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Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability San Francisco

Remember your very first job? You were so excited when you got hired at the local burger joint or grocery store. You rushed home to tell your parents and then ran upstairs to figure out exactly how much money you would be getting each week. I bet you had big plans for all that cash. But then reality quickly set it after you received that first paycheck and saw exactly how much of your hard-earned cash ended up going directly to Uncle Sam.

Most of the deductions were pretty straightforward, until you got to the line that read FICA tax. After a little investigation you found out FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, is a federally mandated tax used to fund both primarily Social Security and Medicare.

The first Social Security Act was signed into law back in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This act included many of the same programs our taxes fund today including retirement benefits, aid to dependent children along with health and welfare programs. Survivor’s benefits for a retiree’s spouse and minor children were added to the act in 1937 and 19 years later, disability benefits were included. As additional programs and amendments were added under the governmental Social Security umbrella, requirements and laws became more complicated, especially after Medicare and disability benefits were attached.

Though the bill was signed into law in 1935, it wasn’t until January, 1937 that both employees and employers began contributing through payroll deductions. Beginning in 1937 and continuing until 1939 a one-time lump sum payment was issued to those eligible for benefits. In January, 1940 monthly payments began with Ida May Fuller, a retired legal secretary from Ludlow, Vermont receiving that first monthly check for a grand total of $22.54. This figure was determined by the salary earned during the three years she was employed after the Social Security program was put in place. Ms. Fuller was 65 when she began receiving her monthly check of less than $23. Because she lived to 100 years old, not dying until 1975, over that 35 year span, Ms. Fuller received a total of $22,888.92 in benefits.

Today our Social Security system has two basic components with the larger portion covering retirement, i.e., monthly social security payments guaranteed to those working citizens after they reach a set retirement age, along with survivor benefits to spouses and minor children and the disability insurance program.

After years of FICA taxes are taken out of each paycheck, you assume that money, which technically is YOUR money, would be there to protect you, in the event something catastrophic happens to you or your family. But now you have become disabled, unable to work and support your family, and each and every claim has been denied. Telephone calls from governmental agencies aren’t being returned, bills are piling up and you don’t know what your next step should be.

Or perhaps you are one of those people who never think a tragic event such as a debilitating auto accident or illness could ever happen to them. Unfortunately, statistics show these circumstances occur more often than realized, with a young adult having a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before the age of 67.

No matter what caused the disability: motor vehicle accident, birth defect, workplace injury, chronic or catastrophic illness or disease, as long as certain criteria have been met and documented through a licensed medical professional, you are eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The two basic requirements are: you must not be able to be gainfully employed and you must have contributed to FICA in the past.  It is important to remember, the circumstances surrounding the cause of the disability have no merit in deciding if benefits may be awarded.

Seems pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? After accumulating all required documentation from your health care provider, you file your claim with the San Francisco branch of the  Social Security Administration and wait for your check to arrive. But instead of a check, the mailman delivers a letter from SSA requiring additional information. More phone calls and probably another doctor’s visit and then another trip to the post office, only to get yet another letter stating you now need to get a second opinion from one of their approved physicians. Back to a different clinic where you rush to explain everything about your case to a doctor who frankly, doesn’t seem very interested. Now the waiting game begins again. Every time you check on the status of your claim you are told they are waiting for more paperwork from their doctor. Finally, one day you open the mailbox and there it is; that long-awaited envelope from the SSA! You open it expecting to find a check but instead it’s a standard form letter denying your claim.

Unfortunately, this is standard operating procedure for the SSA. Partial disability or short-term events, lasting less than a year, are not accepted. Only claims based on total disability are considered and must meet all stringent requirements. Also, even if all criteria is met, you will still probably be denied both initially, and at least once more during the entire process.

The three definitions of totally disability include:

  1. No longer possess the ability to perform the work you did previously.
  2. SSA then must determine if your disabilities preclude you from any other workplace duties.
  3. Disabilities are chronic and long-term, i.e., at least one year or longer and/or will ultimately contribute to a person’s death.

These requirements are seldom waived as the SSA believes, especially in short-term  disability cases, all working families have access to other financial resources including savings, short-term disability insurance and monetary support from family and friends.

Depending on circumstances, by the time your medical provider has acquired all information necessary to meet SSA requirements, your family’s finances have possibly been strained to the breaking point; so you choose to file your claim without legal assistance. While all forms are fairly straightforward, statistically, applicants who have legal counsel significantly increase having their initial claim approved. It is also important to note there are hundreds of technical rules and requirements within the disability system which must be followed. Experienced San Francisco Social Security attorneys have the knowledge and expertise to present their client’s case in the most professional manner. This includes initially filing much of the information which is generally requested months after the claim process has begun. Our qualified attorneys understand how to facilitate your claim as expeditiously as possible.

Basic initial application questions will be answered thoroughly and in your favor. We will work hand-in-hand with your primary health provider, ensuring his notes and diagnostic codes are correct and in line with SSA requirements. Our years of fighting for clients and their legal rights under SSA guidelines have given us the experience to know what facts and opinions the Social Security adjudicator requires and the best format in which to present them.

For example, it is vitally important to ensure the alleged onset date is correct due to Social Security disability law requiring a 5 month waiting period after a disability has been determined, even though no benefits will accrue during those 153 days. Broken down, this means, a person must meet all the SSA guidelines for permanent disability at least 17 months before applying for benefits. This, in essence, should then guarantee  eligibility for a full 12 months of past due benefits.

After a claim is denied there are steps an individual can take on their own to appeal the decision. But again, this can be a very tricky and time consuming undertaking that in no way assures a positive outcome. Therefore it is in a person’s best interest to have an experienced San Francisco Social Security attorney by their side. The four levels of appeals include:

  1. Reconsideration
  2. Administrative law judge hearing
  3. Appeals council review
  4. Federal court review

At each appeal, we will offer all pertinent medical evidence, exercising due diligence to present your case in the most favorable light to the SSA.

In a case where the life expectancy of a disabled person is short or the financial situation extremely precarious, time is of the essence, and an expedited hearing may be warranted. While obviously every set of circumstances is different and not every case can be expedited, our skilled San Francisco Social Security attorneys will work diligently to have your case heard as quickly as possible.

Whether you are just beginning the Social Security disability insurance claim form or have already started the process and been denied, we are here to help. Having a veteran Social Security attorney by your side fighting for YOUR money is invaluable.

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