Social Security Disability
SSD attorneys serving Central Kentucky
Has an injury left you unable to work? Does the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process confound and confuse you? At Davis Law, P.S.C., we take the mystery out of applying for and obtaining SSD and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
We know Social Security rules, so you don’t have to
It is possible to apply for SSD benefits on your own. However, sometimes applicants have greater success obtaining benefits when an attorney assists with the application. Our SSD attorneys gather your medical documentation and ensure all paperwork is completed correctly and filed in a timely manner.
If your benefits were already denied, it is critical to have a qualified SSD/SSI attorney pursue an appeal for you. Appealing on your own without an attorney can damage your case and unnecessarily delay your claim.
A denial of Social Security disability benefits, in most instances, must be appealed within 60 days, so it is vital you contact our firm as soon as possible. We review your medical records, application, and denial. We work closely with you to formulate a strategy that improves your chance of prevailing on appeal.
Our SSD/SSI attorneys have helped hundreds of clients with the application process and with SSD/SSI appeals. Below are some common questions about SSD. If you have other questions, contact our office for further assistance.
Social Security Disability Questions and Answers
- What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI (supplemental security income)?
- Why should I consider applying for either Social Security disability or SSI?
- What does the Social Security Administration (SSA) consider a disability?
- What is substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
- How do I prove to the SSA that I have an impairment that prevents me from engaging in substantial gainful activity?
- Will the SSA assist me in obtaining medical evidence?
- What is the best way to obtain evidence to prove my impairment?
- Will the fact that I have been declared disabled by another agency (such as the Veterans Administration or Workers Compensation) mean that I will win my Social Security disability case?
- Can I object to taking a medical examination provided by the SSA based on religious or personal reasons?
- Is a medical report from my primary physician more helpful than one from the SSA’s consultative physician?
- How does the actual disability process work?
- How are disabilities evaluated under the SSA rules?
- Can an impairment have been considered severe in the past even though the claimant has now recovered?
- What is a listing of impairment?
- What if I have more than one impairment?
- How does the SSA evaluate the pain I have?
- How does the SSA evaluate my physical or mental capacity to work?
When you need a disability lawyer you can trust
We are committed to doing what is best for you. Contact Davis Law, P.S.C. online, in Richmond at (859) 624-3380, or in Irvine at (606) 726-9991 to see how we can help.
In disability cases, we offer a free consultation. We do not get paid unless you win, and we accommodate requests for consultations outside of regular business hours. Court costs and case expenses will be the responsibility of the client.
Here for you and your family at every turn
What is the difference between Social Security disability and SSI (supplemental security income)?
Social Security disability is available to people who contributed to Social Security during their working years by paying the F.I.C.A. tax to the Social Security Trust Fund. SSI is a needs-based disability program. It is not based on amounts paid into the fund. It is based on financial need.
Why should I consider applying for either Social Security disability or SSI?
Most people apply for these programs if they are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
It is important to understand that if you paid into the insurance program, you are only applying for those benefits to which you are legally entitled. We always encourage clients to exercise their rights under the system for which they have paid—if they meet the requirements.
What does the Social Security Administration (SSA) consider a disability?
A disability is an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a medically diagnosed physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death, has lasted at least 12 months, or is expected to last 12 months or more.
In addition to documenting that you have a medically diagnosed physical or mental impairment, we also need to prove that you cannot return to your previous employment or engage in a different type of employment.
It is important to understand that the SSA does not consider whether you like a certain type of job, or even if those jobs are available in your hometown.
What is substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
SGA is work done for pay and involves significant mental or physical activity. For more information on SGA go to www.ssa.gov for details.
How do I prove to the SSA that I have an impairment that prevents me from engaging in substantial gainful activity?
A physical or mental impairment must be proven by clinical evidence from an acceptable medical source, such as a physician who shows by objective medical evidence (signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings) that you cannot work.
Objective evidence such as an MRI, CT scan, X-ray, cardiac stress testing, EKG, pulmonary function studies, or EMG/NCV studies are tests that help to prove impairments. Most times, it is critical for an applicant to have these tests to support the medical provider’s findings.
Mental impairments need to be proven by showing that you received treatment and testing demonstrating your lack of the basic ability to make reasonable decisions in a competitive work environment. It is often helpful to obtain independent testing from a certified psychologist or psychiatrist to prove the extent of your limitations. However, it is critical in every case to seek treatment for your mental impairment and to maintain treatment during the time your claim is pending.
Our office can provide assistance in obtaining this testing for you.
Will the SSA assist me in obtaining medical evidence?
Yes, the SSA is under a legal duty to develop the administrative case record with medical evidence to support its decision. Typically, you will be sent to an independent medical exam for assessment. To assess the level of impairment, SSA doctors review the findings.
In most instances, the SSA independent medical exams are not helpful or fail to provide good insight into your problems.
What is the best way to obtain evidence to prove my impairment?
It cannot be stressed enough to clients that their treating physicians are the best source of medical information about them. Your primary physician will have the medical history for you and will be in the best position to discuss your physical or mental condition. It is also extremely important to obtain information from any specialists you have seen for treatment.
Our office can assist you in this regard by requesting narrative reports from these physicians and by providing your physicians with forms that are impairment specific. These forms are medical reports, or residual functional capacity reports, that are specific to the type of impairment that you have. For instance, if you have advanced coronary artery disease, our office can provide your cardiologist with a form that is specific to the SSA’s requirements for cardiac impairments. This is often very helpful to physicians because they usually are not familiar with the requirements of the SSA disability process.
It is very important to get these forms completed early in your application process.
Will the fact that I have been declared disabled by another agency (such as the Veterans Administration or Workers Compensation) mean that I will win my Social Security disability case?
No, it will not. These other agencies’ findings may be helpful but they are not binding on the SSA. This is because the way those agencies define disabilities may be very different from the SSA definition. Most private disability insurers define disability based on job-specific definitions. The SSA uses a much broader definition.
Can I object to taking a medical examination provided by the SSA based on religious or personal reasons?
No. You must attend your medical appointments with their doctors or you will be denied benefits.
Is a medical report from my primary physician more helpful than one from the SSA’s consultative physician?
Yes, by regulation it is entitled more evidentiary value than one from a non-treating physician. However, you doctor’s opinions must be supported by objective medical evidence and must be consistent with other evidence in the file.
How does the actual disability process work?
There are several levels of review and appeal in the disability process. After you make your initial application, you will receive an initial decision in your case. In our experience, the vast majority of these decisions are denials. At that stage, you have the right to file an “application for reconsideration” which is an internal appeal. You typically will not get a face-to-face hearing with an officer from the SSA, but instead will go through another paper review of your medical records.
You will then receive a reconsideration determination. This usually results in another denial for the vast majority of cases. At that point, you have the option of filing a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. This will be your first, and usually last, opportunity to come face to face with the person making the decision in your case. In our experience, this hearing determines the outcome of the case, and it is extremely important that you are represented by a lawyer at this hearing.
After the hearing, you will receive either a favorable or an unfavorable written decision from the judge. You can request a review of his decision from the Appeals Council arm of the SSA. Going to the Appeals Council is an extremely slow process and usually results in an unfavorable decision or a decision upholding the judge’s findings.
At this point, you can appeal the SSA decision by filing an action in the federal district court where you reside.
It is very important that you get representation at the earliest possible level in your claim so that your evidence can be properly developed prior to your hearing.
How is disability evaluated under the SSA rules?
All applications are evaluated using a five-step sequential process. If you fail to meet any of the steps in the process, your claim will be denied at that step. The five steps, or questions, considered by the SSA are:
- Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity?
- Does the claimant have a severe impairment?
- Does the claimed severe impairment meet or equal any of the listing of impairments?
- Can the claimant perform past relevant work if he or she does not meet a listing?
- Can the claimant perform other work in the national economy?
Can an impairment have been considered severe in the past even though the claimant has now recovered?
Yes, a person with a severe impairment that has recovered, but the full recovery took longer than 12 months, might be entitled to a closed-end period of disability benefits.
What is a listing of impairment?
A listing of impairments (listings) describes each major body part (heart, back, etc.) and the types of the conditions for each body part that the SSA considers disabling. To meet a listing of impairment, the impairment must have lasted longer than 12 months.
A listing of impairments has two separate parts—one for evaluating adults and one for evaluating children.
What if I have more than one impairment?
The SSA is required by regulation to consider all of the claimant’s impairments in combination. Multiple impairments may work to make someone disabled, even though when considered individually each impairment would not.
How does the SSA evaluate the pain I have?
By regulation, the SSA must consider a claimant’s allegations of disabling pain. To evaluate pain, the SSA looks at the claimant’s testimony and determines whether it is credible based on laboratory findings and objective medical testing. For example, if you claim disabling back pain but do not have an MRI showing a severe back condition, your testimony would have less weight.
In evaluating pain, the SSA considers the claimant’s credibility. So, it is always important to be accurate and truthful with the information you provide to the SSA.
How does the SSA evaluate my physical or mental capacity to work?
Typically, the SSA will evaluate a person’s physical and mental capacity by determining their residual functional capacity. This means the SSA evaluates the impact of a person’s impairments on that individual’s ability to engage in specific activities.
- For physical impairments, this might include the weight a person lifts and the amount of time the person is able to stand and/or remain seated. In making this determination, the SSA considers the medications a person is taking and their effect on them.
- For mental impairments, the SSA considers a person’s ability to interact with the public and co-workers and the person’s ability to remember and carry out instructions and make work-related decisions.