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Social Security Disability Attorney In Los Angeles


This is NOT legal advice. This blog provides general information about Social Security Disability cases. To discuss your particular

circumstances and claim, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please feel free to contact Disability Advocates Group at (800) 935-3170

or online if you have any questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim.


DAG Blog

Stay up to date on the latest news in social security disability law.

Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected?

Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected? Social Security: How are your FICA taxes collected?

Disappointment and happiness rarely come together, but most of the U.S. employees face this kind of  emotion at least once in their lives. This is when you receive your paychecks only to see a deduced net amount from all kinds of federal taxes. These taxes include the social security and Medicare taxes.

Although listed separately in the details on your paycheck, the taxes collected through social security tax and Medicare taxes go to the same funding. Also called payroll taxes jointly and less commonly known as the FICA taxes, these taxes are the driving force behind all your social security benefits.

The U.S. government has made it mandatory upon everyone to pay these taxes if they earn an income under the substantial gainful activity, SGA. For self-employed people the taxes are collected under a separate program also under the federal rule, the Self-employed Contribution Act Tax, SECA.

How are FICA taxes collected?

For people working under employers, the employers would automatically collect these taxes from your paycheck before paying you the net amount. Most of the social security and Medicare taxes make up almost 7.5% of their total salary amount, also known as FICA taxes. The funds first go to the Internal Revenue Service, IRS before being transferred to the Social Security Funds.

On the other hand, people who are self-employed, owning businesses or not working under a social security tax paying employer, must pay and report the taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, IRS themselves.

How much taxes you owe to FICA?

FICA taxes are mandatory for every employed individual as mentioned above. The rates are set annually but may not necessarily change each year. The tax rates remained stable between 2013 to 2019 with the rates as follows:

  • 2% of the employees paycheck goes to Social Security;
  • 45% of the employees paycheck goes to Medicare;
  • Employers contribute a total of 12.4% of a professional’s earnings containing the 6.2% of the Social Security taxes within;

Hence, FICA taxes represent a 7.5% of the payroll earnings with an income base limit as $132,900 annually, as of 2019.  Any income above that amount will not be subject to taxes. Also, Medicare taxes do not have any income limits. Hence, all income amounts will be subject to Medicare taxes with marginal rates matching the income. The Medicare tax rates vary between 1.45% (minimum) to a 2.9% (maximum).

There is also a Medicare surcharge tax which must be paid directly by the employee instead of the employer. Any individual earning above $200,000 annually must pay an additional 0.9% of the extra income to the Medicare taxes as surcharge tax.

Let’s face this: Nobody is thrilled to have such huge cuts made through their payrolls. But this is the only engine that drives your social security benefits when you need them. Also, if you or your employer fail to pay these taxes you may not qualify for the social security claims in the first place.

For more information on FICA taxes and social security, you may contact a social security attorney.

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Can you be denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

substantial gainful activity, ssdi denied Denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

The Social Security Disability is an insurance program funded solely by the social security taxes under Federal Insurance Contributions Act, FICA. Although almost every working person paying social security taxes is eligible to file for social security claims, that is not the only way the applications are analyzed for the final approval. You would need to prove to the SSA that your earnings are below the monthly income thresholds stated by the SSA under substantial gainful activity, SGA.

Substantial Gainful Activity

To qualify for social security disability benefits you must be able to prove to the SSA that you are unable to perform work under substantial gainful activity.

Each individual will have their own measure of substantial gainful activity depending on the severity of their impairment. A person will Alzheimer’s will be analyzed on different grounds than a person with lost limbs.

The SSA will also look into national average wage index while calculating your substantial gainful activity. This is because the cost-of-living may vary state to state making it necessary for the SSA to perform cost-of-living assessments, COLA.

The monthly income threshold for statutorily blind individuals for 2019 is $2040. For non-blind individuals the monthly income thresholds under substantial gainful activity, SGA is $1220.

Will you be denied social security due to substantial gainful activity?

Yes, if you are working and earn a monthly gross income above the thresholds stated by the SSA then you will straight away be denied without even considering your medical eligibility. This is because income limits is the first thing the SSA takes into account while analyzing an application for the social security claims.

With that being said, there may be some exceptions to the rule such as a low income limit where the person may be able to earn in another type of job that doesn’t needs work in their impairment areas. For instance, a person previously working as a truck driver may not be able to continue sufficient work as the truck driver after a severe accident but may be able to work as a clerk and earn substantial gross income. Similarly, a person earning above income thresholds may not necessarily be considered working under substantial gainful activity, SGA. For instance, a person may be working as an accountant and earning high incomes while on dialysis. In such cases, the person would not be considered working under SGA as they may be highly compensated to complete the task at hand, for example, by providing them permission to take outside help, delay deadlines or hire a freelancer to complete their bookkeeping tasks.

What happens if you have already been approved for SSDI benefits?

You may already be receiving benefits by being eligible for social security medically and non-medically. However, whether you decided to go back to work or started to have improved symptoms of your impairments, you can continue to receive your benefits as long as you earn within the substantial income thresholds. On the other hand, your benefits will be cancelled if your monthly gross income limits exceed as stated under the substantial gainful activity.

You may consult a disability attorney for more details.

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Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed?

Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed? Social Security Disability: How are my benefits taxed?

The Social Security benefits are governed under the federal rule and are mostly funded by the social security taxes collected through the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, FICA.

The benefits taxable under social security taxes may include but are not limited to monthly retirement, survivor and disability benefits. They would not be considered for benefits you receive on behalf of a dependent, such as an ex spouse collecting benefits for the minor child of the disabled person. Also the supplemental security income, SSI would not be considered for taxation. This is because SSI is granted vigorously on only need-based basis. So people who could not afford taxes are actually those who are mostly granted the SSI in the first place.

How are my benefits taxed?

The amount of benefits on which you are taxed would solely depend on the amount of income you earn. This income would only be considered if it is being earned by you through work or some assets such as mortgage. However, any other income contributed to the household by other means, such as income from another family member or income from a trust named after your children would never be considered for social security taxation.

Also, a tip to reduce the amount of taxes on your social security if you are married is to file your taxes as joint filers instead of as individuals. This means that if you are married and are a joint filer, then the percentage of social security taxation would be almost 10-15% of 50% of your benefits provided that the total annual income for both of you is less than $44,000. Couples with higher incomes such as those with annual income thresholds above $44,000 would be subject to a 30-35% on 85% of the social security benefits.

Similarly, the amount of social security taxation on individual filers would depend on their marginal incomes instead of a direct percentage of their social security benefits. For instance, if you are an individual tax filer with an annual income below $25,000 then you may simply be exempted from social security taxation. For income between $25,000 to $35,000 with an approximate monthly income between $2084 and $2833, you will be taxed almost 30-35% on 50% of your benefits. However, if you have a higher monthly income above $2834 leading to an annual income threshold above $25,000 then you may be subjected to higher taxes such as 30-35% on 85% of your social security benefits.

The tax rates for any of the income thresholds and tax statuses (single filer or joint filer) will be the same as any other federal tax rate.

Higher taxes on lump sums

You may receive a lump sum or backpay payments in instances where you were disabled but not yet approved to receiving benefits. In this case, if you do qualify for social security eventually, you may be facilitated for the months you were not provided the socials security benefits. These benefits will be paid in a single lump sum. Therefore, the larger sum would be subject to a larger taxation. However, the tax rates on the lump sum would be the federal tax rates that applied to other people during the year or months your benefits were not yet granted (due to the reason stated above).

State taxations on social security insurance benefits

Almost every state has its own laws governing social security taxes. While some states may never subject social security disability insurance benefits to taxation. You may consult a social security attorney to find out your state’s taxation policies for social security benefits.

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What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI

What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI What are the non-medical requirements for SSDI

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI you would need to meet the eligibility for both medical and non-medical qualifications for SSDI. The most common reason for denial is not being able to meet the medical qualifications but an inability to meet the non-medical criteria. This happens simply because not many people are aware of it.

While you might be chronically ill and meet all the medical requirements, you may still be denied SSDI claims because you do not have enough work credits or haven’t paid the FICA taxes.

How does your work history affect SSDI qualification?

Ever wondered where does your hard earned money go when you receive deducted net salaries? You must have noticed that often the amount you receive in your monthly paycheck may always be lesser than the amount initially stated on your work contract from the employer. This is because many companies pay the social security taxes on their employees. In short, all individuals who work have FICA taxes deducted from their paychecks automatically.

Since the SSDI is an insurance program it is funded by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, FICA taxes collected from people who work and redistributed to those in need. If you pay FICA taxes, you basically pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance program. To be able to claim your social security you need to have worked and paid enough taxes into the system to retain coverage along with meeting the medical requirements.

How does your income impact your eligibility for SSDI?

The good news is, the SSDI does not consider the number of assets you may have or how much other family members contribute to the household, while analyzing your case for eligibility. The assets and income from other sources are only considered for the supplemental security income, SSI.

On the other hand, the SSA does take into account how much money you earn through your job. You can’t earn an income equal to or more than the income stated in the ‘substantial gainful activity’, or otherwise your claims would be straight away denied.

The specific dollar amount stated as substantial gainful activity in 2019 is $1220 for non-blind claimants  and $2040 for blind claimants. If your income is above the stated threshold, you will not be labeled as disabled by the SSA.

Talk to a social security attorney

An experienced social security attorney will be able to analyze whether you will qualify for social security on your medical and non-medical terms or not. While you can always re-appeal your claims if you think you are denied unjustly on medical basis, you can never re-appeal if you do not qualify under the non-medical requirements.

A disability lawyer can not only determine your eligibility but also guide you on how you can become eligible in certain situations. Hence, it is highly recommended that you consult with a social security attorney while submitting your application.

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Winning your social security disability hearing

Winning your social security disability hearing Winning your social security disability hearing

Almost 10 million Americans depend on social security disability claims each year. Unfortunately although disability applicants are shortlisted exclusively on eligibility requirements, they are awarded on the need-based basis amongst the pool of shortlisted claimants. This means that among the total number of applicants, only around 4.6% are actually awarded the claims.

The good news is, the initial rejection is not final. The SSA provides you various ways to re-appeal to their decision, if you think that your application was denied unjustly. One option to re-appeal is the administrative law judge, ALJ hearing.

Unlike other methods of the re-appeal, the hearing actually gives you a chance for direct representation in front of a local judge. This means that you can fully present your case without any chances of being misinterpreted or denial unjustly. This also imposes a greater responsibility to be the best representative of you to win the case.

Here are some common mistakes you may want to avoid in your ALJ hearing:

  • Over exaggerating

The hearing is the place where you need to fully represent yourself without sounding like a homeless person begging for some pennies for their day time meal. Yet many people simply over exaggerate their symptoms or sufferings that may only hurt their case. Remember, the judge may already have your medical documentations or physician statements, work records and educational documents in front of them. Over exaggerating or twisting those facts may simply lead to a quick denial of your claims due to incredibility of your statements.

  • Under statements

As opposed to over exaggerating, some claimants simply understate their symptoms or hide facts thinking that it may make them sound weak or appear as them whining. This situation may come off as negative in a hearing - such as an inability to wash or bathe themselves, or an inability to go to work being understated by the claimant, ‘Oh, it is not that severe, I can bathe myself if I want to’, ‘I can actually leave the house, my anxiety disorder appears less sometimes’; statements such as these may simply imply to the judge that your are completely fit to lead a normal life and hence deny your social security claims.

  • Inappropriate or naïve statements

The administrative law judge, ALJ may simply ask straight questions which should be answered honestly but also precisely. Providing unsolicited information or naïve statements may not only hurt your case but also deny future possibilities of your family getting any benefits under your record. Statements such as these may harm your case:

  • Oh my spouse is already receiving their benefits;
  • I had a problem with drugs once;
  • I have a small criminal record;
  • I forgot to follow my doctor’s prescriptions;
  • I can’t get to work because I don’t have a car;
  • I want to work in the town branch of my company but they are not hiring;

 

  • Vague or incomplete answers

Also, the ALJ is likely to inquire in-depth details about your impairment such as the density, frequency or time intervals of your symptoms. Answering those questions vaguely may simply lead to a denial. For instance, the ALJ asked you frequency of your panic attacks to which you answered, ‘Oh I get panicked all the time’.

  • Failing to represent yourself

Remember, a hearing is not a job interview where you need to hide your symptoms or overstate your physical disabilities. However, it is also not a peer-to-peer conversation that should be taken lightly. It is your best chance to represent yourself with truest specifics and honest replies to questions related to your situation. Many people fail to come up with an appropriate plan to represent themselves by going at it alone.

Hiring a social security attorney will not only help you prepare for your hearing but they may also represent you on your behalf for a better chance of a winning outcome.

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Social Security Disability benefits – widows, children and dependent parents

Survivor benefits for widows, children and dependent parents Survivor benefits for widows, children and dependent parents

The dependents of a disabled person who could qualify for social security would be eligible to receive social security benefits under survival benefits. The program works as a sub program of the social security disability insurance program under federal rule.

Having a low income budget due to a disabled parent is one thing, but having to wait for each penny after the disabled spouse’s death is too distressing for children or a spouse who couldn’t work. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration enables the dependents of a person who could qualify for social security, receive survival benefits on their record.

To qualify for a deceased spouse’s benefits as survivors (widows or widowers), you would not only need to meet certain requirements but also prove to the SSA that you are unable to gain work under substantial gainful activity, SGA. Whatever the reason for you unable to work, you must be able to prove that medically. Also, the disease or disability should or be expected to last atleast 12 months from the period of its initial onset.

When can you apply for survivor’s benefits?

  • You can file for survivor benefits as soon as the spouse dies provided you meet the requirements as stated above. Although you can apply at any age, if you apply before the age of 60 your benefits will be reduced to a 70% as compared to if you delay the benefits until you reach full retirement age (66 or above, 50 if disabled);
  • You can file for a 100% benefits amount if you are above 50 and disabled;
  • You care for a minor child;

In addition to the benefits, you will also receive a one-time death benefit payment of $255 at the time of death, provided that you were still married with the deceased spouse at the time of death. However, you will not receive any survivor benefits in the first month of death of the deceased due to the SSA’s criteria of determining eligibility of a spouse as eligible survivors.

Also, if you remarry or are divorced and are not caring for any minor or disabled child of the deceased person – then, you may not receive any survivor benefits.

Survivor benefits calculation

If you and your spouse both had begun benefits claims, then the benefit with higher claims will continue as survivor benefits and the lower one will be stopped after the death of the other spouse.

If the couple hadn’t already started the benefits, then the higher earner of the two may wait until they reach 66 or above until age 70 to maximize their benefits. This would turn into a higher survivor benefit after their death.

You may contact a social security attorney for more details.

 

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Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits?

Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits? Social Security Disability: How to earn work credits?

Work credits are your gateway to social security. You earn work credits when you earn sufficient income to translate into a work credit each year, with a limitation of only 4 work credits each year. The amount you earn and the social taxes you pay, enables you to qualify for social security claims when needed.

The number of credits you need to qualify may not always be 40. It also depends on your age and the age in which you become disabled.

How do you earn one work credit?

The Social Security Administration, SSA calculates your work credits based on your income wages and the amount of social security taxes you pay each year. Your wage actually translates into work credits until you have reached a maximum of 40 credits needed at your retirement age (62 or above).

The amount required to earn one work credit is $1360 in 2019, an increase of $40 from year 2018 which was $1320. This means that in 2019, an earning amount of $1360 would translate into one work credit with a maximum of 4 work credits that could be earned each year. Hence to earn a total of 4 work credits in a year, you would need to earn at least $5440 in 2019.

Special rules

Although the rules stated above may stay the same for working people, it may have some relaxation for younger people, survivors of a spouse who had less work credits, veterans, children or people who don’t have retirement benefits.

SSDI eligibility for people between 31 to 42

People born after the year 1929, and between the age 31 to 42 may only need up to 23 work credits as long as half of those credits were earned within the last half of their working years followed up by the disability. For instance, if you are 38 and earned $15000 in the last 10 years, then $7500 need to have been earned within the last 5 years after which you became disabled.

Self-employed

Although not all jobs may qualify for social security benefits, self-employed people may always earn work credits translated through the same process as long they are earning within the federal rules. Also, you can only earn up to 4 work credits each year no matter how much you earn above that amount (as stated above).

Veterans

Military people or veterans would also qualify for work credits the same way as civilians do – although some may even earn extra credits depending on their situation and the SSA’s decision.

 

Other

For people with unconventional occupations or jobs that aren’t listed in the social security disability occupational lists, you would need to contact a Social Security Examiner from the SSA or a social security attorney to provide you legal guidance. Also, it is imperative to note that even if these jobs are unconventional, it doesn’t eliminate you fully from qualifying for social security. There are always exceptions and these jobs may include but are not limited to:

  • Farmers;
  • Poultry workers;
  • Truck drivers;
  • Domestic work;
  • Working for a church;
  • Working for an organization or a non-governmental organization, NGO that doesn’t pay social security taxes;

Whatever your case, you may contact our social security attorney for more queries.

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Disability claimants at age 50-54, will your benefits be denied?

Disability claimants aged 50-54 Disability claimants aged 50-54

Disability claimants at age 50-54, will your benefits be denied?

In addition to looking towards the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of medical impairments, the SSA examiner will also look into a person’s physical incapability such as age, education, relevant skills and work experience in an RFC form to decide their disability case.

However, apart from the above the SSA may also determine your case through the ‘grid rules’ – these are a series of labels or conditions that the SSA would decide on whether to grant or deny a disability claim. For people aged between 50-54 this might not be the best bet but it is an option. Also this is still yet another way to win or lose your claims, this is not the final conclusion – even if the grid denies the disability claims of a person aged 50-54, they might still win the case through the exertion level strategy:

Exertion levels and how are they determined

Since the SSA labels people aged between 50-54 as closely approaching advanced age, they are also analyzed differently for each exertion level. The SSA has specific rules to analyze people in this age group.

For each age group, the grid is divided by exertional levels; that is, what level of work an applicant's RFC (residual functional capacity assessment) states that an applicant can do. The different RFC levels are for work at the following levels:

  • sedentary
  • light
  • medium
  • heavy, and
  • very heavy

Grid Rules for people aged at 50-54

The SSA matches a decision to a person’s skill set and education level accordingly for people aged 50-54 as below:

Sedentary Work RFC

  • Disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with no skills and no work;
  2. Completed 11th grade or less with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  3. High school graduate or higher with no skills and no work;
  4. High school graduate or higher with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  • Not disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with skilled or semiskilled work but transferable skills;
  2. High school graduate or higher with skilled or semi-skilled work but transferable skills;
  3. Recent education that provides entry into higher skilled work, whether semiskilled or skilled work or even transferable or untransferable;

Limited and Medium Work RFC

  • Disabled
  1. Illiterate or unable to communicate in English, unskilled or no work;
  • Not disabled
  1. Completed 11th grade or less with no skills and no work;
  2. Completed 11th grade or less with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  3. High school graduate or higher with no skills and no work;
  4. High school graduate or higher with semiskilled or skilled work but untransferable skills;
  5. Completed 11th grade or less with skilled or semiskilled work but transferable skills;
  6. High school graduate or higher with skilled or semi-skilled work but transferable skills;
  7. Recent education that provides entry into higher skilled work, whether semiskilled or skilled work or even transferable or untransferable;

Heavy Work RFC

If your prior job was a heavy work then subsequently your RFC would also be a heavy work. This means that if you were able to do heavy work then you will also be able to perform medium, light and sedentary work on your skill set. So wining a disability claim on your physical impairments for a heavy work RFC may not be possible.

However, if you are aged between 50-54 and are able to prove to the SSA that you are unable to perform due to other conditions such as inability to focus due to Post-traumatic stress disorder or unable to stoop due to chronic back pain, then you may as well win the claim.

The grid rules may be a tough tool to crack. You may consult a disability attorney for specified help on your case.

 

 

 

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Applying for disability if you are under age 50

Disability benefits for aged under 50 Disability benefits for aged under 50

Applying for disability if you are under age 50

Just like retirement benefits, the disability benefits are also seen as giving maximized benefits after they have matured. Although the Social Security Administrations requires a person to have sufficient work credits (40 work hours) to be eligible to claim the disability benefits, it is very difficult but not impossible to claim the disability benefits at a younger age.

For people under the age of 50, it may be harder to get disability benefits than an older person. However, some exceptions may apply to the rule if the situation is dire enough for the claimant as determined by the Social Security Administration, SSA.

Blue Book medical impairments and eligibility

One of the essential conditions of winning a disability claim is being able to prove that your disability is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book of medical impairments. The Blue Book’s listings are a group of medical impairments that the SSA will approve automatically for disability as long as the requirements of the listing are fully met.

If you meet the requirements of a listing (for instance, you have childhood cancer or lost limbs), it doesn't matter what age you are -- you can get disability benefits. However, winning a claim based on the listing can be difficult because of the detailed requirements needed to meet the listings.

 Falling under the SSA ‘grids’

Grids are SSA’s criteria of determining if a person can be labeled as disabled due to physical impairments other than medical conditions. The SSA determines this by looking at the person’s age, education, prior work experience and skills sets through an RFC form. If these physical impairments or conditions limit a person’s ability to perform work then they may be considered eligible under disability claims regardless of their age.

However, even if a person is granted the status of completely fit through their RFC, they can still be considered under the level of education. If you are younger than 50 and have limited or no education or if you or your loved one is unable to speak or communicate in English then they may be granted the disability benefits depending on their situation.

Challenging the SSA ‘grids’

For individuals younger than 50 between the age 18-49, they would directly be labeled as not disabled under the ‘grids’ methods. However, this is not the final conclusion. You can still win your disability claims if your attorneys present your case well. If you have any of these impairments then you can appeal for reconsideration for your case through the help of an attorney:

Exertional impairments

Limitations such as these can signicantly limit your ability to learn new skills or perform sufficient work under substantial gainful activity:

  • lift
  • carry
  • push
  • pull
  • stand
  • walk, or
  • sit.

Non-Exertional impairments

Activities or mental activities, such as using your fingers, bending, stooping, following directions, or getting along with others are considered under non-exertional impairments. Although they are not necessarily physical, they do affect a person’s capabilities sufficiently. If you have a non-exertional impairment that relates to your mental function, the SSA will prepare a mental RFC.

If you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s and think that you deserve to be granted disability benefits for your impairments, you may contact an attorney to help you on the case.

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How limited education or illiteracy may be considered as eligibility for disability claims

Levels of education and disability claims Levels of education and disability claims

Many people in America never consider of their education as a privilege. Although it is an ingrained right to every citizen, some people may not be educated due to many unavoidable circumstances such as insufficient resources, disease, sickness, family business such as farmers or abusive childhoods such as trafficking or parents not letting the child go to school.

Some disability applicants, although older come to us with no disease but an inability to get jobs to support themselves due to illiteracy or not enough education. Even when these people could perform some king of work in ‘undemanding jobs’, it may not be enough for them to run the household or care for a child (if any).

Most of these type of applicants do not possess high school diplomas, cannot read or write or cannot even communicate in English such as immigrants from urban towns of Europe since world war II.

When considering an applicant’s claim, the first step of the SSA examiner is to look for ‘medical disabilities’. If the claimant does not meet the list of impairments, the SSA would look further to see if the applicant’s physical health prohibits them from performing sufficient work. The SSA would calculate the claimant’s residual functional capacity to see whether they fit into the category of disabled.

Educational levels of claimants

These are the most common educational levels used by the SSA to decide a person’s capability in RFC:

  • Limited or little education;

If the claimant attended school up to the grades between 7th and 11th grade, the SSA labels their education as limited. A person with limited educational background will have some skills such as reasoning, math ability and language skills but do not possess the necessary qualifications to gain a full time job. For instance, a 54 year old man was granted disability benefits on his claims on arthritis and insufficient education. Though he worked prior to the arthritis in a marble factory, his disability and illiteracy now made it impossible to gain a standard job to fulfill his needs.

  • Mediocre or marginal;

If the claimant’s did not study further than grade 6, their education level is defined as marginal by the SSA. A person with marginal education can only perform in unskilled jobs.

  • Illiterate or no education;

A claimant with no education or an ability to read or write anything let alone their own name are considered as illiterate by the SSA. Although an illiterate person can find work in sedentary jobs or ‘undemanding fields’ such as coal mines, crane drivers etc, the illiteracy combined with some kind of minor disability such as lumbar pain makes it impossible for them to perform work.

  • Unable to speak or communicate in English;

Since English is the national and official language in the US, almost every job requires a person to be able to speak English to be able to perform at work. A claimant unable to read, write or speak in English may be considered for disability benefits by the SSA but it doesn’t guarantee that their claim would always be approved.

The SSA would look into how far the claimant went to school, their educational levels and high school grades, teacher’s remarks (if any) etc. If the claimant was a special child, it would be necessary to be able to provide documental proof to the SSA that the child attended a special education program.

This is just an overview of how a limited or no education may enable a person to claim disability benefits. You can consult a professional disability attorney for more guidance.

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What is your residual functional capacity, RFC and how is it determined

Determining residual functional capacity Determining residual functional capacity

What is your residual functional capacity, RFC and how is it determined

The Social Security Administration will not only determine disability benefits on your disability and medical evidence but also look into the details of your work functionalities – whether you are able to work or how much your disability prevents you from working – the SSA looks into all of this.

While determining whether the disability prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity, SGA, the SSA will calculate your Residual Functional Capacity, RFC. The SSA will also calculate how much work activity you can perform whether on a continuing or a regular basis i.e., if you are able to meet the 40 hour a week work requirement, in spite of your disability.

How is residual functional capacity determined?

If you are able to meet the minimum 40 hours a week work requirement and are mentally and physically fit enough to perform substantial gainful activity, SGA then your disability benefits claim will be denied. However, the SSA would determine if you are still capable of performing some sort of work to earn a living, depending on your age, education, physical fitness and prior work experience.

Unfortunately your social security disability claim would only be approved if you cannot perform work under substantial gainful activity, SGA.

How is level of capability determined?

Your physical residual functional capacity report determines if you are able to perform any kind of light, medium or hard work in spite your disability. Here are the various RFC levels that would appear in your RFC form to be evaluated by the SSA:

  • Sedentary work

This is the bare amount of work you could be doing to earn a living. This means that you cannot lift more than 10 pounds at one time but are able to lift or carry things such as files or small tools. A sedentary job does not require too much work standing or lifting heavy subject, it consists of activities that mostly require sitting and an ability to walk and stand occasionally, such as a clerk.

  • Light work

This is considered light work because it involves lifting up to 20 pounds of weight at one time or occasionally while also being able to lift 10 pounds or more frequently. Light work also requires frequent walking and standing, ability to push your arms and legs frequently. Also since you are able to perform light work you can also perform sedentary work.

  • Medium work

This is when you are able to lift up to 50 pounds at a time and you can frequently lift up or carry up to 25 pounds of weight. It would be obvious to state that if you can do medium work then you can also do light and sedentary work.

  • Heavy work

This is when you are able to lift up to 100 pounds at a time or occasionally, and that you can frequently lift or carry up to 50 pounds a week frequently. If you can perform heavy work then you are also able to perform sedentary, light and medium work.

  • Very heavy work

Any activity involving you to carry more than 100 pounds at one time and lift up or carry 50 pounds occasionally would be considered as very heavy work.

Apart from the levels of work, your RFC will also determine if you are able to stoop, bend your fingers and remember instructions given for a specific task.

If the disability examiner decides that you are unfit to continue work on your prior job they will look into whether you can perform work in another type of job depending on your current abilities and health status including age, education, skills and ability to learn new skills. If the disability examiner finds out that you are unfit to perform any kind of activity to gain substantial gainful work hours then you would be considered eligible for the disability benefits.

It can be a very difficult for you to think of and gather all the necessary points for your RFC. You can consult a disability attorney to provide you legal guidance specific to your situation.

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How does SSA determine your mental or physical ability to work

RFC forms by SSA RFC forms by SSA

How does SSA determine your mental or physical ability to work

To deem eligible for the disability benefits, the SSA would determine if you can perform substantial gainful activity, SGA through the Residual Functional Capacity, RFC.

Your RFC will be an assessment of your limitations and activities you can or cannot perform. You will have to prove to the SSA that you are unable to continue working or doing work without keeping up with work quality as in the past by filing and submitting the RFC form to the SSA.

To determine your capabilities, a disability claims examiner would analyze your roles in the past job and determine if you can still perform the same way. The disability examiner will work closely with a medical professional at the Disability Determination Services, DDS to analyze your capabilities.

How the RFC works?

For the vocational expert working together with a physician, it needs to be clear how your present impairments limit you from performing on your past jobs. For instance, if you worked at cargo and lifted 40 pounds of material daily, the exertion level of your past job is defined under medium difficulty. For your vocational expert or a physician to state that you are unable to continue that job, they would need medical evidence to prove that you can no longer lift more than 25 pounds on a regular basis let alone 40 pounds daily.

So, in addition to comparing your past and present capabilities regarding your job description the vocational expert or the administrative law judge, ALJ (in case of an ALJ hearing) would compare each capability function-to-function as stated in the RFC form.

How the job description or job title affects the RFC decision?

During your hearing, your disability attorney will ask you important details about your work, such as the job title, your main duties listed in the job description, and the physical exertion levels or requirements of the job, such as how much you were required to lift and how often, if the work involved pushing or pulling, how long you were on your feet, the number of hours you worked, and whether you were able to sit down or take a rest when needed.

So, it is imperative that the vocational expert uses the right titles for your job. The vocational expert would choose a title from the list of Dictionary of Occupational Titles, DOT that suits your job functionalities the best. However, similarly titled jobs may be having different descriptions from your work such as a clerk managing mails and notices in a company may be stated as secretary of mail duties in another. This will adversely affect your RFC application if the duties considered under a similarly titled job were never required of you at your workplace.

This situation is very common when claimants fail to understand the importance of communicating with their vocational experts openly and provide all the necessary details of their work place functionalities that they may consider trivial. It would matter a lot in your long-term application, so you should consider talking to a disability attorney to work closely with you and your vocational expert to make sure that your application is filed perfectly.

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Disability benefits for my parent with Dementia

disability benefits for my parent with dementia disability benefits for my parent with dementia

Seeing your parents not recognize you is bad enough emotionally – getting the disability benefits denied for them takes a lot of financial toll on the family too.

Although dementia patients develop the disability at a later stage in their lives, sometimes the disease can develop in your 50s as well. People with dementia slowly forget things and the worse thing is they don’t even remember that they are forgetting things.

Fortunately, patients with dementia who have learning, memory, concentration, or language problems can be granted the benefits if they meet the medical requirements in the Social Security Blue Book of medical eligibility requirements.

Dementia often affects a person’s integral mental functioning, including problems in taking care of oneself, memory loss, impaired judgment, language skills and more. The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s, head injury or a brain hemorrhage. Most of these symptoms last longer than a year and even get worse since it is a progressive and irrevocable disease.

If the disease prevents you from going to or performing at work for more than 12 months then you may qualify for social security disability in the list of mental impairments. Although the disease mostly develops at later stages in life as stated above, you can also apply for disability benefits even if you are not in your retirement age when the disease strikes. Once you reach the retirement age (62 to 67) your disability benefits would automatically be converted to retirement benefits.

How to know if you qualify for disability on dementia

The Social Security Administration will analyze your disability application through a thorough check of your medical records, physician statements and any other documental evidence you submitted with the application. If your symptoms meet the official list of disability impairments in the SSA’s Blue Book of impairments then you would be eligible to receive the benefits.

The list of impairments most commonly associated with dementia are listed under neurocognitive disorders. To meet the eligibility criteria, you need medical evidence to show that your disability meets the following criteria:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information;
  • Interact with others;
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace;
  • Adapt or manage oneself;
  • Delusions or hallucinations;
  • Disorganized thinking (speech); or
  • Grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia
  • Planning and judgment;
  • Learning and remembering (it can significantly affect performance at work and social life);

If your records indicate that you have extreme limitations in any of the following areas, the SSA will determine whether these symptoms have an adverse or severe affect on your mental health or lifestyle.

  • understanding, remembering, or using information (understanding instructions, learning new things, applying new knowledge to practical tasks)
  • concentrating on tasks and being able to complete tasks (at a reasonable pace)
  • adapting or managing oneself (being aware of normal hazards and taking appropriate precautions, adapting to changes, having practical personal skills), and
  • interacting with others

You will need to provide sufficient medical evidence to prove that these symptoms are serious and persistent i.e., you must have a medically documented history of the disease, diagnosis, symptoms and affects for the past 2 years. If the disease has just been diagnosed you can state so.

You can consult a social security attorney for more detailed guidance or call us at

800-935-3170

 

 

 

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Survivor benefits of a spouse of disabled person

survivor benefits of a spouse survivor benefits of a spouse

Although social security benefits may be your largest bet in terms of insurance amount that you could receive if and when a disability strikes – what matters more is how and when you claim these benefits could make a huge difference.

The most important point to note is when you claim your benefits at your full retirement age you will get full benefits without any reduced payouts or cuts in your benefits.

Many individuals act on friend’s advice regarding their social security benefits. Thankfully, many seek to confirm the advice given by their friends from the social security attorneys. This prevents them from losing a lot in their benefits. That is why our attorneys have compiled information regarding survivor’s benefits in this piece of article.

Here is how much amount the widow(ers)  would be entitled to in survivor benefits under specific roles:

Spouse

If the spouse of a person was entitle to and was receiving the SSDI benefits on their disability, then the widow or widower may be entitled to the benefits under survivor benefits. That would be true only if the spouse receiving SSDI benefits had a ‘currently insured’ status.

Although the widow or widower would almost always be entitled to some benefits as survivors also called ‘auxiliary benefits’ there are many ways in which they can claim it.

Here is how the spouse would change benefits under each role:

  • The widow or widower care for a child under the age of 16 years old who receives survivor SSDI benefits from the deceased spouse.
    • The widow(ers) will receive 75% of your deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • The widow(ers) are at least 50 years old and disabled, and your disability started before your spouse died or within seven years of the spouse’s death (unless they were receiving mother's or father's benefits).
    • The widow(ers) will receive 71.5% of your deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • The widow(ers) are at least 60 years old but not yet full retirement age.
    • The widow(ers) will receive 71.5% - 99% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • The widow(ers) are at least full retirement age.

 

Exceptions on surviving spouse’s benefits

  • The spouse remarried

If the spouse of the deceased person remarried before the age of 60 they would not be entitled to their ex-spouse’s benefits as widow(ers).

  • The spouse claimed his/her own social security benefits

In many cases, if the spouse of a deceased person may have 40 work credits on their own work record. Hence, they would be able to gain a much larger amount through their own benefits than through their spouse’s. The SSA administration or your attorney will automatically make sure that you receive larger benefits.

  • Working may reduce the benefits

If the surviving spouse is earning a living through a current job, then their survivor benefits from the deceased spouse’s social security may be reduced until they retire themselves.

  • Caring for a child affects the spouse’s benefits

If the surviving spouse was entitled to survivor benefits under child care such as in case of ex-spouses or widowers that remarried but are caring for the child of the deceased spouse, then they will only continue to receive the benefits until the child turns adult. If the child is disabled permanently then the spouse would continue to receive the benefits under child care until the child remains disabled.

  • The 9-month marriage condition

The SSA administration has made it a condition that in order to be eligible to receive benefits as survivors the marriage must have lasted at least 9 months in case of same citizenship of both spouses. In case of dual citizenship the surviving spouse would only be entitled if the marriage lasted to more than 10 years.

A few exceptions to this rule would be if the deceased spouse died in a sudden or violent accident.

It may be very complicated to know the right way to claim your benefits as survivors due to all the varying rules for each situation. You may talk to a social security attorney for a detailed guidance.

 

 

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Social security changes happening in 2019

Social Security changes in 2019 See what the year 2019 has brought to the social security

Social security changes happening in 2019

 The year 2019 will mark a lot of optimal changes for the social security beneficiaries. Good news is, even when some of the changes like an increase in taxable income seem doubtful as positive, most of the changes are in your favor!

Let’s dive in and learn what 2019 has brought to the social security beneficiaries:

  1. Beneficiaries are getting a raise!

Thanks to the cost-of-living, COLA adjustments, the Social Security Administration has decided to give beneficiaries a raise – the beneficiaries will be getting a 2.8% increase in the amount of the monthly disability benefits. The premium amount of an average person’s benefits will increase to almost $40 increasing from $1422 to $1461.

  1. Full retirement age will continue to rise

Sadly in many cases if you make the mistake of claiming your social security benefits before you reach the maximum age of retirement, you would lose a lot of amount in the process. Whereas, if you wait up till your retirement age (minimum 62 and maximum 67) you can get the maximum amount of benefits you could receive from the SSA.

  1. Social security disability thresholds are increasing

This is by far the best beneficiaries ever got. About 10 million Americans are on the receiving end of the Social Security benefits each year. The legally blind will now receive upto $2040 per month, a threshold raise of $70 per month since 2018. For the non-blind, the benefits threshold has raised to $1220 per month. The amount could be as great as $1461 in some cases.

  1. You can view your COLA notice details online

Previously many beneficiaries lost a lot of important notices from the SSA or were straight away denied benefits if the mail did not reach them. Although not responding to the SSA’s queries may still cancel the benefits, the beneficiaries may now view their notices and current benefit’s status online at mysocialsecurity.

*Note that notices would still be sent through mail for the year 2019, but beneficiaries will have the option to choose from online or mail notices from 2020.

  1. The $16,122 social security bonus

If you are still a few years ahead of your retirement and are working, then claiming your benefits before the retirement age i.e., 62 would cause you to lose $1 in benefits for every $2 your earn through work. Although in some cases you don’t have the option to delay claiming your benefits even at the cost of losing a substantial amount by claiming it before the age of retirement, this is for those who can still choose to wait before they claim their benefits.

Once you learn how to maximize your benefits, you would be able to earn that additional amount of up to $16,122 by choosing the right time to claim your benefits.

You can contact a professional social security attorney who can guide you to a lucrative strategy for claiming your benefits.

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Why SSDI Benefits are Earned Benefits

If you have become unable to work due to a severe long-term disability, you should apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Provided that you have worked long enough to earn a sufficient number of work credits, you should apply through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

You should not hesitate to apply for these benefits and to fight vigorously if your claim for benefits is denied because SSDI benefits are earned benefits. A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer will help you to do everything possible to make your case so you can obtain the benefits that you have worked hard to earn. 

SSDI Benefits are Earned Benefits -- And You Deserve to Receive Them

SSDI benefits are considered earned benefits because you earn eligibility for these benefits by paying into the Social Security Disability insurance system. This is very similar to the way in which you pay into the Social Security retirement system so you can get money from Social Security during your senior years. 

When you work, money is taken out of your paycheck specifically to fund the disability benefits program. This is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is funded through general funds rather than through dedicated payroll tax deductions.  The money you pay in for SSDI supports the program and is sort of like paying insurance premiums for which you get protection if you become disabled.

Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration denies many claims for SSDI benefits despite the fact you have earned eligibility by working. If you are severely disabled and you want help qualifying for the benefits that you earned, you should reach out to a Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer as soon as you can. 

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Understanding the Social Security Disability Appeals Process

If you have had your claim for Social Security Disability benefits denied, it is important that you understand how the appeals process works. A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can provide the help you need to navigate the process of appealing a benefits denial so you can maximize the chances of being able to obtain the income you need. 

How Does the Social Security Disability Appeals Process Work?

When you receive notification that your application for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied, you have a limited amount of time to take action. There are multiple different stages of appeals that your claim can ultimately end up going through, but the first step is to submit your request for reconsideration by the deadline.

When you submit a request for reconsideration, a different disability claims examiner looks at your application. Hopefully, this review of your documentation and information will result in a different outcome so you will be approved for benefits after the first stage of appeals. 

If you receive another benefits denial, the next phase is a disability benefits hearing. It can take around a year for this hearing to actually take place, and you may have to attend in person or via video conference depending upon where you live. You'll have the chance to present evidence backing up your claim for benefits to an administrative law judge (ALJ), which is a judge that works for the Social Security Administration. 

If your benefits claim is still denied after the hearing, you can appeal to the appeals board that is part of the Social Security Administration and can ultimately appeal to federal court in the final stage of appeals.

A Los Angeles disability benefits attorney can help you with every step in the process by assisting you in meeting deadlines and presenting evidence to maximize the chances of your claim being approved. Contact an attorney as soon as you can when your claim for benefits is denied. 

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What are Common Mistakes When Apply for Disability?

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits is very important if you're not able to earn a living due to having a severe disabling condition. Unfortunately, many people are denied benefits when they submit an initial application. Often, this is because the Social Security Administration makes qualifying for benefits difficult. However, you can also be denied benefits because you make mistakes when you apply.

A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can help you to avoid mistakes that could cause you to lose out on disability income you need. You should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible to try to maximize the chances your claim for benefits will be approved.

Common Mistakes When Applying for Disability Benefits

Some of the most common mistakes that applicants make when applying for Social Security Disability income include:

  • Applying for the wrong program: One of the biggest mistakes made by candidates for Social Security disability benefits is applying for the wrong benefits program. You should apply for SSDI if you have earned a sufficient number of work credits to qualify, and apply for SSI if you have a limited household income, few assets, and haven't worked enough to qualify for SSDI.
  • Failing to submit necessary medical evidence: You need to provide clear documentation that you have a qualifying condition and associated symptoms if you want to be eligible for benefits.
  • Not appealing a benefits denial: More than half of all initial benefits applications are initially denied. Appealing allows you more chances to make your case that you need benefits. If you don't appeal by the deadline, you either won't get benefits or will need to start the process over. 

A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can help you to avoid these and other errors that could cost you your chance at obtaining disability benefits. Give us a call today to find out more about how an attorney can help you. 

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Can You Get Disability and Unemployment Benefits?

When you cannot work because of a disability, it is important to determine how to maximize the benefits that are available to you. When you are trying to figure out how to get as much income as possible, you may wonder whether you can get both disability benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time.

The law can be tricky regarding different ways to maximize your benefits when you are disabled so you should strongly consider reaching out to a Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer to help you understand the types of income you can receive. An attorney can help you determine if you may be able to get both disability benefits and unemployment benefits.

Obtaining Disability Benefits and Unemployment Benefits

Technically, there are no express prohibitions in the law that would stop you from obtaining both disability benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time.

However, these different benefits programs are intended for different purposes. Unemployment benefits are supposed to provide income while you are out of work and looking for a job, while disability benefits are supposed to be available to you if you are too disabled to work at any job for which you are qualified.

You could, however, obtain unemployment benefits and disability income if you are too disabled to work at any job for which you are qualified but you are still actively searching for some type of job that you could do despite your disability.

A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can help you to determine if it is possible for you to obtain both disability and unemployment benefits given the specific circumstances of your situation. Contact an attorney for help as soon as possible to try to maximize the benefits you receive when you are disabled. 

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What’s the Difference Between Social Security Disability and Workers’ Comp Disability?

Becoming too disabled to work can be a frightening experience as you try to figure out how to ensure you have the income you need to support yourself. The good news is, there are options out there to receive disability income. However, navigating all your different options can be difficult.

A Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer can help you to determine which benefits programs you are most likely to qualify for to provide you with monthly income when you cannot work. For example, two of your options include Social Security Disability and workers' compensation disability. 

Workers' Compensation Disability vs. Social Security Disability

Workers' compensation and Social Security both provide disability income but work differently. 

Workers' comp benefits are available for long-term and short-term disability, but only if the disability is directly caused by performance of work tasks. Partial disability benefits are also available if your disabling condition still allows you to work but for less compensation than you were receiving before becoming disabled. 

Social Security Disability, on the other hand is available only if you have a long-term disabling condition lasting twelve months or longer. Benefits are not available for any short-term conditions and you must be totally unable to work at any job for which you would be qualified. 

There are other important differences too, including in qualifying requirements and in the amount you receive in monthly income. If you are not certain which disability benefits program is the right one for you, or if you want help applying for disability income, contact a Los Angeles disability benefits lawyer today. 

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About Us

Disability Advocates Group is a law firm dedicated to serving individuals who have become disabled and are seeking to obtain the benefits they need and deserve. At Disability Advocates Group, we specialize in representing disabled clients in their claims for Social Security Disability Benefits.

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