Articles Posted in Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for providing benefits to people who are disabled and either temporarily (more than 12 months) or permanently unable to work.  In order to determine that people are actually unable to work the SSA keeps track of a beneficiary’s medical condition and financial status.  stockfresh_5487160_person-hand-with-pen-filling-social-security-disability-form_sizeS-300x200If you are receiving payments from either the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) program or the Supplement Security Income (SSI) program, the SSA will require that you submit proof of income information on an annual basis to ensure that your income does not exceed a certain limit.  This limit is called the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level.  This post will explain how the Social Security Administration defines SGA for you as one of its beneficiaries and the limits on income that the SSA requires in order to continue providing benefits.

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Student loan payments can be a heavy burden for many people, but for those who rely on Social Security disability benefits to get by, the burden is especially heavy.

With many returning to college at later ages for a change in career, and others co-signing on student loans for family members, there are more older Americans than ever who still have outstanding student loan bills to pay.stockfresh_1091672_mature-woman-in-college_sizeS-300x167

According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the government garnished Social Security benefits of 114,000 people ages 50 and over during the last year to recoup student loan debt – and more than half of those were on Social Security disability instead of retirement income.

Although debt collectors cannot take more than 15% of the benefits check, wage garnishment is leaving people who rely on their Social Security benefits below the poverty guideline.

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stockfresh_5487160_person-hand-with-pen-filling-social-security-disability-form_sizeS-300x200Many people wait a really long time to receive disability benefits from Social Security.  However, once your application is approved, your contact with the Social Security Administration is not over.  Besides getting a monthly benefit, you still need to stay in touch with SSA about a number of things that can affect your benefits or even result in the loss of your benefits.

  1. IF YOU WORK: You are required to inform Social Security if you take a job or become self-employed regardless of the amount of money you make.  Social Security will want to know what kind of work you are doing, how many hours you are working, and if you start or stop a new job.  There are limited amounts of earnings a person can make and still be eligible for their benefits, but the type of work and the hours are both important considerations.  You can try to go back to work, and if you notify SSA, your earnings for nine months will not cause your benefits to stop.  The nine months do not have to be consecutive, but each month during a sixty month period that you earn over $810.00 per month (for 2016) will count as a month toward your trial return to work.  If you aren’t able to continue at a job, you can try other jobs, but any month where you make over $810.00 is counted as one of the nine months for the trial return to work.  After the nine-month trial return to work, you can extend your benefits for up to three years if your earnings are not substantial which means $1,130.00 per month (or $1,820 for blind beneficiaries).  If your earnings are substantial during one of the thirty-six months, you won’t be eligible benefits for that month, but your benefits don’t stop completely.  The bottom line is that the Social Security Administration does not want to discourage people who receive benefits from trying to go back to work if they find something they think they may be able to do.  However, the rules about going back to work are complicated, and it is a good idea to talk with an experienced Social Security attorney about going back to work before you start.

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Even if you do not know much about the Social Security disability benefits program, you probably know this: getting a claim approved can take a long time – even more than a year in some cases.

stockfresh_5286755_disability-on-the-display-of-medical-tablet_sizeS-300x225However, the Social Security Administration realizes that in some cases, an applicant’s medical condition is so severe that the standard claim-processing time is unacceptable. The applicant is obviously disabled and is in need of benefits. To meet this need, the Social Security Administration has implemented the Compassionate Allowances Initiative.

What Is the Compassionate Allowance Initiative?

The Compassionate Allowance (CAL) Initiative was designed to help those with serious and readily diagnosable medical conditions avoid the lengthy and tedious disability benefits application process. Rather than multiple months’ wait, an application may be processed in as little as a few weeks. It is important to note that a person who has a CAL condition will not receive more money than will a person with a non-CAL disability. Instead, their application will simply be processed more quickly.

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stockfresh_4512872_penalty_sizeS-300x212Companies in the North Carolina are facing stiff penalties if they fail to purchase required workers’ compensation insurance to pay for their employees’ workplace injuries and occupational illnesses, according to a recent report by the Raleigh News & Observer.

In the past year, more than 100 employers across the state have been charged with crimes for failing to carry the legally required workers’ compensation insurance, and more than $1 million in fines have been levied against uninsured employers, according to the article. Continue Reading

stockfresh_5341875_hands-of-medical-doctor-with-a-clipboard_sizeS-300x191Many times our attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP speak to potential clients who have applied for Social Security disability benefits but are not receiving regular care for their disabling conditions. The reasons for not seek regular medical care vary from case to case. If you are not seeking regular treatment for your symptoms, Social Security may conclude that your conditions are not as severe as you say they are. In addition, if you are seeking medical treatment but are not following your doctors recommendations, for example, not taking prescribed medication; deciding not to have a recommended surgery; or failing to use a nebulizer, wheel chair or cane as prescribed, Social Security may conclude that your statements regarding your condition are not credible or that you are not doing everything you can to improve your disabling condition. Continue Reading

Legs and feet of woman sitting in wheelchairIf I become sick or injured and can no longer work, should I wait at  least 12 months before applying for Social Security Disability benefits? How long must you be unable to work before applying for Social Security Disability benefits? What if you are suddenly and unexpectedly injured or become ill to such an extent that you are unable to work? Many people are under the mistaken belief that you must wait for several months or even a year before applying or collecting Social Security disability benefits. In fact, there are no requirements that you be disabled for a certain amount of time before applying for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security insurance (SSI). The important factor is whether you meet what the Social Security Administration calls
the 12 month durational requirement.

What is the 12 month durational requirement?

The 12 month durational requirement states that to be found disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to your illness or injury and that your impairment or impairments are expected to last for 12 consecutive months or are likely to result in death. Continue Reading

ClocksSuppose your valid Social Security Disability claim is denied today, and you appeal that denial.  How long will it be before your hearing is held in Upstate South Carolina?  The wait could be up to 16 months! That is nearly a year and a half – on average – that you’ll have to wait before your appeal is heard, regardless of the validity of your need.

That bracing statistic is accurate as of December 2014 and can be found in the Social Security Administration’s online Public Data Files.  The Average Wait Time Until Hearing Held Report presents the average number of months from the hearing request date until a hearing is held for claims pending in local hearing offices across the country.

The 16-month wait is for the Greenville, South Carolina office, which is where your hearing would be held if you reside in Spartanburg or Anderson County, S.C. The 16-month wait is the sixth longest nationwide and is shared by 16 other offices. The longest average wait as of December was 22 months for the Fort Myers, Florida office.

Pet Therapy Corkboard Word ConceptAccording to the Humane Society of the United States, pet ownership in the United
States has more than tripled since the 1970’s with about 62% of American households said to have at least one pet in 2012 and 47% of households owning at least one dog. Many of us experience first- hand the joys and benefits of pet ownership. But for those suffering from a mental or physical illness, animals and pets can provide much needed healing and therapeutic benefits.

There are two basic categories of animals that assist the disabled – service animals and therapy animals.

The American Disability Act provides a very specific definition of a “service animal” and as of March 15, 2011 only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA and are defined by the Act as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals are not considered pets and are specifically trained to assist a disabled individual with things such as pushing a wheelchair, alerting one to the sounds of smoke alarms, timers, and telephones; or picking up and carrying
items for an individual. While many therapy animals are specifically trained to provide therapeutic benefits to the disabled, they are not service animals and do not have the same rights to public buildings as service animals. They do, however, provide many healing benefits to the disabled and their families and have been found to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue for people suffering from mental and physical disabilities. Continue Reading

Social Security Benefit Claim REJECTEDIf you are like most people applying for social security disability, you would much rather be working.  But, because of your medical condition you are simply unable to hold down a full-time job anymore.  As such, waiting for the Social Security Administration to decide your case can seem painfully long. Extended wait times often create additional financial and emotional stress on a family. But, unfortunately, the majority of applicants can expect to wait for almost two years before receiving a final decision on their claim.

Typically, an application for SSDI or SSI benefits begins at your local Social Security Administration field office. You can also apply online at www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/. Your local office will assist you in completing the initial application and will gather the necessary information about your work history and medical conditions to make an initial decision. One can expect an initial decision on their disability application to take approximately 2-3 months. Statistically, the majority of claims are denied at this initial level. In South Carolina, approximately 69% of all applicants are denied at the initial level.

What if I Am Denied?

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