Providence Social Security Lawyers – Marasco & Nesselbush
40 million people with a disability living in the U.S. About 10.5 million of them receive monthly benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program; an additional 8 million get financial support through Supplemental Social Income (SSI), a similar program also administered by the Social Security Administration. Tens of thousands more apply each month. As much as 70% of initial applications for disability benefits are denied. Those who face initial denial must then decide if they want to start the long appeals process.
Admittedly, applying for Social Security benefits may seem anything but simple. If you are a person with a disability and trying to fight your way through the application or appeals process, you may feel overwhelmed. It may seem that the odds are against you and that you have very little control over the result. The good news is, however, that you don’t have to face the system alone.
Since 1999, the Social Security Disability attorneys at Marasco & Nesselbush, LLP, have helped thousands of disabled people in Rhode Island to obtain the monthly benefits they deserve, along with the corresponding back pay. The experience we’ve gained and our record of successful cases are proof that we have what it takes to help you as well. No matter how unsure you may feel about your case or how disappointed you might be in the outcome so far – we are ready to represent you and offer comprehensive legal assistance to help you build a compelling case at each stage of the process.
SSDI or SSI – Which Program is the Best Match for You?
As mentioned above, the Social Security Administration manages both benefit programs – Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The first step we will take while reviewing your case will be to determine which of the two is the best match for your current situation and circumstances. Here’s how they differ:
- SSDI is a program designed for people with a strong work history who paid into the Social Security system for a number of years and managed to acquire a sufficient number of work credits. Usually, it means that an applicant must have worked for 5 to 10 years on a job covered by Social Security before becoming disabled. The level of household income or the applicant’s net worth does not affect their eligibility for SSDI because this program is neither needs based nor means tested. The exact amount of money a person can receive from SSDI is based on their lifetime wages. The average monthly income from SSDI for 2017 is $1,171 with most recipients receiving between $700 and $1,700.
- SSI is a needs-based program. To be eligible for it, a candidate must have a very low monthly income and less than $2,000 in personal assets (or $3,000 in case of families). The maximum SSI benefits may amount to $721 per month. In most cases, those who receive SSI will also automatically qualify for Medicaid benefits as well.
Who May Qualify for SSDI – Criteria for Disability
To assess whether a person who applies for SSDI qualifies for the benefits, the Social Security Administration uses a strict set of criteria. Having a partial disability or a short-term disability will not qualify a person for benefits. According to their website, the SSA considers a person disabled if:
- they cannot do the work they did before;
- they cannot, according to SSA, adjust to other work because of their medical condition(s); and
- their disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
SSA further specifies that, in order to be considered disabled, a person cannot engage in “substantial gainful activity” which is defined as monthly earnings from work that surpass $1,170. In addition, the disability must be “severe”, that is, it must impede or considerably interfere with basic work-related activities.
SSA maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically qualify a person as disabled. If an applicant suffers from one of the conditions that can be found on the list, SSA treats that person as disabled. If an applicant has some other condition that’s not mentioned on the list, SSA personnel will have to decide if it is equal in severity to those included on the list.
Social Security Disability Insurance – Application and Appeals
SSA advises applying for SSDI as soon as a person becomes disabled. There are 3 ways to file the initial application. It can be done via an online form, by calling a toll-free number, or by visiting one of the local Social Security offices. It may take between 3 to 5 months for SSA to process the initial application. Only about a third of the initial applications are granted.
If an applicant’s initial request for SSDI was rejected, he or she has 60 days to appeal that decision by filing a ‘Request for Reconsideration’ form. Reconsideration means that the initial application will be reviewed again by another Social Security worker.
If the second review of the application doesn’t result in approval for benefits, the next stage of appeal is to request a hearing with the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Again, the applicant will have 60 days to do so. The appeal will be heard before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). A medical expert and a vocational expert may also be present, either in person or via video conferencing, in order to testify as witnesses.
The appeals process does not necessarily end with a hearing, even if an ALJ denies the claim. The applicant may further appeal to the Appeals Council by filing a Request for Review. The Council will check if the ALJ committed any procedural errors or omissions. The last resort will be to appeal to the District Court, and in rare cases – even further up the legal ladder, to the regional First Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
What if I Missed a Deadline?
As mentioned above, a person usually has 60 days to appeal the denial. The SSA starts counting that period 5 days from the day they mailed the denial letter. Missing a deadline will result in the dismissal of the case.
Still, if an applicant misses a deadline, they can file a Request for Good Cause with SSA. In this request, a person must present reasons for missing the deadline. SSA will review the reasons and asses if the person had a “good cause” for missing the deadline, or in other words, if the reasons presented are valid. The acceptable reasons can be found here.
Why Should I Choose a Lawyer to Represent My SSDI Case?
On the national level, there are currently about 1.1 million people waiting for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. In the State of Rhode Island, the average waiting time is 335 days. Despite efforts to remedy this situation, the backlog of cases is still growing. The best chance to avoid this wait is to present a strong case right from the start.
Only 30% of the initial applicants who were denied will be granted Social Security disability benefits via some means of appeal. Nevertheless, having an experienced Social Security disability attorney help you prepare your initial application can really make a difference. Correctly filling out the application is important, but your attorney will also take care of many additional details. For example, he or she will make sure that, along with your application, you present your complete medical records and other documents that describe your history, symptoms, and functional limitations. The attorney will even talk to your physician in order to obtain medical evidence of your disability as well as other important details concerning your condition and treatment. These may include the full list of the medications you have been prescribed along with corresponding doses or laboratory and test results.
With a good attorney at your side, initial denial will not be a reason to give up. If your claim or appeal has been denied before and you would like to receive legal help now, you are making a good call. Statistics show that claimants who are represented by an attorney are treated much more seriously and have greater chances of their appeal having success. Your attorney will know how to gather and organize all the necessary information about your condition, treatment, and current situation, and how to present it as a compelling story. He or she will also prepare you for the hearing, inform you as to what kind of questions you may expect and how to answer them to further your cause.
Why Choose Marasco & Nesselbush Disability Attorneys?
Our record of successful cases and satisfied clients speaks for itself – we are extremely effective at obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. Our attorneys have years – in some cases even decades – of experience in fighting for disability insurance. We also have the resources needed to provide comprehensive legal assistance and to take your case through all the stages of appeals.
The approach we take is characterized not only by the highest level of professionalism but also by integrity and empathy. We take time to listen to our clients and their concerns and we treat them in a respectful, dignified manner.
We operate by a simple rule – we don’t charge our clients unless we manage to bring their case to a successful resolution and obtain benefits for them. The initial consultation is always free, but you can rest assured that there will be no out-of-pocket expenses for you throughout the whole application and appeals process. Only after we have secured your benefits for you will we collect a percentage. If you don’t win, we don’t get paid.
In rare cases, we may agree with our client on a different kind of fee. This happens mostly when the payment of retroactive benefits is minimal and would not adequately compensate our legal services. In such cases, SSA must authorize the fee. The bottom line is, however, that apart from that one-time fee, you only pay us if we manage to help you win disability benefits, there will be no additional costs for you whatsoever.
Don’t Wait Any Longer
The longer you wait for your SSDI application or appeal, the more dire your financial situation may become. Do not let anything jeopardize the success of your claim and your future financial stability! Contact us today and obtain a free, no-strings-attached consultation on your case today.