Pasco County SSD Lawyer
The Social Security Administration maintains two programs that provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities who are unable to work. The good news is that if you qualify, you can get monthly payments for your living expenses. The bad news is that most people have their initial applications for Social Security Disability benefits denied. An experienced Pasco County SSD lawyer can help you prepare your initial application or appeal a denied claim to pursue the benefits you need.
At the Disability Law Firm, we have more than 20 years of experience helping clients in Dade City, Wesley Chapel, New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, and throughout Pasco County obtain the SSD benefits they need. We can take the pressure off you by handling all the details of your claim from start to finish, including representing you through the appeals process if necessary. Throughout your case, we will keep you updated every step of the way so you feel confident your claim is in good hands.
Contact us today for a free initial case evaluation with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Pasco County, FL. We do not charge any fees upfront to work on your case. In fact, you only pay us if we recover benefits for you.
Social Security Definition of Disability
A person may be declared disabled and therefore eligible for SSD benefits when he or he is unable to engage in any substantial work due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. The impairment must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months. Conditions that are expected to result in death also qualify.
The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions and impairments that qualify as a disability. This document is known as the Blue Book. However, the Blue Book doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of qualifying conditions. Instead, any impairment may qualify as a disability if the applicant is found to lack the residual functional capacity to perform any past work or any other work that exists in the national economy.
What Are the Types of Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration manages two separate programs that provide disability benefits: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
What’s the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?
SSDI benefits are meant for recently working individuals who suffer a disabling condition or impairment. To qualify for SSDI, an applicant must possess sufficient minimum work credits, meaning time in which the applicant earned a certain threshold of income subject to Social Security taxes. Applicants must also have a certain minimum amount of recent work history.
The work credit and recent work history thresholds vary depending on an applicant’s age, and younger workers have lower thresholds. SSDI recipients may have any amount of prior income or current financial assets. The SSDI program is not intended for people who perform gainful work. But recipients may take advantage of a program that allows them to try going back to work while not jeopardizing their SSDI benefits.
On the other hand, SSI benefits are intended for disabled or blind individuals or people age 65 or older with low or no income or financial assets. SSI benefits require no work history, as the benefits don’t come out of the Social Security program. Instead, applicants must fall below certain economic thresholds. This includes having an average monthly income below the federal benefits rate and less than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples) in assets, excluding certain property such as a primary residence or vehicle.
When to Apply for SSD Benefits
When you have been severely injured or diagnosed with a medical condition that renders you unable to work, you may wish to apply for SSD benefits as quickly as possible to make up for lost income. Some applicants choose to wait to apply for SSD benefits until after they receive a final prognosis for their injuries or medical condition.
Because a qualifying disability must last or be expected to last for at least 12 months or be expected to result in death, applying for SSD benefits too quickly may result in the SSA ruling that your disability doesn’t meet the regulatory definition. If your medical providers don’t know how long your disability may last, it could be a good idea to delay your application. However, each case is different and you should contact a Social Security Disability attorney to make sure you don’t miss out on benefits if you wait to file.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Pasco County
Before applying for disability benefits in Pasco County, you’ll need to gather various documents and information to fill out the questions on the application form. Some of this documentation should be submitted with your application.
Documents you may need to apply for SSD benefits include:
- An original birth certificate or another record of birth
- Original documents proving U.S. citizenship or lawful residency
- U.S. military discharge papers if you served before 1968
- Copies of your W-2s or tax returns
- A completed Adult Disability Report, in which you give information about your claimed disability or limitations and your work history
- Copies of any medical records that you have in your possession
- A medical release form to allow the SSA to obtain additional records
- Copies of any documents or records relating to any workers’ compensation benefits you have received
In addition to these documents, you’ll need the following information on hand when filling out the SSD benefits application:
- Your Social Security number
- Your date and place of birth
- Whether you or anyone acting on your behalf has filed an application for Social Security benefits, SSI benefits, or Medicare
- Whether you have earned benefits under another country’s social security program
- Whether you have or expect to receive pension benefits from the federal government or a state or local government
- The dates of your marriages and divorces, if any
- The name and birth date of your current spouse and your minor children (if you have any)
- The years in which you earned income
- The date on which you became unable to work
- Whether you had a parent dependent on you at the time of your disability
You can submit your application for disability benefits online or over the phone. You may also visit your local Social Security office to apply.
SSA Offices in Pasco County
Pasco County has two Social Security Administration offices:
- Dade City office: 36630 Adair Road, Dade City FL 33525; phone: (866) 562-1325
- New Port Richey office: 8661 Citizen Drive, New Port Richey FL 34654; phone (866) 593-5679
How Long Does It Take to Get SSD Benefits?
The time that it may take to have your SSD benefits application approved can vary. An initial review of an SSD benefits application usually takes three to five months, based on whether the claims examiner must obtain additional medical evidence from you. For example, the examiner might ask you to submit to a consultive medical evaluation.
If you request reconsideration of a denied application, the additional review can take months, depending on whether the new claims examiner requires updated medical information.
If you seek a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ) after reconsideration is denied, you might have to wait as long as a year or more for a hearing. Once the hearing is held, it can take an ALJ months to render a decision.
If your SSD benefits application is approved, you will start receiving SSDI benefits beginning six months following the date that your disability was determined to have begun. Certain disabilities may entitle you to receive SSDI benefits immediately following approval. SSI benefits begin the month after your application is approved.
What To Do If Your SSD Claim Is Denied
If your initial application is denied, you can pursue the SSA’s four-step appeals process. At each stage, you have 60 days from the receipt of notice of an adverse decision to file the formal appeal paperwork.
The appeals process begins with reconsideration, in which a different claims examiner conducts a completely new review of your application. You have the opportunity during the reconsideration process to submit new documents or information to correct any errors you made on your initial application or provide additional evidence in support of your claim.
If the second claims examiner also denies your application, you can request a hearing by an administrative law judge. The hearing typically takes place in person but can be done via videoconference or over the phone. It usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. During the hearing, the ALJ will hear testimony from you and a vocational expert. The ALJ and/or your attorney will ask you questions about your work history, your medical condition, and your physical or mental limitations. The vocational expert will provide technical testimony about what type of work someone with your condition could or could not do. Your attorney may cross examine this expert. Once testimony is complete, the judge may ask for a closing statement or additional comments. You will typically receive the judge’s decision in one to three months, but it can take longer in some cases.
If the ALJ rules against you, you can request a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council looks at all requests but could deny review if it finds no clear legal error by the ALJ. If the Appeals Council accepts review, it can either issue its own decision or return the case back to the ALJ for further review of your claim.
After the Appeals Council, the last possible step in the appeals process is filing a civil lawsuit in federal court.
How Our Pasco County Disability Lawyers Can Help You
The SSD application process can seem complex and stressful for someone dealing with the Social Security system for the first time. But you don’t have to do it alone.
A Pasco County disability lawyer from the Disability Law Firm can help guide you through the application process by:
- Gathering the documents and information you need to fill out your SSD application, including work history, financial information, and medical records
- Helping you prepare and file your application and preventing any technical mistakes
- Walking you through the explanation of determination if your initial application is denied on a first review
- Advising you of the SSD claims appeals process and what to expect
- Filing appeals on your behalf to seek reconsideration, hearing by ALJ, or review by the Appeals Council
- Taking your claim to court if necessary to pursue the financial assistance you need
When you need help applying for disability benefits in Pasco County, FL, contact the Disability Law Firm today. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss how our firm can assist you.