Who is eligible for disability benefits from Social Security?
Under Social Security rules, you’re only considered disabled (and eligible for benefits) if a medical condition or injury is expected to keep you from working for at least 12 months or to result in death. The disability can be a physical condition, a mental condition, or a combination of both.
Who decides if I am disabled and eligible for benefits?
After a Social Security Disability claim is filed, the case is sent to a disability examiner. The examiner makes the initial decision on the claim.
Are mental illnesses eligible for disability benefits?
Yes. Mental illness is a frequently used basis for getting Social Security Disability benefits.
How long does it take to obtain my disability benefits once a claim for benefits is filed?
Social Security Disability benefits can be paid for one year prior to your application date. Because it may take awhile to get benefits, it is best you apply as soon as it appears your medical problem(s) are going to keep you from working at least one year.
In addition to the time needed to establish your disability, there is a lot of waiting at each stage of the process. Social Security makes its first decision in about four to five months. If you're denied and file an appeal, the decision on your appeal is usually made within a matter of weeks. If you win your appeal, the wait to receive benefits usually takes about 18 months from the time you appeal.
If I win my case, will I receive medical help in addition to cash benefits?
That depends. If you’ve been eligible for Social Security Disability for two years – whether you’ve actually received the benefits or not – you qualify for Medicare. If you’re awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you won’t receive Medicare, but rather Medicaid, a needs-based program that provides for a number of prescriptions and doctor visits each month.
What type of medical benefits/insurance will I receive?
If you are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB), you will be eligible for Medicare coverage after a waiting period of 24 months. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will be entitled to Medicaid coverage as soon as your entitlement to SSI begins.
When should I contact an attorney about representation?
You should contact an attorney before you file a claim with the Social Security Administration. Tom Stewart can help you plan a strategy to win your case from the beginning. If you wait to get an attorney after your claim has been denied, you may harm your case with different damaging statements or other information. This information can be used against you on appeal.
How much does it cost to hire Stewart Disability Law Firm for my Social Security Disability claim?
Federal law regulates attorneys’ fees in Social Security Disability cases. So, virtually every disability lawyer works on the same fee basis. The lawyer’s fee is 25% of the past due disability benefits you get. There is no fee if you lose.
How does Social Security decide/determine if I am disabled?
You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical, physical, or mental condition.
Your medical condition must have lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or be expected to result in death.
How can I find out if my medical condition qualifies for disability benefits?
The Social Security Administration considers your condition severe (and therefore eligible for benefits) if it interferes with such basic work functions as…
- Physical abilities like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling
- Seeing, hearing or speaking
- Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions
- Using good judgment
- Responding appropriately to supervisors, co-workers and typical work situations
- Dealing with changes in a routine work setting
What are the important deadlines I need to watch?
- INITIAL FILING —You need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits within a certain timeframe (usually five years) after you’re unable to work. However, every month you wait will reduce the total amount of benefits. If you wait longer than five years to apply, you may not qualify for any benefits. We strongly recommend that you apply for Social Security Disability benefits as soon as you are unable to work.
- APPEAL – The next important deadline is the appeal. If your initial claim is denied (and most are), you’ll only have 60 days from the date of your decision letter to file an appeal with Social Security. If you don’t file an appeal within 60 days, you give up your rights to the appeal process. Even worse, you’ll have to start the application process all over again. We strongly recommend you engage an attorney to help you file your appeal.
If I applied but was denied, what should I do?
Now you file a written request for reconsideration within 60 days of the denial notice. There are four levels of review: Reconsideration, Hearing, Appeals Council, and Federal Court.
What will happen at my hearing?
A hearing is conducted by the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review of the Social Security Administration. An Administrative Law Judge will preside over your case and testimony is taken under oath.
The hearing is also private. The only people present will be the Judge and the Judge’s assistant, you, your attorney, and any witnesses you may want to have present. Often the Judge may ask a vocational expert to testify about your ability to work.
Medical records and a medical expert will be accepted as evidence. The Judge or your attorney will ask you about your present medical condition, medical history, abilities, education, training, work experience and the limitations in your daily life caused by your disability. You or your attorney may make a closing argument that you are entitled to benefits under Social Security.
If I lose my case after my hearing, can a lawyer still help me?
Probably. Appeals are sometimes denied for the wrong reasons, and a good attorney can help you determine whether this is the case. If so, you can appeal your claim outside the Social Security administration in Federal Court. You’ll need a lawyer to do this, and Tom Stewart has a great deal of experience arguing cases in Federal Court. He’s won dozens of federal cases.
How can I improve my chances of winning my Social Security Disability claim?
Be completely honest with Social Security in their requests for information, both financial and medical.
Go to your doctors and treatment providers for two reasons. The first reason is for your health. The second reason is because Social Security bases its decisions on the medical evidence in your file. If you are not going for treatment, Social Security can assume that your condition is not severe enough to require treatment.
Do not give up. It is very common for Social Security to deny claims; it is easy to become discouraged and believe it is useless to pursue your benefits. Your greatest chance to win your claim is at the hearing level, when a judge will personally meet with you and hear your complaints and problem.
It is also important to hire an experienced attorney to represent you who understands Social Security’s rules and requirements. It is also important to do this at the earliest stage possible in your claim for Social Security.
What areas does Tom Stewart Disability Law Firm cover?
Our offices are located in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, but we serve clients throughout the entire state of Colorado.