SSA To Expedite Disability Process For Veterans

Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that effective March 17, 2014, it will expedite disability claims for veterans receiving VA service-connected compensation benefits and who have a rating of 100% “Permanent and Total” disability from the Veterans Administration.  This process does not apply to non-service connected pension benefits.  The VA disability only expedites the process, it does not guarantee an allowance for Social Security Disability benefits.  The veteran must still meet eligibility criteria similar to other claimants.  The veteran’s VA Notification letter indicating that the veteran’s rating of 100% Permanent and Total disability will be the required proof.

How You Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits

For those who have recently become disabled, finding out how you qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits can become a pressing matter. SSDI benefits are designed to help those that qualify to pay for their everyday expenses and household bills. In many cases, Social Security Disability Benefits can make all the difference on making ends meet for those who are disabled for a year or more.

“Disability” Defined

The Social Security Disability Administration defines “disability” as an injury or condition that:

  • Prevents you from performing work required by your current profession
  • You cannot successfully adjust to other types of work because of your condition
  • Your disability will last at least one year or will result in death

Work History

The first qualification depends on whether or not you have ever had a job in which you paid into SSDI. Each pay period, your check stub will state your deductions and how much of your pay was deducted for SSDI. The percentage deducted is referred to as SSDI credits. For each $1200 you earn each year, you are given one credit toward SSDI. The law states that in order to qualify for SSDI, you must have 40 credits, 20 of which must have been earned in the last 10 years. The number of credits is subject to change depending on the age of the applicant.  If you do not meet the above criteria, you may still qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. [Read more…]

Obama Proposes Cuts To Social Security

The fiscal 2014 budget proposal released by President Barack Obama includes cuts to Social Security.  The budget plan would replace the way current Social Security and disability cost of living (COLA) increases are calculated, replacing them with a chained Consumer Price Index (CPI).  The result could potentially reduce Social Security and disability payments.  Other legislators, including Democrats, have opposed the cuts.  Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa proposed to increase Social Security benefits by about $70 per month by increasing the payroll tax.  That proposal, The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, would expand benefits by strengthing the program’s future and aiming to make retirement more secure.  It will be interesting to see how these proposals play out over the next year.

When Should I Apply For Disability Benefits?

I receive this question often and unfortunately the answer is, it depends.  If you have just stopped working, it may be to your benefit to wait some time before submitting your application for disability benefits.  To be approved for benefits, you must be out of work, or expected to be out of work, for at least 12 months.  If you file your application soon after you stop working, the disability examiner must not only determine if you are disabled, but also determine whether you will be out of work for at least 12 months.  Some examiners may be reluctant to approve benefits for younger individuals or borderline cases until they are certain you have met the durational requirement.  If you have been out of work for at least 6 months when the examiner is processing your case, they will be in a better position to determine if you will be out of work for the required 12 month period.

If you have an obvious long-term disability, it may benefit you to file your application as soon as possible.  As everyone’s medical situation is different, when to file your application should be made on a case by case basis.

Increase In Social Security Disability Benefits For 2014

Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a cost of living adjustment of 1.5% for 2014.  As a result, monthly benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will rise next year.

With the increase, the maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving SSI will rise from $710 per month to $721. The benefit for a couple on SSI will grow from $1,066 per month to $1,082. Many states add to SSI benefits for their residents meaning that actual payments could exceed these caps.  Massachusetts is one of the States that adds a supplemental benefit.

Sharry Law Office Offers Clients New Mobile App

Sharry Law Office is pleased to announce our new mobile app designed to Stay Connected with our clients.

We remain at the forefront of technology and innovation and we are committed to serving our clients with unparalleled legal representation and client service.  Our new mobile application provides clients with direct access to us as well as provides useful information, tools, and helpful resources such as an appointment scheduler, GPS directions, client alerts and updates, legal articles, and FAQ’s.

We encourage our clients, colleagues, and friends to download our mobile app to your phone and use it as a convenient way to stay connected.

Learn more about our mobile app:    www.sharrylaw.com 

Qualifying For SSI and SSDI Disability

If you are disabled and can’t work, there are numerous programs and assistance to help you.  Two of those programs at the federal level are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Although there are several differences between the SSI and SSDI disability programs, there is one similarity.  The definition of disability is the same and medical disability is assessed the same way under both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the disability program for those individuals that have not worked or have not worked enough recently to be insured for benefits. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind, or those who have a disability and have $2,000 or less in assets and have no or limited income. Both adults and children can apply for SSI.

[Read more…]

How does SSA determine disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step evaluation process to determine if you are disabled:

1. Are you currently working?
If your earnings are above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, you may be disqualified for benefits.

2. Is you condition severe?
Your condition must prevent you from performing basic work activities for at least twelve (12) months to qualify for benefits. [Read more…]

Medical Source Statements In Disability Cases

Medical Source Statements are very important in your disability case.  A Medical Source Statement is a statement or opinion by a physician or other medical provider detailing the functional capacity of a disability claimant.  While your medical records will document diagnoses, tests, medications and communication or statements between you and your doctor, most likely your medical records will be lacking as to how your disability affects your ability to work on a sustained basis.  These statements are most effective if they are carefully drafted to meet or satisfy the applicable regulation specific to your medical condition.  Even persons with the same condition/disability may need different medical source statements edited to their specific needs.  This should be done on a case-by-case basis.   Please contact my office to discuss medical source statements in further detail.

Can I have family or a friend testify at my disability hearing?


I was asked by a client recently if they could bring someone to their disability hearing to testify on their behalf. The answer is yes and this type of witness is often called a “lay witness”.

The most appropriate person to testify would be someone that sees you regularly and can testify as to your limitations and what you are going through on a daily basis. It is critical that this witness testify as to observations made of you, not just what you tell them. In addition, your lay witness must be able to describe the pain you experience, if any, and any other limitations you have that prevent you from working.

Your lay witness should have a basic understanding of the disability hearing. Your lawyer will discuss and let you and your witness know what to expect. Testimony during the hearing should not be prepared or memorized. There is nothing that can hurt your case more than testimony that is exaggerated or that is not considered credible by the Administrative Law Judge.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your case further, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.