When injury or illness strikes, you may not immediately worry about money and how you will pay your bills. Many people first find themselves struggling to get over the shock of seemingly losing part of their self-identity. But, those who face the financial realities of the situation at the outset often achieve superior outcomes to those who take a wait-and-see approach.
If you have suffered a serious injury or illness and have been forced to stop working, Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, may be able to secure disability benefits for you. These programs are offered by the federal government to help hard-working citizens, like you, who have fallen on tough times. These programs provide an essential safety net while people work to develop new skills or recover from their serious impairment or impairments. To schedule a free consultation, call our Sebastian County, AR Social Security Disability lawyer at (479) 316-0438.
What Types of Social Security Benefits are Available in Sebastian County?
There are two main types of benefits administered by the social Security Administration (SSA): Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSD is considered to be an insurance program because, in order to qualify, you must have sufficient work credits. You earn work credits by paying into the Social Security fund through paycheck deductions. In contrast, SSI is not an insurance program and does not require work credits. These benefits are for those who have reached age 65, are blind, or who have a qualifying disability and few resources or limited income.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are funded through payroll taxes paid by workers, employers, and those who are self-employed. Eligibility works similar to Social Security retirement benefits in that it is based on the work credits an individual gained through their payroll tax contributions. More specifically, a Sebastian County resident must have earned twenty or more Social Security credits over the previous ten years. No matter your income, you can only earn four credits per year. As of 2021, a quarterly income of $1,470 is required to earn a credit.
To be eligible for SSDI, a claimant must be suffering from a mental or physical disability that is expected to last at least twelve months or end in the claimant’s death. These benefits are also available to an eligible worker’s spouse, children, or adult children who have had a disability since childhood.
While the amount of income you previously earned does not impact your ability to obtain Social Security credits if it is above the minimum threshold, it will affect your monthly benefits. SSDI benefits are based on your Social Security earnings. Therefore, your monthly benefits will be influenced by the amount of your previous salary.
There is a five-month waiting period following your initial application for SSDI benefits. The SSA will have to evaluate your claim. During this process, you are not entitled to benefits. The SSA does have a Compassionate Allowance list. If you suffer from a severe medical condition and it appears on the SSA’s list, your claim could be processed quicker. It is important to have an experienced Sebastian County Social Security disability attorney assisting you with the application process.
If your claim is denied, you are permitted to file an appeal to have the rejection overturned. Typically, an appeal will be heard by an administrative law judge. The appeal process could be intimidating, so it is a good idea to be represented by a Sebastian County Social Security lawyer.
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income is funded through revenue from the general federal taxes. SSI benefits are not based on a claimant’s previous work history. Therefore, if you did not earn enough Social Security credits to qualify for SSDI, you could still apply for SSI.
SSI benefits are available for individuals who are over the age of 65, disabled adults, and children who are disabled or blind. Monthly benefits are based on a person’s income and resources. The qualifications for SSI are discussed in more detail below.
SSI Eligibility Requirements
As stated above, SSI benefits are not based on the claimant’s work history. SSI benefits are based solely on the financial needs of the claimant. Therefore, to qualify for SSI, an individual must meet some basic income requirements. The SSA will determine a claimant’s income by calculating their resources and assets, such as property and cash.
If you are an individual adult, you must have $2,000 or less in combined cash and bank accounts. For married couples, the limit is $3,000. The value of your house is considered separately and should not disqualify you from receiving SSI benefits. You are also able to own a vehicle, as long as the value does not exceed $4,500. Additionally, the monthly income limit for 2021 is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple.
How Are Disability Claims Evaluated in Sebastian County?
Depending on the level of review, your claim will be analyzed and determined by a Social Security claims examiner or administrative law judge. Regardless of your particular condition or conditions, the evaluation process is a standard 5-step sequential evaluation. The process is:
- Are you employed or earning income? To qualify for disability benefits, your substantial gainful activity is first calculated (SGA). SGA includes the work you perform that brings in money. If your monthly SGA exceeds a certain amount, you are considered ineligible for benefits.
- Does the SSA consider your condition to be severe? To qualify for benefits the SSA must consider your injury to be severe. A severe injury is one that causes limitation in the things that you are able to do. If you have no limitations due to your condition the SSA will not consider it to be severe and you will not be able to qualify for benefits.
- Is your condition Listed by the SSA? The Social Security Administration lists many conditions that it considers to be severe. If your condition is not listed, you may still qualify if your impairment or impairments are medically equivalent to a listed condition.
- Can you complete past work? The agency then determines if you can do past work by figuring out your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the things that you are still able to do.
- Can you perform alternate work? In some instances, the agency may rely on a vocational expert to determine the type of work you can still do despite your severe impairments. A sufficient number of jobs of that type must be available in your particular region.
Why Was My SSDI or SSI Application Denied in Sebastian County, AR?
On average, only 30 percent of Social Security benefits applications are approved at the initial level. With the help of our Sebastian County Social Security disability attorney, you could possibly avoid some of the common errors and reasons why claims are denied.
Many disability claims are denied because the applicant failed to provide sufficient medical evidence. To qualify for SSDI, you need to prove you are unable to work due to your medical condition. You must present medical records and a treatment history that clearly demonstrates how your disability affected your ability to work. For instance, you could be seeing your doctor and other specialists regularly to treat severe back pain. However, without documentation showing a direct connection between your pain and your inability to work, your claim could be denied.
While medical records serve as primary evidence, a medical opinion is also helpful. Your doctor should provide a detailed medical statement that explains your condition, the type of treatment you are receiving, and how your condition impacts your ability to engage in work-related activities. Part of the job of a Sebastian County Social Security disability lawyer is helping an applicant connect the required dots.
Failing to Follow Treatment
Providing medical documentation of your condition is just part of the equation. You have to demonstrate that you are working to improve it if possible. If you fail to follow the treatment prescribed by your doctor, the SSA will deny your claim. An SSA medical examiner will be unable to determine if your condition prevents you from working if you are not complying with your doctor’s orders. If there is a legitimate reason for not following through with the treatment prescribed, you should have the assistance of a Sebastian County Social Security disability lawyer when you appeal your case.
When you apply for SSDI, your income does not come into question. However, SSI is income-based and if you are making more than the minimum threshold, your claim could be denied. Income for SSI purposes includes any cash or in-kind that is used for food and shelter. For example, the salary from a part-time job is considered income. A claimant could also receive unearned income, such as dividends or cash gifts from friends or relatives. The income of people you live with, such as a spouse or parent, is also included.
If your claim has been denied, you should contact our Sebastian County Social Security attorney to discuss and review the appeal process.
Sebastian County Social Security Disability Lawyer Ken Kieklak Can Help
Application for disability benefits is a technical and time-consuming process, but you don’t have to handle it by yourself. The experienced Social Security benefits attorney Ken Kieklak can help. Contact us today by calling (479) 316-0438.