Mary Ellen Felps - Attorney at Law - Austin, TX - Social Security Disability - Federal Court Appeals


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Questions & Answers

Answers to a handful of frequently asked questions regarding Social Security (SSI/Title XVI and SSDI/Title II) benefits are provided below.

If Social Security denied me and said that I must prove that I am disabled before a certain date, what does that mean?

Social Security is like insurance, when you work and money is withheld from your earnings, it is paid into an account for you at Social Security. Just like insurance, it only lasts for a certain period of time and then you no longer have coverage. If your last date of coverage is December 31, 2000, then you must prove you were disabled before that date. This is not that much more difficult if you were being treated by a doctor before that time. If you were not seeing a doctor, then you need a legal representative to help you develop the evidence.

If you are told that you do not qualify for SSDI (Title II) disability benefits, that means you did not work long enough to pay in the amount of money that is required to qualify for benefits. You may qualify for SSI if you are indigent.

If I was denied by Social Security, does that mean I am not disabled?

Not necessarily. Social Security denies a large number of first applications and a very large number of those appeals. You may be disabled and still have been denied. The first two levels of appeal have a standard level of disability that is in their rules. They have no discretion to decide that you are disabled even if the medical records do not have every symptom that is required in their rules. At the hearing level, the judge can consider other facts on a case by case basis. You will still have a better chance of success if you are represented by someone who is very familiar with all the regulations of Social Security.

Can my children get benefits?

This depends on the kind of benefits you receive. If you are only receiving SSI, your children can not qualify for benefits on your record. If you qualify for Title II benefits, then your children will receive a payment in addition to the benefits paid to you.

What is the difference in SSI and Title II benefits?

Title II is based on the benefits you have paid into your Social Security account. SSI, Supplemental Security Income, is for those people who have not earned enough credits and who have income and resources that cause them to be indigent. You will not qualify for SSI if you have assets in excess of the limits they allow. As of 2009, that limit is any one asset other than your home or automobile that is worth more than $2500 or income that exceeds the maximum amount of the benefit -- $670. The amount of assets and income changes periodically.

How long does it take for my claim to be approved?

A good general rule is that everything takes at least 4 months. The time it usually takes for a file to move from one appeal level to another is about two months. During that time, no one is actually working on your case, it is just moving from one office to another. If you can understand how many files have to be transported, it makes sense that the packaging and moving of files takes this long. Generally it takes an additional two months for the person reviewing the file to reach a conclusion. This can take up to another two months if there is some delay. If you are in dire need which means you are unable to pay your house payment or utilities or other necessities, your claim can be moved to the head of the line of cases for consideration. You usually are required to provide some proof of a financial emergency.

How much will I be paid?

Your monthly check depends on what you have paid into the system. Each year you should receive a notice from Social Security telling you what your benefits will be. If you have not received this information, you can ask Social Security to provide this information, or for a rough estimate, you may refer to the Compute Your Benefit calculator on the Social Security Administration website. Social Security will only pay you SSI from the date you applied up to the date you are approved for benefits. The past due benefits will be paid in a lump sum to you when you are finally approved. The lump sum is the monthly benefit for each month you are found to be disabled going back to the date you applied. Title II is paid back to one year prior to your date of application minus five months. It also is the monthly benefit times the number of months you are approved for benefits. Social Security has very complicated rules which may mean that you do not receive benefits all the way back to the date you may believe you should get benefits. Qualification may depend on your age, your education, your past work history, and when the medical records show you are as disabled as the regulations require you to be.

What will a representative charge me?

There are strict rules about what a representative can charge you. This is limited to 25% of the lump sum paid to you which is the past due benefits. There is a limit of $6000 which is the most the representative can charge regardless of the amount set aside as being 25%. The fee charged must be approved by Social Security. If you case is appealed to federal court, then the representative may be paid by the government and/or may charge you a full 25% of the lump sum won for you in court. The representative is also allowed to charge for any expenses your case costs.

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3305 Northland Drive, Suite 403
Austin TX 78731

Tel: (512) 478-4973
Fax: (512) 302-4774

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