Social Security Disability

Remember as a teenager getting your first job and quickly figuring out how much money you’d be making each week? Then after a week or two of hard work slinging burgers or bagging groceries you received your first paycheck and was shocked to see several deductions including something called a FICA tax.

Now after paying into the system all these years you like to think you have the security of knowing if something traumatic did occur and you were no longer able to work and support yourself and your family, our government would step in, do the right thing and begin sending you a monthly check; because if you think about it, technically it is YOUR money. Unfortunately, this seldom is as simple as it seems.

Like the majority of us, when you think about becoming disabled it’s one of those things that you assume always happens to someone else. But statistics have determined a 20 year old has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before the age of 67. Whether due to a work related injury, an automobile accident, birth defect, illness or disease, the circumstances surrounding why it has now become necessary to apply for Social Security disability insurance benefits should never come into play.

Anyone who has been employed and had FICA taken out of their paychecks qualifies for Social Security disability benefits. You must have insured status. Then, you must prove you have a medical condition that prevents you from performing all substantial gainful activity. 

It does seem like it should be a fairly straightforward process. You gather your documentation and file your claim with the Social Security Administration only to receive a letter asking for more information. You supply everything requested, only to once again have Social Security ask for even more paperwork and perhaps an appointment or two with a consulting physician. This back and forth continues for several months until finally your last correspondence with them is a letter completely denying your claim. The medical bills have continued to pile up, your pre-teen daughter now needs braces, the house could use a new roof and just recently your wife’s hours have been cut at her place of employment. In fact, your financial situation has become so dire there have been a couple of weeks when you could have used a bit more cash for the basics like groceries and gas. You filed your initial claim on your own but now that it has been denied you aren’t sure where to turn.

Unfortunately this is not an unusual situation. Social Security only accepts claims for total disability. No claims are accepted for short-term, meaning less than one year, or a partial disability. They also have three very strict disability definitions which must be meet including:

  • You are now unable to do the work you did previously.
  • Social Security then must decide that you are unable to handle or adjust to other work because of your current medical condition.
  • Your medical condition has lasted or is expected to last for longer than one year or ultimately result in death.

These rules are very seldom if ever wavered, especially in the case of a disability lasting less than one year, because the Social Security Administration believes all working families have access to other financial resources such as savings, short-term disability insurances and additional monetary support from family and friends.

Often by the time your medical team has finally determined your condition now meets the Social Security qualifications for disability, your financial situation is strained to the point where discussing your case with a lawyer is not in the budget and you decide to go ahead and file your claim on your own. While the paperwork generally isn’t that complicated, statistics have shown applicants who have legal counsel from the beginning have a significant increase in having their initial claim approved.

Many in the legal field believe this is because Social Security disability attorneys understand how to present their client’s case, even in the beginning application phase, in the most favorite manner and can include initial information which if omitted may create months of delays.

With over 34 years of legal experience, 27 of those years as an attorney with the Social Security Administration, J. Robert Surface understands how to get your case presented and approved as expeditiously as possible. 

From the proper response to the most basic questions asked on the initial application to how your physician could be hindering your claim based on his diagnosis, Mr. Surface can ensure your case will be presented in the most favorable light possible. Through his years with the Social Security Administration he understands what facts and opinions the Social Security adjudicator is seeking and the best way in which to present them. 

For example, the general public probably isn’t aware of the importance in the accuracy of the alleged onset date. It is vital to ensure this information is correct when it comes to retroactive benefits as Social Security disability law requires a 5 month waiting period after a disability is established, with no benefits accruing during this time. For example, in order to be eligible for a full 12 months of past due benefits then a person must be disabled for at least 17 months before the application date.

After a Social Security is claim is denied, there are four levels of appeal: reconsideration, a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, a review in front of the appeals council and finally a federal court review. After each hearing you or your lawyer will receive a letter stating the board’s decision. If your claim is denied and a hearing required, Mr. Surface will work diligently to ensure all relevant medical evidence is gathered and presented, and will take all necessary steps to present your case to the Social Security Administration.

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the first Social Security Act. Social Security of the 1930’s included several programs that are still in existence today, including retirement benefits, unemployment compensation, aid to dependent children and state funding for several new, and at the time, innovative state health and welfare programs. Survivors’ benefits and benefits for both the retiree’s spouse and minor children were added to the act in 1939. Then in 1956 disability benefits were included. 

It took two years to get all the particulars in place and finally in January, 1937 both employees and employers became responsible for contributing to this fund. From the start-up period of 1937 through 1939 a one-time lump sum payment was distributed with monthly payments not beginning until January, 1940. Retired legal secretary Ida May Fuller from Ludlow, Vermont got the first check for $22.54. Her monthly benefit was calculated based the salary she earned during the three years she was employed under the Social Security program. Ms. Fuller began receiving benefits when she turned 65 in 1940. She lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1975. Over those 35 years, Ms. Fuller received a total of $22,888.92 in benefits. Not a bad return considering the accumulated taxes she had paid into the system during the three years she contributed only total $24.75!

Over the years as programs and amendments continued to be added under Social Security the law itself became more complicated. This especially became true when additional healthcare programs including Medicare and disability insurance benefits were included.

Our modern day Social Security has two basic components, the larger portion of the pie is the retirement and survivors benefits slice, while the other, the disability insurance program is much smaller, but just as vital.

Keep in mind there are hundreds of technical rules within the disability system. Do you know what a “Last Insured” is? A “Quarter of Coverage?” “Amended Onset Date?” The income and resource criteria for SSI?

If your disability is terminal or if your financial situation extremely precarious, it may be necessary to have your case heard as soon as possible. In these situations you may qualify for an expedited hearing. But it’s still important to remember that not every case can be expedited and that it can take months, it not years to have a Social Security disability case resolved.

No matter whether you are just beginning to consider applying for Social Security disability insurance or if you need assistance in filing your first appeal, it’s time to contact Mr. Surface. Having the benefit of an experienced Social Security disability attorney on your side during this time of physical, emotional and financial stress is invaluable.