A Social Security Disability attorney helps individuals of all ages obtain government benefits when they are unable to work because of a medical condition. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration has a history of denying disability benefits to many California applicants, forcing them to go through a lengthy appeals process before benefits are awarded.
The rules and procedures governing claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are complex. Making a successful claim usually requires a thorough understanding of the law, as well as experience presenting and explaining evidence to the administrative judges who decide social security disability appeals. At Kneisler & Schondel, our experience and track record of success make us the clear choice for disabled individuals who want to obtain SSDI benefits.
Workers who become disabled are eligible for SSDI if they have earned enough “credits.” Credits are based on reported income. Most workers who held a full-time job for ten years will have enough credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.
The number of credits needed to qualify for SSDI depends on the age at which the worker became disabled. In many cases, at least half of the credits must have been earned in the previous ten years. That means a worker who becomes disabled might lose eligibility by waiting too long to apply for disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration has a strict definition of disability. An individual might be considered disabled for the purpose of Veterans Disability or private disability insurance benefits without qualifying for SSDI benefits.
The Social Security Administration regards someone as disabled if the person:
- is unable to return to work because of a severe medical condition,
- will not be able to find other work because of that condition, and
- the disability has lasted, or is expected to last, for one year (or to result in death in less than one year).
Short-term SSDI benefits are generally not available. It is therefore necessary in most cases to prove that the disability will last longer than one year.
Unless an inability to do any work is obvious (as in the case of complete paralysis), convincing the Social Security Administration that a disabled individual cannot do any work is the most difficult part of making an SSDI claim. A skilled attorney is often essential to guide disabled individuals through that process.
To decide whether a disability exists, the Social Security Administration asks these questions:
- Are you currently working in a job that pays more than a monthly threshold income? Anyone earning more than the current monthly threshold ($1,130 in 2016) will probably not qualify for SSDI benefits, although there are exceptions to that rule.
- Is your medical condition severe? To be considered severe, a medical condition must interfere with the ability to work.
- Do you have a condition that will automatically result in a disability finding? Some conditions, like acute leukemia, will immediately entitle an applicant to start receiving SSDI benefits. Others, like a serious heart disease, can also result in an automatic finding that the applicant is disabled, but only after the Social Security Administration finishes its review.
If your condition does not automatically render you disabled, the Social Security Administration asks two more questions:
- Does your condition prevent you from doing the work you did previously? Only people who cannot return to the same kind of job they had before they stopped working will qualify for SSDI.
- Can you do any other work? If you cannot return to your former employment, the Social Security Administration asks whether you can perform any gainful employment. It considers your age, skills, work experience, education, and the limitations imposed by your medical condition in reaching that decision. Subject to limited exceptions, benefits are awarded only to people who cannot do any gainful work.
The questions are easy to ask but they are often difficult to answer. The rules and procedures that cover SSDI claims are complex. Many applicants for SSDI benefits need an attorney to help them acquire and supply proof that will persuade the Social Security Administration that they are truly disabled.
About 70% of individuals who file Social Security Disability claim in California are denied. Those who file a new application after being denied are usually denied again. On the other hand, about half of the applicants who file an appeal are eventually approved for disability benefits. Those who are represented by a Social Security Disability attorney have a much better success rate than those who handle their own appeals.
When applicants win a Social Security Disability appeal, they are entitled to all of the benefits they should have been receiving if their application had been granted. The award of retroactive benefits is often substantial.
At Kneisler & Schondel, an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer can prepare your case so that the Social Security Administration understands the full extent of your disability. In some cases, we use a vocational expert to demonstrate that no employment is available that you could perform, given your work skills and physical limitations. We also make sure that the administrative law judge receives all of the medical information that is needed to understand the full scope of your disability.
A team of professionals with a track record of success can help you pursue your disability appeal if the Social Security Administration denied your benefit application. You can also shorten the process and improve your chance of success by asking for legal advice before you file your initial application. To learn more about how a Northern California disability attorney can help you, call (707) 542-5132.
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