Attorneys Guiding Clients Through The Social Security Disability Process
When you become disabled and are unable to work, you could be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers several different types of benefits to assist those in need. Because SSD is overseen by the federal government, it operates similarly across different states. However, there are some state-specific regulations that may apply to your case.
If you believe you are eligible for SSD benefits, or if you need help filing a claim or appealing a denial, turn to our team at Bahrie Law, PLLC. Since 1979, our Social Security Disability lawyers have been helping individuals and families recover their rightful benefits. We offer SSD-related representation from both of our offices in Lansing and Metro Detroit, and we serve clients throughout the entire state of Michigan. We can help you understand your legal rights and options and guide you through the process of recovering your benefits.
We can file your disability application on your behalf. While we can get involved at any stage of the process, we like to be involved early as we can assist in building a foundation for your case. Contact us as soon as possible so that we can advise on the law in relation to your situation and confirm that you are doing the right things while your case is pending. We want to ensure you have the proper diagnosis and treatment for the specific limitations that prevent you from working. We like to frame your case as early in the process as possible.
The rules surrounding Social Security Disability Insurance can be confusing. On this page, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we hear from prospective clients.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI benefits fall under the Retirement Survivors Disability Insurance (RSDI) benefits program and are funded in part by your employer and your own FICA withholding from your lifetime of employment. Your disability benefits will eventually turn into your retirement benefits when you reach the full age of retirement if you are unable to return back to gainful employment.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that provides benefits to “insured” individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. To be “insured,” you must have earned enough recent work credits, meaning you must have been employed at a job for a certain length of time and received taxable income.
Who is eligible for SSDI?
To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must meet the following requirements:
- You have worked long enough and recently enough to be considered “insured”
- You have a disability that meets the SSA’s disability standards
In most cases, you must meet both of these requirements to be eligible for SSDI. However, there are some exceptions; get in touch with our attorneys to learn more.
How much will I get in SSDI benefits?
The easiest way to find out the amount of your SSDI benefits is to go to SSA.gov and create a my Social Security account. Once in your account, you will be able to obtain an earnings printout that shows how much you earned each year. Additionally, it will provide how much you will receive if found disabled by Social Security, early retirement, or full retirement.
How is the amount of SSD benefits determined?
There is a very complicated formula that calculates an individual’s benefits based on their highest years of earnings but Social Security provides an estimator. The average SSDI benefit for 2021 was between $1200 and $1300 per month with the highest earners receiving over $3000 per month.
There can be reductions for other disability benefit payments such as long-term disability or workers’ comp benefits so it is important to understand the impact and inform your attorney of any other benefits you may receive. Your Social Security backpay is calculated by multiplying your benefit amount by the number of months between when you are first eligible to receive disability benefits and the date of determination approving you for SSDI or SSI.
What are the standards for SSD eligibility?
To determine if you are “disabled,” the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically looks at the following five factors:
- Your ability to work at any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA)
- The severity of your injury/medical condition
- Whether your injury/medical condition is included in the SSA’s list of impairments
- Whether you are capable of performing the same work you did before your disability
- Your ability to perform any other type of work
If you can work in a partial capacity but make too much, you will not be eligible for SSDI. If your disability prevents you from returning to your past job, but you can obtain other substantial gainful employment, you may not qualify.
We encourage you to get in touch with us to learn more about whether you are eligible for benefits. We can also assist you if you need help filing an SSDI claim or if your claim has already been denied on the application; however, your best chance to succeed is on appeal at a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). We provide free initial consultations and do not collect any fees unless we win your case.
Do I have any options if I lack the work history to apply for SSDI benefits?
Yes. If you’ve been disabled for most of your adult life, you likely didn’t have the opportunity to work and to pay into the SSD system through payroll taxes. Thankfully, there is a separate program called Supplemental Security Income, which is need-based and doesn’t rely on payroll contributions.
How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
While the application process may differ slightly depending on your unique situation, there are typically several steps you must take to apply for benefits. The best method to apply for SSDI benefits is to let us do it for you in order to ensure the application is completed correctly and we have a strong foundation to file our appeal if the application is denied.
Contact our office and we will forward you a packet that summarizes the information needed to complete your application. SSI applications are ineligible to be filed online and must either be completed over the phone with a Social Security representative or via paper application. We can either provide you with a paper application or you can set up an appointment with your local Social Security office.
First, you will need to gather various information and put together specific documents to file your initial application. Then, you will need to fill out your application, taking care to do so correctly and accurately, and submit it to the SSA.
The SSA will then review your application and the supporting information and documents to evaluate your eligibility. The SSA then processes your application and forwards it to the Disability Determination Services agency in Michigan. This agency is the one ultimately responsible for deciding on your eligibility and benefits.
Navigating the SSD claims filing process can be challenging. It is critical that you do not make any mistakes on your application or fail to provide the proper supporting documents. Even when you do everything correctly, your claim could still be denied. In fact, most first-time SSD claims are denied.
If this happens to you, contact our attorneys right away. You have the right to appeal a claim denial, but you should work with an experienced legal professional who can assist you throughout this process.
Where are the Social Security Disability hearings offices located in Michigan?
There are seven hearing office locations across Michigan. They include:
- Detroit: 477 Michigan Ave. (ZIP 48226)
- Flint: 300 West Second Street (ZIP 48502)
- Grand Rapids: 1925 Breton Road SE (ZIP 49506)
- Lansing: 4202 Collins Road (ZIP 48910)
- Livonia: 19575 Victor Parkway (ZIP 48152)
- Mt. Pleasant: 4035 Sweeney Rd. (ZIP 48858)
- Oak Park: 25900 Greenfield Rd. (ZIP 48237)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many hearings were moved online. If travel is difficult or inconvenient for you, a virtual hearing may be an option.
What medical conditions qualify for SSD benefits?
There are hundreds of conditions specifically listed in the SSA “Blue Book” as qualifying for SSDI benefits (assuming that all other criteria are met). They are organized into categories. There are far too many to list here, but some common ones include:
- Severe arthritis
- Respiratory disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema
- Herniated discs, spinal cord injuries and other spinal ailments
- Severe traumatic brain injury
- Lupus, fibromyalgia and similar chronic conditions that cause pain and fatigue
- Vision loss and blindness
Simply having a diagnosis of one of these conditions is not enough in itself. Instead, the SSA will take a close look at how this disability prevents you from substantial gainful activity. That being said, the SSA also has a “compassionate allowances” list of disabilities that are certain or very likely to be fatal. Individuals with those conditions are more likely to be approved and to have their applications/benefits expedited.
Do mental health conditions qualify for SSD benefits?
Yes, there are many mental health disorders listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. These include anxiety disorders and panic attacks, severe depression, bipolar and other mood disorders, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The effects of these mental health conditions may be exacerbated by other factors, such as drug addiction and alcohol use disorders.
Can I work and still receive SSD benefits?
Yes, you can. However, there are earning limits to be aware of. In 2023, earning limits were $1,470 per month for nonblind recipients and $2,460 per month for those who are blind.
There is another important caveat. If you consistently earn more than $1,050 per month (as of 2023), the SSA will likely enroll you in what’s called a “trial work period.” You are allowed to be in a TWP for nine months consecutively or over the course of five years. You can still receive benefits during this period, but you may no longer be considered disabled if your earning capacity seems sufficiently high.
We realize that most people who could earn a modest income would be greatly harmed by losing their SSDI benefits. Therefore, we will work with you to ensure you don’t run afoul of the earning limits and other rules.
Can I appeal a denied SSD application?
Yes, and you will likely need to do so. Rejection rates for first-time applications are approximately 70 percent. When appealing, it is wise to hire a lawyer rather than trying to navigate the system on your own.
Having an experienced attorney on your side can greatly increase the chances of a positive outcome in your case and make the process less stressful for you. Social Security attorneys have the advantage of knowing the legal system and claims process inside and out, meaning our team knows how to prepare you for your case in a way that only years of experience can.
More specifically, our team knows what you must prove to obtain a favorable outcome as well as the process of presenting a case to your particular judge.
Can I afford to hire an SSDI attorney?
In most cases, the answer is yes. As we discuss on our page about SSDI myths and misconceptions, attorney fees are capped by law, and cases are taken on contingency. That means we don’t collect any legal fees until and unless we help you recover money. At that time, the fees we take will be a predetermined percentage of your first benefits check. In short, hiring an attorney is both affordable and low risk.
Contact Bahrie Law, PLLC, For A Free Consultation
We understand how stressful and overwhelming the Social Security Disability system can be. When you are already trying to navigate a serious disability and keep up with everyday expenses, filing a claim or appealing a denied claim can seem insurmountable. That’s where we come in.
With more than 40 years of experience, our firm has a proven record of success in helping clients secure their SSDI and SSI benefits. We understand the system and can provide you with the personalized guidance you need. Our team offers compassionate client service and aggressive advocacy every step of the way.