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.
It depends. The Social Security Administrations does have some programs for people who have been approved for disability to try to return to work full-time and in some cases you can work part-time. The first step in every disability case is are you working? And if you are working, how much are you making? If you are working and making more than substantial gainful activity (SGA) which in 2018 is $1,180, Social Security can determine that you could do a full-time job. However, there are some exceptions. If you have been approved for Disability Insurance Benefits (called Title 2 benefits, SSDI or DIB) and have not worked at SGA for at least 12 months, you can try a trial work period. The trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for nine months. You'll receive your Social Security Benefits as long as you report your work and continue to have a disability. In 2018 a trial work period is any month in which your earnings are over $850.00 a month. The trial work period continues until you have used 9 months within a 60-month period. After your trial work period you have 36 months during which you can work and still earn benefits for any month your earnings are not over SGA.
Claimants frequently ask if they can call upon a friend or family member to support their disability claim. Although you have the right to present any evidence you want at a hearing, the testimony of a lay witness is often assigned little weight by the administrative law judge (ALJ) deciding the case, particularly if the witness has no expertise in the medical or vocational fields, or if he/she is biased due to personal interest. However, the ALJ may request the services of an independent expert to provide impartial opinion evidence in deciding your case.
A medical source statement can be an extremely important piece of evidence in a disability case.
In certain cases, Social Security may determine that while a claimant should be awarded disability benefits, he or she is not capable of handling that money on their own.