July 31, 2013

There are two programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for individuals who are disabled and unable to work:  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  It is easy to confuse the programs because both are administered by the SSA and both are to assist people who are disabled.  Most people are not clear which one they should apply for, or if they should apply for both.

SSI is a needs-based program based on an individual’s financial assets and income.  In Florida, if you receive SSI, you also receive Medicaid.

SSDI is an insurance program based upon taxes you have paid in to the SSA.  The amount you are eligible to receive is based upon your work history and your contributions to Social Security and Medicare through payroll taxes.   If you qualify for SSDI, you also become eligible for Medicare after 30 months.

The good news is that if you are not sure which program is best for you, the SSA should screen applicants for both programs.  Some people can receive benefits from both programs.  If you have questions, please call our office at 904-981-9812.

Defense of Marriage Act

July 24, 2013

The Social Security Administration recently updated the website with the following  information about the recent Supreme Court decision:

The President has directed the Attorney General to work with other members of his Cabinet to review the recent Supreme Court decision and determine its impact on Federal benefit programs – including benefits administered by Social Security – to ensure that we implement the decision swiftly and smoothly.

We are working with the Department of Justice to determine how the decision affects our programs, and to develop appropriate instructions for our personnel.  We encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process these claims as soon as we have finalized our instructions.

Below are a few frequently asked questions to provide additional clarification:

Q1:     What should I do if I think I might be eligible for benefits?

A1:     If you think you might be eligible for benefits, we encourage you to apply right away.  Applying now will preserve your filing date, which we use to determine the start of potential benefits.

Q2:     When will SSA begin paying benefits to same sex couples?

A2:     We will move swiftly to process claims once we have finalized instructions for our personnel.


I have been calling the Social Security Administration on behalf of my clients for almost twenty years.  It has invariably involved long wait times while I held the phone to one ear with one hand while I tried to get some work done with the other hand.

Last year, the SSA initiated a call back system.  Now, instead of calling, you can leave your telephone number and a claims representative calls you back.  It’s been a great tool and I encourage anyone with a question about their benefits to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 .

Of course, if you have a question about applying for Social Security Disability, call our office at 904-981-9812.  We answer questions too.

When a person is filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, they are usually fairly confident.  Often they have the assurance of their doctor that they are disabled or that they cannot work.  What else does a person need?  In actuality, a lot more.  Applying for benefits can be a lengthy and stressful process full of deadlines and details, paperwork and ever-changing regulations.  Below are five reasons to consider hiring an attorney.

1.  It’s Complicated:  The claims process is complex.  No one thinks his claim will be denied, but the fact is that most claims – even legitimate ones – are initially denied.  It is easy to misunderstand the process and provide information to the SSA that may be misconstrued.  An attorney can clarify the details for the SSA, collect medical records, request helpful statements for physicians and deal with the claims representative on behalf of individuals filing for disability.

2.  The Fine Print:  It is hard for a layperson to navigate the language and legal meaning of the Social Security rules and regulations.  An attorney can help make the terminology clear.

3.  Communication with the Social Security Administration:  Communicating with Social Security can be done through an attorney.  Clients should not feel intimidated or that they are not connecting with the right party at the Social Security office.  Attorneys can communicate with the claims representatives at all of the Social Security offices to make sure a claim is being processed in a timely manner and that everything that they need is obtained and submitted.

4.  Representation in Court:  If a claim advances to a hearing, an attorney can gather evidence, represent a person in the hearing, discuss the legal bases for finding disability with the judge and make sure all of the needed information is put into a claim file.

5.  Past Due Benefits:  If a client wins his Social Security claim, an attorney will review all notices to confirm that a client receives all of the benefits that are due.


If you need help with a Social Security Disability claim, please call our office at 904-981-9812.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a five-step sequential evaluation process for all of its Social Security disability claims.

1.  Employment:  If you are earning $1,000 or more per month as an employee, the SSA will usually not proceed with a claim.  SSA will typically find that regardless of any impairments you might have, you are able to earn “substantial gainful income”.

2.  Severity of Condition:  The medical problem that you are alleging must be severe enough to limit your ability to work and last or be expected to last more than 12 months or result in death.

3.  Listed Impairments:  The SSA has a list of medical conditions that it considers severe enough to impact the ability to work.  In addition to having a listed medical impairment, the listing of impairment describes symptoms and findings that must accompany your diagnosis.

4.  Past Relevant Work:  The SSA will determine what your physical and mental level of functioning is and then decide whether you can do your past work.  The SSA looks at work you have done in the past fifteen years.

5.  Other Work:  The final step for the SSA to evaluate is whether you can do another type of work based upon your level of functioning.  If the SSA determines you cannot do other work, your claim should be granted.  At this stage, your age and education are considered because as a person ages, his ability to find work is more limited.

If you need help with a Social Security Disability claim please contact my office at 904-981-9812.

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