Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2022

The Social Security Administration has announced that its annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2022 is 5.9%.  That is, for individuals receiving Social Security Disability or Retirement benefits, and also individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the monthly benefit amount will increase by 5.9% for 2022.  The COLA adjustment affects the benefits of approximately 70 million people. 

Nationwide, approximately 8 million people receive SSI payments.  The increased SSI benefit amount begins on December 30, 2021.  About 64 million people receive Social Security benefits through various programs.  The 5.9 percent COLA increased payment amount will begin with benefits payable in January 2022. Some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits. 

For individuals who are continuing to work, there are some annual adjustments based on the increased cost of living that may have a financial impact. 

The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security taxes increases from $142,800 to $147,000.

The maximum Social Security benefit for a Worker retiring at Full Retirement Age increases from $3,148 per month to $3,345 per month. 

The amount of earnings required to earn a quarter of coverage increases from $1,470 per month to $1,510 per month.

The COLA adjustment also affects individuals who are disabled.  The SSI federal benefit amount increases from $794 to $841 for individuals.  For couples, the SSI federal benefit amount increases from $1,191 per month to $1,261.

The average retired worker now receives approximately $1,565 per month.  After the COLA increase, the average monthly payment is estimated to increase to $1,657 per month.

The average Disabled Worker’s benefit amount is expected to increase from the present amount of $1,282 per month to $1,358.

Social Security Disability for individuals with COVID-19

As a general rule, Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits are only available for individuals having long term symptoms, meaning that the person’s inability to work must last for either a minimum of 12 months or be expected to result in death within 12 months. Fortunately, for most COVID-19 patients, although the symptoms of COVID-19 can be quite severe the symptoms are not usually expected to last for 12 months or result in death within 12 months.  Of course each person’s situation varies based upon a number of factors, including other medical conditions that are worsened by COVID-19. 

In some cases, with so-called “long haulers”, the ongoing, long term effects of COVID-19 result in a variety of physical symptoms, including severe fatigue and shortness of breath, and sometimes mental conditions including impaired memory and cognitive functioning, anxiety and depression. In these cases, where the individual is having these long term physical and/or mental symptoms, the person may be eligible for Social Security Disability and/or SSI disability benefits.  The Social Security Administration has no special rules that provide disability benefits for individuals with long term symptoms from having COVID-19, but the criteria for disability can be met through medical documentation of their disability, just as with other disabling medical conditions.

In filing a Social Security Disability application, it is important to remember that the diagnosis, or medical cause of the person’s symptoms, is not usually the focus. The Social Security Administration rarely debates whether a person has any specific medical diagnosis.  Instead, the focus is on the medical and other evidence documenting what symptoms are ongoing, what impact do the person’s specific symptoms impact have upon their ability to engage in the physical and mental requirements of full time work, and whether the symptoms have lasted for twelve consecutive months.

The basic question in almost every Social Security Disability claim is – what symptoms and limitations are documented by the person’s treating medical professionals. The Social Security Administration looks at the medical evidence concerning all of a person’s medical conditions, both physical and mental, to determine the person’s ability to either do their past work or other full time work.  With mental impairments, the issue is still the same as with physical disabilities – what is being documented by the treating therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. Regardless of whether the person’s impairments are physical, mental, or both, it is up to the individual to prove their disability claim through medical evidence that establishes a basis for the person’s symptoms, and documentation on the severity of those diagnosed medical conditions, to establish that the person requesting benefits has specific limitations that render them unable to sustain any full-time work activity.  In determining whether other full time work is available, the individual’s age, education and skills acquired through their work experience are also considered.

With cases involving COVID-19, as in any other case, we always review each new client’s situation with compassion, and also with the goal of providing our best legal advice, based upon our extensive experience and expertise in the field of Social Security Disability law.

Social Security benefits: Your money, NOT the government’s

We meet a lot of clients who feel ashamed for filing for disability benefits when they have worked every day of their lives and provided for their families without government assistance.

The first thing I say to such an individual is…SSDI is not welfare or a “handout”. You have been working most of your life and paying Social Security taxes to help you stay afloat in case you ever become disabled and unable to work.

To put it plainly, you’ve paid into the Social Security program and it is YOUR money to get back when you are unable to maintain employment due to a physical and/or mental impairment.

If you have questions about benefits you may qualify for, call us today, we would love to be of assistance to you.

More Tips To Help You With Your Claim

If you are seeking Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, one of the most important parts of your case is the medical evidence. One of the tips we give our clients is to THINK when you visit your doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc. The people providing you with care take notes of what you say. The things you say can help your case quite a lot. Examples are discussions about pain, medication side effects, etc. That is, when you testify at your hearing about pain or medication side effects, it strengthens your case to have those same problems documented in the records of your medical provider.

We frequently see examples of things people tell their physicians that do not help. When a physician asks how a patient is doing, and the patient says “fine, how are you”, the physician’s notes generally reflect that. While the patient may just be making conversation, thinking “I wouldn’t be here unless I really needed help”, the treatment note that the judge reads frequently says “patient had no complaints”. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that the medical provider’s notes will reflect what you say.

Other unhelpful examples we have seen in medical records may concern references to hunting, fishing, 4-wheeling, vacations, gardening, etc. When you testify at the hearing, you will probably be asked about your daily activities, and how your disabilities affect your life. If your testimony in court is that you are very limited in your activities and interests, but the medical records describe someone with an active life, the judge is more likely to believe what you told your medical provider.

Your medical evidence should be the strength of your case, not the weakness in your case. So, be sure to THINK. Your medical records should detail how your disability affects your daily activities, and thus your ability to work. If you have pain, medication side effects, limitations affecting your standing, sitting, lifting, bending, or your ability to stay awake or concentrate, your medical records need to reflect your symptoms.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., we work closely with our clients, to develop the medical evidence proving disability.   If you are interested in speaking to someone in our firm, we have a NO FEE/ FREE consultation. Please call us Toll Free at 1-800-544-3568, or in our Mobile, Alabama office at (251) 478-5297, or our Pensacola, Florida number, (850) 479-3552.

Tips To Help You With Your Claim

If you are seeking Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, one of the most important parts of your case is the medical evidence.  It is important to your success to provide the Administrative Law Judge with all relevant evidence, including hospital reports, ER visits, and records of all physicians, psychologists, or therapists you have seen since your disability began.  However, the most important medical records are the treatment records of your treating physician, because many times this physician has seen you over a long enough period of time to have good insight into how your combination of conditions affects you.  Obtaining these documents is a time-consuming task, but having up-to-date medical records is a critical part of proving you are disabled.

Additionally, it is important to understand that almost all Social Security Disability files at the hearing office are electronic files.  There is no paper file folder.  It is not very helpful to show up the day of the hearing with a lot of paper medical records.  The medical records need to be submitted to the judge electronically.   If our office receives paper medical records, they are scanned, converted to a digital format, and electronically filed via Internet.  It is also important that the medical records be obtained and submitted well in advance of the hearing.  The more the judge knows about your conditions, the better the judge is able to prepare for the hearing.

Communicating with your attorney facilitates getting and submitting the medical evidence in a timely manner and is one of the ways that your representative can help you win your case.  It is very important to let your representative know about all of your medical treatment, so that these records can be ordered and submitted to the judge well in advance of any hearing.

Be sure to get the medical attention that you need.  Going without medical care can indicate that you do not have a medical problem or that your medical condition is not so severe that you need treatment.  When you get medical treatment, one tip we always give our clients, and one you should consider, is to COMMUNICATE with your attorney or representative about your medical care and treatment so that the evidence in your case can be developed.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., we work closely with our clients, to develop the medical evidence proving disability.   If you are interested in speaking to someone in our firm, we have a NO FEE/ FREE consultation.  Please call us Toll Free at 1-800-544-3568, or in our Mobile, Alabama office at (251) 478-5297, or our Pensacola, Florida number, (850) 479-3552.

National my Social Security Week

April 4th – April 13th is National my Social Security week!

We encourage you to sign up for a my Social Security account on the Social Security Administration website. A my Social Security account gives you access to personal information, tools and resources to meet your changing needs and lifestyles. With my Social Security, you are able request a replacement Social Security card, check your earnings record and find out about your benefit and payment information.

Start planning for retirement today with the help of a my Social Security account. Sign up at

Medical Records and Your Disability Claim

claim help

You have an obligation to tell the Social Security Administration about your medical providers.  We help our clients obtain their medical records by requesting them from the treating sources, and then submitting them electronically, so that our client’s medical conditions can be reviewed by the Administrative Law Judge.

The medical records tell us, and the judge the following about you:

  • Your Medical history: Your doctor’s records will most likely describe your symptoms and indicate when they began.
  • Your Treatment: Your medical records will most likely provide a medical diagnosis suggested by your symptoms. The records also describe treatments recommended, provide details of any diagnostic testing, and indicate what medications, if any, are prescribed.
  • The Impact on your Life: Your medical records will, hopefully, describe how your disability affects your life. This is important information that you will need to provide to your doctor, as it gives the Administrative Law Judge an indication of how severe your medical conditions are, and provide important indications regarding whether you have the ability to work on a full time basis.

Remember: Your medical evidence needs to be the strength of your case, not its weakness.

Our law firm can help you with the development of your Social Security Disability and/or SSI claim.  We have helped hundreds of people establish their eligibility.  If you are interested in discussing your claim with us, please contact us for a free initial consultation.  We only charge a fee if we win your case!  Our phone numbers are as follows:

Mobile: (251) 478-5297

Pensacola: (850)479-3552

Toll Free: (800) 544-3568

Social Security Disability for Disabled Veterans

Did you know that if you are a disabled veteran the Social Security Administration (SSA) will expedite your claim when filing for disability benefits?

Veterans who have a 100% Permanent and Total (P&T) disability compensation rating from the Veterans Administration (VA), and are also pursuing claims for Social Security Disability benefits, will receive expedited processing of their claims by the Social Security Administration. Disabled veterans  should notify either their representatives, or SSA, immediately, to receive the expedited scheduling.  SSA will then verify the 100% P&T rating status with the VA. No additional proof will be required to receive the expedited processing by SSA.

The VA 100% P&T rating does not necessarily mean that the disabled veteran will receive approval on the claim for Social Security Disability benefits, as the regulations and definitions for eligibility under the two programs are different.  The disabled veteran will still have to prove, through acceptable medical and non-medical evidence, that all of the requirements for Social Security Disability will be met.  The good news for these veterans, though, is that their claims will receive preferential treatment as far as getting a hearing scheduled and decision made on their claims.

The SSA notes that this expedited policy does not apply to veterans with a 100% disability pension rating.  That is, it only applies to individuals with a 100% disability COMPENSATION rating.

Anyone with questions regarding this policy may, of course, call our office at 1-800-544-3568.  This policy should prove very helpful to our veterans who have served our country so well and deserve our gratitude so much.

What should I do if my claim for Social Security Disability benefits gets denied?

I am frequently asked the question “What should I do if my claim for Social Security Disability benefits gets denied?”. The answer, however, depends on the specific facts of the person’s situation. In general, though, there are at least five (5) things you should do if your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied.

  1. You must file an appeal within sixty (60) days of the date of the denial letter. Depending on the state in which you live, that may be either a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing. In Alabama, it is a Request for Hearing, but in Florida it is a Request for Reconsideration. If you miss the deadline, you may be excused for filing late, if you can establish “good cause”, but this is generally difficult to establish, so it is best to get the appeal filed on time.
  2. If you are denied after reconsideration (if, for example, you live in Florida) you have sixty days to request a hearing with an administrative law judge.
  3. If your claim is denied by an Administrative Law Judge, you should request a review of the decision by the Appeals Council.
  4. If you are denied by the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in federal court.
  5. Before you do any of these things, you should seek the advice get help from a seasoned Mobile or Pensacola Social Security Disability attorney. There are a lot of factors that come into play in establishing eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. If you would like additional information or would like to set-up an appointment for a free initial social security disability evaluation, please contact us via our contact form or call us at 251.478.5297 in Mobile or at 850.479.3552 in Pensacola.

How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability?

I am frequently asked how does one apply for Social Security disability benefits and what do I need to have. The Social Security Disability application is rather detailed. Applications can be made either online, or by going to the local Social Security office. If you are going to go to the Social Security office, you should call to arrange an appointment first. If you are going to apply online, you will still need to get organized before beginning.

The Social Security Administration has provided a checklist of the information you need to complete the application. Here is a link to the site:

The purpose behind the Social Security disability application is to provide the Social Security Administration with the information that is needed to determine whether you are disabled, and to whom benefits may be payable. That is, if you are disabled, there may be additional benefits payable to your dependent children. But before any benefits are payable, a lot of information must be obtained. The process is complicated, and it is important to be able to prove you meet all the criteria for the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled”, and each element requires the appropriate documentation. The lack of appropriate documentation is the main reason people who are genuinely disabled are often turned down.

At our law firm with offices in Mobile and Pensacola, we only handle Social Security Disability and SSI claims. As a result of that disability law specialization, we have gained a great deal of expertise in the area of Social Security Disability law. If you have questions about Social Security or SSI benefits, give us a call at 251.478.5297, or contact us online.