In the United States, 86% of the people currently receiving Social Security Income qualified due to blindness or a disability. Receiving approval of your disability case is difficult, confusing, and lengthy. Only about 36% receive approval on the initial application, and 13.8% on their request for reconsideration.
Even with those disappointing statistics, the national level for approval at the Administrative Hearing level is 62%, and about 40% that go to Federal Court win their case.
Read on for information on improving your chance of being awarded benefits the first time you apply.
Requirements to Receive Benefits
To receive Social Security benefits there are several levels of qualification you must meet.
- Work Credits—you must have earned enough work credits
- Disability—you must provide medical records that prove you have a disability
- SSA Disability Definition—your disability must meet the SSA criteria to qualify for benefits
You must meet the qualifications for all areas, and each section has variations within it.
You earn work credits by paying FICA taxes through your paycheck. Each year you work you earn between 1 to 4 credits, based on your income level. The number of work credits necessary to receive disability benefits depends on your age.
In 2019 one credit was earned for every $1,360 in wages. A total of $5,440 in wages provides the maximum 4 credit yearly allowance.
Most people require 40 work credits, with the final 20 credits being earned within the past 10 years. Those who become disabled at a younger age will be able to qualify with fewer credits:
- Age 23 and younger—6 credits within the past 3 years of your disability
- Age 24-31—you must have credit for half the time between age 21 and your disability, i.e. at age 27 you need 12 credits (3 years of work) to qualify
- Age 31-42—20 credits necessary to qualify
- Age 43 and older—you need 21 credits to qualify at age 43, and for every year after that, you need to add 1 credit (age 44 = 22 credits, age 45 = 23 credits, etc.)
Maintaining a strong work record is very helpful in receiving approval for disability income.
You must have medical records that document your disability. A good reference is the Social Security Disability Blue Book listing, which provides information on gathering evidence, filling out forms, and submitting all necessary records. Even though you submit medical records to Social Security with your application, they will also request records from your doctor.
SSA Disability Definition
To receive a favorable determination Social Security must find you unable to perform work you did prior to your disability and also unable to do alternative work. Your disability must have an anticipated duration of 12 months or result in death.
When applying for Social Security disability the one important factor in receiving approval is knowing what to say on your paperwork. A large portion of whether or not you receive approval is based on your disability interview and/or the application you fill out.
A solid, detailed description of your condition, work activity, and medical history will allow a claims examiner to make a favorable determination on your case. This is not the time to downplay the impact your disability has on your life. Your application must show in detail the medical and/or mental impairments, medication side effects, and your inability to function at work as a result of those impairments.
Once Social Security receives your application for disability benefits it will take approximately 3-5 months to receive a determination. If your application receives approval you will begin receiving benefits. If you receive a denial, there are appeal steps that can be taken.
Work History Questionnaire
If your disability examiner requires you to complete a work history questionnaire, you must provide information in detail. You need to give a full description of all duties you did at each job you worked at for more than three months.
The claims examiner is making a determination on your skill level and the physical demands of your work during the 15 years prior to your disability. Social Security disapprovals are made after consideration of an applicant’s work history, age, education, and medical impairments.
Once you receive a denial you have 60 days to file an appeal. This can be a lengthy and confusing process. If you do not already have a disability lawsuit attorney this is the time to obtain one. If you fail to meet the 60-day deadline you will need to repeat the entire application process.
Your notice will include the reason for denial. Your disability lawyer will review the denial and paperwork from your original application to determine appropriate appeal steps.
Reconsideration is the first appeal level. The 60-day appeal timeframe begins five days after the date on your determination notice. The appeal must be in writing or on form SSA 561 or SSA-789.
You will not appear in person on this appeal. You and your attorney will receive a written determination in the mail.
If the reconsideration hearing results are unfavorable, your next level of appeal is an administrative law judge hearing. The request for the ALJ hearing must be in writing or on form HA-501. The 60-day deadline countdown begins five days following the notice date.
An administrative law judge hearing is a court hearing. It has its own set of legal rules and procedures that are similar to a standard courtroom. Preparation requires the filing of pre-hearing written statements or briefs, witness and evidence lists, requesting witness subpoenas, and more.
Failing to follow administrative law specific court procedures can negatively impact your disability case. If your case includes an administrative hearing, your chance of success increases considerably when using an attorney who has disability law knowledge.
Filing an appeal in writing or on Form HA-520 to the Appeals Council is the step following an unfavorable administrative law judge finding. The same 60-day deadline to file applies. You do not appear in court on this appeal.
The Appeals Council will review the matter and either grant and make a decision, grant and remand to the ALJ, deny, or dismiss your appeal. Their decision will be sent to you and your attorney in the mail.
If the Appeals Council determination is not favorable, you may appeal the matter to the Federal District Court. Your attorney will file a lawsuit following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This appeal must be filed in federal court within 60 days of the Appeal Council determination.
The District Court will review your appeal, all evidence, and the decisions made during the course of action. The District Court will then issue their ruling, which may include:
- Instructing Social Security to award you benefits
- Ordering the Administrative Law Judge to conduct a new hearing
- Dismissing your claim
The written determination will be sent in writing to your attorney.
Improve Your Chances
The one most critical factor in receiving a successful disability case determination is hiring an attorney to help you every step of the process. A Sweet Law Group attorney will review your application, medical records, and all other documents to make sure they are complete before submitting to Social Security. In the event of a denial, we are familiar with the appeal process.
If you are in need of Social Security disability benefits contact the Sweet Law Group to schedule a 100% free consultation. We have a 98% success rate and 40 years of experience in getting you the benefits you need and deserve. Fill out our online form or call us at 800-674-7854 to schedule your consultation today.