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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Understanding substantial gainful activity

Eligibility for Social Security benefits depends upon two things - a medical condition that lasts more than 12 months and an inability to complete work. Understanding what is meant by an inability to work is very important because if the person reviewing the application determines that the applicant is able to engage in substantial gainful activity, he or she will be denied SSD benefits.

The first thing to look at when determining if someone is engaged in substantial gainful activity is his or her income. In 2017, if a San Diego non-blind resident is earning above $1170 or a statutorily blind person is earning more than $1950, they are considered to be gainfully employed. Federal regulations stipulate the amount and often change year by year.

SSD benefits and genetic photosensitivity disorders

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to Americans who can show that they are disabled, unable to work on account of that disability, and meet other federal requirements. In an attempt to help individuals assess whether they may qualify for SSD benefits, the SSA has created a list of qualifying illnesses and injuries, as well as how a disabled individual can show that he or she qualifies under each illness and injury.

For example, disability benefits may be provided to those who suffer from a genetic photosensitivity disorder. However, in order to be considered "disabled" by the SSA, an individual must show that he or she qualifies in one of two ways. The first is to merely show that one suffers from Xeroderma pigmentosum. Those who can show medical documentation of this diagnosis are immediately considered disabled.

Trump's proposed budget cuts deep into SSD benefits

Millions of poor and disabled Americans rely on Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in order to make ends meet. These individuals, many of whom have suffered a serious disabling injury or illness, are unable to work due to their medical conditions. Without their SSD benefits, these disabled individuals would be in financial ruin. Fortunately, those who want to seek SSD benefits can do so by filing an initial claim and, in the event of a clam denial, proceeding through the appeals process.

However, if President Trump has his way, obtaining these benefits could become much harder. According to reports, the president's proposed budget would cut $72 billion dollars from Social Security Disability and SSI over the next ten years. Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's budget director, recently testified before Congress, indicating that the president believes that many SSD recipients actually aren't disabled.

Californians facing disability are not alone

Californians who have been rendered unable to work due to a disabling injury or illness can find themselves is a tough position. On one hand, they need money to survive. On the other hand, they may feel uneasy about turning to what many consider an entitlement program for the assistance they need. Yet, those individuals who are suffering from a disability shouldn't feel like they are going through the process alone.

In fact, a recent study from the Institute on Disability found that more than 12.5 percent of the American population is disabled. This number has remained constant over the last three years. Of course, the risk of disability increases with age, but even those who are young can suffer from a debilitating injury or illness. When this happens, those individuals may find themselves unable to work. The study found that fewer than 35 percent of disabled individuals work, compared to 76 percent of those who are not disabled.

Military members and veterans may qualify for SSD benefits

As a city with a military base, San Diego residents know that the brave men and women in our nation's armed forces put their lives on the line to protect not only our country, our freedom, and our democratic rights, but those of others, too. The least we can do to pay back these service members is ensure that they are taken care of when they return home. This is especially true when they are wounded while serving our country.

Fortunately, injured veterans are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, just like everyone else. Additionally, those who are deemed to have a 100 percent permanent and total compensation rating are eligible to have their SSD claims expedited. Whereas it may take a year or more for civilians to have their initial claim adjudicated, disabled members of the military and veterans may have their claims decided in a matter of months. This can help them get the money they need quicker so that they don't have to worry about how they are going to make ends meet when they are unable to work.

We fight for those whose SSD claims have been denied

Our last blog post discussed the Social Security Disability (SSD) reevaluation process. Being prepared to enter this process is critical, as the outcome could drastically affect your benefits. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that your disability no longer affects your ability to work, then your benefits may cease altogether. Similarly, if it is discovered that your condition has improved, then your benefits may be diminished. This can wreak havoc on your finances and threaten to throw you into money woes. This is why you may need to consider protecting yourself and your claim when facing reevaluation.

The best way to do this is to gather as much supporting evidence as you can. You should speak with all of your medical providers and gather all available paperwork documenting your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Then, you need to apply the law and the SSA's policies to figure out how to craft a compelling legal argument for the continuation of benefits.

The SSD claim reevaluation process

Successfully claiming Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a long, drawn-out battle. Initial claims are often denied, and appealing a claim oftentimes requires close attention to detail, strong legal arguments, and patience. Although recovering these benefits can provide significant financial relief to those who are unable to work on account of their disabilities, the truth of the matter is that the fight for these benefits may not be over. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will, from time-to-time, reevaluate an SSD claim to determine if an individual still qualifies for SSD benefits.

The SSA spells out the review process pretty clearly. Depending on one's disabling condition, his or her claim will be reviewed within six to 18 months of the disabling condition's onset. However, if improvement of the condition can't be predicted but is possible, then the claim may be reviewed only every three years. Those individuals with disabilities that are not expected to improve will have their claims reviewed every seven years. When one's case comes up for review, a hearing will be set.

Disability claim backlog means claims need to be strong

Many Californians inaccurately believe that Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are easy to receive. After all, one need only prove that he or she meets the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled, satisfy work requirements, and prove that the disability is to last for at least a year or result in death. But the truth of the matter is that most SSD claims are denied. In fact, one recent report indicated that as many as 77 percent of all initial claims are denied. Even on appeal, less than 50 percent of claims are granted.

This knowledge can be worrisome, especially since approximately 2.3 million disability claims were filed in 2016 alone. As disheartening as that may sound, it's worth noting that about 10.5 million individuals are currently drawing SSD benefits after successfully pursuing their claims. So, being armed with a claim that is supported by strong evidence can result in a favorable outcome for an individual who is suffering from a disability.

Social Security disability's Ticket to Work program

Californians who have suffered a disability know the challenges they can face when their injury or illness renders them unable to work. Sure, these individuals may have extensive physical pain as well as physical limitations, but for many people with disabilities the financial damage is truly debilitating. This is why the federal government created the Social Security disability system. While SSD benefits can be a financial lifesaver for those with a disability, they may not last forever. Claims undergo periodic review, and the Social Security Administration tries to incentivize individuals to return to work.

How is this done? Primarily through a program called "Ticket to Work." This program, available to those between the ages of 18 and 64, seeks to give disabled individuals access to employment opportunities in hopes of weaning them off of the SSD system. Participants in the program often have access to free educational and career services that can help them find a job that is right for them.

SSDI benefits for amputations

Loss of a limb is a catastrophic event, regardless of the cause. Many people in Southern California who have suffered amputations if they can obtain Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. This post will review the essential requirements for proving the existence of a Social Security disability caused by loss of a limb.

An amputation is generally a definitive injury; it can be diagnosed and proved by a simple visual inspection. Medical and employment records are nevertheless required to prove the existence of work limitations thatresult in the inability to work. The loss of limbs must include, at a minimum, the loss of both hands, the loss of one or both legs above the ankle accompanied by the inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate, loss of one hand and a lower extremity above the ankle, or the loss of use of the hip joint. The inability to use a prosthetic device to walk properly must have lasted or expected to last at least 12 months.