Dealing with the impact of a disability can be truly overwhelming. You may be coping with physical pain and emotional distress. In addition, many who have become disabled have entirely lost their ability to work or have had to cut back on their working hours. Both situations can bring heavy financial burdens. In addition, those who are no longer working full time may lose their health benefits. With a drastically reduced income, no health benefits, and mounting medical bills, a disabled person may find themselves in dire financial straits and very unsure about their future.
SSDI and SSI – Programs Designed to Help
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal insurance programs designed for people in circumstances like theses. These programs provide income supplementation that can strengthen your budget and help you provide for your basic financial needs. If you are affected by a longstanding condition or disability, you may qualify for SSDI or SSI.
Marasco & Nesselbush – The Disability Lawyers You Need
If you live in Lawrence, Massachusetts, or anywhere in Essex County or neighboring Middlesex County, an attorney at Marasco & Nesselbush can help you to successfully maneuver through the complicated application process and obtain the Social Security benefits that you truly deserve. Our attorneys have helped people with their SSDI cases for decades. We have helped thousands of people, who were struggling financially due to a disability, to obtain the benefits they deserve. We are committed to each individual case from the very beginning and our single objective is to win. Our attorneys are extremely well-versed in the intricacies of the SSDI application process and will represent your interests with conviction and intelligence. We will also treat you with empathy and dignity, always taking time to answer your questions.
SSDI vs SSI – What’s the Difference?
Both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income are designed for people who are struggling financially due to a disability that is longstanding or expected to continue long term. The crucial difference between the two lies primarily in the applicant’s work history prior to becoming disabled.
In order to be eligible for SSDI, prior to becoming disabled, the applicant must have worked at a job where he or she paid into the Social Security system. They must have been earning a high enough salary to acquire a sufficient number of work credits. In practical terms, this means that they must have worked between 5 and 10 full years in order to be eligible for disability benefits. It is important to note that SSDI does not strictly depend on the income level of the applicant. In principle, it is possible for a person to obtain SSDI no matter their current income level.
Supplemental Social Income, or SSI, on the other hand, is primarily granted on the basis of the income level of the applicant. The applicant must be a disabled person who:
- did not work a sufficient number of years in order to be eligible for SSDI
- has assets that are worth less than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples)
- has little or no stable income
If they meet these requirements, they will most likely qualify for SSI benefits. In addition, those who qualify for SSI on the basis of low income will also be able to receive Medicaid in their state.
If you are wondering which type of benefits may apply in your case, one of the attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush would be happy to help you. Please contact us today to explore all the options available to you.
SSDI Eligibility Requirements
As mentioned above, in order to be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, the applicant needs to have a consistent work history. In most cases, to obtain a sufficient number of work credits, the applicant must have worked between 5 and 10 full years before becoming disabled. The exact number of years will depend on the income level of the applicant in that period of time. In addition, to obtain SSDI, the applicant must also meet the following requirements:
- Be younger than full retirement age
- Have filed an application for benefits
- Have a Social Security–defined disability
If the applicant has reached retirement age, the Social Security Administration can offer a different type of program.
What Is Social Security-defined Disability?
As defined by the law, a person who has a Social Security-defined disability cannot engage in a substantially gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that may result in death and/or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months. The term substantial gainful activity means a job, or other paid activity, that allows a person to earn a determined amount of money on a monthly basis. In 2017, this amount was set at $1,170 (or $1,950 for statutorily blind individuals).
In short, if you have a physical or mental disability that is expected to last for a long period of time and, consequently, you are earning less than $1,170 a month, you may apply for Social Security benefits.
SSDI Application Process
The application process for Social Security Disability Insurance may seem somewhat complicated, however, it always starts with an application that you can file online, by calling a designated number, or by visiting your local Social Security office. Information about the SSO in Lawrence, MA, can be found here.
Having an experienced attorney help you fill out the application form, as well as obtain and organize supporting medical evidence, can greatly increase your chances of success in the first stage of the application process. Nevertheless, if your request is denied, don’t give up. Nationally, close to 70 percent of claims are denied in the initial stages of an SSDI claim. That means 7 out of every 10 claims are denied. You have 60 days to appeal that initial decision. If you choose to do so, your application will go to the reconsideration stage. This means that it will be reviewed again by another Social Security worker. You will also be able to present additional medical evidence. If your request is denied again, you have another 60 days to appeal that decision. The next stage of the appeal process is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Normally, there is a long waiting period for an ALJ hearing. At the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the average waiting period is 18 months and it takes 548 days on average to process the case. If your circumstances are so serious that you are not able to wait that long, a seasoned Social Security Disability attorney may help you to find out if you qualify for an expedited (faster) decision. In any case, if you haven’t employed the services of an attorney so far in the appeals process, this is the best time to do so. Having an attorney represent you during the hearing greatly increases your chances for a successful resolution. One of our disability attorneys can help you in various practical ways to prepare for the hearing. Here are some of them:
- work with your medical providers to collect and evaluate helpful medical and legal evidence of your disability
- prepare you for the questions the judge will ask you
- elicit convincing testimony from you during the hearing
- cross-examine medical and vocational experts
The hearing before an ALJ is usually your best chance of obtaining benefits, especially if you are represented by an attorney. However, the Lawrence average for approved applications at this stage is 47%. While that is slightly higher than the national average of 45%, it means that even with an attorney representing you, there is still a chance your request might be denied by the judge. In case of a denial, you have 60 days to apply to the Social Security Appeals Council. The aim of this body is to review the decision of the administrative law judge and to check if they committed any procedural errors or omissions. If so, your attorney will prepare and present a strong appeal on your behalf. The last available appeal option is to file a case with a Federal Court.
Marasco & Nesselbush – Disability Lawyers You Can Afford
Understandably, money is a concern when weighing the decision whether or not to hire an attorney. At Marasco & Nesselbush Law Offices in Lawrence, MA, the initial consultation is always free. If you decide to work with us, there will be no out-of-pocket expenses throughout the duration of the application process. Marasco & Nesselbush disability attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. In practical terms, this means that we will only collect fees for our services if we manage to secure a positive outcome for you.
Marasco & Nesselbush disability attorneys are ready to review your case and help you explore all options available in your circumstances. We are ready to fight for your rights to get the benefits you deserve. Please contact us without delay and increase your chances of obtaining Social Security benefits.