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Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers
If you are like one of the many people throughout Alabama, Georgia, and across the nation suffering from a disability, you know that dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it takes a team effort. We can help you get what you deserve even if you have a Social Security Disability application that has been denied.
At Carmichael Law Group we have a deep understanding of the SSD application process. We also know that while a significant number of initial SSD applications are denied, that is not the end of the story. Many applications are incomplete in some way, and the missing information can be the difference between being denied and being approved.
After an initial disability application is turned in, it can take 3-4 months before you hear back. Since only about thirty percent of initial applications are approved, there’s a good chance your application will be denied. While this denial causes many people to give up, this is one instance where persistence is absolutely crucial. An SSD benefits denial is not the end—it’s the beginning.
As soon as you have filed a disability application with the SSA, an attorney from Carmichael Law Group can go on record as your Social Security Disability attorney and begin working on your claim. The SSA contracts with the Disability Determination Service (DDS) in Alabama and the Disability Adjudication Service (DAS) in Georgia to make the initial SSD determination; if your claim is denied, we can help. We want to answer some of your most important SSD questions and give you the opportunity of being awarded the disability benefits you need and deserve.
The Initial SSD Application Process
It is extremely important that you submit a complete application for your disability benefits. Unfortunately, an incomplete application is one of the main reasons SSD benefits are initially denied. You will be required to provide detailed, extensive information regarding your work and medical history, as well as personal details when you apply, whether you apply online, over the phone, or in person, at your local SSA office. To ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to receive, you must have a disability, and that disability must impair your ability to work. If you are unable to do the work you typically do because of your disability but you could potentially perform another type of work, you might not be considered disabled.
Generally, the older a person is, the more likely he or she is to be approved for disability benefits. This is due to the fact that it is usually more difficult for an older person to be re-trained or gain the skills necessary to perform a different job. You will need to provide very detailed medical records that clearly show your disability, as well as the fact that your medical provider feels your disability prevents you from working. An experienced Carmichael Law Group disability attorney can help ensure your application is complete and correct, and, if you are denied, that all deadlines are properly met.
Eligibility Requirements for SSD
It is always a good idea to determine your eligibility for receiving SSD benefits before you apply. You must first have been employed in jobs that are covered by Social Security—jobs where you paid into Social Security. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. In 2020, you earn one work credit for each $1,410 in wages or self-employment income. Once you have earned $5,640, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally speaking, you need 40 credits, at least 20 of which were earned in the past 10 years prior to your disabling condition. Younger workers can potentially qualify with fewer than the required number of credits.
You must have a medical condition (disability) that prevents you from working, and that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. Generally speaking, you must be reasonably expected to be unable to work for a year or more due to your medical condition. If you receive disability benefits, those benefits will usually continue until you are able to return to work on a regular basis. In order to make a transition back to work (if your condition improves), the SSA offers work incentives that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help.
Remember—the SSA pays only for total disability, never for short-term disability or partial disability. The SSA considers those who meet the following criteria disabled:
- You are unable to do the work you did before;
- You are unable to adjust to another type of work due to your medical condition, and
- It is expected that your condition will last for at least one year or will result in death.
The Social Security Administration has such a strict definition of disability because the agency operates under the assumption that working families have other resources to support themselves during a period of short-term disability. These resources could include a savings account, workers’ compensation, investments, and insurance.
Assuming you have sufficient work credits to qualify for disability, you still face the step-by-step process the SSA uses to determine disability.
- If you are still working and your wages average more than $1,260 per month, it is unlikely you will be considered disabled by the SSA.
- If you are not working due to your disability, your application for disability benefits will be sent to the Disability Determination Services office to make a decision regarding your medical condition.
- The DDS will determine whether your condition is considered “severe,” in that your disability has limited your ability to do such basic work as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, and remembering (mental), for a period of at least 12 years. If it is determined your condition does not meet the criteria for a “severe” condition, then you will not be approved for disability benefits.
- The DDS will determine whether your condition is found in the Blue Book—a book with a list of medical conditions that are so severe they would prevent an average person from completing substantial, gainful activity. If your particular medical condition is not listed in the Blue Book, the DDS must determine whether it is as severe as another similar medical condition on the list.
- There are certain instances in which you could qualify for expedited processing of your disability application. Compassionate Allowances qualify certain disabilities as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. These might include acute leukemia, heart failure, vision loss, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or pancreatic cancer. Quick Disability Determinations use technology (a computer-based predictive model) to screen initial applications, identifying claimants with the most severe disabilities, and expediting decisions on those cases. Quick Disability Determinations have been used nationally since February 2008 and continue to be refined.
After determining whether your condition is severe enough to qualify as a disability, the agency will determine whether that disability prevents you from performing your past work. If you are unable to do the work you did in the past, it will be determined whether there is another type of work you could do, given your impairment. This determination is based on your overall medical condition, your past work experience, your age and education, and whether you have transferable skills.
Conditions That Qualify for SSD Benefits
To see if your medical condition qualifies as a disability, you can look in the Social Security Disability Blue Book (online). There are two sections in the Blue Book—SSA Medical Listings (A) and Childhood Listings (B). Although the two sections are similar, there are additional conditions listed under Childhood Listings. Each condition corresponds to a numbered category, and within each category, conditions have a specific number. The subcategory of each condition gives a comprehensive description and the requirements for SSD eligibility. There are a wide variety of disabling conditions in the Blue Book, including the severity of the conditions that will automatically qualify you for SSD benefits. Some of the conditions listed in the SSD Blue Book include:
- Immune System Disorders
- Issues Related to Speech and Senses
- Skin Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Genitourinary Issues
- Kidney Disease
- Hemolytic and Hematological Disorders
- Digestive Tract Issues
- Other Syndromes
If the medical condition which leaves you disabled falls under a Blue Book category (and meets the severity detailed in the Blue Book) you stand a much greater chance of having your disability benefits claim approved. If your specific condition is not listed in the Blue Book—or does not meet the exact definition in the book—you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits. If your disabling condition medically equals the criteria in another Blue Book Listing, you may still be eligible for benefits.
The Process of SSD Appeals
If you received a denial of your initial SSD application, you have 60 days in which to file a Reconsideration Request, and if that is denied, you have another 60 days to file a Request for Hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Following the ALJ stage (if you are denied), you can take your appeal to the Appeals Council, and finally to the
It is imperative that you meet this deadline, otherwise you will be required to start over from scratch and could lose benefits. Should an Administrative Law Judge could deny your claim following a hearing, you have two more avenues for appeal. First, you would file a Request for Review of Hearing Decision with the Appeals Council, then your next avenue of appeal would be at the Federal level.
When you are working with Carmichael Law Group, we will file your appeal, preparing a detailed brief that aggressively asserts errors in the ALJ’s decision. If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, we will then file a civil action in Federal Court. The attorneys at Carmichael Law Group have years of experience representing claimants at all levels of the SSD appeals process.
If you are denied on your initial application, your reconsideration is unlikely to be successful, because essentially the application goes back to the same agency for reconsideration. If you have updated medical records, or any evidence disputing the reason for your denial, you have a much better chance at the reconsideration stage. About 13 percent of reconsiderations will be approved; your Carmichael Law Group attorney can assist you in rectifying any problems before your claim is turned in for reconsideration.
Perhaps your condition was not severe enough, or at the time you had excess income. Your application might have simply been considered incomplete. Whatever the reason(s) for your original denial, our attorneys can help you through the reconsideration process. Following a denial at the reconsideration stage, your attorney can file an appeal and your case will be heard before an ALJ, as noted above. Because it can take up to a year for a case to be heard before an Administrative Law Judge, your appeal should be filed as quickly as possible.
Remember, if you are approved at any level, your benefits will be retroactive, to the time of your original disability application. According to the SSD Resource Center, about 50 percent of all cases heard before an ALJ are approved, however, this includes about 40 percent of unrepresented claimants and 62 percent of represented claimants. If the ALJ denies your appeal, you can then take it to the Appeals Council, and if you are denied at that stage, then with the Federal Court.
Federal SSD Remands
If the Administrative Law Judge does not approve your claim, the Appeals Council can overturn the ALJ’s decision, remand it, or allow it to stand. A remand is a decision by a higher court or authority to send the decision back to the original decision-maker for reconsideration. As an example, the Appeals Council could send a case back to the ALJ for another hearing—usually, the same ALJ who heard it in the first place. While a remand includes specific instructions as to how the ALJ is to handle the hearing, it does not dictate the decision the ALJ should make. An SSD case denied by the Appeals Council can be remanded by the Federal Court; it will be returned to the Appeals Council with guidelines on how the case is to be handled.
How an Attorney from Carmichael Law Group Can Help
A Carmichael Law Group attorney will provide you with years of experience in getting disability applications approved. Not only will we help you gather all necessary medical information for your disability claim, but we will also guide you through the process of appeals. We will represent you in hearings as your claim requires. Our consultations are free, and we only get paid if we win your case. Going through the process alone can result in lost opportunities to win disability benefits. Our attorneys will help make the process as simple and easy as possible. Give our Auburn, Alabama Social Security Disability lawyers a call today to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. It is important that you take the initiative; we will help you find the solutions you need. We handle disability claims throughout the states of Alabama and Georgia and are happy to assist you. Contact Carmichael Law Group today.