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How an Attorney Can Help with an SSDI Claim

Below, a Virginia social security lawyer answers questions about how an attorney can assist in filing an SSDI claim.

What are some of the first questions that you ask in an SSDI case?

The first thing is to figure out their work history, how long they’ve been working, and when the onset of disability was, because there’s also a concept known as a “date last insured.” It is important to take action sooner rather than later. If you’re unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity or you feel like that might be the case, it’s good to contact an attorney as soon as you can. That being said, after work credits, I find out more information about the person themselves, about their background. Everybody is different, and different impairments affect different people in different ways.

There may be physical impairments that aren’t quite enough to get them to a finding of disabled, but their mental health comes into play as well, and that can include PTSD, for veterans or other people who’ve experienced traumatic experiences, bipolar disorder, severe depression, or anxiety. All of these things come into play and are considered by the Social Security Administration. I like to figure out some of their background, find out what their impairments are, what their main complaint is, and then delve into what their functional limitations are, how these things affect their activities of daily living, and some other background information to cover their employment history, their educational history to get a better picture of what the person’s life was like before the disability and what it’s like now.

What can an attorney do for someone who has applied for SSDI before, but was rejected?

That depends on the facts of each case. After you receive a decision, if you received a denial, you have 60 days to appeal that, but it depends on which level. If it’s at the initial level, you have 60 days to file for reconsideration. If it’s at reconsideration, you’ll have 60 days to file for an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. After the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, you can appeal to the Appeals Council. From there, if you’ve got a strong case, there is the option to file suit in federal court, but it’s a tiered process and you typically will have to go through each one, one after the other.

A lot of the time, we get involved with clients who filed their initial application on their own and received a denial, but they are absolutely certain that their doctor told them that they cannot work. They know that they’re disabled, but, for one reason or another, they weren’t able to be approved at that level. When we get involved, at whichever stage it may be, we can hone in on the issues and put things into terms that the judge and the vocational rehab expert that’s going to be at the hearing will want to see in order to make a decision.

The Social Security Administration has a “grid” that is rules-based, and evaluates medically determinable impairments that may not rise to the level of severity necessary for a finding of disability. Based upon the grid, an older individual without transferable skills may be found disabled while a younger worker with the same impairments might not. Someone who is younger, for example, may not be found disabled because they might be able to retrain and go into another line of work, but based on their education, work history, age, and whether they have any transferable skills, they might be able to be found disabled on the grid. One example of that would be somebody who is at an advanced age, has a high school education, no transferable skills, and is limited to sedentary work. That, under the grid, would qualify them for a disability award, even though there may not be a listing of impairment that would match up with their exact condition. It’s a complex process, and having an attorney that knows how to navigate the process is a huge benefit.

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