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.
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.
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.
There are a few different kinds of disability benefits available through the Social Security Administration. One of the programs is Supplemental Security Income. Supplemental Security Income is also known as SSI or T16 benefits. SSI is designed the help blind and disabled people who have little to no income and limited assets. This is different from Social Security Disability Insured Benefits. Insured Benefits require you to pay Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income does not require that a person pay into Social Security taxes. It does, however, have income and asset limitations. And the income and asset limitations apply to spouses.
When you apply for social security disability, the Social Security Administration gathers information about what kind of work you have done in the past. This information is gathered in a few different ways. When you apply, you will receive a form called a Work History form. It is important that you fill that out completely so the Social Security Administration has accurate information about what you did in the past. Social Security will also get information about your earnings. They will determine if the work you did in the past was done at substantial gainful activity.