Fairfax Social Security Disability Lawyers
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Claims
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two distinct programs for people who are unable to work due to a disability. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to qualifying individuals who have worked in the past and paid into Social Security. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an income- and needs-based program that provides benefits to qualifying individuals, regardless of their work history.
If you have worked and paid your Social Security taxes, you deserve to receive the benefits you have paid for. At Lawrence, Smith & Gardner, we can help you get them. Our Fairfax Social Security disability (SSD) attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of SSD claims and related matters, including denied claim appeals. Whatever stage of the process you are in, we encourage you to contact our firm today to learn how we can protect your rights and help you work to obtain the benefits you rightfully deserve.
Call (703) 382-5840 or contact our firm online to schedule a complimentary consultation.
What Is the Difference Between SSDI & SSI?
When facing income loss, individuals will often turn to government programs to help them avoid financial peril. The two most common programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
When discussing SSDI versus SSI, the differences are significant. They include:
- Eligibility: SSDI is based on qualifications related to your work history; SSI is based on your limited resources rather than your work history.
- Medical Coverage: With SSDI, you can get Medicare coverage after a two-year waiting period. With SSI, you are eligible for Medicaid immediately.
- Retroactive Payments: SSDI benefits are payable prior to the application date, but SSI doesn’t allow for retroactive payments.
- Waiting Period: With SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period. For SSI, however, there is no waiting period.
- Dependents: With SSDI, both the claimant and their dependents are eligible for benefits. With SSI, only the claimant is eligible.
For a more detailed discussion of your situation and how these programs can benefit you, turn to Lawrence, Smith & Gardner. Our Fairfax SSD attorneys can help you understand your options and which program is most applicable to your situation. We can also assist you in filing your application, appealing a denied application, and taking actionable steps to seek your SSD benefits.
Who Qualifies for SSD Benefits?
To qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, you must meet certain requirements set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has different requirements for its different SSD programs.
To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must show that:
- You have a medical condition that causes you to be unable to work or engage in any type of “substantial gainful activity” (SGA)
- Your medical condition prevents you from doing work you did before or adjusting/modifying your previous work activities
- Your medical condition has either lasted for at least one year, is expected to last for at least one year, or is expected to result in death
- You have paid Social Security taxes and earned the required “work credits” based on your years of employment, including self-employment
To qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must prove the following:
- You are either disabled, blind, or over the age of 64
- You have limited income and resources
- You are a U.S. citizen or qualifying noncitizen
You may also need to meet additional eligibility requirements to qualify for SSDI or SSI in Virginia. For help determining whether you qualify for SSD benefits, contact Lawrence, Smith & Gardner today.
Applying for SSD Benefits: How the Process Works
Filing for and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can be a lengthy and frustrating process. At Lawrence, Smith & Gardner, we find it helpful to describe the different steps of the process to our clients so that they feel more comfortable and have ample opportunity to ask questions.
Overall, the Social Security Disability process follows three general stages:
- Initial Application: Individuals can submit a paper application or apply online. Typically, an online application will get a quicker decision, but the process usually takes between three to five months.
- Reconsideration: Unfortunately, most initial SSD applications are denied. People can file for reconsideration within 60 days of the initial denial to have their case examined again. This step in the process usually takes between two to three months. Again, most individuals can file for reconsideration online.
- File For Hearing: Individuals who have had their request for reconsideration denied can file for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). You must file a request for an ALJ hearing within 60 days of receiving notice that your request for reconsideration was denied. Unfortunately, it takes approximately one year for a hearing to be scheduled.
Generally, an attorney is most useful after your initial application has been denied. If you have filed for benefits and reconsideration on your own and have been denied, it is wise to schedule a consultation with an experienced Virginia attorney. We can examine your paperwork and provide advice regarding your best course of action and what can be done to strengthen your case. At the hearing, we can present the ALJ with medical records and oral testimony.
Preparing for the Administrative Hearing
Because many first-time SSD applications are denied, most applicants must file a request for reconsideration. If this is also denied, you will need to request an administrative hearing. The hearing, which is held before an administrative law judge (ALJ), contains witnesses, briefs, and cross-examinations. This can be intimidating, and it is important to have a skilled attorney on your side through these proceedings.
At Lawrence, Smith & Gardner, our disability hearing testimony lawyers have extensive experience guiding clients through the legal process. Each case and client is different. Having said that, certain tips should be followed to make your testimony before an ALJ more effective.
These tips include the following:
- Your answers should be in your words, not your attorney’s
- Every answer should contain two bits of information—how you feel and how those feelings limit you
- Every answer should be honest
- Each answer should be detailed and explained by using examples
- It is wise to be fair with your answers; don’t try to make things sound better or worse than they really are
- Be courteous to the judge and look him or her directly in the eye
- Don’t hold anything back
We can help you prepare for your hearing and represent you throughout the proceedings. Our Fairfax Social Security disability attorneys have extensive experience guiding clients through administrative hearings. In many cases, we will prepare a letter brief on behalf of the case to be reviewed by the ALJ. We can also explore the possibility of bringing a witness.
A vocational expert (VE) may be at the hearing on behalf of the government. The VE will give testimony regarding the types of jobs the disabled individual can or cannot do. We will have the opportunity to cross-examine the VE and challenge their testimony about other work that you might be able to perform.
Why Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer?
Filing for and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits should not be a complicated process. It is, after all, your money that you have paid out of your paycheck for years or decades. It is not uncommon, however, for individuals to be denied their benefits at the initial application stage. When this happens, it is wise to have an experienced attorney on your side.
At Lawrence, Smith & Gardner, we have extensive experience providing legal advice and representation to clients throughout Northern Virginia. Many individuals ask, “When should I hire a lawyer?” In short, the earlier, the better. An experienced attorney can carefully examine your situation and give you an honest assessment of what obstacles you might face.
It is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney at the beginning of your case. If you choose to discuss your case before you file, you can gain a clear understanding of the process and any hazards you might face. If your application for benefits is denied, we can appropriately gauge our level of involvement. Most often, we become personally involved if there is a denial of benefits at the second stage of the process.
Contact Lawrence, Smith & Gardner Today for Help with Your SSD Claim
Our team is ready to answer any questions you may have. No matter where you are in the SSD process, our attorneys can provide the honest advice, personalized counsel, and one-on-one representation you need. We invite you to contact us today to learn more during a free consultation.
You can reach us online or by phone at (703) 382-5840.
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