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Social Security Disability Bankruptcy

UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
You Have A Right To Know

Am I eligible to apply?
What benefits am I entitled?
How do I file a claim?
What are the requirements?
Can I have a lawyer represent me?

General Discussion:
This pamphlet is for persons who are unable to work due to a serious illness or disability and are interested in collecting Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and Medicare from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSD program is for disabled workers who have worked and earned enough credits to qualify. The SSA also administers the SSI program for those who do not have enough credits, and are without income (a public assistance program for the aged and disabled).

Insured Status:
In order to qualify for SSD you must have attained Insured Status. To obtain insured status you must have earned enough credits by reporting a certain amount of income. A person can earn up to four credits a year. For individuals under 30 years of age special rules apply to the amount of credits needed to qualify. Persons, ages 31 to 42, need at least 20 credits; if older than 42 you need additional credits every year (at age 60, you need at least 38 credits).

Your benefits are determined by averaging your lifetime earnings. You can obtain an Earnings Statement from SSA to see if you qualify. In fact, it is a good idea to periodically check your Earnings Statement for accuracy.

Who Else Is Eligible For Benefits:
If you're found Disabled, other family members may qualify for additional benefits based on your earnings: 1) unmarried children under age 19 and in high school; 2) unmarried child, if Disabled before age 22; 3) a spouse if caring for a child under 16 or Disabled; 4) a Disabled Widow(er) over age 50 (the disability must have started within seven years after spouse's death).

Qualifications For Disability
Social Security rules require you to be totally disabled from any kind of work for over 12 months. You are entitled to receive disability benefits for the rest of your life, or for a closed set period of time - if you returned to work or are no longer disabled.

Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits:
You can apply directly to your local SSA office. You should wait at least 6 months after the onset of your disability unless it is life threatening. If you apply more than one year after disablement you should retain an attorney. You can receive retroactive benefits only one year prior to the date you file your Application. It is good to document your first contact with SSA.
 
Your date of disablement can be very important. The disablement date must be within 5 years you last worked and you must have earned 20 credits within the last 10 years. Hence, it is important to promptly see a physician who will document your disability as early as possible.

Levels of Decision Making
Perseverance pays off! Quite often Social Security denies your initial application. You can appeal and are entitled to a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At that time you will actually be able to tell your side of the story. Statistics show that your chance of success increases when you get to the Hearing level. You can appeal an unfavorable decision to the Appeals Council and to the U.S. Federal Courts.

Medical & Vocational Requirements
All ailments and illnesses will be considered. The complete the medical records and reports are scribing your illness the better. The SSA looks if your doctor believes you are totally disabled work. Different disabilities can be combined in finding you disabled (low back, depression, lupus).
 
Social Security also considers the type of former employment, your age, education and vocational. [Ex: A 55 year old person may be found disabled, while a 45 year old with the same disability my not] A trained lawyer familiar with these complicated set of regulations can be crucial in determining whether you receive a favorable decision. I have successfully handled hundreds of cases before Administrative Law Judges, Appeals Council, and the U.S. District Courts.

Legal Fees
You do not have to pay my firm a legal fee unless we win your case. By law, in most cases, Social Security holds 25% of the retroactive benefits as a legal fee and pays the lawyer directly. Expenses for medical records and reports must be paid for by the claimants.

Medicare, Medicaid
Persons are entitled to Medicare two years after SSA determines your disablement date. Persons eligible for SSI benefits are entitled to Medicaid. Medicare premiums are deducted from the benefits checks.

Returning To Work:
You are allowed to return to work for a Trial Period for up to 9 months. After a Favorable Decision you can earn up to $940.00 per month and still receive disability benefits. You are allowed a Trail Work Period where you can work for nine months and make as much money as can. If you return to substantial work, and your disability causes you to stop work within 36 months thereafter, you will be eligible to reinstate your benefits without filing a new application. Medicare may continue for 39 months.

Role Of The Lawyer:
The SSA is a very large governmental bureaucracy. A Social Security lawyer has a special expertise in its procedures, rules and regulations. A lawyer is necessary to question medical consultants and vocational rehabilitation experts. Statistics show those represented by a lawyer have a higher success rate. You should obtain a lawyer especially if SSA has denied your claim. You may be losing a large amount of money by not retaining a lawyer and appealing, rather than re-filing a new application at a later date.

Persons eligible for disability who desire professional legal counsel in Social Security Disability matters can call our law office directly at (718) 726-6993. We welcome Referrals from Medical Professionals. We answer doctors questions free of charge.  We are always willing to help explain things to doctors.