Disabilities can result from a congenital defect, an accident, or develop over time in relation to a disease or other medical condition. If you have a disability that prevents you from being gainfully employed, you may be eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). A Columbia, MO Social Security disability lawyer can help you determine your eligibility.
If it’s decided you are likely eligible for benefits, the application process can be complicated. Our attorneys in Missouri can walk you through the process to ensure you understand your rights and how to best present your case.
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Social Security Disability Benefits in Missouri
The SSA has two benefits programs available to disabled citizens. Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While the programs have similar names, they are ultimately different.
SSDI gives monthly payments to people with disabilities who qualify because they used to work. To get SSDI, you have to have worked long enough to be insured by SSDI, and you have to meet the SSA’s standards. There are other situations, as well, where family members like spouses, children, and ex-spouses can qualify for benefits. The amount a person receives is based on their Social Security earnings record. The more they worked and paid in taxes, the higher their benefits will be.
SSI gives monthly payments to people with disabilities who have low income and low resources. A person does not need to have worked to get SSI. To qualify, you have to have a disability, be blind, or be over the age of 65. If a person qualifies for SSI, the monthly payments help pay for basic needs. A person who is single can receive upwards of $800 a month in benefits.
It’s possible you could qualify for both programs at the same time. If that’s the case, you’ll want to speak with a legal representative who can help you determine which program you would benefit from the most.
Determining If You Qualify for Social Security Benefits
To obtain SSDI or SSI benefits there are certain requirements you must meet. When you submit your claim, the Social Security employee assigned to your case will consider a number of questions regarding your current state of employment, the severity of your condition, and your ability to do any other work.
When it comes to your employment status, you will likely not be considered disabled if you are working and have average earnings of more than $1,260 per month. Severe injuries are those that interfere with certain activities like walking, concentrating, sitting, standing, or maintaining pace.
In addition to determining the severity of your disability, the SSA will also look to see if it’s included in their list of impairments. The list is separated by the major body systems. Some of the impairments listed include amputation, blindness, cystic fibrosis, chronic heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, nephrotic syndrome, bone marrow disorders, dermatitis, and endocrine disorders.
If you are unable to do the same kind of work you used to, the SSA will determine if you can adjust to some other type of work. To do this, it will consider your age, education, medical conditions, past employment experience, and any other skills you have that you can put to use in another field.
Levels of Social Security Disability Appeals
To ensure decisions regarding benefits are as accurate as possible, the SSA allows applicants to file an appeal in the event they’ve been denied. Within 60 days of receiving the denial letter, a person has to submit a request in writing to have the claim reviewed. Generally, there are four levels to the appeals process:
- Reconsideration. A reconsideration is a review of your claim by someone who was not involved in the initial decision. The new reviewer will look at all the evidence submitted with the original request, as well as any new evidence. In most instances, you do not need to be present during this secondary review.
- Hearing. In the event your claim is denied after reconsideration, you can ask for a hearing. Hearings are conducted by administrative law judges who had no part in the original decision or the reconsideration. Hearings are typically held within 75 miles of your home. At the hearing, the judge will question you and any witnesses you bring. It’s in your best interest to have a legal representative by your side during the hearing.
- Appeals Council review. If you disagree with the hearing decision, you can ask for a review by Social Security’s Appeals Council. The Council looks at all requests for review, but it can deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was correct. If the Council disagrees with the decision from the hearing, it will return the case to an administrative law judge for further review.
- District court case. In the event the Appeals Council denies your claim or decides not to review your case, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when dealing with the appeals process. Our Columbia attorneys will guide you through the process and make your appeal as strong as possible.
Get Help Seeking Disability Benefits in Columbia
Whether you’re in the midst of filing an SSDI or SSI claim, you’re just getting started, or you’ve received a denial, a Columbia, MO social security disability lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help. We understand how the process works and what you need to establish in your claim to prove you’re eligible for benefits.
The sooner you get in touch with our law firm, the more likely it is your claim will be approved. If you’ve like to learn more about the application or appeals process or are ready to move forward with the paperwork, all you need to do is schedule a consultation with us. We’ll review your situation and explain your options and how to best proceed. Contact us today for more information.