SSI Attorney in Dade City
If you have little or no income and assets and have a disabling condition that makes you unable to work, are blind, or are 65 and older, you might be entitled to Supplemental Security Income benefits. This critical financial assistance comes as monthly payments that can help you cover your living expenses. Unfortunately, applying for SSI benefits often proves complex due to the confusing regulations governing eligibility. A Dade City SSI attorney from the Disability Law Firm can work with you to prepare an application and pursue the financial assistance you need to make ends meet.
With more than two decades of experience, our team knows the ins and outs of the Social Security system. We will work efficiently to pursue the benefits you need, including following up directly with the Social Security Administration every 30 days to check on your claim.
Contact us for a free initial case evaluation to learn more about how a Dade City SSI lawyer from our firm can help guide you through the application process. We do not charge any fees for our services unless and until we secure benefits for you. So there is no risk to getting the legal help you need.
What Is Supplemental Security Income?
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, refers to a program run by the Social Security Administration. It provides financial assistance to people with disabilities, blind individuals, and those 65 and older with low or no income or assets. This financial assistance comes in the form of a monthly payment.
Who Qualifies for SSI Benefits?
SSI benefits may be paid to any person who suffers a qualifying disability under Social Security regulations, who is blind, or who is 65 or older. Unlike the other disability benefits program run by the Social Security Administration, called Social Security Disability Insurance, the SSI program doesn’t require applicants to have a work history that shows they paid into the Social Security system. Instead, SSI benefits are designed for those in financial need.
That means that to receive SSI monthly benefits, you must have little or no monthly income. The SSA reviews the income you make each month to determine whether you will receive SSI payments for the following month. (There are certain types of income that don’t count toward your income for benefit determination.)
In addition to limited income, you must have limited assets or other resources, such as property, vehicles, bank accounts, and stocks and bonds. Typically, you must have no more than $2,000 in countable assets ($3,000 for couples), although this calculation excludes certain assets such as your primary residence and vehicle.
How Is SSI Calculated?
The maximum monthly SSI benefit equals the federal benefit rate, which is published by the government every year. The rate increases annually to reflect cost-of-living adjustments.
Any countable income that you earn is deducted from the federal benefit rate to reach the monthly SSI benefit you receive. As a result, if you earn qualifying income in certain months that exceeds the federal benefits rate, you wouldn’t receive any SSI benefit payment in the following month. But if your income dips back down in a subsequent month, your benefits would continue.
Social Security Administration Definition of Disability
The SSA defines disability for the purposes of SSI benefits eligibility under Code of Federal Regulations §404.1505. It defines disability as “the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
A qualifying impairment is one that renders you unable to perform any job you’ve held or any other type of work that exists in the national economy. The SSA maintains a list of medical conditions in a document called the Blue Book. An impairment must either be listed in the Blue Book or equivalent to a listed impairment. If your condition isn’t listed in the Blue Book, the SSA will assess you to determine whether you can perform any type of gainful employment.
How to Apply for SSI Benefits
SSI benefits can be applied for online via the Social Security Administration’s website, by calling the SSA’s toll-free number (1-800-772-1213), or by going to your local SSA office to complete an application in person.
You’ll need certain documents and information to fill out and submit with the SSI benefits application form. Before starting your application, make sure you have:
- Your birth certificate or other documentation of your birth
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful residency
- Copies of your W-2 or your tax return from the previous year
- A completed Adult Disability Report, which asks you information about your disabilities or limitations
- Copies of all your medical records that you have in your possession and possibly a medical release form that authorizes the SSA to request additional medical records
- Copies of any documents relating to any workers’ compensation benefits you received
- The dates of your marriages and divorces, along with the names and dates of birth of your current and former spouses, if any
- The names and dates of birth of any minor children or adult children disabled before age 22
What to Do If Your SSI Claim Was Denied
The Social Security Administration defines the eligibility requirements for SSI benefits strictly. As a result, it routinely denies applications where applicants fail to prove their eligibility. When an application is denied, the SSA provides an explanation of determination that outlines the reasons for the denial and what information or documents the claims examiners used to reach their determination.
SSI claim denials can be appealed through four different stages. But you only have 60 days after receiving notice of an unfavorable decision to file the forms to appeal to the next stage.
The first step in the appeals process is reconsideration. In reconsideration, a claims examiner not involved with the initial decision reviews your original benefits application. You can submit additional documents or information if you wish to correct something on your application or to supplement the evidence in support of your claim.
If your application is denied on reconsideration, you may request a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ). A hearing typically lasts 30 minutes to an hour. Most hearings are in person, but they are sometimes done via teleconference or over the phone. The administrative law judge will swear in you and any other witnesses. The judge or your attorney will then ask you questions about your injury, your work history, and how your disability is affecting you. A vocational expert will then testify about jobs someone with your limitation could or could not perform. Your attorney may cross examine this expert if necessary. Before concluding the hearing, the judge may ask for a closing statement and any additional comments. It typically takes one to three months to get the judge’s ruling, but it can take longer.
If the ALJ again denies your application, you may request a review of the ALJ’s decision by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council could deny your request if it finds that the ALJ made no legal errors in his or her decision. Or it could grant your request and either issue a decision on your case itself or return your case back to the ALJ for further review.
If the Appeals Council dismisses or denies your appeal, your last avenue of appeal would be filing a civil lawsuit in federal court. If you have not sought legal representation at this point, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney. It’s almost always necessary to have an experienced SSI lawyer to file a lawsuit because federal courts have strict rules and procedures. If you fail to follow them, your case could be dismissed.
The best course of action is to work with a trusted Dade City SSI lawyer from the beginning. A lawyer can ensure your paperwork and documentation is complete and that you present a persuasive case on appeal.
Social Security Administration Office in Dade City
The local Social Security Administration office is at 36630 Adair Road, Dade City, FL, 33525. It can be reached by phone at 1-866-562-1325.
How a Dade City SSI Lawyer Can Make a Difference in Your Case
Many applicants for SSI benefits find the process complex and confusing. As a result and because of the strict requirements, most benefit applications are denied.
You can give yourself an advantage by working with a skilled Dade City SSI lawyer. Your attorney can help you by:
- Reviewing your financial records to determine your eligibility for SSI benefits
- Advising you of your legal rights and what to expect throughout the claims process
- Helping you prepare a strong SSI benefits application, including gathering the necessary financial and medical information and records
- Checking in with the SSA on your claim every 30 days to ensure it has not stalled somewhere in the process
- If your application is denied on initial review, going over the explanation of determination to help you understand your appeal options
- Guiding you through the appeal process and representing you at hearings
If you are applying for SSI benefits, you could use sound legal advice. Contact the Disability Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation. A knowledgeable SSI attorney in Dade City, FL, will work with you to pursue the disability benefits you need.