If you have a medical disability that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits. However, the process of claiming benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be incredibly confusing and tedious. The Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour have dedicated our practice to helping disabled individuals receive the benefits they deserve. We represent the community of Claremont, a small city known for its tree-lined streets and beautiful historic buildings, as well as other cities across Southern California.
If you live in Claremont and are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition, our experienced and understanding Claremont disability lawyers can guide you through the cumbersome application and/or appeals process.
There are two disability benefits programs. Which one are you eligible for?
There are two Social Security disability programs that you can apply for if your disability prevents you from earning a living. Both programs are run by the SSA.
While the process to qualify for these programs is similar in several ways, it is important to be aware of their distinct differences, so you understand which program best suits your needs.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
This program is available for individuals who have worked and paid into Social Security for a certain number of years. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have earned enough “work credits” through jobs covered by Social Security.
Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages. You can earn up to four in one year. The amount of earnings required to gain a work credit varies from year to year.
The total number of work credits you need to receive SSDI benefits is dependent on your age and when you became disabled. According to the Social Security Administration, “Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.”
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Unlike SSDI, this program is intended for individuals who have a limited work history, low income, and few assets. To qualify for SSI benefits, you must:
- Be age 65 or older
- Be disabled or blind
- Have limited earnings and resources
- Be a citizen of the United States and reside within the 50 states, or meet the few strict exceptions
SSI applicants must have a monthly income less than the amount dictated by their state. Furthermore, your assets – excluding your home and your car – must be worth less than a certain amount.
What Does the SSA Consider a Disability?
While your age, income, and work history will determine whether you are entitled to SSDI or SSI benefits, both programs require you to have a condition that meets the SSA’s definition of disability.
Proving that you are severely disabled is a vital part of claiming disability benefits under either program, however, this is where things tend to get complicated. The SSA has a strict definition of disability, and will only consider you to be disabled if you meet the following rules:
- You cannot do the work that you did before;
- They decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.
Before approving your application, a claims examiner and medical specialist will evaluate your condition to determine what’s known as your “residual functional capacity” (RFC). Your RFC gives them an idea of the nature of your disability, how exactly it limits you, and what actions you are capable of carrying out.
After taking your medical records, work history, and other factors into consideration, if the SSA decides that your condition prevents you from performing any “substantial gainful activity” (jobs), you may, in fact, be considered ‘disabled’ under their definition. Only then, are you eligible to obtain benefits.
What Happens if Your Disability Claim is Denied?
While the SSA’s definition of disability may seem straightforward, there can be a lot of room for debate when it comes to determining whether or not you are considered disabled.
For example, your doctor might have advised you against continuing your current job, however, that doesn’t mean the SSA will believe you are disabled, especially if you are capable of doing a different, less strenuous, job.
Similarly, if the SSA denies your claim, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t actually disabled and can never obtain Social Security benefits. The SSA is, oftentimes, quick to deny disability claims in order to weed out individuals who exaggerate the severity of their medical condition to receive a monthly check. However, they can also be overzealous in their attempts to identify fraudulent claims.
There are many reasons disability claims get denied such as missing paperwork or a lack of sufficient medical evidence. The good news is that SSDI/SSI applicants who are denied have the option to appeal. Oftentimes, individuals who appeal their claim can still obtain benefits by demonstrating in more detail how their disability affects their life and ability to hold a job.
Why Should You Hire a Claremont Disability Lawyer?
Countless people do not realize how time-consuming applying for disability benefits can be. From gathering medical evidence from your doctor to filling out the required documents, the process contains a lot of steps that can get overwhelming, especially when you’re also dealing with a debilitating physical or mental condition.
This is why hiring an experienced Claremont disability lawyer who is familiar with the Social Security system will be to your advantage. An attorney can help prepare your claim for success and handle the SSA representatives on your behalf. While every claim is different, and results will depend on your unique situation, an attorney will give you the best chance of being approved for disability benefits.
The Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour focus exclusively on the legal needs of disabled individuals applying or appealing for SSDI and/or SSI benefits. We understand the challenges you may face. Our Claremont disability lawyers have the knowledge and resources to help you overcome those challenges and obtain the financial assistance you need from these government programs.
However, in order to assist you, we need to evaluate the details of your claim to determine if you are eligible for disability benefits. If you or a loved one resides in Claremont or another city in Southern California, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at 800-803-5090 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We can even meet with you over the phone if you are unable to leave the house due to your disability. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team is ready to help you.