Continue Seeing Your Doctor

Throughout the Social Security Disability application process, it is important that you continue to regularly see your doctor and follow the treatment that he prescribes. The Social Security Administration may deny an application if it is discovered that an applicant has failed to follow a course of treatment that is expected to restore that applicants ability to work. If you are unable to follow your course of treatment, it is important to speak with your Social Security Disability attorney to see if you may be excused from the treatment. Such valid reasons include religious beliefs, inability to pay, or a fear or surgery.

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How do I apply for Social Security Disability?

There are four ways to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The first is to call your Social Security Administration office and complete an application over the phone. The second way to apply for Social Security Disability benefits is to visit the Social Security Administration in person. The third way to apply for Social Security Disability benefits is to fill out an application and mail, fax, or deliver it to the Social Security Administration. The fourth way to apply for Social Security Disability benefits is to fill out an application online.

Contact our office at (616) 920-0555 and we can assist you with any of the methods above.

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How long is this supposed to take to get Social Security Disability benefits?

The biggest source of frustration for people applying for Social Security Disability benefits is how much waiting is involved. After months of not hearing anything, many people begin to wonder if their application has been lost or is on hold for some unknown reason. The Social Security Disability process is a very long and slow process. It can take several months before you receive a response on your initial application. If you are declined and appeal that decision, your hearing may not take place until nearly an entire year after you submit your appeal. From start to finish, some people do not start getting Social Security Disability benefits for nearly two years after they applied. This is why it is so important to start the process as soon as possible.

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You May Apply for Social Security Disability and VA Disability at the Same Time

Disabled veterans are able to receive VA disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits simultaneously, so it’s not uncommon for veterans to apply for both types of benefits at the same time. If you’re a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you’re unable to work full-time. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked full-time for at least five out of the last ten years. If you wait too long after you stop working to apply for SSDI benefits, you may no longer be eligible to receive them.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) also pays disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides benefits based on financial need. In order to be considered disabled by the SSA, you must be unable to perform any substantial work because of your medical condition and your medical condition should be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year.

The SSA calculates your monthly disability benefits based on your earnings history in both the military and in civilian jobs you’ve held. On the other hand, your VA disability payments are based on how severe your disability is and not on your income. In order to qualify for VA disability compensation, you must prove that you have a service-connected disability. The SSA considers all impairments, whether they are service-connected or not.

Differences Between Social Security Disability and VA Disability

The primary difference between Social Security disability benefits and VA disability benefits is that you can qualify for VA disability compensation even if you’re not totally disabled. In the VA disability system, disability ratings are assigned at 10% increments from 10% to 100% disability and the benefits a claimant receives are based on that determination. Conversely, in the Social Security disability system, it is all or nothing.

Another major difference between the Social Security disability and VA disability programs it the role of treating physicians. Your treating physician’s opinion can make the difference between winning and losing your Social Security disability claim because the SSA gives deference to the opinions of treating physicians. In the VA disability program, however, your treating physician’s opinion isn’t given extra weight and decisions regarding whether or not to award benefits are based your entire file.

How Getting VA Approval Can Help You Get Social Security Disability Benefits

If you receive a very high disability rating from the VA (70% or higher), you are more likely to be approved for Social Security disability benefits. This is because another federal agency has already determined that your disability has made it very difficult or impossible for you to engage in full-time work.

Unfortunately, the VA gives the SSA’s decision little weight, so being approved for Social Security disability benefits won’t necessarily help you get VA disability benefits. This is because the SSA’s decision doesn’t make it clear whether the disability is service-connected. Nevertheless, claimants should provide the VA with their Social Security disability file and decision because the VA is required to consider your Social Security disability records when evaluating your claim.

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When Is a Person Considered Disabled by Social Security Disability?

What constitutes disability? For Social Security disability or SSI purposes, to be considered disabled, individuals must have an impairment, either medical, psychological, or psychiatric in nature, that keeps them from being able to do substantial gainful activity (SGA, discussed below). In addition, the disabled person’s impairment must have prevented the individual from doing SGA for at least 12 months, or be expected to prevent the individual from doing SGA for at least 12 months. (This durational requirement means that while severe back conditions can qualify for Social Security disability or SSI, wrist or ankle sprains seldom qualify as disabling conditions.)

Substantial Gainful Activity

To be considered a disabled person for Social Security purposes, a disability applicant must be unable to perform substantial work. Generally, this means working and earning above a certain amount; currently, making over $1,070 per month. But for the self-employed (people who own businesses or do contract work), there are other tests Social Security uses to determine if someone is doing SGA.

Applicants cannot be working above the SGA level when they apply for benefits (some applicants keep working, planning to quit if they qualify for benefits). A person earning more than the SGA amount who applies for Social Security disability or SSI benefits will be denied the same day without having their impairments or medical records even considered. (This is referred to as a “technical denial.”) However, disabled individuals may be working part-time when they apply for Social Security disability, as long as they do not earn more than the SGA amount (as long as this doesn’t lead Social Security to think you could work a full-time job). —(see residual functional capacity)

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