Social Security Law
Has your Social Security Disability or SSI claim been denied?
Are you in the process of applying for disability benefits?
We serve claimants in all of Western Washington at the initial, reconsideration, and appeals stages of disability cases. If you would like a free phone consultation with an attorney from our firm, please contact us.
Social Security Disability Claims
Many people do not know the difference between Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) claims.
Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration. However, Social Security Disability is a program for people who become disabled and who have “paid into the system.” SSI is for people who become disabled, have not paid into the system, and meet certain income and resource requirements.
Social Security Disability payments are paid out of the Social Security fund. SSI payments are welfare payments and are paid out of General Revenue.
Our Social Security System is based on a theory of pooled risk. It serves both as a retirement system and as a disability insurance system. When you have social security withheld from your wages (F.I.C.A.) or you pay self-employment taxes, you are paying for this security. Most people, hopefully, will reach retirement age without becoming legally disabled. However, some people are not so lucky. If you have paid into the system adequately and become disabled, you can receive social security benefits prior to reaching retirement age. Most people who are wage earners receive a yearly statement showing how much money they would receive upon retiring and how much they would receive per month if they were to become disabled. Normally, if you have not paid into the system to qualify for social security disability, the statement will indicate how many more credit hours of work you would need. Generally speaking, you have about five years of insurance after you stop working if you are covered. This does not mean that you have to apply within 5 years of stopping work. It just means that you would have to prove that you became disabled during that five year period.
Some people have not paid enough into the system to get Social Security Disability. They either have limited work experience or stopped working a long time ago and became disabled later on. These folks may still be able to receive monthly payments through the SSI program, although the payments are often lower. In addition, they must also meet the income and resource requirements. SSI is intended for people who are indigent (little or no income and few resources).
The SSI program uses the same criteria for disability as the Social Security Disability Program. Unfortunately, there are many people who are disabled but have either not paid into the system enough for SSD or do not meet the income and resource requirements for SSI.
What does “disabled” mean?
Social Security has its own definition of “disabled.” Different government programs have different definitions of “disability.” For instance, someone may be “disabled” according to the requirements of one program such as Workers Compensation, but may not be disabled under the requirements of another program, such as the Veterans Administration.
For the purposes of Social Security, the definition is:
Inability to perform substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, which has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 consecutive months, or end in death, taking into account the individual’s age, education, and work history.
The Administration engages in a five step “sequential evaluation process” to determine whether or not you are disabled. Remember, even though you have disabilities, this does not necessarily mean they will find you “disabled.” Most people will have to show that they can no longer do their past relevant work. If they can meet this burden, the burden shifts to the Administration to show that there are other jobs in the national or local economy that you can do. This does not necessarily mean that you would be hired for such a job. Nor does it mean that Social Security will help you find a job. It simply means that they will try to determine if there is a theoretical job out there that you can do.
Social Security claims can be frustrating for claimants and most people are denied their benefits at the initial phases of their case.
If you choose to have an attorney represent you, the attorney will be paid out of any back benefits you are awarded and the attorney’s fee is limited to 25% of any such back benefit. Thus, these are contingency fee cases and you do not pay attorneys fees unless you win.
Our firm represents all claimants at every stage of a social security claim in Washington State, from initial application to litigation in Federal Court.