December 15, 2018

How Long Does it Take for Social Security to Decide my Disability Claim

How long can you expect to wait – start to finish – for Social Security to make a decision in your case.  The answer depends on the seriousness of your medical condition and whether the evidence clearly shows that you meet a Social Security listing.

Otherwise, be prepared to wait…and wait…and wait.

Given budget cuts at SSA, you could end up waiting up to 3 years for a decision – and that’s with no guarantee that you win.   [Read more…]

What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?  As I discuss in this episode, SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance.  It is an insurance program and the payroll taxes you paid while you were working are the premiums.

You earn insurance “credits” based on your gross earnings.  In 2018, you earn one credit for every $1,320 of gross earnings.  You can earn a maximum of four credits in a calendar year, so once you have earned $5,280, you will have all four possible credits.

The earnings requirements for previous years are slightly lower and the earnings requirements for 2019 and beyond will be higher.

It does not matter when during the the year that you earn your credits – if you earned $5,280 during the first week of January in 2018 you would be covered for the full year. [Read more…]

How Does Social Security Define the term “Disability”

How does Social Security define the term “disability?”  Under the law, you are disabled if you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable condition or conditions that has lasted or is expected to last 12 consecutive months, or result in death.

What does this mean?  In this episode, I unpack this definition so that you know what you have to prove.  And if you know what SSA needs, you can make sure that every form you fill out and every statement you make addresses this threshold question – do you meet SSA’s definition of disability? [Read more…]

When Should You Consider Amending Your Onset Date

When you file for disability, the Social Security intake clerk will ask you for a specific date when your disability began.  Similarly, if you file online, you will have to choose a date when you became disabled.  In Social Security terminology, this date will be known as your alleged onset date (abbreviated AOD).

Like many elements of Social Security claims, SSA offers no real guidance about how to choose an onset date.  Ideally, your onset date should be that date when you no longer have the capacity to perform substantial activity (full time work) because of a medical condition or conditions.

Most of the time, SSA personnel will advise you to choose a date after you stopped working – typically the day after you terminated your employment.   This “last day of work” choice usually works but what if you stopped working full time 6 months earlier and your last 6 months of part time work resulted in numerous absences.  Similarly, what happens if you stopped working because your company went out of business and your medical issues did not become a problem until 4 months after you stopped working?

In this video I talk about the idea of amending your onset date.  Social Security allows you to change the date when you claim that your disability began.  Sometimes this change will reflect the reality of your situation and other times it will reflect the medical record and what your lawyer believes he can argue successfully on your behalf.

Thinking about your onset date and considering possible changes ahead of time should be the main takeaway from this video.  Given that Social Security judges are under tremendous pressure to approve only deserving claims, you are more likely to face pressure from the judge to change your onset to reduce your past due benefit award.  Sometimes it will make sense to compromise and sometimes it is better to stand firm.

Should I Agree to Amend my Disability Onset Date? from Jonathan Ginsberg on Vimeo.

How to Win Your Disability Claim Early

One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients has to do with the delays that plague the Social Security disability system. Why should a claimant have to wait 2 to 3 years to get a decision on his application?
When you file your claim, there are 5 different points in time where you can be approved:

  1. initial application
  2. reconsideration appeal
  3. administrative law judge hearing
  4. Appeals Council review
  5. District Court appeal

For most claimants, the Appeals Council and District Court appeal do not come into play.  Very few cases are taken to these levels of appeal and even fewer are approved.

Thus, for all practical purposes, most claimants should be concerned about getting approved at the “State Agency” level – initial application and reconsideration, or at the “Administrative Law Judge” level – the hearing.

In terms of the time frames involved, a decision on your initial application will be made within 4 to 6 months after you apply.  If you are denied, and file a reconsideration appeal, that decision will be made within another 4 to 6 months.   The initial and reconsideration phases of your case, therefore, will be complete within 8 months to 1 year after you apply.

If you are denied at reconsideration and you request a hearing, you are likely to see a 12 to 18 month wait.  As you can see, it takes twice a long to get a hearing as it does to get a decision from the State Agency. [Read more…]