Zephyrhills SSD Lawyer
If you have a disabling condition that has left you unable to work, you may be entitled to disability benefits that can help you make ends meet. Unfortunately, obtaining these benefits can be difficult without representation from a skilled Zephyrhills SSD lawyer. At the Disability Law Firm, we have more than 20 years of experience helping Pasco County residents secure the full disability benefits they need. Let us help you now.
Reach out to us today for a free, no-obligation case review with a trusted Zephyrhills SSD attorney. We will discuss your eligibility and what you can expect throughout the SSD application process. There is no charge for us to start work on your case. You only pay us if and when we secure benefits for you.
How Does Social Security Define Disability?
A disability that qualifies you to receive SSD benefits is defined 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” (C.F.R §404.1505).
The Social Security Administration maintains a document known as the Blue Book that lists physical and mental impairments that may qualify as a disability. However, a person who suffers from impairments not listed in the Blue Book may still establish a qualifying disability by showing that he or she lacks the residual function capacity to perform the duties of past work or duties of other work available in sufficient numbers in the national economy. If you lack any residual functional capacity due to an impairment, you may be deemed disabled.
What Kinds of Benefits Are There?
Disabled individuals may be entitled to receive financial assistance from one of two programs administered by the SSA:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), for those with a work history that included them paying into the Social Security System
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on financial need
What Is the Difference between SSDI and SSI?
SSDI and SSI primarily differ from one another due to who each program serves. The SSDI program is intended for those with recent work history who can no longer work due to a disability.
The work history requirement ensures that SSDI recipients have paid enough money into the Social Security system, from which SSDI benefits are paid. Eligibility for SSDI benefits requires that an applicant have sufficient work credits, or calendar quarters where they have earned a minimum amount of income subject to Social Security taxes. Applicants must also have a minimum amount of recent work history, usually having worked at least five of the 10 previous years. The minimum requirements for work credits and recent work history vary based on the age of the applicant, with younger workers having lower requirements.
In contrast, the SSI program is based on financial need, not work history. SSI benefits can be paid to any disabled or blind person or individual 65 or older whose income and assets fall below certain thresholds. Although the SSI program is administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI benefits are not considered a benefit of Social Security. A qualifying individual may receive SSI benefits if his or her average monthly income falls below the federal benefit rate and if he or she has assets totaling less than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples). This excludes certain assets such as a primary residence or vehicle.
When Should I Apply for Disability Benefits?
Although you may want to apply for disability benefits as soon as possible after suffering a physical or mental condition that renders you unable to work, you may consider waiting to apply.
Keep in mind that a qualifying disability must be expected to result in death or last for at least 12 months. However, waiting to apply could jeopardize some of your benefits. To know if you should file right away or wait, you should contact an experienced disability lawyer.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits in Zephyrhills
You can apply for disability benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. When you go to apply for disability benefits, you should ensure that you have the necessary documents and information on hand to fully complete your application. Documents that you may need for your application include:
- Original copies of birth records
- Original copies of records of citizenship or legal residency
- Copies of W-2s, or tax returns if you are self-employed
- A completed Disability Report, in which you provide information about your medical condition and work history
- Copies of any medical records you have possession of
- A completed medical release form, so that the SSA can obtain additional medical records for you if necessary
- Copies of documents relating to any workers’ compensation benefits you may have received
- Copies of financial records, if you are applying for SSI
Information that you will need to complete a disability benefits application includes:
- Your Social Security number
- Your date and place of birth
- Whether you or anyone has filed for Social Security or SSI benefits or Medicare on your behalf
- Whether you expect to receive a pension or other monthly benefits from the military, federal government, or a state or local government
- Whether you have earned benefits from another country’s social security program.
- The dates of all your marriages and divorces
- The names and birth dates of your current spouse and minor children (if any)
- Whether you had a parent dependent on you for support at the time of your disability
- Your work and earnings history
SSA Offices in Pasco County
If you are filing an SSD benefits application in Zephyrhills, you may go to one of the two SSA offices in Pasco County:
- Dade City office: 36630 Adair Road, Dade City FL 33525; phone: 866-562-1325
- New Port Richey office: 8661 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey FL 34654; phone: 866-593-5679
How Long Does It Take to Receive Disability Benefits?
The duration of the application review process for disability benefits will depend on various factors. These include whether additional information is required to review your application and whether you need to appeal a denial of your application.
You can expect the initial review of your application to take three to five months, or potentially longer if claims examiners need to request additional medical records or if they ask you to undergo a consultive medical examination.
If you request reconsideration of a denied application, the process may take less time than the initial review but can last between three and six months.
Requesting a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ) often takes the longest time. It can take over a year to receive a hearing date. Once the hearing is held, it can take months before the ALJ renders a decision.
If your application for disability benefits is eventually approved, you can expect to begin receiving SSDI benefits in the sixth month following the date that your disability began. Certain conditions, such as ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, will entitle you to begin receiving benefits immediately after your application is approved. SSI benefits also begin the month after your application was filed.
What Should I Do If My Application Was Denied?
If your initial application for SSD benefits is denied, you may proceed through the appeals process, which includes four separate levels of review.
The first level involves reconsideration of your application. A claims examiner not involved with the initial review of your application will conduct a completely new review. You will also have the opportunity to submit addition evidence to correct inaccuracies in your initial application or to provide additional support for your application.
If the denial of your application is upheld on reconsideration, you may request a hearing by an administrative law judge. The hearing is typically conducted in person but can be held via videoconference or phone. It usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. During the hearing, the ALJ will hear testimony from you and a vocational expert. You will be asked about your condition, your work, and your limitations. After the hearing, it typically takes one to three months to receive a decision.
If the ALJ rules against you, you may request review of the decision by the SSA’s Appeals Council. The Appeals Council may deny review if it finds no legal error in the ALJ’s determination. However, if the Appeals Council grants review, it may either issue a decision itself or return your case back to the ALJ for further review.
Once you have exhausted the appeals process with the SSA, the last step in appealing a denial of your application involves filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court.
What Our Zephyrhills Disability Lawyers Can Do for You
Many people who file for SSD benefits find the application process difficult and confusing. All too often, applications are denied. Turn to a Zephyrhills disability lawyer from our firm for help with:
- Evaluating your eligibility for the SSDI and SSI programs and advising you on which program would best serve your interests
- Helping you with collecting the required information and documentation to prepare your SSD benefits application
- Explaining the application or appeals process so that you know what to expect
- Assisting you with filling out your SSD benefits application or appeal form to pursue your claim
- Reviewing explanations of determination if your application or appeal is denied to advise you of your rights and options or next steps you can take to pursue your claim
- Representing you in an appeal hearing and presenting a compelling case for the full benefits you deserve
Whether you are filing an initial SSD benefits application or are looking to appeal a denied SSD claim, contact the Disability Law Firm today for a free initial consultation. A knowledgeable Zephyrhills disability lawyer from our firm can guide you through the complexities and obstacles of the SSD benefits application process. Our goal will be to help your application move through the process smoothly and prevent mistakes that could unnecessarily delay your case.