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Oklahoma City Social Security Disability Law Blog

What are the reconsideration options for denied SSI claims?

It can be a source of significant worry when an Oklahoman who believes he or she meets the basic requirements to get Supplemental Security Income is denied benefits. For those who are blind, disabled, 65 and older, and have limited income and resources, SSI-related benefits can be a critical part of living day-to-day and getting necessary medical care.

Denied SSI claims can be problematic, but it does not necessarily mean that an appeal will fail. Many claims are initially denied, but people end up being approved for SSI benefits after an appeal. Understanding the reconsideration procedures and which is applicable is a key part of a succeeding on a claim. Legal help is often vital for such a situation.

You may qualify for SSDI benefits if you are a “worn-out worker”

Have you suffered an injury that makes it impossible for you to do your job? Experiencing sudden unemployed after years of hard work can cause serious money issues.

If you meet certain conditions, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on what is referred to as the “worn-out worker” rule.

Who decides when an SSD benefits applicant is unable to work?

When it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) currently use information from vocational experts (VEs), such as employment counselors, contracted with the SSA,to decide whether there are enough jobs the applicant would be able to perform. This is significant, as an applicant in Oklahoma or elsewhere in the nation who can work and thus earn an income that is above a low threshold set by the SSA will not qualify for SSD benefits.

The danger with this current process is that a VE's testimony at a hearing could be murky and very difficult or even impossible to review. Back in April, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case, Biestek v. Commissioner of Social Security, in which an applicant for SSD benefits was denied benefits because a VE testified that there were a significant number of appropriate jobs available to the applicant, and thus, he was not disabled. To meet the SSA's definition of disability, an applicant must be unable to perform any "substantial gainful work." It is the government's burden to prove that there is enough substantial gainful work available to the applicant.

How does the Social Security Administration define 'disability?'

When a person is young, they may take their good health for granted. After all, it may seem like serious illnesses or injuries only happen to the elderly. However, this is a misconception. Any worker in Oklahoma, young or old, can develop a medical condition that is so severe that it renders them disabled. When this happens, they may want to pursue Social Security disability benefits.

To be eligible for SSD benefits, a person must fulfill certain requirements. First, they must have earned enough work credits while employed, which can only be obtained by paying Social Security taxes. The number of work credits needed depends on the person's age when they became disabled. Second, a person must be unable to perform any substantial gainful activity. Basically, this means they are unable to earn a certain amount of income. For example, in 2018 a person could only be eligible for benefits if they earned less than $1,180 monthly (or $1,970 monthly if their disability was blindness). Third, they must be unable to do any job that they are qualified to do.

Yearly spine injury costs can be staggering

Spinal cord injuries can be some of the most difficult injuries for a person in Oklahoma to suffer. Whether it is caused in a car crash, a sporting accident or a slip-and-fall incident, a spinal cord injury could lead to partial or total paralysis. This can easily cause a person to be unable to perform the job they were performing prior to their injury or performing any job whatsoever. And, as the numbers show, living with a spinal cord injury can be very costly.

Let's look at the 2014 statistics for the average yearly costs associated with spinal cord injuries. These include health care expenses and living expenses, but not lost income and other indirect costs. On average, a person with high tetraplegia will spend $1,064,716 in the first year following their injury and $184,891 each year subsequent to their injury.

SSD benefits recipients may want to consider ABLE accounts

A federal law passed in 2014 established ABLE accounts, which permit those who receive Social Security disability benefits to save a maximum of $100,000 in the ABLE account while still retaining their government benefits. ABLE accounts are offered by 42 states, including Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia. However, an analysis from the National Association of State Treasurers states that fewer people than anticipated have so far opened ABLE accounts.

As of the end of 2018, only 35,000 ABLE accounts were established in the U.S. However, the state treasurers' group reports that 450,000 ABLE accounts need to be funded by June 2010 for the government to continue offering this program as it currently stands. While the program itself is likely to remain an option for some, some state programs may have to raise their fees if more people do not open ABLE accounts.

Unemployment benefits and your SSDI application

Whether you have a family or just yourself to support, you know how expensive life can be. After all, regardless of your employment status, you have bills to pay. If you can no longer work due to an illness or injury, you may worry about making ends meet. 

Fortunately, there are some government programs to help you pay some of your expenses. Two popular options are unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Because these programs serve different populations, you must be careful about applying for both at the same time. 

Rule change may require English proficiency for older applicants

The United States of American is often described as a melting pot where individuals of different races and backgrounds, religions and beliefs, live together in a relatively harmonious shared community. This description accurately describes Oklahoma, where individuals of all walks of life come together in their places of employment, residential developments, and institutions of learning. It is not uncommon to hear different languages being spoken as one walks down the street or rides on a city bus.

In the near future, however, one of those unique characteristics may be identified and used as a means of preventing some adults from pursuing disability benefits. The federal government is looking into cutting disability benefits to older citizens who do not speak English. That would mean that adults aged 45 and older who could not speak English would potentially lose their disability benefits.

Unemployment benefits and your SSDI application

Whether you have a family or just yourself to support, you know how expensive life can be. After all, regardless of your employment status, you have bills to pay. If you can no longer work due to an illness or injury, you may worry about making ends meet.

Fortunately, there are some government programs to help you pay some of your expenses. Two popular options, of course, are unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Because these programs serve different populations, you must be careful about applying for both at the same time. 

What evidence is accepted for a disability benefits claim?

It can be hard to prove that a person has a disabling medical condition. When an Oklahoma resident begins to pull together the data and documentation that they have on their condition, they may be unsure as to whether it is sufficiently authoritative to carry weight with the Social Security Administration. Pursuant to guidance provided by that entity, certain medical professionals are considered acceptable sources of evidence for the purposes of establishing disabilities.

Both medical and osteopathic physicians are considered acceptable sources of authority, as long as they are appropriately licensed. The same holds true for optometrists, audiologists, and podiatrists who are licensed to practice in their particular fields.

The Law Center for Social
Security Disability

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Oklahoma City, OK 73102

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Fax: 405-272-0367
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