If you have a disability that prevents you from working you may qualify for benefits from the Social Security Administration. First, you must have insured status in order to qualify for benefits. Under social security rules, you become insured when you have worked for a minimum period of time in a “covered employment.”
If you meet the requirements and are insured, you must demonstrate that you have an impairment that prevents you from performing substantial gainful employment. The rules for determining which types of medical or psychological conditions represent an impairment are complicated. If a claim is denied and goes to administrative hearing, the presiding Law Judge will perform a legal analysis in order to determine whether that person qualifies for Social Security benefits
In order to qualify you must have a disability that prevents you from working for at least 12 months. If you believe that you have such a disability, it’s relatively simple to file an application with the Social Security Administration. However, it is estimated that 70-80% of applicants receive denials. Once denied, you should seriously consider retaining a legal representative to help you with your claim. You have 60 days from the date of your denial to file a request for hearing if you wish have a Judge review your case. You can ask for the opportunity to be heard by the Judge and this is almost always advisable. At your hearing you will be asked to give testimony regarding your impairments and how they affect your ability to perform daily tasks and activities.
Most attorneys will take these cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you attorney will only be paid a legal fee if you are awarded benefits. The typical contingency fee agreement will provide for a fee of 25% of the past due benefits awarded. However, that amount can not exceed $6000.00. If you are not successful and do not receive benefits, your representative will not be paid any legal fees.
Once your Hearing request documents have been timely filed, it can take about 18 months before your case is actually heard. That time frame is only a rough guide and it can take more or less time depending on the size of the case backlog your local Social Security Office.
At your Social Security hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will ask you questions regarding your work history and medical issues which prevent you from working. It is important to be prepared for your hearing and to understand the type of questions that will be asked. Thorough and responsive answers should be given without exaggeration. The presiding Law Judge has heard hundreds if not thousands of claims and can easily spot malingering or exaggerating. It is always best to be truthful in explaining your symptoms and limitations.
While your testimony is important , the medical record is a crucial factor in the judges decision to approve or deny you claim. In order to qualify for benefits, you must meet medical criteria that substantiate the severity of your injury and limitations. Objective, verifiable finding are always better than simple complaints of pain or discomfort. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney will periodically secure medical records from your treating physicians. The complete medical record be submitted in support of your claim.
There are many types of questionnaire forms that can be utilized in a Social Security case. The questionnaire forms should be completed by your doctor and can provide specific answers to relevant questions regarding your work capacity. If your doctor believes that you are unable to perform gainful employment and documents this in writing, you will have a much better chance of success with your claim. However, if the medical records are not properly filed and do not reflect objective reasons that support your complaints you will have a difficult road ahead.
An application for Social Security Disability benefits can be based on both physical and mental illnesses. If your claim includes mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, it is important to provide the Social Security Administration with medical documentation from your treating psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. It is almost always beneficial to secure a completed Residual Functional Capacity questionnaire form from your treating psychiatrist. This form will provide definitive answers regarding how your mental illness affects your life and your ability to function in a work environment.
Prior to your hearing, Social Security will often send a medication list. This is a simple form documenting your currnet medications. It is important that the Law Judge knows which medications you use and what side effects they may have. Many medications are prescribed for pain relief but have strong side effects including drowsiness and inability to focus or concentrate.
After your Social Security hearing, you will receive a written decision from the Law Judge explaining his legal analysis and conclusions. If you are approved for benefits, the decision will indicate the onset date of disability. This date determines how much in past due benefits you will be paid. It should be noted that in Social Security Disability claims, a waiting period of five (5) months is assessed which reduces the “back money” owed accordingly .
As is not surprising, your chances of receiving a fully favorable decision can be increased by retaining an experience Social Security Disability attorney to represent your interests.