Most of us don’t expect to become disabled. Yet statistics show that it is a risk that all of us face. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 26% of all adults in the United States suffer from some form of disability.
If you are unable to work because of a medical or mental health condition, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI is available to claimants who meet the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s definition of disabled and who have paid into the system through working and paying taxes. If your application for disability benefits is approved, then you will receive a monthly cash payment.
At Bross & Frankel, we have decades of experience advocating for people with disabilities throughout New Jersey. If you are considering filing for Social Security disability – or appealing a denial of an SSDI claim – we can help. Reach out to our law office to schedule a free initial consultation with an Elizabeth Social Security disability lawyer.
What Is SSDI?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program offered by the SSA. If you qualify for benefits, then you will receive a monthly check. SSDI is different from another Social Security disability program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is available for people who are disabled and who also have limited income and assets. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for both SSDI and SSI benefits.
SSDI is funded by payroll taxes, known as Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes. Whether you are employed as an employee, an independent contractor, or self-employed, you will pay these taxes on your income. You then earn “credits” for Social Security purposes. If you have paid into the system, then you may be eligible for SSDI benefits.
SSDI monthly payments vary based on the claimant’s lifetime earnings. If you qualify for SSDI, then the amount of money that you will receive will be based on how much you have paid into the system. As of February 2023, the average disability benefit is $1,483.17 per month.
Am I Eligible for SSDI?
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must prove that you are disabled according to the SSA’s definition of disability. The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to make this determination:
- If you are working, you cannot earn more than an average of $1,470 (in 2023) per month (known as substantial gainful employment, or SGA). If you are not working, then the SSA’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) will decide your condition;
- Your impairment or combination of impairments must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work, and must be expected to last for a year or longer or to result in death;
- Your impairment must meet or exceed all of the requirements on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, or it must have other factors that equal a medical condition on the list;
- If your impairment does not meet this criterion, then it must prevent you from performing any of your past work; and
- You must not be able to do any other type of work, based on your impairment, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills.
If the SSA makes a decision that you are disabled based on medical records and other evidence of your disability and inability to work, then you may be approved for disability benefits if you earned enough credits by working and paying taxes. Generally, you must have at least 40 credits to qualify. However, this number is lower for younger people because they have not had as much time to build up credits.
It can be hard to figure out if you are eligible for Social Security disability if you are unfamiliar with the application process and the requirements for SSDI. An experienced attorney who understands how the SSA evaluates claims can advise you of your rights and options for filing for disability. In Elizabeth, NJ, reach out to Bross & Frankel for a free claim review.
How Can an Elizabeth, NJ Social Security Disability Attorney Help?
It is possible to file for SSDI on your own, without the assistance of a disability lawyer. However, given the high rates of denial for initial SSDI applications, it is often a smart decision to work with an Elizabeth SSDI lawyer from the start.
A disability attorney will understand the type of proof that the SSA looks for when evaluating SSDI claims. Your lawyer will evaluate your medical records and other evidence, make sure that your paperwork is complete, and offer suggestions for additional medical and vocational evidence to support your claim.
If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal with the help of an SSDI-denied disability lawyer. There are 4 levels of appeal with the SSA:
- Request for Reconsideration;
- Request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ);
- Request review by the SSA Appeals Council; and
- File a lawsuit in federal court.
Each of these steps requires meeting strict deadlines and following technical rules. Even if you didn’t work with an attorney for your initial disability claim, it’s a good idea to hire an Elizabeth disability lawyer for an appeal. Having legal representation is the best way to increase the likelihood of getting your claim approved.
How Bross & Frankel Can Help
SSDI is meant to serve as a safety net for people who cannot work due to a disability. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get approved for these disability benefits due to issues like paperwork errors or insufficient evidence. Our law firm can help you with the process, whether you are just starting your claim or need to appeal a denial.
Bross & Frankel has decades of combined experience advocating for people with disabilities as they navigate the Social Security disability process. We work hard to help our clients get the benefits that they deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with an Elizabeth Social Security disability attorney, give us a call at 866-864-3130 or fill out our online contact form.
How Can I Pay for an SSDI Lawyer If I Can’t Work?
Social Security disability lawyers in Elizabeth, NJ work on a contingency fee. This means that you will pay nothing out of pocket, and will only pay a fee to your attorneys if you are approved for benefits. The SSA caps total attorney’s fees at 25% of the backpay award, or $7,200, whichever is lower.
Contingency fee arrangements make it possible for anyone to hire a skilled disability benefits attorney, even if they don’t have extra cash to pay an hourly fee. If you are contemplating filing for disability, we’re here for you. Reach out to Bross & Frankel to schedule a free claim review.
What Happens if My Social Security Disability Claim Is Denied?
If your SSDI claim is denied, don’t panic. There are 4 levels of appeal with the SSA, starting with a request for reconsideration and going up to a lawsuit in federal court. Typically, it makes more sense to appeal an SSDI denial rather than filing a new claim. An Elizabeth Social Security disability attorney can help you decide how to move forward with your claim.
If you are filing for SSDI benefits or have already received a denial of your application, our law firm can help. Reach out to Bross & Frankel to schedule a free consultation with an SSDI lawyer in Elizabeth, New Jersey.