Have Questions About the Disability Claims Process for Social Security or Veterans Benefits? Check Out Our FAQs
Dealing with the disability application or appeals process always comes with plenty of questions. Whether your questions are about Social Security or VA Disability, here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.
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What is the definition of disability used by Social Security?
Under the Social Security Act, "disability" means "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months."
What does a lawyer charge?
In almost all cases, the attorney receives 25 percent of the past due benefits up to a maximum fee of $6,000 if the claimant wins and no fee if the claimant loses. There is no money up front. A written contract is entered into at the beginning of representation.The cost of obtaining medical records and reports are additional. These costs are payable at the end of the case. Attorney fees are usually withheld by SSA and paid directly to the attorney at the time of a favorable conclusion. A copy of the written fee agreement will be provided at the time of representation.
What is the process Social Security uses to decide disability at the initial level?
When you first apply for disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gathers your medical records, your description of your symptoms and daily activities and your description of job history to make an initial decision on your application. A Disability Determination Service (DDS) is the agency in your state contracted by SSA to perform this function. DDS obtains medical and psychological records for up to twelve months prior to the onset date of your disability. When you prepare your application it is important to identify all medical providers and hospitals and your dates of treatment.SSA sends you forms to describe your daily activities and the symptoms. You should complete these forms carefully bearing in mind that you are describing your limitations on a typical day not your best day. An applicant will also be asked to describe their jobs for the last fifteen years. It is important to describe all the work functions that you performed on the job and not just give just a job title. After all the information is gathered, a disability examiner will review the information and make a decision.If there is not enough information to either approve or deny your claim you could be examined by doctor or psychologist picked by the DDS. This examination should take 30- 45 minutes and a written report will be sent to the DDS. Then the DDS examiner writes a summary of the evidence and his or her conclusion as to your physical and mental limitations. The examiner forwards their recommendation to one of the agency doctors or psychologists to sign a prefilled form. After this the state agency will mail out a notice of their decision.
The DDS should consider all of your health problems, as well as your age, education and work experience in making its decisions. In general, Social Security is supposed to decide whether you are able to do your past work with what they have decided your limitations are. If Social Security decides that you are unable to do your past work, they are supposed to consider whether there is any other work which you can do considering your health problems and your age, education and work experience.
For more information about this and other questions you might have, order a copy of our book or contact Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5400.
Who decides if I am disabled?
After an individual files a Social Security Disability claim, the case is sent to a disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency in your state. This individual, working with a doctor, makes the initial decision on the claim. If the claim is denied and the individual requests Reconsideration, the case is then sent to another disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency, where it goes through much the same process. If a claim is denied at Reconsideration, the claimant may then request a hearing. At this point, the case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who works for Social Security. The Administrative Law Judge makes an independent decision upon the claim. This is the only level at which the claimant and the decision maker get to see each other.
What can I do to improve my chances of being awarded benefits?
Be honest and complete in giving information to Social Security about what is disabling you. Many claimants, for instance, fail to mention their psychiatric problems to Social Security because they are embarrassed about them. In almost all cases, individuals who were slow learners in school fail to mention this fact to Social Security, even though it can have a good deal to do with whether or not the Social Security disability claim is approved. Be complete in describing your daily activities and symptoms. It is important to carefully and completely describe how you perform your past job duties. Beyond being honest and complete with Social Security, the most important thing you can do is just keep appealing and hire an experienced person to represent you. It is important to appeal because most claims are denied at the initial level, but are approved at higher levels of review. It is important to hire an experienced person to represent you because you do not understand the way Social Security works. A government accounting office study shows claimants who employ an attorney are three times more likely to win than those who go unrepresented.
Contact us at (402) 933-5400 for a free evaluation of your claim or download a copy of our book that answers these and other questions
Social Security said that I would be able to return to work sometime in the next year. Should I wait to see if I get better or should I appeal?
It is important to appeal because most claims are denied at the initial level, but are approved at higher levels of review. Waiting to see if you get better would mean that you start over at the end of the line if in fact you were not able to return to work within a year from when you became unable to work.
How does Social Security define "disability"?
If you are applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, you must be suffering from a total disability. This is different than applying for partial disability or short-term disability through your state government or another private program. Social Security counts on other resources to provide support during periods that you have a temporary disability—this could include workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a very strict definition of disability as it applies to the benefits they pay. According to the SSA, a disability means:
- You cannot do work that you did before.
- Your doctors have determined that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical conditions.
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
The SSA has a five-step process that helps officials determine whether you are eligible for disability benefits. Part of that process is seeing if your medical condition is found on the list of disabling conditions. There are many types of impairment on this list; they include both physical and mental conditions, and cover every body system. The key factor for all of these conditions is that they are permanent, or they are expected to result in death, or are expected to continue for at least 12 months.
If you need assistance filing for Social Security disability, call 402-933-5405 to contact the Omaha law office of Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation.