judge.

Unless you are suffering from a terminal illness or have a child with a serious genetic disorder like Down’s Syndrome, you should always allow a seasoned disability attorney to manage your disability claim from start to finish. The SSA’s Blue Book of Medical Conditions lists strict criteria to qualify for specific disorders and diseases. If you do not meet these criteria because you have not submitted proper medical documentation and physician reports, they will deny your claim.

We are here to help you get the disability benefits you deserve. Call our office today.

Considerations for Social Security Claims Involving PTSD

Considerations for Social Security Claims Involving PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental illness affecting people who have experienced events so traumatic that they have extreme difficulty keeping a job, maintaining relationships and dealing with overwhelming anxiety and depression. According to the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of Medical Conditions, proving PTSD is preventing someone from earning a livable income involves the following medical documentation:

  • Statements from doctors indicating their patient was exposed to threatened/actual death, suffered violence, serious injury or other traumatic event
  • Treatment reports describing the extent of the patient’s PTSD symptoms: severe mood/behavior disturbances, avoidance behaviors, recurring “flashbacks” of the trauma, suicidal ideation, hypervigilance/anxiety)
  • Proof of functional limitations that prevent the patient from working or living independently (problems remembering and understanding new information, inability to interact appropriately with others and being capable of concentrating on and completing work tasks)

PTSD does not have a specific listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. Instead, PTSD is listed under “Mental Disorders–trauma and stressor-related disorders”. The SSA also says that “trauma and stressor-related disorders” are not evaluated under obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorders or cognitive impairments resulting from a traumatic brain injury or other neurological disorder.

What is Diminished Functional Capacity?

In many cases, disability applicants with PTSD must show they have diminished functional capacity, or the inability to maintain employment due to severe PTSD symptoms. People with PTSD experience physical and mental issues that often cause them to miss work or make mistakes at work. Panic attacks, depression, hypertension brought on by chronic stress and coping productively with everyday problems are just a few reasons why individuals with PTSD could be approved for SSDI or SSI.

One way you can increase your chance of being approved for PTSD disability benefits is to submit a longitudinal record of treatment describing how long you have been receiving consistent treatment for PTSD from a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed counselor. Longitudinal records also include the onset date of PTSD, frequency of specific symptom attacks, detailed descriptions of symptoms and the success of treatment plans involving medication and/or counseling.

How Can You Receive a Medical-Vocational Allowance for PTSD Disability Benefits?

If you are initially denied disability benefits for PTSD, you may qualify for another type of benefit the SSA calls the medical-vocational allowance (MVA). To qualify for MVA, a Social Security mental health consultant must decide if your symptoms are detrimental enough to prevent you from working even though your symptoms may meet the criteria listed under trauma and stressor-related disorders.

For example, John is a 45-year-old Afghanistan War veteran diagnosed with PTSD. He has been taking medications and going to counseling for about a year and a half. Although he is physically well, he suffers from severe insomnia, nightmares, memory and concentration problems. He has attempted to work several jobs but had to quit because of extreme daytime fatigue, flashbacks and inability to focus on completing tasks. John may qualify for MVA benefit if he includes the proper documentation needed in his application.

How Can a Disability Lawyer Help You Get Approved for PTSD Benefits?

People with psychological disorders routinely have a harder time getting approved for SSDI or SSI than people with physically incapacitating disorders simply because mental illnesses are more difficult to document and prove. Having a disability lawyer acting on your behalf while dealing with the Social Security Administration means your application will be submitted containing all the documentation and forms essential for swift approval. In fact, the primary reason why nearly 70 percent of all initial disability applications are denied is because of improper or insufficient documentation of mental or physical illness.

If you or someone you know may qualify for PTSD disability benefits, contact Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a consultation appointment.

What is the Definition of “Incapacitated” for Social Security Disability? And Examples

What is the Definition of "Incapacitated" for Social Security Disability? And Examples

“Incapacitated” and “disabled” largely carry the same definition when Social Security is determining whether to approve or deny a disability application. In general, a person is considered incapacitated if they been unable to perform non-substantial work for at least the past 12 months. Alternately, if the Social Security Administration thinks your disability allows you to do “substantial gainful activity” that allows you to earn a living wage, they will claim you are not incapacitated and deny your application for SSDI or SSI.

What are the SSA Criteria for Defining Incapacitated or Disabled?

Disability benefits are typically approved if you:

  • Cannot do the kind of work you did before becoming disabled. For example, if you were a factory machine operator for 20 years and had a heart attack that reduced your ability to operate a machine or perform other similar work, you would probably be approved for SSI or SSDI.
  • Have a medical condition lasting for 12 months continuously
  • Have a medical condition that is expected to eventually result in death

Special guidelines apply regarding criteria for SSA benefits if a claimant is blind, a disabled child, a widow/widower or a wounded veteran. Call Joel Thrift Law today for assistance with applying for disability benefits. We can help significantly increase your chance of being approved for monthly benefits without having to appeal a denial.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

If the SSA thinks you can do substantial work (gainful) activity, that means they think you can work part-time or full-time at jobs that pay you an income equal to or less than the pay you received before becoming disabled.

However, even though you may be capable of working part-time due to your medical condition, that does not mean you won’t qualify for disability benefits. As of 2019, if someone earns over $1220 each month but is deemed incapacitated by the SSA, they may still be approved for disability benefits. For people who are blind, the income limit is $2040.

Recipients of SSDI can work for a trial period that allows them to receive the full amount of their benefits while earning income. Currently, the Social Security Administration considers a trial working month as one that provides at least $880 in income. Following this nine-month trial period, you may still continue receiving SSDI for three years (36 months) as long as your income is below the substantial gainful activity level. If you earn over $1220 in any given month, you forfeit disability payments for that month.

What Medical Conditions are Considered to be Automatically Incapacitating?

The SSA has a “Compassionate Allowance” list of medical conditions that requires applicants only provide a doctor’s diagnosis of the condition. No other documentation is necessary to be approved for benefits. Diseases and disorders on the Compassionate Allowance list include:

  • Stage IV breast cancer
  • Acute leukemia
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Pancreatic or liver cancer
  • Lung cancer (small cell)
  • Thyroid cancer

Does the SSA Consider Mental Disorders as Incapacitating Disorders?

Yes. However, proving to the SSA that you have a psychological disorder disabling enough to prevent you from working is more difficult than proving a physical disability. If you are applying for disability because you suffer from severe anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder, you will need to submit numerous, detailed documents composed by licensed healthcare professionals. Treatment summaries must be from psychiatrists, psychologists and licensed therapists who have been seeing the claimant for at least one year. Hospital and emergency room records (if applicable) are also essential for proving an incapacitating mental health issue. More importantly, evidence should also show that the mental illness is preventing the disability applicant from obtaining gainful employment.

If you are preparing to file a disability claim with the SSA but your medical problem is not on the Compassionate Allowance list of conditions, contact Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a consultation appointment. We can help strengthen your claim and reduce the risk of being denied due to errors and insufficient documentation.

How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Disability Attorney?

How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Disability Attorney?

Navigating the Social Security disability claims process can be a difficult task, especially when you are living with a chronic illness or other debilitating condition. It is common for claimants to get through the beginning stages of their claim, only to end up with a rejection letter. The entire process can weigh heavily on your mental health as well, making the need for legal guidance extremely important. However, if you’re already struggling to pay your bills due to the inability to work, how can you afford a lawyer?

How Much Does a Social Security Disability Attorney Cost?

Luckily, Social Security disability attorneys work differently than many other attorneys you may collaborate with during your lifetime. To help a much wider client base, disability lawyers don’t charge their clients any up-front fees or require that you put down a retainer fee. Instead, the majority of disability lawyers work on a contingency basis—where they will only be paid if they can help you win your benefits.

What is a Contingency Fee?

When you initially speak with a disability attorney or advocate, it’s common to sign a contingency fee agreement that gives the Social Security Administration (SSA) permission to allocate a portion of your awarded fees to your attorney to help cover the cost of their services. If your claim is approved, the SSA will go over the details of the agreement to make sure it follows all fee agreement guidelines and ensure that your legal counsel receives the payment they are entitled too. There is no additional work that you need to complete on your end, eliminating the need for bank transfers or writing a check.

For those who are unable to pay up-front fees to a lawyer or advocate, this is a great opportunity to get the help you need to follow the SSA’s strict guidelines. When a fee agreement is made on a contingency basis, you can rest easy knowing that your disability attorney will not be paid unless you win your claim.

How Much is the Social Security Disability Attorney’s Fee?

When you enter into a written agreement with a disability attorney, it states that if you win your claim, the fee amount they are entitled to is capped at 25% of your past-due benefits. While this may seem like a large sum, the maximum fee that your disability lawyer can be awarded is also limited to $6,000. Additionally, if your claim must be appealed at a federal level, your lawyer may be entitled to additional fees. However, most Social Security disability claims end at the Social Security hearing stage.

Another important factor to keep in mind when it comes to contingency fees is the fact that your attorney is only paid if you are awarded past-due benefits. If no past-due or “backpay” benefits are awarded in your claim, your attorney will not be paid a fee for their services. However, if this situation arises, your disability attorney can submit a fee petition to the SSA to request a higher fee.

Additional Costs

Throughout the course of the Social Security disability claims process, you may be required to present the SSA with lots of different paperwork to help support your claim. The SSA may request that you provide them with medical, work and school records and undergo new medical or psychological testing. These costs are typically paid outside of a contingency fee and are the responsibility of the client. As you consider hiring a disability lawyer, you must ask whether you may be charged any other additional fees out-of-pocket before agreeing to work together.

Should I Hire a Disability Attorney?

Because there is little to no risk of paying out-of-pocket for a disability attorney fees, it is often in the best interest of the claimant to hire a Social Security disability attorney. The Social Security disability claims process can be grueling, especially if your claim is denied right away. It can be difficult to pick yourself back up and file an appeal without proper legal guidance and an advocate by your side. However, when you hire a disability attorney who works with clients on a contingency basis, you can enjoy peace of mind in knowing that they will do everything in their power to ensure that you are awarded all of the benefits you’re entitled to.

Once you are awarded your benefits, the SSA will do all of the work necessary to determine your backpay amount and pay your attorney fees before awarding your first disability check. The maximum amount that will be subtracted from your benefits is just 25% of your backpay or a maximum of $6,000. There’s no negotiating over fees and you’ll never have to worry about doing the math either.

Contact Joel Thrift Law Today

There’s no reason that you need to fight for your disability benefits on your own. Are you interested in learning more about the many benefits of working with an attorney on your Social Security disability claim? At Joel Thrift Law, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to guide you through the Social Security disability claims process. Got a question? Give us a call today at (678) 296-7952 or contact us today for more information and be sure to schedule an initial consultation.