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Oct
25

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

Sep
2

How Employment Lawyers Help Both Employees and Employers

Employment law covers hiring, firing, workplace policies, and benefits. Recognizing this makes plain how a Cleveland employment lawyer could help an employee or an employer in any given negotiation or lawsuit. An employment lawyer’s knowledge of federal and state laws and practices regarding discrimination, rights, and contracting often proves invaluable when issues between workers and management arise.

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Dec
13

Can I Get Disability Benefits for My Social Anxiety Disorder?

The federal and state long-term disability programs available to Ohio residents do cover mental disorders, including social anxiety disorder. Simply documenting the existence of a persistent, treatment-resistant condition, however, will not qualify you to receive disability benefits for anxiety and depression from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) or through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). At our Cleveland offices, we have helped hundreds of people navigate the OPERS and SSDI application and appeals processes. These decades of experience convince us that we cannot answer everyone’s questions in a brief blog post. What we are able to do is outline the qualification criteria for SSDI benefits for anxiety. We focus on the federal program because the majority of people who apply will only be eligible to petition Social Security. Only state and local government employees, as well as educators and public school staff, who never paid into Social Security, will be eligible to apply for OPERS disability benefits. We invite anyone who has specific issues related to securing federal long-term disability benefits or who is dealing with OPERS to contact us online or call us at (800) 678-3318 to schedule a free consultation. We can come to you if your health or financial circumstances make visiting us impractical.

Who Qualifies for SSDI Benefits for Social Anxiety Benefits?

As noted, an SSDI applicant must have paid into the federal retirement and disability program, usually through deductions from their paychecks. Children and legal minor dependents of adults who paid into Social Security may also qualify for SSDI. Proof of U.S. citizenship is almost always required, and medical documentation of a condition that has kept the applicant from working for at least 12 consecutive months must be submitted. As explained in the Social Security Administration’s official Listing of Impairments, social anxiety disorder qualifies for SSDI coverage when the applicant submits evidence that they suffer from three of the following symptoms:
  • Restlessness,
  • Easily fatigued,
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Irritability,
  • Muscle tension, or
  • Sleep disturbance.
The symptoms must also cause “extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of the following areas of mental functioning”:
  • Understand, remember, or apply information;
  • Interact with others;
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; and/or
  • Adapt or manage oneself.
In some cases, a person who has experienced social anxiety symptoms for two years or more while undergoing treatment and maintaining some employment and functionality can qualify to receive SSDI benefits. Qualifying under this last set of criteria requires submitting a great deal of documentation from doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and members of what the Social Security Administration calls an applicant’s “psychosocial support” network (i.e., friends, family members, fellow members of support groups).

Not Just Anxiety

SSDI potentially covers all disabling mental disorders, including, but not limited to,
  • Schizophrenia,
  • Psychotic disorders,
  • Bipolar disorder,
  • Major depressive disorder,
  • Obsessive-Compulsive disorder,
  • Personality and impulse-control disorder,
  • Autism spectrum disorders,
  • Eating disorders, and
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
The standards for considering the presence of such conditions permanently disabling remain largely the same. For instance, hallucinations triggered by schizophrenia must render an applicant incapable of concentrating and managing oneself. Similarly, an eating disorder must make an applicant incapable of maintaining pace. perhaps due to physical weakness from malnutrition.

Nov
25

Pros and Cons of Settling Workers' Comp Claim in Ohio?

One of the bad things about workers’ compensation is that the pros and cons of settling a claim amount to the same thing. In short, accepting a settlement on outstanding bills and replacement wages ends the case. Depending on your current circumstances and future needs, this can be a positive outcome or a negative one.

The Pros

The way things usually work, accepting a workers’ comp settlement means you receive a lump sum payment in exchange for agreeing to drop all current and future claims related to your present case. This can be a relief, allowing you to clear up current bills and keeping you from going to court to argue for benefits.

The Cons

Work-related injuries and occupational illnesses can cause serious problems throughout a lifetime. Accepting a workers’ comp settlement means you almost definitely will not be able to go back to the program to request coverage for follow-up surgeries, ongoing treatment or additional therapy.

Decide When to Settle

Recognizing when settling is in your best interest requires taking three considerations. First, the surest way to decide whether the pros of accepting a worker’s comp settlement outweigh the cons is to determine whether you can expect to experience new or worsening symptoms from your work-related injury or occupational illness. If the answer, reached in consultation with your doctors and therapy providers, is no, then settling your case with Ohio Workers’ Compensation often makes sense. Learning that you will probably need future treatment or ongoing therapy could convince you to keep at least part of your case open. The workers’ comp program lets injured or ill people negotiate partial settlements and petition for a reinstatement of benefits at a later date. For instance, a workplace accident that results in the amputation of a finger can be partially settled to accept a lump sum for the amputation and kept partially open for coverage of reconstructive surgery years later. After considering future needs, you must factor in your current reality of either having returned to work or receiving a notice that you have achieved what the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation calls “maximum medical improvement.” The workers’ comp program stops approving payments on new medical and therapy bills once you go back to your job or after you reach the point when additional health care interventions will not improve your physical function. Since workers’ comp benefits will end anyway, it makes sense to strongly consider negotiating a lump sum payment on outstanding claims. A final consideration will be whether you have been approved to receive long-term disability benefits through a program like Social Security Disability Insurance. Being on workers’ comp will not affect your eligibility for SSDI or Supplemental Security Income, but the money paid by the workers’ comp program could lower your federal benefits. Speaking with a workers’ comp attorney in the Cleveland offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman could help you decide whether to accept a settlement. You can schedule a free consultation online or talk with a lawyer by calling (800) 678-3318.

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