Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights

Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.

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  • What if my condition worsened after I submitted my SSDI application?

    Patient on kidney dialysis machineWhen you can’t work because of a disabling medical impairment, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, applying for SSDI and getting approved for the benefits you need and deserve is a long and grueling process that can take months and sometimes even years. Not only does the Social Security Administration (SSA) impose a mandatory five-month waiting period from the onset of your disability until you can start collecting payments, but the wait can actually be much longer due to a backlog of claims.

    If you applied for SSDI, but your disability got worse before you received a decision, keeping the SSA informed of changes in your medical condition is vital, as a particularly severe, worsening, or terminal diagnosis may qualify your claim for an expedited review and determination. Here’s what you need to know, including how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish and help you get approved for much-needed benefits as quickly as possible.

    SSA Programs That Allow for Expediting SSDI Claims 

    The SSA has three main programs or initiatives that can speed up the determinations process for direly ill individuals, helping them get approved for payments faster. These are the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative, Presumptive Disability (PD) payments, and the TERI program for terminal illnesses. Here’s a brief overview of these crucial initiatives, what they do, and examples of conditions that qualify.

    Compassionate Allowances (CAL)

    The Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL initiative, allows the SSA to deliver faster SSDI determinations to individuals with especially severe disabilities. The program uses cutting-edge technology to identify diseases and other medical conditions that clearly meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability and make the applicant eligible for benefits. More than 200 conditions qualify for expedited processing under the Compassionate Allowances program, including:

    • Adult-Onset Huntington Disease
    • Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Esophageal Cancer
    • Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
    • Lewy Body Dementia
    • Malignant Multiple Sclerosis
    • Nut Carcinoma
    • Small Cell Lung Cancer
    • Stiff Person Syndrome
    • Thyroid Cancer

    Presumptive Disability (PD)

    Presumptive Disability, or PD payments, allow SSDI applicants with easily identifiable, qualifying conditions to collect “presumptive” benefit payments for up to six months while SSA Disability Determination Services (DDS) processes their application. The local Social Security field office, or in some cases DDS, grants Presumptive Disability payments based on the likelihood of your eventual approval for SSDI benefits. However, even if your application is ultimately denied, applicants approved for PD payments are not required to pay them back. Examples of conditions that commonly qualify for Presumptive Disability payments include:

    • Total blindness
    • Total deafness
    • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
    • Amputation of legs at the hip
    • End-stage renal disease requiring dialysis
    • Terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less

    Terminal Illnesses (TERI)

    SSDI applications based on conditions expected to result in imminent death can be flagged by a Social Security field office representative – or a DDS case examiner – and brought into the TERI program for expedited processing. If you’re receiving inpatient or home hospice care, applied for SSDI for ALS or AIDS, or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, your case will likely qualify for TERI.  

    Keeping the SSA Informed of Changes to Your Condition 

    If your condition has changed or worsened after applying for SSDI, it’s critical that you inform the SSA and submit additional supporting medical evidence (from acceptable medical sources) as soon as possible. Mail your medical documentation to your local SSA office or drop it off in person if you haven’t been assigned a DDS claims examiner. However, if your claim has been assigned to an examiner, you can submit the evidence to them directly, using the contact information provided in the notice you received from the SSA.

    Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application

    Applying for SSDI can be complicated – and having your condition worsen before you’ve received a determination certainly doesn’t make matters any simpler. When you’re disabled and counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished SSDI attorneys offer the skilled guidance you need to secure the benefits you deserve.

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to get your SSDI questions answered. Want to learn more? Request a complimentary download of our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

  • What is the Disability Starter Kit?

    Social Security starter kitHave you had to stop working due to a disabling medical impairment? You may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Disability Starter Kit is the informational packet the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends when you request an appointment to file for SSDI benefits. It’s also available for download on the Social Security website. Here’s what you should know about the Disability Starter Kit, including how it can help you prepare for your initial appointment with the SSA and provide a skilled disability lawyer with the information they need to begin working on your SSDI application.

    Your Disability Starter Kit 

    In addition to a letter with the date, time, and location of your upcoming appointment – which can be in-person at your local Social Security office or over the phone – the kit also contains a fact sheet, adult disability checklist, and medical and job worksheet. Here’s a brief overview of each component.

    Social Security Disability Fact Sheet

    This sheet provides all the basic information you should know when applying for SSDI. From suggesting that you set aside at least an hour for your in-person or phone interview to advising that free interpreter services are available with advanced notice, it’s a great place to start. You can also find details on the following:

    • The SSA’s strict definition of disability 
    • Duration of disability requirements
    • How Social Security makes disability decisions
    • How long it can take to receive a decision 
    • Ways to speed up the application process
    • What types of benefits you might receive if approved

    Adult Disability Checklist

    The SSA offers Adult Disability Checklists that can help you get organized and ready for your appointment. There are two versions available that differ slightly, depending on whether you’re applying in person or by phone, or online. The checklists recommend gathering the following information, as applicable:

    • Medical records in your possession (a disability attorney or the SSA can help you get the rest of your records as needed)
    • Workers' compensation information, including date of injury, settlement agreement, and proof of other payments awarded for disability
    • Names and birth dates of your spouse and minor children
    • Marriage and divorce dates
    • Checking or savings account number, including your bank's nine-digit routing number (if you want benefit checks direct deposited)
    • Someone the SSA can contact if they have trouble reaching you
    • A medical release form authorizing your providers to disclose information to the SSA
    • A completed Medical and Job Worksheet (can also be completed online)

    Adult Medical and Job Worksheet

    This worksheet asks you to compile information about your medical conditions, treating physicians, medications, medical tests, and job history. Specifically, you’ll be asked to list:

    • All of the physical, mental, or emotional conditions or learning problems that limit your ability to work 
    • If you've stopped working and, if so, when
    • Your height and weight without shoes
    • Any doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, or emergency rooms you have visited
    • because of your conditions
    • The medicines you take, reasons for taking them, and the name of the prescribing provider
    • Any medical tests you had or are going to have in the future 
    • Up to five jobs you've had in the 15 years before you became disabled (including job title, types of business, state and end dates, hours per day and days per week, and rate of pay)

    Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application 

    Even when you have the Disability Starter Kit to assist you, applying for SSDI can be complicated and confusing. It’s also notoriously challenging – with the vast majority of claims initially denied. When you’re unable to work on counting on SSDI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to. At Keefe Disability Lawyers, our knowledgeable and experienced Boston SSDI attorneys can handle your application from start to finish – and help you avoid common mistakes that could result in delays or denials. 

    Schedule a Consultation

    We offer free initial consultations. Complete the online contact form or call us at (508) 283-5500 to have your SSDI applications answered by a member of our highly-skilled legal team. 

     

  • Can I collect SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time?

    Application for social security benefitsYes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two programs that provide monthly payments to disabled individuals: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In some cases, you may be eligible to collect benefits from both programs at once, something the SSA calls concurrent benefits. Here’s what you should know about the SSDI and SSI disability programs when you might qualify for concurrent benefits and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you navigate the application process.

    SSDI Versus SSI

    Though Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both provide monthly payments to people who qualify, the programs have very different eligibility requirements.

    SSDI

    SSDI is a payroll-tax-funded government program for disabled workers. Eligibility is based on whether the applicant amassed enough work credits by working in jobs that pay into the Social Security trust fund through a dedicated payroll tax with contributions from workers and their employers.

    SSI

    SSI is a needs-based program for individuals with low incomes and very limited financial resources who are disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old. Unlike SSDI, SSI has nothing to do with your employment or earnings history. In fact, applicants can qualify for SSI even if they’ve never worked.

    Qualifying for Concurrent Benefits 

    It is sometimes possible to get concurrent disability benefits, collecting both SSDI and SSI at the same time. This could happen if you are approved for SSDI but receive a small monthly benefit award based on a history of low-wage earnings or because you haven’t worked much in the past ten years. If your total income, including SSDI, is less than the current SSI monthly payment amount ($841 in 2022), you may qualify for concurrent benefits. However, things like SSI asset limits ($2,000 in countable resources for individuals and $3,000 for couples in 2022), state income limits, income earned during trial work periods, and other factors can affect your eligibility. To understand how your specific circumstances could impact your eligibility for SSDI and SSI benefits, talk to an experienced disability attorney who’s successfully handled concurrent benefit claims.

    Understanding the Benefits of a Concurrent Claim

    The main and most obvious benefit of a concurrent disability claim is that, if approved, it allows you to raise a low monthly SSDI payment to the SSI maximum ($841 per month in 2022), but that’s far from the only benefit. Approval for benefits can take months or years, but with a concurrent claim, you may be eligible for back pay from both SSDI and SSI for some of the time you spent waiting. Other benefits include:

    • Both programs can help you access needed health care (Medicaid for SSI and Medicare for SSDI)
    • SSI benefits start immediately after approval, while SSDI benefits have a five-month waiting period; a concurrent claim lets you collect SSI benefits while you wait for SSDI benefits to begin

    Applying for Concurrent Benefits

    The Social Security disability application process is notoriously frustrating, with up to 70 percent of applicants initially denied benefits. With that in mind, you might expect the process for applying for SSDI and SSI to be twice as complicated. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. When you complete and submit your application for either disability program, the SSA determines which program you qualify for and whether you’re eligible for concurrent benefits.

    Get Experienced Help With Your Social Security Disability Application 

    When you can’t work due to disability and are counting on much-needed SSDI or SSI benefits, there’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Working with a seasoned disability attorney when preparing your application can help you avoid common mistakes that lead to denied claims and increase your chances for approval. Ready to find out how we can assist you?

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of the Keefe Disability Law legal team.

     

  • What are the benefits of hiring a disability attorney to handle my SSDI appeal?

    Denied social security claimIf you applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but were denied benefits, you’re not alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies between 60 and 70 percent of SSDI applications each year, often due to insufficient medical evidence or mistakes in the application paperwork.

    Once you’ve received a denial letter, you have just 60 days (roughly two months) to initiate an appeal. That’s hardly enough time to learn the complexities of the SSDI appeals process, especially when you’re in such poor health. Don’t go at it alone.

    Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced disability appeals lawyer to represent you can save you considerable stress, time, and effort – not to mention improve your chances for a successful outcome. Here’s what you should know about appealing an SSDI denial and how the exceptional Boston disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you.

    Experience That Matters 

    Appealing an SSDI denial can be confusing, frustrating, and more than a little intimidating. At Keefe Disability Law, we know the ins and outs of the complex Social Security disability system – and how to make it work for our clients. Since 1994, our adept attorneys have helped thousands of disabled clients get the financial benefits they need to survive when a severe medical impairment prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

    Understanding the SSDI Appeals Process 

    The SSDI appeals process has four levels. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect – and the benefits of having skilled representation – at each level.

    • Reconsideration. The first level of appeal is a complete reevaluation of your claim by a disability examiner not involved in the initial decision. You can submit new or additional evidence for review. Our attorneys can review your initial applications, correct mistakes or omissions, and assist you in obtaining the evidence needed to convey the severity of your condition to the SSA.
    • Hearing by an administrative law judge. If you received a denial at the reconsideration level, you can request a hearing by an ALJ. This hearing has strict procedural and evidentiary rules that you’re unlikely to know as a layperson. Having a seasoned lawyer at this stage can increase your chances for approval.
    • Review by the Appeals Council. If you disagree with the ALJ’s ruling, the next step is to request an Appeals Council review. From there, the council could dismiss your request and uphold the ALJ ruling, issue a new decision, or return the matter to the ALJ for further action. Our attorneys will advocate for your best interests at every step.
    • Federal Court review. If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision or the council refuses your request for review, you can file a civil lawsuit in a Federal district court. This last level of appeal involves complex litigation, which makes having a skilled disability attorney absolutely imperative. 

    Our Contingency Agreements Mean You CAN Afford a Disability Attorney 

    SSDI applicants are often reluctant to hire a disability attorney because they’re worried they can’t afford the expense. Fortunately, Keefe Disability Law accepts cases on contingency so that you can take advantage of accomplished legal representation without concern for the cost. There are no upfront fees, and you pay nothing unless we win your case. If you’re approved for SSDI, we receive a portion of your back pay. The SSA pays us directly, while you receive a check for the remainder of your back-pay, so you never have to worry about the cost of our services. Have questions? Talk to us about your SSDI claim and our contingency agreements.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of Keefe Disability Law’s legal team. For more information, browse our online FAQs or request a free download of our informative guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

     

  • Can I get SSDI if I can no longer use my hands?

    Man holding wrist due to painYes. Most jobs – even those that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers unskilled and sedentary – require the use of the hands and fingers. If you’re unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a loss of hand function, such as reduced muscle strength or limited gripping or pinching capability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here’s what you should know about how the SSA evaluates claims involving manipulative limitations of the hands and how Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished attorneys can help you apply and fight for the benefits you deserve.

    Conditions That Can Affect Hand and Finger Function 

    Loss of hand function can be caused by a wide range of injuries and disorders, including:

    • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can affect the hands, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities that make completing everyday activities difficult.
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve is pinched or compressed at the wrist, causing numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand and forearm and, in some cases, permanent hand dysfunction that includes weakness and loss of sensation in the fingers.
    • Neuropathy. Whether caused by a traumatic injury, infection, or complication of a disease like diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the hands can result in debilitating weakness, numbness, and pain.
    • Cervical disc disease with radiculopathy. This condition happens when a cushioning disc in the cervical spine begins breaking down, compressing or irritating a nerve in the neck and causing burning pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the arms and hands.

    Qualifying for SSDI for Loss of Hand Function

    In addition to meeting the SSA’s substantial gainful activity requirements, meaning that you aren’t currently working or earning more than the SGA cap ($1,350 monthly for most applicants or $2,260 per month for blind claimants in 2022), you must have a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that’s severe enough to prevent employment for at least 12 months or result in death. Disability Determination Services (DDS) considers the nature of your injury or illness and the extent of the limitations it causes to decide if you qualify for benefits. When evaluating an SSDI application that includes loss of hand function, the disability examiner needs to know if your condition prevents fine and gross motor movements, such as pinching, picking, fingering, manipulating, handling, grasping, gripping, holding, writing, typing, and reaching. Good use of the hands and fingers isn’t just essential in the workplace; it can also affect your ability to maintain personal hygiene, cook or feed yourself, or perform other vital daily tasks.

    Proving Your Disability 

    Regardless of whether your SSDI application is based on loss of hand function or it’s simply one of the multiple impairments included in your claim, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, electromyography (EMGs), nerve conduction studies, and tests that measure the range of motion and grip and pinch strength can serve as strong supporting evidence. Additionally, because DDS reviews your past relevant work and assesses your ability to adapt to a new job, the opinion or testimony of a vocational expert can help convey the severity and extent of your limitations. Our Boston disability lawyers can connect you with qualified physicians and vocational experts.

    Let Our Exceptional Attorneys Assist You With Your SSDI Application 

    Losing hand functioning can greatly narrow your options for substantial gainful employment. After all, even if you can sit at a desk for a full eight hours, most sedentary jobs involve repetitive hand movements and good use of the hands and fingers. Having trouble using your hands? Let Keefe Disability Law assist with your application. 

    Talk to Us About Your Claim

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Boston legal team. For more information, request a complimentary download of our report, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Process.

     

  • What are the steps in the SSA's disability determination process?

    Five Step Process BlocksIf you have a disabling medical condition that interferes with your ability to work or engage in substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, getting approved for the benefits you need can be challenging. The five-step disability determination process can be lengthy and complicated, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies nearly 70 percent of people who apply.

    Familiarizing yourself with the process and what happens at each stage may improve your chances for approval, as can working with a knowledgeable and experienced SSDI lawyer when preparing and submitting your application. Here’s what you should know about applying for SSDI, the disability determination process, and how Keefe Disability Law’s exceptional Boston attorneys can assist you.

    About the SSDI Evaluation Process

    The SSA’s Evaluation Process for Assessing Disability consists of five steps, which are used to determine whether:

    • You’re working or earning enough to be considered engaged in substantial gainful activity
    • Your condition is sufficiently severe and long-lasting
    • You meet or equal a listing for a qualifying disability
    • You’re capable of performing any past relevant work
    • You can adjust to doing other types of work

    The process is sequential, meaning that the five steps are always performed in the same order. Additionally, the SSA can determine that you’re disabled and award you benefits—or decide you don’t qualify and deny your claim—at any stage. Working with a skilled disability attorney and including robust evidence is essential.

    SSA Disability Assessments

    Here’s a more in-depth look at SSDI application evaluations and vital information you should know at various stages of the process.

    Step One: Employment and Substantial Gainful Activity

    People often incorrectly think that if they’re employed, they can’t collect SSDI. However, that isn’t always the case. When reviewing your application, the SSA will see whether you’re working and, if so, if your earnings indicate substantial gainful activity.

    Substantial gainful activity, or SGA, limits are subject to periodic increases related to changes in the national average wage index. In 2022, most SSDI applicants could earn up to $1,350 per month and still maintain eligibility. For statutorily blind applicants, the monthly SGA cap is $2,260 monthly.

    Step Two: Severity and Duration of Condition

    Next, the disability determination examiner handling your claim will review it to determine whether you meet the severity and duration requirements for SSDI. To qualify, your condition (or a combination of ailments) must be severe enough to interfere with basic work activities and be expected to persist for at least 12 months or result in death.

    Step Three: Meeting or Equaling a Listing

    The SSA Blue Book Listing of Impairments lists conditions considered sufficiently disabling as well as the medical criteria for approval. If you have a listed health condition and can meet the requirements, you may qualify for SSDI. This path to approval is called “meeting a listing.” However, if you don’t meet the criteria for a listed condition, your medical problem isn’t included in the Blue Book, or you’re disabled due to multiple disorders, completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment can help show the SSA that your impairments are as disabling as qualifying disabilities. Regardless of whether you’re trying to meet or equal a listing, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial to the outcome of your claim.

    Step Four: Past Relevant Work Comparison

    The disability examiner will then complete a function-by-function comparison of your RFC to your employment history (also known as past relevant work experience or PRW). This helps the SSA determine whether you have the physical or mental capacity to perform any work you’ve done previously.

    Step Five: Adjusting to Other Work

    When you can’t return to a previous occupation, the disability case examiner will decide whether you’re able to make necessary adjustments to perform any other type of work. If you can’t adjust, the SSA will agree that you’re disabled and award SSDI benefits.

    How Our Boston Disability Lawyers Can Help

    At Keefe Disability Law, our attorneys are adept at helping clients navigate the SSDI application process to secure the benefits they deserve. Don’t risk a denial. Find out how we can assist you.

    Schedule a Consultation

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.

     

  • What are medically determinable impairments?

    Woman with medical disabilityConsidering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? If you've spent any time looking at the application forms, you've probably come across the term “medically determinable impairment” or MDI and wondered what it meant and how it relates to your claim for benefits. Fortunately, you've come to the right place for answers.

    A medically determinable impairment is a physical or mental disability that can be proved with medical evidence from acceptable medical sources or AMS. Having an MDI is key to qualifying for SSDI. Here's what you need to know about medically determinable impairments and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston attorneys can help you prove your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and collect the benefits you deserve.

    How the SSA Defines Medically Determinable Impairments 

    The SSA has a strict definition of disability. To qualify for SSDI, you must have an MDI – “a physical or mental impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Qualifying conditions and the medical criteria you must meet for approval are found in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The book recognizes 14 categories of disabilities, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders (Section 1.00) to diseases that affect the immune system (Section 14.00). Examples of qualifying MDIs include:

    • Vision or hearing loss
    • Asthma
    • Cystic fibrosis 
    • Thyroid gland disorders
    • Various cancers
    • Symptomatic congenital heart disease
    • Peripheral artery disease
    • Chronic liver disease
    • Chronic kidney disease (with impairment of kidney function)
    • Epilepsy
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
    • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
    • Depressive and bipolar-related disorders
    • Lupus
    • HIV

    Proving Your MDI

    MDIs “must be established by objective medical evidence, such as signs or laboratory findings (or both) from an acceptable medical source, not on an individual's statement of symptoms.” In other words, the SSA won't simply take your word for it that you have a medically determinable impairment severe enough to prevent substantial gainful activity. Examples of objective medical evidence include the results of various chemical tests (such as blood tests), electrophysiological studies (such as electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms), medical imaging (such as X-rays), and psychological tests. Attending regular appointments with your treating physicians and making sure to convey the functional limitation your condition causes – like being unable to sit or stand for long periods or struggling with fine motor control  – is essential to proving your MDI and SSDI eligibility to the SSA.

    How Our Boston SSDI Lawyers Can Help With Your Claim

    Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's exceptional attorneys have helped disabled clients throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island apply for – and obtain – much-needed benefits. Having assisted thousands of clients with their applications and appeals, we know exactly what the SSA is looking for in terms of medical evidence and can help you avoid preventable mistakes in your application paperwork, two of the most common reasons claims are denied.

    If you're suffering from a medically determinable impairment and can no longer work or engage in substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for SSDI, but there's far too much at stake to go it alone. Thankfully, you don't have to. Keefe Disability Law offers adept and aggressive representation for SSDI and SSI claims. Ready to get started on your disability application and want to know exactly how we can help? Talk to us about your claim.

    Schedule a Consultation 

    Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our accomplished Boston legal team. For additional information, request a complimentary download of the guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

     

  • How often do I have to reapply for Social Security disability benefits?

    Social security benefits applicationSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a payroll tax-funded federal insurance program that pays monthly benefits to workers who can no longer hold a job due to a significant illness or impairment. Once you've applied for SSDI and been approved for benefits, you won't have to reapply. However, you may be subject to periodic Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) to determine whether your eligibility has changed. Here's what you need to know about CDRs and how Keefe Disability Law's exceptional Boston SSDI attorneys can help if the Social Security Administration (SSA) tries to end your benefits.

    SSDI Eligibility

    Disabled individuals who have a medically determinable impairment that prevents them from working or participating in substantial gainful employment for 12 months or more may qualify for SSDI, provided that they also have sufficient work credits. (This means that the applicant has worked in jobs that pay into Social Security long enough to amass 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last ten years; younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.)

    Once approved, you can continue to collect benefits for as long as you have a qualifying disability. However, there are several reasons your eligibility could potentially change over time, such as significant improvement in your condition or returning to work and earning more than the substantial gainful activity limit. (What constitutes substantial gainful activity fluctuates with changes in the national average wage index; in 2022, it was $1,350 per month for most individuals and $2,260 per month for statutorily blind applicants.)

    Understanding Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Frequency 

    Anyone who receives SSDI benefits must submit to periodic CDRs. How often the reviews are required depends largely on whether your medical impairment is expected to improve. For example, if the improvement is expected, the SSA will typically initiate a CDR within six to 18 months of your approval for benefits. When improvement is possible, but not necessarily anticipated, CDRs are generally requested every three years. Finally, when improvement isn't expected, the SSA will review your claim for continued eligibility every seven years or so.

    What to Expect During Your CDR 

    You won't be expected to keep track of how often your claim needs review; the SSA will notify you by mail when a CDR is required. The disability review is a short interview at your local Social Security field office, during which you'll need to provide:

    • Information on your medical condition and day-to-day limitations
    • Contact information for your doctors and any medical facilities where you've received treatment 
    • Contact information for your employer if you've worked since being approved for SSDI benefits 

    The above information is sent to the same Disability Determination Services (DDS) office that was responsible for reviewing your initial application. DDS will inform you of its decision in writing by mail. Provided that your medical condition remains severe enough to prevent work (or substantial gainful activity), your monthly SSDI payments should continue. 

    What to Do If Informed Your SSDI Benefits Will End 

    Received a notification that your SSDI benefits will cease and believe the decision was made in error? Contact the knowledgeable and experienced Social Security disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law immediately. Our adept lawyers will review your claim and the information you provided during your CDR for mistakes or omissions that may be to blame and work to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

    Request a Consultation 

    Ready to find out how Keefe Disability Law's accomplished team of Boston attorneys can help you hang on to the SSDI benefits you need and deserve? Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. For additional information, request our complimentary report, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

     

  • Are there any limits on how I can spend SSDI money?

    Limits on spending money from SSDIManaged by the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that provides medical care and monthly payments to individuals who have disabilities that prevent work or substantial gainful activity (SGA). Unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SSDI isn't needs-based, so if you applied and were approved for benefits, there aren't any official restrictions on how you can spend the money you receive. However, the SSA does suggest prioritizing your current needs, catching up on past-due bills, and saving for reasonably foreseeable future expenses before using the money for discretionary spending. 

    Here's what you need to know about using SSDI back pay or monthly payments; the many spending restrictions you face if you're a representative payee rather than a beneficiary; and how the knowledgeable and experienced Boston-based attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can assist you.

    A Word About Back Pay 

    Getting approved for SSDI can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Most applications are initially denied, forcing people who are in serious need of benefits to appeal the unfavorable decision via a four-stage process that can add months to the whole ordeal. When disability applicants are finally approved, they're often eligible for back pay – a lump sum payment of benefits you would have received had the SSA approved your application when you first applied. Because these benefits have accrued for months or even years, when the back pay lands in your account, the amount can be substantial. 

    Spending Your Disability Benefits 

    Whether it's back pay or monthly payments, the SSA recommends covering all of your basic needs before doing anything extravagant.

    Examples of Basic Expenses 

    • Rent or mortgage payments (or other housing costs)
    • Utilities, such as water, electricity, natural gas, sewage and sanitation, and Internet 
    • Food, including daily meals, snacks, and beverages, as well as occasional meals out 
    • Other living expenses, such as transportation costs, laundry services, and more

    Though, if you live with another person who covers such expenses in their entirety – or pays the lion's share – you can essentially spend your SSDI payments however you see fit.

    Understanding the Responsibilities and Spending Limitations of an SSDI Representative Payee 

    The SSA appoints a representative payee when an adult beneficiary is incapable of managing their own SSDI benefits, such as in cases of legal incompetency. A representative payee can be a person, like a family member, close friend, attorney, or an organization, such as social service agencies, banks or other financial institutions, and state or local government agencies. The appointed individual or organization has wide-ranging responsibilities, all of which must be completed with the beneficiary's best interests in mind. Also, unlike an SSDI beneficiary, a representative payee can't spend at their own discretion.

    Representative Payee Duties 

    • Use payments to meet the beneficiary's current and future housing, dietary, and other basic needs.
    • Spend some of the money on personal comfort items and recreational costs for the beneficiary, such as movie tickets, magazine subscriptions, or outings or trips.
    • Provide the beneficiary with discretionary money when possible. (If the disabled person has drug, alcohol, gambling, or other addiction issues, spending money can be given in small amounts and monitored to prevent abuse.)
    • Save any benefits not currently needed to help cover unexpected future expenses.
    • Keep records of the payments received and how they were spent.
    • Provide the SSA with an accounting of how SSDI benefits were saved or used upon request.

    Additionally, the SSA prohibits representative payees from collecting a fee – unless they're a qualified organizational payee and have received approval in writing – or spending SSDI benefits on themselves.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


     

  • What is a durational denial and what does it mean for my SSDI case?

    durational denial social securityQualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) requires meeting specific criteria. Not only must you have worked in jobs covered by Social Security long enough to amass sufficient credits to qualify for SSDI, but you must have a disability or medically determinable impairment that's expected to prevent substantial gainful employment for at least 12 months or result in death.

    If you applied for SSDI and received a durational denial from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the disability examiner and medical consultant who reviewed your claim didn't think your condition would last long enough to qualify you for benefits. Here's what you need to know about SSDI's duration-of-disability requirement and how an experienced disability lawyer can help you get your case back on track after a durational denial. 

    Disability Duration and SSDI Eligibility

    The SSA has a very specific definition of disability – and, sadly, getting a disabling diagnosis from your doctor doesn't necessarily mean you'll be eligible for SSDI benefits. To qualify for SSDI, your condition must prevent substantial gainful activity, meaning that you make less than a specified amount each month. (Though updated annually, in 2022, this amount was $1,350 for most people and $2,260 for statutorily blind applicants.) Additionally, you must make less than the specified amount for at least 12 months in a row.

    Ways to Meet the SSDI Duration-of-Disability Requirement 

    • You have a condition that has prevented substantial gainful employment for a minimum of 12 months.
    • Your disability is expected to prevent substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer.
    • Your condition won't improve within the next 12 months.
    • Your disability is terminal and will result in death.

    Providing clear medical evidence of your condition is vital when applying for SSDI. If you received a durational denial, despite having a disability that meets one of the duration requirements, it could mean that:

    • Your doctor wasn't able to state with confidence (or prove with data) that your injury or illness would prevent you from working for 12 months or more; or 
    • Your application didn't include sufficient medical evidence proving the lasting nature of your disability to the SSA claims examiner and medical consultant assigned to your case.

    The Problem With Durational Denials

    Durational denials are somewhat controversial. Not only are they subjective and primarily based on opinion, but these crucial decisions are made by examiners who often have little-to-no medical experience and are signed off on by medical consultants who don't know you or your condition. Even worse, these individuals may rely on personal knowledge or biases when making their decisions, perhaps without even realizing it. 

    What to Do If You Received a Durational Denial

    Receiving a durational denial can be a significant setback, but, fortunately, these decisions aren't etched in stone. Durational denials made by SSA claims examiners are often successfully disputed and reversed on appeal. 

    After receiving the denial, you have 60 days to initiate an appeal and request a reconsideration of the decision. However, at this stage, there's far too much at stake to go it alone. Consult a knowledgeable disability lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights, options, and obligations throughout the SSDI appeals process.

    Need Help Dealing With an SSDI Durational Denial? You've Come to the Right Place

    Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's Boston-based legal team has helped disabled clients throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island fight for the SSDI benefits they need and deserve. We assist clients at all stages of the disability process – from initial application to appeal. Ready to find out what our seasoned attorneys can do for you and your SSDI claim? 

    Request a Free Consultation 

    Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a free consultation regarding your SSDI durational denial and potential appeal. For additional information, request our complimentary guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


     

  • What should I do if I was denied SSDI benefits for osteoporosis?

    SSDI denial for osteoporosisBone is made up of living tissues, so even when you're fully grown, your bones are engaged in a constant cycle of breakdown and rebuilding. Unfortunately, this process slows as you age, causing old bone to be lost faster than new bone is created. In turn, this leads to a loss of mass and results in weak, brittle bones that are prone to breaking.

    When you have osteoporosis, this bone fragility can be so extreme that the physical exertion associated with performing basic daily tasks can be sufficient to cause a fracture. Obviously, if you can't cough or even bend over without risking broken bones, holding a job and participating in substantial gainful activity can be difficult, if not impossible. Sadly, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, leaving you wondering what to do next. 

    Here's what you need to know about appealing a denied SSDI claim, qualifying for benefits for osteoporosis, and how Keefe Disability Law's exceptional attorneys can guide you every step of the way. 

    Appealing a Denied SSDI Claim

    After you receive the denial letter from the SSA, you have 60 days to initiate an appeal, either online or by completing forms SSA-561, SSA-827, and SSA-3441 and submitting them to the Social Security office nearest you. There are four stages in the appeals process: reconsideration, hearing before an administrative law judge, Appeals Council review, and federal court review. At each stage, you generally have 60 days to appeal the decision.

    SSA Appeals Process Overview

    • Reconsideration. The first step in the appeals process, reconsideration consists of a thorough review of your claim by an examiner or medical professional who wasn't involved in the first determination. You can request reconsideration for a medical or non-medical denial, and submit new or additional evidence for the SSA to use when making its decision.
    • Hearing by an administrative law judge. If Disability Determination Services (DDS) denies your reconsideration request, you can ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge or ALJ who wasn't involved in the initial or reconsideration stages. During this hearing, the ALJ will review the evidence in your case and listen to testimony from you and other witnesses – including experts – before making a determination.
    • Appeals Council review. If the ALJ rules against you, you can ask the SSA Appeals Council to review the case. A panel of members will review the ALJ's ruling, as well as any new evidence or information, before announcing its determination. The council can affirm, change, or reverse the decision, or order a new hearing.
    • Federal Court review. If the Appeals Council denied your request for a review or you disagree with its determination, you can file a civil lawsuit in Federal district court as a last resort.

    Qualifying for SSDI for Osteoporosis

    Generally speaking, there are two ways to qualify for SSDI: meeting a listing in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments or equaling a listing by showing that your condition is as disabling as one that qualifies for benefits. Because osteoporosis isn't included in the Listing of Impairments, equaling a listing is the only path to approval and requires completing a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. This is a lengthy analysis of your work history and occupational skills, as well as the physical demands of your job and the limitations and impairments caused by your osteoporosis.

    Important Information and Evidence to Include 

    • The presence of advanced symptoms, such as frequent fractures, severe lower back pain, stooped posture, noticeable loss of height, or shortness of breath (caused by reduced lung capacity)
    • The results of a bone density test can offer insight into future bone health 
    • X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs
    • Results of other screening tests, such as peripheral DXA and quantitative ultrasound (QUS)
    • Blood test results 

    Talk to Us About Your Appeal

    Learning that your SSDI claim has been denied can be frustrating. Fortunately, a denial letter isn't the end of the road. Let Keefe Disability Law's knowledgeable and experienced Boston disability attorneys review your case and guide you through the appeals process. Contact us online or call 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. 

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


     

  • What medical documentation do I need to apply for SSDI for long COVID?

    Long covid syndromeEven after testing negative for COVID-19, some people who've had the virus continue to experience an array of debilitating symptoms that can prevent substantial gainful employment. If you've been diagnosed with long COVID and can no longer work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

    Getting approved for SSDI is rarely if ever easy, but getting benefits for a recently discovered disease like COVID-19, the long-term effects of which are not yet fully understood, can be particularly challenging. Here's what you need to know about applying for SSDI for long COVID, including what medical documentation you'll need and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston attorneys help COVID long-haulers like you fight for the benefits they deserve. 

    Understanding Long COVID

    While most people who contract COVID-19 recover, an estimated 10 to 30 percent of patients continue to suffer symptoms even after receiving a negative test result. Anyone who's had the virus can go on to develop long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome or Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), even if the initial illness wasn't severe enough to require hospitalization. 

    Long-Haul COVID Symptoms 

    • Cough
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 
    • Chest pain
    • Dizziness or fainting upon standing 
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Severe headaches
    • Accelerated heart rate or pounding heart 
    • Problems thinking or concentrating (known as “brain fog”)
    • Loss of smell
    • Loss of taste or abnormal tastes 
    • Fever
    • Joint and muscle pain
    • Anxiety and depression 
    • Insomnia and other sleep disorders

    Post-COVID Syndrome and SSDI Eligibility 

    To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have a medically determinable impairment that prevents them from working or engaging in substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers earning over a certain monthly amount substantial gainful activity. Though this amount changes annually, in 2022, most applicants could make up to $1,350 per month (and legally blind individuals could earn up to $2,260 each month) without it negatively affecting their eligibility.

    SSDI applicants usually have to meet the specific criteria for a disability in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments or show that an unlisted condition is equally impairing in order to be approved for benefits. Though, as an emerging illness, COVID-19 doesn't appear in the Blue Book, the SSA announced in April 2021 that it would accept the virus as a medically determinable impairment and consider long-haulers for benefits if they can establish their COVID diagnosis with evidence from acceptable medical sources and meet the severity and duration requirements. The SSA will also consider applicants who've developed new medically determinable impairments – or had existing impairments worsen – due to COVID.

    Why Getting SSDI Benefits for Long COVID Can Be So Challenging

    The SSA won't just take your word that you've had COVID-19 and are now suffering from disabling long-term symptoms; you'll have to provide medical documentation to prove it. Unfortunately, this can be more difficult than it sounds. To establish COVID as a medically determinable impairment, the SSA will only accept a report of a positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2, a diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (such as a chest x-ray with lung abnormalities), or a COVID diagnosis with signs consistent with the virus (such as fever and cough). The results of an at-home rapid COVID test or positive antibody test don't count – and if you contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, before tests were widely available, trying to prove your diagnosis to the SSA can be incredibly frustrating.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    When you're suffering from post-COVID syndrome and are unable to work and counting on getting approved for disability benefits to help make ends meet, there's far too much at stake to go it alone. If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


     

  • What is a Social Security disability protective filing date?

    protective filing date for Social Security disabilityAre you no longer able to work due to a long-term disability? If you're considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may have heard terms like “protective filing date” and “back pay” and wondered what they mean and how they might affect your application for benefits. Here's what you need to know, including how the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you protect your rights. 

    What It Is and Why It Matters 

    A protected filing date is the actual date you first notified the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your intention to apply for disability benefits. Establishing this date as early as possible is key. Here's why: In some cases, it can take months – or even years – for people to be approved for benefits, and the majority (roughly two-thirds) of applications are initially denied. The protective filing date establishes your eligibility so that if and when you are granted SSDI benefits, you can receive back pay for the period in which you were diagnosed with a medically-qualifying condition, but not yet approved for benefits. 

    If your initial application for benefits is denied and you're able to successfully appeal the decision, you can receive back pay starting from the original protected filing date. Additionally, if the SSA determines that you became disabled prior to contacting them regarding your intention to seek benefits, you could also collect retroactive benefits for a period of up to 12 months before your protected filing date. However, if you choose to file a new application, rather than appealing a denied claim, you would have to start all over with a new protective filing date, which could cost you valuable disability benefits.

    Establishing an SSDI Protective Filing Date 

    The process is simple when it comes to establishing a protective filing date for a claim for disability benefits. It can even be completed on your behalf by a relative or caregiver if you prefer.

    Three Ways to Lock In Your Protected Filing Date 

    1. Call 800-772-1213 to contact the SSA by phone to schedule a telephone interview or in-person appointment at your local Social Security office. Complete your application for SSDI benefits within six months.
    2. Go to your local Social Security office and state your intention to pursue SSDI benefits. (Make an appointment in advance to avoid long wait times.) Apply for benefits within six months.
    3. Start your application for disability benefits online. After completing the Internet Claim Applicant Identification screen, you'll receive an identification number that allows you to save your progress and log in to continue the application at a later time. This establishes your protected filing date and triggers your local Social Security office to contact you to schedule an interview. Complete your SSDI application within six months.

    Unfortunately, in some cases, the SSA may dispute your protected filing date. This may be due to a lack of medical records clearly documenting the limitations caused by your disability or because you waited longer than six months to complete your SSDI application after establishing a protected filing date by notifying the SSA of your intent to apply for disability benefits. Fortunately, working with our seasoned Boston disability attorneys can help you avoid common mistakes that could delay the approval of your application.

    How Our Massachusetts Disability Lawyers Can Assist You 

    Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's skilled legal team has helped countless clients apply for – and obtain – the SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits they need and deserve. We may be able to do the same for you. Our accomplished attorneys will guide you through each and every step of the Social Security disability applications process to ensure that you're able to get the benefits you need as quickly as possible. Ready to find out how we can assist you?

    Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 (or toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a complimentary consultation with a member of our team. For additional information, request a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

  • What is a disability freeze, and why might I need one?

    When you’re temporarily unable to work for a prolonged period due to a disability, you’ll have gaps in your employment history and earn less income than usual during this time. If you subsequently apply for and are granted Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), however, this pause could affect you more than you realize: Your monthly disability benefit award would be lower than if you had no break in your work history. To avoid this issue, you need to apply for a “disability freeze” after your temporary disability ends.

    What Is a Disability Freeze?

    To understand the meaning of a disability freeze, you need a brief background on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines SSDI benefit amounts. The SSA determines benefit amounts by calculating your average monthly income for all your working years and inserting that average into a unique formula. The resulting figure is the SSDI Disability Freeze Client Looking at Paperworkamount you’re eligible to receive in benefits. In most cases, the higher your income, the higher the amount of disability benefits you’d be entitled to receive.

    If you have a disability freeze, the SSA will exclude the period when you didn’t work or had less income due to your impairment when calculating your monthly average income. This exclusion will ultimately yield a higher benefit amount as only your higher-earning years will go toward your average income. In other words, the freeze stops you from being penalized for not working due to your medical condition.

    To illustrate, let’s say that an injury or illness caused you to become temporarily disabled for 18 months. During that period, your employer’s short-term disability plan paid you 30 percent of your regular monthly wages. If you have a disability freeze, in determining your SSDI benefit amount, the SSA would exclude those low-paying 18 months from its calculation of your average monthly income. If you don’t have a disability freeze, the 18-months of low income would be included in the average, bringing down the average and thus your disability benefit amount.

    Who Qualifies for a Disability Freeze?

    Only people who meet specific conditions will qualify for a disability freeze. To be eligible, you must:

    • Meet the SSDI work history and earnings requirements to qualify for insured status
    • File for a disability freeze with the SSA within 12 months of the end of your disability
    • Provide evidence of their disability during the disability period
    • Meet the SSA’s definition of disabled or blind

    There are limited exceptions to these criteria. Certain people who are not receiving monthly disability payments may still qualify for a disability freeze. These may include:

    • People who meet the SSA’s definition of blind but who are still able to engage in substantial gainful activity
    • People whose period of disability occurred while working for the U.S. railroad system or as military personnel
    • Incarcerated people (under specific circumstances)

    Note that the disability freeze is not available to people who receive Supplemental Security Income. This form of benefit is not based on your earnings history.

    If you have any questions about whether you’re eligible for the freeze, you should speak with an experienced disability freeze attorney.

    Am I Eligible for a Disability Freeze If My Condition Began Years Ago?

    You may still qualify for a disability freeze if you can prove your impairment started while you had SSDI insurance benefits, even if it was several years ago.

    How Can a Social Security Disability Attorney Help?

    If you are currently receiving SSDI, the SSA automatically grants a disability freeze. If you are no longer receiving disability benefits, you can apply for a disability freeze by contacting the SSA directly. However, a more efficient approach would be to apply with the aid of a skilled SSDI attorney. A knowledgeable attorney with experience in obtaining disability freezes can help you navigate complex SSA rules, assess your chances of receiving a freeze, and gather the appropriate evidence. An attorney can also help you consider questions such as whether it is more beneficial to take SSDI or early retirement, or how to approach the situation if a temporary disability is likely to become a permanent condition.

    Do You Need a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for a disability freeze, you should speak with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer, as soon as possible. Please use our online contact form or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • How can a vocational expert impact my claim?

    If you have a Social Security disability hearing scheduled, you may have heard that a vocational expert (VE) will testify there. Many applicants are understandably confused and concerned by the role of this unknown person—especially since this is an expert provided by the government. The VE is there to provide information about different types of work you may be able to perform, but they are neither for nor against you. Here's what you need to know.

    What Is a Vocational Expert

    Vocational Expert at a Disability HearingA vocational expert is a professional witness who has expert, up-to-date knowledge of the labor market, current job trends, and the skills needed to perform a range of jobs. Their job is to provide sufficient information to help an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determine whether a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicant can perform their job or another kind of work in light of their limitations. The VE's testimony can thus sway an ALJ in one direction or another when deciding whether to grant SSDI benefits.

    What Does a VE Do During the Hearing

    In general, the VE will testify about information such as:

    • The skill level and physical and mental demands of specific jobs.
    • Descriptions of work settings.
    • Additional jobs that exist within occupations.
    • Transferable skills analysis and SSA regulatory requirements for transferability of work skills.

    More specifically, they will testify as to whether you can perform your job given your impairment. Before the hearing, the SSA will provide the VE with relevant parts of your case file, allowing them to examine your work history, experience, skills, and the level of exertion needed to perform your job or similar ones. During the hearing, the VE may listen to your testimony about your job, and how your functional limitations impact your ability to work.

    What Might the VE Testify About

    Once the VE has all the information they need, they'll give their opinion on the skills and exertion level required for your job, and whether you can still perform it given your limitations. If the VE believes that your impairment doesn't prevent you from continuing to work in your current position, the ALJ is highly unlikely to grant your request for disability benefits.

    If the VE believes that you can't perform your current job, the ALJ will pose a series of questions to identify hypothetical jobs that a person with your experience, education, skills, functional limitations, and age can perform. For example, if you have a disabling back injury, the judge may ask a hypothetical such as:

    "What jobs, if any, could a person the same age as the claimant, and with similar education, work experience, and work history, do if they couldn't stand or sit upright in a chair for more than 30 minutes at a time and had to lay prone every few hours?"

    The VE may then describe a list of potential jobs that you could theoretically perform, stating their SSA coded title and the number of positions (both filled and available) in the area where you live. If the VE says that there are no jobs that you can do in light of your limitations, your disability claim is more likely to succeed. But if they say there are jobs you could perform and earn a liveable wage from them, the judge will likely deny your claim.

    How a New Hampshire Disability Lawyer Can Help

    Having an experienced disability lawyer to represent you at the hearing can make all the difference between having your disability claim granted or denied. Most importantly, your lawyer can:

    • Cross-examine the VE. After the ALJ has finished asking the VE questions, your lawyer may ask the VE questions. Cross-examination is a vital step in the process because if the VE claims that there are jobs you can do, your lawyer may persuade them to change their opinion by pointing out relevant information that they overlooked or omitted. For example, if the VE says you're capable of performing a job requiring you to kneel, but your medical record states that you shouldn't do this, the VE will have to revise their opinion and eliminate those jobs requiring kneeling from their list.
    • Ensure the VE stays within the scope of their duties. The VE is there to provide information about jobs only. They are not allowed to offer information or commentary about medical matters or your impairment. If they overstep these boundaries, your lawyer can bring this overreach to the ALJ's attention.

    Are you going through the appeal process for your SSDI claim? Is your disability benefits hearing coming up? If so, you need an experienced lawyer to help increase your chances of winning and ensure that the VE gives accurate, fair testimony. If you would like to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer, please use our online contact form or call directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation as soon as possible.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston?

    If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • Do I need a Social Security card to apply for Social Security disability benefits?

    Your physical Social Security card may not be necessary to apply for Social Security disability benefits. However, your Social Security number is an essential piece of your application. If you know your Social Security number, you may not have to take any additional actions, even if you can’t locate your Social Security card. However, if you don’t know your Social Security number, you will need to take additional steps before beginning your Social Security disability application.

    How to Get a Social Security Card

    Blank Social Security CardGenerally, there are three options for getting a Social Security card. You may have had a Social Security card that you can’t find, you may be a United States citizen who never had a Social Security card before, or you may be a non-U.S. citizen who is eligible for a Social Security card.

    U.S. Citizens Needing Replacement Social Security Cards

    If you are a United States citizen who once had a Social Security card issued, you can request a replacement card online as long as you:

    • Are at least 18 years old.
    • Have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from a participating state. If you live in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Vermont, either a driver’s license or state-issued identification card will work. However, you cannot currently seek a replacement Social Security disability card with a New Hampshire driver’s license or state-issued identification card.

    You may not request a name change or make any other changes to your Social Security card when seeking a replacement card.

    U.S. Citizens Seeking Social Security Cards for the First Time

    If you are an adult born in the United States who was never issued a Social Security card, then you may apply to get an original card from the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration needs proof of your citizenship and age. The easiest way to do this is to submit an original birth certificate. If an original birth certificate does not exist, you may submit another document that proves your age and citizenship, such as a United States passport, a religious record made within five years of your birth, or a record from a United States hospital. Additional documentation that proves your identity, such as a driver’s license, may be required if you cannot submit a birth certificate or U.S. passport.

    Once you have the required documentation, you will need to complete an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5.)

    Social Security Cards for Non-U.S. Citizens

    If you are not a United States citizen but are authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, you may qualify for a Social Security card. You will need a Social Security number to work, and you will need a Social Security number to collect disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will require certain immigration documents from you before issuing you a Social Security number.

    Gather All of the Information You Need Before Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

    Your Social Security number is an essential piece of your Social Security application. It’s how the Social Security Administration will identify you and determine how much you’ve paid into the Social Security system. However, your Social Security number alone doesn’t tell the agency anything about your disability.

    You will also need to complete a Social Security disability application and present all supporting documentation about your medical condition, disability, work history, and education. A mistake or omission on any part of your Social Security disability application may result in a delay or denial of services. Accordingly, it’s critical to complete your application honestly and completely.

    Our experienced Boston area Social Security disability lawyers can help you from the moment you start thinking about applying for benefits until your checks are direct deposited into your bank account. We focus our practice on Social Security disability applicants in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

    If you’d like more information about applying, we invite you to download a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, and to contact us for a free consultation in our conveniently located Natick office or by phone.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What happens if I leave a question blank on my Social Security application?

    Man Filling Out a Social Security ApplicationThe Social Security disability application is long and tedious. As you complete the application, you may skip a question that you aren’t sure how to answer. You may have meant to go back and answer the question later, but you forgot, and you submitted an incomplete Social Security disability application to the Social Security Administration.

    What Happens If You File an Incomplete Social Security Disability Application

    If you fail to answer a question on your Social Security disability application, your application may be considered incomplete, and your Social Security disability benefits may be:

    • Delayed. The Social Security Administration may decide they don’t have enough information to make a decision about your eligibility. Accordingly, the agency may request additional information from you or other sources familiar with your disability. The Social Security Administration may also request a consultative exam which may delay your claim.
    • Denied. It’s up to you to convince the Social Security Administration that you qualify for benefits. If you fail to answer questions, the agency may conclude that it doesn’t have the required information to find you disabled, and your application may be denied.

    If your application is delayed or denied, you may lose out on getting the benefits you need right now. However, you may be able to work with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer to fix the error and get the benefits you deserve.

    How to Answer Social Security Disability Questions You’re Not Sure About

    You have some options when you are dealing with a question you are unsure about. You may:

    • Indicate that you’ve read the question and it doesn’t apply to you. Some of the Social Security disability application questions may seem inapplicable to you. We encourage you to let the Social Security Administration know that you’ve read the question and to answer the question with a “not applicable” rather than leaving the answer space blank.
    • Talk to a Social Security disability lawyer about your answers. Our experienced disability attorneys know how to help you answer all disability applications honestly and thoroughly so that your application is not delayed or denied because of unanswered questions.

    To prevent unnecessary unanswered questions, we encourage you to:

    • Thoroughly review the application instructions
    • Have someone review your application before you submit it and ask them to check for unanswered questions
    • Gather necessary documents about your health and work history before you begin completing the application

    Together, these steps can help you complete your Social Security disability application without leaving unintentional unanswered questions.

    More Tips for Submitting a Strong Social Security Disability Application

    The Social Security Administration has to determine whether you are disabled according to the agency’s definition of disability. Accordingly, you don’t want to leave any room for doubt. Instead, you want to:

    • Answer the questions asked of you completely, accurately, and in an easy to understand way
    • Present all supporting documentation requested of you
    • Thoroughly describe all of your physical and mental restrictions
    • Make sure your doctor records all of your symptoms and restrictions
    • Follow your medical treatment plan

    Completing a successful Social Security disability application can be stressful, but you don’t have to do it alone. You are likely at a time in your life when you need to concentrate on your physical health, your emotional well-being, and your family.

    You don’t need the added stress of dealing with the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration to get the benefits you’ve earned through your years of work.

    Instead, our experienced and local Natick Social Security disability lawyers can help you get the benefits you’ve earned. Our lawyers focus our practice on Social Security disability applicants in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. We regularly appear before the hearing officers in these jurisdictions, and we are committed to helping our neighbors.

    We invite you to learn more about the Social Security disability process by downloading a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, and contacting us directly for a free consultation in our Natick office or by phone.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • What’s the easiest way to get Social Security disability benefits?

    Social Security Paperwork in a Red FolderThere are multiple ways to apply for Social Security disability. You can apply in person at a local Social Security Administration office (when offices are open), online, or over the phone. You will need the same information no matter how you complete your application. One way is not necessarily easier than another. Instead, it is a matter of personal preference.

    Regardless of how you apply, there are two things that you can do to ensure that the Social Security disability application process is as easy and stress-free as possible.

    Gather All Necessary Information Before You Start Your Disability Application

    Preparation is essential to an easy Social Security disability application process. Before you apply over the phone, online, or in person, we encourage you to gather all of the information that you will need to answer the Social Security Administration’s questions. This information includes, but may not be limited to:

    • A U.S. birth certificate or proof of U.S citizenship or lawful alien status if you were born outside of the United States
    • Last year’s W-2 form or your self-employment tax return
    • Medical evidence of your disability that you have in your possession. Medical evidence may include recent test results, medical records, and doctors’ reports
    • A completed Adult Disability Report. The Adult Disability Report (Form SSA-3368-BK) asks for information about you, a contact other than a doctor who knows about your medical condition, your medical conditions, your work activity, your education and training, your work history, your medications, your medical treatments, your healthcare providers, and whether you’ve participated in vocational rehabilitation or employment services
    • Any documentation such as award letters, pay stubs, or settlement agreements regarding any workers’ compensation benefits you received

    You should also provide copies of your U.S. military discharge papers if you served in the military before 1968.

    Additionally, you should be ready to thoroughly and honestly answer questions, such as whether you:

    • Or your spouse ever worked in the railroad industry
    • Ever received Social Security credits from a foreign country’s Social Security system
    • Qualify for or expect to receive a pension or annuity for government work
    • Are married and when you got married
    • Have minor children or children with disabilities under the age of 22
    • Have a parent who is dependent on you
    • Have received or expect to receive money from your employer since you’ve been unable to work

    Other information may also be required.

    The information described above may seem simple enough to obtain and enter into a Social Security disability application. However, the majority of initial disability claims are denied and many of these denials are for issues that could’ve been avoided.

    Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer Before You Apply for Benefits

    An experienced Social Security disability lawyer knows what the Social Security Administration is looking for on your application and how to avoid unnecessary denials that could significantly delay your benefits.

    Our conveniently located Natick Social Security disability lawyers represent clients in the New England states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. While Social Security disability law is a federal law, there are benefits to hiring a local Social Security disability attorney. Our lawyers not only know how to complete initial Social Security disability claims, but we also know local hearing officers and what they are looking for if you need to appeal your claim.

    When you hire us, we will represent you from the time you decide to apply for disability benefits until you begin receiving monthly benefits. We will handle every aspect of your case, answer all of your questions promptly, and provide you with skilled legal representation for the same cost as a Social Security disability advocate.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • Will my military service impact my Social Security disability eligibility?

    Veterans Saluting an US FlagYour military service mattered, and the Social Security Administration recognizes that. Accordingly, your active duty time in the military counts as employment and will earn you work credits that are essential for a successful Social Security disability benefits claim. However, there are some things you should know before you submit your Social Security disability application.

    Social Security Disability Eligibility for Active Duty Military and Veterans

    Whether you are a service member or a civilian, you must qualify for disability benefits by proving to the Social Security Administration that:

    • You have a disability. A disability is defined as a condition that keeps you from engaging in substantial gainful activity or working and earning a certain amount of money per month. The specific amount of money changes from year to year.
    • You worked long enough to qualify for benefits. You must have 40 work credits to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You can earn one credit for each quarter of the year worked for a total of four credits per year. Twenty of your work credits must have been earned in the last 10 years. Military service counts toward your work credits.

    There is no requirement that your disability occurred while you were on active duty or was in any way related to your military service. Additionally, you may use a combination of military service and other jobs to satisfy your work credits requirement.

    Special Rules That Apply to Military Service Members

    While the eligibility requirements are the same for civilians and military members, there are some special rules that apply to active duty military and veterans. For example, as a member of the military, you may:

    • Qualify for expedited Social Security disability application processing. If you became disabled while on activity on or after October 1, 2001, or if you have a Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100 percent, then your Social Security disability application may be expedited.
    • Receive Social Security disability benefits even if you are still on active duty and receive military pay. However, you still must prove that your disability prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
    • Qualify for other types of benefits. Your Social Security disability eligibility is independent of your Veterans disability benefits eligibility. You may qualify for both types of disability benefits simultaneously if you meet the eligibility requirements for each program.

    You deserve the fair disability benefits you’ve earned, and our Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyers will do everything that we can to make sure that you get those benefits with as little frustration and as few delays as possible.

    Our Social Security Disability Lawyers Help Military Get Fair Benefits

    We respect and honor the hard work you did for our country. Now, our Social Security disability lawyers are here for you. We will:

    • Answer all of your questions promptly.
    • Submit your Social Security disability application.
    • Handle any appeals if your disability application is denied.

    You won’t owe us any hourly fees. Instead, we will be paid a percentage of the back benefits we recover for you.

    Our Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyers represent active military service members, veterans, and civilians throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. We choose to concentrate our practice on these New England states that are served by just a few Social Security hearing offices so that we can get to know the practices of the hearing offices for the benefit of our clients.

    If you are thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits or you need to appeal a Social Security disability denial, we encourage you to contact us for a free no-obligation consultation in our conveniently located Natick law office or by phone.

    Additionally, you can continue learning about protecting your rights throughout the Social Security disability claims process by downloading a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, at any time.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • How do I know if I need a paraquat injury lawyer?

    You may have heard that paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. Now, you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and you aren’t sure what Hand Shaking Because of Parkinsons Diseaseyou are supposed to do next.

    While paraquat is one potential cause of Parkinson’s disease, it is not the only cause of this neurological condition. You may wonder whether you could have a potential paraquat injury case and whether it is worth it to contact a paraquat injury attorney.

    Don’t Hesitate to Call a Paraquat Lawyer If These Two Things are True

    You don’t have to know that paraquat caused your Parkinson’s disease before you contact a paraquat injury lawyer. Instead, you should contact an attorney if:

    • You were exposed to paraquat. Paraquat weed killer is banned in dozens of countries but is permitted in the United States. Farmers, people who live near farms, people who sell paraquat, and people who make paraquat are at the most significant risk of paraquat exposure. You don’t have to be exposed to significant amounts of paraquat to get sick.
    • You were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Paraquat can interfere with dopamine production in the brain, which can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Currently, there is no one definitive diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease. Instead, a neurologist will consider all of your symptoms and may order other tests to rule out other conditions before giving you a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

    While people of any age are at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease from paraquat exposure, teenagers and young adults may face more significant risks. According to a letter from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, teens and young adults may experience a 200-600 percent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease depending on their level of paraquat exposure.

    Once your doctor diagnoses you with Parkinson’s disease, your condition will be assigned one of five stages:

    • Stage One: This is the mildest form of Parkinson’s disease. You may experience tremors, minor walking difficulties, and some other physical changes, but they are unlikely to interfere with your regular activities.
    • Stage Two: During this stage, you may experience increased tremors, rigidity, and other symptoms that begin to interfere with your daily activities.
    • Stage Three: By this middle stage of Parkinson’s disease progression, you may experience loss of balance, and your movement may slow down.
    • Stage Four: Stage Four Parkinson’s disease brings severe symptoms. You may require a walker and live-in care to help you perform your daily activities.
    • Stage Five: At the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease, you may be unable to walk and you will likely require live-in care. Psychological symptoms, including hallucinations, may develop.

    You may have a paraquat lawsuit with any stage of Parkinson’s disease.

    Now Is the Right Time to Get Advice From a Paraquat Attorney

    If you know that you’ve been exposed to paraquat and you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, then now is the right time to consult with an attorney.

    Our paraquat injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You don’t have to know whether you have a potential lawsuit. Instead, our experienced legal team will conduct a full investigation into your potential case and advise you of all of your legal options.

    Since the initial obligation is free, you have nothing to lose by scheduling your meeting today. However, if you fail to take action quickly, then you could potentially lose a lot. The law provides you with a limited amount of time to file a case. If you fail to file a paraquat injury case before the statute of limitation expires, then you risk never receiving compensation for past and future medical costs, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, pain, and suffering.

    We don’t want this to happen to you. Accordingly, we invite you to call, start a live chat, or complete our online contact form today to schedule your first meeting with our Massachusetts mass tort lawyers. We can’t change your diagnosis, but we will do everything we can to protect your future.

    Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

    If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.