Getting the benefits you have paid for!
Like most people in this great country, you have worked hard all your life. During that time, a significant deduction was taken out of your paycheck each month for Social Security Benefits. This deduction came with a promise from Uncle Sam that if you became too disabled to work, you would be entitled to income and health benefits. But guess what? You now find that your worst nightmare has come true and you can’t work. You have applied for this benefit and, like approximately 60% of Americans nationwide, you have been denied! Instead of a golden handshake, you got a kick in the head; advised to wait in line (in most instances about two years) and asked to fill out a mountain of confusing paperwork to prove your claim. Furthermore, you now have to deal with a conservative pack of federal bureaucrats, doctors and vocational experts that have an unwritten mandate to send you packing. Many people simply give up, and that is a crime.
Let’s face the facts: the Social Security system is in deep trouble. We boomers are wondering if it will be around when the time comes for us to hang it up. They can’t qualify all comers for disability period. So the process, in my humble opinion, is set up to slough off all but the most persistent and qualified. You must understand that fact out the gate and never give up on the next appeal! Thereafter, it is really just a matter of just understanding the recipe.
Carefully following a recipe and whipping up a very complex dish has always been a joy for me and it is the most powerful metaphor I can use to describe the complicated algorithm the feds use to begrudgingly qualify people for SSD/SSI benefits. Like any good recipe, you have to carefully read it twice before you start masterfully chopping, mixing and flambéing. Our Senior Paralegal, Christina Miller, will solemnly advise you that you have to have your ingredients (documentary evidence and attendant facts) “mise en place,” as the French cooks advise (ingredients in place and ready to go) when you pull up that God-awful federal website for applying or you are just going to get timed out.
The Secret Sauce – Uncle Sam’s Sequential Evaluation Process:
Step 1: The first decision concerns determining if you are involved in “substantial gainful activity” (earned income). Check the SSA website for current limits; for 2014 it is $1,070 per month. If your earnings are not above this amount then you get to go to step 2.
Step 2: Do you have a severe impairment? Normally this is a condition that will keep you from working for a year or more or result in death. If the answer is yes, you get to go to step 3.
Step 3: Does your medical condition meet or equal an impairment described in SSA’s “Listings of Impairments”? If so, you can stop here—you win! If not, go to step 4.
Step 4: Can you perform the easiest job you did in the last fifteen years (past relevant work)? If you can, you just got denied. If you can’t, go to step 5.
Step 5: Can you do other substantial gainful work existing in the national economy? If it is determined you can, you will get disqualified. This step involves a decision making model that considers vocational factors such as age, education, and transferable skills referred to as the Grids. If you fit into one of the slots that finds you disabled, you are approved!
Paralegal Miller and I have been working on a new book that explains all of this in agonizing detail. It will be available free of charge later this year. For now, you can call the office and ask for a free copy of our current Social Security Disability Survival Manual, or you can just download it directly from this website.