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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

The four stages of SSD appeals

Submitting a Social Security Disability application is not the end of the road for many California residents-less than half of all first time SSD applications are accepted in the first attempt. A denial of SSD claims may seem disheartening but it doesn't have to be, because the Social Security Administration has a comprehensive appeals process that can be utilized to ensure the decision reached is the correct one.

Once the SSA has made a decision on the application, a letter is sent to the applicant explaining the reasons. An appeal may be requested within 60 days of receiving this letter and it must be in writing. There are four levels of appeal.

Can a widow receive a deceased spouse's benefits?

If anyone in your family has received Social Security Disability benefits, you know how that monthly check can be a lifesaver for everyone in the household. When, due to illness or injury, you can no longer work to earn a living, the Social Security Disability Insurance program can provide you and your family with much-needed income. But if the disabled recipient passes away, does that income disappear?

The short answer is no, not necessarily. Widows may file an application to receive a late spouse's disability benefits.

Cancers and qualifying for SSD benefits

With more than 200 types of cancer currently and around 1.7 million new cancer cases discovered every year, it is not surprising that it is included as a covered condition in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book of recognized disabilities. However, not all cancers are included in the listings-that depends on where the cancer originates, the extent of the body's involvement, duration and response to anti-cancer treatment and effects of post-therapeutic residuals.

As many California resident can imagine, cancer at any stage and of any type is disabling. The physical and emotional affects of the condition are in addition to the side-effects of the medicine or treatment being taken for the illness. As a result, working can become impossible while someone is trying to fight cancer. Those who are working may need to take time off for their treatment or while they are recovering from it. Those who have been treated may not be able to return to work for a number of months, if they ever can. At the same time, treating cancer is incredibly costly, with medical bills running into the thousands every month. Covering this expense can be difficult when income is consistent-without a job it can be downright impossible.

We can help you apply for SSD benefits or appeal a decision

A physical or cognitive disability that suddenly leaves a normally productive California resident unable to go to work, complete routine tasks or become unable to take care of other family members can be emotionally frustrating. Not to mention, it is also financially overwhelming to suddenly see bills pile up and be unable to do anything about it because one no longer has a job.

The federal benefits programs administered by the Social Security Administration provide financial assistance both for those who are struggling to make ends meet because they do not have a job and for those who want to attempt to return to the workforce. As mentioned last week, the TTW program encourages disabled workers to try and start working again while still receiving financial assistance and remaining eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits for a certain period of time without having to submit an application.

What is the TTW program?

When a health issue takes a California resident out of the workforce, many people mistakenly believe the disabled individual is enjoying their time away from work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits. However, nothing is further from the truth-without a job, many people feel they have lost their sense of purpose and community. Additionally, SSD benefits provide a bare minimum amount of financial compensation-it helps recipients get by and make ends meet, but in no way does it replace the earnings they were likely receiving when they were earning.

Seeking SSD benefits is not a decision to stop working forever, though many people do not know this. Their program, Ticket To Work, was specifically designed to help residents get back on their feet and achieve financial independence, while continuing to receive SSD benefits for an adjustment period. TTW provides recipients with the opportunity to test the waters without losing their SSD benefits.

Important facts about Social Security disability

An unexpected disability can end the ability to earn income and pay for living expenses. To help, Social Security grants benefits under its Social Security disability program to eligible claimants. Those seeking or receiving this financial assistance should know basis facts about SSD benefits.

This program is different than Social Security's retirement benefits. Most workers pay into Social Security through federal payroll taxes with the anticipation that they will receive benefits when they retire.

What are technical reasons my SSD claim was denied?

When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, many people focus on the medical aspect of the application and make sure that there are no mistakes in that. While that's very important, as medical ineligibility is a common reason SSD benefits are denied in the first instance, its also important to look at non-medical reasons for denial of SSD claims. It might come as a surprise to California residents that a claim can be denied before it ever reaches a disability examiner or getting a medical determination. Then what other reasons are there for a denial?

One of the most common non-medical reasons for a denial is that the applicant may be working and earning more than the substantial gainful activity amount. What does this mean for an applicant? If someone is working and earning too much at the time of their application, their application won't make it to the stage of medical determination. A technical denial will be granted very quickly.

Call an experienced lawyer for help in SSD benefits process

It can be extremely frustrating for formerly active and independent California residents to suddenly be out of the workforce and dependent on everyone else for their basic needs due to a sudden injury or ailment that has rendered them incapable of working. It is also financially devastating, which many people do not expect. This is why Social Security Disability benefits are so important for the applicant-the benefits, which may seem meager to many, may be the thread holding the family together post disability.

People are often not willing to help disabled adults and, as mentioned in last week's post, budget cuts have left the Social Security Administration struggling to keep up with demand. There are long waits to talk to representatives both on the phone and in person. The backlog in application review is almost two years. Making what may seem like a simple mistake could mean the application gets denied or delayed, something most applicants cannot afford to have happen.

Why is the SSA taking so long to pick up my phone call?

Asking for help may be difficult for California residents who have spent their lives working hard to remain financially independent but suddenly find themselves unable to work due to a disabling condition. Getting them to file for Social Security Disability benefits is a triumph in and of itself, given the perceived stigma attached to getting SSD benefits, but when budget cuts threaten the Social Security Administration's ability to provide effective and timely service, even the most patient person may reconsider their application.

The Social Security Administration provides essential services to the nearly 67 million people receiving SSD benefits for one reason or another and the expected one million new claimants annually. They have more than 1200 field offices, a website and a toll-free phone service where people can call to clear their queries. However, with staff shortages the wait time for all these services has drastically increased.