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When an injury or illness keeps you away from work for an extended period, it can be difficult to get by. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is designed to provide financial support to people in this circumstance.
The problem is, the majority of SSDI applicants are initially denied. Many people then give up, not realizing that there may still be a way to receive the benefits they need and deserve.
The Social Security Disability attorneys at Morgan & Morgan understand that a denied claim can have profound effects, particularly on applicants who have no other source of income. It’s important to know that, although your application may have been denied, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Appeals often work, and our legal team may be able to help.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal program that pays benefits to people who are too hurt or sick to work. To qualify, you must earn less than a certain amount of money per month, have paid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a certain length of time, and have a medical condition that meets the program’s standard for disability.
How Is “Disability” Defined?
Under Social Security rules, you may be considered disabled if:
- You are unable to do the job you did before your injury or illness
- The SSA determines you can’t adjust to other work due to your medical condition
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last a year or longer
A Social Security Disability lawyer can work with you to determine whether or not you meet these criteria.
Are You Medically Eligible for SSDI Benefits?
The SSA has a five-step process for determining an applicant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits:
- Is the applicant working? The SSA generally won’t consider you disabled if you are working and earning more than a certain amount per month ($1,260 as of 2020).
- Is the applicant’s medical condition severe? Your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to carry out basic work functions such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, and remembering things.
- Is the applicant’s condition on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that it considers severe enough to prevent a person from maintaining gainful employment. Your condition must either be on the list or deemed as severe as an ailment that is.
- Is the applicant able to do the job he or she did previously? The SSA will evaluate if your medical condition precludes you from performing any of your past work. If it doesn’t, they will determine you don’t have a qualifying disability.
- Is the applicant able to do any other work? By considering factors such as your medical status, age, education, work experience, and skills, the SSA will determine if you can work in a different capacity. If you’re found not physically capable of performing other work, the SSA will rule you disabled.
Why Are Some Applicants Denied?
There are many reasons why applicants are initially denied benefits, including but not limited to:
- The applicant makes too much money. Many applicants surpass the limit for “substantial gainful activity,” or the level of work a person with a disability can do, at the time they apply. This means they are earning too much to be considered disabled.
- The disability isn’t severe enough. The SSA may decide that an applicant’s condition isn’t severe enough to prevent them from working.
- The disability stems from drug or alcohol dependence. If a drug or alcohol addiction was a contributing factor to an applicant’s disability, they likely won’t be eligible for benefits.
- The applicant refused to follow prescribed therapy. If a person is being treated by a doctor but fails to follow the prescribed therapy, they may be denied benefits.
- The applicant committed fraud. Any applicant who obtains SSDI benefits by dishonest means may have their benefits terminated.
What Is the Appeals Process?
You have the right to appeal any decision by filing a written request within 60 days of receiving the decision letter. Generally, there are four levels of appeal:
- Reconsideration: Your attorney will file a request for reconsideration. During this phase of the appeal, a claims examiner who was not part of the initial review will review all evidence submitted when the original decision was made, in addition to any new evidence.
- Hearing: If the SSA denies reconsideration, your attorney may request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge who had no part in the original decision. Your attorney will present evidence to the judge in support of your claim, and potentially ask an expert witness to explain why you qualify for disability benefits.
- Review by the Appeals Council: If the judge denies your claim, you may request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. Although the Appeals Council considers all requests for review, it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct.
- Federal Court Review: If your claim is still denied, your attorney can file a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn the SSA’s decision.
How Can a Disability Attorney Help You?
The SSDI application process can be exhausting, confusing, and frustrating. A Morgan & Morgan attorney can help make sense of the process, as well as review your application and accompanying documentation for errors that might result in rejection.
If you’ve been rejected, our attorneys can help you file an appeal. We can identify which documents are missing that might bolster your case, gather and present critical supporting evidence, and prepare you to answer the administrative law judge’s questions.
Contact Morgan & Morgan
You work hard and take pride in what you do, so when an injury or illness keeps you away from work for an extended period, it can be tough to manage. The last thing you need in a difficult time is to have your SSDI benefits denied.
Whether you are planning on applying for SSDI benefits, or you already applied and were denied, our attorneys can work on your behalf to help you get the benefits you deserve.
It costs nothing to get started, and we get paid only if your case is successful. Contact Morgan & Morgan by scheduling a free case evaluation now.