Living with a disabling injury, illness, or disease is challenging. When a person can no longer work, living with a disabling condition is compounded by the lack of income, which can make it difficult (or even impossible) to afford even the necessities. In situations such as these, Social Security Disability (SSD) payments are vitally important, as benefits can help compensate for lost wages and provide much needed financial support.
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we’re here to lessen the financial burden by helping those who are disabled with the process of obtaining the SSD benefits that they need and deserve.
For those who are in the process of making the initial application, we can explain the process and prepare the application so that the Social Security Administration can make a qualification determination. For those who have received a denial, we provide representation in the reconsideration/appeals process.
It’s important to understand that preparing the application and complying with the required documentation can be complex. Most claimants who apply without obtaining legal counsel and who do not have a full understanding of the documentation and paperwork required to substantiate a claim are usually denied benefits. Often, this is a result of minor application errors or a lack of sufficient medical documentation, even when a qualifying disability exists.
When a claim is denied – even if the denial is due to a small technicality – there will typically be months of delay. The SSA does not allow an applicant to simply make a small correction (such as to provide additional documentation), and then quickly approve a claim. Instead, after a claim is denied, the applicant must go through an often lengthy reconsideration/appeals process.
We advise clients on the law and assist in obtaining relevant documentation from physicians to prove claims. If benefits are denied, we can explain the appeals process, timely file an appeal, and fight tenaciously in seeking to get all benefits that are rightfully deserved.
Attorney fees for representation in a Social Security claim must be approved by the SSA, and are typically paid by the SSA directly to the attorney. Fees are only awarded if benefits are obtained, and, by law, attorney fees are normally capped at 25% of the back pay amount or $6,000, whichever amount is less.
There are no attorneys’ fees for future payments that are not yet due. Instead, fees are only applicable on what is known as the “back pay” – the amount of past benefits due when the award for benefits is made. As a result, legal fees will be limited (more so for representation in an initial application, as the time period for back pay will typically be only a matter of months). And, as always, our initial consultation is free.
With no upfront fees and a complimentary consultation, call today to schedule a free claim evaluation so that we can begin helping you through the process of seeking to obtain disability benefits.
What is Social Security Disability (SSD)?
Social Security Disability Insurance assists those who are disabled and unable to work and who have a qualifying employment history. To be eligible, applicants must have a sufficient amount of work credits. Up to four credits can be earned each year that an individual works and pays Social Security taxes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that quarterly taxes be paid a total of twenty out of the last forty quarters from the date of an application. Typically, this equates to a total of 40 credits, 20 of which must have been earned within ten years before the disability.
In addition to having enough work credits, the debilitating condition must be severe and prevent an individual from working for at least twelve months. As long as a qualifying disability exists, and a person is unable to work, they remain eligible for benefits.
Is There an Age Limit for Social Security Disability?
Applicants cannot collect both SSD and Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits at the same time; thus, a claimant must typically be between the ages of 18 and 65 years old to be eligible for payments.
While those over the age of 65 are typically not eligible for SSD, there is an exception; however, it can be an uphill battle to obtain benefits. If an elderly individual is not drawing SSR and is unable to continue working because of a disability, it is possible to receive disability payments. However, extra consideration will be given. For instance, a claims examiner or Administrative Law Judge must carefully review medical records to determine if the condition is attributable to age or a qualifying disability. If the inability to work is due to age, they may be ineligible.
If you are unable to work because of a medical condition and are over age 65, you should consult with our experienced Cave Spring SSD attorney Mark Hurt. You may qualify for disability benefits so that you will not have to retire earlier than anticipated.
How Long Do I Have to Wait for an SSD Decision?
The wait times for every case in Virginia are different. After filing an initial application, it typically takes four to six months for a decision. If approved, benefits will commence within thirty to sixty days.
If denied, a reconsideration (the first level of the appeals process) will be required. At this stage, it can take another four to six months to receive a decision. Finally, if an unfavorable determination is made at the reconsideration level, it will be necessary to appeal to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing.
It can take over a year for a hearing. Fortunately, if benefits are awarded, SSD back pay will be paid for most of the wait time in the first benefit check.
Because each level of the process can be time consuming, it is beneficial for applicants to secure an approval at the initial application or reconsideration level. As an attorney with over thirty years of legal experience, Mark Hurt understands what level of proof is typically required for an award. Call our firm to learn how we can assist in seeking to secure benefits for you as quickly as possible.
What Are the Steps of the SSD Application Process?
The following are the steps of the SSD application process (if you secure an approval, it is not necessary to engage in any additional steps):
- Initial Application. The Disability Determination Services (DDS) reviews the initial application and supporting documentation to determine if a qualifying disability exists. Approximately 70% of initial claims are denied.
As a result of the high denial rate (which is higher when an attorney is not retained), individuals who are applying for social security benefits are strongly encouraged to retain an experienced social security disability lawyer at the outset. Attorney fees will be much less than if an attorney is retained at the reconsideration/appeals stage, and applicants receiving an award as part of the initial filings stage will receive benefits significantly sooner than if a reconsideration/appeal is required.
- Reconsideration. If the initial application is denied, the decision can be appealed within sixty days from the date listed on the top of a denial notification. A second examiner will review the application and render an independent decision.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing. If a request for reconsideration is turned down, an applicant has sixty days from the denial to request an appeal hearing. Much like a trial, evidence can be presented, and experts will testify before an Administrative Law Judge, who will make an eligibility determination.
- Appeals Council. If an ALJ denies a claim, the decision can be appealed to an Appeals Council (AC). If the AC decides to review a claim (it has the option to refuse to hear a case), a determination could take an additional year to receive.
- Federal Appeal. If all other appeal options are exhausted, a denial can be appealed in federal court, which typically takes roughly eight months from the date of the filing.
Hiring an experienced attorney has been shown to increase an applicant’s chances of success threefold. If you are denied benefits, do not delay in calling our office, as you normally will have only sixty days to file an appeal. We can timely file appeal paperwork, assemble documentation, and fight tenaciously in a hearing (if needed) in seeking to get you the maximum benefits possible.
Is an SSD Lawyer Expensive?
At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, you will only pay a fee if we are successful in obtaining disability benefits. Thus, you will not have to worry about paying any upfront, out-of-pocket expenses (outside of potentially paying to get a copy of your medical records). Further, fees are typically paid to our firm directly by the SSA, meaning that you will not have to hassle with calculations or writing a check.
Do I Need an SSD Lawyer?
You do not need a lawyer for the Social Security Disability process. Nonetheless, having a lawyer by your side can be extremely helpful and increase your chances of receiving an approval.
It is easy to make mistakes when filling out the initial SSD application, and the first step requires lengthy paperwork, extensive documentation, and medical records. At the Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we can assist in helping you avoid making costly mistakes to increase the odds of having an initial application approved. If you are denied benefits, we can help you timely appeal so that you will not miss any opportunity to obtain much-needed disability payments. The faster you call to schedule a free consultation, the quicker you may be able to begin collecting benefits.
“Great job of communicating throughout the entire process. Rhonda and staff were very professional, with great knowledge, and results.They were able to get my speeding ticket completely dismissed.”
This law firm is excellent to work with and I highly recommend them. Jessica was great to work with for me filing a disability claim through the Social Security Administration. She answered all my questions and concerns quickly and efficiently.