Tennessee Social Security Disability Lawyer
If you’ve become sick or injured and are unable to work after a lifetime of providing for yourself and your loved ones, it can be a huge hit to your finances, your pride, and your and your family’s quality of life. Thankfully, there is a safety net in place for people like you: social security disability insurance (SSDI). But don’t assume that because you qualify on paper you will easily be approved to receive the benefits you need. It’s important to hire a social security disability lawyer from the get-go to ensure your application is complete and filled out correctly, that you have all necessary paperwork in place, and to guide you through the appeals process if you are initially denied.
Social security disability insurance is a benefit people may apply for if they, their spouse or parents have contributed to the fund by means of payroll deductions (that’s the “FICA” deduction that appears on paychecks, named for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act). This program covers people who develop a disability, including workers injured on the job, plus their children and spouses. In April 2015, SSDI paid benefits to 10.9 million people. Unfortunately, there are many people who need social security disability insurance but are denied, which forces them to endure an arduous and lengthy appeals process.
The Social Security Administration’s eligibility determination process can be frustrating and confusing. The SSA may take up to five months to process an initial claim, and many of those claims will be denied. Appealing a denial involves several steps, and some people might decide to give up on their claim rather than pursue it. But an appeal is worth your effort when you need benefits – and it’s a lot easier to go through with the help of a good Tennessee social security disability lawyer.
Featured Article: Submission of Evidence in SSD Claims
“On March 20, 2015 the Social Security Administration issued the final rules on the submission of evidence in disability claims. On the one year anniversary of the final rules becoming effective on April 20, 2015, many social security practitioners have experienced first-hand the practical implications of the new evidence regulation. Prior to the new evidence submission rules becoming final, the SSA received 85 comments upon issuing their proposed rules in February 2014. The SSA elected not to adopt any of the suggested changes. However, there was brief discussion in several of the SSA comments before refusing to adopt them. These comments can be found printed just prior to the actual regulation. Unfortunately, with its final issuance the rules remain unclear and confusing in their practice application…” Continue Reading
John R. Colvin has represented people whose benefits have been denied, defending their rights at various stages of the appeals process, including federal court. Often, the key to winning an appeal is providing additional evidence that supports a disability claim. Call (931) 962-1044 to schedule a free consultation.
How Do I Qualify For SSD Benefits?
The federal Social Security Administration (SSA) has clearly outlined “sequential evaluation processes” for disability evaluation for adults and children/dependents.
The adult evaluation process involves five factors:
- The claimant’s existing work activity. In order to qualify for benefits, you must have accrued a certain number of credits through previous employment. The number of credits necessary depends on the claimant’s age.
- The severity of the claimant’s impairment(s). In order to fit the SSA’s definition of disability, you must be too impaired for work.
- Whether the claimant’s impairment meets or equals specific medical parameters. You must have an illness or injury that’s permanent or long-term (over a year) or that’s expected to result in your death.
- The claimant’s ability to perform their relevant work. If you are able to perform the work you did before your injury, you will not be approved to receive SSDI.
- The claimant’s ability to perform other work based on age, education, and work experience. Even if you cannot perform the type of work you previously did, the Social Security Administration may determine you can perform other types of work and deem you ineligible for benefits. They will take into account your age, limitations, transferable skills, and other factors.
Social Security Disability Benefits 101: Learn the Basics
Once diagnosed by your doctor (or one approved by SSA), the following medical conditions usually – but not always – automatically qualify you for SSD benefits. But remember: you must be able to back up your claim with medical records.
- Musculoskeletal problems, such as back injuries
- Cardiovascular conditions, including heart failure or coronary artery disease
- Sense and speech issues, such as vision and hearing loss
- Respiratory illnesses, such as COPD or asthma
- Neurological disorders (multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy)
- Mental disorders (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, retardation, etc.)
- Immune system disorders (HIV/AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.)
- Syndromes (for example, Sjogren’s Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome)
- Skin disorders, such as dermatitis
- Digestive tract problems, including liver disease or Irritable Bowel Disease
- Kidney disease and genitourinary problems
- Hematological disorders, such as hemolytic anemia and disorders of bone marrow failure.
What If My Disability Isn’t Listed as a Qualifying Condition?
The Social Security Administration publishes a medical guide called the “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments. This resource — there is one for adults and one for children — lists diseases and conditions, along with detailed criteria and symptoms, that would qualify a person for social security disability insurance benefits.
But there is just no way to fit every type of injury, illness, and medical condition into a book. And even if what you have is listed, your symptoms may not perfectly match those in the Listing of Impairments. You could have several issues that separately would not be disabling, but together render you unable to work.
If your condition and its effects on you are not a precise match to an entry in the Blue Book, you are not disqualified from receiving social security disability insurance. If you are able to prove that your impairment is similar in severity to a listed condition, you may be eligible for benefits.
John Colvin is an experienced SSDI lawyer who knows the Blue Book inside and out. Get in touch online or call (931) 962-1044 to learn more about whether your impairment may qualify you for SSDI.
What Is the SSA Consultative Exam?
Sometimes, after you’ve submitted your application, you will receive word that you need to undergo an SSA consultative exam. This means that whoever reviewed your claim believes that you have not submitted enough information for them to come to a decision. You may be asked to submit to the exam if …
– The state has requested medical records and your doctor has not complied
– You have an illness or disability that the SSA thinks should be seen by a specialist
– You have an incomplete or inconsistent medical history.
The exam will be paid for by the state, not you. In some cases it will be performed by the individual’s regular doctor; in other cases, another physician contracted by the SSA will do the exam. The doctor will likely ask you lots of questions about your medical history, condition, and how it affects you. Depending on the nature of your disability, they may conduct a physical or psychological examination and order lab tests. The main difference between a consultative exam and your regular medical appointments is that the purpose of this visit is to assess the state of your health and your limitations. The doctor should not treat you or offer medical advice.
If you are asked to undergo a consultative exam, it’s important to be straightforward and honest with the physician. Never lie or exaggerate to increase your chances of being approved for benefits.
Social Security Disability Applications and Social Media
If, like so many Americans, you are on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media sites, you may want to tread carefully if you receive SSDI benefits or are in the process of applying. That’s because what you post may be used against you. A picture, of course, doesn’t tell the entire story of your disability. The point of social media is to project the image of your life that you want others to see — so you are likely to post the happy moments and refrain from showing the illness and pain. But the social security administration likes to keep all avenues open when evaluating applications, and they see the internet and social media as a potential tool. So, even seemingly innocent photos — of you holding your new grandchild, for example, or spending time in the garden on one of your rare good days — could be seen as proof that you are more able-bodied than your SSDI application claims. And avoid posting “throwback” photos — the person processing your claim may not realize that image of you skydiving is from your pre-injury days. No number of “likes” is worth putting your benefits at risk.
How Long Do I Have to Wait for My SSDI Application to Be Approved?
One of the major hurdles in any Social Security disability claim is the wait time that a claimant is confronted with when pursuing his or her claim. You can’t put your bills and obligation to provide for your family on hold until your application is approved. And when you are sick or in pain, the last thing you need is the stress of accruing debt.
There is no single answer as to how long you will have to wait to start receiving benefits. Initial claims may be processed in 30 to 90 days. But if you are denied at first, you have to begin the appeals process, and there’s just no telling how many months — or even years — that will take.
Don’t try to navigate the SSDI system alone and risk your benefits being denied or delayed because of an incomplete or incorrectly filled-out application.
Call SSD lawyer John Colvin at (931) 962-1044 to ensure your claim is submitted right the first time. This is the best way to get the benefits you need without lengthy and costly appeals.
Social Security Questions & Answers
[expand title=”How Can a Lawyer Help Me With My Tennessee Social Security Disability Claim?”]Though the list of disabilities that qualify one for SSD benefits seems cut and dried, there are a lot of diagnostic “gray areas.” And there are some disabilities, which may not be listed but very well could be covered. Either way, it’s possible your legitimate claim could be initially denied but could be approved later on appeal.
Your SSD attorney who assists you in filing your claim – and is already familiar with your case – can also help you through this appeals process. If you filed your application for benefits without the assistance of a seasoned Tennessee Social Security Disability lawyer and have been denied, you should speak with one before you appeal your claim.
[expand title=”What goes into a successful SSD application?”]Anyone who has filled out an application for any federal program understands how it seems that if you misplace one comma, your application gets kicked back and you have to start all over. It’s not really quite that bad, but federal bureaucrats must have all the paperwork “just so.” Getting the paperwork right is the first important part of the battle.
Knowing the ins and outs of the appeals process, and understanding what individual Social Security Administrative Law Judges want to see and hear, is another advantage to having an experienced Tennessee Social Security Disability Attorney. Though no lawyer can guarantee you will receive the disability benefits for which you apply, your chances of being approved for SSD benefits dramatically increase if you have an attorney. Otherwise, you could waste months (or even years) and money trying to represent yourself.
[expand title=”What makes a Good Tennessee SSD Attorney?”]Any good attorney listens to all the details and nuances of your case, because they know they cannot capably represent you if they don’t pay attention to everything you try to tell them. A good, honest lawyer will not guarantee your approval but will honestly assess your situation and give you straight answers. And a seasoned Tennessee SSD attorney can help you understand the complexities surrounding SSA procedures and regulations. All of these traits can instill confidence that you are receiving expert advice and solid legal representation that increases your odds of success.
[expand title=”How Long Do I Have To Wait For a Hearing in My Disability Case?”]The Social Security Administration recently released their updated end of calendar year 2015 Workload Data Report for each of their hearing offices across the United States. One of the major hurdles in any Tennessee Social Security disability claim is the wait time that a Claimant is confronted with when pursuing his or her claim.
VIEW THE HEARING OFFICE WORKLOAD DATA
Reasons for Denial
A claim for SSDI benefits may be denied if reviewers believe the claimant’s disability is not severe or it won’t last for more than 12 months. Between 1992 and 2010, the most common reason for denial of benefits was that reviewers determined an injured worker was capable of adjusting to another type of work.
In determining whether a person is able to work, the SSA first considers whether someone’s disability makes his occupation impossible. If so, the SSA then considers whether a different type of work would be possible, taking into consideration the claimant’s age, education, and past experience, as well as skills that could be applied in a different job.
Reviewers in an appeals process may disagree about a claimant’s ability to work, and in what capacity, as there is no standard test to make that determination. Plus the doctors who review and decide claims are human, and they sometimes make mistakes. This is particularly an issue in Tennessee, which has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in the percentage of its SSDI applications that are denied. That may be due to the fact that most applications are reviewed by doctors who are on contract and paid per case. This system incentivizes them to rush through the applications in order to increase their numbers and maximize their compensation.
Nationally, about 67% of SSA disability applications are initially denied. Of the appeals that are eventually heard by a judge, only about 35% are denied.
Having a Tennessee social security disability lawyer on your side maximizes the likelihood your claim will be approved the first time around — and that if an appeal is necessary, each step is completed correctly. Call John Colvin at (931) 962-1044.
If a Claim Is Denied, an SSD Lawyer Will Help Navigate the Appeals Process
- RECONSIDERATION: This is the first step in the appeals process, wherein a person not involved in the initial denial of the claim reviews it. The claimant does not need to be present for a reconsideration hearing.
- HEARING: A claimant who disagrees with the outcome of reconsideration may request a hearing. An administrative law judge reviews the case and considers the evidence obtained from sources such as doctors and experts on workplace issues. The Claimant normally appears at the hearing before an administrative law judge. At this hearing, a claimant or the claimant’s attorney is allowed to cross-examine witnesses, which could help in winning an appeal.
- APPEAL: If a claimant disagrees with the administrative law judge’s decision, he or she may ask the Social Security Appeals Council to review the case, but the council is not obligated to review it.
- FEDERAL ACTION: When a claimant disagrees with the appeals council’s decision, or if the council has refused to consider the case in question, a claimant may file a lawsuit in federal court. Filing a United States District Court action is normally the final stage of the appeals process, and current statistics show that very few civil actions against the Administration result in an outright reversal of the hearing-level decision and a grant of benefits to the Claimant.
SSDI Benefits for Children and Spouses
Dependents’ benefits, or auxiliary benefits, are available to family members of disabled individuals who receive social security disability insurance. Dependents may be eligible for up to 50% of the amount received by the disabled worker.
- Spouses may be eligible if they are at least 62 years old or they are the caretaker for a child who is under the age of 16 or is disabled and qualifies for dependents’ benefits.
- Ex-spouses may be eligible if they were married to the SSDI recipient for at least ten years, they have not remarried, and they are at least 62 years old. An ex-spouse is not eligible for dependents’ benefits if they qualify to receive SSDI based on their own work history — unless that benefit would be less. Even if the social security disability insurance recipient has remarried, the ex-spouse may qualify for benefits.
- Minor children (including dependent stepchildren) may be eligible for auxiliary benefits if they are unmarried and under the age of 18.
- Children over the age of 18 may receive dependents’ benefits under certain circumstances: if the adult child is disabled and the disability occurred before the child turned 22, or the child is a full-time student at a secondary school and is under the age of 19. In this case, the child may receive benefits until graduation or two months after their 19th birthday. Kids enrolled in college are not considered full-time students.
- If a grandparent is receiving SSDI, their grandchild may qualify for auxiliary benefits if the child’s parents are deceased or disabled, the child has been living with the recipient since before the age of 18 and received at least half of their financial support from their grandparent in the year before that person became eligible for SSDI.
- Parents of deceased workers may receive benefits if they were dependent on the child for at least half of their financial support, they are at least 62 years old, they have not remarried since their child’s death, and they are not entitled to a higher benefit based on their own work history.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Tennessee
Through provisions in the Social Security Act and its supplement, Title XVI, the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are available to people 65 and over who have no disabilities if they fall under the financial limits for receiving such benefits. Those who have worked long enough may also be eligible to receive Social Security disability or retirement benefits in addition to SSI.
Ideally, you want to win your appeal at the earliest stage possible, so you don’t have to pursue progressive options. Only about 3 percent of claimants win awards on reconsideration, whereas the administrative law judge hearing accounts for approximately 13 percent of successful appeals.