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From the moment FDR signed the Social Security Act in 1935 until Christmas 2020, if you wanted your benefits letter, you most likely had to go to an office and wait in line. After your number was called and you got up to the window, you could end up being told that you were at the wrong window and to go wait in another line. Then when you got called again and got up to that window, you could end up being told that you did not bring the right documents with you…or that you are missing a document/proof of this or that and to come back when you had it with you. Well, now you know why, “going to the Social Security office” was a major ordeal. In December 2020, the Social Security Administration rolled out its online benefits letter portal. Pending application letters and no-benefits letters are available as well.

As outlined below, you can now do almost everything online. Many people once put off applying for Social Security benefits, especially disability benefits, because they thought it was too much of a hassle. That’s normally not true anymore.

In the COVID-19 era, even some hearings and reviews are available online. But, we are not implying that convenience has changed the outcome of most of these reviews. Generally, Claims Examiners have a very high statistic of denying first time benefits applications, for multiple reasons. 

So, it is wise to have extra help on your side when making applications with the SSA. The SSI lawyers in Memphis at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, on the other hand, always fight for you. Part of this advocacy includes helping people throughout the Greater Mid-South area access SSA online tools which can make your life a little bit easier.

Information Review

The old saying that “knowledge is power” is only partially true. Knowledge is indeed power, if you do something with that knowledge. The SSA’s online information review tools give you knowledge. In many cases, an SSI lawyer near you helps you do something with that knowledge.

In other cases, you help yourself. To that extent, the earnings history and estimated benefits portals may be among the most important retirement planning tools available. A significant number of retirees depend on some form of Social Security for over 90 percent of their monthly income. Knowing your estimated benefits amount helps you know how much you need to put away in a tax-deferred retirement savings account.

This information can also come with discouragement. Some people have very little in the way of future benefits. The final information review area, the application status portal, is often even more discouraging. Many claims languish in the system for months before someone takes a good look at them. 

And, as mentioned, that examination may even come with an unfavorable outcome, particularly if you have navigated everything yourself without the help of professional legal assistance. It can be a great advantage to have an attorney help you to understand your legal options when you file a disability claim. Furthermore, an attorney knows how to navigate through the system. So, your claim gets the attention it deserves sooner rather than later.

Disability Benefits Application

People may apply for Medicare, retirement, and disability benefits online. Retirement and Medicare are usually age-based applications. The SSA has a very specific “disability” definition.

  • Inability to Engage in SGA: SGA is Substantial Gainful Employment. Typically, SGA is a job which pays enough to keep the recipient and any dependents out of poverty. Frequently, SGA is related not to the salary, but to the number of hours the claimant can work. Physical, mental, or other conditions often severely limit work hours.
  • Medical Impairment: Frequently, an accident, like a car crash, causes a physical, mental, or other impairment. Other people have genetic conditions, mostly sensory impairment issues, which have similar effects. The impairment only meets this standard if a credible doctor makes a relevant finding. “Buddy statements” and testimony from friends and relatives is often game-changing in VA disability claims. But this evidence is not too significant in SSA claims.
  • Twelve Months or Terminal: The severe medical impairment must be permanent. Surgery or physical therapy often improves a disabled person’s condition. Whether or not that improvement removes the disability is essentially a legal question and where an attorney’s insight is very helpful.

On a related note, “disability” is not just a medical term. If Sam the coal miner loses the tip of his index finger, he might be permanently disabled. If Sam the college professor loses the tip of his index finger, the injury would barely slow him down.

SSD applicants can also request appeals online. This feature is quite significant. Appeals are time-sensitive issues. Technically, if you file one day late, you could not only lose your right to appeal an adverse decision. You could lose your right to benefits altogether.

Filing a physical document at a walk-in SSA location is often challenging for disabled individuals with mobility issues. That is if you can find one open during this Coronavirus Pandemic. The online filing process removes these obstacles.

Account Management

Online account management tools, like a 1099 request or bank account update, might seem like routine housekeeping functions. In many cases, that’s probably true. But if you receive disability benefits, you could end up using these tools frequently.

Most people put all their income in one bank account, especially if their banks charge an account maintenance fee. This method is by far the most convenient method. However, in certain situations, it could also be the most troublesome method.

Assume Frank is disabled and receives SSDI benefits. He also owns a small rent house. He keeps his SSDI benefits and rent income in the same account. 

If Frank files bankruptcy in Tennessee, his Social Security benefits are exempt. His rent income is not exempt. So, the Bankruptcy Court could try to seize everything in that account, claiming it was nonexempt. Frank could probably prevail in this dispute, but his success is not guaranteed and will require proof of bank statements and supporting documents like rental agreements etc. Even if he wins, the court case will probably consume all his free time for several months.

Frank could avoid the commingling issue by keeping his Social Security benefits in a separate account. Thanks to the online portal, what used to require multiple trips to a SSA office now only requires a few clicks.

1099s and taxes are another issue. Uncle Sam taxes Social Security benefits at varying levels, mostly depending on the recipient’s income. These rules are rather straightforward. State Social Security tax rules, however, are extremely complex. Some states have high benefits taxes. Others have no benefits taxes. Still others have hidden taxes.

Giving a 1099 to an accountant could keep you from getting a very nasty surprise letter from a state department of revenue.

Help and Support

Lastly, there are online Social Security and Medicare card replacement options. If you have questions related to your account, you may find the answer there as well. An experienced advocate at an SSA law firm in the Greater Memphis Mid-South area makes a significant difference in this area. If you have a question about your application or account, your attorney has quick and easy access to help provide you an answer. Or if you do not know your way around the interwebs of online cyberspace, your attorney is well equipped to know where to go to get the answer. For more information about the social security disability benefits process, or if you have been denied SSD/SSDI benefits, contact Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. Call us at (901) 244-0057 or request a FREE Evaluation

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