Social security disability income (“SSDI”) benefits are designed to provide compensation for workers who are no longer able to work as a result of some type of disability. Benefits in general are designed to provide a partial replacement of income up to certain statutory benefits during the remaining expected work life of the recipient (up to age 65, at which time a person will be eligible for ordinary retirement benefits). As social security disability lawyers for Johnson City, Tennessee residents and those in Southwest Virginia, we help clients in two aspects:
- Filing for disability income benefits. The required forms and documentation that must be filed can be complex, including the documentation and proof required to prove disability. In many instances those filing claims for benefits wrongly assume that just because they are disabled, that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) will automatically accept their claim and award benefits. This is not the case.
The Social Security Administration more or less takes the position that benefit applicants do not qualify for benefits unless they can satisfy all of the requirements. In fact, the SSA is required to reject claims unless all requirements have been fulfilled, and all supporting documents (including medical information) has been submitted, even if the person at the SSA believes that the person qualifies for benefits.
Moreover, on the Social Security Administration site itself, the SSA states that:
By law, Social Security has a very strict definition of disability. To be found disabled:
- You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in your death.
The SSA also notes that “you cannot get disability benefits solely because your doctor says you are disabled.”
Many applicants, unfortunately, have their claims rejected, not because they do not quality for benefits, but rather because the necessary information was not submitted. At our firm, our focus is on carefully preparing the initial application, with the goal of having a claim approved at the outset, and getting benefits for clients as quickly as possible.
- Representing clients in disability appeals. When the SSA has disapproved of a claim, we believe that it’s important to retain an experienced social security benefits appeal law firm to handle the next step of the process – the social security benefits appeal. At this stage, we will carefully review the application and documents that were initially submitted, as well as all correspondence from the Social Security Administration. If your claim has been denied, we will work tirelessly in seeking to get this determination reversed, so that you can begin receiving benefits as soon as possible.
How Much Do You Charge for Social Security Disability Income Benefits Matters?
Our representation in social security benefits matters is done on a contingency fee basis; meaning that we are only paid if we are able to secure benefits and compensation for a client. The contingency fee in social security matters is very different (and the percentage generally lower) than in personal injury representation, as follows:
- The fee is capped at 25% of the amount of “back pay”. We are only entitled to a fee on the amount of the “back pay” that is awarded; in other words, you will be entitled to receive 100% of future pay. In most cases, our fee will be deducted by the Social Security Administration on this amount. Note – clients are generally responsible for paying costs for their matters, such as any costs required to obtain medical records.
- The total fee is generally capped at $6,000. There are some exceptions to this amount; we can explain how the fees work when we meet with you (our fee structure will also be explained in our representation agreement).
Can I Also Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits?
Supplement Social Security Income, or SSI, consists of additional benefits available in certain situations to those who have limited income and resources. Generally, those who qualify must meet certain financial tests and either (1) be over the age of 65, or (2) be of any age and be blind or disabled. We can determine if you may qualify for SSI benefits, and if you do, we will pursue such benefits on your behalf.
Should I Hire a Social Security Lawyer to Help Me Prepare My Claim?
For most people filing social security disability claims, money will be tight. The person filing for benefits will usually be either the main breadwinner in a household, or one of the two breadwinners, and will not have worked for some period of time.
Because money can be tight, and because it can take months or more for a claim to be approved between the initial filing date and the date of a successful appeal and award, and because applicants only need to pay a contingent fee on the “back pay” portion of their income (and not future incomes), we believe that it makes sense for most applicants to retain an SSDI lawyer at the outset. When we are retained for the initial application, we will do everything reasonably prudent and will carefully prepare your claim with the goal of seeking an approval at the initial stage so that an appeal is not necessary. In other words, we want to do everything possible so that your claim is “fast tracked.”
We Invite You to Call Our Firm for a Free Consultation, and to Learn How We Can Help You
Mental Disorders and Social Security Disability Benefits
The Social Security Administration specifically provides for the award of benefits for individuals who have been diagnosed with certain mental disorders. For those suffering with mental health issues, receiving Social Security disability benefits can provide a degree of relief in an otherwise difficult situation by allowing the recipient financial assistance while focusing on treating their condition. Although it is not supposed to be needed, most people become very frustrated trying to obtain benefits and have much more success getting approved when they have the help of a Johnson City Social Security disability lawyer for SSDI and SSI benefits.
The Social Security Administration has included Section 12.00 on mental disorders in the guidelines for evaluating Social Security disability claims. According to these guidelines, in order for a disability claim to be awarded on the basis of a mental disorder, the Administration requires “documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s), consideration of the limitations such impairment(s) may impose on the individual’s ability to work, and consideration of whether these limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.” The guidelines go on to list mental disorders into nine different categories, each of which contain additional criteria that must be considered before disability benefits are awarded.
A Johnson City Social Security disability lawyer for SSDI and SSI benefits knows that a subsection of the guidelines addresses affective disorders, which include one of the most common forms of mental disorders, depression. Depression is described as a feeling of intense sadness coupled with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that last for an extended period of time and prevent normal, daily functioning. In order to receive benefits due to depression, Section 12.04 requires that the depression is severe and that four of the following symptoms must apply:
- Loss of interest in most activities
- Decreased energy
- Appetite disturbance
- Sleep disturbance
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking
- Lack of physical activity
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking
- Suicidal thoughts
Another type of affective disorder covered by Section 12.04 is bipolar disorder. The guidelines require an individual seeking benefits to suffer from bipolar syndrome with a history of episodes comprising both periods of mania and periods of depression. A Johnson City Social Security disability lawyer for SSDI and SSI benefits understands that mania is defined as experiencing at least three of the following symptoms:
- High levels of energy and activity
- Fast or frantic speech
- Hasty changing of ideas
- Inflated self-esteem
- Decreased need for sleep
- Easy distractibility
- Behavior that demonstrates a high disregard of obvious or known risks
- Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking
In addition to the above symptoms related to depression and bipolar, the symptoms experienced must cause at least two of the following in order for benefits to be awarded: serious difficulty in daily living activities, social functioning, focusing, or repeated, extended periods of worsening symptoms, also known as episodes of decompensation.
It is important to note that even if an individual does not meet the requirements outlined above, they may have additional options in filing for disability based on a mental disorder. For example, if the individual has a history of affective disorder for a period of at least two years that has caused a significant limitation in ability to perform basic work activities, and meet additional requirements, they may be able to receive benefits.
Call a Johnson City Social Security Disability Lawyer for SSDI and SSI Benefits for Help
If you have suffered an injury that has left you with a permanent disability that is hampering your ability to work and earn a wage, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, many applicants find the process of applying for benefits complex and frustrating, since many are denied upon their first application.
A qualified Johnson City Social Security disability lawyer for SSDI and SSI benefits can help you present your case to Social Security and, if they still ignore you, appeal to the appropriate court. Even if you have already been denied benefits, our firm may be able to help. Contact The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt to speak with an attorney today about your case.
We Invite You to Call Our Firm for a Free Consultation, and to Learn How We Can Help You
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.