Social Security and Disability law isn’t easy to navigate — so it’s unsurprising that there are many questions being asked. While we’re always happy to answer any questions our clients or potential clients may have about the SSD process, we would also like to help give answers to anyone who finds themselves asking about the SSD process.
Here are some of the most common questions that our SSD attorneys hear from our clients:
- Can I seek partial disability?
No, Social Security does not include a claim for partial disability. You must be able to prove total disability.The only caveat to that would be a situation where an individual was disabled for 12+ months but now their medical impairment has improved. In that situation, the claimant may be able to seek a closed period of benefits covering that finite period of time when they were disabled. You would want to discuss this option with your attorney to see if you meet the requirements to seek a closed period.
- Is it enough that my doctor says I’m disabled?
It’s very beneficial to have an opinion statement from your doctor. However, if that statement is conclusory in nature without an explanation, it’s likely not going to be enough. Moreover, if your doctor’s statement is not supported by your medical records, then an adjudicator or judge is more likely to discount the opinion and not rely on it. The best opinion statements from your doctor are those that are consistent with your medical records and well-reasoned. This type of opinion is very valuable in a disability case. Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) attorney will be able to help guide you regarding the type of opinion statement a Social Security Administration (SSA) decision-maker wants to see from your doctor.
- What type of evidence is Social Security Administration considering?
SSA will consider several types of evidence in your claim. You will fill out paperwork as you apply and go through the process that will be considered such as Work History and Activity Function reports detailing your prior work and activities of daily living. The primary evidence in a disability claim is your medical records. Therefore, it is very important to have consistent treatment regarding your disabling impairments. Opinion evidence from your treating provider, as discussed above, is very valuable. If an individual sought Workers Compensation, or has a VA disability rating, or received FMLA in a recent job, then those records will be important. If a claimant had difficulty at their last job, then getting a statement from a supervisor or colleague documenting those difficulties can be helpful. Claimants can also seek statements from family members or friends who know them well and observe their limitations.
- Can I work while I seek benefits?
Yes, you can work while you seek disability benefits if your earnings are under substantial gainful activity ($1130 pre-taxes/month for 2016). If your earnings are under that threshold, then your work most likely will not make you ineligible to seek disability benefits. An adjudicator or a judge, however, may make inferences from your work activity regarding your abilities and limitations. If someone works over substantial gainful activity since their onset of disability, but they cannot sustain the job very long due to their condition, then this work may be considered an unsuccessful work attempt and may serve as an exception to the rule.
- Can I expedite my claim?
Critical claims may be expedited at the hearing office’s discretion. This only occurs in rare situations. A claim may be deemed critical and expedited in situations such as when a claimant is without food and unable to obtain it; lacks medication or medical care and is unable to obtain it; lacks shelter (e.g. homelessness, imminent eviction or foreclosure); has a 100% VA rating; has a terminal illness; or is suicidal. If you feel like you are in a critical state and you need your claim expedited, then it’s best to contact your social security and disability attorney.