Tallahassee, Florida Social Security Disability Lawyers
Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits give disabled Tallahassee residents a lifeline when they are unable to return to work full time. But obtaining approval for SSD benefits can be equal parts challenging and frustrating.
If you are thinking about applying for SSD, or have applied and received notice of a denial, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help. At Baker & Baker, we guide clients through the initial SSD application as well as assist with the appeals process whenever necessary. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.
Paying Social Security Taxes Does Not Guarantee Benefits
Our nation’s Social Security system was developed based on a pay-in pay-out model. In short, when a person works at a job, they pay taxes into the Social Security system. When they become disabled, or they retire, those benefits become available provided certain conditions are met.
Social Security Disability (SSD) is part of this program. However, just because you paid into Social Security at some point in your life, that does not automatically make you eligible to receive the benefits that would make your life easier and more manageable.
Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits
To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, you must meet two initial criteria:
- You must have worked and paid into the Social Security system for a certain period; and
- You have a medical condition that leaves you “disabled” and unable to work according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSAs) rules.
How Long Do I Need to Work to Be Eligible for SSD?
The length of time you must work to be eligible for Social Security benefits is determined by a formula that the SSA provides. It uses a person’s length of employment and age as factors in determining eligibility.
The SSA will determine how much you receive each month based on your average lifetime earnings before you became disabled. The amount you receive has nothing to do with the type or severity of your condition. Most SSD recipients receive between $800 and $1,800 each month. The maximum benefit available in 2021 is $3,148.
How Can I Know If My Disability Meets the SSA’s Requirements?
The SSA defines disability as the following:
“An inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, 42 U.S.C. Sections 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A).”
The SSA will not ask your medical provider if you are disabled. Instead, you will need to show the following to prove a covered disability:
- Your medical diagnosis
- When your condition began
- What medical treatment you have received
- How your condition limits your ability to work
- How your condition limits your activities
The SSD Application Process in Tallahassee, Florida
The SSD application surprises many people as being a complex process that is designed to frustrate applicants into giving up. What is important to understand is that most SSD applications are initially denied. This is just one of the reasons your application should be overseen by a qualified attorney.
You can apply for SSD by filling out an online disability application or by contacting any of Florida’s 54 SSA field offices. An initial application is always routed through a local office, no matter how it is filed.
Once your local SSA office receives the application, it is sent to the Division of Disability Determinations (DDD) agency in Tallahassee, which is part of the Florida Department of Health. A medical consultant and claims examiner will review the application and make a decision on the claim.
At this initial stage, over one-third (34%) of people in Florida are approved for SSD benefits.
What Happens When Your SSD Claim is Denied?
If your application for SSD benefits was denied, you are in the same position as most applicants. If you hope to reverse this decision, it is a good idea to get qualified legal counsel in your corner as quickly as possible. There are deadlines and other requirements to meet throughout the appeals process, which consists of four separate phases:
After your initial claim is denied, your attorney will file a request for reconsideration within 60 days. Another claims person will review your application as well as any additional evidence submitted on your behalf. Your attorney can also answer any questions that the caseworker might have during this phase.
If your claim is denied a second time, your attorney will request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). We will ensure that you are prepared for any questions that might come up at the hearing, as well as subpoena essential witnesses to appear. Our firm will present any new evidence, question the witnesses and experts involved, and argue your case before the judge.
- Appeals Counsel
In the event your claim is denied after the hearing before the judge, there are still additional options. Our disability law firm will ask the Social Security Appeals Council to review your case. If they agree, this could require that we repeat the actions we took at the first hearing.
- Federal Court
The final option, which we are willing to take for our clients, is to file a lawsuit on your behalf in federal district court.
Tallahassee Florida Social Security Disability Lawyers
There is nothing simple about SSD claims, and we recommend that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your situation if you need to apply or have received a notice of denial. Our firm will advocate for your interests throughout this process, and it costs you nothing upfront. We only get paid when you receive an award for benefits.
At Baker & Baker, our office provides a free consultation to anyone in the Tallahassee, Florida area. If you are thinking about applying for SSD or need strong legal advocacy to help you fight through an appeal, call us today at (850) 433-0888 or reach out to us online for an appointment. We will help you pursue the full benefits you deserve.