Social Security Disability and Early Retirement

Social Security AdministrationIf you are in your 60s and believe you are unable to continue working full time due to health problems, you may be considering filing for Social Security Retirement benefits.  But, before you do so, it may be worthwhile to consider Social Security Disability as an alternative option that may save you thousands of dollars. Frequently, you an file a joint application that gives you the best of both worlds. If, after reading this post, you decide to file for disability, know that our Social Security Disability lawyers can help and offer free consultations.

Social Security Retirement Age

Historically, the full retirement age for Social Security Retirement was the age of 65.  However, in recent years the full retirement age has begun to slowly increase over time.  If you were born before 1954, your full retirement age is considered to be 66 years. If you were born between 1955 and 1959, the full retirement age gradually increases for each year. For those born in 1955 the age is 66 years and 2 months, for 1956 the age is 66 years and 4 months.  Individual born in 1957 reach full retirement age at 66 years and 6 months, for 1958 full retirement age is reached at 66 years and 8 months, and for 1959 full retirement is achieved at 66 years and 10 months.  Finally, for any individual born in 1967 or later, the full retirement age for Social Security is 67 years.

Social Security Early Retirement

If you have not yet reached full retirement age, but are considering collecting Social Security because of health problems that prevent you from working full time, there is the option to take early retirement.  Unlike the full retirement age, the early retirement age has not increased gradually, instead it is still possible to take early retirement at age 62.  By doing so, an individual receives a reduced amount of benefits instead of receiving their full amount of benefits.  For individuals born after 1960, taking early retirement at age 62 will mean receiving 70 percent of the full benefit they would receive if they waited until reaching full retirement age.  The Social Security retirement age calculator can help determine the exact amount of reduced benefits an individual may receive if they were born between 1955 and 1959.

Social Security Disability

However, while Social Security early retirement may be an option if you are unable to continue to work full time due to health problems, it may not be the best option.  In fact, by taking early retirement benefits, you may people giving away thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits by taking the reduced rate.  Instead of taking early retirement benefits, it may be worthwhile instead to consider applying for Social Security Disability.  Individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits receive the same amount as they would receive in full, unreduced retirement age benefits.  And, once an individual reaches full retirement age, the Social Security Disability benefits automatically convert from disability benefits to retirement benefits.

Navigating Social Security benefits and deciding what the best option is for you can be a difficult and complicated process.  Every case has its own circumstances and facts that may determine which option is right for you.  Due to this, if you are considering early retirement due to health problems, you should contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney prior to making any decision.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

Our New Social Security Disability Commercial

At Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager, ErieInjury.com, we strive to provide excellent representation to our clients. We provide this excellent representation by working hard, drawing from our experience, and believing in our cause. When we began working with our designers on our new Social Security Disability commercial, we sought to tap into the most fundamental part of the Social Security System: Patriotism and the uniquely American notion of “no man left behind.”

As Americans, our work defines us.

We’ve given our lives to our trades.

We pay into our system so those of us who get hurt won’t be left behind.

If you’re disabled, refusing to allow your disability to define you…

Is just as important as where you turn.

ErieInjury.com: Erie’s Social Security Disability Attorneys.

If you have questions about Social Security Disability, our attorneys can help. Call us for a free consultation.

What is Date Last Insured for a Social Security Disability Claim

What does “Date Last Insured” mean?

Date Last Insured, Social Security DisabilityFor any individual considering applying for Social Security Disability, there are a number of different factors that must be taken into consideration.  One of the most important factors is an individual’s “date last insured,” often abbreviated as  “DLI.”  This date can determine whether an individual is eligible to obtain Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or if they are only potentially eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability and Date Last Insured

In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI), an individual must have obtained enough quarters of coverage to be considered insured under the program.  A person earns a quarter of coverage by working in a given quarter during a calendar year and paying Social Security and Medicare taxes and a person can earn up to four quarters of coverage in one year.  Once a person has obtained a quarter of coverage, she is eligible for coverage under the SSDI program up until a certain point in time.  This point in time where the coverage for SSDI lapses is referred to as the “date last insured.”  After the date last insured passes, a person is no longer eligible for the SSDI program if their disability begins after that date because that person no longer has coverage under the program.

Due to this, it is very important for an individual to be aware of his or her date last insured when applying for Social Security Disability Benefits.  If a person’s disability begins before his or her Date Last Insured, then he or she can be eligible for SSDI benefits.  An individual can apply and obtain SSDI benefits after his or her date last insured has passed but, in order to do so, he or she must prove that his or her disability began before the date last insured had passed.

What if my Date Last Insured has passed?

If your date last insured has passed and you are unable to prove that your disability began prior to the date last insured, you will not be eligible to receive SSDI benefits.  However, this does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to obtain disability benefits. Depending upon your income and assets, you may be eligible for SSI benefits, as the SSI program is a separately administered program with its own eligibility requirements.

Because there is so much complexity and so many factors involved in obtaining Social Security Disability Income, it is important to obtain an experienced Social Security Disability attorney in the event you are seeking to obtain disability benefits.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security Disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

Can I work while on Social Security Disability?

Can I work a part-time job while on Social Security Disability?

Social Security AdministrationIndividuals who are currently on Social Security Disability often ask if they are able to work and earn money while remaining on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The general answer to this question is “yes, it is possible to earn some money while still retaining disability benefits.”  But there are important conditions and rules that must be taken into account whenever an individual is considering whether or not to work while receiving disability benefits.  One of the most important factors to take into account is whether the amount of earnings will be considered “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) by the Social Security Administration.

Substantial Gainful Activity

The Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity to generally be any work that results in earnings over a certain amount.  For each year the dollar amount required to be considered substantial gainful activity will change.  For 2017, the amount for substantial gainful activity is $1,170.00 for non-blind individuals and $1,950.00 for blind individuals.  Because of this, if an individual who is not blind earns more than $1,170.00 per month, they will generally be considered to be participating in substantial gainful activity.  And, if a person is participating in substantial gainful activity, they are generally considered to not be disabled by the Social Security Administration, as disability is defined as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity.

*The amount of money that qualifies as “substantial gainful activity” changes every year. This article was written in 2017 and provides 2017 numbers only. For an updated amount, please check the Social Security Administration’s website on Substantial Gainful Activity.

Other Factors

There are however many circumstances and conditions that may lead to the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making less than $1,170.00 is performing substantial gainful activity and there are circumstances that can lead the Social Security Administration to determine that a person making more than $1,170.00 is still not performing substantial gainful activity.  For example, if a person is making less than $1,170.00 but is performing volunteer work that would normally be an activity that a person would be paid for, then Social Security may consider such activity to be substantial gainful activity.  Or, a person who is earning more than $1,170.00 but was provided with special equipment to aid them in the job or given work specifically to accommodate the individual’s disability may not be considered to be performing substantial gainful activity if it can be shown that the person’s income would have been less but for those circumstances.

What about my specific circumstances?

Due to these factors, along with other exceptions that Social Security provides that may allow for an individual to earn more than $1,170.00 a month such as a trial work period or the ticket to work program, it is important to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney prior to accepting a job while on Social Security Disability benefits.  There are numerous rules, regulations and factors that must be considered in any individual case and it is important to understand all of your options before you make a decision. Call our office today for a free consultation to speak with one of our experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys.

Social Security Beneficiaries get a Raise in 2018!

Social Security Beneficiaries get a raise in 2018!

Social Security AdministrationThere is finally good news on the horizon for those who rely on Social Security Benefits: The Social Security Administration has announced a 2% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to take place in the beginning of 2018. This 2% raise will affect both Social Security and SSI recipients. Although this is the largest increase in Social Security benefits since 2012, it only comes out to about $25.00 per month for the average Social Security beneficiary.

For more information, take a look at the Social Security Administration’s cost-of-living adjustment website.

If you or a loved one is interested in apply for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), call our law firm for a free consultation.

 

Should I hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

When you should Hire a Disability Lawyer

Should you hire a Social Security Disability Attorney?

Many people wonder if they should hire a Social Security Disability attorney. If your and your family’s livelihood depends on winning your case for disability benefits, it’s not a question of if you should hire a Social Security Disability attorney, it’s a question of when you should hire a Social Security Disability attorney. Unfortunately, many individuals wait too long before contacting an attorney about their claim for Social Security Disability benefits.  There are two rules to follow if you are considering or have already applied for Social Security Disability benefits:

Contact an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney before applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Not every individual needs to have an attorney represent them when making their initial application for Social Security benefits.  However, in some cases, retaining counsel at the initial application level can improve an individual’s chances for being approved.  Regardless of which category an individual falls into, speaking with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney prior to making the application will allow an applicant to obtain advice in avoiding common pit falls that can result in an initial application being denied.  Such pit falls include applying for benefits too soon or too late, failing to allege an appropriate onset date for disability benefits, and applying for benefits before having sufficient medical documentation to support your allegations of disability.

If you receive a Notice of Decision denying your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, contact an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney immediately.

If your claim for Social Security Disability benefits was denied, not only do you have a limited time period in which to appeal the denial of your initial application for benefits, but it is important to have an attorney review the basis for the Social Security Administration’s denial of your claim as soon as possible.  Do not wait until your hearing has been scheduled to seek legal representation.  Although it can take up to 24 months or more before your appeal will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge, retaining an attorney right away will ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to further document your medical condition and win your case.

Our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys would be happy to provide you with a free review of your Social Security Disability claim. Call our office at 814-452-6232 for a free consultation!

What is the difference between Disability and SSI?

SSD vs SSISSD vs. SSI

What is the difference between Social Security Disability Income (SSDI or SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

If you are thinking of applying for Social Security Disability or have already applied, you may be wondering what the difference between SSD and SSI is.  Although the two programs are both administered by the Social Security Administration and the criteria to obtain benefits under either program are substantially similar, it is important to note that SSD and SSI are two separate and independent programs with different eligibility requirements.

What is Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Income, or SSD, provides disability benefits to individuals who are insured through their contributions to the Social Security trust fund.  Workers contribute to this fund through FICA Social Security taxes that are taken in the form of payroll taxes when a person is working.  In exchange for this, an individual who is working obtains work credits through Social Security.  These work credits are used to determine if an individual is eligible for SSD benefits.  Each individual who stops working will have a date last insured, which is the last date that the work credits they have earned will allow them to remain insured and eligible for SSD benefits.  Once this date last insured has passed, it is no longer possible to obtain SSD benefits and because of this, it is very important to obtain an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to help you protect your rights and benefits.

In addition, the amount of SSD benefits an individual can earn is dependent upon a worker’s lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.  And, if an individual obtains SSD benefits they will become eligible for Medicare after receiving SSD benefits for two years.

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is not an insurance program like SSD.  Instead, SSI is a means-tested program that is administered by Social Security based solely upon an individual’s needs according to income and assets.  SSI is not funded through payroll taxes but instead is funded through general tax revenues.  In order to be eligible for SSI benefits an individual must not exceed the asset limit that is determined by Social Security and you must not exceed a certain monthly income rate.

SSI benefits are not calculated based upon the earnings that an individual has made but instead they are calculated based upon a set rate that deducts any countable income that an individual may be earning.  Additionally, an individual who is receiving SSI benefits is not eligible for Medicare like an individual who is receiving SSD benefits, instead, SSI recipients are eligible to receive Medicaid.

How do I apply for SSD or SSI?

Because there are many differences between SSD and SSI it is important to obtain an experienced Social Security Disability attorney in the event that you are seeking to obtain disability benefits from Social Security.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

Can I work while on Social Security Disability Benefits?

Can you work when receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

working on social security disabilityPeople often wonder whether or not they can work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The simple answer is yes—under certain conditions.  It is strongly recommended that. if you are considering making an effort to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you consult with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.  The rules and regulations that apply are complex and one size does not fit all. There are many factors that need to be considered by an attorney and there are numerous pitfalls to avoid.

Social Security Disability recipients are provided with a “trial work period.”  So long as an individual is within a “trial work period,” the individual can continue to receive Social Security Disability benefits regardless of the amount of the individual’s income during the “trial work period.”   At the time this article was written, a “trial work period” expires once an individual has achieved gross monthly earnings exceeding $840.00 in nine months.  It is important to note that these nine months need not be consecutive.

After an individual’s “trial work period” has concluded, they can continue to work, but they can only continue to receive Social Security Disability benefits so long as that individual’s gross monthly earnings do not exceed $1,170.00* (*in 2017; this number changes every year).  If an individual’s gross monthly earnings exceed $1,170.00* they are considered by the Social Security Administration to be engaged in “substantial gainful activity.”

If an individual’s Social Security Disability benefits have ceased because the individual is engaged in “substantial gainful activity,” the individual’s Social Security Disability benefits may be reinstated immediately at any time within a five year window if the individual must stop working again as a result of their disability.

*As stated above, the gross monthly earning thresholds identified above apply to calendar year 2017.  The Social Security Administration adjusts the gross monthly earning thresholds on a yearly basis.  An individual that is receiving Social Security Disability benefits due to blindness has a significantly higher gross monthly earning threshold.

There are numerous additional Social Security Administration rules and regulations that apply to and affect an individual’s ability to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits.  Know your rights and responsibilities.  Be safe instead of sorry.  Call our office to speak with one of our experienced Social Security Disability attorneys for a free consultation.

How to get Social Security Disability for Seizures and Epilepsy

Can I get disability or SSI benefits for my seizures?

EEG testing for seizures in Social Security Disability cases
EEG testing can be useful in Social Security Disability cases for proving you suffer from seizures.

If you suffer from epilepsy or some other seizure disorder and have uncontrolled seizures, you may be wondering if it is possible to obtain Social Security disability benefits.  The answer to this question is yes, it is possible to obtain Social Security disability benefits as a result of your seizures.  There are several conditions that must be met before a successful claim for disability benefits because of seizures can be made.

Social Security Disability Rules for Seizures

Under Social Security disability, there are certain impairments that are considered severe enough that they prevent a person from performing substantial gainful activity.  If an individual is able to meet the requirements for one of these listings, then they are considered to be disabled and can be awarded Social Security disability benefits.

Epilepsy (and other seizure disorders) are evaluated under listing 11.02, which focuses on epilepsy and seizure disorders.  Under this listing, there are four ways to obtain disability benefits by meeting the requirements of the listing.  Two of the options are for individuals who suffer generalized tonic-clonic seizures, also known as “grand mal” seizures.  The other two options are for individuals who suffer from dyscognitive seizures, also known absence as “petit mal” seizures. Under any of the options, it is a requirement that an individual is following the treatment that has been prescribed by a medical professional.  Furthermore, it is necessary to be able to provide proof of medical treatment in order to be successful in any disability claim.

In order to meet the listing for tonic-clonic seizures an individual must either have a tonic-clonic seizure at least once a month for three consecutive months despite medical treatment or the tonic-clonic seizures must occur at least once every two months for at least four consecutive months and have a marked limitation in: (1) physical functioning, (2) understanding, remembering, or applying information, (3) interaction with others, (4) concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace or (5) adapting or managing oneself despite medical treatment.

To meet the listing for a dyscognitive seizure an individual must have either a dyscognitive seizure at least once a week for at least three consecutive months despite treatment or have at least one dyscognitive seizure every two weeks for at least 3 consecutive months despite treatment and the individual must have a marked limitation in: : (1) physical functioning, (2) understanding, remembering, or applying information, (3) interaction with others, (4) concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace or (5) adapting or managing oneself.

How Drug and Alcohol Use affects disability for Seizures

Another factor that must be considered for disability involving seizures is whether there is evidence of drug addiction or alcoholism.  For Social Security disability, if there is evidence of past drug or alcohol use, then the administrative law judge conducting the hearing may find that the drug or alcohol use is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.  If this is the case, then the judge has determined that the disabling limitations have resulted from drug or alcohol use and that any limitations not caused by drugs or alcohol are not severe enough to be disabling.  For individuals who are afflicted with seizures and have a past history of drug or alcohol use, the judge will ultimately determine if the drugs and/or alcohol contributed to the seizures and if it did, then a claim for disability benefits might be unsuccessful.

What should I do if I want to get disability for my seizures?

Successfully obtaining Social Security disability benefits as a result of epilepsy or another seizure disorder is a difficult and involving process that contains many different factors and considerations.  In order to optimize your chances of obtaining benefits if you do suffer from seizures, it is important to retain an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer who understands the Social Security disability system and seizure disorder.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.

My doctor has told me I’m disabled; does that mean that I can get Social Security disability benefits?

Am I automatically entitled to Social Security Disability benefits if my doctor says I’m disabled?

Social Security DoctorIf a doctor has said that you are disabled, you might be thinking you have an “easy” Social Security Disability case.  Perhaps your doctor has filled out a form for Medicaid (insurance through the Department of Public Welfare) that states you’re disabled.  But, despite all of this, it does not mean that you are automatically entitled to Social Security disability benefits and it does not mean you have an “easy” case.

Instead, it is important to understand that “disability” under Social Security is a legal determination that must be made by Social Security, often by an administrative law judge (also known as an “ALJ”).  This ALJ is a Social Security Judge who will ultimately determine whether you are disabled or not.  And in making that determination, the ALJ looks to the rules and regulations that Social Security has issued in order to make the decision.  As part of the decision, the ALJ will look to medical opinions and medical records from treating sources such as your doctor.  But, it is important to understand that this is only one area that the ALJ takes into consideration.  It is vital to have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, one who understands the Social Security’s rules and regulations on disability, aid you in the process of obtaining benefits—particularly at the appeal stage.

Alternatively, if you have visited a doctor and the doctor has expressed an opinion that you are not disabled, you still may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.  Because disability under Social Security is a legal determination, it is possible to obtain benefits for disability even when the doctor does not believe that you are disabled.  For example, Social Security’s rules contain the Medical/Vocational Guidelines, often referred to as the GRID rules, which contain different standards for individuals based on their age, work history, and education.  These GRID rules are typically used for individuals over the age of 50 because at that point, the standards for disability are often relaxed.  Because of this, an individual whose doctor does not believe that the person is disabled may very well be found to be disabled under the legal rules and regulations set for by Social Security.

It is vital to retain an experienced Social Security disability attorney when considering whether to apply for disability.  Our office will do everything in our power to aid you in the process of obtaining Social Security disability benefits.  Contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.