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The Basics of Social Security Disability Benefits

If you have a disability that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to monthly payments from Social Security. There’s a common misconception that Social Security only pays money when you reach retirement age. In fact, there are some financial safety net programs available for people that need help due to a serious illness or disability that leaves them unable to work.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., Attorney at Law, we have been helping clients throughout northwest Florida and south Alabama for over 30 years. Attorney Byron Lassiter is Board-Certified in Social Security Disability law and is available to help you submit a thorough application or fight for your rights during the appeals process.

Social Security Disability is a complex process. The more you know and understand about the system, the better prepared you’ll be to approach a claim. We always recommend that you have qualified legal counsel to help you understand your rights and put forth the strongest case possible. If you’d like to discuss your options, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

The Difference Between SSDI and SSI

If you are unable to work due to a disability, there are two available programs through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplement Security Income (SSI). The purpose of the two programs is similar: to provide financial assistance to people who are prevented from working due to a disability.

The difference between SSDI and SSI lies in the initial qualifications for the programs. With SSDI, you must have worked for a certain number of years before becoming disabled and paid taxes into the Social Security system. Your assets and income don’t impact SSDI benefits, but your work credits do. On the other hand, SSI is a needs-based program. You don’t have to have a work history to qualify for SSI benefits.

How much you can receive from either program will vary. For example, the amount you can receive from SSDI will depend on how much you paid into Social Security and how long you were in the workforce before being employed.

Who Qualifies for SSDI?

You must be disabled to qualify for SSDI benefits. In addition, you must have worked a certain number of years and paid Social Security taxes during that period. Those are the basic qualifications for benefits but getting approved for SSDI isn’t a simple matter.

A doctor can say you’re “disabled” or that you have a qualifying condition, but that doesn’t mean your claim is going to get automatically accepted. For SSDI benefits, you must have a physical or mental disability that is severe and prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity. Further, that condition must be expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or be something that could result in your death.

How Do You Apply for SSDI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) tries to make it simple to apply for benefits, but that doesn’t mean approval will be easy. In short, you fill out and submit your application for SSDI to the SSA. You can do this online or by contacting your local SSA field office to schedule an appointment.

When you apply for SSDI, you have the burden of proving that you are entitled to benefits. In other words, it’s your job to demonstrate to the SSA that you have sufficient work credits to qualify for benefits. You must also show that you have a lasting disability by submitting substantial medical records and physician statements that support your argument.

What if Your SSDI Application is Denied?

If the SSA rejects your initial application, you will be in the same position as more than half of all other applicants. The agency can deny your claim for any number of reasons, including inadequate medical evidence and application errors.

Many people wrongly assume that they should give up or file a new application if their claim is denied. If you file a new application with the same information, the SSA is going to deny your claim again. And many people win their cases on appeal, so it’s not the time to give up either.

The best approach is to have an attorney review your case and help guide you through the appeals process. You have just 60 days to file a request for reconsideration, where a fresh set of eyes will review your application materials to determine if you are eligible for benefits. You can also submit additional evidence during this stage to strengthen your case.

If you are not successful at this stage, there are still several more opportunities to appeal. Your attorney can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), where you can testify and call witnesses. The next step is an Appeals Council, and then you have the option of filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Social Security Disability?

While you don’t need an attorney for Social Security Disability, this is a complex process, and having an attorney can significantly increase your chances of a favorable decision. Many people are hesitant to hire a disability lawyer because they are already struggling financially. The good news is that these legal services cost you nothing upfront. You are only charged a fee as a percentage of the back pay that the SSA owes when your claim is approved.

Applying for Social Security Disability and pursuing an appeal can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The best way to improve your chances of getting the benefits you deserve is to educate yourself about the program and have a knowledgeable attorney at your side that can act as your constant advocate.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., our experienced Social Security Disability attorney knows how to navigate the disability insurance program administered by the government. If you’ve become disabled and meet the requirements for SSDI or SSI, you have the right to apply for and receive benefits. Our office can help with the application process or represent your interests during an appeal if your application was denied.

Call our office today at (800) 544-3568 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.