SSI (Supplemental Security Income), is a needs based disability program for folks who have not worked long enough or recently enough to qualify for SSDI(see below). SSI eligibility is based on the amount of assets owned by the claimant, the household income, and the disabling condition alleged.
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is based on both disability and previous work history. The Social Security Administration (SSA) can pay the disabled person these benefits if the claimant has a severe medical condition which is disabling. This impairment can be mental, physical, or both. SSDI benefits can be available regardless of the claimant’s age, assets owned, or current financial standing. In order to qualify for SSDI, the claimant must have worked a substantial amount over the past 10 years – approximately half the time.
While benefits are available, the government does not simply give them away. In fact, the claims process is usually long and frustrating. Without a disability lawyer to advocate for you, it’s almost impossible to obtain all the benefits you have coming. So, many people without a Social Security Disability lawyer end up settling for less.
Fast Track Conditions
Sometimes, a medical diagnosis is all it takes to obtain SSD benefits. They are presumptively disabling. Many of these clients might not need an SSA law firm. This small list includes:
- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gherig’s Disease),
- Organ transplant, or
- Some kinds of cancer.
Fast track cancers include thyroid, prostate, lung, breast, and bladder cancer. These illnesses are very aggressive and therefore seen as a time-sensitive situation for the person applying for the benefits. However, despite these particular medical issues being definitionally disabling, there can be several steps to getting this designation – and for this reason, hiring an attorney can be helpful to make sure the record is complete and clear.
Blue Book Conditions
Almost all SSD claims involve Blue Book conditions. These are also called “listings” due the the way Social Security lists these per-se disabling conditions. People with these illnesses can presumptively qualify for disability benefits. The Blue Book is updated frequently, but some conditions which usually make the list include:
- Serious back injuries and other musculoskeletal issues,
- Vision, hearing, or other sensory loss,
- Asthma, COPD, and other respiratory illnesses,
- Heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions,
- Non-fast-track cancer, and
- Kidney disease.
A diagnosis by itself is not enough. The condition must be serious enough, in the eyes of the SSA, to qualify for disability benefits. That’s where the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm comes in if you need representation in Memphis, the greater Mid-South area, Arkansas, Mississippi, or beyond. These professionals know how to present your application and know how to advocate for you.
Overall, the extent of disability is a major issue. “Disability” is not strictly a medical term. Doctors never tell patients that they have disabilities. Instead, in addition to medical implications, the D-word also has educational, vocational, and other dimensions.
Sensory loss is a good example. If most people lose a significant part of their eyesight, they can still work. But for a brain surgeon, a significant vision loss might be truly disabling. However, a brain surgeon usually has other vocational options, such as writing or teaching, which do not require 20-20 vision. So, this issue can be quite complex.
Additionally, there are a number of condition-specific requirements. Epilepsy is a good example. Over three million Americans have epilepsy, and almost none of them qualify for SSD benefits. In addition to a current medical diagnosis, epilepsy patients must also have the following items to qualify for benefits:
- Medical records detailing the history of the problem,
- Detailed descriptions of typical seizures, from the triggers, if any, to the after-effects,
- Witness statements which validate these descriptions,
- Supporting diagnostic statements from a medical professional, and
- Treatment and medication history.
These minimums are not enough to obtain benefits. They are only enough to get your foot in the door. Essentially, claimants must also show that their epilepsy cannot be controlled and substantially interferes with their daily lives.
The medical-vocational guidelines also come into effect. As mentioned, “disability” means different things in different contexts. Some specific factors with regard to epilepsy and some other conditions include educational level, age, overall physical fitness, and any medical restrictions (e.g. no driving).
Medically Equivalent Conditions
People without Blue Book conditions might still qualify for disability benefits under Section 404.1526 of the Code of Federal Regulations. A condition is medically equivalent to a listed condition if the claimant demonstrates most, but not all, of the requisite minimums. Alternatively, claimants could still qualify if their conditions are not quite severe enough.
Once again, epilepsy is a good example. There are a number of non-epilepsy conditions which have basically the same effects, including:
- Febrile Seizures: Children with high fevers often have seizures. Febrile seizures are especially common if the child has a family history of epilepsy. If a child had one such seizure, there’s about a 30 percent chance another one will occur.
- Noneplieptic Events: Conditions like narcolepsy, arrhythmia, and psychogenic seizures are almost exactly like epilepsy, but they do not show up on EEGs.
- Migraines: In addition to sensitivity to light, severe pain, and other symptoms, migraine headaches might also cause seizures. Disability benefits might be available in these situations, if the seizures are severe enough and frequent enough.
In addition to the medical diagnosis, the source of the problem matters as well. For example, certain food allergies often cause migraine headaches. Food allergies almost never qualify as disabling medical conditions. Workarounds like modifying your diet are almost always available, even if the patient is allergic to something like wheat.
What to Expect When You Hire a Disability Lawyer in Memphis
The Social Security Disability process is often long and frustrating. Initial evaluations are extremely subjective. So, most claims are denied, at least in part. Essentially, the SSA often frustrates these claimants to the point where they will abandon their claims or give up after one or more denials.
Things are different at a Social Security appeal hearing. Since lawyers advocate for claimants, there is a better chance they will obtain a favorable decision on disability. Unfortunately, the wait time for an appeal hearing is usually between ten and fifteen months. The good news is that disability benefits are usually retroactive to the date of the claim, which means the claimant may be entitled to significant back pay – a large check from social security paying the retroactive money in a lump sum.
To begin your SSD claim or if you or someone you love has already taken steps and want the power of the professionals, contact us at (901) 244-0057 or fill in our contact form at Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm today.
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