Odds are that you'll be denied the first time you apply for disability benefits.
When you hire a lawyer to assist you in your Social Security Disability claim their office will help you prepare your case. They will communicate with Social Security on your behalf and help you fill out forms, appeal on your behalf, request important information to add to you file and if needed, represent you in a hearing. However, there are still things you can do to help your case be successful. As the claimant you have the burden of proof-you must show Social Security that you are medically unable to work. It is important that you receive medical treatment for your physical and mental health impairments on a regular basis. And when you are receiving medical treatment it is important that you talk to your doctor about all of the things that are going on with you. Be honest with your doctors and be on time for your appointment. Talk to your doctors about any problems you might have sleeping, and problems you have eating, pain, side effects from medication, sadness, irritability, crying spells, too much or too little energy and anxiety. If you are going to school or working and having difficulty with that, tell your doctor about that.
Children and adults with autism may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income. As with all impairments, Social Security Disability Benefits is only available for people who have a work history and have paid FICA taxes. Supplemental Security Income is available for people who meet the medical requirements of disability but have no work history or haven't paid enough in taxes.
There are certainly many functions that your attorney will perform outside of the actual hearing. Namely, your attorney will be examining your medical records as well as other exhibits in your Social Security file, crafting legal arguments, and working with paralegals to make sure that your file is complete before your hearing. There may also be issues that surface after your hearing that your attorney may need to resolve. However, this posting is going to discuss how your attorney can and will advocate on your behalf at your disability hearing.
A common belief SSI and SSDI applicants have going into their hearing before a judge is that the judge will rule immediately on their claim. Although judges will occasionally "tip their hand" or even announce a favorable decision form the bench, most judges will take their decision under advisement instead. Essentially, this means that the judge wants to think your case over. The judge may want to look at all of your medical records one more time in light of the testimony you provided or the testimony of other witnesses. The judge may also want to listen to the audio record of the hearing and hear the testimony one more time before deciding the case. If the judge takes the case under advisement, the judge will make his decision in the coming weeks. Rather than simply stamping "approved" or "denied" on your file, the judge will write (or instruct assistants to write) a detailed explanation of the decision. In his or her decision, the judge will work through the 5-step sequential evaluation process and apply the law to the facts of your case. Because of the large volume of cases and the degree of detail that goes into the decision writing process, many claimants must wait 2 or 3 months to receive a written decision.
A common question clients ask me is if they can get disability for more than one medical condition.
One issue that often confuses disability applicants is the date last insured (DLI).
I often have clients with both physical and mental impairments that ask me whether we will be discussing their mental impairments at their hearing, or if we will only be discussing their physical problems. My answer to these clients is that "yes, will be covering all the different issues that contribute to your inability to work." It is often the case that a person has both physical and mental issues that, taken together, prevent them from being able to work.
Most people are aware that a successful disability claim depends in part on the severity of an individual's medical impairments and related symptoms. However, the work that you have performed in the past is also an important factor in determining disability. Every successful disability adjudication requires the applicant to show that they cannot perform their "past relevant work". Depending on your age, education, and whether or not you acquired any particular skills in your past work, you may also need to show that you cannot perform other types of work as well. There are additional blog posts dealing with the specifics of the Medical Vocational "grid" Rules that detail when and what types of other work must be ruled out depending on these factors. However, all disability claimants must show they cannot perform their "past relevant work".
If you receive Disability Insurance Benefits (called DIB, SSDI or Title 2 benefits) your monthly payments are calculated using a very complicated formula utilizing your lifetime earnings. It is not based on how severe your disability is, how much income you have, or how much income you need. The maximum benefit in 2018 is $2,788. If you receive disability benefits from a private, long-term disability insurance policy, your Social Security benefits will not be reduced but your private insurance benefits might be; every private company policy is different. If you receive worker's compensation (WC) benefits, your Social Security benefits could be reduced. You cannot receive more than 80% (combined SSDI and WC benefits) of the average amount your earned before you became disabled. Disability benefits from the VA will not reduce your Social Security benefit. However, if you are receiving a VA pension, your VA pension might be reduced if you are approved for SSDI benefits. VA pensions are a needs-based program. The VA service connected disability benefit is not a needs-based program and will not be impacted by SSDI benefits.