A catastrophic injury or serious illness can prevent you from earning a living wage. It can also result in devastating medical bills. Fortunately, if you’ve suffered a disability, there is a financial lifeline that can help you stay afloat during these trying times, and our social security disability attorneys in St. Augustine can help you explore the options.
Social Security disability benefits are available to those who are unable to return to work due to impairments stemming from a serious injury or condition. While, on paper, applying for these funds seems simple; in reality, the claims process is often a minefield for applicants. Every application is subject to a rigorous review process. Often, all it takes is a minor misstep for your claim to be denied.
At Emerson Straw PL, our legal team has helped many clients navigate this complex process. We can assist with gathering evidence, consulting with medical specialists and other experts, preparing your claim, and handling appeals if necessary. If you’re interested in discussing your claim with one of our attorneys, contact us today at 877-428-4177 to schedule a consultation.
Do I Meet Social Security’s Criteria for a Disability?
Social Security disability benefits are designated for individuals who have serious medical conditions that make it incredibly difficult or impossible to work in the foreseeable future. To qualify for these benefits, you will need to demonstrate that you have been unable to do a significant amount of work for a year or more, or that you will be unable to earn a significant amount in the next 12 months. If your condition is terminal, this one-year rule will not apply to your application.
If you have a temporary disability, it’s likely your initial application will be denied. The Social Security Administration wants to see proof of long-term impairment, and some medical conditions, such as whiplash or a broken leg, could heal within a few months. However, if your application is denied, you can appeal the Administration’s decision. In such situations, an assessor will review your case and your claim may be approved if you are still unable to earn a living.
Common Reasons Social Security Claims Are Denied
It may be clear to you that your condition makes it impossible to earn a living; however, the outcome of a Social Security claim is never a foregone conclusion. Every application is scrutinized rigorously to ensure that claimants meet the criteria to receive benefits. If you’ve made mistakes filing your claim, you’re missing important information to demonstrate the extent of your impairments, or you aren’t complying with the Administration’s guidelines, it’s likely your claim will be thrown out.
Below are a few reasons why applications are denied:
- Your Doctor Believes You Are Able to Work: Your doctor’s opinion has the ability to make or break your case. If he or she believes your impairment limits your ability to earn a living, it’s far more likely that your claim will be approved. However, if your medical records indicate that you are able to work full-time, or that you are exaggerating some of your symptoms, there’s a strong chance the Administration will deny your application. You should discuss your limitations with your healthcare providers during follow-ups and consultations as this will ensure that your medical records include vital information about the extent of your injuries that could improve the outcome of your claim.
- You Are Still Able to Do Daily Tasks: If you are able to tackle life’s everyday tasks without assistance, such as cooking, buying groceries, and finishing up other household chores, the Social Security Administration may doubt assertions that you are unable to work. Assessors will look at not only how your condition impairs your ability to work, but will also review the ways in which your disability impairs your daily life.
- You Are Too Young: Applicants in their late fifties have a higher likelihood of obtaining benefits than those who are younger. This is because, according to the Administration, medical conditions typically deteriorate as people age, and older individuals tend to struggle with training for new jobs. While younger applicants do, at least statistically, have lower odds of obtaining benefits, the outcome of your claim will largely depend on the severity of your condition. For instance, if you have metastatic cancer, suffer from epileptic seizures, or have congenital heart disease, you may have a strong case for disability benefits regardless of your age.
- You Are Still Earning a Salary: If you are still working, even if it isn’t in the same field you were in prior to suffering the disability, it’s likely your claim will be denied. According to Social Security’s own rules, those engaging in “substantial gainful activity”—i.e. Earning $1,220 or more per month—are not eligible to receive benefits.
- You Haven’t Worked Long Enough: In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must pass the so-called “recent work” test. Simply put, you must have worked five of the past ten years, or, 20 of the last 40 quarters. For a quarter to count as part of this equation, you must have made at least $1,360 during those months. The Social Security Administration will review the 10 years preceding the application date. If, for example, the last time you worked was six years before you filed your claim, you will probably not receive benefits.
What Evidence Could Help Prove My Claim?
To obtain Social Security disability benefits, you will need strong evidence to demonstrate how your impairment affects both your ability to earn a living and perform daily tasks. Below are a few ways you can prove your claim:
- Compile Medical Records: Social Security disability benefits are often denied because the applicant failed to supply enough medical evidence to prove their disability and demonstrate the associated impairments. It’s likely that the Social Security Administration will want to see medical information dating back to the day you suffered the disability. While, in theory, these records should be easy to get hold of, some doctors’ offices, hospitals, and clinics may be slow to respond to requests. And even if you are able to obtain these records, they may be incomplete and will need to be amended via the appropriate channels. Our attorneys can help retrieve these records and other documents important to your case.
- Gather Expert Opinions: A doctor’s opinion can be an invaluable asset to your claim. A specialist or your doctor can help shed light on both your physical condition and mental health. While you shouldn’t assume that your doctor will support your claim, you should take steps to make sure you’re both on the same page regarding your condition. As such, you should clearly communicate your limitations, pain levels, and other symptoms during follow-ups and consultations. This will not only assist your health care providers in diagnosing your disability, but can also help them better understand how your impairments affect your daily activities and ability to earn a living.
- Start a Personal Injury Journal: Keeping a detailed account of your daily activities while paying attention to how your impairment affects your ability to perform specific tasks can be incredibly useful when applying for disability benefits. For instance, if you are asked to appear for a hearing, these journal entries can help you describe how your ability to sit, walk, carry objects, stand, type, and carry out other tasks is affected by your medical condition.
- Speak to a Vocational Expert: A vocational expert with in-depth knowledge of your field of work can submit written opinions detailing how your condition affects your ability to perform your job. Colleagues can also help explain why you would be ineffective in your old role. Your attorney can help compile a list of individuals, including coworkers, relatives, and friends, who can attest to your disability and how it impacts your ability to perform specific tasks and engage in certain activities.
- Check if You Have a Listed Condition: There are some impairments that are considered so disabling that the Social Security Administration will usually grant benefits automatically. These conditions include heart disease, arthritis, asthma, and many others. Keep in mind that even if you have one of these conditions, you will still need to provide medical records that demonstrate that your impairments meet the level of severity required for automatic approval.
Discuss Your Application with Our Social Security Disability Attorneys
Our social security disability lawyers in St. Augustine have decades of combined experience in the legal field. Our goal is to not only ensure your claim is successful, but also to provide support to you and your family during this challenging chapter of your life. Contact us today at 877-428-4177 or use our Online Contact Form to schedule a free consultation.