General Disability Information
A person is considered disabled if he or she has a physical and/or emotional condition that renders them unable to perform substantial gainful activity (work), considering there vocational factors such as age, education and past work. The disabling condition or impairment must have been or be expected to last one year (or to result in death). In order to qualify for disability benefits, a person must meet requirements in addition to their physical and/or emotional impairments. Specifically, in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, a person must meet the earnings requirements at the time the individual became disabled. To meet the earnings requirements, the individual must have been fully insured (long work history), as well as having worked five out of the last ten years when the individual became disabled.
If you do not qualify for Disability Insurance Benefits due to the lack of work credits, you may qualify for an alternative program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a program for indigent claimants. In order to qualify for SSI, a person must also have a physical and/or emotional condition that renders him unable to perform work and also have limited resources. Generally, an individual can have no more than $2,000.00 of non-exempt assets or a couple may have no more than $3,000.00 of non-exempt assets to qualify for SSI benefits.
An individual should apply for Social Security disability benefits or SSI as soon as it is medically determined that your disability is going to last for a full year. The Social Security Disability process consists of several different stages and can be a lengthy process. First, there is an initial application stage at a local Social Security field office. After your initial denial, an individual has sixty days to file an appeal. Most people are denied at the initial application. The second stage is called reconsideration. If you are denied at the reconsideration level, you will once again have sixty days to file an appeal. The third stage is a hearing stage, which is statistically the level in which you will have the most likelihood of success. The third stage is where you will have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Most likely, the ALJ stage is where you will have your first opportunity to give testimony as to your impairments and resulting limitations. This is a very critical stage of the process. If you are denied by the ALJ, you will have a right to file an appeal to the Appeals Council within sixty days. If you lose at the Appeals Council level, you will have the right to file a civil lawsuit in Federal Court.
You can hire a representative at any stage of the proceeding. In most cases, attorneys or non-attorney representatives will have the claimant sign a Fee Agreement, which sets forth the attorneys or non-attorney representatives’ compensation. Generally the compensation for an attorney or non-attorney representative is 25% of the past due benefits the claimant may be entitled to. In most cases, the fee is capped at $6,000.00, however, the cap is subject to change from time to time.
If you are thinking about applying for disability benefits, call us at (888) 684-4611 or complete our online contact form. We serve clients throughout the state of Tennessee, Southern Kentucky and Northern Alabama. If you have questions and would like to speak with Mr. Bobo regarding your disability claim, please call today for a free consultation.