Frequently Asked Questions About Cumberland County Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability
If you’ve been injured and now need to file a claim, you have many questions. Get the answers you need to guide your case in collection of responses from our Cumberland County workers’ compensation and Social Security disability attorneys.
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How does "Substantial Gainful Activity" affect my application for Social Security Disability benefits?
"Can I apply for Social Security disability benefits while I am working?" This is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. Because the application process can be lengthy, I encourage new clients to file as soon as possible. In some cases, you may be able to file an application for benefits while you are working - but when?
To answer this question, let's start by looking at what the Social Security Administration refers to as "Substantial Gainful Activity." To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be found to be unable to work at Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") level. In fact, this is the first question that the Social Security Administration will look at when you file your application for benefits - even before your medical evidence is reviewed. "Substantial Gainful Activity" describes your level of work activity and your earnings. "Substantial" means that you are working in a job that requires you to perform significant physical or mental activities. "Gainful" means that you are being paid for the work that you are doing or that it is work that you would normally be paid for doing.
Now that we have looked at what "Substantial Gainful Activity" means - how can it impact your application for benefits? When you file your application for benefits, the Social Security Administration asks you if you are working and how much you are earning. You cannot earn more than a specific dollar amount each month ("SGA") and be eligible for benefits. For 2014, you cannot earn more than $1,070.00 per month ("SGA level") or $1,800.00 if you are blind. If you are not blind and you are earning more than $1,070.00 per month, you are earning above SGA level and the Social Security Administration will find that you are not disabled. If you are submitting an application for benefits, your application will be denied for non-medical reasons and your medical evidence will not be reviewed. If you are already receiving benefits, the SGA requirement still applies to you - you can earn up to $1,070.00 per month (if you are not blind) and you will not lose your benefits.
Attorneys are expensive, right?
No. I represent my clients on a “no recovery, no fee” basis. That is, if I am not successful in securing Social Security disability benefits for my client, they are not responsible for paying an attorney fee. If I am successful, my fee is paid directly by the Social Security Administration. There may be other costs associated with your case, so you should speak with an experienced Social Security disability attorney about securing representation that gives you the best chance for success.
If I am a young person, is it impossible to be approved for Social Security disability benefits?
While it is true that the Social Security Guidelines may favor older applicants, there is no “rule” that prevents younger individuals from receiving benefits. You must still meet the eligibility requirements for disability, so your case must be presented in a well-organized and developed manner.
My neighbor down the street receives disability and there is nothing wrong with him/her – so I will be approved, right?
No and this is one of the first things that I tell my new clients to forget. As I have discussed throughout this book, Social Security disability cases are complicated and each case is different. Your case will be decided on your information and how it is presented – your neighbor’s case has nothing to do with your case. Don’t spend a minute worrying about your neighbor – spend that time getting better prepared to fight for your benefits.
My doctor told me I can’t work – that is all I need, right?
Helpful – yes. All you need? No. While having the support of your doctor is very important – it is not enough if the opinion is not supported with medical evidence. Likewise, it is important that the medical evidence is presented to the Social Security Administration properly – to demonstrate why your impairments keep you from working. Very few doctors understand the disability process – it is not what they do.
My initial application was denied – should just give up?
Do not give up - for a number of reasons. You may have provided inaccurate information, a medical provider may have failed to respond to the Social Security Administration or the Social Security Administration may have made a mistake. Do not give up – discuss you case with an experienced Social Security disability attorney and find out why your application was denied before you decide to give up on your case.
I want to file my application on my own – will the Social Security Administration make sure I am doing it right?
The Social Security Administration is staffed by thousands of people processing thousands of cases. While the Social Security Administration will help you process your application for benefits – gathering the required information, making sure the information is accurate and presented in the most favorable way – that is your responsibility. When I assist new clients with filing their initial application, my #1 rule: be organized and prepared from the beginning.
I have not been out of work for 12 months – should I wait to apply?
No – don’t wait! While it is true that the Social Security Administration requires you to be disabled for twelve months or have a disability that is likely to keep you from working for 12 months (or result in death) – waiting only adds to the delay! If you are unable to work due to physical and/or mental impairment – file as soon as possible.
My son was born with a disability that requires me to care for him around the clock. Do you know if I can get Supplemental Security Income if my child is disabled?
If your child is disabled and you must leave your job to care for him around the clock, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This insurance is not easy to get. Often, it’s harder to get than Social Security disability insurance as an adult. With that said, it is not impossible to qualify for SSI, and there are benefits available to your family.
How Supplemental Security Income for Children Works in Pennsylvania
When you apply for SSI, it is your child who technically receives the benefits, as he is the one disabled.
Usually, the only way you can qualify to receive SSI is if your family’s income is low. After your child turns 18, he may continue to receive SSI, but he will have to reapply for it at that point. You may also qualify to receive Medicaid.
Adult applicants must prove that they are able to return to work. For children, the criteria for approval are different. When applying, you must show that you meet income and medical eligibility requirements. These are as follows:
- Your child is not currently working. If he is, he may not be earning over $1,040 per month.
- Your child has severe limitations. The limitations must interfere with his ability to function at the same level as other children of his age.
- Your child’s disability is expected to last for 12 months or more.
Showing your child’s disability and how it impacts your career is not easy. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has very strict requirements about what they need to see in order to approve your application. Most applications get denied the first time. This is especially true of cases where children are applying for SSI.
At Norfleet & Lafferty, we take on the fight for Social Security disability benefits for children in Pennsylvania. Although these are some of the most difficult cases to win, we know what it takes to show the SSA your child needs benefits.
Has your family applied for SSI for a disabled child? What was the process like for you? Let us know in the comments below.