If you’ve suffered a permanent or partial disability, you may be unable to work and earn a living. As such, you’ve likely been left with no way to pay off your exorbitant medical bills, day-to-day expenses, and other costs. Fortunately, there is a financial lifeline that could help you hit the brakes on this one-way trip to bankruptcy. Our social security disability attorneys in St. Petersburg can evaluate your situation and explain your options.
Those who have suffered permanent or long-term disabilities can apply for Social Security benefits to gain access to a regular “income.” However, applying for these benefits is rarely a straightforward process. Every application is subject to rigorous review, and assessors may leave no stone unturned to determine whether or not you are eligible for these benefits. Often, all it takes are a few minor mistakes for your claim to be denied.
At Emerson Straw PL, our SSDI lawyers can assist you with all elements of the application process, such as gathering evidence and preparing your claim for review. If your application was denied, we can also help handle the appeal. Contact us today at (727) 821-1500 to speak to a member of our legal team.
Am I Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The criteria for a successful application are incredibly strict, and applications are often denied for a variety of reasons. While you may qualify for benefits under similar programs such as workers’ compensation, you will only receive Social Security payments if you’ve suffered a total disability. Below are the criteria you will need to meet to qualify for disability benefits:
- Your disability is expected to last for 365 days or more, or will lead to your death;
- You are unable to do the same job you were doing prior to developing the condition or suffering the injury that left you disabled; and
- It can be demonstrated with strong evidence that your disability will prevent you from adapting to other work.
How Long Will My Claim Take?
If you’re applying for disability benefits, you’re likely in a precarious financial position. Not only may you be struggling under an immense burden of medical debt, but you’re likely also unable to work and earn the money you need to start chipping away at these growing expenses. Understandably, you’re hoping your application is resolved quickly so you can get your hands on these funds.
Unfortunately, the speed at which applications are processed can vary drastically from one case to the next. While some applicants may have to wait just a few weeks, others could be stuck in limbo for months. This timeline can depend on a number of factors, such as:
- How long it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA), the government entity responsible for authorizing such claims, to obtain medical evidence from your healthcare providers;
- The severity of your disability;
- Whether you need to undergo an independent medical examination; and
- Whether the SSA decides to review your claim for quality purposes.
Why Was My Social Security Disability Benefits Application Denied?
If you’ve been left permanently or temporarily disabled, you’re likely banking on disability benefits to help you stay afloat. However, the SSA has strict guidelines to determine who qualifies for this financial lifeline. Below are a few common reasons why social security disability applications are denied:
- The Claimant Ignored Their Doctor’s Orders: As part of your treatment plan, your healthcare providers may give you specific instructions to help expedite your recovery. These may include taking prescription medication, completing stretches, abstaining from physical activity, or taking time off work to let your injuries heal. While it can be agonizing to sit at home while those around you are out and about enjoying their lives, you should never deviate from your doctor’s orders. The SSA will want to see that you have done everything in your power to achieve maximum medical improvement. If, for example, your actions exacerbated your injuries, the Administration may conclude that had you followed your doctor’s orders, you would’ve recovered sooner and thus do not qualify for disability benefits.
- The Claimant Already Makes Enough Money: If you are still able to work, even if it isn’t in the same job you were doing before suffering your injuries, there’s a high likelihood that your application will be denied. According to the SSA’s guidelines, any applicant engaging in “substantial gainful activity”—earning $1,220 or more per month—will not be eligible to receive disability benefits. These guidelines only apply to money generated through working, and not interest on investments or financial gains in other areas.
- The Claimant Does Not Have Sufficient Medical Proof: When you file for disability benefits, you will need to provide evidence of a long-term or permanent disability. Typically, the Administration will want to review your medical records to determine whether your condition makes you eligible for these funds. You will need to ensure that your doctor and other healthcare providers have been diligent about documenting the severity of your disability and the ways in which it prevents you from working. If this information has been omitted from your records, it’s likely your application will be struck down. To ensure that your records are complete, you should inform your doctor of your limitations during follow-ups. Your attorney may also consult with medical specialists and vocational experts to assess your case and outline the ways in which your disability affects your income-earning capacity.
How Can an SSDI Attorney Assist with My Application?
Whether you’re getting ready to file an application or your claim was recently denied, you may be considering hiring an attorney. However, before you take this step, you will want to know whether doing so is the right choice for you and your family. While many claimants choose to prepare their claims on their own, filing for benefits can be deceptively treacherous. Without in-depth knowledge of the application process, it’s easy to overlook important evidence that could help prove your claim. Alternatively, you may make critical mistakes that will result in the outright denial of your application.
At Emerson Straw, we’ve helped many of our clients obtain the funds they need to get their lives back on track. Below are a few ways we can assist with your disability benefits application:
- Preparing Your Claim: Filing an application isn’t as simple as filling out a few forms; you will need to gather and compile evidence and documentation to substantiate your claim, such as IRS forms, detailed medical records, medication history, personal information, and employment history. An attorney can help you prepare the claim, taking steps to ensure your application includes all the necessary evidence necessary to prove you qualify for disability benefits.
- Communicating with the Social Security Administration: If you’ve suffered a disability, you already have a lot on your plate. Factor in the back-and-forth nature of the application process, and it may feel like you barely have a second to spare. An attorney can alleviate this burden, overseeing talks with the SSA so you can focus on taking care of yourself and your loved ones. We can help speak to representatives on your behalf to answer any questions that may arise during the review process.
- Finalizing the Application: If your claim for disability benefits is approved, your lawyer can help review the Administration’s calculations to determine whether any important information was overlooked, or errors were made during the assessment. Your attorney will also be available to answer any questions you have regarding your Social Security disability benefits.
- Handling the Appeal: If your claim is denied, you may need to file an appeal. Your attorney can help oversee this next step.
How Much Is My Claim Worth?
If your application is approved, the amount you will receive per month will be determined by looking at the wages you earned throughout your career and your work history prior to suffering the disability. Assessors will look at a set period of time to calculate your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME).
Typically, the length of this timeframe is based on your age. The SSA will look at how much you earned during those years, adjust your earnings for inflation, and then calculate your AIME. Once the Administration confirms this number, you will likely receive benefits equal to:
- 90% of the first $895;
- 32% of AIME between $895 and $5,397; and
- 15% of AIME above $5,397
Keep in mind that if you were making a substantial amount prior to suffering the disability, it’s unlikely you will receive benefits matching your previous earnings. The maximum applicants can receive is $2,788 per month. On average, most beneficiaries receive around $1,197 per month.
Speak with a Social Security Disability Attorney Today
If you suffered a permanent disability, it may be in your best interests to speak to an SSD lawyer. At Emerson Straw PL, our social security disability attorneys in St. Petersburg have more than 70 years of combined experience in the legal field, and can assist you at all stages of the application process. Call (727) 821-1500 or use our Online Contact Form to schedule a free consultation.