Social Security Disability Benefits Attorney Christa Frank High of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC discusses the basics of applying for Social Security Disability Benefits. She addresses the requirements for Social Security Disability (SSD) as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For both SSD and SSI, you must show the Social Security Administration that you are disabled. This means that you have a physical or mental condition(s) that causes severe limitations so you cannot work, and your condition(s) will either last for more than one year or will cause death. For Social Security Disability, you also must show that you are insured, which means that you have contributed enough to your Social Security account through your prior work. For Supplemental Security Income, you must show that you have limited resources and income.
Attorney High also explains specifically how to apply for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits--by first submitting the Application. If that is denied, then you apply for Reconsideration. If that is denied, then you request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The process can take up to two years, but having an attorney to guide you through the process and represent you at the hearing increases your chances of getting benefits.
Hello and welcome to the next edition of the Legal Tech podcast. The Basics of applying for Social Security disability benefits. I am attorney Christa High and I will be talking to you about how to apply for Social Security benefits. The Legal Tech podcast is sponsored by the law offices of Daniel J. S. Siegel, LLC, and is located in Havertown, Pennsylvania, which is in suburban Philadelphia. We represent clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, and our other sponsor is Integrated Technology Services, LLC, which assists attorneys and their law firms in improving their workflow and making sure they are using the right technology to make their workflow as efficient as possible. So one of our practice areas is assisting individuals who are applying for Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. And today I want to give a basic overview of how to apply for these Social Security benefits and important tips to keep in mind. So first, a little bit of background about the Social Security process before we go into the application part. The Social Security Administration administers two programs that we're focusing on today Social Security Disability Insurance, which is SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, which is SSI. So for both SSDI and SSI, you have to show the Social Security Administration that you are disabled. And the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled is that one, you have a medically determinable, physical or mental impairment, or a combination of them. Two, you cannot do work you previously did or adjust to other work because of your medical conditions, and three, your medical condition will either cause death or be expected to last for at least one year. Basically, that means you have a mental or physical condition that causes such severe limitations that you cannot work and your condition will either cause death or last for more than one year. It's not that you have to be completely laid up and essentially bedridden, but you have to be able to show those three factors. Now for SSDI, which is the disability benefits, in addition to showing you're disabled, you also have to show that you're insured. And if you could see me, you would see that I'm doing air quotes around insured. This means that you have to show that you've contributed enough to your Social Security account through your earnings. That's based on your work history. So if you're applying for SSDI, it doesn't matter whether you have assets, money in your bank account, investments, the focus is just on whether you've contributed enough through your work. Now, for SSI, which is a Supplemental Security Income, that does not depend upon your contributions to Social Security or your work history. Instead, you have to show that you have limited income and resources. So for SSI, the Social Security Administration will consider money that you've received from work, money you receive from sources including workers compensation, unemployment benefits, veterans benefits, or money from friends and relatives, and also any free food or shelter that you're receiving. So essentially, the Social Security Administration considers anything you could convert to cash and use for food and shelter. And if you're an individual, if you have more than $2,000 to your name, then you may not be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. That's the general amount they look at. And if you're a couple, that amount is about $3,000. Now, let me explain a little bit more about what it means to be disabled under Social Security's definition. So Social Security Administration has five questions they look at to determine if you have a disability that could qualify you for benefits. So first they ask, are you working? So they use guidelines to evaluate whether your work activity is considered what they call substantial gainful employment. And if you're working in 2022 and you're earning to average more than $1350 a month, then you generally cannot be considered to have a qualifying disability. But if you have less than that, then you move on to the next step. And the next question is, is your condition severe? So your medical or mental condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work related activities. That means like lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering things related to concentration for at least twelve months. If it doesn't, then the administration would deny your application. If it does, then you go to the next step. So the third question is, is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? That means Social Security keeps what's called the listings. And these are a long list of medical conditions that they consider severe enough to prevent a person from doing work. If your condition is not on the list, then the administration will decide if it's severe enough that you would be considered to be disabled. So that list is available online. It's these listings. They list all the different categories of impairments people can have, and it's very detailed. So the fourth question then is can you do the work you did previously? Now, at this step, the Social Security Administration decides if your medical impairment prevents you performing any of your past work. So the work you've done before you became disabled. So if you're able to do that work, or they think you're able to do that work, then you wouldn't qualify for benefits. If you can't do that work, then they go to the next step. And that question, the last and fifth question is, can you do any other type of work? And if they find you still can't do any other type of work, then you should be eligible for Social Security benefits. So essentially, Social Security Administration is going to consider your medical conditions, your age, your education, your past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have to determine whether you're disabled and eligible for benefits. If you can't do any other work, then Social Security administration will award you Social Security Disability Income or Supplemental Security Income benefits. So now that you have an idea of what Social Security Administration will be considering. If you believe you are entitled to those benefits, then let's go through the application process itself. So first you have to submit the application, which can be done online, by phone, in person at a Social Security office or mailed in. And then the Social Security Administration examiners review the application, including the nature and severity of your impairment, your medical records, your work history, your age and your level of education, and if you could do other work. Social Security also may require that you be examined by a doctor they select, so they set up an appointment, and you have to go for an examination. So if your application for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability benefits is denied, which unfortunately is often the case at that first stage, then you have 60 days to request reconsideration, and the process essentially is repeated with updated information from you. And again, it is a challenge to win even at the reconsideration stage. Roughly 85% of all applications are denied at the reconsideration level of the disability process. So then if reconsideration is denied, then you have 60 days to appeal and request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Now, it was called an ALG for short. So the ALJ is when you really have your best chance to win. At the hearing, the ALJ and your attorney will ask you questions about your medical condition and your ability to do any work. Then the ALJ and your attorney will ask a vocational expert about whether there are any jobs you could perform given your medical condition and limitations. Social Security Administration brings in this expert to see if there's something else you could do even that might be different from what you were doing in the past. And we ask questions. You go through this hearing process, and then after that, the ALJ will consider all the evidence and issue a written decision after the hearing. Now, this entire process, from application to ALJ decision can take up to two years. It's an incredibly long time, and we recognize how difficult it is for individuals who can't work and are suffering with a medical condition to wait that long. But we make every effort. Our office for our clients, makes every effort to move your case as quickly as we can and get you the best result. But it is a long time, and we try to make clients aware at the outset that this is a long process, and you just got to keep submitting your information and doing everything they ask you to do. So the process can be frustrating, especially because of the length of time it takes. But don't be discouraged. We regularly represent clients at every stage of this process, from the initial application to the ALJ hearing. And your chances of winning at every one of those stages is better if you have an attorney who understands the process and knows what the Social Security Administration needs and what they're looking for. So that said, those are the basics of Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security income and the process for applying thank you for listening to the podcast again. This has been the Legal Tech podcast which is sponsored by the Law offices of Daniel J. Siegel LLC. Our website is danieljsiegel.com D-A-N-I-E-L-J-S-I-E-G-E-L.com and our other sponsor is Integrated Technologies Services and that website is Techlawyergy.com. T-E-C-H-L-A-W-Y-E-R-G-Y.com. Thank you again for listening.