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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

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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.

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.