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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

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.

Back pain and qualifying for SSD

It may come as no surprise to California residents that back pain is a common ailment across the country. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons for Social Security Disability applications and also commonly refused because intermittent or moderate back pain are not covered by it.

Back pain can be varied and caused by varying circumstances. It can be caused by lifting something heavy or a work-accident, bad posture or stress, structural issues or even due to being overweight. It can be degenerative in nature, such as arthritis, or due to a herniated or pinched nerve. Even though four out of every five Americans will most likely experience this pain in their lifetime, not all the conditions listed above are covered by the SSA. So then what can one receive SSD benefits for?

Memory loss and qualifying for SSD benefits

As California residents age, their brain and body undergo changes, and becoming forgetful is also one of the aspects that comes along with age. However, there is a difference between simply forgetting where one's keys are and not remembering what happened a couple of minutes ago. Therefore, memory loss can be the result of a brain injury, central nervous system infections or a trauma resulting from an injury. Whether it is short-term memory loss or long-term, it has the ability of severely impacting one's life.

When someone is unable to remember what happened a few minutes or even a few seconds ago, they can be said to be suffering from short-term memory loss. People suffering from this condition can remember events that took place years ago, such as from their childhood. Long-term memory loss patients on the other hand, cannot remember things that took place years ago, but can retain recent memories. However, forgetting things is often not the only symptom of memory loss-it includes confusion, getting lost in familiar places, misplacing items, forgetting how to use common items and trouble following directions.

How has qualifying for SSD benefits changed in 2018?

Understanding the Social Security Disability eligibility requirements is complicated enough one time around-when the criteria changes on an almost daily basis, it can be frustrating. However, as daunting as it is, it is essential to know how these changes will affect one's application and the benefits one is set to receive.

As mentioned many times on the San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog, a qualifying individual must demonstrate that they cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. This means income more than a certain level is going to disqualify an applicant. Therefore, it is very important to know what this number is in 2018. In 2017, the threshold was set at $1,170 for non-blind persons and it has increased to $1,180 in 2018 for non-blind persons. Similarly, the trial work period threshold has also increased slightly, from $840 in 2017 to $850 in 2018.

Are any SSD claims ever expedited?

Living with a disability is difficult and often prevents people from earning a living at the very time when they need the money to get the treatment to make them get better. The financial hardship of their disability also makes it difficult to make ends meet. Recognizing this issue, the Social Security Administration grants Social Security Disability to individuals whose disability prevents them from working and if they meet the medical and federal requirements. However, as mentioned previously, there is a backlog in the disability decision process, which leaves people without the very help that could possibly keep them alive. There are ways however to expedite the process.

If the claimant is suffering from a terminal disease, described as one that is untreatable, irreversible and expected to result in death, then the case is expedited. Just because something has been flagged however does not necessarily mean it will be considered a disability. It will still go through all the steps to determine if it is one or not.

Proving an anxiety disorder is difficult but not impossible

Not many California residents understand how anxiety can be debilitating for many people across the country. Being nervous about a couple of situations differs from a persistent feeling of uneasiness, tension or apprehension. Sufferers of anxiety can have feelings of terror triggered by ordinary events that would not even raise a hair on another person's head.

Additionally, many people are able to harness their feelings of apprehension into action. However, those suffering from anxiety disorders may find themselves unable to perform everyday tasks and even take extreme measures to avoid situations that could make them feel uneasy. For example, they could end up leaving their job or even leaving their house to avoid triggering events.

We help people understand the SSD process

It is a common fact of life that it is not easy for most people to ask for help. it can even be even harder if they were used to being financially independent and the breadwinner of their household, but an unexpected injury has left them unable to do that anymore. An adult who has worked their whole life, now suddenly unable to take care of themselves and unable to work, may find this new phase of their life frustrating and lonely, but it doesn't have to be.

As mentioned previously on this blog, the Social Security Administration provides this safety net to qualifying individuals and the SSD benefits they receive are often the lifeline they need to keep going. However, many people do not realize how SSD benefits can protect them from financial devastation and hesitate to file for them, because they do not want to ask for help and the process itself may be too complicated to undertake on one's own.

What qualifies you for SSD benefits?

No one expects it. A sudden accident causes one to suffer serious injuries. These injuries significantly impact the victim's ability to function and even care for him or herself. Additionally, this poses challenges when it comes to maintaining a job. When a person suffers a debilitating injury in an accident, he or she could be determined temporarily or permanently disabled. This could qualify the injured party for Social Security disability benefits.

What qualifies you for SSD benefits? According to the Social Security administration, an applicant could qualify for these benefits if he or she meets the terms required by the SSD program. To begin, an applicant must have worked long enough, obtaining enough work credits. This usually equate to working for 10 years. Additionally, the applicant must currently be suffering from a medical condition that meets the SSA's strict definition of disability.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for SSD benefits?

Social Security Disability benefits are based on a person's earnings and their work history. This year, in 2018, a person must have earned $1,320 to receive one credit and a person can earn a maximum of 4 work credits per year. So how many credits must one have earned in order to qualify for SSD benefits? This depends on the applicant's age and the type of benefit one is applying for.

To receive retirement benefits, a California resident who was born after 1929 must have worked for 10 years. Disability benefits depend on how old one was when they became disabled. So someone who got disabled before the age of 24, six credits are needed which means one and a half years of work and this should have been earned in the three years preceding the disability. Someone between the ages of 24 and 30 needs credits for half of the time between 21 years of age and the year they became disabled.

Can I appeal a denied claim?

One of the most common phrases repeated time after time regarding Social Security Disability benefits is the fact that most initial applications are denied. Less often repeated is the fact that when a Social Security Disability claim is denied, the applicant has the right to appeal the denial and there are various levels of appeal that can be utilized. Additionally, California residents may be surprised to hear that most appeals are successful.

There are four levels of appeal provided by the Social Security Administration. If one level gives an unsuccessful result, it is possible to go the next level as well. The appeal must be filed within 60 days and must be requested in writing.