Monday, March 9, 2020

Disability Benefits Attorney: Strong Representation for a Successful Claim

If you have become disabled and expect to be disabled for at least a year, you probably want to file a Social Security Disability claim. Be prepared, though, the application and approval process is long, complicated, and sometimes very frustrating. With strong representation on your side, however, you’re less likely to just give up and more likely to get approved. When you hire a disability benefits attorney, the probability that you will have a successful claim is greatly improved.

Improving Probability for Success

A knowledgeable and experienced disability benefits attorney understands what needs to be done and when, as you go through the process of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). There are many requirements, in terms of your eligibility as well as in terms of the type and amount of documentation that must be submitted, that can be confusing.

The initial approval rate for SSDI claims is relatively low. Only 23% of applicants are approved after submitting their claim and 12% are approved after they appeal or have their case reconsidered. The Social Security Administration (SSA) first weeds out applicants who are technically disqualified, then sends the rest to state disability determination services for medical evaluation. If the applicant is denied at that point, there are options for reconsideration and appeal.

Approximately half of SSDI applicants who have their claim denied initially then pursue an appeal. Eligibility criteria is strict, but a qualified disability benefits attorney will know the requirements and the process for submitting a successful claim for you.

Keeping Up with Changes

SSDI requirements can change from year to year. For example, SSA released a proposal in November 2019 that would require some SSDI recipients to more regularly prove that their medical conditions haven’t improved. Many recipients would have to take part in a more frequent continuing disability review (CDR), similar to a medical audit for those already proven to be medically disabled.

Changes in the Social Security Administration itself have also affected the application process. Since 2010, administrative funding has declined, which has impacted SSA’s customer service and resulted in longer wait times in offices and on the phone. There have also been staff cutbacks, leading to increased delays in processing applications.

An experienced disability benefits attorney keeps current on regulations and requirements, even as changes are made. The attorney can ensure that your application is completed properly to increase the possibilities that it will be successful.

Documentation and Questions

Your disability benefits attorney can help make sure that you are submitting all of the necessary documentation in your initial application and can help you answer the questions that may come back from the SSA after they review your application. When applying, you will need:

  • Information about yourself – name, date of birth, Social Security number, and other pertinent data about you and your minor children
  • Information about your medical condition – detailed information about your medical provider and examinations, and about your illness or injury
  • Information about your work – the name of your most recent employer, including your salary there, and a list of the jobs you’ve held for the past 15 years and any military service
  • Documentation – birth certificate, medical evidence, W-2 forms, and a list of other required forms.

Expediting Under Dire Circumstances

The wait for a decision can be long and disheartening. If you are disabled and have dire circumstances, such as a terminal medical condition or severe financial difficulties, your disability benefits attorney may be able to move your case through the system more quickly. At the very least, the attorney will be able to help with your initial application to ensure that all the required information is included – and will be there for you when the SSA has questions or if you need to file an appeal.

Searching for Strong Representation

When you decide to hire a disability benefits attorney, there are certain questions you will need to ask and qualities you will need to search for in strong representation for your successful SSDI claim. The disability benefits attorney should:

  • Have an in-depth knowledge of SSA, SSDI, and current requirements and regulations
  • Have strong litigation experience, to be successful in arguing and proving disability during a hearing when necessary
  • Be able to help you gather medical evidence to support your case for disability
  • Communicate successfully with SSA on your behalf.

Experienced Disability Benefits Attorneys are Here to Help You with Your Successful Claim

The professional team at Driscoll Salazar Disability Group has helped many clients with their SSDI claims. We know what SSA looks for when they review your application and we’ll work closely with you to provide them with the information they need for a successful claim.

To learn more about how a disability benefits attorney can help you, contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group by calling 949-359-1370.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Updates to SSI in 2020

Millions of Americans depend on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) they receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA) each year. SSI helps low-income adults as well as those who are blind, disabled, or elderly. Disabled children may also be eligible recipients. SSI payments could mean the difference for this population in meeting basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Each year, SSA makes adjustments to its programs, based on factors such as the cost of living, and there are several updates to SSI in 2020.

Income Changes in 2020

More than eight million people currently receive monthly payments from the SSI program. SSI recipients typically have very low incomes. In 2020, a recipient must have less than $803 a month in unearned income to receive SSI benefits. A couple must have unearned income of less than $1,195 a month. Because a larger portion of earned income isn’t counted, a person who gets SSI can earn up to $1,651 a month ($2,435 for a couple) and still receive SSI payments.

SSI divides income into earned and unearned categories. Earned income includes wages, net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties and honoraria, and money from sheltered workshops. Unearned income includes all income that a person doesn’t earn, such as Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation, certain veterans’ compensation or pension payments, unemployment, pensions, support and maintenance in kind, annuities, rent, and other income.

While the Social Security Administration does encourage SSI recipients to work if they are able, people who work while applying for SSI benefits based on disability cannot make as much in earned income. In fact, in 2020 a person applying for SSI disability benefits who isn’t blind, and who works and earns more than $1,260 a month, probably won’t be able to get SSI benefits, according to SSA. Likewise, a person who is blind and is applying for SSI disability benefits, but who earns $2,110 a month, probably won’t be able to get SSI benefits.

Increases to SSI Payments in 2020

Each year, SSA typically announces a cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients. Known as a COLA, the increase affects SSI recipients as well as those who receive Social Security payments. The COLA is adjusted based on the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index, which indicates whether prices for good and services are higher and the cost of living is more expensive.

In 2020, the COLA is 1.6 percent. The 2020 adjustment results in monthly maximum benefits of $783 for individuals and $1,175 for individuals with an eligible spouse, effective on December 31, 2019. COLA can change significantly from year to year. In 2016, there was no cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients. COLA has reached a high of 14.3% in 1980, with the second highest of 11.2% recorded the following year, in 1981. In recent years, the COLA has been much lower, 2.0% in 2018 and 2.8% in 2019.

State Changes in 2020

Most states supplement the federal SSI payment. Only Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia, and the Northern Mariana Islands territory do not offer additional payments. In 2020, the total of the state and federal payments varies, depending on where the SSI recipient lives and the recipient’s situation.

For example, in California the maximum benefit for an individual who is elderly or disabled is $943.72 and the maximum benefit for a person who is blind is $1000.23. In Vermont, the maximum benefit for an individual who is elderly, blind, or disabled is $835.04 in 2020. The maximum for a couple in Vermont is $1,273.88 across the board for SSI recipients.

If You Need Help Understanding Supplement Security Income (SSI), Contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group

If your application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was denied, please contact us. Our staff understands your challenges, and our goal is to make sure your application has the best possible chance of approval. Serving Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego County, we can provide you with strong representation to help achieve a successful claim. We can also help people navigate the process who are applying for the first time.

Misconceptions affect people who need benefits by deterring them from moving forward with an application. We want to help you better understand your legal options, which is why we offer free consultations. Take advantage of a free case evaluation by calling the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group at 888-984-3734.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What is a Qualifying Condition for Social Security?

While Social Security payments are generally thought of as repayments for taxes paid into the system while working, there are two types of Social Security benefits that are primarily based on the recipient’s physical or mental disabilities. Retirees can collect Social Security payments beginning at age 62, but most wait until their full retirement age which ranges from 65 to 67, depending on their birth year. Payments based on disabilities have a wide range of requirements, including whether the recipient has a specific qualifying condition.

Supplementary Security Income (SSI) is designed for people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. Blind or disabled children may also get SSI. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to the recipients and certain family members if the recipient worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Definition of Disability

For potential SSDI recipients, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers you to be disabled if:
  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

SSA will ask you five questions to determine whether you are considered disabled for the purposes of receiving benefits:
  • Are you working?
  • Is your condition “severe”?
  • Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
  • Can you do the work you did previously?
  • Can you do any other type of work?

A child under age 18 will be considered disabled if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Qualifying Conditions

Depending on the answers to SSA’s questions and on other factors, including age and income, there are many qualifying conditions that would enable a person to receive disability benefits. Medical criteria for disability determination is divided into fourteen separate areas, with multiple qualifying conditions listed within each section:
  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Digestive System
  • Genitourinary Disorders
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • Immune System Disorders     

Examples of these conditions include:
  • The inability to move effectively or the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively lasting, or expected to last, for at least 12 months.
  • Disorders of the veins or arteries (for example, obstruction, rupture, or aneurysm) that cause impairments of the lower extremities (peripheral vascular disease), the central nervous system, the eyes, the kidneys, and other organs.
  • Disorders that result in chronic kidney disease.
  • Neurological disorders that may manifest in a combination of limitations in physical and mental functioning, such as Huntington’s Disease.
  • Impairment of the mental functioning a person uses in a work setting: understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself. 
  • Impairment that results from pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, and adrenal gland disorders.

Conditions Qualifying for Fast-Tracked Claims

SSA’s Quick Disability Determination (QDD) electronic system screens applications for disability benefits for keywords. Applicants reporting certain conditions may qualify for accelerated processing. For example, an applicant that:
  • Has a condition which has reached a terminal stage
  • Is in imminent danger of becoming homeless
  • Does not have a specific disease but may have extenuating circumstances, such as a low birth weight infant
  • Has one of approximately fifteen severe physical or intellectual impairments, such as amputation, Down Syndrome, total blindness or deafness, or HIV/AIDS
  • Is a veteran who became disabled while on active duty, whether or not the disability occurred in the course of military action, if it occurred since October 1, 2001.

Find Out More About Qualifying – Contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group Today

The wide range of disability requirements can be confusing. To learn more about whether you might have a qualifying condition, don’t hesitate to contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group by calling 949-359-1370.

We’ve helped many clients and we know what SSA is looking for when reviewing applications. We will work with you to be sure that you are providing SSA with all the information they’ll need to determine your eligibility.

Friday, December 13, 2019

What to Do if Your SSDI Claim is Denied

what to do if your ssdi claim is denied
If you’re applying for disability benefits, chances are good that you need these payments to meet your many financial obligations. Ideally, your application will be approved, and you’ll start receiving benefits within one to two months, but that’s not always the case. You might be wondering what to do if your SSDI claim is denied. 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides much-needed financial relief for people who meet certain qualification standards. Unfortunately, the application process is more difficult than many applicants expect. It’s important to know that a denial is not the end of the road. Not only are denials common, they can also be considered an opportunity to improve upon the case you’re making for SSDI benefits. 

If your application was denied, you have 60 days to request an appeal from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, before you begin the process, you should keep a few things in mind. Let’s discuss what to do if your SSDI claim is denied. 

Don’t Panic

Most initial applications for SSDI are denied. If you’re wondering what to do if your SSDI claim is denied, then know that several other disability recipients have experienced a denial, only to later be approved through appeal. 

Contact an SSDI Attorney

It’s challenging to find success in an SSDI appeal if you aren’t familiar with the process. SSDI attorneys have years of experience handling these cases, so they’ll be able to review your application and look for errors or ways to improve your chances of approval. 

Try to Determine Why Your Claim Was Denied

A denied application is an opportunity to improve the case you’ve made for benefits. When figuring out what to do if your SSDI claim is denied, you should look closely at your application. Are there any errors in your application? Is there any additional information you could include that would improve your chances for approval? For help finding answers to these questions, contact an SSDI attorney. 

Familiarizing Yourself with the SSDI Appeals Process

There are four levels to an SSDI appeal…
  • Reconsideration - When your claim is denied for medical reasons, you can submit a request to have your application reviewed by someone who wasn’t involved in the first determination. If it’s possible to include any additional information, you should include it for reconsideration.
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge - You can request a review by an administrative law judge. In most cases, the hearing will take place within 75 miles of your home. 
  • Review by the Appeals Council - If an administrative law judge denies your application, you can request a review by the Appeals Council. 
  • Federal Court review - If the Appeals Council denies your application, the last level of appeal is a federal court review. In this level of appeal, you can file a civil suit in a federal district court.

If your application is denied, you will receive a notification from the SSA. This letter will tell you which appeal level of appeal you should consider. 

Don’t Give Up Hope – Contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group Today

You might be frustrated by a denial, but you should always consider an appeal. Applying for SSDI can be a challenge for anyone, and it helps speak to someone familiar with the process. You have 60 days to begin an appeal, so don’t hesitate to contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group by calling 949-359-1370.

We’ve helped many clients with the appeals process, and we know what SSA is looking for when reviewing applications. In many cases, we identify an error in applications that can be fixed in appeal. We can also work with you to be sure that you are providing SSA with all the information they’ll need to determine your eligibility.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Four Common Misconceptions About SSDI

Four Common Misconceptions About SSDI

Plenty of people who could be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits never file an application. Perhaps they don’t realize that it’s even an option in their situation, or they’re so concerned about the stigma associated with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) that they never start the process. 

Misconceptions loom large over Social Security disability, but dispelling some of the most common myths is in all our best interests. Whether you or someone you know is considering filing an application for SSDI, you should know what is and isn’t true about the program. 

Here are four of the most common misconceptions about SSDI, along with explanations about the realities of this public insurance program...

Misconception #1 - A Denial is the End of the Road

Around one-fourth of SSDI applicants are approved the first time around. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers several opportunities to appeal a denied application. However, it’s very important that you take time to review your initial application to find out why it was denied. Most people don’t know exactly what SSA is looking for or how to determine potential problems in their applications, which is why working with an experienced SSDI attorney is helpful during the appeals process. 

The idea that a denial is the end of the road is a misconception, but saying that everyone’s first application is denied is equally untrue. Ideally, you want your first application to be as well-prepared as possible. However, it’s comforting to know that there are more options available if SSA doesn’t approve your benefits the first time around. 

Misconception #2 - Certain Conditions Make You Automatically Eligible for SSDI

SSA does list conditions that make a person eligible for benefits, but you should not assume that just because you have one of those conditions, you can fill out a form and be automatically approved for benefits. You will still need to provide plenty of basic information to SSA. You will also need to provide evidence that proves the existence of your medical condition. 

It is possible to be denied even if you have a condition listed by the SSA. Filing an application can be complicated. Simple mistakes could lead to a denial and result an unnecessary delay in the benefits you’re entitled to. In other words, you should also be as thorough as possible when applying and never assume it's a sure thing.

Misconception #3 - You Can’t Work While Receiving Benefits

The SSA does not have a policy that restricts recipients from working. SSA does state that a recipient cannot earn “substantial gainful income.” Every year, SSA adjusts the limit that a person can earn and still receive SSDI. In 2019, one can earn $1,220 or less per month and still be eligible. If someone is blind, then the limit is $2,040 per month.

Misconception #4 - SSDI is a Handout

SSDI is an insurance program designed to ensure that people don’t become destitute if they become unable to work. Over the decades, opponents of programs like SSDI started calling them entitlements, and some Americans’ perspectives of SSDI are clouded by the misconception that SSDI is a handout. SSDI is best thought of as a public alternative to private insurance. Most workers are currently paying into SSDI, so in the event that they become unable to do their jobs, they still have a certain level of financial security. 

Clearing Up Misconceptions About SSDI

If you don’t understand something about SSDI, and it’s preventing you from applying, consider first looking over the SSA website. They provide a lot of information about eligibility and filing an application. If you have specific questions you’d like answered or you want a professional to walk you through the process, know that an experienced SSDI attorney is only a call away. 

If You Need Help Filing a Claim, Contact the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group

Stephanie Driscoll is a Social Security disability advocate with years of experience helping people get the benefits they need. Our staff understands the challenges facing people who need SSDI, and our goal is to make sure their application has the best possible chance of approval. 

Misconceptions affect people who need benefits by deterring them from moving forward with an application. We want to help you better understand your legal options, which is why we offer free consultations. Take advantage of a free SSDI case evaluation by calling the Driscoll Salazar Disability Group at 888-984-3734.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SSA Announces Benefit Increase

Mirabile dictu, the Social Security Administration announces a 2.8 percent benefit increase for 2019! Last month SSA revealed some welcome news for Americans receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits. So, let’s unpack what this means for the more than 67 million such people in the coming year.

On December 31, 2018, more than 8 million Americans collecting SSI will see an increase in their monthly payments, according to an SSA press release. On January 1st, over 62 million Social Security beneficiaries will see their increase go into effect. Along with the 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will rise to $132,900 from $128,400. The COLA adjustment is based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2017 through the third quarter of 2018 

While a 2.8 percent increase may not seem like much, the rise in the maximum taxable earnings will significantly affect individuals whose earnings in previous years were on the cusp of the threshold. It is worth keeping in mind that one dollar in benefits is withheld from a beneficiary for every $2 in earnings above the limit.

2019 Social Security Changes

The COLA adjustment will impact people receiving benefits in different ways, especially those who are on Medicare. The SSA points out that is impossible to calculate the new benefit for those who receive Social Security or SSI and Medicare until premium amounts for 2019 are announced sometime next year.

Please take a moment to watch a short video about the increase:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Please click here to gain a better understanding of how COLA is calculated or click here for a breakdown on the Social Security changes coming in 2019. Information about Medicare changes for 2019 can be found here, when available.

SSI and SSDI Attorney

If your application for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance was denied, please contact The Driscoll Law Corporation. Serving Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego County, attorney Driscoll can provide you with strong representation to help achieve a successful claim. We can also help people, who are applying for the first time, navigate the process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CDI Units Combat Disability Fraud

disability benefits
The job of Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Units is to identify, investigate, and prevent Social Security disability fraud. CDIs play an essential role in maintaining the integrity of Federal disability programs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) efforts to combat fraud were strengthened recently following the opening of three new CDI units in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

There are now 43 units covering 37 states; the three new openings put the SSA on track to provide CDI coverage for all 50 states by 2022, per the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 mandate. Analyzing and investigating questionable Social Security disability claims and nipping fraud in the bud before benefits are ever paid out is an enormous task. The job of CDI Units is to oversee personnel from Social Security, OIG, State Disability Determination Services (DDS), and local law enforcement agencies, as they work toward the goals listed above.
Source: OIG

When a DDS or SSA identifies a suspicious application for benefits, it is forwarded to the appropriate CDI Unit for investigation. Once completed, the CDI unit sends a report detailing the investigation to the DDS, where eligibility decided. Common types of disability fraud, according to the SSA’s OIG, include:
  • Malingering
  • Filing multiple applications.
  • Concealing work or other activities.
  • Exaggerating or lying about disabilities.

Combating Fraud

“Social Security is committed to combating fraud and preserving the public’s trust in our programs,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “As we open the three new CDI units, let us remember the important work they do. The CDI program plays a critical role in detecting and preventing fraud, helping to ensure benefits are paid only to the people who are eligible. This collaboration between Social Security, the OIG, and local law enforcement helps save taxpayer money and ensures the integrity of our programs.”

The SSA and its OIG implemented the DCI program in 1997, according to the administration. Since that time, the units brought about $3.9 billion in projected savings to Social Security’s programs. 

Reporting fraud is easy, safe, and secure by internet, phone, mail, or facsimile.

SSI and SSDI Attorney

If the SSA denies your application for disability benefits, please contact the Driscoll Law Corporation. Attorney Driscoll can help you take the next step toward acquiring the benefits you require. Call us directly at 949-359-1370 to receive your free consultation.