Polk County SSD Lawyer
A disability that prevents you from working can place significant strain on your life. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration provides financial benefits to those unable to earn a sustainable living due to physical or mental disabilities. Unfortunately, the Social Security Disability programs have strict eligibility requirements. The SSA denies many applicants the money they need when they fail to provide sufficient information to support their claims. An experienced Polk County SSD lawyer can help streamline the disability benefits application process and pursue the full benefits you need.
At the Disability Law Firm, our team has more than 20 years of experience achieving favorable outcomes for our clients. We are proud to have helped so many people throughout Polk County secure the disability benefits they need to make their lives better.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation to discuss how an experienced Polk County SSD lawyer from our firm can help you navigate the complex disability benefits process. We make it easy on you, and there is no fee unless we recover benefits for you.
How Does Social Security Define Disability?
Social Security regulations define disability as the inability to perform any substantial gainful activity because of a diagnosable physical or mental condition. That condition must either be expected to result in death or last for at least 12 consecutive months.
The “inability to perform substantial gainful employment” means that you can’t do your past job or any other type of work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of qualifying medical conditions that may result in disability. If a person has none of those listed conditions, the applicant usually must undergo a residual functional capacity assessment to determine if he or she can perform any type of work.
What Are the Types of SSD Benefits?
People who suffer total disabilities that render them unable to work may apply for disability benefits from one of two programs:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), if you meet work history requirements
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if you meet income requirements
What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?
The primary difference between SSDI and SSI is the type of people for which each program is intended.
SSDI provides benefits for people with disabling conditions who have a sufficient work history that shows they’ve paid into the Social Security program. Individuals may be eligible for SSDI when they experience a qualifying disability and have accumulated sufficient work credits and recent work history. Past work qualifies if the person paid Social Security taxes on the wages or income they earned. The minimum required work credits and recent work history vary based on the applicant’s age. Younger applicants, who have had less time to work, have shorter work requirements.
On the other hand, financial need rather than work history dictates eligibility for SSI. SSI is intended for individuals with few or no financial resources. A blind or disabled individual or person 65 or older may be granted SSI benefits if their monthly income is below the federal benefit rate and they have less than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples) in qualifying assets. Blind and disabled applicants may be entitled to exclude certain portions of their income from the eligibility calculation.
When Should You Apply for Disability Benefits?
If you experience a disabling injury or medical condition that has left you unable to work, you might think about applying for disability benefits immediately, especially if you have no other sources of income. However, keep in mind that a disability will only qualify you for financial assistance if it lasts or is expected to last at least 12 consecutive months or is expected to result in death.
While, you may consider waiting to apply for disability benefits until after your injury or condition has stabilized, since the disability process can take more than two years, it is important to speak to an expert disability lawyer who is familiar with how Social Security evaluates claims with conditions like yours.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Polk County
The Social Security Administration offers three methods for filing an application for disability benefits: online, over the phone, or in-person at an SSA office.
Filing your disability benefit application online is convenient. You do not need to go to an SSA office or wait for an appointment to fill out your application with a representative. You can also save the progress of your online application and come back to complete it later if you need to find additional documents or information.
If you can’t or don’t want to complete an application online, you could call the SSA’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. The SSA also provides a TTY number for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals at 1-800-325-0778. When you call the toll-free number, a representative will help you make an appointment to fill out your application over the phone.
Finally, you can choose to go to an SSA office in person to fill out a disability benefits application. You might need to contact your local office to make an appointment with a representative.
Regardless of how you choose to apply, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced SSD attorney in Polk County for help.
SSA Office in Polk County
There are two Social Security offices in Polk County, FL:
- Winter Haven office: 1395 Havendale Blvd. N.W., Winter Haven FL 33881; phone: (877) 457-1739
- Lakeland office: 550 Commerce Drive, Lakeland FL 33813; phone: (877) 604-9387
How Long Does It Take to Receive SSD Benefits?
After you file your application for SSD benefits, you can expect the SSA to take anywhere from three to five months to render a decision. It can take much longer if you need to appeal the denial of your claim.
Once your claim is approved, you’ll begin receiving SSD benefits in the sixth month following the onset of your disability. However, individuals with certain qualifying disabling conditions may be entitled to begin receiving benefits immediately upon their application’s approval.
Appealing a Denied SSD Claim
If your application for SSD benefits is denied, you could appeal the decision. The appeals process is complicated, with four levels. At each stage, you only have 60 days from the date of an adverse decision to make an appeal. If you file your appeal late, it could be dismissed, and the denial would be final.
First, you may request reconsideration of your application by another examiner not involved in the initial decision. During reconsideration, you may also submit additional supporting information and corrections to your application.
If the denial of your application is upheld on reconsideration, the next step involves requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An appeal hearing usually lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. During the hearing, the ALJ and/or your attorney will ask you questions about your condition, your work, and your limitations. A vocational expert will also give testimony about what type of work someone with your condition could or could not perform. Your attorney, if you have one, may cross examine this expert. At the end of the hearing, the judge may ask your attorney to give a closing statement. You typically will not receive a decision at the hearing. Instead, the judge will usually render a decision in one to three months.
If you disagree with the ALJ’s determination, the next step is to request a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council. The council might deny your request for review if it finds no apparent error. Or it might grant review and render its own decision on your claim or return the case to the ALJ for further review.
After you exhaust the SSA’s administrative review process, the last step you can take to appeal an adverse decision involves going to the federal courts.
At any stage, you need a highly qualified disability attorney to help you present the best possible case on appeal.
How Our Polk County Disability Lawyers Can Help You
Pursuing a disability claim comes with many complexities and headaches. Let an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Polk County, FL, take the pressure off you by:
- Explaining your options and eligibility for each disability benefit program
- Helping you collect the information and records you need to complete your application, including work history records, financial records, and medical records
- Putting together your application for benefits and helping you avoid common mistakes
- Explaining why your initial application was denied and advising you of what information or evidence you may need to bolster your application
- Guiding you through the appeals process, if necessary, to fight for the full benefits you need
If you need advice on applying for SSD benefits or appealing a denied claim, contact the Disability Law Firm today for a free case review. You can speak to a compassionate Polk County SSD lawyer about your legal options for obtaining the disability benefits you deserve.