Virginia Disability Advocates
We understand that life can be incredibly challenging when a serious injury or illness prevents you from working for an extended period of time. While your income may have stopped, life keeps moving and you still have to pay your bills and provide for those who depend on you.
The federal government offers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to people in Virginia to help offset the financial burdens of this situation, but it is not as simple as walking through the door and signing up. It can be a lengthy process involving substantial work just to file your initial application. Over 65% of initial SSDI applications are denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA). At this point, you may feel so frustrated that you just give up but we encourage you not to.
At Morgan & Morgan, our team of Virginia disability advocates are dedicated to supporting you with our legal expertise to help you file or appeal your SSDI application. Claims that are supported by attorneys have an increased chance of being successful on the initial application or during the appeals process. We have been defending the rights of the injured for over 30 years and we are ready to use our experience to get you the maximum Social Security Disability Benefits you qualify for.
How Do I Know if I Am Eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits?
In order to claim Social Security Disability Benefits in Virginia, there are some preliminary requirements that must be met for your application to be successful.
To qualify, you must establish that you fall within the SSA’s criteria for disability which examines the severity, length of time, and extent of your disability.
They will examine multiple factors including:
Are you currently working or can you do your previous job?
- If you can’t do your previous work, are you able to perform a different job given your condition?
- Is the length of your disability anticipated to be longer than one year, or result in your death?
- What is the severity of your impairment, does it qualify as a disability under Social Security’s “Blue Book” list of impairments?
If you are able to perform your normal daily work and life activities, then it will not be considered severe enough. Your condition must be long-term, defined as lasting, or being expected to last, more than one year. They refer to total disability as being unable to perform “substantial gainful activity” and the burden of proof rests on you to establish this. Your best chance of success will be if your condition falls within a category in their Blue Book list.
If you have a severe impairment but are concerned that you will be denied because you don’t think it falls within one of their categories, an attorney may be able to examine your case and present an argument that it does. Our local team of disability advocates in Virginia offer free consultations for anyone who needs help claiming their Social Security Disability Benefits. Whether you are just beginning your claim or want to improve your chances of a successful appeal, we are ready to put our experience to work for you.
- How long have you worked in the past?
- How recent was this past employment?
The system works by generating work credits for you based upon the length of time that you have worked in the past at a job where you paid Social Security (FICA) taxes. You also must have worked a certain percentage of your work history within a certain number of recent years or else you may be unable to qualify. The exact numbers vary depending on factors such as your age so speaking with an attorney can help you understand how likely you are to qualify.
What Benefits Can I Receive?
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
If you meet the medical and work history requirements above, then you will be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits based on the work credits that you previously earned.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Depending on the details of your situation, we can help you understand if you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI). SSI is paid from general tax revenue so you may be able to receive this benefit even if you don’t have sufficient work credits at a job where you paid into the Social Security system. SSI helps people with disabilities who fall into specific financial-need based categories cover expenses such as food and shelter.
If you believe that you have been unjustly denied your SSDI benefits or would like to know if you qualify for SSI, our Virginia disability attorneys are available to answer your questions. We can give you an accurate assessment of your case and may be able to file an appeal for you if your initial claim was denied.
Do I Need an Attorney to Receive Social Security Disability Benefits in Virginia?
While you can file your initial application yourself, keep in mind that every stage of the process builds on previous steps and it is important to put your best foot forward. Missing information or improperly characterizing something on your application can delay the processing or result in it being denied entirely. An attorney can help you gather all necessary medical and work evidence, organize and properly fill out any required documentation, and handle all communications with Social Security for you.
Claims can take months if not years to process and any delay caused by missing a deadline or incorrectly filling out a form can extend the time until you receive your benefits even further. Having a Virginia disability attorney advocating on your behalf can help you save time and frustration in navigating this challenging process.
If your initial SSDI application is denied, do not panic as this happens to the majority of applicants. There are multiple levels of appeals you can use to try to be successful in your claim, but we highly recommend having an attorney review your claim before you begin as you may need to modify your approach in order to be successful. The sooner your claim is approved, the sooner you can receive benefits and a successful outcome becomes less likely when you approach the later stages of appeals. An experienced Virginia disability lawyer can help increase the likelihood of a successful appeal and in some cases speed up the process.
If you don’t agree with the SSA’s decision, the first step in appeals is a Request for Reconsideration. A new claims examiner will be appointed to review your claim. Depending on whether you disagree with a medical decision or non-medical decision, you may need to submit additional appeals forms. This request must be filed within 60 days of receiving your initial denial.
If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, the next step in the appeals process is Requesting a Hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. You will be required to present your case by providing evidence and testimony about your condition and should be prepared to answer any questions. You are allowed to have a lawyer attend your hearing and they can help you prepare for the types of questions you will be asked and provide guidance during the actual hearing.
You can choose to represent yourself, just keep in mind that this is potentially your best opportunity to present a strong case in front of the judge and you only get one shot at it. There may be medical and vocational experts present analyzing your answers to the judge’s questions and it is important to be prepared. Our Virginia disability attorneys have years of experience helping our clients navigate this intimidating proceeding. We can advise you of what to expect and how to make the strongest case in language that will satisfy what the judge is looking for.
We are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and offer free case evaluations because we believe everyone deserves to understand their rights and make informed decisions.
If the judge denies your appeal at the hearing, you have 60 days to request a case review by the Appeals Council. In this stage of appeals, they are not reviewing the details of your disability claim, they are reviewing if the hearing judge’s decision conforms to federal law. Having an attorney help you prepare your Appeals Council request can help avoid any delays from improper filing and as they have experience working with the Social Security system on a regular basis.
The Appeals Council may determine that certain procedural requirements or medical evidence were not properly addressed and send your case back to the hearing stage to be reviewed by another judge. They can also completely overturn the judge’s decision from the hearing though this situation is unlikely.
Federal Court Review (Lawsuit)
In the event that the Appeals Council agrees with the hearing judge’s ruling, your claim will be denied and we recommend having a disability attorney review the details of your claim. At this point, we can advise you on if a Federal District Court appeal is an option worth considering.
What Can an Attorney Do for Me in My SSDI Claim?
Working with a reputable Virginia disability attorney can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that your claim will be carried out properly and they can provide you with the support you need during this lengthy process.
They will act as your disability advocate supporting you every step of the way providing assistance:
- Completing your initial application
- Filing your appeal if your initial claim was denied
- Filing any additional appeals if necessary
- Retrieving and organizing your medical records
- Submitting all your evidence to the SSA for you
- Assist you in completing any forms required of you
- Handle communications with the SSA for you
- Help you prepare for your hearing in front of a judge and provide support
How Do I Find a Good Virginia Disability Lawyer?
Finding a good disability lawyer can be the most important factor in maximizing your claim’s chances of success. We recommend doing your research and hiring a local attorney who has experience specifically within the area of Social Security Disability law. Your lawyer should be familiar with the inner workings of the Social Security Administration and have a deep understanding of the necessary elements to bring a successful claim. At Morgan & Morgan, we have over 30 years representing those who have been injured and our law firm was founded on the principle of defending the people against large corporations and helping them navigate complex governmental procedures.
We understand that mounting medical bills, the loss of income, and the stress of not being able to work or knowing what you will do next can be overwhelming. From the first point of contact with our team, you will be speaking with someone who will listen to what you are experiencing, answer your questions, and help advise you on how to deal with the obstacles in front of you. We will handle your case on a contingency basis meaning you don’t pay us any fee upfront and we only get paid if we are successful in bringing your claim.
Having a lawyer with you from the start is your best chance at your initial application being approved. Nationwide, only 22% of applications are approved on first submittal, and having a lawyer can help you file your claim faster and reduce the risk of any mistakes. If your claim is denied, having an experienced attorney there to review the notice of denial will give you a major advantage in appealing the decision and moving your case forward as quickly as possible. No matter what stage in the process you find yourself in, we are available 24/7 to provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation where we can answer your questions and help you understand your best path forward.