How A Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Help

Having a disability is hard and being denied social security disability benefits can make things worse. If you find your claim denied, the best thing to do is find a social security disability lawyer.

In this article, we’re going to teach you some general information about social security disability law. This information will help when you meet with a social security disability lawyer at an initial consultation. We’re also going to explain different ways that a social security disability lawyer might be able to help your situation. Finally, at the end of the article, we link to our guide which lays out the specific steps to take on how to get a lawyer.

General Information On Social Security Disability Law

Before we proceed, you need to know that the information in this section is only general information about social security disability law. It is not legal advice and it is not even specific advice. Instead, use this general information to prepare for your consultation with a social security disability lawyer. At the consultation, the lawyer can advise you on your specific situation.

Two Programs for Social Security Disability

Social security disability benefits are paid under two separate programs:

  1. The first program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) which lets individuals receive their Social Security benefits before retirement.
  2. The second program is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which gives benefits to disabled individuals with limited income and resources.

Social Security Disability Insurance

The best way to get the right lawyer is to learn some general information about each of these social security disability programs. The first program, SSDI, pays social security benefits to disabled individuals before the age of retirement.

The Social Security Administration designates an individual as disabled if they are unable to “engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of medically-determinable physical or mental impairment” that is either “expected to result in death” or “has lasted for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”

The “substantial gainful activity” requirement has two parts. First, work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities. Second, work is “gainful” if it is a type of work generally performed for money.

An individual will not receive benefits if they are capable of performing another type of work. The factors to determine this are age, level of education reached, any past work experience, and any special skills that could be used to work another job. You should discuss these factors with your social security disability attorney who can apply them to your specific situation and give you the best advice.

Supplemental Security Income

As we mentioned above, the second program that pays benefits is called supplemental security income (SSI). Under SSI, individuals with limited income and resources are paid benefits if they meet several eligibility requirements. Your lawyer who can advise you on whether you meet any of these requirements.

Requirement 1 – An Individual Must be Disabled, Blind, or at Least Age 65

There are several ways to meet this first requirement. The first is being at least 65 years old. The second is being found legally blind. The third uses the same test as discussed above for SSDI. It looks at an individual’s ability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determined physical or mental impairment. In addition, the physical or mental impairment must be expected to result in death or has lasted continuously for at least 12 months.

Requirement 2 – An Individual Must Have Low Income

The second requirement is that an individual must have a low income. Here is some general information about the income requirement, but you need to talk with your attorney for advice about your specific situation.

The test looks at an individual’s monthly income. At the moment, the current limits are set at $771 per month if single or $1,157 per month if married, but these amounts can change depending on the state of residence.

The limits are calculated based on all income, including social security benefits, pensions, and virtually anything else qualifying as income. In addition, spousal income counts and if an individual is under 18 then part of their parent’s income counts.

Fortunately, there are some items that are not considered income. The following is a non-exhaustive list of items exempted from the income consideration:

  • The first $20 received from most income
  • The first $65 received from working, and half of the amount over $65
  • Any benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Any shelter received from a non-profit organization
  • A portion of home energy assistance
  • Some student wages and scholarships
  • Additional things that help on the job, such as work expenses if blind or disabled

Requirement 3 – An Individual Must Have Low Resources

The third requirement is that the total amount of resources owned by the individual must fall under a certain dollar limit. Presently the cap is about $2,000 if single or about $3,000 if married.

The Social Security Disability office will look at all resources owned by an individual and their spouse. This includes real estate, bank accounts, cash, stock, bonds, etc.

There are certain exceptions which are not counted against the caps:

  • A home and land where someone lives
  • Any life insurance policies with a face value of less than $1,500
  • A car (possibly)
  • Burials plots and certain amounts of burial funds

How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

An attorney can help with your social security disability claim in many ways. You can hire one anytime, even before you file a claim or after it’s rejected.

Another reason to hire a lawyer is they will increase the chances your claim will get approved. Hiring a lawyer shows the social security disability office and the Disability Determination Services (DDS) that you are serious and mean business.

Lawyers can also help organize information to file a claim. They can help collect information such as:

  • Social Security information
  • Birth certificate and related documents
  • Contact information for any and all doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and anyone else that took care of you and dates you entered their care
  • All the medicine you take because of your disability
  • Medical records from all your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and anyone else relevant to the claim
  • Lab tests and results that may impact a determination
  • Detailed information on your past work history from relevant jobs
  • Latest W-2 and wage information

They can also help you prepare for an interview, conference, or hearing that you might have with someone at the social security office. In some instances, they can even attend the meeting if you are nervous.

Here are a few other ways hiring a social security disability lawyer can help:

  • Help you understand the complex claims issues and focus your arguments.
  • Navigate difficult disability laws and rules, helping you through the process.
  • Request reconsideration, hearing, or appeal of your claim.
  • Assist you and your witnesses prepare for a hearing and question witnesses at the hearing.

How To Get A Social Security Disability Lawyer

If you’ve come this far, then you should have enough general information about social security disability law to assist a lawyer in advising you about your specific situation. Also, you should have a general idea about how a social security disability lawyer can help your situation.

But before you start searching for a local social security disability lawyer, there is one more step you should take. We highly recommend reading our guide about how to get a lawyer. In the guide, you will learn many things about how to get a lawyer. Here is an example of what you will learn:

  • How to find a lawyer experienced with social security disability law.
  • How to research the lawyer’s background.
  • Questions to ask before an initial consultation.
  • Questions to ask during an initial consultation.
  • Observations to record about the lawyer
  • How to decide whether to hire the lawyer.

Once you read this guide, you should be prepared to hire a lawyer to help with your social security disability needs.