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Social Security

What is social security disability?

Social security disability is a monthly cash benefit payment made by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) to people who are unable to work for a year or more due to physical, mental, and/ or developmental disability.

How do I know if I qualify for benefits?

The SSA considers five different questions in determining whether you qualify for benefits.

  1. Are you currently working?
    If the answer is “yes,” and if your earnings meet or exceed a certain amount, then the SSA will find that you are not disabled. If your earnings do not meet or exceed the set amount, or if you are not working, the SSA moves on to the next question.
  2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
    Severe means that your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities- such as concentrating, remembering, getting along with co-workers and customers, accepting and following directions, and regularly showing up to work on time and when scheduled- for at least 12 months. If the answer is “yes,” move on to the next question.
  3. Does your impairment meet or medically equal a listing?
    The disability conditions which qualify an applicant for benefits are called “listings.” These are contained in a long and complex publication which is accessible online through the SSA’s website. There are far too many to mention in this short brochure, but some common examples of conditions which might meet the SSA’s listings are Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Anxiety and Panic Disorders. If the answer is “yes,” you qualify. If not, move on to the next question.
  4. Can you do the work you did before?
    If you have ever been able to work in the past, the SSA will examine whether you are still capable of doing that work, given the limitations of your present condition. If the answer is “yes,“ the SSA will find that you are not disabled. If not, or if you have never worked before, then move on to the next question.
  5. Can you do any other type of work?
    If the answer is “yes,” you will likely not qualify for benefits.
How do I apply for benefits?

There are three ways to apply for benefits: online, by phone, or in person, by making an appointment with a representative at your local Social Security office. A list of the local offices and the contact information for each is available online. You may not be able to apply online, depending on your work history.

What can I do to improve the odds of winning my case?

The single most important thing that an applicant for disability benefits can do to help his or her case is get regular treatment from a doctor for any medical conditions. In addition, it is important that your doctor is supportive of your claim. If your doctor does not agree that you are disabled, or is not available for regular appointments, you might want to consider finding a new treatment provider. Other sources of treatment, such as regular visits with case managers, social workers, and therapists, are also helpful. Medical records are not REQUIRED to win a case, but approval without medical evidence is very rare.

What can CLRP do to help me win my case?

Although having an attorney will not guarantee that your claim is successful, it can increase your odds of winning, since attorneys are able to understand complex regulations and can take charge of collecting and submitting your medical evidence and communicating with SSA staff who might have questions or need additional information.

CLRP can also answer your questions along the way, and guide you through the process, which can take up to two years from the time when you first apply. Deadlines for filing appeals are also important. A lawyer can make sure that you meet those deadlines so that you do not have to start the process all over again.

Representative Payee

Social Security may require that SSI or SSDI payments be made to a representative payee. A representative payee has an obligation to use the SSI or SSDI for your use and benefit only and keep the money in a separate account. A Social Security Representative payee must follow guidelines in making payments from your money. A social security representative payee is not a conservator and cannot tell you where to live.

Payments other than social security should not be made to a Social Security Representative Payee unless the person is also a conservator, or you agree to such an arrangement. If you have a disagreement with your Social Security Representative Payee you should document your position in writing. If your disagreement is not resolved, you can complain to Social Security. A Social Security Representative Payee has fiduciary obligations to both spend and preserve your money for your sole benefit. If your representative payee steals your money you can file a lawsuit against them for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty.

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