When an injury or illness interferes with employment, the resulting financial situation can quickly lead to stress and anxiety. Your impairment prevents you from earning, yet the costs of daily living — such as bills, groceries, and mortgage or rent payments — continue to accumulate just the same. To help solve this problem, the SSA, or Social Security Administration, offers disabled individuals several types of assistance in the form of monthly disability benefits.
The SSA administers two programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), that offer incredible resources to qualified applicants. However, the process of qualifying can be extremely difficult. During the initial stage of filing a claim, the Arkansas approval average is only about 45%, leaving the remaining 65% of applicants with rejection notices. During the next stage, Reconsideration, the approval rate plummets even lower, down to about 9%.
Getting a claim approved is a challenge, but an experienced attorney can help you succeed. To schedule your confidential case evaluation, call our Fort Smith, Arkansas Social Security Disability lawyers away at (479) 316-0438. Claims can take months or even years to be reviewed upon submission, so don’t delay another day: call now to get started.
Experienced Legal Counsel is Vital When Applying for Social Security Disabilities in Fort Smith, AR
Obtaining a disability award is possible, but for most people, it is a challenging and intimidating process. As the statistics cited above make painfully clear, Arkansas-based claimants are up against tough odds. The system is deliberately designed to filter out a large number of applicants, and the SSA’s requirements for demonstrating “severe impairment” can be very rigorous and specific. With so many factors weighing against you, you need aggressive professional support to help maximize your chances of success.
Our Fort Smith, AR Social Security Disability attorneys have over 20 years of dedicated experience helping the people of Arkansas claim the benefits they are rightfully owed. No matter what sort of serious illness or injury you are experiencing or which stage of the application process you have reached with the SSA, our firm is here to advocate on your behalf. We will work with you and your physician to help prepare the very strongest claim possible, whether you are filing for yourself or on behalf of your child. When you need a results-driven legal team with a reputation for excellence, you can call GKD Law.
What Are The Types of Social Security Benefits Available in Fort Smith, Arkansas
The two programs the SSA offers to disabled Americans are:
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)
The acronyms are deceptively similar, but do not be mistaken: these programs have very different requirements, and one or the other may be a better fit for you. (While uncommon, some people do qualify for both, which is called receiving concurrent benefits.)
Social Security Disability Insurance
While the SSA administers SSDI, the program is funded through payroll taxes. Individuals who have worked in Fort Smith and throughout Arkansas have contributed to the program by paying their FICA taxes. These funds are collected into a trust that is used to pay for disability benefits. One way to think of it is as a typical insurance policy – you pay a monthly premium and when you need it, the benefits are there.
However, you must still qualify. Because you are funding the trust, you must have contributed a significant amount before you are eligible to receive any benefits. Workers earn “work credits” every year that they work and pay taxes, up to four credits per year.
SSDI claimants must also be over the age of 18 and younger than 65. The number of work credits you need depends on your age and work history.
SSDI is also available for a disabled individual’s dependents. “Auxiliary benefits” are based on your work history and your spouse and children could be eligible. In some cases, your grandchildren could qualify if they are your dependents and their parents are either deceased or disabled. If you have questions regarding auxiliary benefits or SSDI, contact our Fort Smith, AR Social Security Disability lawyers.
It is important to note that the SSA does not pay disability benefits for the first five months a person is disabled. There is a mandatory five-month waiting period. The monthly amount a person receives depends on their work history. Typically, a person needs 40 credits or ten years of full-time work.
Supplemental Security Income
Unlike SSDI, Supplement Security Income is need-based and is funded by the general tax fund – not the Social Security trust fund. The SSA bases SSI eligibility on an individual’s income and assets. A person’s work history does not factor into the process.
To qualify for SSI, the SSA is concerned with an individual’s financial situation. Under SSI guidelines, an applicant’s assets must be worth less than $2,000 or $3,000 if part of a couple.
Those eligible for SSI could also receive Medicaid. Additionally, many people receiving SSI benefits also qualify for food stamps. While there is no five-month waiting period for SSI benefits, the SSA will calculate the benefits on a monthly basis. This means that your benefits could decrease or be eliminated if you earn too much money one month.
Which Social Security Benefits Should I Apply For?
If you are disabled, choosing which program you should apply for is based on your circumstances. If you have been working for years and paying into the Social Security trust fund, you could be eligible for SSDI. However, if you have limited income or have been out of work for years, SSI is your likely choice.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and SSDI
An important concept to understand is substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is the amount of monthly income the SSA has determined qualifies someone for SSDI benefits. As of 2021, the SGA for a disabled applicant is $1,310 and $2,190 for a blind individual. Therefore, if you are capable of earning more than $1,310 a month, you will not qualify for SSDI benefits.
Income and Asset Limits for SSI
The income limitations for SSI are different than SSDI. Typically, in 2021 a qualifying applicant for SSI must earn $794 or less a month. If a couple is applying, then the monthly income is limited to $1,191.
The SSA will also consider the income of anyone living with the SSI applicant when calculating their income and assets. For example, if your spouse is not receiving SSI, their income would be counted to determine your eligibility. Furthermore, if a disabled child is applying for SSI, their parent’s income will count.
The SSA does not count all income when making an SSI determination. For instance, the first $20 of most types of income, SNAP benefits, tax refunds, and other public need-based benefits are not considered income. Another important point to remember is that the SSA allows you to deduct any impairment-related expenses. For instance, if you need to pay additional costs for transportation, it could be deducted from your countable income.
No matter which benefits program you apply for, having our experienced Fort Smith, AR Social Security Disability lawyers advocating on your behalf will increase your chances of being approved.
What Conditions Are Covered in my Disability Claim?
The SSA will consider all conditions and injuries which are covered in the so-called “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments. The Listing is divided into Listing A for adults and Listing B for children, and each listing is subsequently divided into numerous categories based on ailment type and body system.
However, even if you do not see your condition in the Listing, don’t give up: you could still qualify with a medical-vocational allowance depending on the results of your RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) assessment.
If you have a rare illness, you are unlikely to see it listed in the Blue Book, which typically sticks to common conditions. In this scenario, you may be able to qualify with the compassionate allowances (CAL) program, which fast-tracks exceptionally pressing cases.
Getting back to the Listing, some of the more common medical issues it contains include:
- Heart Failure
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Stroke (referred to as “Central Nervous System vascular accident”)
Proving Your Disability in Fort Smith Arkansas
One of the reasons benefits are denied is because applicants fail to demonstrate that they have a qualifying disability. Our Fort Smith, AR Social Security Disability attorneys are available to assist you in gathering the evidence you need to increase your chances for approval. Additionally, our office will help you avoid some common mistakes, including omissions or missing deadlines during the application process
Providing medical evidence supporting your claim is vital in being approved for Social Security benefits. Our law firm will assist you in developing the medical documentation that will help demonstrate that you have a qualifying disability.
The SSA is looking for medical evidence that dates back to the onset of your disability. That is why it is crucial to provide a complete medical history. Finding the onset date is often challenging. However, by working closely with your family, healthcare providers, and employer, our Fort Smith Social Security Disability attorneys should be able to pinpoint when your impairment began adversely affecting your ability to work.
Your Doctors Are Important
Your treating physician and any specialists you are seeing are vital in presenting a clear picture of your disability. Medical professionals could provide a clinical assessment of your condition, whether the impairment is physical or mental. Your doctor’s credentials are also important – the SSA does not view all medical opinions with the same weight. It is better to have a specialist in their field speaking to your condition rather than a doctor who practices in a different field.
Medical statements from your treating doctors could be used to describe your condition and treatment. By explaining the results of diagnostic tests and the symptoms of your condition, a medical professional will connect the dots for the SSA. You need your doctor to say more than “my patient is suffering from a disability.” Their opinion should address how your impairment negatively impacts your ability to do required work tasks, such as standing, sitting, or retaining information.
Contact Our Fort Smith Social Security Disability Lawyers Today
If you are living with a serious long-term injury or illness, you may be a good candidate for monthly benefits. To speak privately with an attorney, call our Fort Smith, AR Social Security Disability lawyers at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online today.