How Disabled Bethlehem Residents Can Access Disability Benefits
When a person becomes disabled and is no longer able to work, he or she may be legally entitled to receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. The benefits are a critical tool for helping families navigate difficult financial circumstances. Learn more about how to file for disability benefits, how to appeal an adverse determination, and how we can help ensure that you receive the full amount of disability compensation to which you are entitled by law.
The Difference Between Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Income
The Social Security Administration administers two separate types of benefits. Social Security Income, Title 16, (SSI) is provided benefits to children, under age 18, or adults over 18 that do not have a work history. Social Security Disability Income, Title II, (SSDI) can provide to workers who are unable to engage in any substantially gainful activities as a result of a disability, benefits based upon your income for the years prior to your disability. Federal law defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. (See 42 U.S. Code §416.)
The SSDI Process
The first step in obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits is to file a claim with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has created an online application process to better facilitate the process of gathering the required documentation, completing the application, and submitting the package electronically. Once the application has been received, it is processed by the SSA, and applicants will be contacted if further documentation is required (or if other family members may also be eligible for benefits). A decision is then issued to advise the applicant if: one, he or she qualifies for SSDI, and two, he or she qualifies for the amount of the benefits.
Many applicants are turned down at this first step in the process. According the the Disability Benefits Center, only thirty percent of applicants are found to be eligible for SSDI on their first application. It is important not to give up after an initial denial. There is an appeals process by which applicants can challenge a determination of ineligibility. While this can be a lengthy, tedious, and time-consuming process, it can nonetheless change an applicant’s financial circumstances dramatically. The appeals process begins by contacting us as soon as you receive a denial. A ‘Request for a Hearing Before an Administrative Judge must be filed within sixty (60) days after the denial. So, it is important not to delay. The case will be scheduled for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The applicant may then use medical records, reports, legal arguments and, of course testimony, to convince the Judge that he or she is, in fact, disabled.
If the Judge determines that the claim is denied, the case can go to the SSA Appeals Council for review. This Council can either uphold the judge’s denial, reverse it, or send the case back to the judge with observations about any mistakes that were made. If the claim is still denied after the full administrative process of appeal, the applicant may still sue the Social Security Administration in federal court. It is important to pursue your rights. Contact our office to get the benefit of an experienced Lehigh Valley/Bethlehem social security disability attorney to ensure that you receive all disability income to which you are entitled.