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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

The Social Security disability process in detail

Unfortunately, there are complex application processes associated with applying for either disability benefits or Supplement Security Income. Fortunately, the process of applying for Social Security disability or SSD benefits provides several levels of appeal when a disabled individual has been turned down for benefits. Understanding the process step-by-step can help it proceed more smoothly and can lead to a more successful outcome for applicants.

In general, to be eligible to receive SSD benefits, applicants must be unable to work because of a severe disability that is expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death. The application process begins with an initial application, which includes medical records concerning the physical or mental medical condition being claimed. Once submitted, the claim is reviewed and may be approved or denied for benefits. Most initial claims for SSD benefits are denied, so it is important for applicants not be be discouraged but rather become familiar with the appeals portion of the process.

Mandatory wait on SSD benefits when you're dying lacks compassion

Many might argue the point, but the government is not without heart. As we noted in a post just last month, it is possible to obtain an expedited determination of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. If an applicant in Missouri has a diagnosis for any one of about 225 illnesses identified as obviously being disabling, they may be able to be approved for benefits in weeks, rather than the months or even years it normally takes.

Many different kinds of cancer are included on the list of diseases considered to be obviously disabling. On the face of it, that just seems sensible. If you are suffer from an advanced stage of nearly any form of cancer, you want to be focused on conquering the illness. The required treatments are expensive. Insurance might only go so far. You can't work, so being able to tap into any available financial resource is a way to maintain hope.

Understanding how to apply for disability with a mental condition

Social Security disability benefits can be important for individuals suffering with a disability that results from a mental health condition. As is true when a disabled individual is suffering from a physical health condition, disabled individuals who are unable to work because of their mental condition may also be able to obtain Social Security disability benefits to help them with their daily needs.

Because the Social Security disability application process can be challenging, especially for those suffering from a mental health disability, it is important for disabled individuals and those suffering from a mental health condition to be familiar with the process. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of mental impairments that are considered inherently disabling. In turn, it is presumed that sufferers are unable to perform substantial gainful activity.

Changes to disability applications may create challenges

Social Security disability claims are already challenging, however, new rules that recently went into effect may make it even more difficult to obtain these badly needed benefits. The new rules eliminate what is referred to as the treating-physician rule, which historically provided significant deference to a report from a physician that accompanied a claim for benefits. The rule required those reviewing SSD claims for benefits to give significant weight to the physician's report.

In addition to not providing additional weight to a report from a physician that is part of the application for benefits, the new rules will also not give added weight to disability determinations from other government agencies, such as the Department of Veteran's Affairs. The Social Security Administration reports that for the first time in close to 30 years, the number of disabled individuals receiving disability benefits has declined. The number of approved claims has also declined.

Several levels of appeals are available for denied disability

While it can be understandably troubling to have a claim for Social Security disability or SSD benefits denied, most claims are initially denied. It is important to keep in mind that an initial denial of benefits is not the end of the process. There are several levels of the appeals process when a SSD claim for benefits has been denied. The first level of the SSD appeals process is a request for reconsideration during which a new reviewer evaluates the claim anew.

If the claim remains denied following the reconsideration process, the applicant for SSD benefits can request an administrative hearing. Additional medical evidence may be needed and it is helpful to prepare for the hearing before the administrative law judge. If the appeal before an administrative law judge is denied, the next level of appeal is an appeal before the Social Security Appeals Council. If the appeal still is not granted, it is possible to appeal the claim to the federal appeals court.

The basics of Supplemental Security Income for disability

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an option for disabled, aged and blind individuals who are unable to work to consider. Unlike Social Security Disability, eligibility for which is based on work history, SSI claims are made by disabled individuals and others who qualify who have limited income and resources. In addition to meeting the Social Security Administration's (SSA) requirements for income and need, individuals applying for Supplemental Security Income based on disability must meet the SSA's requirements for disability.

Requirements for disability include that the disabled individual suffers from a physical or mental medical condition that creates severe functional limitations that is expected to last for a period of 12 months or longer or result in death. To determine that the applicant has limited income, the SSA looks at income the applicant earns from work, a variety of other sources or free food and shelter they receive. To determine that the applicant has limited resources, the SSA looks at any cash; bank accounts, stocks or U.S. savings bonds; land; vehicles; personal property; life insurance; and other assets that could be used to obtain food and shelter.

Can I receive disability benefits more quickly if I have cancer?

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and patients in Missouri may wonder about the different options available to help them financially. Social Security disability (SSD) insurance is a disability insurance program available to help disabled individuals who qualify. To qualify, an individual must be suffering from a disability that meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) requirements for disability and have paid into the system through their work history. When a disabled individual is unable to work due to their disability, they may qualify for SSD benefits.

In addition, disabled individuals suffering from cancer may enjoy expedited claims processing. For individuals with a diagnosis on the SSA's list of Compassionate Allowances, the claims processing process may be quicker. Because benefits are not available until the disabled individual's sixth full month of disability, it is important to promptly apply for SSD benefits and to be familiar with the application process.

Disability benefits are available for many medical conditions

A diagnosis of a serious medical condition can be an overwhelming point in anyone's life. It may leave the diagnosed individual unable to work as they face mounting medical bills and other financial struggles, while adjusting to life with their illness. For disabled Missouri residents diagnosed with a serious illness, Social Security disability (SSD) benefits may be one option to consider.

To qualify for SSD benefits for illness, the disabled individual must suffer from a severe disability that prevents them from working, or engaging in daily activities, and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. The disabled individual must suffer from a qualifying physical or mental medical condition. The Social Security Administration provides a list of qualifying illnesses, divided by sections and includes some rare diseases, and also maintains a list of compassionate allowances for medical conditions that may be subject to expedited claims processing. Even if the disabled individual suffers from a medical condition not on the list, it may still be possible to obtain benefits.

Understanding the SSDI appeals process

As many people in Missouri can attest, a large percentage of Social Security Disability Insurance claims are denied. Fortunately for disappointed claimants, the Social Security Administration provides an extensive SSD appeals process that such claimants can use to obtain further review of their claims. The appeals process comprises four levels: request for reconsideration, review by an administrative law judge, review by the internal SSA appeals council and, finally, federal court review.

A request for reconsideration is the first step; it is a written request to the SSA to submit the disability claim to an SSA employee who was not involved in making the initial decision to deny the claims. The claimant can submit new medical or employment evidence with a request for reconsideration. The claimant is not required to be present for the reconsideration review. If the reconsideration request ends with a denial, the claimant can ask for a review by an administrative law judge. The ALJ's review is similar to a court trial. The ALJ takes testimony from the claimant and any other witnesses the claimant may call, including medical professionals and employment experts. The claimant is expected to attend, but the SSA will allow attendance by video conferencing if the appellant is physically unable to travel to another city for the hearing.

Can SSD benefits be considered taxable income?

Tax season is here, and many people in Columbia have either already filed their taxes and received their tax returns or they are in the process of doing so. While those who work earn a clear income that is taxed, those who do not work but receive Social Security disability benefits may wonder whether they must report these benefits as income.

There are instances in which a person's SSD benefits will be taxable. Whether they are depends on whether the person has alternate income or on their filing status. It is possible that up to 85 percent of one's benefits could be taxed.

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