How is "disability" defined by the Social Security Administration?
The Social Security Administration is governed by the Social Security Act, which has defined "disability" to mean the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has or is expected to last at least 12 months."
Does talking with an attorney about Social Security Disability Cost Anything?
At Melrose Law we offer free consultations to discuss the merits of your case with you at no initial cost! Call (800) 222-2430
Is permanent disability a requirement to get Social Security disability benefits?
No. You must have been disabled for at least a year or have a medical prognosis that expects you to be disabled for at least a year or have a condition that could result in death.
I suffer from multiple health conditions, but none of them individually qualifies me as disabled. Can I still qualify for Social Security disability benefits?
Possibly. The Social Security Administration is supposed to consider any combination of impairments that an individual suffers from that could render him or her disabled. This is a common question and you should speak with an attorney to see if you may qualify.
I have a temporary injury from either a car wreck or some other form of accident, should I still file for disability benefits?
This depends. If you are expected to be out of work for more than one year because of injury or illness, then you should file for benefits.
How does the Social Security Administration determine if I qualify as disabled?
This is a long and sometimes tedious process. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is supposed to gather your medical records and consider your age, health conditions as well as your educational background and work experience. At the most basic level, the SSA is supposed to determine if you are unable to perform the work you did before your illness or injury. Or, if there is any other work in which you can perform that is similar after considering your health conditions, age, education and work experience.
Who actually determines if I am disabled?
After completing the first step and filing your claim, your case is transmitted to a SSA disability examiner who works at the Disability Determination Agency in North Carolina, or whichever state that you reside in. The disability examiner along with a doctor will make the initial determination of whether your claim qualifies you for disability.
If the claim is denied, you may request a reconsideration at which point your case is sent to another disability examiner where it goes through the same process.
If the claim is denied again, you must request a hearing if you wish to continue. At this point it is critical to consider obtaining an experienced attorney to assist you with the hearing. Having a strong advocate on your side can often make the difference between benefits and denial at the hearing stage.
At the hearing there will be an Administrative Law Judge who works for the SSA. This judge will make an independent decision regarding the validity of your claim based on the Operations Manual set forth by the SSA. This is the only time that you the claimant will actually get to see another person who can make a decision about your case.
Is there a certain list of illnesses that the SSA considers as always disabling?
No. The SSA considers multiple factors such as age, the health condition, work experience and the potential to adapt to do different work. Also, since most types of sickness range from minor to severe in each individual there is no one way for the SSA to diagnose each disease as disabling. However, see the list we set out on the Social Security Disability webpage. Those conditions are some of the more common conditions that are found to be disabling BUT by no means is that list exclusive.
I have a severe mental illness can this be my basis for my Social Security Disability Claim?
Yes. Mental illness can qualify you for disability benefits.
Is there anything I can do to improve the odds of having my disability claim approved?
You can significantly improve your chances of having your claim approved by consulting with an experienced attorney and law firm. Attorney Mark Melrose, former senior partner at Melrose Seago & Lay, can dramatically help improve your odds of winning your claim. Statistically, disability claimants who retain an attorney are much more likely to succeed in their claims versus those claimants who are not represented by experienced attorneys.
What if the Social Security Administration denies my claim for Social Security disability benefits?
This is common, so try and remain calm. Most disability claims are denied at the first application level. If you are denied at this first initial level or at the reconsideration level, please contact our firm we will gladly help you with the whole appeals process.
What is "Reconsideration"?
This is the first step of the appeals process. After being denied at the initial level, a disability benefits claimant (in NC) must request a reconsideration. This essentially, means that your claim will be submitted to another disability examiner and doctor to see if you qualify. Neither of these people ever actually see you though. Do not be surprised if your claim is denied again at this level, nearly 80% of claims are denied in reconsideration. This is when having an experienced attorney can benefit you most during the appeals process.
How long will the application process take?
The process will vary from claim to claim but be prepared for a wait. Often, it can take up to and beyond one year to actually have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
How long will it take the SSA to make an initial determination on my claim?
Typically, the SSA will make its initial determination between 3-4 months.
How long does the Reconsideration process take?
In most cases, this process will take between 3-4 months.
Do I have to hire an attorney to represent me for a disability claim?
No, and you can choose to go through all the levels of review by yourself. But statistically, claimants who retain an experienced attorney have a much higher success rate than those who do not in the hearing phase.
How much do you charge for representing me in my disability claim?
Typically, we work on a contingency basis. This means that we only get a percentage (typically 25%) of back benefits the claimant wins and there is NO FEE if the claimant is not successful. However, we are sometimes able to create other fee arrangements on a case by case basis if this fee structure will not work for your case.
Will I qualify for Medicare if I am approved for Social Security Disability?
Yes, you will receive Medicare after you have been entitled to disability benefits for two years. This can include back time if the SSA or the Administrative Law Judge determines that you were entitled to benefits from 2 or more years ago before the finding of disability.