Archive for October, 2018

What You Need to Know About the SSI Application and Appeals Process

As Social Security disability (SSD) lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, we encounter a great deal of confusion about Supplement Security Income. SSI is related to, but always dependent on, SSD, and qualifying for one type of federal benefit does not automatically mean qualifying for the other.

We welcome additional questions and offer free consultations to individuals or families who are considering applying for or appealing to receive supplemental income payments. You can schedule an appointment by calling (800) 678-3318 or completing this online contact form.

An SSI Applicant Has an Undeniable Right to Request Advice, Assistance and Representation From a Social Security Attorney

In Cleveland, across Ohio, or anywhere else in the United States, people who apply for SSI benefits can consult with or hire a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the program. Arranging for legal representation can be particularly important if appealing a denial of benefits. The reasons behind a denial are not always clear, and it sometimes takes a court cases to secure your payments.

Strict Eligibility Criteria Apply

You can only receive SSI benefits if you are eligible for other types of Social Security benefits and can prove that you are blind, permanently disabled or older than 65. U.S. citizenship and residency rules also apply and no one who is in prison or committed to a government-funded institution can qualify for SSI.

Most People Who Receive SSI Payments Also Receive Social Security Disability Benefits

While SSI is an income-based program, it is designed to support people who cannot work enough to pay for food and shelter. No one needs to apply or qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to receive SSI, but many people apply for both at the same time. And, as noted, proving that a permanent disability exists can be key to having an SSI application approved.

The Social Security System Asks SSI Applicants to List All Their Financial Resources

The SSI application must include details about all the following (when they exist):

  • Cash held by the applicant
  • Bank accounts in the applicant’s name
  • Stocks and other investments held by the applicant
  • S. savings bonds held by the applicant
  • Real estate owned by the applicant
  • Vehicles owned by the applicant
  • Personal property of significant value such as jewelry and collectibles owned by the applicant
  • Life insurance taken out in the applicant’s name
  • Anything else owned by the applicant that could be sold for to cash to buy food and pay the rent or mortgage

Applicants should also provide information on their monthly living expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, total grocery and utility bills, loan payments, clothing expenses and entertainment budgets.

All Monthly Income Must Be Disclosed

All funds from work or benefits programs must be listed on the application. SSI payments are capped for individuals and families, and monthly income is subtracted from the maximum possible payment.

Note that no one gets rich on SSI. During 2018, the most an individual could receive was $750 per month. A beneficiary whose spouse also qualified for SSI could receive, at most, $1,250 each month. Still, the federal income supplement can make a huge difference in a disabled or elderly person’s quality of life.

Applicants Can Appeal a Denial of SSI Benefits Four Times

The Social Security Administration grants the following levels of appeals:

  • Reconsideration — resubmitting the application, often with additional information
  • Hearing by an administrative law judge — a review of whether the rules were applied correctly to all the evidence supplied by the applicant
  • Review by the Appeals Council — a further review of the decisions made to this point

Federal court review — a civil lawsuit in which the SSI applicant sues the Social Security Administration

What Requirements Must I Meet to Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Social Security disability benefits provide a literal lifeline to people in northeastern Ohio whose physical or mental health renders them unable to work. The federal program, which is technically known as Social Security Disability Income, or SSDI, is also open to children whose parents would be eligible to apply for benefits if they became disabled themselves.

No one automatically qualifies to receive SSDI, however. The first hurdle to clear is that only adults who have paid into the Social Security program or children whose parents have done so can even apply. In Ohio, this most basic eligibility rule can exclude a lot of people. State government employees, city and county workers, public school teachers, state university professors, and public safety personnel like police officers and firefighters do not participate in Social Security unless they have other jobs outside the public sector.

The second major SSDI eligibility requirement is suffering from a permanent disability. Workers’ compensation, retirement plans, and various forms of private insurance exist to assist individuals who can return to work after recovering from an illness or injury.

Under the rules of SSDI, a person is considered permanently disabled if he or she suffers from a condition that will soon prove fatal or which has imposed significant limitations on the person’s ability to work for at least 12 months. The program considers each disability benefits application separately, but it uses standard criteria to determine whether a physical or mental condition is significantly limiting. Some of the questions the program considers are:

  • Can the SSDI applicant see?
  • Can the SSDI applicant speak so others can understand him or her?
  • Can the SSDI applicant hear and understand what other people say?
  • Can the SSDI applicant walk without difficulty?
  • Can the SSDI applicant bend over and lift objects?

Applicants must submit extensive medical documentation of the disabling condition, including diagnoses and prognoses, prescriptions, and therapist notes. The SSDI program will also ask that each of its questions about the extent of the claimed disability is answered by a recognized expert.

People who apply for SSDI should then prepare themselves to appeal a rejection. Many first-time applications get denied, often for purely technical reasons. Partnering with a Cleveland disability attorney from the beginning of the application process will help avoid errors and omissions upfront while also providing a ready ally should reapplying become necessary.

A final consideration is that SSDI benefits can be reduced or withdrawn when a person’s health improves or when earnings from work increase past a certain dollar amount. Checking with a disability lawyer about what working part-time while receiving federal disability payments will mean can protect a person from experiencing financial shocks and from being accused of committing fraud.

You can learn more about qualifying for Social Security disability income by meeting with a disability attorney at the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman. Schedule a free appointment online or call us at (800) 678-3318. If your health leaves you unable to visit us, we can come to you.

Cleveland OH Workers Comp Lawyer
Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman
6100 Oak Tree Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland Ohio 44131 USA
Tel: (216) 328-2125 Fax: (614) 221-7308 Map