Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers in Pittsburgh
Dedicated Legal Team Serving Western PA
- Am I Eligible?
- How Do I Apply?
- What Can I Expect?
- How Does Social Security Determine Whether I am Disabled?
- What Happens if I am Approved for Benefits?
- What Do I Do if I am Denied Benefits?
If you have a health condition, or a combination of conditions, that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Am I Eligible?
In order to receive adult Social Security Disability benefits, you must suffer from conditions that will prevent you from working on a full-time basis or performing “substantial gainful activity” for a period of twelve (12) months or longer. You do not have to wait twelve (12) months in order to file a claim for benefits.
Earning (gross pay) $940.00 or less per month in 2008 is not considered substantial gainful activity (“SGA”), and should not disqualify you from applying for or obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. However, if you are only working part time, the Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov) will need you to explain why you could not work more hours.
If you return to work briefly but are not able to continue working, you may still be entitled to Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits from the period when you initially stopped working. If you are unable to work for a year, but then return to work, you may be eligible for a “closed period” of disability benefits.
You must have enough of a work history with reported income to obtain Social Security Disability or “SSD” benefits (http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/links_disability.htm). The amount of work needed depends on your age, and you can obtain information from your local Social Security office as to your eligibility for these benefits.
Even if you do not have a sufficient work history or “work credits” to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, you may be able to obtain Supplemental Security Income or “SSI” benefits (http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/links_ssi.htm). These benefits are available to disabled individuals who either do not have enough of a work history to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, or who have such limited income and resources that these benefits can be used to supplement the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may also be entitled.
In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, a doctor must indicate that you are unable to do work that you are asked to do. If you are at least 50 years of age and have sedentary restrictions, you may qualify for benefits. Likewise, if you are at least 55 years of age and have light duty restrictions, you may qualify for benefits.
Even if you are receiving Veterans’ benefits, a pension, Workers’ Compensation benefits, early Social Security Retirement benefits, or other benefits, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
How Do I Apply?
In order to apply for Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits, you can go in person to your local Social Security Office and fill out an application. In some circumstances, you can fill out an application over the phone or online. You should consult with your local office to determine what works best for you.
When applying for benefits, it is important that you provide accurate information concerning the names and addresses of all your treating physicians and hospitals where you were a patient or underwent testing. You should provide information on all medical impairments for which you have sought treatment, not merely your most severe impairments. Social Security must consider all of your health conditions in evaluating whether you are entitled to benefits.
You should also keep in mind when providing information about the severity of your conditions that the Social Security Administration looks at how your conditions affect your ability to work. Therefore, you should try to briefly explain how your conditions place limitations on your ability to perform normal activities of daily life. If you stopped working because of your health conditions, you should explain the limitations you had at work as your condition worsened, and explain why you could no longer continue working.
What Can I Expect?
After you file an application for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits, a representative of the Social Security Administration, called a disability claims adjudicator, will begin contacting treating physicians in order to obtain your medical records. Sometimes, this person will send you to a physician if he or she determines your medical records did not give them enough information to make a decision on your application for benefits.
Very often, the Social Security Administration will not be able to obtain records from all of your medical providers. Therefore, you should inquire as to what records your claims adjudicator has received, and try to obtain and send to him or her any other records you feel are important in assessing your disability status.
Your spouse and children, if any, may be able to receive benefits on your work record. Therefore, it is important to make sure the Social Security Administration has properly recorded their information relating to your claim for benefits.
Usually, it takes several months for the Social Security Administration to make a decision on your claim, and possibly longer if there are questions as to how long your conditions are expected to last.
How Does Social Security Determine Whether I am Disabled?
When the Social Security Administration is reviewing your records, the claims adjudicator will look to see if you have a severe impairment or a combination of impairments that is severe. A severe impairment is one that significantly limits your ability to perform basic work functions. If you have a severe impairment, and it is expected to last for a period of twelve (12) months or longer, he or she will then examine whether you meet one of the Social Security Administration’s “Listings” for certain medical conditions, which will permit the claims adjudicator to find you disabled (Social Security Administration's Adult Listings).
If you do not meet one of the listed conditions, and this is quite common, the claims adjudicator will still examine your condition and the limitations it causes, to determine whether you can perform your past relevant work.
If it is found that you are unable to perform your past relevant work, an evaluation of whether you are able to perform work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy will be conducted by the claims adjudicator. This is where age becomes a very important factor.
The agency uses Medical-Vocational or “grid” guidelines to determine, based on your age, work experience, education, and exertional limitations, whether you would be able to find work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy, or in several regions of the country. Exertional limitations include the ability to stand, walk, bend, and lift. The grid rules are a presumption, but they are followed closely.
The older you are, the less difficult it becomes to obtain disability benefits. This is based on the theory that, in general, it becomes more difficult to adjust to new work situations as you age. However, age is only one consideration the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether someone is disabled.
Even if you do not fall under a “grid” rule that directs a disability finding, you can still be found to be disabled. The Social Security Administration will examine whether, given all your medical conditions, including things like headaches and fatigue, there is any work available for you with your abilities.
What Happens if I am Approved for Benefits?
If you are found disabled, you should receive a Notice of Award letter explaining the amount of benefits you will receive each month. The Social Security Administration may periodically review your case to see if your condition has improved and if you are able to return to work. Additionally, your benefit amounts may fluctuate based on other income you may have, increased personal resources, and cost of living increases.
Each time your benefit amount changes, you should receive a letter from the Social Security Administration indicating what changes they will make to your benefits. If you decide to return to work or increase your hours of work, or if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits and your resource level changes, you should contact your local Social Security Office immediately to make sure it is aware of the change in your situation. When in doubt, call your local office to see if your benefits would change.
What Do I Do if I am Denied Benefits?
Many people who apply for disability benefits are initially denied. On occasion, people who are already receiving Social Security benefits on the basis of their disability may have their benefits stopped. Please be aware that you only have sixty (60) days to file an appeal if you are denied benefits for any reason, or disagree with changes the Social Security Administration has made to your existing benefits. If you do not file an appeal within that time frame, you may not be able to get benefits to which you would otherwise be entitled.
If the Social Security Administration determines that you are not disabled, please feel free to contact Rudberg Law Offices, LLC, so we can discuss your claim for benefits and further explain this process, as good case preparation and presentation can make the difference in getting benefits you deserve.
Contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney in Pittsburgh
Call the Pittsburgh law firm of Rudberg Law Offices, LLC for a free consultation. We will provide additional information on your particular case and let you know what our lawyers can do for you. Call us today at (412) 488-6000, (866) 306-2667, or complete our quick contact web form and a member of our legal staff will respond to you promptly.