Posts in:October, 2022

The Advantages of Hiring a Representative

Posted October 31, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Whether or not to hire a Representative is likely one of the first decisions you’ll make regarding your claim. While you’re not required to do so, there are several advantages to hiring a Representative. Not only can they help you collect necessary documents and prepare a legal argument, they are aware of a number of procedural and administrative mechanisms that could aid your claim. They can also make a substantial difference in the amount of backpay you receive once you’re awarded benefits.

Many of these advantages stem from a Representative’s familiarity with concepts such as substantial gainful activity, residual functional capacity assessments, Listing arguments, and the medical-vocational guidelines. Representatives are also familiar with various filing requirements associated with your claim. Overall, they can save you a lot of time, and the best part is that Representative pay is capped by the Social Security Administration.

One of the most important things a Representative can do is evaluate your medical and employment documents to establish an alleged onset date that maximizes your potential benefits. Any awarded benefits will be a function of your application date, claim type, and your alleged onset date. Of course, that’s only a broad summary. The details are where Representatives earn their living: by combing income documents to identify periods below the level of substantial gainful activity, sifting through medical records to ensure they exist in sufficient quality to support a disabled finding as of a specific date, etc.

Disability claims, once awarded, generally include some element of backpay. Depending on your claim type, you may be eligible for benefits as of your application date or one year prior to the application date, though benefits cannot precede your alleged onset date. Representatives understand this process, and they will help you establish the best and most defensible argument for the highest potential award.

Of course, there are also the legal aspects to address. Some parts of the disability process are technical. In addition to the terms and processes above, Representatives are familiar with a multitude of components and requirements that could help your claim, such as when a consultative exam may be required, issues that should be appealed, definitions from social security regulations, and so on. Overall, hiring a Representative could be more efficient than representing yourself.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC

What Is the Asset Limit for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

Posted October 25, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program has no asset limit—but, the Social Security Administration (SSA) operates two separate disability programs.

One program is SSDI (often just called “Social Security disability”) and the other is SSI (Supplemental Security Income). To be eligible for SSDI, a worker has to pay FICA taxes into the Social Security system for many years. (Or someone who is self-employed has to pay self-employment, or SECA, taxes for many years.) To be eligible for SSI, someone has to have low income and assets (which the SSA calls “resources”).

Asset Rules for Social Security Disability

Social Security disability is a benefit that workers pay for, and qualify for, through the tax contributions they pay into the Social Security system. So the SSDI program does not limit the amount of cash, assets, or resources an applicant owns. An SSDI applicant can own two houses, four cars, and have $1,000,000 in the bank and still qualify for benefits.

The SSDI program also doesn’t have a limit to the amount of “unearned income” someone can bring in; for instance, rent from rental property or dividends from investments. (But, an applicant who earns more than a certain amount of wages or “earned income” by working in a job, managing a business, or being self-employed won’t qualify as disabled because Social Security will find that person capable of working.)

Asset Rules for SSI Disability

The rules for SSI are completely different. SSI is a need-based program for those living in poverty. To be eligible for SSI, an individual has to have low income (generally under $900 to $1,700 per month) and low assets (less than $2,000). For couples, the asset limit is $3,000.

Certain assets don’t count toward the limit, including one car and one house. For more information on what assets count for SSI purposes, see our article on the SSI property limit.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation evaluation!


How Returning to Work Affects your Disability Determination

Posted October 13, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Disability determinations are tied to one’s ability to do work, so returning to work could naturally impact one’s disability claim. However, that impact could range from none to total preclusion of that claim. Determining how a return to work could affect your claim requires understanding an important term: “substantial gainful activity”.

What is substantial gainful activity and why is it important?

When employment results in income over a particular limit, it is considered substantial gainful activity. That limit is $1,350 per month as of 2022, though it is subject to change every year. Why does this matter?

Disability claims are evaluated using a five-step process. The first step requires determining if, using the income limit described above, the claimant had engaged in substantial gainful activity after their alleged onset date. If they had not, their claim proceeds to the next step in the evaluation. This is true even if the claimant had returned to work, so long as their income was not high enough to be considered substantial gainful activity.

What if I have substantial gainful activity?

If a claimant returns to work, and that work is considered substantial gainful activity due to the income limit described above, it often precludes their disability claim. This means they will be found “not disabled”. However, there are two exceptions to this: unsuccessful work attempts and sheltered working environments.

Exact definitions of those terms are outside the scope of this writing. Generally, however, if a claimant was employed for six months or less and that employment was terminated due to their impairment, that employment will be considered an unsuccessful work attempt and will not impact their disability determination. If the claimant can show that their employer altered their job environment and/or responsibilities to accommodate their impairment, their employment may be considered a “sheltered working environment” and will not impact their disability determination.

What if my employment was not an unsuccessful work attempt or in a sheltered work environment?

Before addressing this topic, notice that this scenario assumes that: (1) you have returned to work after your alleged onset date; (2) your income is higher than the substantial gainful activity level described above; and (3) you have worked, or intend to work, longer than six months and do not work in a sheltered work environment. If all of these conditions apply, you must adjust your alleged onset date to a date following termination of your employment. If you do not, or if you cannot due to continued employment, you will be found not disabled at the first step of the claim evaluation process.

If you would like to complete a free, no-obligation evaluation, contact our office today!

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®