Social Security Disability (SSD) is a compulsory insurance policy providing income to people too injured or ill to work. The premiums for this insurance come from the payroll taxes that come out of your, and everyone’s, paychecks.
Most people go through their entire lives without ever needing SSD, but the comfort of the safety net is still there. But even when you need this safety net, it may not be readily available to you. Most SSD claims are initially denied, and must be appealed. Appeals have a success rate of more than 50 percent. A knowledgeable Melbourne attorney can help you, even if your application is initially denied. Contact us today for assistance.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability: What You Need to Prove
There are two prongs to qualifying for Social Security Disability in Florida.
- The first looks at the claimant’s earning record and determines whether they have worked enough to qualify. Most people who have worked regularly, even if only part time, meet this qualification. However, people who only recently began working or have worked “under the table” may have difficulty here.
- The second prong is disability, and the vast majority of claims are denied because of a failure to meet the Social Security program’s definitions of a disability. In order to qualify as disabled, a claimant must have a serious physical or mental impairment which prevents that claimant from engaging in any substantial gainful activity and that can be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
Each of the terms within this definition has its own unique meaning to the Social Security program. For instance, “substantial gainful activity” means employment netting you a little over a thousand dollars a month in 2016, though the number generally increases each year.
The Social Security Administration also uses “listings,” or catalogs of diseases and medical conditions, to determine if an impairment or disease is serious enough to prevent a person from working. Each listing contains a list of symptoms or objective findings the condition must meet. If any listing is not met, the claim is evaluated using a grid examining the claimant’s age, work history, education, and functional impairment to determine if the claimant is “disabled” or “not disabled.”
The Social Security Disability Appeals Process
Most SSD applications are initially denied. Fortunately, there is an appeal process available that offers a good chance of ultimately success – well over half of initial denials are later reversed. Unfortunately, the process can be complicated, intimidating, and very difficult to successfully navigate without the assistance of a Melbourne Social Security attorney.
- The Administrative Law Judge – An initial SSD application is decided by a functionary at a state-run Disability Determination Service (DDS). An administrative law judge (ALJ), however, is an independent decision-maker employed by the federal government and wholly independent from the DDS. The ALJ reviews the claimant’s medical records, work history, and any other information provided. The ALJ then renders a written decision which can be fully favorable, partially favorable, or unfavorable.
- Appeals Council – A claimant who receives a partially favorable or unfavorable decision can appeal the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews the record, including a recording or transcript of the hearing and the evidence submitted to the ALJ, and decides if the ALJ made a mistake. If the Council does not believe a mistake was made, it affirms the decision.
- Federal District Court – After the Appeals Council, the only remaining remedy is to file suit in Federal Court. Typically, Federal Magistrate Judges review the available record and decide if the decision-makers below violated any applicable laws or regulations. Very few cases reach this level. However, those that do have a surprisingly high success rate.
A Qualified Melbourne SSD Attorney Can Help You
Most SSD applicants are denied at first and the appeals process can be long and arduous. But with the help of Florida Social Security Disability attorneys, a significant percentage of applicants who are initially denied ultimately receive SSD in Florida, as well as lump sum back benefits for the period during which their appeals were pending.
If you are no longer able to work due to an illness or injury, we may be able to help you get the SSD benefits you desperately need. Contact us online to have your situation reviewed and evaluated by a Morgan & Morgan attorney who knows the Social Security regulations and the appeals process.