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Social Security Disability

According to the Social Security Administration, there is a 30% chance that a 20 year old person who is currently working will become disabled before he or she reaches retirement age. 

There are two main programs within the Social Security Disability system.

Social Security Disability (SSD) vs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Qualification for SSD benefits depends on the amount of time a person worked before becoming disabled. 

Qualification for SSI benefits is determined by measuring a person’s income and their need. 

Social Security Disability (SSD)

A person who has been employed has paid into the Social Security system as part of the withholdings from his or her paychecks.  The Social Security Administration measures a person’s length of employment to determine that they have worked a sufficient amount of time in the past to qualify for SSD benefits.

The person claiming disability has to have worked a job and paid withholding for five of the ten years before he or she became disabled in order to qualify for SSD benefits.

Do you qualify for SSD benefits?

(1)  Are you employed? 

If you are currently employed and you earn over $15,120 per year, you are not entitled to receive benefits.  However, if you earn less than $15,120, you are still eligible to be considered for SSD benefits. 

If you meet the requirements listed above, the next question is:

(2)  Do you have a severe medical condition that limits your ability to perform work duties that will last for 12 months or cause death?

The Virginia Office of Disability Determination Services evaluates your medical condition when you apply for SSD benefits.  This evaluation includes a review of your medical records and may also include an evaluation of you by a physician.  The Virginia Office of Disability Determination will decide whether or not you have a severe impairment.

If you are found to have a severe impairment, the next question is:

(3)  Does your severe impairment meet or equal a listing in the Social Security Adminstration list of impairments? 

The Social Security Administration has a list of impairments which will lead to a finding that you are disabled.  The list can be found here.  If you suffer from a severe impairment that meets a listing in the list of impairments or is equal to a listing, you are disabled and you will receive SSD benefits.

If you do not meet a listing from the listing of impairments, the next consideration is:

(4)  Are you able to do the work you did prior to becoming disabled?

If you are able to do work that you did in the 15 years prior to becoming disabled, you are not eligible to receive SSD benefits.  If you are unable to do work you did in the past because of your disability, you may be eligible for SSD benefits.

If you are unable to do your past work, the final consideration is:

(5)   Are you able to perform other work?

If the medical evidence demonstrates that you are unable to do any available work due to limitations caused by your disability, you are eligible to receive SSD benefits.

If you are found eligible for SSD benefits, you will receive Medicare health benefits once  you have received SSD for two years.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

In order to be eligible for SSI, you must earn less than $674 per month in income and less than $1,011 per month in income for a married couple. In addition, you cannot have more than $2,000 in assets for an individual and $3,000 in assets for a married couple. 

My doctor told me to apply for disability.  Why do I need a lawyer to help me apply for benefits?

We have represented many people who are seeking disability based on a recommendation from their doctor. A doctor will often tell a patient that he believes his patient should stop working and should seek disability in order to have income. Based on this, a person applies for disability believing that this recommendation from their physician will be sufficient to allow them to receive benefits. 

The problem is that many physicians are not familiar with the Social Security system and what is required to prove that their patient is disabled.  A doctor who recommends that his patient seek disability may not have taken sufficient notes or recorded the disability in his records in a way that allows the Social Security Administration to find that his patient is disabled.

When we represent a person who is seeking disability benefits, we work with his or her doctor to obtain the testing or the records that are necessary to prove to the Social Security Administration that the person is disabled and entitled to benefits.

Do I have to pay an attorney’s fee up front or out of pocket?

You do not have to pay an attorney’s fees when you hire us to represent you for a Social Security Disability claim. The attorney’s fee will be paid from back benefits that you should have received from the date you are found to be disabled until the date of the ruling by the Social Security Administration. Out of these back benefits, the attorney’s fee is 20% of the total of the back benefits with a maximum fee of $5,600.00.

Does my age factor into the determination of whether or not I am disabled?

The Social Security Administration categorizes people by age in the following categories: (1) ages 18-44 are considered young individuals; (2) ages 44-49 are younger individuals; (3) ages 50-54 are approaching advanced age; (4) 55 and older are considered advanced age and (5) ages 60-65 are considered closely approaching advanced age.

How does my age category affect the determination of disability?

If you are 50 or over and you are limited to unskilled seated work, you are entitled to disability benefits.

If you are 55 or over and are limited to light work, you are entitled to disability benefits.

These rules make it easier for individuals over 50 to be determined disabled. 

How do my physical abilities, educational background and past work affect the determination of disability?

The Social Security Administration categorizes the requirements of work in the following categories: (1) sedentary (seated) work; (2) light; (3) medium and (4) heavy.

 The Social Security Administration determines which type of work you are capable of doing and what level you should be able to do based on your age. The Social Security Administration also reviews your past work experience and training to determine whether you should be able to work. All of these factors are factored into the Social Security Disability Medical-Vocational Guidelines which are commonly referred to as the grid. The grid can be found on the Social Security Administration website here

How do I know where I fall on the grid?

Determining what section of the grid is applicable to a person based on the age and past work factors is straightforward. The Social Security Administration uses your age at the date you claim to have first been disabled in applying the requirements of the grid. The Social Security Administration relies on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles to assess the physical requirements of your past work and of work that is available in the economy. 

The difficult part of the assessment is the determination of the Residual Functional Capacity of the individual seeking disability benefits. This is the area of inquiry where we work with the treating physician to ensure that the Social Security Administration is presented with sufficient medical evidence to lead to a finding of the true impact of your disability on your ability to work. 


SSA Website

Contact BoobergLaw today at 804-440-4000 to talk to one of our experienced Social Security Disability lawyers. All of our consultations are free. We are located in Richmond, Virginia and our attorneys are licensed in Virginia and South Carolina but we can represent clients throughout the United States, with permission.

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