Veterans Deserve your Appreciation this Fourth and Every Day

The Fourth of July is an especially profound time to thank our veterans for their sacrifices and for our freedom.  The effect of military service can be significant and lasting.  It is important to be aware of Social Security’s disability programs for service members.  Even with a VA compensation rating you may additionally be eligible for Social Security disability benefit payments if you are unable to sustain full time work due your to medical conditions.  Veterans with a compensation rating of 100% permanent and total may receive expedited processing of their applications for Social Security disability benefits.

Please call the Lowery Law Group at 843-991-0733 if you would like to discuss your claim. For more information visit the Social Security Administration at https://www.ssa.gov.

 

 

Expedited Claims

expedite

Do I qualify to have my claim expedited?

There are several circumstances under which Social Security may review your claim on an expedited basis:

1)            Terminal Illness: If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the Social Security Administration will expedite the review of your claim. Examples of conditions are: metastatic cancer, an individual awaiting a heart, lung or liver transplant, an individual who has been comatose for more than 30 days, or an individual receiving hospice care.

2)            100 Percent Permanent and Total Initiative: Your claim will be expedited if you are a Veteran and have a Veterans Affairs compensation rating of 100 percent, permanent and total.

3)            Dire Need: Most commonly, a dire need is classified as a lack of food, clothing, shelter or medical care. A report of financial hardship will not be sufficient. Examples of documentation you would need to provide to Social Security to claim dire circumstances are: documentation of imminent foreclosure from your lender, immediate eviction notification from your landlord, a letter from a homeless shelter, or a letter from your utility company that your water, electricity or gas services have been discontinued.

4)            Suicidal/Homicidal: If you have evidence verifying that you are suicidal or homicidal, the Social Security Administration will expedite your claim. Evidence of suicidal or homicidal ideations may come from any source, including: physicians, family or friends, or law enforcement.

5)            Compassionate Allowance: There are certain medical conditions according to Social Security which are so serious that the applicant will most likely be determined to be disabled. If you have medical documentation of one of these conditions, your claim will be expedited. The list includes many conditions: Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), certain cancers, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, acute leukemia, as well as many others. To view the complete list, see http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm.

6)            Congressional Interest: An additional way to attempt to expedite your claim is through a congressional inquiry. Congressional representatives routinely intervene on the behalf of individuals who have experienced a tremendously long wait. For consideration, you would need to contact your local congressional office and ask to speak with a representative in regard to help with a federal agency.

Social Security Benefits and Income Tax

Do I have to pay taxes on my Social Security benefits? This is a common question this time of year. Generally you only have to pay taxes if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Each January you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) showing the amount of benefits you received in the previous year. You can use this Benefit Statement when you complete your federal income tax return to find out if your benefits are subject to tax.

The general guidelines are as follows:

  • For “individual” filers
    • If you have income under $25,000 you do not have to pay taxes on your benefits.
    • If you have income between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
    • If you have income more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

 

  • For “joint” filers
    • If you and your spouse have combined income under $32,000 you do not have to pay taxes on your benefits.
    • If you and your spouse have combined income between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
    • If you have your spouse have combined income more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

 

If you do have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits, you can make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS or choose to have federal taxes withheld from your benefits.

Taxes

 

Top 10 considerations – Social Security disability benefits application

Top 10 Things to Consider when applying for social security disability benefits

Top 10 considerations – Social Security disability benefits application

10) Are you currently working and earning over substantial gainful activity level?

Before the Social Security Administration will even review your medical conditions, they will first look at whether you are currently working. If you are working part time and your before tax earnings are under $1,130.00 then you are eligible to apply for disability benefits. Full time work or monthly before tax earnings over $1,130.00 are considered substantial by the Social Security Administration and you will automatically be denied. The earnings thresholds change each year, please see https://www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/cola/sga.html for the most accurate information on Top 10 considerations – Social Security disability benefits application.

9) Are you currently collecting unemployment benefits?

There is no rule preventing an individual from collecting unemployment benefits while applying for Social Security disability benefits. However, some Social Security judges consider collecting unemployment benefits at the same time as applying for disability benefits to be inconsistent. When an individual collects unemployment benefits they must certify that they are able to work and are looking for work, whereas Social Security disability benefits are for people who are unable to work.

8) What does your social media activity display about your daily activities?

The Social Security Administration does, on occasion, investigate claims; these investigations are called Cooperative Disability Investigations. Please see http://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/video-gallery/CDI for more information.

7) Did your job end due to your disabling condition(s) or other reasons?

The Social Security Administration will ask you whether your job ended due to your alleged disabling conditions or for other reasons, i.e. did your job end because you moved, were you laid off, or did you quit. It will benefit your claim if your job ended directly due to your alleged disabling condition.

6) Can you perform a different type of job/have you tried vocational rehabilitation?

Even if your conditions prevent you from performing the type of work you have done in the past, this does not necessarily mean your claim will automatically be approved. The Social Security Administration will also consider if you can adjust to other types of work. If you are younger than 50, whether or not you can perform other types of work will be an important aspect of your case.

5) Are you reachable (do you have a working phone and current address)?

During the disability process the Social Security Administration will need to contact you to complete additional forms. If Social Security is unable to reach you, after several attempts, your case will likely

4) Your age. Are you younger than 50, between 50-55 or over 55?

The Social Security Administration has set up age categories to help with the claim process. Individuals who are 18 to 49 are considered “younger individuals,” those 50-54 are considered to be “closely approaching advanced age,” individuals who are 55 and over are considered “advanced age,” and individuals 60-65 are considered “closely approaching retirement age.” The Social Security rules are generally more favorable to individuals over the age of 50.

3) Are you currently receiving ongoing medical treatment?

The Social Security Administration is not going to determine that you are disabled based on your word alone; therefore you must have medical documentation. Social Security will consider your inability to afford treatment, but it is also important that you attempt to receive treatment through a free clinic. For more information on how the Social Security Administration considers medical treatment, please review this video for specific information.

2) Do you have objective evidence of the severity of your condition?

Not only is it important that you have medical documentation, but it is also important to be aware of what that documentation says about the severity of your conditions. For example, do your medical records indicate abnormal findings on exams, and if applicable, does imaging document moderate to severe abnormalities.

1) Are you financially able to pursue a disability claim as the process may take 2+ years?

When applying for disability benefits it is important to be aware of the time it will take for the Social Security Administration to process your claim. Currently, the first level of claim processing (initial level) takes on average six months; if your claim is denied, the second level of claim processing (reconsideration level) takes on average an additional six months. If your claim is denied at the first two levels the wait time for a hearing varies depending on which hearing office is closest to you; the average wait time for a hearing to be scheduled is an additional 14-20 months. The most current wait times for a hearing can be found at https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/01_NetStat_Report.html.

Social Security Disability – Free Clinics in South Carolina

Difficulty affording medical treatment for your Social Security Disability claim? Medical documentation is an essential part of the Social Security Disability process. Please seek out free clinics in your area if you have been unable to afford treatment. Below are links with information on free clinics in South Carolina, specifically the Charleston area.  Even if you have been denied for Medicaid or Medicare you can receive treatment through other sources in the community for a nominal charge or no cost.

social_security_disability_clinic

A Social Security Judge will take into consideration your inability to afford regular treatment or treatment from a specialist. However, if you have limited treatment, you will be asked at your hearing if you have sought out treatment from a community clinic. Your claim will not be automatically denied for lack of treatment but it could negatively impact your case. It is critical to show you did attempt to seek treatment while your claim was pending.

Clients frequently express concern that their condition is too severe to be treated at a free clinic, or that there is nothing a free clinic will be able to do for them. However, it is still important to see a medical provider on a regular basis for documentation. Regular progress notes simply describing ongoing pain or abnormalities will go a long way to help you win your Social Security Disability claim. Social Security Judges need to be presented with documentation to establish the severity of your conditions – they are not going to solely take your word for it.

Many free clinics have long wait lists. It is important to get established with a clinic before your case is scheduled for a hearing.

Please see below to find a Free/Low Cost Clinic in your area:

http://www.freeclinics.com/sta/south_carolina
http://hfmc.org/
http://www.scha.org/public/access/accesshealth-tri-county-network
http://nafcclinics.org/
http://www.southcarolinafc.org/
http://www.charlestondorchestermhc.org/
http://health-centers.healthgrove.com/l/4292/Franklin-C-Fetter-Family-Health-Center

Please visit our website www.lowerylegal.com or call the Lowery Law Group at 843-991-0733 if you would like to discuss your claim.

How to Complete an Adult Social Security Disability Function Report

Social Security Disability Function Report

At the initial stages of the Social Security disability process – initial and reconsideration levels – the Social Security Administration requires applicants to complete a Social Security Disability Function Report that asks you to describe your daily activities, or “ADLs.” A sample ADL form can be viewed here https://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-3373-bk.pdf. It is important to thoroughly complete these forms as one of the ways the Social Security Administration evaluates claims for disability is to look at how your condition affects your ability to perform day to day functions. ADLs are things we do on a day to day basis, for example: preparing meals, driving, shopping, taking care of pets, interacting with others, paying bills, and getting dressed.

Many clients do not take the time to complete these reports because they think it is not important to their claim; however, this is incorrect. The Social Security Administration reviews these reports and uses your answers to determine how well you function.

Here is an example of how function report helped an applicant win their claim:

  • An individual filed for disability based on degenerative disc disease and cervical radiculopathy; she reported loss of sensation in her upper extremities as a residual. On her function report, the applicant stated she had to have assistance with buttons and zippers when dressing. During her hearing, the Administrative Law Judge asked the applicant to describe a typical day; the applicant testified that every time she wore a blouse or cardigan she had to have her husband help her dress, she also stated she could not wear shoes with laces. These statements were consistent with the function report, thus the Administrative Law Judge found the applicant’s reports credible.

Be aware that sometimes your answers may give the impression that you are able to do more than you actually can do. For example, Social Security can interpret activities such as watching television programs as the ability to sit down for long periods without interruption. If your daily activities demonstrate that you can sit for several hours at a time, stand for several hours at a time, care for an elderly parent or a young child, shop for extended periods, or lift a significant amounts of weight; your claim is likely to be denied.

The Social Security team at Lowery Law Group would be happy to review your claim, please call us at 843-991-0733.

Visit our main site at www.lowerylegal.com for more information on submitting your social security disability claim.
Call 843-991-0733 or email us at info@lowerylegal.com for a FREE consultation with a lawyer professional.

Medical Opinions in Social Security Disability Cases

Doctor giving a medical exam to a social security disability patient.

The most important aspect of applying for disability benefits is collecting and submitting medical documentation that supports your claim. It is essential to submit to the Social Security Administration not only records from your primary care physician, but also records from specialists, urgent care facilities, hospitals, chiropractic clinics, psychologists and/or therapists, home health care facilities, compensation and pension examinations, documentation from vocational rehabilitation, and physical therapy reports. For individuals alleging deficits in mental functioning, it is also important to obtain school records including results of intellectual function testing (IQ scores) and any special education records.

If you have an established physician, ask if he or she would be willing to write a statement or complete documentation from your representative to be supplied to the Social Security Administration in support of your case. This statement should explain your condition(s) and the functional limitations you face in regard to performing job-related duties. It is important that the statement be specific in regard to documenting your limitations, a statement that simply states that you are disabled without specific limitations is likely to be discounted by Social Security.

Examples of a helpful medical opinion:

  • “The patient is unable to stand or walk for more than 2 hours total out of an 8 hour period due to diabetic neuropathy which has been confirmed by nerve conduction studies.”
  • “The patient cannot work around the general public and would be only able to occasionally interact with coworkers secondary to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

EXAMPLES OF An unHELPFUL MEDICAL OPINION:

  • “The patient is unable to work in any capacity.”
  • “The patient is not employable due to his/her medical conditions.”

The social security administration’s policy on medical opinions in social security disability cases can be found at:

https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0424515003
https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-1527.htm
https://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/01/SSR96-02-di-01.html
https://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/01/SSR96-05-di-01.html

Please contact the Lowery Law Group at 843-991-0733 if you would like our Social Security Disability Department to review your case.

Visit our main site at www.lowerylegal.com for more information on submitting your social security disability claim.
Call 843-991-0733 or email us at info@lowerylegal.com for a FREE consultation with a lawyer professional.

 

Veterans Claims vs. Social Security Disability Claims 100% Permanent and Total Initiative

Disabled veteran with social security disability needs

Did you know you can collect social security disability claims and veteran’s disability benefits at the same time?

Does having one benefit make getting the other benefit any easier?
Generally, the answer is yes, but it does depend on your circumstances.

If you have a high VA disability rating, this may increase your chances of success on a Social Security disability claim. While the Social Security Administration has different criteria than the VA for determining disability and is not required to agree with VA findings, the Social Security Administration must consider VA disability ratings and accord them weight. Compensation and pension examinations are also very helpful when applying for Social Security disability benefits as they are more thorough than consultative examinations that the Social Security Administration schedules.

Another advantage for veterans with high disability ratings is that, while the VA considers only service connected disabilities, the Social Security Administration considers all impairments whether they are service connected or not.

Below are some helpful resources:

https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v74n3/v74n3p1.html
https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v66n2/v66n2p1.html

***The Social Security Administrative has launched an initiative to provide expedited processing of disability claims filed by Veterans who have a rating of 100% permanent and total rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is important that you notify your Social Security attorney or the Social Security Administration directly if this applies to you. More information on the initiative can be found below:

https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10565.pdf

For more information call the Lowery Law Group at 843-991-0733.

Visit our main site at www.lowerylegal.com for more information on submitting your social security disability claim.
Call 843-991-0733 or email us at info@lowerylegal.com for a FREE consultation with a lawyer professional.

 

The Lowery Law Group | Charleston, SC Social Security Disability Experts

DisabilityCouple

At Lowery Law Group, we focus on helping people in the community file for Social Security disability benefits and representing those who have been denied benefits. We believe in providing the highest quality representation and advocacy on behalf of individuals who are seeking Social Security and Supplemental Security Income.

As Charleston’s only Social Security Attorney who has previous experience working directly for the Social Security Administration, Lowery Law Group has the knowledge necessary to win your claim. Hire an attorney who has worked at Social Security to best represent you and your interests.

Practice Areas

• Social Security Disability Insurance
• Supplemental Security Income
• Benefits for Disabled Widows and Widowers
• Benefits for Disabled Children
• Closed Period of Disability Benefits
• Initial Disability Application Process
• Appeal of Disability Denials
• Representation at Disability Hearings
• Compassionate Allowances
• Veterans Benefits

SOCIAL SECURITY Disability Attorney Services

There is NO FEE for a FREE consultation regarding your claim, thus you have nothing to lose by calling Lowery Law Group today to discuss your case. We handle cases in both South Carolina as well as Georgia.

As a former attorney for the Social Security Administration, Marie Lowery is highly skilled attorney who specializes with the claims and hearing process.

Why you should hire an attorney with Agency experience to best represent you and your interests.

If we do take on representation of your claim we are not paid unless your claim is ultimately approved and you are awarded benefits, therefore there is no upfront fee. If your disability claim is approved, our fee is 25% of your past due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000 plus the costs to obtain medical records. This is a standard fee determined by the Social Security Administration; all Social Security disability attorneys have the same fee.

Need to Apply for Benefits?
If you feel you are eligible for disability benefits it is important to get a claim started immediately. Lowery Law Group can assist you by filing your claim in our office or you can file online or contact your local government Social Security Administration directly to schedule an interview. It is important to remember that in order to be eligible to submit a disability claim you cannot be working full time.

Denied at the Initial or Reconsideration Level?
If you have received a letter from the Social Security Administration telling you your disability claim has been denied, do not be discouraged as many claims are denied initially. However, it is important to contact us immediately as you must appeal this denial within 60 days. Lowery Law Group can assist you by filing the appeal for you and taking over management of your claim. Once we are listed as your attorney we will take steps to prepare your case by obtaining medical evidence and medical opinions to support your application for benefits, as well as corresponding directly with Social Security on your claim.

Have a Hearing Scheduled or Waiting on a Hearing to be Scheduled?
If you have a hearing scheduled or are waiting on a hearing date we can assist you by making sure all your medical records are in your file, obtain additional supportive evidence, analyze and prepare your case for review by a Judge, draft legal arguments, and represent you at the hearing. Prior to a hearing Lowery Law Group will meet and discuss your file, and review with you what questions the Judge is likely to ask so that at the hearing so you will feel as prepared, comfortable, and confident as possible.

Visit our main site at www.lowerylegal.com for more information on submitting your social security disability claim.
Call 843-991-0733 or email us at info@lowerylegal.com for a FREE consultation with a lawyer professional.