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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.

8 things you must have/do before applying for Disability Benefits

Documents you must have when filing for disability Documents you must have when filing for disability

A successful disability application is which has been fulfilled properly and has minimum probability of being denied. It requires a vast knowledge of the do’s and don'ts's concerning your SSDI since only minor carelessness could be the reason of your disability application being denied.

The most difficult thing in your SSDI application is to prove your disability is severe enough to last a minimum 12 months, or unfortunately, result in death. When you are disabled, this may be a overwhelming task since you may already be under depression or anxiety because of your incapacity to perform work or your disability taking its tolls on your life.

Nonetheless, if you think that your disability is severe enough and prevents you from going to work or perform in substantial gainful activity, SGA, then you should apply for your disability benefits as soon as possible.

One common misconception people have is that they have to wait for at least 5 months since their disability to be able to file an application. That is not true. You should apply as soon as your disability and its severity are diagnosed because the time it takes for your application to be processed by the social security administration (5 months) will be counted as the time required for the waiting period of your disability (5 months). However, if you indeed qualify for disability benefits, you will most likely receive Disability Backpay for most of your medical bills during the time your case was being decided.

Here is the tip: You should immediately file for disability if your doctor is sure that your disability is expected to last longer than 12 months, impairs your ability to perform substantial gainful activity and is listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of impairments.

Here are the documents you should have before filing your claim:

  1. Your Social Security Insurance number;
  2. If you were born outside the United States or its territories, the name of your birth country at the time of your birth (it may have a different name now), Permanent Resident Card number (if you are not a U.S. citizen);
  3. If you were in the military service, the type of duty and branch, and also your service period;
  4. Your W-2 Form from last year or, if you were self-employed, your federal income tax return (IRS 1040 and Schedules C and SE); Medical records of your sickness, injuries, and conditions, containing dates of treatment, and patient ID numbers; and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical providers who treated you;
  5. Names and dates of medical tests you have had and who requested the tests;
  6. Names of medicines you are taking and who prescribed them;
  7. Medical records that you already have; and
  8. A list of up to five jobs and dates you worked during the last 15 years under SGA

You can go to your nearest social security administration office, or contact them through telephone 1–800-772-213, or apply online directly on the SSA’s website

To improve probabilities of your initial claim to be accepted you need to make sure to collect and keep all of your medical records to be presented with your ssdi claim. For specific guidance on your situation, requirements and disability you can consult our social security attorneys to guide you through the process smoothly and minimize the possibilities of denial.

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Disability Benefits due to Reduced Functional Capacity caused by Back Problems

Disability due to back pain Disability due to back pain

If your back impairment or disorder, as mentioned by your doctor/physician in your medical records affects your Reduced Functional Capacity, RFC and Substantial Gainful Activity, SGA, then you might qualify for disability benefits.

Claims due to back pain caused by disc damages or nerve problems are very common to the Social Security Administration, SSA. The SSA realizes that almost 50% of the people between age 40 t0 50 and 70% of people between age 50 to 65 suffer either kind of back problems mostly due to age factor. However, not all back problems are listed under the eligible muskoskeletal problems in the Blue Book of impairments by the SSA. However, it expects most of the people to reach full retirement age to qualify for disability. So, it can get tough qualifying for disability based on not-so-serious back problems.

How to win disability claims for back disorders?

To make sure that you stand a higher chance of winning disability claims for your back pain, you need to show evidence to your disability examiner, DE that your back pain is indeed hindering your ability to move and work properly. The SSA will need to be ensured that your back pain is indeed not moderate and is actually debilitating and severe. Based on your condition, you may have to proved that you are unable to sit or stand for longer amounts of time, or carry out normal bodily movements like bending or scooping without hurting excessively. Also, for all conditions reparable in the back disorders listed by the SSA in the Blue Book, you may also have to prove either that your condition lasted for more than 12 months of consecutive period or that it is expected to last more than a year.

Qualifying for Disability due to Back Pain

If you meet the above conditions, the only criteria you need to fulfill now to avail the disability benefits is that your condition is listed in the SSA’s list of muskoskeletal impairments. It contains the following back problems listed in the document:

  1. Major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause
  2. Reconstructive surgery of a basic weight bearing joint
  3. Disorders of the spine such as nerve root compression, arachnoiditis, osteoporosis etc
  4. Amputation due to any cause
  5. Fracture of the femur, tibia, pelvis, or one or more of the tarsal bones such as herniated disc
  6. Fracture of an upper extremity of the back
  7. Soft tissue injury such as burns, ruptured muscles
  8. Vertebral fracture
  9. Degenerative disc disease

 

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) for Back Problems

Your disability examiner, DE with the help of a qualified medical professional will examine your doctor’s reports of your disability due to back pain and see whether it fit the criteria of the SSA. Mostly the doctor’s restrictions listed for back pain disability include prohibition to lifting heavy objects, sitting or standing for too long, keeping bad posture or perform heavy exercise). The DE will give you a rating based on the severity of your condition based on your doctor’s restrictions mentioned in your medical report. These include four levels: sedentary, light work, medium work, heavy work.

You may read more on RFC here.

If your DE assigns you an RFC for light or medium work and have always done heavy work, you could be automatically approved for benefits in some cases (especially if you're older than 55 years of age). In many cases, however, you will be denied benefits if you have an RFC of medium or light work.

The RFC reports combined with the DE’s ratings varies for each person. However, you might consider the help of a social security attorney to make sure you know how to approach your doctor and DE for full assistance. For instance, if your doctor assigns you heavy restrictions on your back pain, your disability attorney may know the right questions to ask your doctor to assign you a low residual functional capacity.

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SSA Disability benefits | Back disorders caused by nerve root compressions

Disability benefits due to nerve root compression Disability benefits due to nerve root compression

In order to get approved for disability benefits for back pain, you’ll have to show the Social Security Administration, SSA that your pain is beyond the moderate back pain that many people experience and that you have trouble standing, walking, or sitting or long periods of time or perform work under substantial gainful activity, SGA.

Compression of the root nerve in the back is one of the few physical disorders of back pain that are counted as disability in the Blue Book of Impairments. Hence, if a compressed root causes chronic or severe pain, that makes you unable to perform SGA, you might qualify for the Social Security Disability benefits and Medicare.

Back injuries can be caused either by natural causes such as aging, poor posture, heavy work, excessive strain on the back or by accidents such as fractures, spine damages due to accidents, nerve root compressions, bacterial infection of the spine, sciatica pain etc. Other conditions could also include diseases like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis etc.

Many applicants filing for disability based on back injury list osteoarthritis or osteoporosis as their main causes of chronic back pain rather than a traumatic incident or a severe back injury. This is because a back injury due to natural processes is more common than accidental injuries. That is why the SSA takes into account back injuries caused by the natural processes.

Eligibility for Disability based on Compression of Nerve Root

The medical criteria for proving that your back pain is indeed due to nerve root compression involves a basic leg raising test that should be positive (lying down or sitting) in order to be labeled as nerve root compression by the doctors. The test is performed by your physician or doctor in the clinic. To get approved for disability benefits based on a spinal disorder, you must indeed be able to prove that your spinal nerve root is compressed and that the compression is causing the pain to radiate, limiting your range of motion or angle of movements in proper direction, dulling your reflexes or sensations and your muscles to be atrophied or weakening of the muscles.

Although you are not technically required to have an MRI scan done to show the root nerve damage/compression, doing so might help your case. Let’s be absolutely clear: this is not an easy disability listing to prove or get approved for getting disability benefits – However, even if you do not have an impingement of an MRI to show your nerve root compression, your doctor or physician might still be able to prove to the authorities that you do indeed have a genuine disability due to the nerve root compression.

Here is how to ensure that your doctor is supportive of your disability claim

If your back pain has prevented you from working under SGA for more than twelve months or if your doctor/physician is sure that your disability will last longer than 12 months, then you should indeed file your claim for disability due to nerve root compression immediately.

If your back pain causes significant deficiencies in your bodily movements such as stooping or picking up things, sitting up properly, unable to sit up or stand for long periods of time, unable to walk without crutches or a wheelchair, unable to bend etc, then make sure that all these conditions are properly recorded with medical evidence or your doctor’s statements in your medical records. These might be beneficial in helping you win your disability claims benefits due to nerve root compression.

Lastly, if you or a loved one with a muskoskeletal impairment such as back pain due to nerve root compression needs help with disability claims, you might contact a disability attorney to help and prepare you for proper disability application.

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How do I get my Disability Backpay? (Disability Past Due Benefits)

Disability Backpay Disability past due benefits

 

Disability benefits take a long time to be granted depending on your disability case and whether it is granted at first attempt or you go through a reconsideration or appeals process. Hence, the full procedure can take anywhere between six months to two years, to finally get your disability claims granted.

What is Disability Backpay?

Disability backpay is when almost all claimants get their past due benefits if and once they are approved by the Social Security Administration to receive disability benefits. During the claims process, you will have to pay for your disability such as medical bills, doctor’s fees, prescriptions, wheelchair and many such bills from your own expenses. However, once you get your disability claims approved, you will be reimbursed the amount spend on your disability during the process – hence, the disability backpay.

To learn about your SSDI medical eligibility, click here.

When will you be granted Disability Backpay?

How far back will you receive your disability backpay will depend on several factors, such as:

Application Date

The first factor that determines when your disability will start depends on the time you filed for your disability i.e., your disability application date. Normally a disability applicant receives disability backpay dating to the start of their disability filing application however, in some case the disability benefits are paid even prior to the application date, from the time the disability actually started, known as retroactive period. The retroactive period benefits only apply to the disability claimants.

Alternatively, if you have a ‘protective filing date’, you can get your disability benefits backpay starting from that date as if it were the application date.

Date of Disability Recorded in your Medical Records

The second most important factor regarding your disability benefits is the start date of when your disability started.

A disability claimant who has been approved for benefits will be given an EOD, or "established" onset date. The established onset date is set by your DDS disability examiner, or an administrative law judge, ALJ (if your case has gone to hearing), and is considered to be the date for when your disability actually began. The EOD will be based entirely on your medical records and work history. In other words, how far back your disability is recorded to be started is to be decided according to the evidence available from your doctor's reports, lab test results, and disability application.

For SSDI claimants, whether or not benefits will be payable back to the beginning of the 12-month retroactive period time will depend on the onset date that is established, either by a disability examiner or by an administrative law judge. But there is another important factor in determining the SSDI starting date, i.e., a waiting period.

Five-Month Waiting Period

Additionally, the SSDI applicants who have been approved and given an established date of onset will have five months of benefits removed from the beginning of their disability. In other words, the "date of entitlement" doesn't start until five months after the EOD.

If your disability claims examiner or the administrative law judge determines that the onset date is 17 months prior to the application date, or more, the claimant should be entitled to the entire 12 months of retroactive benefits prior to the date of the SSDI application.

Lump Sum Payment

Regardless of the amount or period of disability backpay, the SSDI amount of disability backpay is always paid as a lump sum.

If you or a loved one has filed for disability and has to claim a disability backpay, you can consult a disability attorney here.

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What is Social Security Disability Insurance and Medical Eligibility?

What is Social Security Disability Insurance and Medical Eligibility? What is Social Security Disability Insurance and Medical Eligibility?

The federal government managed Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program pays monthly benefits in the form of cash or paycheck to eligible people in the US workforce who are unable to go to work because of a critical disease or a chronic illness that is expected to last longer than a year or cause death within the year. It is a piece of the Social Security program that additionally pays retirement benefits to by far most of more established Americans. Benefits depend on the clinically ill worker's past work credits and are paid to the disabled worker and to his or her needy survivors. To be qualified, an incapacitated worker is more likely required than not worked in occupations secured by Social Security.

How Much Is the Disability Benefit?

The disability benefit is linked through a formula to a worker's earnings before he or she became disabled. The benefits are calculated through the AIME formula.

The  SSDI amount paid to SSDI recipients vary between $800 and $1800. The average monthly SSDI income in 2019 is $1234 for blind and $1980 for non-blind.

Who Pays for Disability Insurance Benefits?

Workers and employers pay for the SSDI program with part of their Social Security taxes. Workers and employers each pay a Social Security tax that is 6.2 percent of workers' earnings up to a cap of $132,900 in 2019. The cap is adjusted each year to keep pace with average wages. Of the 6.2 percent, 5.015 percent goes to pay for Social Security retirement and survivor benefits and 1.185 percent pays for disability insurance. The combined tax paid by workers and employers for disability insurance is 2.37 percent of wages, while the combined tax for retirement and survivor benefits is 10.03 percent, for a total of 12.4 percent.

Attributes of Disabled-Worker Beneficiaries

Disabled-worker beneficiaries are at risk of being poor or near poor. About 30 percent of disabled workers, compared to 15 percent of all working-age adults, have incomes below 125 percent of the poverty threshold. Moreover, 82 percent of SSDI beneficiaries rely on Social Security for more than half their income, and 37 percent of disabled worker beneficiaries rely on these benefits for all of their income.

SSDI recipients are also more likely to be older, with the average age of beneficiaries at 54 in 2019. Three out of four (74 percent) are over 50 years old and a third (34 percent) are over 60 years old.

When comparing with other adults, disabled workers are more likely to be black, and to have a lower level of educational attainment; almost half have a high school diploma or less.

What are the common disabilities of SSDI recipients?

  • musculoskeletal problems, such as back injuries
  • cardiovascular conditions, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease
  • senses and speech issues, such as vision and hearing loss
  • respiratory illnesses, such as COPD or asthma
  • neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy
  • mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, or retardation
  • immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • various syndromes, such as Sjogren's Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome
  • skin disorders, such as dermatitis
  • digestive tract problems, such as liver disease or IBD
  • kidney disease and genitourinary problems, and
  • cancer
  • hematological disorders, such as hemolytic anemias and disorders of bone marrow failure

With all said there is no blinking the fact that the SSDI pays around 8.5 million Americans in disability benefits each year. However, still the US’s spending on disability benefits is relatively modest as compared to a 1.3% of Germany, 2.5% of Sweden and 2.8% of Netherlands, the US spends only 1.4%.

If you need more details or help in filing your social security disability, you may contact us.

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5 types of American citizens who are not eligible for Social Security

5 types of American citizens who are not eligible for Social Security 5 types of American citizens who are not eligible for Social Security

Very few US citizens are denied their Social Security benefits if they fit the minimum required criteria. However, there are always exceptions to the most lenient of policies if the citizens do not meet those criteria. These include:

Criteria #1: There is a minimum requirement to collect Social Security disability benefits: besides meeting the medical requirements, he Social Security Administration requires "enough work" as earning 40 Social Security credits. More specifically, in 2019, an individual receives one credit for each $1,360 in income, and they can earn a maximum of four credits per year. So, 40 credits are roughly equal 10 years of work.

If you earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, you’ll need 179.3 hours of work to receive one credit toward Social Security. By working just 15 hours a week at this wage, you’ll earn the maximum credits per year. That means even those who work part-time so they can attend school or care for a child—or those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work—can amass Social Security credits without too much trouble.

Earned credits never expire, so anyone who has left the workforce with close to 40 credits might consider going back and doing the minimum additional work they need to qualify. You can check the number of credits you have so far on the Social Security website.

Criteria #2: Certain Legal Immigrants

Legal immigrants who have earned 40 Social Security work credits in the United States are eligible to receive full U.S. Social Security benefits. Immigrants who do not have enough U.S. credits but who come from one of the 26 countries with whom the United States has social security agreements or totalization agreements, can qualify to receive pro-rated benefits. These benefits are based on their work credits earned abroad combined with their U.S. work credits, an arrangement that is particularly helpful for older immigrants who are not likely to accumulate 10 years of work in the United States before retiring. Workers who have not earned at least six U.S. credits, however, cannot receive payments under totalization agreements.

Criteria #3: Certain Government Employees

Federal government employees hired before 1984 may be grandfathered into the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. These workers do not have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks and so are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits. They may still qualify if they have earned benefits through another job or a spouse; however, in these cases, CSRS pension payments may reduce Social Security payouts.

However, government workers who are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) (which replaced CSRS) are eligible for Social Security benefits. 

Most state and local employees have Social Security protection under a government law called a Section 218 agreement. However, some of these workers, including those who work for a public school system, college or university, will not receive Social Security benefits if they do not pay Social Security taxes. But they generally receive pension benefits from their employers.

 

Criteria #4: Self-Employed Tax Evaders

Self-employed workers are lawfully required to report and pay self-employment tax on their earnings to cover both their own and the employer’s portion of Social Security contributions. The tax is calculated and paid each year when these workers file their federal tax returns. Those who fail to file their tax returns  and do not pay their Social Security taxes, unlike employees whose employers withhold and remit their Social Security taxes from each paycheck, are often exempted from receiving the Social Security benefits, especially SSDI when and if needed.

If you have no record of paying into the system, you are not going to receive payouts. However, if you have not reported income and successfully evaded taxes for a lifetime, you have no right to Social Security benefits. Your illegally retained untaxed earnings will have to fund your needs/disability after retirement.

Criteria #5: Certain Immigrants Over 65

Retired people who immigrate to the United States will not have the 40 U.S. work credits they need to qualify for Social Security benefits. One way to rectify this problem is to earn six work credits in the United States and receive pro-rated U.S. benefits combined with prorated benefits from your former country under a totalization agreement. This solution makes sense for workers who also do not have enough benefits in their home country to qualify for that country’s equivalent of Social Security payments. 

Older immigrants who do not qualify for U.S. Social Security and whose countries’ laws allow them to receive benefit payments while residing in the United States can claim their social security or pensioner’s benefits while living abroad.

In short, almost all retirees who have successfully earned enough work credits in the US workforce are eligible to receive their Social Security benefits and Social Security Disability benefits provided that they have reached full retirement age (not required for SSDI). However, some people who do not meet the above criteria may also receive the benefits from luck and presenting their case correctly.

If you need help with filing your social security disability or social security benefits, you may contact us.

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Social Security Policy Basics: 5 Facts about Social Security

5 facts about social security 5 facts about social security

Social Security Disability Income provides the resource of income which thousands of workers in the US use to plan their lives after retirement.

Since 84 years, when President Roosevelt started the program, the SSDI has been remarkable in providing source of income in a need-based manner.

Fact #1 : Social Security is not just a retirement program

It provides disability benefits to everyone who has disability credits and fits the criteria. About 62 million people, or more than 1 in every 6 U.S. residents, collect Social Security Income benefits each year. While older Americans make up about 4 in 5 beneficiaries, another one-fifth of beneficiaries received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or were young survivors of deceased workers.

In addition to Social Security’s retirement benefits, workers earn life insurance and SSDI protection by making Social Security payroll tax contributions:

  • About 95 percent of people aged 20-49 who worked in jobs covered by Social Security in 2019 have earned life insurance protection through Social Security.
  • For a young worker with average earnings, a spouse, and two children, that’s equivalent to a life insurance policy with a face value of over $725,000 in 2019, according to Social Security’s actuary.
  • About 89 percent of people in age group between 21-64, having sufficient disability benefits are insured through Social Security in case of severe disability.

The risk of disability or premature death is greater than many realize. Some 6 percent of recent entrants to the labor force will die before reaching the full retirement age, and many more will become disabled.

Fact #2 : Social Security benefits increase with inflation

Social Security benefits are based on the earnings on which you pay Social Security payroll taxes. The higher your earnings (up to a maximum taxable amount, currently $132,900), the higher your benefit.

Social Security benefits are progressive: they only take into account the higher proportions of a worker’s earnings for all 35 years he performed any kind of work to earn. For example, benefits for a low earner (with 45 percent of the average wage) retiring at age 66 in 2019 replace about half of his or her prior earnings. But benefits for a high earner (with 160 percent of the average wage) replace about one-third of prior earnings, though they are larger in dollar terms than those for the low-wage worker.

Also, many private annuities and businesses do not account for increase in market prices or inflation. Social security, on the other hand accounts for inflation by adjusting the amounts with respect to COLA. This helps to ensure that the people do not fall into poverty.

 

Fact #3 : Provides a foundation for retirement protection

According to Social Security Administration estimates, almost 97% of the elderly will receive Social Security benefits at some point in their lives. This is possible because almost all workers in the US are subject to Social security taxes on their payrolls either independently or through an employer.

Social Security provides a foundation of retirement protection for people at all earnings levels. It encourages private pensions and personal saving because it isn’t means-tested — in other words, it doesn’t reduce or deny benefits to people whose income or assets exceed a certain level.

Fact #4 : Most elderly rely on Social Security for most part of their income

Without Social Security benefits, about 4 in 10 Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal, according to official estimates based on a recent Population Survey. Social Security benefits lift more than 15 million elderly Americans out of poverty, the study showed.

A recent study that matches Census estimates to administrative data suggests that the official estimates overstate elderly reliance on Social Security. That study finds that in 2012, 3 in 10 elderly Americans would be poor without Social Security, and that the program lifted more than 10 million elderly Americans out of poverty.

No matter how it is measured, however, it’s clear that Social Security brings millions of elderly Americans out of poverty and dramatically reduces the elderly poverty rate.

Fact #5 : Social Security is especially beneficial for women

Social Security is especially important for women, because women are often paid less than their male counterparts, spend more time out of workforce due to maternity and other reasons, have a longer life expectancy, accumulate less savings, and receive smaller pensions. Women represent more than half of Social Security beneficiaries in their 60s and 7 in 10 beneficiaries in their 90s. In addition, women make up 96 percent of Social Security survivor beneficiaries.

Women benefit disproportionately from the program’s inflation-protected benefits (because tend to have a longer life expectancy), its progressive formula for computing benefits (because they tend to have lower earnings), and its benefits for disabled spouses and disabled survivors

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What to do when your disability claims are denied because your doctor didn’t support your claims

Doctor didn't support my disability claims Doctor didn't support my disability claims

Having your doctor’s support is very critical to your disability claims. If your doctor refuses to cooperate, then your case might become very hard to win. However, there are ways to improve your disability case even if your doctor doesn’t support.

Be Ready to Explain

If you get to the hearing level and still do not have a supportive statement from your doctor, the administrative law judge (ALJ), who will be hearing your case, will need to be portrayed the real and honest picture of your whole case. In order to do this, you should be ready to explain this to the judge. It might be best to tackle this point earlier in your hearing. An experienced disability attorney would know best how to present your case to the ALJ.

Evidence is Key

Brute and clear medical evidence may sometimes be sufficient to convince your judge otherwise, even if your doctor doesn’t support your case. Though it may be time consuming, it would be best if you spend some time and effort to gather all the medical evidence earlier so you don’t miss out on presenting anything the ALJ might need in the hearing. Here is an example of which medical evidence you may collect:

  • Names and contact information of all the medical providers you have seen about your disabling condition;
  • Photocopies of any diagnostic tests such as EKGs, blood work, sleep studies, CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, and EEGs;
  • Dates of any hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to your medical condition;
  • Pharmacy printouts that contain a complete list of medications;
  • A list of any side effects of medications, and
  • A list of any alternative treatments you have sought to treat your condition;

Relevant evidence

Before you seek on to collect evidence of your medical history, make sure you include only the medical evidence relevant to your medical condition. Although it is useful to be vigilant, the SSA or your ALJ might only be interested in seeing evidence for the disability you are putting claims of.

Do not chalk out negative records

Sometimes your medical records may include information that may be damaging to your reputation, such as history of substance abuse or injury during a fight. Although you may be tempted to exclude pieces of information such as these, do not do so. The ALJs are trained to look into these loopholes and if found out the exclusion or hiding of the facts may have a bad effect on your claims.

3rd Party Witnesses

Though your medical provider’s opinions matter the most to the SSA, the ALJ might be interested in hearing out opinions of any third party witnesses to your disability as first-hand accounts. These may include any caregivers, volunteers, social workers, your children, hospital nurses, your boss, etc.

Caregivers: Some disabilities require partial or full-term caregiving of the affected patients. If your disability requires you to depend on a caregiver for cooking, cleaning, bathing, giving medicines etc then you may ask your caregiver to write a letter stating so to the ALJ.

Employers: People spend a lot of time at their workplace. If your former employer or boss was a witness to your disability and saw how it affected your work or life then you may ask them as well to write a letter for you. You would need to ask them to be as specific and honest about your condition as they can be, as it can affect the ALJs decision in or against your favor.

Get a Disability Attorney's Help

Getting approved for disability can be hard if you do not have a supportive doctor. An experienced disability attorney will have dealt with myriad cases where claimants did not have a supporting doctor and will have techniques and strategies that can help overcome this obstacle.

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Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease

Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease Social Security Disability for Huntington’s disease

People with Huntington’s disease undergo a fatal genetic disorder – this leads to a progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Although people may develop the disease during early 30s and 40s, the symptoms usually appear in late 50s for most people.

Huntington’s is not only a degenerative disease, it also leads to multiple types of neurological disorders such as impairments in functional movements, cognitive abilities and psychiatric disorders.

When can you get disability benefits for Huntington’s disease?

The symptoms for each person with Huntington’s may vary, thereby affecting their chances to qualify for social security disability. The cognitive symptoms may include an inability to perform daily activities such as toileting or bathing, or symptoms of dementia. Whereas the physical symptoms may include loss of muscle control leading to difficulty breathing, swallowing food or drinking water.

Each person’s symptoms will have varying degrees of severity, hence they would need to qualify the same way under the disability insurance, SSDI requirements as any other disability in the Blue Book.

Meeting an impairment listing

Huntington’s disease can be assessed either under the neurodegenerative diseases or, if the disabling symptoms are all cognitive or mental in nature, under the mental listing for neurocognitive diseases. You must be able to prove to the disability examiner or the ALJ that you meet the disability criteria for any of these symptoms for each of the conditions listed below:

Neurodegenerative symptoms

  • Inability to control movements of at least two limbs (an arm or a leg, two arms or two legs);
  • Critical thinking problems such as difficulty understanding, remembering or applying information;
  • Social problems such as interacting with others;
  • Concentration problems such as focusing on work or with finishing tasks with speed and persistence;
  • Setting realistic goals such as managing oneself;

Neurocognitive symptoms

  • Difficulty paying attention to work, tasks or listening to others for long-term;
  • Short term memory loss such as learning and memory deficits;
  • Difficulty in judgment and planning for tasks, such as inability to turn the car at the signal on time;
  • Bad hand-eye coordination;
  • Poor social judgment and inability to use proper social behavior;

Reduced Incapacity to Work, RFC

If you don’t meet the above criteria for disability, but have an inability to perform substantial gainful activity to earn for yourself or are unable to learn new things for a job – the Social Security may award you benefits based on your Reduced Incapacity to Work, RFC.

Your psychiatrist may have to fill the RFC forms for you, listing all the ways the Huntington’s disease limits your capacity to work and perform regular tasks.

Also, since the Huntington’s disease is a result of a disorder in genes, it can result into further degenerative, serious diseases. Therefore, the SSA may refer your disability case further under the ‘compassionate allowance’ to provide you additional benefits.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Huntington’s, you may consult a disability attorney for legal help and paperwork for your disability benefits.

 

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Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders

Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders Social Security: Disability benefits for neurological disorders

Every 1 in 7 people suffer from some kind of neurological disorders, according to the UN. The World Health Organization, WHO stated that almost 100 million Americans, a 1 out of 3 ration of the US population – suffer from some kind of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spinal cord injury.

Quite surprisingly, 60% of the people suffering from neurological disorders are over age 55. This means that older people are more prone to mental health problems. Moreover, neurological problems are not only limited to the brain. They can occur anywhere in the nervous system, including cerebral area (affecting memory and thinking), spinal cord (affecting movement), or peripheral nervous system (affecting thinking and muscular control of different body parts).

Unfortunately, receiving disability benefits is not as simple as getting benefits for other kinds of disability. The SSA has listed 16 disorders under neurological impairments in the Blue Book of impairments. The Blue Book lists every kind of neurological impairment and specific conditions that affect your mental health. Even if your neurological impairment is not listed in the Blue Book, it does not mean that you would be denied benefits for your conditions. Your symptoms and whether you have paid your social security taxes would be important when deciding your qualification for disability.

Some of the more common neurological problems listed by the SSA include:

  • migraine headaches,
  • multiple sclerosis (MS),
  • brain tumors (benign and malignant),
  • epilepsy,
  • persistent motor function disorganization,
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease),
  • Parkinson’s disease,
  • cerebral palsy, and
  • spinal cord/nerve lesions

Most neurological disorders are treatable with medicines and are cured easily if the prescriptions are taken as directed by the physician. However, some neurological disorders are degenerative and get worse with time such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, while some may not be treatable in the first place, such as Down’s syndrome.

How do I know if my neurological disorder would qualify for SSDI?

The SSA would rule on your disability claims for the neurological disorder the same way as any other disabilities. You would need to fill out both medical and non-medical requirements to qualify.

 

Non-medical requirements

You would need help from your doctor to file an RFC form for you listing all the ways that your symptoms and conditions affect you. Your psychiatrist would be able to fill out the paperwork that would show your disability examiner or administrative law judge about how your mental impairment limits you from performing substantial work.

Medical requirements

Remember it is important that you include all kinds of medical proofs, documentation and your doctor’s statements to support your case. This includes:

  • Medical history,
  • Examination findings,
  • Relevant laboratory tests,
  • Results of imaging,
  • Imaging refers to medical imaging techniques,
  • X-ray, computerized tomography (CT),
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Prescription lists and medication

Lastly, it is imperative that your medical evidence and physician/psychiatrist’s statements match the prevailing condition and its symptoms. This is because you may be examined by a doctor recommended by the SSA if they think you are manipulating any evidence. If caught jeopardizing your medical impairment, you could face terrible consequences with a possibility of being disqualified forever from social security.

You may consult a disability attorney for more guidance on social security for neurological conditions.

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Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state?

Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state? Social Security: What happens if I move to a different state?

With the world rapidly becoming a global village, more people now move to different states or change countries in hopes of starting new adventures, interesting careers or find a new love. With these new horizons, your life changes in new ways that you never imagined.

Thankfully, with ‘totalization agreements’ all over major countries including the US, UK, Canada and Europe, you can now move freely to explore new horizons without having to compromise important aspects of your life, like social security or your child’s education.

Many people ask our disability attorneys if moving to a different state would affect their social security benefits.

Will Moving Affect Your Social Security Benefits

No, moving to a different state within the U.S. won’t affect your benefits as long as you have a valid social security card. You would only need to inform the Social Security Administration’s local office about the change in your address, with details about your new address.

This is important so that you don’t miss out on important official correspondence from the office and your disability benefits checks. If you have set your benefits payments to direct deposits, you are good to go as long as the authorities are informed about your change of address. You can make the official change in address and telephone number through your social security login online here.

Would you need to re-apply if you change states?

As long as you move within the U.S. you will not have to re-apply for social security benefits. The SSDI is an insurance program run by the federal government, therefore your approval for SSDI benefits will stay the same no matter where you move in the U.S.

How would my benefits change if I move to a different country?

Although your benefits would not be affected by any move within the U.S. your benefits amount may vary if you move to a different country. Countries that have signed a ‘totalization agreement’ with the U.S. government may have their own rules and requirements for the social security. The income limit thresholds may vary and similarly the amount of benefits for disabled, veterans, survivor benefits and dependent benefits may vary for each country.

Fortunately, you won’t have to earn work credits from scratch if you move to a country with ‘totalization agreements’. This means that any work credits you earned while working anywhere in the world (in countries with totalization agreements) would be utilized for your social security.

Remember you could only avail benefits from one country at a time. For instance, if you are a U.S. citizen with dual citizenship status, working in the Europe, then you will be granted social security benefits on European laws as long as you live in the Europe. You will be able to transfer your benefits to the U.S if you decide to move in there.

If you are thinking of moving or are concerned about benefits changes due to moving states (or country), you may contact a social security attorney for more guidance.

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Social Security Disability and marriage

Social Security Disability and marriage Social Security Disability and marriage

If you are already married or getting remarried with children from your ex, each circumstance will have its own consequences on your Social Security Disability Income. The consequences may not always be negative as you will see below.

How marriage affects your SSDI

Since Social Security Disability Insurance is earned by paying social security taxes on your paycheck, you or your spouse may be entitled to social security benefits on his/her record. Also, your benefits might be reduced or downright cancelled if, you were getting benefits on someone else’s record and got remarried to another person. Similarly, there may be other ways how a marriage may affect your benefits:

  • Your own work record: If you were granted benefits on your own record, or if you are still receiving benefits on your own record (meaning you were entitled to your own benefits as a disabled individual), then getting married to another person, or remarrying with children from old spouse(s) will not affect your benefits. Whether your future spouse works, receives disability benefits on his/her own record, or has no income or disability benefits, would not affect your benefits in any way.

 

  • Deceased spouse's work record: If you were receiving widow/widower benefits as the survivors of a Social Security disability recipient, you will lose your widow/widower benefits by getting married, if you get married before age 60 (or age 50 if you are disabled). Also, if you were receiving disability benefits of your own, you would only be able to receive survivor benefits on your deceased spouse’s record if the amount of your spouse’s disability benefits was larger than your own disability benefits.

 

  • Ex-spouse's work record: If you are receiving Social Security benefits under your ex-spouse’s work record, then getting married to another person will cause you to lose eligibility for benefits.

 

  • Deceased ex-spouse's work record: If you are receiving surviving divorced spouse benefits, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 60. If you are a divorced spouse receiving benefits due to a disability on your deceased ex-spouse's work record, you'll lose these benefits if you get remarried before age 50. If you were receiving benefits of a deceased ex-spouse for taking care of their minor children, then you may continue receiving your benefits until the children get to adult age (18 years, or 19 years if in high school).

 

  • Parent's work record: If you were receiving benefits under your parent’s record, then you may continue to receive benefits as long as you are under 18 years of age. In cases where you are an adult disabled child, then you may continue benefits for lifetime if your disability striked before you turned 22 and remain disabled. In some circumstances, however, a disabled adult child may be able to marry another disabled adult child without either person losing benefits.

 

You may contact a disability attorney for more detailed guidance.

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Faces and facts of social security disability and work

Faces and facts of social security disability and work Faces and facts of social security disability and work

Work rules for people receiving social security disability and supplemental security income vary from person to person.

The SSA has set out a set of general guidelines, the most important of which is, you can’t work under ‘substantial gainful activity’ while receiving benefits. If you decide to go to work, you can work through ‘trial work period’ under which you would be able to continue your benefits while earning an amount within the income limits set by the Social Security Administration, SSA.

The earning limits for an individual working under trial work period vary each year. The limit stated for 2019 is $880 per month for an individual. This means that any individual working and receiving social security benefits could not earn more than this amount of income. Your benefits will be discontinued immediately if your income increases beyond this amount.

What to report about your work to the Social Security Administration

If you are receiving disability benefits and decide to go to work, you are responsible for informing the SSA of starting any work under trial work period, and any of the changes that may follow. These changes include:

  • Time when you started or stopped working;
  • How much income you are earning;
  • If you started paying for your medical expenses from your income through work;
  • Your work details such as duties, hours, responsibilities, promotion or pay changes;

You can report changes in your work by phone, mail, or in person. You can find your local office on our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator. You may use mySocial Security to report your monthly wages online at. www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

What if your symptoms get worse

You will be able to keep all of your benefits as long your income does not cross the income limits set by the SSA under trial work period. The trial work period is of 12 months initially, however, if you lose your job during this period or your symptoms get worse again, preventing you to continue your work then you can ask the SSA to reinstate your benefits. You will be able to reinstate the benefits if this happens within the 36 month extended period of eligibility.

On the other hand, if you lose your job or your disability strikes again after the 36 month extended period of eligibility, then you may have to file for disability again.

 

 

Reinstatement period

Lastly, if your benefits were reduced or stopped during the trial work period or extended period of eligibility, you can always ask the SSA to re-continue your full benefits if you became disabled again. You won’t have to file a new application as long as you make the request to restart your benefits within 5 years of getting your benefits stopped.

Remember that even if you are working within the income limits during trial work period, the administrative law judge or a disability examiner may still see to your work as an ability to perform substantial gainful activity. It is important that you talk to an attorney to represent you in the best possible way if you want to do some work and continue your benefits.

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How to lay out your past work to win social security claims

How to lay out your past work to win social security claims How to lay out your past work to win social security claims

Your social security disability claims will be denied if the disability examiner thinks that you could find out other probable jobs that fit loosely into your expertise of any past work you have performed.

Fortunately, even if the administrative law judge, ALJ or your disability examiner thinks that you are able to find work related to prior work experiences, your disability attorney can counter those evidences through your medical examination reports and other significant documents.

Beware that these tips are only when you think the disability examiner or the ALJ has misunderstood your past ability as ability to perform similar work today or if they do not fully understand how your medical impairment may be preventing you from performing any kind of work let alone sedentary work.

Describing your prior work experiences

It is imperative that you describe your prior work experiences in as much detail as possible. Your disability examiner or ALJ should be able to fully understand what type of responsibilities you had, what you did and what you did not do, etc.

 

Here is a list of how you could list out your past work experiences in detail:

 

  • How long it took you to learn the tasks under your job description;
  • How long you worked in that particular position;
  • Your job title(s) as listed on your job contract with the employer;
  • Work hours of the job per week;
  • The physical requirements of the job (as listed in the employer contract);
  • How your tasks were similar to or different that tasks for people at similar position(s) as you;
  • Whether you had to take specialized training(s) during your past work experiences and what you learnt during those training(s);
  • Whether you were in charge of other junior employees and what were your responsibilities;
  • Whether you operated special equipments, for instance, a nurse operating MRI machines;
  • Whether your job involved public dealings;
  • Whether you were required to sit, stand, walk or carry weights for specific hours and its details;
  • Whether you had other allowances from your employer, such as day meals, accommodation, travel allowance, medical coverage, etc;

Although it is imperative that you do not downplay your abilities and responsibilities you had in your job requirements, it is also equally important that you don’t overstate them. The disability examiner and your administrative law judge, ALJ will be handling hundreds of cases yearly, so they will know when you are trying to manipulate the system through false claims. If they determine that you are not being honest in your testimonies, they will straight away deny your disability claims.

Lastly, it is also important that you don’t allow skills or prior work experience that does not hold significant value. Even if you allow those work experiences in your record, your ALJ will discredit that information while analyzing your case. Hence, it is important that you don’t overstate your responsibilities in jobs where:

  • The job didn’t lasted enough for you to learn how to perform the work completely;
  • The job didn’t come under ‘substantial gainful activity’;
  • How long the job lasted;

You can hire an attorney to represent you on your disability hearing. Your disability lawyer will know exactly what type of information is necessary for the ALJ or your disability examiner and how to answer those questions correctly.

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Tips for veterans living on SSDI

Tips for veterans living on SSDI Tips for veterans living on SSDI

Almost 3.8 million veterans experience some kind of disability in the U.S. today, as of 2019. Among those, a whopping 1.1 million veterans have a disability rating of 70% or higher, which means their disability is severe enough to prevent them from ever going to work again. The severity of disability of so many of those veterans means they are unable to earn for themselves.

Fortunately, most veterans are able to secure some kind of benefits either under Social Security Disability benefits or veteran benefits under the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, living as claimants of social security and VA benefits and not being able to work may be very difficult and not a choice of some of those veterans. Also, the veterans may not know what options would they have once they rely solely on those benefits.

Here are a few points to ponder that you (as veterans) may not already know, that might improve your life quality while on disability:

  • You can go to work

Yes, you read that right. The social security administration lets you test the waters by letting you perform a limited amount of work under the ‘Ticket to Work’, TOW. The TOW allows veteran beneficiaries to find alternate modes of work with incentives while keeping an amount of their benefits even when they recover a little from the disability.

If you are a veteran willing to go to work while you are on the road to recovery, the TOW may be the best option for you. This is free and completely voluntary and can help you regain control of your life, slowly.

  • You can earn benefits on past disabilities

Sometimes veterans or their families may get so caught up in their disabilities where they may not have considered the option of filing for social security claims or VA benefits on time. Fortunately, if you are eligible under non-medical conditions for social security disability insurance, and are able to prove to the SSA of your past disability, you may be granted SSDI benefits. Although these benefits will be granted as backpay or lump sum with a larger tax than regular monthly benefits, this will still be more than enough to help you pay back loans or medical bills for which you had to borrow money.

  • You have options

Most of the veterans are granted SSDI or VA benefits if they are completely disabled or receive a 70% disability rank respectively. Although not all of the 3.8 million veterans may be granted benefits, there are always multiple options for you to consider.

You can file for both social security disability benefits and veteran disability benefits at the same time. If you qualify for both, good news is you can choose to keep both of them under certain conditions. On the other hand, if you receive a 65-70% rating on your disability, you will still have high chances of being granted VA disability benefits but will be denied Social Security. This is because you are either completely disabled or not disabled under SSA’s rules. In that case, you may also get veteran worker’s compensation, which is not a disability program. Since it is not an income, but compensation, you will not have your benefits reduced due to it even if your benefits increase the threshold.

It is wise to consult a disability attorney while taking these considerations. Your attorney will not only provide you legal guidance but you will also learn which benefits to seek first to maximize your income.

 

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Difference between social security and veteran benefits

Difference between social security and veteran benefits Difference between social security and veteran benefits

It is very common to see wartime or retired veterans receive both social security and veteran disability benefits at the same time. At other times, veterans may be receiving veteran’s disability benefit while working and choose to delay their social security claims until full retirement.

Depending on the unique situation and eligibility, each veteran will be receiving different kinds of benefits under different programs. For instance, a veteran who has little to no income due to inability to work after injury caused during wartime, the veteran would be granted not only veteran pension but could also be granted Supplemental Security Income, SSI if they qualify.

Similarly, a veteran who became disabled and qualifies under Social Security Disability, may be granted both Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI under federal program and a VA disability benefits program.

Social Security vs Veteran Benefits

While social security benefits are granted solely on medical terms veteran disability benefits, as the name suggests, isn’t necessarily granted on disability alone. This means that a veteran would be able to receive veteran benefits even if he/she is

  • Partially disabled;
  • Not completely unable to go to work;
  • Not completely disabled;
  • Not retired;
  • Still working sometimes;

On the other hand, the Social Security Administration, SSA grants Social Security Disability Insurance to people who are completely disabled or unable to perform sufficient work under substantial gainful activity. You are either disabled or ‘not disabled’ according to the SSA’s rules for SSDI.

Another major difference between the two is the ‘general physician’s opinions’. While it is mandatory for a disability claimant to prove through his RFC form that he/she is unable to perform significant work or earn enough income due to their disability, the veteran disability program has no such rule. In fact, doctor’s opinions are not considered while deciding to grant veteran benefits to a veteran.

There is also another award based on veteran benefits, called ‘veteran service connected disability compensation’. This is not an income, and therefore, would not be considered as benefits. A veteran would be able to receive both the veteran disability compensation and the SSDI at the same time without getting their benefits reduced due to social security offset.

Does qualifying for veteran benefits elevate chances for SSDI claims being approved?

Previously, the Social Security Administration, SSA took into account whether you were granted veteran benefits while analyzing your case. If you had been approved for veteran disability benefits or veteran disability compensation, then the SSA considered your case as strong. It also increased chances of getting your social security disability claims approved quicker.

However, as of new rules set by the SSA after 2017, the chances of your SSDI claims getting approved because you were approved for VA pension or VA benefits is no longer taken into account. This is because it is unclear whether you were granted those claims based on ‘total disability’ or ‘partial disability’ basis. Also, it is cumbersome to determine whether the disability was due to service-connected issues or are non-service disabilities.

Although qualifying for veteran pension or veteran benefits will not give any deference to your social security claims, getting your social security claims IS considered necessary by the authorities while granting you veteran benefits or veteran pension. This is because medical evidence listed in your RFC forms or other social security documents can provide further evidence to your veteran claims.

Whether you are looking forward to apply for veteran benefits or social security disability claims, you can consider consulting an attorney for more detailed legal guidance.

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How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case

How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case How to make sure your doctor is supportive of your disability case

When you file an application for Social Security claims you will be analyzed both medically and non-medically by your social security examiner. This also requires you to submit both medical documentation and those documents not necessarily related to your medical impairment. You will be required to fill out a Residual Capacity Form, RFC.

What is RFC and why should you care?

The RFC is an assessment document that needs to be filled by your doctor unless you qualify automatically under the Social Security’s Blue Book of impairments.  

This would be a detailed report that would clearly list out all the possible limitations that may make you unable to perform work under substantial gainful activity, SGA. Therefore, this needs to be filled out carefully and honestly.

Unfortunately, some doctor’s may refuse to help their patients or simply fail to understand the document’s importance leading to the patient’s social security claims denied. This is because your doctor or GP’s assessment matters a lot while considering your eligibility for the social security claims. For instance, if you have PTSD and frequently find yourself unable to focus on work, your doctor may simply rule out the possibility of you unable to perform work if you two have a communication gap in your medical history or medical symptoms.

There may be many other reasons behind your GP’s reluctance to assist you through RFC, such as:

  • Unclear expectations:

Most of the times, your specialist or GP won’t know the importance of filing out the RFC form carefully or may simply fail to use the right tone of language to list all of your symptoms correctly. Unlike reference letters for college essays, your doctor won’t need to write long essays or comprehensions on your disability. Yet, some doctor’s actually refuse to fill out the RFC forms due to this sole reason. Hence, this falls upon you to let your doctor know what to expect. Better, you can talk to an attorney to gather all of the documentation necessary for social security qualifications. Your attorney would happily take on the task to communicated the expectations with your doctor clearly and help them understand the legalities behind the situation.

  • Lack of time:

Sometimes, this may be genuinely the only reason why a doctor may refuse to fill out the RFC forms. Doctors’ have a tough job and very tight schedules, and they may not agree to fill out an RFC form for you due to busy schedules or tight engagements. Whatever the reason, you should try to accommodate your doctor as much as possible. You can offer to let them fill up the RFC when they get off from duty, or ask your attorney to make an appointment with your doctor after their work hours.

  • Medical opinions about your disability:

This problem occurs with claimants who changed their doctors before filing out the RFC form or requested a doctor who does not have any history of your medical conditions. The best way out of this situation is to contact the doctors who knows your medical condition in and out and who you find the most reliable. Some doctors may also simply refuse to fill out your RFC form because you think your condition is not disabling. In this case, you should try to communicate your symptoms with medical history, proofs and other doctor’s statements with your current doctor. But beware, do not try to do fraud with your RFC forms as this can land you in serious troubles legally.

  • Money:

Some doctor’s may be too busy to find out time from their busy schedules. However, most of them would take up the job as long as you can compensate them for the time it takes to fill out your RFC form.

Whatever your case, explaining and convincing an unwilling doctor to fill out the RFC form responsibly may be cumbersome for you. However, your attorney would be able to help by explaining the legalities and importance of the situation to your doctor. Also, many doctors find it reliable to work with attorneys who represent you on your behalf instead of working with you directly for matters involving legality.

To consult an attorney for your social security case, you can contact us through phone or email, or visit us at our office through an appointment.

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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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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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