Social Security Disability
Ann Trzynka has been practicing law since 1993. She is a graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington and Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington. Ann is the Chair Person for the Allen County Bar Association Social Security Section and is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives.
If you have questions about your social security claim, please call our offices and ask for Ann or her assistant, Joni.
Accessing the information on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The materials and information on this web site are made available by Van Gilder & Trzynka, P.C. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The transmission and receipt of information on the web site do not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship. This includes, but is not limited to, using the link on this web site to solicit information from Van Gilder & Trzynka, P.C. Persons accessing the information on this web site should not act upon the information provided without seeking profession legal counsel.
How do I know if I am disabled?
Social Security defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 consecutive months, taking into account the individual's age, education and work history. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d), 1382c(a)(3)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905.
This means if you have a serious illness or injury and expect to be unable to work for at least one year or more you may file a claim for Social Security disability benefits.
How will I know what type of benefits I qualify for?
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), also known as Title II benefits, is program for disabled individuals who have worked enough in recent years to be covered for benefits. To qualify for SSDI benefits, the disabled worker must have enough quarters of coverage (QCs) based on his or her earnings. Generally this means that the person must have earned sufficient income for five out of the last ten years. If the disability occurs before the age of 31, the earnings requirements are somewhat different.
The amount of SSDI benefits is based on how much an individual has paid into the system. The person's assets and unearned income are not considered in determining the benefit amount. The dependent children of a disabled worker are also entitled benefits. This dependent child benefit continues through age 18, and in some cases age 19. The maximum dependent child(ren) benefit amount is one half of the parent's SSDI benefit amount.
Benefits cannot begin until five months have passed after an individual becomes disabled. Back benefits will not be paid more than one year prior to the date of the claim. Medicare eligibility begins two years after a person has been receiving SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, also known as Title XVI benefits, are paid to individuals who are aged, blind, disabled, and who have limited income and resources meeting Social Security's eligibility requirements. It does not matter whether or not an individual has ever worked in the past. If a claimant is found disabled, back benefits can be paid beginning with the month after the date of the claim.
Disabled Widow's and Widower's Benefits (DIWW) are paid to individuals who meet specific eligibility requirements for this Title II claim. A widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse must be between the ages of 50-60 and must have become disabled no later than seven years after the death of the spouse. The deceased husband or wife must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured.
Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits are available to a child who has been continuously disabled before the age of 22, who has not been married (with certain exceptions), and who has a parent that is deceased or drawing Social Security disability or retirement benefits. If the parent is deceased, the parent must have worked enough to have been fully or currently insured as of the date of death.
Should I wait before applying for benefits?
No waiting period is necessary before filing a claim as long as your illness or injury is expected to last at least 12 or more months. You may file as soon as the illness or injury occurs. For person's who qualify for SSI, it is important to file for benefits as soon as you are disabled.
How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
You have several options. You may contact Social Security at their toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. You can call or visit your local social security office. If you have access to a computer with internet access, you can file your claim online at http://ssa.gov/applyfordisability/
The "filing date" for your claim will be the day you call, and will later be used by Social Security to calculate when your benefits will start - so the sooner you call to file your claim, the better.
When you call, Social Security will get some information from you: your name, address, birth date, Social Security number, the last day that you worked, and other basic information. SSA will also arrange a telephone interview with you, and a Social Security representative will call you on the phone at a date and time they set to get more specific information for your application.
Who will decide whether I am disabled, and what if they deny my claim?
A disability examiner at the Disability Determination Service (DDS) and a state agency doctor will make the initial decision on your claim. If the claim is denied, the next step is to file for reconsideration where the claim is decided again at the DDS level. Very few claims are approved at the reconsideration level.
The next appeal is a Request for Hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge. The administrative law judge will make a new and independent decision your claim following a hearing. Sometimes an administrative law judge or senior attorney can make a decision without a hearing.
What will happen at the hearing?
The hearing is informal and takes place in a conference room. The Fort Wayne hearing office is located at 6511 Brotherhood Way.
At your hearing the administrative law judge will give you an opportunity to testify under oath about the problems you have and explain why you can't work. Your testimony is usually given in response to questions that the administrative law judge or your attorney ask you. In some cases, it may be helpful to bring along a witness.
Present at the hearing will be the administrative law judge, a clerk operating a tape recorder to make a digital recording of the hearing, the claimant, possibly a witness, and the claimant's attorney. Sometimes a vocational expert or medical expert will be present or testify by phone at the hearing. No jury is present, and no spectators are present to watch. Social Security will not have an attorney to argue against your case.
After the hearing, the judge will consider the evidence in the written record and hearing testimony to make a decision. You will not necessarily receive a decision at the time of your hearing.
What if the judge denies my claim?
If you believe the judge has not fairly evaluated your case, you may appeal your claim to the Appeals Council, which is set up to reevaluate decisions. If the Appeals Council denies your claim, you can then file a lawsuit against Social Security in federal court.
If my doctor says I am disabled, will Social Security approve my claim without my having to hire an attorney?
Not usually, unless your doctor's records include very specific details necessary to prove your claim of disability. Social Security has its own set of rules to decide whether you are disabled. An attorney knows what information is needed from your doctor to help prove that you are disabled.
I can't do the type of work I used to do, but I'm too old to learn a new job now. Will Social Security still deny my claim?
Social Security takes into consideration your age, education and past work experience. Social Security uses a special set of rules for individuals over 50 to determine disability.
What can I do to improve my chances of winning my Social Security disability claim?
When responding to questions and requests for information from Social Security provide thorough answers that are completely honest. You should also mention all of your impairments, including any mental impairments that you have.
You should also go to your doctors and treatment providers regularly and follow their medical advice. Social Security makes decisions on the medical evidence in your file. If you are not getting treatment, Social Security may assume that your condition is not severe enough to require treatment.
Do not give up. It is common for Social Security to deny claims. Your odds of winning improve at the hearing level.
You should also hire an experienced Social Security disability attorney as early as possible to represent you. Your attorney needs to understand Social Security's rules and regulation and should be able to effectively communicate and work with you to help you win your case.