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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability

Q: Is it true I should expect my claim to be denied when I first apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

A: No! You will often hear that most claims are denied when first filed. While that’s true in general, it doesn’t have to be that way in your case. We can make a critical difference for you – and help make your first step toward benefits the right one. We handle only Social Security Disability claims, and with our long experience helping applicants at every stage of the benefits claim process, we know how to prepare your claim without the mistakes too many first-time applicants make. It’s hard enough navigating the SSD benefits process on your own, without worrying about making common mistakes that we can help you avoid.

We’re here for you – you don’t have to do it by yourself. You can give yourself the best chance of having your claim approved the first time around by having experienced and professional help from Michigan SSD attorneys, J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law.

Q: Do I qualify for Michigan SSD?

A: At heart, that boils down to two basic questions. First, you must be eligible to receive SSD benefits because you have worked long enough in a job covered by Social Security, and you paid Social Security taxes on your earnings. Second, you must qualify for SSD benefits because you have an impairment that will, or is expected to, keep you from working for at least a year. The impairment can be a medical condition – such as a terminal or other serious illness – or a disabling injury, which prevents you from working full-time. Some of the rules about this can be different depending on how old you are and the specific type of impairment you have.

Q: Does my past work experience matter when determining whether I qualify for SSD?

A: Yes, because your eligibility depends on whether your disability prevents you from doing “past relevant work.” That’s work you’ve done in the past 15 years, which lasted long enough for you to learn to do it, and which was “substantial gainful activity.”

The Social Security Administration may look at a variety of factors to get a clear idea about how your disability keeps you from doing your past relevant work. These factors can include:

  • Your own explanation why you can’t do the same job anymore
  • How physically demanding the work is, such as
    • whether you had to lift and carry things
    • whether you had to do difficult movements, like climbing, crawling, or bending
    • how much you had to sit, stand, and walking during a typical workday
    • whether the job required a lot of movement in general
  • Whether tolerating stress was part of your earlier work
  • Details of your work background
    • your job title and responsibilities
    • whether your work was full-time or part-time
    • who you worked for, and for how long
    • whether you worked long enough to learn the job
    • how much you earned from the job
    • your reasons for leaving the job
    • whether your disability caused poor performance on the job
    • whether your disability caused any changes in your job, such as your responsibilities or schedule

Q: What is the process for claiming Michigan SSD benefits?

A: The Michigan SSD benefits claim process can involve several stages, depending upon the success or failure of your initial benefits application.

The process starts with your disability application. The application form can span up to 70 pages, and it sets the stage for everything that happens later regarding your benefits claim. Although the application can seem confusing, it’s critical that it be completed fully and accurately. You must avoid giving mistaken or incomplete answers that can then be used against you to deny your claim, either at the start or later in the appeals process.

If your initial claim for benefits is denied you can request a hearing.  While awaiting the hearing date JB Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi will do all of their power to obtain a favorable on-record decision in your case.  This can happen at any time prior to the hearing date.  We have won thousands of cases in this manner.  If we do have to appear at a hearing, despite our best efforts, we still have an excellent chance of winning your claim. In the disability hearing before the ALJ, you’ll have a chance to talk to the ALJ and answer questions about your disability. The ALJ will use that opportunity to gather information before making the decision whether you should receive SSD benefits.

If the ALJ denies your benefits claim, then you have the option to seek review from what is called the Appeals Council. If you don’t get relief there, then the next step is to take your claim to federal court.

Based on our 46 years of combined experience representing Michigan SSD benefit claimants, your best chance for getting benefits as quickly as possible – based on your initial application – is to have help from a skilled and dedicated SSD lawyer from the start. Our Michigan SSD attorneys, J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law, represent only SSD applicants. It’s all we do. Our experience and hard work has resulted in an 85% success rate for our clients since 2007. We achieve that by putting together SSD applications that give our clients the best possible first step toward getting the benefits they deserve.

Q: What happens after I’m awarded SSD benefits? Can I lose my benefits later?

A: After you receive an award of SSD benefits, it’s likely the Social Security Administration will review your case periodically to make sure you still qualify for benefits. This is known as the continuing disability review. Most cases are reviewed every three years. When your case is reviewed, you will be asked to provide information about whether your condition has gotten better or worse since your application was approved, whether you’ve had any new education or training since then, and what medical treatment you’re currently receiving. If the SSA finds that you are no longer eligible for benefits, you must quickly appeal that decision. This is because you will continue getting benefits during your appeal if you file your appeal within ten days.

Q: How do I know if I am “disabled” enough to qualify for Michigan Social Security Disability benefits?

A: Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations require that a successful applicant for disability benefits must be completely disabled.  (However, persons over the age of 50 often qualify even if they are able to do some other work). This is unlike some other programs and insurance policies that assist partially disabled persons. The disability must be a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least one year (or has already lasted one year) or will result in the applicant’s death. This does not mean, however, that the applicant has to be permanently disabled.

Q: What if my application for benefits is denied?

A: If your application is denied, you may appeal the decision. There are several levels of appeal: reconsideration of your claim; a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ); review by the Appeals Council; and review by the federal district court. You have a limited time in which to file the appeals, however. The advice and assistance of an attorney can help you make a stronger case during the appeals process.

Q: If I can work a little bit, can I still qualify for benefits?

A: The Social Security Administration (SSA) says that you must not be able to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which means the type of activity a person normally does for pay or profit. If your monthly earnings are below a certain amount (which SSA sets every year), however, you will not be considered to be performing substantial gainful activity. If you are receiving disability benefits but wish to try working, you can take part in nine months’ worth of a work trial period, during which SSA will not stop your benefits if you are still disabled.

Q: Is there a work history requirement to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

A: Yes. To receive Social Security Disability benefits, you must have both a disability and a sufficient work history. The required work history depends on your age when your disability began; you must have worked for a certain number of years. Your work also must be recent enough to qualify.

Q: Will the amount of my benefits have anything to do with the severity of my disability?

A: No. Your disability benefit will be based on your earnings history, not the specific nature of your disability.

Q: What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?

A: The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are both run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI provides benefits to people who are unable to work because of their disabilities. To be eligible, applicants must have a qualifying work history and be disabled or blind. SSI is a needs-based program. To be eligible for SSI, applicants must have limited income and resources and be aged, disabled or blind.

Q: If my application is approved, when will the benefits start?

A: Benefits typically are paid beginning in the sixth month after the disability started. The application and decision process may take a long time, so it is best to apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled.

Q: Can I receive workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability at the same time?

A: Workers’ compensation benefits may reduce your Social Security Disability benefits, but you can receive them at the same time. In general, if the total benefits exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings, your Social Security Disability benefit will be reduced.

J.B. Bieske & Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law

19991 Hall Road, Suite 202
Macomb, MI 48044
Phone: 586-977-8100
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