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Houston Social Security Disability Law Blog

Understanding the SSDI appeals process

Many people in Houston file applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits every year without realizing that most initial claims are denied. When a claim for SSDI benefits is denied, the law and regulations administered by the Social Security Administration give claimants many options to appeal such a rejection. Understanding the basic features of that process may be crucial to ultimately obtaining an award of benefits.

After receiving a notice of denial, a claimant can initiate the Social Security Disability Insurance appeal process by filing a request for reconsideration. The request is given to an SSA employee who was not involved in the initial decision. That person will review all of the evidence and the original decision. The claimant can also present new evidence. If the request for reconsideration is denied, the applicant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Additional evidence may be presented to the ALJ. The applicant may appear before the ALJ to present this evidence, and experts may be called to testify.

Proving a disability caused by a mental condition

Many people in Houston suffer from mental conditions that interfere with their ability to work. Some of these people may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but they may also be unaware of how such benefits are granted. As with all SSDI applications, an application for benefits based upon a mental condition must prove the existence of the disability and the totality of the disability.

Proof of the existence of a disability caused by a mental condition or disorder can be difficult because most mental illnesses do not produce visible symptoms. Moreover, many mental conditions cannot be detected by objective measurement, such as by an x-ray, a CT scan or a laboratory test. Instead, proof of a mental disability usually relies on the observations and evaluations of health care providers that treat such conditions.

How to prove a claim for SSDI benefits

Many Houston residents might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but they have little or no idea how to pursue their claim. Gathering and presenting evidence that supports a claim for SSDI benefits can be difficult and complex. Knowing where to start in assembling relevant evidence can be a useful place to begin, and because many disability claims are initially denied, great care in gathering evidence can be the difference between success and failure.

SSDI benefits are available for anyone who is entirely unable to work by reason of a disease or injury. Proving total disability begins with a showing that the claimant can no longer do the work that he or she did prior to the onset of the disabling condition. Second, the disability prevents the claimant from doing other work. Finally, medical evidence must show that the disability is expected to last at least 12 months or to result in the claimant's death.

Disability benefits for minor children

Many people in Houston assume without checking that Social Security Disability benefits are available only to adults. This assumption is incorrect, and it has prevented many parents from obtaining disability benefits for children who suffer from a disabling illness or injury. A knowledge of the basic rules of SSDI eligibility for children may help parents who are raising a seriously injured or ill child.

Unlike adults, children who are seeking Social Security Disability benefits must pass two tests: an income test and a disability test. Children must first demonstrate that they are eligible for Supplement Security Income, a program administered by the Social Security Administration. The SSA will review the child's income (likely to be negligible) and household income. A certain amount of household income will be imputed to the child. If the child's income is below a certain level, he or she can receive disability benefits if they are disabled.

Social Security disability benefits denied? You can appeal

Whether you have suffered an accident or debilitating illness and you are unable to continue working, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Applying for these benefits is often a long and difficult process. For many people, the initial application will result in a denial.

If your social security disability application has been denied, keep in mind that it is not a final decision. You can appeal the denial and, if successful, you can still receive benefits. Here are a few things you should know about the Social Security disability appeals process.

Obtaining SSDI benefits for neurological disorders

Many people in Houston suffer from disorders of their neurological systems. The Social Security Disability insurance program provides benefits for many of these disorders. Covered conditions include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, early-onset Alzheimer's disease to combinations of physical and mental dysfunction. The evidentiary requirements of the Social Security Administration and the complexity of the human neurological system often make obtaining SSDI benefits for these disorders a daunting task.

The SSA has adopted regulations that apply to every form of neurological disorder for which benefits may be paid. The necessary medical evidence includes the claimant's medical history, examination findings regarding the disorder in question, relevant laboratory findings and the results of medical imaging, such as CT scans, MRI scans and electroencephalography. Some diseases, such as Parkinsonian syndrome and myasthenia gravis, may be eligible for benefits if the patient has adhered to a prescribed treatment regimen and if the symptoms persist.

How to prove the existence of a disability for SSDI benefits

Many people in Houston are aware of the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits program, but they do not know much about how to apply for benefits or prove the facts necessary to support the claim. The basic factual elements of an SSDI claim depend upon the language of the Social Security Administration regulations that govern the program.

A person is eligible for SSDI benefit if he or she is completely unable to work for a period of 12 months or more. The test sounds simple, but it involves a number of sub-issues that require substantial evidence. A disability is defined as the total inability, by reason of an illness or injury, to be gainfully employed. The illness or injury must be permanent, that is, it must be expected to last at least one year or to result in death.

How does the SSA evaluate mental conditions?

Many people in the Houston area suffer from one or more mental disorders that could provide the basis for a successful claim for Social Security Disability Benefits insurance. The Social Security Administration recognizes a number of mental disorders as qualifying disabilities provided the claimant can provide the necessary supporting information.

SSA regulations define 11 different kinds of mental disorders that can support a claim for disability benefits. The kinds of qualifying disorders include neurocognitive disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, depression and bipolar disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders and several others. Each of the disorders has different features, but the SSA has developed objective criteria that apply to all eleven.

Understanding the relationship between SSDI and work credits

Both Social Security retirement and disability benefits depend upon how many work credits have been accumulated by the claimant. Both programs require a minimum number of credits before a worker is eligible for benefits.

Work credits are based upon a worker's payments into the Social Security system. Prior to 1978, employers reported their workers' earnings to the Social Security Administration every three months. After 1978, employers reported earnings once a year.

Can you get Social Security Disability benefits for fibromyalgia?

People with health conditions that are not visibly apparent can have an uphill struggle for others to recognize their legitimate pain and/or limited abilities. Strangers they encounter, friends and even some family members may doubt the extent of a person's condition simply because the symptoms aren't readily identifiable to others.

Suffering from an invisible illness can be frustrating. Unlike a person who is blind and uses a cane or guide dog, or someone whose condition confines them to a wheelchair, not having any outward signs of a disability leads people to minimize a person's suffering — which can be considerable.