September 2011 Archives

Disability Benefits and Being Severely Disabled

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A commenter stated that, in their opinion, "It is basically too late to apply. A person can't even get a court date for more than a year and you have to be severely disabled with doctor records. And those records need to be continuous with no breaks in treatment or you can forget being approved".

There's a fair amount to address in these short comments, but I'll start with this: It's never too late to file for disability. One consistent theme I keep encountering after many years is that a great many applicants wait far too long to apply. This is because, in many instances, they are not sure that their condition will be severe enough to get them approved, or they have heard or read that the process will be long and complicated and will eventually necessitate getting a disability representative.

In many cases, I am quite sure, the individual really does not want to file a claim for disability benefits because this mentally signifies giving up: giving up on the hope that their condition will improve, and giving up on what will assuredly be a reduced financial position in the coming years...

For those who would criticize the mere fact that the social security disability and SSI disability program even exist--and there are many of these, though they become fewer as they themselves get older and more subject to developing illnesses and the occurrence of functionally limiting injuries--I should point out that even the most favorable monthly disability benefits are a very poor tradeoff for gainful employment, i.e. most people would rather be working.

Filing for disability should occur as soon as a person is unable to work and earn what the social security administration refers to as SGA, or substantial gainful activity. There is no point, of course, to filing before one's income drops below this level because the result will simply be a technical denial issued on the basis of having too much earned income. But waiting too long is equally pointless.

In the past, I have encountered individuals who have actually waited years before filing. In that time span, they could literally have initiated filing a disability application, been denied on this, filed a disability reconsideration, been denied on this, filed a request for a disability hearing, attended the hearing, and then...possibly have been approved. Waiting for interminable periods after one's physical or mental condition has robbed them of the ability to earn a livable income is never a good idea.

Point two: "A person can't even get a court date for more than a year". Yes, it can take a long time to get a date for a hearing before an ALJ, or administrative law judge. However, the social security administration has the goal of reducing wait times. And, frankly, lengthy waits for hearing dates have been the norm since, oh, the year 2001 at least. Again, to belabor the first point, you can't get a hearing if you don't follow the necessary steps that lead you to the point of being allowed to request one (you have to have been denied on a request for reconsideration before you can make a request for a disability hearing).

Point three: "You have to be severely disabled with doctor records". Correct on both counts. You must be severely disabled, and this is proven via the information contained in one's medical records, in combination with a review of one's vocational factors (how old they are, what work skills they possess, how transferrable those skills are, their age and level of education, how limiting their condition is and to what extent it may limit them from types of work they have done in the past or might, otherwise, have been able to do, i.e. other work).

What is severe according to the social security administration? Severe means having a condition that lasts for at least one full year and which has the effect of functionally limiting you to the extent that you cannot do your past work. It also means being severe enough that the functional limitations imposed you rule out your ability to do some type of other work.

Final Point: "Those records need to be continuous with no breaks in treatment or you can forget being approved." Not quite true. You can have breaks in treatment. What the social security information needs from your records is as follows: (continued on the next post)







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If you are retired from the military, you should have no problem filing for Social Security disability benefits. Applicants who are retired from the military or are receiving Veteran's Administration disability benefits are able to file for disability just as non- military applicants. Social Security allows disability applicants who are retirement age to file for their Social Security retirement benefits while they wait for their disability decision. Therefore, they must give military retirees the same consideration when they file for Social Security disability.

Having military retirement or VA disability benefits does not help or hurt your chances of being approved for Social Security disability benefits. You will have to go through the same process as every other disability applicant. You must file an application for disability with Social Security. During the disability interview you will be asked to provide information about your medical treatment sources and your work history for the past fifteen years (meaning the types of jobs you have performed over those years). After you complete the application, your disability claim is sent to a state disability agency for a medical determination.

Your medical impairment may meet the social security approval criteria of an impairment listing in the Social Security disability list of impairments, i.e. the blue book or guidebook. If it does you may be approved for disability benefits.

However, most applicants do not have an impairment that in and of itself meets the severity requirements of an impairment listing. If your impairment does not meet or equal an impairment listing, the examiner will make a determination as to whether you are able to perform any of your past relevant work or other types of work in the general economy considering your limitations. If the disability examiner determines that your condition is so severe that it precludes all of your past work and any other kind of work you may be approved for disability benefits.

It is important to note the Social Security and VA disability processes are completely different. There are veterans who are one hundred percent disabled under VA criteria that are not approved for Social Security disability. The main reason for this is that Social Security disability is a total disability program rather than a percentage disability program like VA disability. For Social Security you have to be unable to perform substantial work of any kind while VA disability allows an individual to work at a job of some kind if they are able to do so.







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