Panama City, Florida Social Security Disability Lawyers
If you live in Panama City or surrounding areas and are unable to work due to a debilitating condition, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. But getting the benefits you need and deserve can be an uphill battle.
The unfortunate fact is that nearly two-thirds of initial applicants for SSD benefits are turned down on their first attempt. This is in spite of the fact that those same people were eligible for benefits at the time they applied.
At Baker & Baker, we help clients throughout the Panama City area with their Social Security Disability claims. Rather than struggle with an unfamiliar process, our experienced SSD attorneys can ensure that your initial application is thorough and complete. We can also advocate for your interests throughout the appeals process if your claim has been denied. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
You pay money into the SSDI fund every week you work through your FICA payroll taxes, earning you credits towards eligibility. In 2021, you will receive one credit for every $1,470 in earnings, up to four credits per year.
The number of credits you need varies based on your age when you become disabled.
- If you are under the age of 24 and become disabled, you need six credits (1.5 years of work) in the previous three years.
- If you are between the ages of 24 and 30, you need credits for about half of the time between the ages of 21 and when you became disabled.
- If you are age 31 or older, you need at least 20 credits earned in the ten years immediately before becoming disabled.
SSD pays a monthly benefit that has nothing to do with the type or extent of your disability. If you qualify, you’ll receive a benefit based on your past income. The average for 2021 is $1,277, but the maximum is $3,148.
If you don’t meet the work credits requirement for SSD benefits, you can apply for Supplement Security Income (SSI).
Meeting the Standards for a Valid SSD Claim
Getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits is easier said than done. The application might seem simple on the surface, but a majority of initial SSD applications are denied.
To qualify for SSD benefits, you must submit comprehensive evidence proving your disability meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) standards. Specifically, you must show:
- You are a person that is eligible for SSD through the accumulation of sufficient credits.
- You have a severe or life-threatening disability that qualifies for SSD.
- Your condition will preclude you from working for 12 months or more or is expected to result in your death.
The SSA maintains a list of impairment categories that might qualify for SSD benefits. These categories include:
- Musculoskeletal system
- Cardiovascular system
- Respiratory disorders
- Digestive system
- Congenital disorders
- Immune system disorders
- Neurological disorders
- Endocrine disorders
- Hematological disorders
- Mental disorders
- Skin disorders
- Genitourinary disorders
- Special senses and speech
Even if your particular condition isn’t listed, you may still qualify for benefits if you can prove that you meet the other standards. In most cases, you will need to fight this battle under appeal with the assistance of an experienced and aggressive disability benefits attorney.
The Social Security Disability Benefits Process
When you apply for SSD benefits in Panama City, the SSA handles your claim locally. Specifically, your initial application is routed to a case worker at the nearest Division of Disability Determinations (DDD), a division of the Florida Department of Health.
The initial claims determination can take up to 90 days. The agency will use a five-step process to decide whether or not to accept your claim:
- Are you working?
If you’re currently working and earning more than a certain amount each month, the SSA generally won’t consider your claim for SSD benefits. If you are not working, the agency will confirm that you have sufficient credits for eligibility.
- Is your medical condition “severe”?
To be considered disabled, you must have a medical condition that significantly limits your ability to do certain activities such as sit, walk, and remember for a period of at least one year.
- Is your condition on the List of Impairments?
The agency will also check to see if your condition is considered a disability as already defined by the organization. This is simple enough because they’ve created a list. Even if your condition is not on the list, there are still ways to get approval for SSD.
- Can you perform your normal work?
Next, the agency determines if your condition precludes you from performing your normal work. If it doesn’t, they will deny your claim. If it does, they’ll continue to the final step.
- Can you perform any other work?
Even if you can’t do your normal work, are you able to do any work that is appropriate to your skills, age, education, and medical condition? If you can, the agency will deny your claim.
Each of these five steps is vital. If you don’t qualify at any point in the process, the agency will deny your claim. Having your application and documentation right the first time can increase your chances of approval. Our attorneys can help you navigate this complex process. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that people who hired an attorney to help with their disability claims were three times more likely to be successful than those who didn’t.
If your claim is denied, this sets up some difficult obstacles to overcome. You have just 60 days to request reconsideration and must be prepared to submit additional documentation or make your case at a hearing. We understand that this process involves more than just shuffling paperwork. It’s your life, and our firm is committed to helping you complete your application and proving eligibility.
Panama City, Florida Social Security Disability Lawyers
As you deal with your physical ailments, it can be overwhelming to have to focus on an SSD claim while you are also trying to keep your financial head above water. When you’ve worked enough years to qualify for SSD benefits, you shouldn’t have to fight the government to receive the financial assistance you need and deserve.
At Baker & Baker, our knowledgeable and compassionate Social Security Disability attorneys will ensure that your claim is accurate, complete, and has the best possible chance of approval. We will advocate for your interests while you focus on recovery. And you will not have to pay us a dime until we obtain an award on your behalf. Contact us today at (850) 433-0888 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation.