Attorneys J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi have more than 46 years of combined experience handling Michigan Social Security Disability benefits cases. Our dedication and skill mean we get results for clients – since 2007, our success rate for Social Security Disability clients has been over 85 percent.
Our many years of experience also mean we’ve learned what it takes to help SSD applicants get the benefits they need and deserve. With that in mind, we’ve put together some important SSD tips that can help you with your SSD benefits claim.
Remember, Social Security Disability claims are the only type of case we handle. We’ve made it our job to help fellow Michiganders get their SSD claims approved – often on the first application.
If you have become disabled and are considering applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, it is important you are aware of the mistakes to avoid. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) process for reviewing and approving SSD benefit application is highly technical and complex. Approvals, particularly those of first-time applicants who are not represented, are unfortunately quite rare.
You will need to not only show evidence proving your eligibility for such benefits, but you will also need to do everything you can to make sure your application does not have any mistakes, omitted data or errors. Some of the most common social security disability mistakes you will want to avoid when applying for benefits include:
The SSA requires applicants to fill out a number of forms and questionnaires as part of the application process. Neglecting to complete any of this paperwork, or brushing off questions you feel you may have already answered is a mistake. If the SSA requests information, you want to provide it in detail and according to the exact specifications.
An individual must be unable to work full time to be eligible for SSD benefits. If your illness or impairment is on the SSA’s list of disabling medical conditions, you will be able to apply for SSD benefits. Even if your condition is not on the list, if it is determined to be of equal or similar severity to a listed medical condition, you may still be able to submit an application.
Complete medical documentation is required as part of your application. Failure to provide detailed evidence of your condition, from a respectable source, will likely lead to a denial of benefits. Licensed physicians, certified psychologists, licensed optometrists, licensed podiatrists and qualified speech-language pathologists are all viable sources.
A statement from one of these sources should also be included detailing your physical and mental capabilities and functional limitations. The SSA wants to know exactly what you are still able to do, despite your impairment. This statement will provide the SSA with a clear insight into how your disability affects your day-to-day life.
If you suffer from any other significant physical or mental impairments, be sure to include these in your medical documentation. While the impairment you have may not be eligible per the SSA criteria, it may still prevent you from being gainfully employed and be a contributing factor in your current application.
Because the SSA initially denies most SSD benefit claims, applicants will usually have to appeal the SSA’s decision. The SSA’s appeal process has very strict deadlines. If you want to have any chance of obtaining benefits after failing to get an allowance for benefits, you will need to meet the legal timeline or lose the opportunity to appeal. Work with a skilled attorney so you can expedite the process and get your appeal properly filed within the 60-day deadline.
Obtaining updated medical records, getting a more complete statement from your doctor or other qualified specialist, and conducting a thorough review of your case file are advised before attending your disability hearing in front of an Administration Law Judge (ALJ). Taking the time to look for mistakes and correct any missing or incomplete information will help you increase the chances of an approval.
If you are unsure if your illness or injury makes you eligible to seek SSD benefits, please contact a skilled Detroit SSD lawyer at our firm right away. Our attorneys have almost half a century of combined legal experience. Our entire practice is dedicated to providing Social Security Disability claimants with the counsel and assistance they require.
Whether you have questions or need help with any aspect of the application process, we are here for you. Call us to schedule your free consultation today.
If you can’t work because of a disability, you may be eligible for financial help in the form of Michigan Social Security Disability benefits. But just what are SSD benefits, and how do you go about getting them if you qualify? Here are six things you should know to help you understand what SSD benefits are all about – what they offer, who can receive them, and what it takes to get them.
1. What Are Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability benefits are monthly cash payments to an eligible person, and sometimes members of the person’s family, when the person cannot work because of a disability. The disability has to be based on a medical condition or injury that is expected to last at least a year or result in death. That is, SSD benefits are to help with your financial needs during a long-term disability. Short-term disability benefits may be available for other medical conditions and injuries.
SSD benefits aren’t charity. They are a type of “insurance” benefit that most workers earn by paying taxes on their wages. To qualify, the person must have worked recently enough, and long enough, under standards set by the federal Social Security Administration. The person also must have paid Social Security taxes on his or her earnings.
2. Getting Social Security Disability Benefits Should Be Easy, But It Isn’t
For someone who qualifies, it should be easy to get much-needed Social Security Disability benefits. If you’re disabled because of a serious medical condition or injury, you need financial help right away to replace your lost income and help with your medical bills.
Unfortunately, though, getting SSD benefits isn’t easy. For many people it’s very hard. Applying for benefits can be confusing and require that you fill out many pages of forms. Even then, your entire claim for benefits can depend on how you answer some of the federal government’s questions. Your answers can be used to deny your claim at many stages of the claim process, so if you don’t understand what’s being asked, or how to answer accurately, completely, and correctly, your mistake can come back to hurt your claim later.
You also have to provide a lot of medical and work information. You’ll have to pull together medical records, work-related papers, and other evidence in support of your SSD benefits claim. That can take a lot of effort and time, just when you’re dealing with all the other difficulties that arise when you’re seriously sick or injured.
You don’t have to have an attorney help you when you file your claim for Michigan SSD benefits, but in our experience you’re better off if you do. Having an experienced SSD lawyer assist you can make all the difference, ensuring that your claim application is put together accurately and quickly the first time, all while taking the burden of tracking your social security disability status off of you and your family.
You don’t have to go it alone. At our firm, SSD lawyers J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi work every day to get clients’ claims approved fast. In many cases, we often win our clients’ claims very early in the claim process, even right away, because we know how to put together complete and accurate claims with all the evidence you need to prove your disability. We can make a difference and help you make your first step toward SSD benefits the right one.
3. You Can Afford An Attorney’s Professional Help With Your Claim
Michigan SSD attorneys, J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law handle clients’ SSD cases on a contingency fee basis. That means we only receive our fee if we recover benefits on your claim. If we don’t win your claim, you never owe us any attorney fees on your case. And, we don’t require any up-front retainer fee, so you don’t pay any attorney fees out of pocket.
The law limits attorney fees that can be collected in SSD cases. Attorney fees are restricted to 25 percent of a claimant’s recovery, or $6,000, whichever is less. That means in many cases our attorney fees are less than 25 percent of the benefits we recover for our clients.
As is required by the State Bar of Michigan, clients can expect to pay the expenses incurred in winning their case. Fortunately, the expenses in SSD cases are usually very low as compared to other types of cases. Often they include only costs for copies of medical records and other minor expenses.
In short, you don’t need to let worries over fees and expenses prevent you from having professional help with your Michigan SSD benefits claim.
4. Almost Any Serious Medical Condition Or Injury Can Qualify As A Disability
Are you uncertain whether you have a disability that would entitle you to monthly Social Security Disability benefits? Any physical disorder or injury that keeps you from being able to work full-time can qualify.
These can include:
Those are just examples. Any serious medical condition or injury may qualify you for SSD benefits if it prevents you from working full-time.
If you’re uncertain whether you may be entitled to Michigan SSD benefits, contact one of the SSD benefit lawyers at our firm today. J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law, offer free consultations – they can discuss your case and let you know whether you may be eligible for monthly SSD benefits to help during your long-term disability.
5. You Can Still Receive Michigan SSD Even If You Get Other Disability Benefits
If you receive workers’ compensation or private-insurance disability payments, that doesn’t mean you can’t receive Michigan Social Security Disability benefits. In the case of workers’ compensation benefits, the government might reduce your SSD benefits according to complicated rules it uses to calculate an “offset.” That’s so that your total monthly benefits aren’t too high. Almost always you’ll still get more every month, than if you didn’t apply for SSD benefits in addition to your workers’ compensation benefits.
If you get disability payments from a private insurance company, then the insurer probably will reduce your payments according to what you receive in monthly SSD. You won’t get any less per month in total, however, and you and your family can still be better off in the long run if you receive SSD now.
It’s important to apply for and receive Social Security Disability benefits when you qualify. If you have concerns about how that might affect other benefits you already receive, talk to one of our experienced SSD attorneys today to get answers to your questions.
6. It’s Possible To Return To Work While Still Receiving SSD Benefits
In almost every case, our SSD disability clients want to work. That means they’re interested in getting back on the job as soon as they can, if their illness or injury improves and allows them to do so.
If you receive Michigan SSD benefits and are later able to return to full-time work, that’s great, and we hope you do. You’ll no longer receive SSD benefits, but that’s only because you’ll be rejoining the work force and earning your full-time paycheck.
But what if you’re unsure how much you can do, and whether you can return to full-time work? You’re entitled to what’s known as a trial work period. This is a period of nine months in which you can continue receiving your SSD benefits while you determine your ability to work again.
There are important rules about how much you can earn during the trial work period, however. If you earn too much, you may lose your eligibility for the trial work period. That makes it critical to talk with your SSD lawyer about your trial work in advance, so you can plan how your trial work period will proceed.
When you apply for Michigan Social Security Disability benefits, the federal Social Security Administration will use a five-step process to decide whether you are disabled and therefore qualify for help. Your application has to make it through the social security disability evaluation process before you can get the benefits you’ve asked for. With just a few exceptions, if the Social Security Administration decides at any step that you’re not disabled, then the process immediately stops and your claim will be denied.
Experienced Michigan SSD attorneys know how to avoid common mistakes that can cause your claim to fail the five-step ssd evaluation process. At our firm, SSD lawyers J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi work especially hard to get clients’ claims approved the first time. Contact us if you have any questions about making your first step toward benefits the right one.
Here are the five steps the SSA will use when it decides whether you are “disabled” and therefore qualify for SSD benefits. They can be thought of as five questions the SSA will ask.
1. Are you currently doing any “substantial gainful activity”?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) first asks, in essence, if you are currently working. The way it decides if you are working is by asking whether you are engaged in what it calls “substantial gainful activity.”
So what does that mean? It most cases, it just means that the Social Security Administration will look at how much you actually earn every month. If you earn more than a certain amount, the agency does not consider you to be disabled. The amount changes every year. For 2014, you have to earn less than $1,070 per month. If you earn more than that, then the SSA will conclude you are engaging in a substantial gainful activity and you are not disabled. (The amount is $1,800 per month for blind persons).
2. Is your condition “severe”?
After deciding that you are not working at a substantial gainful activity, the SSA asks whether your condition is “severe.” That means you must have a real medical problem that a doctor can identify, and your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. Those can include activities like walking, sitting, standing, and moving and carrying things. It also can include hearing, speaking, and seeing, and being able to interact with others at a workplace – like understanding instructions and directions about how to accomplish tasks.
In some cases, if you have more than one impairment, the combination of your conditions can qualify you as disabled, even if the impairments wouldn’t qualify you by themselves.
If the Social Security Administration concludes that you do not have a “severe” condition, then it will decide that you are not disabled, and you will not be awarded benefits.
3. Is your condition found in the SSA’s list of disabling conditions?
The Social Security Administration has a list of many medical conditions that it considers so severe that they automatically qualify as disabling. So if your condition is on the list, the SSA will find that you are disabled and qualify for SSD benefits. If it’s not, then the SSA has to decide whether your condition is as bad as a medical condition that does appear on the list. If so, then once again you will be found to be disabled and can get SSD benefits.
4. Can you do the work that you used to do?
The SSA next asks whether you can do the work that you used to do. To get to this point in the five-step process, you must have a “severe” condition that is not as bad as anything found in the SSA’s list of disabling conditions. The agency will then take a look at what sort of work you can still do, and if your condition interferes with the work you’ve done before, based on your past work history. If you can still do the work you used to do, according to the Social Security Administration, then your claim will be denied. But if your condition does interfere with your ability to do the work you once did, then the SSA goes to its final question in the five-step process.
5. Can you do any type of work?
Here the Social Security Administration asks if you can do any other type of work. Specifically, it considers whether you can adjust to other work, different from the work you used to do in the past. If the SSA thinks you can, based on your current abilities, age, education, work experience, and other work readily available in the job market, then your disability claim will be denied. Otherwise, you will be considered disabled and you will qualify for SSD benefits.
As you see, there’s a lot that goes into the SSA’s five-step process for evaluating SSD benefits claims. Having the guidance of an experienced and skilled Social Security Disability benefits attorney can make the difference in getting your claim approved or denied. If you have a valid SSD benefits claim, having your SSI application denied can mean months of delay and headaches before you receive your much-needed benefits.
It’s natural to be nervous as your disability hearing date approaches. But there’s no need to worry. A skilled and professional Michigan Social Security Disability benefits attorney will help you prepare, especially for your particular Judge. That way, you’ll know what to expect, so you can be comfortable and focus on talking about the important facts of your disability. Keep in mind that attorneys J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi are very familiar with all the local Social Security Judges.
As experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, J.B. Bieske and Jennifer Alfonsi, Attorneys at Law, always help their clients prepare for their disability hearing. That includes talking about common mistakes that benefit applicants often make once the hearing gets started.
There are three mistakes, in particular, that you should be careful to avoid during your own disability hearing:
In short, remember the purpose of the administrative disability hearing, and keep that in mind when you’re there. What you don’t do or say can be as important as what you do and say during the hearing. Make the most of your opportunity to talk to the ALJ by being yourself. Explain your disability and its direct effects on you – including your inability to work. That’s all you need to do.
We can make a difference for anyone seeking Michigan Social Security Disability benefits. With local offices throughout Southeastern Michigan, we’ve made it easy to visit with us in a free initial consultation. Call or contact us online to schedule an appointment in Macomb Township, Livonia, Novi, Troy, Downriver, or Detroit.
If you can’t meet with us in person, we’ll visit with you by phone. We’ll answer your questions, talk about whether you can expect to receive SSD benefits or what your social security disability status is, and let you what we can do to make a difference for you. Simply call us at (800) 331-3530, or use our convenient online contact form.