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.

4 Ideas for Building a Healthy Working Relationship With Your Disability Attorney

4 Ideas for Building a Healthy Working Relationship With Your Disability Attorney

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can be a long and stressful process. When you’re trying to recover from a major injury and you just want to get your life back, this level of stress is the last thing you need. That’s where your SSDI attorney comes into the picture.

Their job is to take this stress off of you and get you the benefits you deserve so you can focus on healing. When you don’t have a great relationship with your lawyer, however, it can all seem worse. Check out these four ideas for building a healthy working relationship with your disability attorney so you can get the most from your benefits application.

Know What to Expect

The first step in building a great relationship with your disability attorney is to know what to expect from them. They have a number of responsibilities, first and foremost of which is to serve as your point of communication with the Social Security Administration.

The process begins when your attorney completes a review of your case to form a strategy to get you the benefits you need. They will then walk you through the application process to be sure your application has been properly completed and that there are no errors or omitted information. Your attorney will help you keep your records complete and in order, will represent you to the SSA and at any hearings, and will file an appeal if needed.

Have Patience

Social Security cases don’t always proceed quickly. Ideally, a case can be turned around within three or four months from the initial date of application. They can, however, take much longer, with some states seeing a nearly two-year turnaround time. To maintain a positive relationship with your attorney, understand that the delays are not likely their fault and that the process does take time. Having patience when you’re suffering is tough, but remember: Your attorney is on your side.

Stay in Contact

Reaching out to your attorney when you haven’t heard anything in a while isn’t a crime. Good communication is the core of any relationship, and it’s a two-way street. Your attorney should give you regular updates on your case, and you should be comfortable calling them up with any questions or concerns you have.

Just remember to be polite and professional in your dealings with them. They understand how frustrating the process can be, and they aren’t trying to make it worse for you. If anything, your attorney will work to set your mind at ease, but they’ll always be honest and forthright with you.

Use Their Experience

Your Social Security disability attorney has likely been doing this for quite some time. Their experience is what allows them to successfully pursue your case. They know how to speak to the SSA and to medical providers. They know how to navigate the hearing process, and they know the judges in your district. Your attorney knows how to cross-examine those with counter opinions, called “vocational experts,” and they know how to handle issues with your medical records that might present a road bump in your application.

Use their experience, and understand that the advice your attorney gives you is coming from a place of understanding, knowledge and caring. Your attorney is your ally, and they want to see your case succeed. Work with them, and treat them as the partner they are.

Hire an Experienced Disability Attorney

If you’re applying for SSDI and you need help with the process, an experienced disability attorney is the way to go. Joel Thrift has represented hundreds of clients and recovered millions in awards. He is the attorney who will always return calls and be your best ally in getting Social Security disability benefits in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Give Joel Thrift Law, LLC a call for a consultation on your case today.

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.

Social Security Jargon: “There are no jobs available in the US economy” ~ What does it mean?

Social Security Jargon: "There are no jobs available in the US economy" ~ What does it mean?

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Before the Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees to give you monthly benefits, it must be determined that “there are no jobs in the U.S. economy that you can do.”  

What exactly does this Social Security jargon mean, especially if the job market is strong? Let’s take a closer look at how Social Security determines whether work exists in the national economy. 

According to the SSA, work exists in the U.S. economy if there is a significant number of jobs with requirements that you can meet despite your physical limitations or mental ability. Therefore, Social Security does not consider you disabled.

But, if there are specific types of jobs for which you qualify that exist “in very limited numbers” and in “relatively few locations” outside of the area in which you live, SSA does not consider these jobs as “work which exists in the national economy.” Therefore, Social Security will determine that you are disabled.

For illustration purposes, let’s say you have worked for decades on a farm and performed manual labor and managed crop production. If your work skills do not match the requirements of jobs available in the area in which you live, then work in the national economy does not exist for you, according to SSA. 

Answering SSA’s Question of “Why?”

Regardless of your disability, SSA takes a “show, don’t tell” approach when it comes to disability benefits. In other words, Social Security expects you to show how your physical impairment or mental disorder prevents you from being gainfully employed in jobs for which you may be qualified. So, it is best to provide SSA with relevant evidence of all of your medical conditions, mental disorders, and physical limitations. 

If you are not forthcoming with your health issues, your application for disability benefits may be denied if SSA believes that you can work with reasonable accommodations. For example, if you simply say you have a back problem without providing detailed documentation about your condition, SSA may believe an employer can accommodate you by allowing you to take breaks when your back begins to hurt. 

However, providing evidence that rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc disease are causing your chronic back pain, and you receive frequent treatments for these incurable conditions, improves your chances of getting approved for disability benefits. 

Find Your Impairment in SSA’s Blue Book

Social Security uses a manual as part of its process of establishing eligibility for disability benefits. The Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, also known as the “Blue Book,” gives insight into the type of medical conditions Social Security views as severe impairments that can prevent people from working. The extensive “Listing of Impairments” includes major parts of the body such as: 

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Digestive system
  • Respiratory system
  • Special sense and speech
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems

Within the categorical listing of impairments are:

  • Definitions of the condition
  • What the SSA considers in evaluating the impairments
  • The type of documentation SSA needs to determine eligibility for disability disorders

You may still qualify for disability even if your impairment is not listed in the Blue Book as long as your medical condition matches the severity of one of the impairments listed in the book.

You can strengthen your case for disability benefits by collecting evidence to support the conclusion that there is no job in the U.S. economy that you can do. Generally, the type of evidence that supports a disability claim includes medical records, a doctor’s statement about diagnosing and treating a condition, and laboratory test results or imaging scans.

Most importantly, your statement and statements from your family members about your diminished quality of life due to your disability should be included in your SSA package. 

SSA may ask you to take a Consultative Medical Examination performed by an independent medical professional. Sometimes, Social Security requests an exam when there are questions about the severity of an applicant’s medical condition. If you do not take this examination when asked, SSA can make a decision without the evidence that you need to support your claim. 

You Can Appeal a Social Security Denial 

It is not unusual for SSA to deny claims. Fortunately, you can ask SSA to reconsider a denied application. If the claim is denied after a reconsideration, SSA has the following steps you can take to appeal denials:

  • Request a hearing before a federal Administrative Law Judge
  • Request SSA’s Appeals Council to review the judge’s decision
  • File a civil lawsuit in a federal district court

Before taking action on our own to appeal a denial, it would be to your advantage to consult with a Social Security disability attorney. 

Get Legal Help With Your SSDI Claim 

Social Security typically denies claims because applicants lack proof that satisfies SSA of their disability.  At Joel Thrift Law, we can help you provide evidence that can lead to a favorable decision about your disability benefits. 

If SSA has denied your claim, we can review your application and file for a reconsideration. We can also represent you in the appeals process. With help from a Social Security disability attorney, you have a greater chance of getting disability benefits. 

The Social Security disability process is time sensitive and you only have a limited amount of time to appeal a denial. So, contact Joel Thrift Law today to schedule a consultation.