Have Questions About SSDI and SSI? Check Out Our FAQs
Dealing with Social Security Disability always comes with plenty of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.
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Which Social Security Disability cases often receive a durational denial?
You may receive a durational denial after submitting a claim for Social Security (SS) Disability benefits. This type of denial means your medical condition, illness, or injury didn’t meet the time period requirements set by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that define a true disability.
Reasons Claimants Receive Durational Denials
When a disability examiner reviews your application, he looks specifically at your medical condition and whether it meets the following durational requirements:
- It’s impossible for you to work for 12 months at a substantial gainful level due to a physical or mental condition.
- Your physical or mental condition will likely prevent you from working for 12 months.
- It’s not expected that your mental or physical condition will improve in 12 months.
- It’s likely your mental or physical condition will result in death.
If your claim is denied due to durational limitations, it means the claims examiner didn't find sufficient evidence to prove your condition will be persistent and continue to interfere with your ability to work after a 12-month period.
Cases That Often Receive Durational Denials
Providing medical evidence that proves your condition will last beyond 12 months is critical in receiving an approved claim from the SSA. However, it’s often tough to do this.
Not only does the examiner who reviews your case have little–to–no medical experience, the medical consultant who helps make the determination doesn’t know or understand your condition.
Both are making decisions about your case using their own individual perspectives and opinions to forecast the likelihood of your recovery.
Certain cases in particular tend to receive durational denials, including:
- Car accidents that result in broken bones
- Accidents that cause traumatic injuries
- Recoveries after major surgeries
In cases involving broken bones, the SSA evaluates how the break impacts your ability to do your job on a daily basis. A claims examiner wants to understand how your fracture interferes with your ability to perform at work. For example, the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments requires that for a broken leg bone, the bone must fail to have a “solid union,” and this must be shown through X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other medical imaging. Additionally, your inability to move around must be expected to last at least a year.
Contact Cuddigan Law
Over 60 percent of initial SS claims are denied, which is why the best way to avoid receiving a durational denial is to contact a skilled SS disability attorney. The legal team at Cuddigan Law understand the complex rules governing Social Security Disability benefits law, and our experts know how to assist you with an appeal should your claim be denied.
Call Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405, to get help with your SS disability application today. Let our experienced lawyers go to work for you. Contact us to speak with an intake specialist for free.
Why does the SSA care about work history for my disability claim?
Your past employment is a significant part of your Social Security (SS) disability claim. A claims agent scrutinizes your job history before deciding whether you qualify for benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses this information because it compares the types of work you were able to do previously against your medical condition, injury, or illness and how it affected your ability to do those jobs now.
Understanding How Past Work Is Relevant
To determine if you’re disabled, the SSA typically looks at paid work you did in the last 15 years that involved productive mental and physical activities. If the SSA determines this job history is relevant, it compares your ability to work with:
- The tasks, activities, and duties you performed in any of those past, relevant jobs.
- How the work you performed in those jobs is typically done in the “national economy.”
You must provide the SSA with a complete and detailed account of your job history so the agency can make these comparisons. Once the SSA evaluates your past work duties and your disabling medical condition, it decides eligibility in three ways:
- You’ll be denied benefits if the SSA determines you don't have a disability because you can still do your past work tasks as you did in the past.
- You'll be denied benefits if the SSA determines you can do past work in the way the national economy performs it.
- You may be considered for benefits if the SSA decides you’re not mentally or physically capable of doing any of your past relevant work tasks or how it's done in the national economy. However, to make this determination, the SSA moves on to the final step in the disability process: determining if you can adjust to work you haven’t done before, considering your age, education, and job experience.
Call Cuddigan Law
Filling out the work history portion of your Social Security Disability claim can be tedious and challenging. You may feel uncertain about what to include on your application and which details are the most important.
Contact a skilled SS disability benefits attorney who can help. Call Cuddigan Law for a free, over-the-phone evaluation.
How does the SSA evaluate my job history for a disability claim?
When filing for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits because your medical condition makes it impossible for you to work, you’ll need to provide a work history with your application.
In general, the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to know about all of your past employment and the tasks you had so it can determine if you're still able to do any of that work.
To make a determination, the agency needs to know the details of your duties and the skills you used to do them.
How the SSA Uses Your Work History
It’s important to remember the SSA won’t rate you as having a disability unless your medical condition or injury prevents you from doing your past job or your ability to adjust to other work. So, the SSA looks at the demands and requirements of your recent employment and compares them with its assessment of your current ability to do work tasks now.
When considering this past work, the SSA examines:
- Employment in the past 15 years
- Jobs that involved “significant and productive physical or mental activities” that you performed for pay or profit
- Work you performed long enough to learn how to do it
Because there are types of employment with similar names but with different responsibilities and requirements, the SSA needs your job history to be thorough and complete. You must provide details such as:
- The titles of all your jobs within 15 years
- A description of your work
- The amount of pay you received
- The number of hours you worked each week
- The types of machinery, equipment, and tools you used
- The knowledge and skill your work required
- The extent of your supervisory or managerial experience
- The amount of time you had to sit, stand, kneel, crouch, carry, crawl, balance, walk, or climb
The SSA will also want you to explain how you changed your job duties or presence due to your medical condition, injury, or illness. For example, if you worked fewer hours, took more sick leave, rested during the day, or took frequent breaks, the SSA needs to know all these details.
Additionally, if the SSA determines you can’t do past work, the agency considers at your education, age, training, and work experience to see if there are other jobs you may be able to do.
Call Cuddigan Law
It’s important to fill out your work history report accurately when applying for disability benefits from the SSA. Because this can be a tedious and challenging process, you may feel uncertain about what to include and which details are necessary. Contact a skilled SSDI benefits attorney who can help. Call Cuddigan Law for a free, over-the-phone evaluation.
Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for a pre-existing condition?
Most likely, as long as you meet certain Social Security (SS) requirements. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition such as cancer or diabetes, or you were able to work for a while with a condition but then suffered a setback that made employment impossible, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will use certain factors to determine eligibility.
Meeting the Blue Book Requirements
Generally, you'll qualify for SS benefits if you have a pre-existing condition, but you must meet the standard requirements for that condition listed in the SS Blue Book, officially known as the Listing of Impairments. It details the disabling conditions that qualify for benefits, along with information and evidence you need to include with your application to prove that you’re disabled. It also outlines the process the SSA uses to make decisions about approval.
Typically, for most conditions and illnesses, the SSA requires a disability that prevents you from working for at least 12 months.
The Blue Book provides specific criteria about disabling conditions, and it’s written in language meant for medical professionals and SS workers rather than in layman’s terms. Consequently, it can be challenging to understand the Blue Book requirements and to submit a credible and persuasive application that convinces the SSA that you qualify. Because of this, it’s important to hire a skilled and experienced SS disability attorney to help when you have a pre-existing condition and want to file a claim.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need disability benefits for a pre-existing condition, hiring legal representation can be advantageous in getting your claim approved. The attorneys at Cardigan Law assisted thousands of clients over the years—filling out paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing them through the application process.
Contact us for a free claim evaluation. We'll review it with you and determine how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval.
Do I need an attorney to file a Social Security disability claim?
It’s possible for people to handle Social Security (SS) disability claims themselves. They can submit their applications and manage the appeals process at all four levels. The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t require that you have legal representation to engage in the disability process.
However, it’s often the case that the claim will be denied. In fact, only 30 percent of initial SS disability applications are approved. So, while it’s not required that you hire an attorney to help you file your disability claim, it certainly improves your chances of having your claim approved.
Benefits of Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
While it’s true that you can manage your own SS disability claim, there are solid benefits to hiring skilled Social Security disability lawyers. At the minimum, you should contact an attorney for a free evaluation.
At that meeting, the attorney will go over your specific situation, discuss your medical condition, and tell you his opinion about your case and whether or not you’re likely to get an approved claim.
There are other advantages to hiring a disability attorney including:
- While you can probably handle the application process on your own, a denied claim and the need to appeal makes the process much more challenging. An SS disability attorney can help you navigate the appeals process as successfully as possible.
- An attorney will explain the medical evidence, reports, and information needed with your application to increase your chance of winning an approved claim.
- Because 70 percent of applications are denied initially, you may simply want to give up if you don’t receive an approval. However, an attorney can explain and guide you through the next steps, providing important information about why you should continue fighting for your claim.
- An attorney will ensure that you meet important deadlines in the appeals process.
Call the Social Security Attorneys of Cuddigan Law to See If You Qualify for Benefits
It’s not mandatory that you hire an attorney to file an SS disability claim. But when you do, you significantly increase the chances of getting an approved claim. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law have assisted thousands of clients through the application process, and they have the experience and skill to handle your claim. Contact us for a free evaluation.
How much does it cost to hire an SS disability attorney?
There are a number of variables, including whether or not you'll receive past-due benefits. But it might surprise you to know that legal representation isn't as expensive as you might think.
Statistics show that hiring a Social Security (SS) disability attorney increases a claimant’s chances of receiving an approved claim. However, many people wonder if they can afford an attorney, how much they'll be required to pay, and when that payment will be due.
If you need disability benefits but are worried about the financial obligation of hiring an attorney, here’s some information to help you understand that having legal representation is a cost-effective solution to help you receive the benefits you deserve.
Costs Involved in Hiring a Disability Lawyer
When you’re considering legal representation for your disability claim, it’s important to understand that there’s usually no cost to hire an SS disability lawyer—no initial fees and no upfront payments.
Most often, the attorney is paid out of any disability benefit you’re awarded.
The general cost breakdown is as follows:
- The attorney’s fee is limited to 25 percent of any past-due benefits the Social Security Administration (SSA) awards you.
- The fee is capped at $6,000.
- The attorney is paid out of your past-due benefits—also known as back pay.
- The attorney receives no fee if you receive no back pay benefits.
Paying Your Attorney Fees
After you’ve received back pay benefits from SS, you may wonder when you're required to pay your attorney fees. Most often, you don’t pay those fees directly. Instead, the SSA deducts all lawyer fees from your first back pay award check before you receive the check. This fee can be up to $6,000.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help with your SS disability claim, hiring legal representation can be beneficial for getting your claim approved. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law assist thousands of clients— filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing the application process and more. Contact us fand we’ll evaluate your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your claim.
What are the deadlines if I am filing an appeal for a denied social security claim?
If you applied for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and you’ve received a notice of denial, you have 60 days to appeal the denial. This means you must get your appeal on record with the SSA within 60 days from the date stamped on the envelope of the denial letter.
There are multiple levels of appeal, and because the process can be complex and time-consuming, it’s important to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with a denied claim, regardless of what level you are in the process.
Understanding the Appeals Deadlines
In the appeals process, there are various levels of appeal: reconsideration, hearing by an administrative law judge, review by the Appeals Council, and filing a lawsuit with the Federal District Court.
However, no matter what level your appeal is in right now, you always have 60 days to file your next appeal.
But there are some important things to note about this 60-day window:
- Usually, individuals filing claims get an extra five days to ensure their appeal gets through the mail process and reaches the SSA by the deadline. However, the SSA doesn’t go out of its way to communicate this additional time.
- To meet the deadline, the SSA must receive your appeal paperwork by the deadline date. This does not mean your paperwork must be postmarked by the deadline date; rather, it must reach the SSA by the date. Because neither you nor the SSA has any control over the speed of the mail or if your appeal might get hung up in transit, you need to get your disability appeal paperwork mailed to the SSA as soon as you get your denial letter.
- Don’t assume because you’ve hired a lawyer, you can forget about these deadlines or that your lawyer will also receive a denial letter from the SSA. While the SSA sends a copy of the denial letter to both you and your lawyer, it’s possible the agency might fail to send a copy to you both. When you receive a denial letter, you should immediately contact your attorney to ensure that the appeals deadline doesn't get overlooked.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help with the appeals process after your claim is denied, call Cuddigan Law. We’ve assisted thousands of clients with this process by filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing the appeals process through each of the four levels. Having an attorney on your side can ensure you don’t miss any deadline in this process.
Contact us for a free evaluation. We’ll review your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
How do I protect my claim during a Social Security Closed Period?
When you have an ongoing medical condition that makes it impossible for you to work, you may apply to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for disability benefits. However, given the significant backlog of applications, the SSA may not get to your claim for years.
If your disabling condition made it impossible to work for at least 12 months, but your disability ends because you have medical improvement, it’s still possible to collect benefits for the amount of time you were out of work. This type of claim is for a “closed period of benefits. An example of this situation, is an individual that has surgery, recovers after the surgery and is able to return to work.
To be approved for disability benefits during a closed period, it’s helpful to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with this type of claim.
Protecting Your Claim
Some attorneys believe it’s easier to win a closed period claim than to be approved for ongoing benefits. This is because:
- When you limit your claim to show that you were disabled for a specific period of time, the SSA sees this as honest and credible. Many judges respect your intention to return to work and not continue to state that you have a disabling condition.
- It is difficult to justify ongoing disability if your condition has substantially improved.
A Partially Favorable Decision
An SSA judge can award you a closed period benefit even if you haven’t asked for one. If your medical evidence shows your condition improved, the judge has the right to limit the number of months for which you’ll receive benefits. Typically, the judge will present this during your hearing, and you'll receive the option to change your benefits request. You and your attorney should discuss whether this is the right choice. Keep in mind: you don’t have to accept the judge’s offer of a closed period benefit.
Work Attempts and a Closed Period Benefit
If you’re attempting to return to work when you appear for your claim hearing, the judge may suggest that you alter your claim to a closed period benefit request. This, of course, may not be a good idea, as you may not yet know if you can handle going back to work or meet your job requirements. Your lawyer may feel it will be too difficult to get an approved, on-going disability award if you’re back at work when you get to your hearing, so it’s important to discuss and evaluate this option before taking this direction.
Call Cuddigan Law
Your best chance of getting a closed period claim approved lies with a Social Security Disability lawyer who is familiar with closed period disability cases. If you need help with your disability claim, or you want to apply for closed period benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients with their disability claims, getting them through this complicated and frustrating process.
Contact us for a free evaluation and we wll let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
What to expect when you meet with your attorney to prepare for your hearing
The administrative hearing is the level at which most disability cases are successful. Preparation for the hearing is important .We like to meet with our clients, face to face, in the office if it is possible.The meeting generally occurs a month ahead of the hearing date We set aside one and half to two hours for this meeting. Because the meeting is so important you must attend. In the meeting we will discuss the location of the hearing office, the time of your hearing, the security at the hearing office and the layout of the hearing room. We will discuss proper attire for the hearing.
In this meeting, we will explain what Social Security definition of disability is and why it generally means more than not being able to do your last job. We will ask you when you last worked and why you stopped working, We will ask you what is it about your physical and mental condition prevents you from working now. We will ask you about the work you have done in the last 15 years and why you can't perform that work now
Before we meet with you, we will have reviewed your exhibit file which includes: social security forms, any forms you have completed and your medical records. We will review with you the medical timeline and any medical records that concern us We will discuss with you any of your providers that it might be helpful to get a report from. We will ask you if there are any other providers that have records. We ask you to bring: a current list of your medications; all pay stubs if you have worked since applying for disability; and any workers compensation documents that you have not already furnished us.We will discuss witness statements or work performance assessments
We will discuss your physical and mental symptoms. We will review your physical and mental limitations that prevent you from working.We will discuss your daily activities and any side effects from medications
We will discuss the role of the vocational witness and questions from the judge to the vocational witness. Finally,what we are trying to accomplish with our questions to the vocational witness.
Because we like to review everything one last time we ask our clients to be at the hearing office 30 minutes before their scheduled hearing. If you need directions to the hearing office ask us.
What happens when my Social Security claim goes to the Appeals Council?
If your denied Social Security (SS) disability claim was denied after a hearing by an administrative law judge, you can ask for a review by the SS Appeals Council. You have 60 days to ask for this review.
If your claim reaches this level, it’s important to have legal representation by a skilled SS disability attorney. Although you can file the appeal with the Appeals Council on your own, the process will be easier and less complicated with legal counsel.
Your Claim at the Appeals Council Level
The SS Appeals Council processes many requests for reviews each year—over 160,000 requests in 2017 alone. The Appeals Council reviews whether the administrative law judge made his decision according to the law. This Council is allowed to grant, deny, or dismiss a request for review. If your request is granted, the Council will either make a decision in the case or “remand” it to the administrative law judge for a new decision.
It’s important to note that it’s difficult to win your appeal at this level of the process. Most often, the Appeals Council sends claimants a letter denying the appeal and upholding the decision made by the administration law judge.
It’s possible, however, that the Council will find the judge made mistakes in your case. For example, the judge may have:
- Failed to look at all legitimate medical evidence
- Made a technical error during the review process
If any of these takes place, the Appeals Council can demand a “remand case,” and your claim is sent back for a second hearing usually with the same administrative law judge. It’s also possible but not likely the judge’s determination will be overturned by the Council because the decision was totally erroneous. If so, the Council may simply move forward with an approval.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help appealing a denied disability claim, or your claim was denied by the Appeals Council, call the attorneys at Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405 for help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients, filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing their cases through the four levels of the appeals process.
Contact us for a free evaluation. We’ll review your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.