Putting the Security in Social Security Disability Filing in Texas

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  • What is considered "disabled"?

    To be considered disabled, individuals must have a medical or psychological condition that makes working difficult or even impossible. The applicant's impairment must have kept them from doing Substantial Gainful Activity over a 12 months period of time. Keep in mind that having symptoms is not enough. The applicant must have medical or psychological evidence (medical records) to prove to the Social Security Administration that the symptoms actually exist. If yo have further question, contact a Social Security disability lawyer today. 

  • Can I qualify for both SSI and SSDI?

    It is possible to qualify for both SSI and SSDI, although it is unlikely. If you qualify for both forms of benefits, that is called concurrent benefits. Unfortunately SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and will only apply if your income is low enough to be supplemented. In other words, you would only get SSI if your SSDI benefits are too low. At that point, SSI would step in and supplement your benefits to bring them up to a combined total of $710 a month.

    Questions? Contact a Social Security disability lawyer today at the Packard Law Firm.

  • What are the chances of my Social Security Disability Case being approved?

    If you are preparing to file a claim or appeal for Disability, you may be wondering what your chances of winning are. The most accurate answer will be complicated and specific to you.

    This FAQ will give you a general idea of how frequently disability cases are won at each level, and what you can do to increase your odds of winning.

    Initial Application

    Chance of winning: 30%

    Most Social Security Disability applications are initially denied. This includes many applicants who are eligible for the program.

    There are many things you can do to increase your chances of success from the beginning.

    1. Keep complete medical documentation - The most important part of a disability application is the medical information. If you have enough medical evidence that you are disabled, chances are good you will win your claim (at least eventually). Do not trust the SSA offices to get the paperwork from your doctor’s office. Both of these offices can be overwhelmed and have no special interest in your case. You may have to personally ensure that the paperwork is handled and sent to the Social Security office.
    2. Do what your doctor tells you - Having your doctor on your side is one of the biggest ways you can help your Disability claim. And the best way to keep your doctor on your side is to do what they tell you to do. Besides, not following doctor’s orders can complicate winning your case as well.
    3. Make sure the application is complete - The Disability application is long, complicated, and involved. It will require gathering lots of documentation on everything from marriages, to health, to employment status. Filling out the form incorrectly or incompletely can be grounds for losing your initial claim, no matter the merits.
    4. Keep records of claim status - The Social Security Disability process is full of a variety of deadlines. The best way to make sure you aren’t missing those deadlines is to not lose track of the status of your application. Plan to call the Social Security offices frequently for updates.
    5. Don’t believe everything you hear - That being said, the Social Security 1-800 number can sometimes provide inaccurate information, or information that doesn’t apply to your situation. Independently confirm any information you hear from the 1-800 number.

    Few law firms help with Disability claims at all, and those that do usually do not help out at this initial stage of the process. But if all this work sounds overwhelming, which it very well might for someone who is ill or injured, you may benefit from working with a law office— like the Packard Law Firm— that can help ensure we maximize your chance of success from the very beginning saving you time and trouble over the long-run.

    Also consider that you do not directly pay your disability lawyer. They receive 25% of any back pay you are awarded. The sooner you win your disability claim, the less back pay you will be due, and the less you will ultimately need to pay a lawyer.

    Reconsideration

    Chance of winning: 13%

    After you are initially denied, you can ask for your application to be reconsidered. A case that is reconsidered is handled by the same office with the same rules as the initial consideration, but is looked at by a different examiner.

    What can you do to improve your chances of winning at this level of the process? If you filled out the initial claim correctly and thoroughly then, not a lot. But it’s a necessary step to eventually get to a hearing with the Administrative Law Judge.

    You will need to do the following:

    1. Make the request - Many people who apply for disability will simply give up if they lose their initial claim. Others will simply fill out the application again starting a new claim. The most important thing you can do at this step is to simply submit a reconsideration appeal.
    2. Move quickly - After your initial claim is denied you only have sixty days to ask for a reconsideration. This is not a lot of time, especially if you are trying to gather new documentation or correct your previous application. As soon as you get the denial it’s time to get working.
    3. Improve your application - Anything you wish you had included in the initial application you can include now. If you didn’t complete the application, or have had new medical documentation make sure to include it.

    Appeal

    Chance of winning: 60% (with a lawyer) 25%-30% otherwise

    This is the step where the odds can turn to your favor. In the final appeal you will appear before an Administrative Law Judge.

    1. Don’t limit yourself to the form - When you submit an appeal, the form only gives you a few lines to explain. Instead write “see attached form” where you can explain the reason for your appeal thoroughly.
    2. Follow up - Some judges will allow you to answer any questions from the hearing more accurately through a follow-up written statement. If you feel you didn’t adequately answer a question, reach out and see if you can submit a more clear answer.
    3. Get a lawyer - If you have not yet secured a lawyer in your Disability case, now is the time. Study after study shows that applicants with a lawyer are about twice as likely to win their appeal than those who aren’t. Appearing before a judge is complicated, and this is your best chance to win. Don’t rely on Perry Mason reruns, get someone who knows what they are doing.

    Disability Appeals Council

    Chance of winning: < 5%

    This level mostly looks at irregularities in the appeals process. You will not ordinarily win at this level  because the council disagrees with the decision, but rather because they believe the decision was unfair.

    That being said about 20% of cases are also sent back to the Administrative Law Judge to be retried, where you have another chance to win.

    There are a few things you can do to help your case at this final level:

    1. Move quickly - Like at every other step you only have sixty days to file an appeal. And at this level, because you’ve already been seen by a judge, filing a new claim and starting the process over may not be an option.
    2. Get a lawyer - You should have already had a lawyer for the appeal, but if you didn’t it is even more essential now. The Disability Appeals Council is largely looking for legal irregularities in the decision. Finding these requires someone who is trained in the law.
    3. Get record of appeals hearing - The council is not just interested in your case, but in what happened before the Administrative Law Judge. You can request an audio version of the appeal as well as a file with all the exhibits.
    4. Get your doctor’s opinion - Take your denial from the appeal along with the reasoning to your doctor. If they disagree with the reasoning, have them write why they disagree, The Disability Appeals Council can consider this statement in their review.

  • What is DDS?

    If you are involved in a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim, or considering filing for SSD, you may have come across the acronym DDS. What does DDS stand for? How will DDS impact your disability claim? And what do you need to know about DDS to give yourself the best chance of success?

    Understanding the DDS

    DDS stands for Disability Determination Services. Each state has an agency that evaluates whether someone making a disability claim is disabled.

    This agency works for the state, but is funded by the Federal Government and follows rules set by the Federal Government. Most states’ agencies are called DDS, though some states alter the name such as Disability Determination Bureau, or Division of Disability Determination.

    Like most states, Texas’ agency is called Disability Determination Services.

    The DDS is different than the local Social Security field office. The field office is local, and where disability claims are initially filed. This office verifies the non-medical requirements for receiving SSDI. The DDS evaluates the medical portions of the disability claim.

    The DDS in Texas

    Texas’ DDS offices are located in Austin:

    6101 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78741

    In Texas, the DDS is a division of the state’s Health and Human Services. However, the DDS was moved to this organization from the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services  as part of an organization restructure in 2016.

    The DDS and You

    The DDS plays a significant role in whether or not your disability claim is approved. So it’s valuable to understand how they gather their information. The DDS prefers to get their information in this order:

    1. Your own medical records. They want to use your records from your doctors. If that information is not available, or doesn’t answer all their questions, then they will move on for additional information.
    2. A medical examination from your doctor.
    3. A medical examination from an independent doctor.

    Based on this information, the DDS has a 95.5% accuracy rate. That means one in every twenty-two denials is inaccurate. If you believe you are part of this group, you will want to appeal your denial.

    Questions About DDS?

    If you are looking to better understand the DDS’ process or appeal one of their decisions, the best thing you can do is consult with a Social Security disability lawyer. The Packard Law Firm is committed to helping individuals make the best decisions about Disability for them and their families. Reach out to us today.

  • What is SSI?

    Depending on a variety of factors, there are multiple government programs that you may be eligible for if you are disabled, blind, or elderly. Each program has different criteria to qualify. One common program is called SSI.

    SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income and it can also be known as Title XVI. One big difference between this program and other programs is that you do not need to have worked in the past to qualify for SSI. However, there are strict financial rules.

    In order to be financially eligible for this program, your monthly income must be under a certain limit, as well as your assets/resources. These rules are set up by the Social Security Administration. In most states, if you qualify for SSI, you also qualify for Medicaid. Many people with SSI receive food assistance. The SSI program is intended for those with very low income and assets/resources.

    For individuals that qualify for multiple programs including SSI, it is most likely that the programs you applied for will combine into one big concurrent case so that your attorney can discuss all of the programs within one single hearing.

    Because the strict financial rules are so personal and change every year, it is best to discuss it with a disability lawyer. This way, your finances can be screened properly and customized to your situation. Contact a Social Security disability lawyer today.

  • What is SSDI?

    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a major US Government program to help those who cannot work due to a disability. It is administered by the Social Security Administration.

    If you or a loved one cannot work, SSDI may be a program that can help you make ends meet.

    How Do I Qualify for SSDI?

    SSDI is like an insurance program for those who can’t work because of a disability. You only qualify if you have been paying your “premiums” in the form of FICA Social Security taxes.

    There are two major requirements:

    1. You have a qualifying disability
    2. You have earned enough “work credits”

    If you are unable to work but do not have a work history, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but probably not SSDI.

    SSDI is also only for those younger than sixty-five who do not yet qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

    Does my Disability Qualify for SSDI?

    To qualify for SSDI, the answer to each of the following questions must be no:

    • Can you do the same job you did before?
    • Can you adjust to working in another job?
    • Are you earning more than $1180 per month (this is the 2018 amount, it rises slightly each year) from any work?
    • Will your disability last less than twelve months?

    If the answer to any of those question is yes, you probably do not qualify for SSDI. But there are a few special circumstances.

    Have I Earned Enough Work Credits to Qualify for SSDI?

    The first step to knowing if you have enough work credits is to know what counts as a work credit.

    You earn work credits during every year that you work. In a year, you can earn up to four work credits. Each year the Social Security Administration sets the amount that you must earn for each credit. In 2018 the amount is $1320. Once you’ve made four times the amount for that year, you’ve received the maximum four credits for that year.

    Only income that you pay social security taxes on qualify.

    So how many work credits do you need to qualify for SSDI? It depends on your age.

    • Under 24 years old, you need to have 6 credits in the last 3 years.
    • Between 24 and 31 years old, you need to have 2 credits for every year since you turned 21.
    • Between 31 and 42 years old, you need to have 20 credits in the last 10 years.
    • Older than 42 years old, you need to have 20 credits in the last 10 years, plus one additional lifetime credit for every year you are older than 42.

    How do Family Members Qualify for SSDI?

    If you are related to someone who qualifies for SSDI you may also qualify.

    You usually qualify for SSDI if you are:

    • A dependant child or stepchild of a disabled worker
    • Spouse or ex-spouse caring for the child of a disabled worker
    • Spouse of a disabled worker who is over 62 years old and doesn’t qualify for Social Security benefits on their own

    How much money do I get from SSDI?

    The amount you receive from SSDI depends on the amount you paid into the system. The formula for figuring it out is complicated and changes every year. In essence, you receive most of the initial money you pay into the system, and a smaller percentage the more money you paid into the system.

    The maximum SSDI payment in 2018 is $2,788 and increases each year.

    You can look up how much money you have paid into your Social Security online.

    Family members can receive up to 50% of a disabled workers monthly disability amount. The total paid to all family members cannot be more than 150% of the amount the disabled worker receives.

    Need Help Applying for SSDI?

    Call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to apply for the SSDI benefits. If you have questions about how to navigate applying for SSDI, or questions about what you qualify for, you’ll want to contact a Social Security disability lawyer. The Packard Law Firm is committed to helping individuals who are considering SSDI make the best decisions for them and their families. Reach out to us today.