If you believe you are entitled to Social Security benefits and would like assistance with your application or have been denied and would like representation to expedite your appeal,BERGSTROM & ASSOCIATES CAN HELP!
Contact us today and we will help you exercise your rights under the Social Security Administration program so that you can recover any benefits you may be entitled to receive.
Social Security Disability Programs
A person’s physical or mental disabilities can significantly limit or halt their ability to make a living. Programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) may be available for those who are unable to work because of an ongoing medical condition. Understanding the eligibility requirements, application procedures, and appeals process can be very confusing, especially for individuals sidelined by a disability. Having a qualified attorney on your side to represent you can eliminate that confusion and can also help to expedite your application and/or appeal process. The attorneys at Bergstrom & Associates are well versed on Social Security Disability rules and guidelines and will work diligently on your behalf to represent you throughout the claims process.
HIRING A SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY LAWYER
How Much Does A Social Security Attorney Charge?
Unlike many attorneys, disability lawyers do not charge up-front fees or require a retainer to work on a Social Security disability case. Disability attorneys will be paid a fee only if they win the case (this is called a contingency fee.) You and your attorney will sign a contingency fee agreement, subject to the Social Security Administration’s approval, which allows the agency to pay your attorney directly from your qualified benefits (if you win your claim). The fee amount paid to your attorney is a set amount which is determined by the Social Security Administration’s federal guidelines.
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY INSURANCE (SSDI)
Social Security Benefits for People who are Disabled:
Even if you haven’t reached retirement, if you meet the work credit requirements and are considered disabled under Social Security rules, you can receive benefits before your full retirement age. Those benefits will only be slightly reduced from what you would have received if you worked until your full retirement age. To receive benefits, a lengthy application must be thoroughly filled out, completed and submitted to the Social Security Administration for review. Not all claims that are submitted will be approved upon the initial application and many applicants may be forced to file an appeal for a second review. If the applications is incomplete or all of the requested medical records and other documentation are not submitted with the initial application, this may also be grounds for denial.
5 Step Process to Determine Disability:
(1) Are you working?
If you are and your earnings average more than $1130 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.
Note: This amount increases annually based on the national wage index.
(2) Is your condition severe?
Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.
(3) Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments?
Social Security maintains a list of impairments for each major body system which are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, Social Security must decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on the list, and if so, the claim is approved.
(4) Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not of same or equal severity with an impairment on the list, Social Security determines if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim is denied. If it does, further consideration is given.
(5) Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the type of work you did in the last 15 years, Social Security determines if you can do any other type of work with consideration given to age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills. If you cannot do any other type of work, your claim is approved. If you can, your claim is denied.
What You Should Know About Social Security Disability Insurance Income / SSDI:
Specific criteria must be met to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Income (SSDI). The Congress of the United States has defined disability (for purposes of entitlement to disabled worker’s benefits) as the inability to engage in any Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA):
The term “Substantial Gainful Activity” is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities, or a combination of both. “Gainful” work activity is either of the following:
- Work performed for pay or profit;
- Work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit; or
- Work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized.
A person must NOT only be unable to do his or her previous work but cannot engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, considering the persons:
- work experience
Note: It is immaterial whether such work exists in the immediate area, or whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether the worker would be hired if he or she applied for work.
To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.
Note: “The worker’s impairment or impairment’s MUST be the primary reason for his or her inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, although age, education, and work experience are also taken into consideration in determining the worker’s ability to do work other than previous work”.
What Is Residual Functional Capacity?
One of the most important concepts in evaluating Social Security Disability claims is Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Social Security defines RFC as the total of what one is left capable of doing after impairments have taken their toll. Your impairment(s), and any related symptoms, such as pain, may cause physical and mental limitations that affect what you can do in a work setting. So your residual functional capacity is the most you can still do despite your limitations. Your overall residual functional capacity is your remaining physical and mental ability after taking into account your physical and mental limitations.
Social Security identifies the level of work capability in categories of:
(1) Sedentary work
(2) Light work
(3) Medium work
(4) Heavy work
Example of Sedentary work
Sedentary work is defined as “involving lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting and carrying articles like, docket files, ledgers, and small tools”. Although sitting is primarily involved in a sedentary job, walking and standing should be required only occasionally. Standing and walking should total no more than 2 hours per 8 hourwork day, while sitting would total about 6 hours per 8 hour workday. Most unskilled sedentary jobs demand good manual dexterity for repetitive hand and finger motions.
Example of Light work
Light work is defined as “lifting no more than 20 pounds at one time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds”. A good amount of standing and walking, approximately 6 hours of an 8 hour work day, is usually required of jobs in this category. Good use of hands and arms for grasping and holding is important also. A seated position which involved extensive pushing and pulling of hand or foot controls would be included in the light work category too.
- In the age group 18-44, the maximum residual functional capacity allowed is “less than sedentary”.
- For literate people of all education levels between age 45-49, the maximum RFC allowed is also “less than sedentary”.
- Above age 50, with consideration given to education, and previous work experience, the maximum RFC increases to sedentary, light, or medium.
Factors to Consider When Evaluating RFC:
As described above, Residual Functional Capacity is an evaluation of your remaining ability to do things (work) after taking into account all of the limitations your severe medical conditions cause you. Think of it as “How much can you do & for how long?”.
The Social Security Administration will look at how your medical condition(s) has affected your ability to:
(1) Exert yourself physically for various work-related activities (such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling).
(2) Do manipulative and postural activities (such as reaching, handling large objects, using your fingers, feeling, stooping, balancing, climbing stairs or ladders, kneeling, crouching, crawling).
(3) Tolerate certain environmental conditions (such as temperature extremes, wetness, humidity, noise, hazardous working conditions like moving machinery or heights, dust, fumes, odors, gases, poor ventilation, vibrations).
(4) See, hear, and speak.
(5) Maintain concentration and attention at work.
(6) Understand, remember and carry out instructions.
(7) Respond appropriately to supervisors, co-workers, and usual work situations.
(8) Cope with changes in the work setting.
Responsibilities of the Social Security Administration:
A thorough understanding of all of the factors that go into a RFC determination is important if you want to have the best chance of success with your Social Security Disability Insurance claim.
Note: In general, you are responsible for providing the medical evidence that Social Security uses when evaluating your residual functional capacity. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will assess your residual functional capacity based on all of the relevant medical information and other gathered evidence related to your claim.
Before the SSA can make a determination that you are not disabled, they are responsible for the following activities:
(1) Developing your complete medical history, including arranging for a consultative examination(s) if necessary;
(2) Making every reasonable effort to help you get medical reports from your own medical sources;
(3) The SSA will consider any statements about what you can still do that have been provided by medical sources, whether or not they are based on formal medical examinations;
(4) The SSA will also consider descriptions and observations of your limitations from your impairment(s), including limitations that result from your symptoms, such as pain, provided by you, your family, neighbors, friends, or other persons.
(5) In summary, they will consider your ability to meet the physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of work using their definitions of Substantial Gainful Activity and Residual Functional Capacity.
If you believe you are entitled to Social Security benefits and would like assistance with your application or have been denied and would like representation to expedite your appeal, Bergstrom & Associates can help.
CONTACT US TODAY FOR ASSISTANCE WITH YOUR DISABILITY CLAIM!
Social Security Disability / Social Security Benefit Resources (SSA):
(Please Copy and Paste URL onto web page if link not working)
- Social Security Administration Homepage: https://www.ssa.gov/
- My Social Security Benefits: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/
- Online Social Security Handbook: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.html
- Retirement Toolkit: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/retirement-toolkit.pdf
- Disability Determination Process: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability.html
- Disability planner: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/dapply.html
- Social Security Disability Brochure: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf
- Online Social Security Disability Application: www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability
- Adult Disability Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_adult_eng.htm
- Child Disability Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm
- Social Security Disability Appeals Process: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf