How can I tell if I am disabled enough to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

You don't have to be bedridden, even if you're a young person. If you cannot work at a regular job, including your past jobs, because of your medical problems, that ought to be enough. Nevertheless, being unable to work and being found "disabled" by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are two different things.

It is often not easy to convince SSA that someone is "disabled" even when they genuinely cannot work. At the same time, however, it is not impossible. If you really cannot work, apply for SSD and/or SSI benefits. Give SSA all the information it asks for in a straightforward, candid way. Be truthful, and don't exaggerate or minimize your disability.

GETTING SSI OR SSD BENEFITS

How do I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Apply online at www.ssa.gov, telephone your local Social Security office directly, or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. When you call, you will be given the option of 1) going to the Social Security office to apply for benefits, or 2) having your application taken over the telephone. If you choose to go to the Social Security office, the person at the 800 number will schedule an appointment for you and give you directions to the Social Security office. If you want to apply by phone, you will be given a date and an approximate time to expect a phone call from someone at the Social Security office who will take your application over the phone.

When should I apply?

As a general rule when applying for social security benefits, the earlier the better. If you know that it's likely you will continue to be disable d for at least a year, or if you have already been disabled for that long, there is no reason to wait. The appeal process, if necessary, can take a long time; so, the earlier you apply, the earlier you can resolve your claim. On the other hand, if you know that your disability is strictly "short-term", such as having a broken foot, which will only keep you out of work for a few weeks or months, there is probably no reason to apply at all. In that case, it is probably better to "wait and see" how you recover, rather than wasting your time and that of the people at SSA.

What happens if I am denied benefits and I do not appeal within 60 days?

In most cases, you'll have to start over with a new application and it may mean that you'll lose some back benefits. So it's important to appeal all denials within 60 days.

How do I appeal?

You can appeal in one of three ways: 1) Have your attorney file the appeal; 2) Call the Social Security office to make arrangements for your appeal to be handled by phone; 3) Log on to www.socialsecurity.gov; or 4) Go in person to your local Social Security office.

You can find out more information about appealing a Social Security denial here.

What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to get disability benefits?

Failing to appeal a denial of social security benefits. More than half of the people who are denied social security benefits become discouraged and initially fail to request reconsideration, which is the first level of appeal. Another mistake, although much less common, is made by some people when they fail to obtain appropriate medical care. Some people with long-term chronic medical problems feel that they have not been helped much by doctors. Thus, for the most part, they stop going for treatment. This is a mistake for both medical and legal reasons. First, no one needs good medical care more than those with chronic medical problems. Second, medical treatment records provide the most important evidence of disability in a Social Security Disability case.

Do I need an attorney to apply for disability benefits or to request reconsideration, or can I wait until I get to the hearing stage?

Although the attorney's help generally becomes most crucial when the claim reaches the hearing stage, an attorney's involvement early in the claims process can sometimes make the difference between winning and losing a case later on. Plus, in most cases, the attorney's fee is the same whether you hire an attorney early on or just before the hearing. Therefore, although you can file an appeal without being represented by an experienced SSI attorney, applicants generally have much more to gain than to lose by hiring an attorney as early as possible.

What can Bross & Frankel do to help me in my case?

At Bross & Frankel, we know exactly what proof the law requires and how to best present that proof.  We review all of the complicated paperwork and are with you every step of the way in processing all aspects of your case in a diligent, professional manner.  We have also learned from talking to thousands of satisfied clients that, simply knowing that we were on their side and being aware of our outstanding record of success, was crucial to our clients’ well-being during a very difficult time in their lives.

Here are some examples of things that we often do for our clients in Social Security cases:

* review and file the many forms, applications, questionnaires, etc. which SSA asks you to complete;

* participate in the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) hearing through direct examination of you and any witnesses, cross-examination of any vocational and medical experts, and oral argument;

* advise you as to your rights under the Social Security Act and explain the meaning of all terms, procedures, rulings, etc.

* review and evaluate your medical situation as it pertains to SSA's regulations for qualifying for SSD and/or SSI;

* gather, organize, summarize, and clarify medical or other evidence needed;

* recommend, if appropriate, physicians for treatment;

* recommend, if appropriate, independent medical exams or reviews;

* obtain and review additional medical evidence from your physicians;

* request, when necessary, special reports from your physicians and discuss, when appropriate, the requisite evidence with your physicians;

* obtain and review documents from your Social Security file;

* review actions taken by SSA and evaluate if they are proper;

* ensure that your appeals are filed properly and timely;

* prepare and submit appropriate evidence to SSA prior to, at the time of, or following any ALJ hearing;

* prepare you and any witnesses for the ALJ hearing;

* prepare and submit legal memoranda and briefs to the ALJ, Appeals Council, etc.;

* request a review of the ALJ decision, if necessary, by the SSA Appeals Council or beyond to Federal Court;

* communicate with your disability, health or other insurers to obtain documents, maximize coverage, and otherwise protect your interests as an insured.

* research all legal issues which may effect and impact upon your particular claim;

* effectively communicate with any claims adjudicators and disability analysts assigned to your claim.