Wesley Chapel SSD Lawyer
If you are suffering from a physical or mental disability that leaves you unable to work, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. However, applying for and obtaining disability benefits is a difficult process. The SSD application can prove complex and time-consuming, and the Social Security Administration has strict criteria for what constitutes a qualifying disability. As a result, most SSD applications are ultimately denied.
A trusted Wesley Chapel SSD lawyer from the Disability Law Firm can help you navigate the application and appeals process to fight for the full benefits you deserve. With more than 20 years of experience, attorney Robert C. Alston is dedicated to helping injured and disabled individuals throughout Florida secure the money they need to move forward with their lives.
Contact our firm today to learn more about how a Social Security Disability lawyer in Wesley Chapel, Florida, can make the benefits application process easier for you. We will review your case for free and answer all your questions.
Social Security Disability Definition
The Social Security Administration defines a person as disabled, and therefore eligible for benefits when that person cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment or group of impairments that are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or to result in death.
What Are the Types of Disability Benefits?
A person who meets the SSA’s definition of disability may be eligible to receive one of two types of financial disability benefits:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on a person’s work history and whether he or she has paid into the Social Security system
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on financial need
Understanding the Difference Between SSDI and SSI
Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income differ from one another in terms of their eligibility requirements and who each program is intended for.
SSDI benefits are intended for disabled individuals with a sufficient work history who have paid into the Social Security system. An eligible applicant must have worked a minimum total number of years throughout his or her career. The minimum requirements vary depending on the applicant’s age. In addition, applicants must have a recent work history. For most individuals, this means having worked at least five total years within the past 10 years. Applicants 30 years old and younger have shorter recent work history requirements.
An individual receiving SSDI benefits are generally not permitted to work and earn a substantial income. However, the Social Security Administration does offer programs that allow SSDI benefit recipients to try returning to the workforce for a limited test period without losing benefits.
Conversely, SSI is intended for blind and disabled individuals or people 65 or older who have limited financial resources. Unlike SSDI, eligibility for SSI does not require a work history. Instead, an applicant may be eligible for SSI if his or her monthly income is less than the federal benefit rate and if the person has less than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for married couples). These assets may include, for example, real estate (excluding a primary residence), bank accounts, or stocks and bonds.
People who receive SSI may perform some limited work, so long as their income does not exceed the maximum threshold for SSI eligibility. Blind and disabled SSI recipients may exclude certain portions of their income from the eligibility calculation.
When to Apply for Disability Benefits
You may begin thinking about applying for disability benefits soon after suffering an injury or illness or other medical condition. However, applying for SSD benefits too soon may result in your application being denied.
Remember: SSD benefits are only granted when someone has suffered a disability expected to last at least 12 consecutive months. In the weeks immediately following the diagnosis of a disabling injury or illness, it may prove difficult for you to know how long your disability will last. A knowledgeable SSD attorney will know what injuries or illnesses Social Security expects to last 12 consecutive months or more.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Wesley Chapel
There are multiple ways to apply for disability benefits. You can apply online, over the phone, or in person at a Social Security office in Pasco County. No matter how you choose to apply, you will need to gather various documents and information to answer the questions on the application and submit them along with the application form. Documents and information to have on hand when applying for SSD benefits include:
- Birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of citizenship or lawful residency if not born in the U.S.
- W-2 form or tax returns from the previous year
- Medical and Job Worksheet, in which you provide more information about your disability and work history
- Any medical records that you have in your possession
- Any records from workers’ compensation you have been receiving, if applicable
- A completed Form SSA-827 medical release to allow the Social Security Administration to obtain any other medical records that you do not have in your possession
- Dates of your marriages and divorces, and the names and dates of birth of your minor children and current spouse, if any
- Your bank account number and bank routing number if you wish to receive direct deposit of your benefit payments
- The name and contact information for an alternate contact person if the SSA cannot reach you
Social Security Offices in Pasco County
Pasco County has two SSA offices:
- Dade City office: 36630 Adair Road, Dade City FL 33525; phone number: (866) 562-1325
- New Port Richey office: 8661 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey FL 34654; phone number: (866) 593-5679
How Long Does It Take to Receive SSD Benefits?
Once your SSD benefits application is filed, you can expect the review period to take three to five months, depending on whether the people reviewing your application need to obtain additional medical records or ask you to undergo a consultive medical exam.
If your application for SSDI benefits is approved by the Social Security Administration, you typically will begin receiving benefit payments in the sixth month following the onset of your disability. People with certain disabling medical conditions, such as ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, may immediately begin receiving benefits after their application is approved.
How to Appeal a Denied SSD Claim
Most people who file a claim for SSD benefits will have their initial application denied. In many cases, applications are denied due to insufficient or incorrect information submitted as part of the application. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration offers an appeals process if you believe that your SSD application was wrongly denied. The SSD claim appeals process has four levels:
- Reconsideration – First, you may ask that the SSA reconsider your application. In a reconsideration, a new reviewer will look over your application, along with any additional documents or information you wish to provide. Reconsideration often provides the easiest way to overturn a denial based on insufficient or incorrect information, as you can correct any mistakes in your original application.
- Hearing – If you disagree with the SSA’s initial determination or its reconsideration decision, you may request a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. Hearings typically take place in person, but they can be held over videoconference or the phone. They generally last 30 minutes to an hour. At the hearing, you will provide testimony about your condition, your work history, and your limitations. A vocational expert will also testify about what jobs a person with your condition could or could not do. If you have one, your attorney may cross examine the vocational expert. After the hearing, the administrative law judge will issue a decision approving your application or upholding the original denial. The judge typically takes one to three months to issue this decision. However, it could take longer in some cases.
- Review by the Appeals Council – If you are dissatisfied with the administrative law judge’s decision, you can request a review of your claim by the SSA’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may either decline to review your appeal or if it chooses to review your case, it may either issue a decision itself or return your case to the administrative law judge for further review.
- Filing suit in federal court – Once you have exhausted the administrative appeals process with the SSA, your last recourse to challenge the rejection of your SSD application involves filing a lawsuit in federal district court.
If your application for benefits has been denied, you should speak with a knowledgeable Wesley Chapel SSD attorney as soon as possible. Time is limited to file an appeal, and an attorney can ensure you are not making any costly mistakes.
How Our Wesley Chapel Disability Lawyers Can Help You
You can improve your odds of having your disability benefits application approved if you have a skilled Wesley Chapel disability attorney in your corner. A lawyer from the Disability Law Firm can help with the application process by:
- Explaining your potential eligibility for SSD benefits
- Assisting you with collecting the necessary medical and financial information and documents needed for your application
- Helping you fill out and submit your application while avoiding common mistakes
- Guiding you through the review process, including if the SSA requests additional information or requires you to undergo a consultive medical exam
- Requesting reconsideration or a hearing following the denial of your application and obtaining additional evidence to help improve the chances of having your claim approved on reconsideration or appeal
- Representing you throughout the appeals process to ensure you present the strongest case possible for the benefits you deserve
Contact the Disability Law Firm today for a free case review to learn how a Wesley Chapel disability lawyer can help you pursue the financial benefits you need. Call us or get in touch with us online today to get started.