Social Security Disability FAQ

Does my condition qualify as a disability?
While there may be no question in your mind about whether or not you are able to work, it is your burden to prove to the Social Security Administration that your medical condition (physical or psychological) qualifies you for disability benefits. Generally speaking, the criteria to determine whether an injury or illness classifies as a disability include:

  • You can no longer continue performing the same kind of work,
  • You will not be able perform another type of job which will provide you with suitable income,
  • You have either had the condition for at least a year or are expected to have it for a year, or the condition is expected to cause death.

The success of your claim relies on securing a medical diagnosis (physical or psychological) that confirms you can no longer work.

How much can I receive in benefits?
The Social Security Administration uses a complex formula to determine the amount of financial benefits to be paid. However, the amount of financial benefits you receive is calculated on your lifetime earnings and the amount of taxes you have paid into the Social Security system. SSDI benefits will not typically fully replace your lost wages, but are calculated so that high-income earners will receive more than those who have not historically had as high of an income.

Is it true that all claims are denied the first time?
No! This popular misconception does, however, have a basis of truth. In the Panama City area 76% of all initial claims are denied, whether due to mistakes on the application, insufficient information provided by the claimant, or errors on the part of Disability Determination Services staff. Nationally, approximately 2.5 million people apply for SSD every year which means that only 800,000 people receive their benefits without any further trouble. Those who are denied have a right to hire an attorney and appeal the decision.

What can I do if my claim is denied?
The Social Security Administration provides four levels of appeal for those who believe that their claims have been wrongfully denied. Reconsideration, the first step, involves having a different staff member at Disability Determination Services review your application. Only 15% of applications are approved at this stage, so it will likely be necessary to request a hearing.

At a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge reviews all the evidence in the case, and you or your attorney have the opportunity to make an appeal and argue based on the medical records and testimony presented why your disability claim should be approved. In the event that your claim is still denied, you can request to have your case reviewed by the Social Security Appeals Council, and can even take the claim before a federal judge.

How long does it take to receive a hearing?
In our area, it currently takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months from the time a hearing is requested until the date it is scheduled. The team at Shepard Law does everything in their power to cut down on this delay, so that you can begin receiving benefits as early as possible. In some cases, this includes getting a client approved "on the record," which is to say getting your disability claim approved before a hearing.

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