If you are too ill or too injured to work, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (also known as “SSD” and “SSDI”). You pay into that program your entire working life, so it should be there for you when you need it. Making a successful claim, however, can be a challenge. That is why the Birmingham Social Security Disability lawyers of Mezrano Law Firm can help you when you are hurt. Call us to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices throughout Alabama.
In order to be eligible for Disability benefits, you have to meet certain criteria:
Let’s break down what each of these means.
The first thing the Social Security Administration (SSA) will check is whether or not you are working. If you are, and if you earn more than $1,220 a month, you will not be eligible for benefits.
If you are not working, the SSA will look to see if you could go back to that work, or if you could do another type of work. If you can, then you will probably be denied benefits.
The SSA wants to know how severe your condition is. If your injury or condition leaves you unable to do “basic” work – like sitting, standing, lifting, and so forth – for at least 12 months, you could be eligible for SSD benefits. If your condition is terminal, you should also be eligible.
One way the SSA determines severity is by seeing if you have a medical condition named on its list of impairments – what the Administration calls the “blue book.” If you have a “blue book” illness or injury, you are not guaranteed benefits, but it will help you build a stronger case.
Not everyone with a debilitating or terminal disease or condition is eligible for Disability. You must have paid into the program. The SSA calls these “work credits,” and this is what the Administration has to say about them:
“Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year…. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.”
Per the SSA, for workers applying for Social Security Disability in 2019, you earn one work credit for every $1,360 you earn (in salary, or through self-employment). Once you have earned $5,440, you are assigned four work credits in total. You can only earn up to 4 credits a year.
The SSA has two lists of impairments: one for children, and one for adults. The lists are exactly the same, with one exception: children have an additional category called “low birth weight and failure to thrive.”
The other categories of conditions, disorders, and illnesses include:
The SSA will make some exceptions, though, for people who are blind, for widows/widowers, and for veterans. They have special allowances granted to them under the program. If you fit one of these categories, call us; we can walk you through it.
While SSDI requires that you earn work credits, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program does not. SSI is a federal program funded by tax revenues which provides money to meet certain necessities: food, clothing, shelter. In order to qualify, you must be disabled, blind, OR over the age of 65. You must also have limited financial resources. In most cases, people in Alabama who qualify for SSI will also qualify for Medicaid.
Did You Know?
“At 8.5 percent, Alabama had the second-highest percentage of its residents receiving disability benefits.” – AL.com
You can apply for SSD online or in-person on your own, without legal representation. So, you may be wondering why you should hire a Birmingham Disability lawyer at all, right?
The truth is, about 66% of all Disability claims are denied initially. The SSA can deny your claim for ANY reason – a typo on your application, a missing medical record, etc. So while you can apply on your own, you really want a professional to help you. It will increase the likelihood of your application making it through the initial stages, because our attorneys make sure every “t” is crossed, and that all of your documentation is correct, up-to-date, and filed on time.
Yes, you can. Mezrano Law Firm takes these cases on contingency. That means that you pay nothing for our services until we win your case. Then, we take a percentage of your total back-payment award to cover our fees and our costs. If you are denied back-pay, we receive nothing.
Also, know that the federal government prohibits SSD attorneys from taking more than 25% of your total award, and only up to $6,000. So, if you are awarded $10,000 in back-pay for benefits, our attorneys would be entitled to $2,500 of the total. Everything else is yours, and we cannot collect any further payments for future benefits.
Birmingham Social Security Office 35285
1200 Rev Abraham Woods District Office-1st Fl
Birmingham, Alabama 35285
If you already applied for benefits and were denied, Mezrano Law Firm can still help you with your appeal.
By June of 2020, reconsideration will be back in Alabama. That means your entire original claim will be reviewed by Disability Determination Services (DDS), but also by a medical examiner (who was not originally part of the panel), to see if a mistake was made. Very few claims are overturned at this stage, though, and it can add up to six months of processing time.
Until reconsideration comes back to Alabama, your next step is to request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge within 60 days of the denial. About half of all cases before an ALJ will be overturned in favor of the applicant. Having a Birmingham Disability attorney representing you in these hearings can help swing the pendulum your way.
If things don’t go your way during the hearing, then you can request a review by the Appeals Council. Understand that the Council can refuse to hear your claim for literally any reason, so it is very unlikely that the decision will be overturned. That only leaves one more option.
This is the final option to appeal a decision to deny your benefits. Your case won’t be heard in front of a jury, but you will absolutely need legal representation. The attorneys of Mezrano Law Firm are admitted to practice in every federal court in Alabama, so we can present your case to the judge. The most common outcome is not to overrule the ALJ, but to remand (or send back) the case to the ALJ.
Understand that it can take years before your case gets to this point, especially if you try to do it on your own. Working with a Birmingham Social Security Disability attorney can help speed the process along, and hopefully eliminate the need to file a lawsuit altogether.
If you need help filing for Social Security Disability, or appealing a decision, Mezrano Law Firm is here to help. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced Birmingham SSD lawyer by calling 205-206-6300 or filling out our contact form.
If you have a case, you have a lawyer. Call us today to learn more.