Social Security Disability Attorneys
By Your Side at Every Step, so You Do Not Have to Worry
At Whibbs Stone Barnett, we know that applying for Social Security Disability benefits or appealing a benefits denial can be frustrating and stressful. You should know that a lawyer is not required for you to file for Social Security, but our experience shows time and again that people represented by experienced Pensacola Social Security Disability attorneys typically are more successful in their claims and appeals. They also are relieved to know that a qualified lawyer is doing everything possible to ensure they prevail.
Why Retain an SSD Attorney in Pensacola, FL
We make obtaining Social Security Disability benefits as worry-free as possible. Each Pensacola injury attorney at our firm helps clients navigate the complex Social Security system in order to obtain maximum benefits. We care about clients and know the hardships they face.
In every case, we ensure clients understand their rights and the process. We deal directly with the Social Security Administration on your behalf. We help gather necessary medical reports and documents, assist in applying for benefits, represent you at any hearing and make certain you are prepared for every question.
You pay no fees or costs unless we win your case — this is known as a contingency basis. Normally our fee if you win is 25 percent of your back benefits. This fee must be approved by Social Security.
If you were injured at work, consult with one of our Pensacola workers compensation attorneys for free.
Deciding to Apply for SSD in Pensacola, FL
Often the decision to apply for Social Security Disability benefits is difficult.
Some things to consider:
- You may be eligible for disability benefits if you work less than full-time. If you had to cut your work hours to less than 40 per week due to a mental or physical impairment and are earning less than $940 a month before taxes, you should consider filing an application, especially if you anticipate having to cut your work activity even more.
- On average, it takes about 29 months for a disability claim to proceed from application through an administrative hearing to resolution.
- A delay in filing an application for Social Security Disability may result in the loss of monetary benefits.
- Unlike claims for workers’ compensation or personal injury, the cause of your disability is not relevant in a claim for Social Security Disability benefits.
- If eventually you are able to return to work, you can withdraw your application.
Primary Types of Disability
There are two main types of disability benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
You are insured and eligible for these benefits only if you have worked and paid a certain amount of Social Security tax over a period of time, generally five of the 10 years before you became totally disabled.
A different, easier rule applies to people who were disabled before age 30.
In any event, you are insured for a limited time after you stop working. You must prove that you were disabled prior to expiration of the disability insurance or you will not be entitled to benefits, no matter how serious the medical condition is now. If a delay leaves you ineligible for disability insurance benefits, you may apply for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This program is based on financial need and, consequently, many people are ineligible.
Another reason to file an application as soon as possible is to maximize your retroactive benefits, or back pay, which is payable only for a year prior to your application.
If your claim is approved, your monthly payment is determined by your earnings (and Social Security tax payments) during your working career. There is no minimum rate, and the maximum a person can receive is over $2,100 per month. There is a cost-of-living raise in the monthly payment at the start of most years. In many cases, your dependent children receive additional benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI can be paid whether or not a person has paid in enough Social Security tax to get disability insurance benefits. You must be disabled under the same rules as for disability insurance, or be blind or over 65. You must also have very little income or property, because this benefit is based on financial need. Social Security looks at all other income and property in your household, not just your own, and also the value of any support (such as free room and board) you may get from others, to determine whether you are financially eligible for SSI. Social Security does this in addition to deciding if you are disabled. Also, some children 18 or younger with a severe disability can get a monthly benefit if their family income is low enough.
The maximum SSI benefit amount is $637 a month.
Retroactive SSI benefits, or back pay, are only payable from the first full month after you file an application. There is no provision for retroactive benefits prior to the date your application was filed.
Other Types of Disability Benefits
Disability Widow/Widower Benefits
This is a special benefit for certain disabled widows and widowers, based on the Social Security tax paid by the person’s deceased spouse. In order to qualify, you must be between the ages of 50 and 60 and have been married for at least 10 years to a person who was covered under Social Security at the time of his or her death. Also, you must prove that your disability was severe enough to meet these rules within seven years of your spouse’s death, with some exceptions for those already receiving other kinds of Social Security benefits. If you are awarded benefits, your monthly rate is determined by your spouse’s past income and Social Security tax payments. However, a surviving spouse’s pension can usually be paid at the age of 60, regardless of any disability.
Disabled Adult Child Benefits
In order to be eligible, you must be a child of a person already receiving Disability Insurance Benefits or Retirement Benefits, or who died while covered for Social Security. You must be at least 19 years old, and you must prove your total disability began before the month you turned 22 and is continuing. The monthly benefit rate is based on a percentage of your parent’s rate. Therefore, it differs from case to case.
The SSD Application Process
Once you decide to apply, you should do so as soon as possible to avoid losing any benefits.
An application for Social Security Disability benefits may be filed online, by telephone toll free at 800.772.1213 or in person at your local office. The office serving greater Pensacola is at 411 West Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. Each local office has different processing times; however, it usually takes 30 to 180 days to process an application and issue a decision. You must appeal an unfavorable decision within 60 days of denial.
The appeals process varies from state to state. If you are a Florida resident, there are three levels of the application process: the initial application, the reconsideration and the administrative hearing. If you are an Alabama resident, there are only two levels: the initial application and the administrative hearing.
In general, it takes 30 to 180 days for an appeal to be processed at the reconsideration level in Florida. Once the appeal is processed, you will again receive a written decision. If the decision is unfavorable, a request for an administrative hearing must be filed within 60 days from the date of denial.
Once an administrative hearing is requested, it takes approximately 16 months for it to be held. At a hearing, you appear before an administrative law judge and present evidence supporting your application for disability benefits. The administration also may ask vocational and/or medical experts to testify. A written decision is issued 30 to 90 or more days after the hearing.
How Will Social Security Evaluate My Claim?
The SSA will evaluate your claim using the five-step sequential evaluation process:
STEP 1: Are you working?
You may still be found disabled even if you are working, as long as you are not working at a level determined to be substantial. Earnings in excess of $940 a month or 40 hours of work a week, regardless of your pay, will usually be determined to be substantial work.
STEP 2: Is your condition severe?
Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.
STEP 3: Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
For each major body system, the Social Security Administration has a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, it must be determined if your condition is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, you are disabled.
STEP 4: Can you do the work you did previously?
If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then we must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied.
STEP 5: Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the administration will evaluate your ability to adjust to other work. Your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills will all be considered. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.
Pensacola Social Security Disability Lawyers You Can Trust
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a long and complex process. It is not something you should have to worry about. Let us take care of the details.
For a FREE CONSULTATION on all personal injury claims with an SSD lawyer in Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach, contact Whibbs Stone Barnett online or at (850) 434-5395.
We look forward to delivering the service you expect and the compensation you deserve. We really can help.