Many people are familiar with the red tape often associated with local, state and especially the federal government agencies. For instance, going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) in Boston can take a long time and it can be an inconvenience. However, when we are talking about the wait for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, as administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), unrepresented claimants are literally dying before their claims are approved – and they are losing everything in the process.
According to a recent news article published by the Washington Post, one claimant lost everything he had – and he’s far from the only one. This claimant was in his 50s, and worked for years as a long-haul truck driver and later (once he got married) as a locksmith.
While it might not sound like this is dangerous job, as our Boston Social Security disability lawyers can explain, while there are obviously some jobs that are much more dangerous than others, on the job accidents can happen in any line of work. They can also be from a single traumatic injury, or from a degenerative condition due the normal stress of work. For claimants who are working for a company, they will have workers’ compensation benefits available. Those who are self-employed do not have the option and must rely on private long-term disability insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A Compilation of The Social Security Laws, including those for SSDI, is published by SSA.
This claimant injured his hands as result of years of lifting heavy safes, which is a major, but often overlooked part, of the job of a locksmith. He also injured his back and that got worse over time and there was nothing much doctors could do to make the pain go way. He had a degenerative disc disorder and nephropathy in his legs as well as sciatica.
A study from the Health Quality Ontario published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 40 percent of people over the age of 40 have received a diagnosis of degenerative disc disorder, so we are talking about massive portion of the adult population. Degenerative disc disorders can be extremely debilitating and is a major reason people apply for SSDI benefits. If a claimant is living with chronic back pain, it is very difficult to work, especially in a job that requires physical labor such as lifting heavy safes.
At this point, he could no longer work a full schedule, and one of his coworkers handed him a pamphlet published by SSA and recommended he apply for SSDI benefits. At first, he shared the common misconception that this was a handout and did not want to apply. However, he eventually agreed it was needed and applied.
It should be noted that SSDI is not an entitlement program. Everyone who works get money taken from their paycheck each pay period and that money goes into the disability fund. You earn quarterly credits each quarter you work and if you have enough quarterly credits at the time you became disabled, you should be able to qualify for SSDI benefits. It is much like paying a premium for private insurance. This is why it is called paying into the system. However, just because a claimant is disabled and has earned enough quarterly credits does not mean claimant will be awarded benefits.
The system is set up in a way that makes it very difficult for claimants to be declared disabled by SSA, especially a claimant who is not represented by an attorney. The sad thing is that many claimants do not get an attorney because they are convinced they cannot afford one. However, there should be no legal fees unless claimant is successful in obtaining SSDI benefits, and then the legal fee will come from the portion of reactive benefits owed from the date of the onset of disability to the date benefits are finally paid. This is not to say every claimant will be successful if they have an experienced Boston disability lawyer as there are never any guarantees, but the chances of success are greatly increased with experienced attorney fighting for your right to a full and appropriate disability benefits award.
In this case, claimant was eventually denied benefits because he was still working part time. Under the SSA regulations, you must be disabled to the point where you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. Under the current rates, that means you cannot be able to earn more than $1,127 per month, but this figure can change every year. Even though this is far less than you were making prior to becoming to be disabled, this is enough to deny a claim for SSDI benefits. This result may seem unfair, and that is because it is, but the best thing a claimant can do is to speak with an experienced disability benefits claim about the facts of the actual case.
At that point, he stopped working entirely and applied for SSDI benefits with a new application. This started the process all over again and that meant a new wait. He was under the impression his application would be approved quickly, but that was not the case and he lost everything he owned in the process.
This is yet another reason to speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible so you are not operating under assumptions that may not be correct.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Schloesser v. Berryhill, September 7, 2017, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
More Blog Entries:
SSDI Appeal Results in Affirmation of Denial, Feb. 15, 2017, Boston SSDI Attorney Blog