Most people know Social Security as a federal program that provides retirement income. Another important part of the social insurance provided by Social Security is for people who suffer disabling injuries that prevent them from working in whole or in part. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are designed to help replace income lost following the disability.
The process of getting approved for these types of payments can be confusing and complicated. The Social Security Administration is a massive bureaucracy that must review millions of claims each year. While it’s not required, having an attorney represent you on a Social Security disability claim can make a big difference.
The two disability programs, SSDI and SSI, are similar in how they work, but they focus on recipients facing different circumstances. SSDI covers people who have earned “work credits” by paying into the Social Security system through their jobs over time. If you have those credits, you qualify for SSDI coverage. SSI, on the other hand, is income-based and designed to help people of lesser means, including older adults or children.
Qualification for the programs requires that you have an injury or illness that is defined by the Social Security Administration as a disability. Learn more about the five-step criteria used by the agency to make that determination here. You generally will receive monthly SSDI or SSI payments if your disability keeps you from working for a year or more. The benefits last until you are able to work again regularly.
You can apply online, by telephone, or in person. The information you are asked to provide will be fairly straightforward. It includes information about you, your medical disability, and your work history. You will also have to provide certain important documents, such as a birth certificate or a W-2.
You are not required to use an attorney to apply for Social Security disability — but it could help the process go more smoothly for you. The attorneys at Goodman Acker have extensive experience in both submitting Social Security disability claims and addressing appeals should the claims get denied. We understand the significant issues and can steer you in the direction of success.
Legal fees paid to Social Security disability attorneys are regulated by federal law. The most important thing for you to know is that under the Social Security Act, attorneys get paid only if the claim is resolved in your favor. If you do not win your claim, then your attorney receives $0. This is what’s known as working on a contingent fee basis.
The fees are not open-ended. Under the law, in the case of a successful claim, attorneys can collect either 25% of the value of your back-pay award, or $6,000, whichever is less, according to an article on the Social Security Administration’s website. Some cases can get fairly complex and require multiple hearings, appeals, or action in federal court. Under certain circumstances, your attorney may seek payment in excess of $6,000, but this would have to be approved by the Social Security Administration.
The fees are typically withheld by the Social Security Administration and paid directly to the attorney, so you do not have to worry about coming up with that amount out of pocket.
Social Security requires pre-approval of any fee arrangements. Under the law, you and your attorney must prepare a fee agreement detailing the terms of your representation. Social Security expects the fee agreement to be signed and submitted for approval before the date of the first favorable decision. According to the Social Security website on fee agreements, if that doesn’t happen, then Social Security either assumes the attorney will submit a petition later or is waiving the fee.
Fee agreements can and do get rejected at times. One of the more common reasons, according to Social Security, is if the agreement includes a clause with language that guarantees an attorney a minimum amount.
The number fluctuates year over year, but in general, Social Security only grants initial awards in about a third of the cases filed — the other two-thirds are rejected. According to the annual Social Security disability statistical report, claims can be denied if the SSA determines, for instance, that your disability won’t last for 12 months or that you are suffering from an impairment that it does not consider severe. Another factor is a situation where you are impaired, but the people judging your case disagree with the evidence you present and believe that you can perform your typical line of work or another type of work.
The SSDI and SSI programs allow for several layers of appeal. You can ask the administration for a reconsideration, seek a hearing before an administrative law judge, appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council, or go to federal court.
It’s a lot for any individual, much less someone with a disability, to keep track of all this, which is why obtaining the counsel and support of attorneys such as Goodman Acker of Detroit can help guide you through the process.
The stress of disability can feel overwhelming at times, and it’s even worse if you cannot work to support yourself. Let the attorneys at Goodman Acker, with offices in Detroit and Grand Rapids, help you get the compensation you deserve. We will provide the counsel you need to submit an accurate and factual Social Security disability claim. We will fight for your rights to the fullest extent, even if it requires an appeal.
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