Navigating a Disability Claim  


If you have a mental or physical disability that severely impedes your ability to work and is affecting your quality of life, you may be eligible for a disability claim. Simply put, a disability claim is a request for supplement income that is filed with Social Security. At a cursory glance, disability claims are overwhelming, confusing, and difficult, so if you’re pursuing a disability claim, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Types of disability claims

The two primary types of disability claims are Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security income (SSI). Each has different eligibility requirements and disburses funds for different reasons. SSDI is funded primarily through Social Security taxes. You’re eligible if you’re considered disabled by the Social Security Administration’s standards and you possess a significant history of paying Social Security taxes. SSDI eligibility also requires that you’re unable to make more than $1,180 per month and that your condition renders you unable to work for a year-long period

While SSI seems similar to SSDI, it’s only managed by the Social Security Administration, not funded. Instead, the general tax fund provides financing. As a result, there are no work requirements for SSI eligibility. To qualify, you must meet the same standard of permanent disability set forth by Social Security. But SSI offers needs-based benefits, meaning you must be under a certain income threshold to maintain eligible status. This varies between families and unmarried individuals, so make sure you’re under the proper threshold before applying.

Filing a claim

If you’re ready to file a claim, you’ll do it yourself or via a disability advocate. Be prepared to prove that you will be unable to work for at least a year, or that you meet the Social Security Administration’s standards of permanent disability. Also be prepared to provide supporting documents from your physician stating their opinion on your case, which confirms the existence of your disability as well as its severity.

The claims process generally breaks down into five stages. These stages are initial, reconsideration, hearing, appeals council hearing, and Federal District Court appeal. The initial stage will see you filing either an SSI or SSDI claim for review. Claims can be filed online, at a local Social Security office, or by telephone.

Your initial claim will typically be approved or denied within three to five months after it’s submitted. If denied, there’s a set period of time in which you’re able to file for reconsideration. If denied a second time, you then request a hearing. Pending an Administrative Law Judge’s decision, you can file with the Social Security appeals council. If the council decides against you, your final step is to appeal the Federal District Court.

Seeking legal counsel 

Statistically speaking, nearly 60 percent of applicants are denied in the initial stage. An overwhelming 85 percent of applicants are further denied in reconsideration. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to misrepresent yourself or your case when filing a disability claim. Your best bet for a successful claim is to seek out a disability lawyer or Social Security Disability attorney before diving into the application process.

If you’re concerned about finances, don’t worry. Most disability attorneys won’t collect fees unless you win your case. This is known as hiring them on a contingency basis. Instead of an hourly retainer, you’ll pay them an agreed-upon percentage of your claim. Typically, this is 25 percent but won’t go any higher than $6,000.

Come prepared

Regardless of whether or not you seek legal assistance, it’s important to do your homework before filing a disability claim. The process is lengthy and more than a little complex. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Come prepared with the correct information and know what you hope to gain from your disability claim. That way, you’re much more likely to have a successful claim and receive the supplemental income you need.

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