Information for disabled people in Mississippi from a Gulf Coast law firm with lawyers that handle Social Security Disability claims and SSI claims in South Mississippi.
Sheehan & Johnson, PLLC has as one of its specialties, social security disability claims. The links on the "Attorneys" tab, above, will lead you to information about our attorneys or to information about each of the areas which we handle. We have attempted to provide answers to frequently asked questions in each of these areas and links to other sites which can provide information about bankruptcy and social security. However, if you have a question that is not answered, please feel free to contact us by phone, mail or our message center. Before reviewing the information contained herein or using our message center, please read the disclaimer concerning information on this site and email transmissions.
For FAQs in the area of social security disability law, see below:
Our firm accepts Social Security Disability and SSI claims on a contingent fee basis. In other words, we only charge and collect a fee if we win your case.
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- What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and SSI?
- What must I prove to be found disabled?
- How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits or SSI?
- How do I get started?
- What happens if I let my 60 day appeal time expire?
- Can I receive partial disability benefits?
- If I win, can I get Medicaid or Medicare for help with my medical bills?
- What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
- Should I be represented by an attorney?
- Frequently Asked Questions on NOSSCR
1. What is the difference between Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and SSI?
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") are granted if an individual establishes that he or she is disabled and has had sufficient earnings over the last 10 years to qualify for these insurance benefits. The claimant has the opportunity to prove that he or she had more income during the ten year period to establish that he had sufficient earnings. In some cases, a person can amend his/her tax returns to show additional income and give him/her the necessary work quarters to be insured and qualify for DIB. Thus, an attorney or qualified representative may be of assistance in this area. Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") is a need basis or poverty program which requires the same manner of proof to establish disability, but is only given to individuals whose assets and income are under certain levels. A review of one's income and assets is necessary to determine whether he or she can qualify.
Many claimant's can qualify for both DIB and SSI. Therefore, when making an application each claimant should apply for both types of benefits. back to the list of FAQ
2. How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits or SSI?
You can file for Social Security disability benefits on the day that you become disabled. Many individuals make the mistake of waiting months and even years after their injury or illness causes them to be disabled before filing a Social Security disability claim. There is no reason to file a Social Security disability claim if one has only a minor illness or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, an individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits. If that person is denied at the initial and reconsideration stage, then the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge will probably be held close to one year after the application was filed. Thus, it important to start the process as early as possible. back to the list of FAQ
3. What must I prove to be found disabled?
To establish disability for SSI or DIB, the following five step test was established called the "Sequential Evaluation."
- Are you engaged in substantial gainful work activity (SGA)? SGA is defined as work which generates more than $500.00 per month income and is work that would normally be sufficient to warrant that amount of pay. If you are working and the work you are doing is considered to be SGA, the Social Security Administration will find that you are not disabled regardless of your medical condition or your age, education, and work experience.
- Do you have a severe impairment? An impairment is severe if it significantly limits your physical or mental abilities to do basic work activities. You can be found not to be disabled at this step if it is determined that you do not have a severe impairment.
- Does your impairment(s) meet or equal a listed impairment? Most major diseases and medical conditions are listed in an appendix to the Social Security regulations. Each listing sets out how severe an impairment must be to meet that listing. If your medical condition or impairment meets or equals one of these listed impairments, you are entitled to DIB or SSI at this point and do not need to move to step 4 or 5.
- Can you do the kind of work that you have done in the past? You must prove that you cannot perform any of the types of jobs you have held in the past 15 years. If this cannot be established, then a decision that you are not disabled will be entered. If you prove that you cannot do your past work, then the process goes to the final step.
- Can you do any other work considering your age, education and previous work experience? Most claimants can easily prove that they are not working (step 1), that they have a severe impairment (step 2) and that they cannot perform their past work (step 4). However, showing that they cannot do any other work (step 5) is very difficult in most cases. In making this determination, the Administrative Law Judge must consider your age, your past work experience and your education. back to the list of FAQ
4. How do I get started?
If you believe you are disabled, then you must first file an application for DIB, SSI or both with the local district office for the Social Security Administration. The state disability determination agency (state agency) will make a determination and send you notice of its decision by mail. If that determination is unfavorable and your claim is denied, then you have 60 days to appeal asking the state agency to reconsider its decision. Do not become discouraged because you lose your claim at the state agency level. If you are denied again, you have another 60 days to appeal by requesting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Although there are other appeals available after the hearing, the best chance to win is at the hearing, and the later appeals will use the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing in making a decision. back to the list of FAQ
5. What happens if I let my 60 day appeal time expire?
Unless you have an acceptable explanation of why you failed to appeal within the 60 days, you must file again. Fortunately, the regulations allow you to ask that your original application to be reopened under two circumstances. (1) If you refile within one year of the initial denial, and (2) if you refile within four years of the initial denial and can show good cause for reopening. One example of good cause is that new and material evidence is furnished. back to the list of FAQ
6. Can I receive partial disability benefits?
No. There are no percentages of disability in Social Security disability determination. For purposes of Social Security disability benefits, you are either disabled or not disabled. Thus, there are no percentages of disability, nor any percentages of disability benefits. If found disabled, the claimant will receive the amount to which he or she is entitled based upon the average yearly earnings. back to the list of FAQ
7. If I win, can I get Medicaid or Medicare for help with my medical bills?
If you are determined to be disabled and qualify for SSI, you will also be entitled to Medicaid, including retroactive Medicaid since the first month that you would have received SSI benefits. If you are determined to be disabled and qualify for Social Security disability insurance benefits, you will be entitled to Medicare 24 months after the first month for which you received your disability insurance benefits. back to the list of FAQ
8. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
The short answer is that Medicaid like SSI is a poverty program or need basis program and Medicare like Social Security disability insurance is not. Most disabled people who get Medicaid get it because they are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To get SSI and thereby get Medicaid you have to be poor and disabled. Medicaid pays doctors at very low rates. As a result, people who have only Medicaid can have a hard time finding doctors willing to take them on as patients. However, Medicaid does pay for prescription medications while Medicare does not. Medicaid can go back up to three months prior to the date of a Medicaid claim. For Medicare it does not matter whether you are rich or poor. If you have been on Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widows or Widowers Benefits or Disabled Adult Child Benefits for 24 months you qualify for Medicare. The good thing about Medicare is that it pays doctors at a higher rate than Medicaid, and most doctors will take Medicare patients. Unfortunately, Medicare does not begin until after a person has entitled to cash disability benefits for two years and that it generally does not pay for prescription medications. back to the list of FAQ
9. Should I Be Represented by an Attorney?
The National Organization for Social Security Claimant's Representatives (NOSSCR) recently determined after study that claimant's, represented by an attorney, win almost twice as often as non-represented Claimant's. Some of the reasons for having competent representation are stated below:
Many people believe because their doctor has written a letter stating that the claimant is permanently and totally disabled, that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will have to rule favorably. However, the doctors opinion as to disability is not important to the judge. A doctor is trained in medicine, not in the vocational factors necessary to determine whether or not someone is disabled. Thus, what the ALJ needs from a treating doctor is what limitations the claimant has. For example, our office uses a form prepared by the Social Security Administration and explains to the doctor what information is necessary to assist our client.
At the hearing, the ALJ will question the claimant and his or her witnesses. A lawyer, can assist the claimant in preparing for this hearing and insure that all the information helpful to the claimant is presented to the ALJ. In many cases a vocational expert (VE) is called to testify. Without the proper training and understanding of the purpose of the use of a VE, a claimant will not understand how to question the VE or attack his or her findings, if necessary.
As mentioned above, if a claimant loses at the ALJ hearing level, the later appeals use the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing to make the decision. Thus, retaining a lawyer after the hearing may be too late. Remember the old saying, "A person who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer and a fool for a client."
Our firm and almost all lawyers charge fees in Social Security Disability Claims based upon a percentage of the back benefits received by the claimant. Thus, there is no fee unless your case is won. back to the list of FAQ