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1) I was denied for Social Security before seeing a judge, now what?

Most people who apply for Social Security disability benefits are denied. If your claim was denied, you need to appeal the denial before the deadline or you may have to begin the application process all over again. In general, you have sixty (60) days to appeal a denial.

2) What type of disability claims does Social Security recognize?

There are five major types of claims SSA allows you to file for:
- SSDI (Social Security Disability Benefits)
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- DWB (Disabled Widow or Widower’s Benefits)
- Childhood Disability Benefits
- Children’s Supplemental Security Income

3) How does the Social Security Administration evaluate my disabilities?

The Social Security Act establishes a five-step process for deciding whether a claimant is disabled. During your initial application for Social Security disability benefits, you authorize the release of information from your doctors so that the Social Security Administration can gather the evidence necessary to evaluate your case. Under the five-step process, the Social Security Administration asks:

a) Are you performing substantial gainful activity (SGA)? In other words, are you working too much to qualify for disability benefits? You cannot qualify for Social Security benefits unless you have worked under certain levels for at least a full year or you are expected to work under those levels for at least a full year.

b) Is your medical condition severe? In other words, does your physical or mental health condition(s) interfere with your ability to work to such a degree that you cannot do even sedentary level type of work?

c) Does your medical condition meet or equal a listing? In other words, is your condition on the list of medical conditions that are so severe that you “automatically” qualify for benefits. A list of impairments qualifying an adult for a listing win is available on the official Social Security Administration website.

Note: while the Social Security Administration refers to “automatically qualifying” for benefits, determining whether your condition meets the severity required under this step is a judgment that is often very difficult to make. Even if you do not qualify for a listing word-for-word, there are ways of arguing that your medical condition is equivalent in severity to a listed impairment.

d) Are you capable of performing your past relevant work? Are you able to do any type of work you have done in the past fifteen years or in the fifteen years before the date you were last insured for benefits? Again, this is a complicated analysis involving how you performed the work, how the work is generally performed, the skills required by the work, how long the work lasted, how much money you made performing the work, and other factors.

e) Are you capable of performing other work in the national and regional economy? In other words, taking into account your age, educational background, past work, and any transferable skills gained from that past work, are you capable of performing types of work different from the type of work you have performed in the past 15 years? Again, this is a complicated analysis, involving the consideration of jobs that you may never have heard of or that are not available locally.

4) How long does the disability process take?

It depends on the circumstances. In order to have a successful disability case you may have to appeal an unfavorable decision multiple times. Usually it takes about six months for the initial review of your case and if it gets denied another six months is spent on the reconsideration level. If you get denied on the reconsideration level you can appeal for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. A rough timeline from the date of your request for a hearing until the decision by the Administrative Law Judge is about a year.
Should the Judge rule unfavorably you may appeal that decision to the Appeals Council. That usually takes about 9-12 months. If the Appeals Council rules unfavorably you can sue the Administration in Federal Court.

5) How do I pay for an attorney if I can barely make ends meet?

Our firm does not charge any costs up front and we do not collect ANY fee unless you win. If you win a disability case we get paid based off of your back pay and only 25% of it (up to $6,000). If you win a disability case and there is no back pay we do not pursue your future benefits so they are yours to keep!

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