There is nothing more frustrating than attempting to navigate the Social Security claims process while suffering with a disability. There are formulas, rules, deadlines, and procedures. Determining whether you are disabled and entitled to disability benefits requires a complex analysis of your ability to work, age, education, and recent job history. Preparing and winning your disability claim will require attention to detail. That is why we are here to serve you. We will explain every aspect of disability law to you. We will assist you at every stage of the social security disability claims process. We will provide you with skilled and trustworthy legal services. And we will not charge you one penny unless you win your disability claim. We handle all stages of the disability claims process. If you need help filing the initial application, filing a disability appeal, preparing for hearing, or with any other aspect of your disability claim, please contact the Cloud Law Firm. We will explain the law and assist you with taking the steps necessary to win your social security disability claim. There is absolutely no fee unless you choose to retain our firm, and we win your disability claim.
The chances of becoming disabled are greater than you realize. According to the Social Security Administration, a person who has worked for 20 years has about a 30% chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. That means that 3 out of every 10 people will likely be disabled by the time they reach 40 or 50 years of age. Despite this risk, average Americans usually do not have suitable savings to protect against a debilitating disability arising from an accident or illness. In fact, it has been estimated that 60% of adult Americans have NO savings for emergencies. Further, most working Americans do not have any type of disability insurance. As a result, Social Security programs were established to protect disabled Americans by providing disability benefits and health insurance coverage through the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
If you are disabled, you are not alone. According to the 2010 United States Census, more than 50 million Americans are disabled. That is approximately 20% of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Approximately 13 million Americans aged 16-64 reported difficulty finding a job or remaining employed due to a health condition. Approximately 11 million disabled Americans over 16-years of age reported the need for personal assistance with everyday activities, such as getting around inside the home, taking a bath or shower, preparing meals and performing light housework. Social Security Disability was established in 1954. As of May 2012, almost 14 million disabled Americans under age 65 received disability benefits. The average disability recipient is in their 50s; however, approximately 30% of disabled workers receiving benefits are between 20 and 50 years of age. Approximately 90% of disabilities are caused by an illness, not an unforeseen accident. The leading illnesses include: diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue; diseases of the nervous system and sense organs; diseases of the circulatory system; cancer; Cardiovascular/circulatory disorders; and mental disorders. The percentages of these disabilities vary according to year. Annual disability applications have increased more than 50% over the course of the last decade. According to the Social Security Administration, nearly 3 million applications for disability benefits were filed in 2011.
While some programs provide disability benefits to people with a partial disability or a short-term disability, SSA does not. “Disability,” under Social Security, is based on your inability to work. Social Security law states that you are disabled only if your physical and/or mental impairments are so severe that you are unable to do your previous work and you cannot, considering your age, education, and work experience, perform any other substantial gainful work. The SSA considers you disabled if: (1) You cannot do work that you did before; (2) You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and (3) Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Determining whether you are disabled sounds simple, but requires a detailed analysis based upon objective evidence. Your ability to work, age, education, and recent jobs are key factors that affect the disability determination. To be found disabled, you do not have to be bedridden. If you cannot do your past jobs, and you cannot work full time at any regular job, you likely meet the criteria for disability benefits. Nevertheless, being unable to work and being found “disabled” by the Social Security Administration are two different things. It can be difficult to convince SSA that someone is “disabled” even when they genuinely cannot work, but the Cloud Law Firm can help. If you cannot work, you should apply for disability benefits and continue appealing denials, at least through the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. In addition to meeting the definition of disabled, you must meet the “insured” requirements to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To be “insured,” you must have paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough. In the alternative, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits based upon financial need. For more information about the difference between SSDI and SSI benefits, please read our article entitled, Types of Disability Benefits.
Yes, children qualify for disability benefits. According to the SSA, about 4.4 million children currently receive approximately $2,400,000,000.00 ($2.4 billion) each month because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased. That means if you become disabled and receive benefits, then your minor child or children may also be entitled to benefits. In addition, your child may independently qualify for SSI benefits if he or she meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children – a condition that results in “marked and severe functional limitations” for at least 12 continuous months – and if his or her parent or parents’ income and resources fall within the eligibility limits.
The four main types of Social Security Disability claims are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits; and Disabled Adult Child Benefits. This article discusses the latter two categories of disability benefits, while the other two categories of SSDI and SSI benefits are discussed in another article found on our website. Disabled widow’s and widower’s benefits, and disabled adult child benefits, are available to certain categories of dependent relatives of a disabled person who dies while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, disabled widow’s and widower’s benefits, and disabled adult child benefits, are not available to the relatives of a disabled person who dies while receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The categories of potential dependent relatives include surviving spouses, children, and elderly dependent parents. To qualify as surviving spouse of a disabled person who dies while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, a claimant must fit within one of several criteria. The surviving spouse will collect a percentage of their deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits, dependent upon which criteria the surviving spouse meets. There are four primary categories, as follows (1) If a surviving spouse cares for a child under 16 years of age, the surviving spouse is entitled to collect 75% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits, generally until the child reaches 16 years of age unless the child is disabled; (2) If a surviving spouse is at least 50 years old and disabled, and the surviving spouse’s disability began before the deceased spouse died or within 7 years after the deceased spouse passed, the surviving spouse is generally entitled to collect 71.5% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits; (3) If a surviving spouse is at least 60 years old but not yet full retirement age, the surviving spouse is generally entitled to collect 71.5-99% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits; and (4) If a surviving spouse is full retirement age, the surviving spouse is generally entitled to collect 100% of the deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits. There are additional rules regarding ex-spouses, remarried spouses, working spouses, etc. which govern a surviving spouse’s right to collect disabled widow’s and widower’s benefits; however, they are beyond the scope of this article. To qualify as a child of a disabled person who dies while receiving SSDI benefits, a claimant must be unmarried and under 18 years of age. If the child meets these criteria, the child is entitled to collect 75% of the deceased parent’s SSDI benefits until the child reaches 18 years of age, subject to the family maximum benefit rules. In the alternative, a child of a disabled person who dies while receiving SSDI benefits is over 18 years of age may collect 75% of the deceased parent’s SSDI benefits: (1) in the event the surviving child is less than 19 years of age and in high school, until the child reaches 19 years of age or completes high school; or (2) if the surviving child becomes disabled before 22 years of age, until such time as the child is no longer disabled. Finally, a grandchild of a disabled person who dies while receiving SSDI benefits is entitled to collect 75% of their grandparent’s SSDI benefits until the grandchild reaches 18 years of age, if: (1) the child’s parents are deceased or disabled and are not making regular contributions to support for the child; and (2) the surviving child began living with their grandparent before the age of 18 and the grandparent provided at least half the child’s support for at least 12 months prior to the grandparent’s death. To qualify as an elderly parent of a disabled person who dies while receiving SSDI benefits, a claimant must have received at least half of their support from the deceased child, be at least 62 years of age, not have married since the disabled child’s death, and not otherwise be entitled to Social Security benefits. If an elderly parent meets these criteria, the parent is entitled to collect 82.5% of the deceased child’s SSDI benefits or, if there are two surviving parents, each parent is entitled to collect 75% of the deceased child’s SSDI benefit.
The four main types of Social Security Disability claims are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits; and Disabled Adult Child Benefits. This article discusses SSDI and SSI benefits, while the other two categories of Disabled Widow’s and Widower’s Benefits and Disabled Adult Child Benefits are discussed in another article found on our website. The Social Security Administration’s main disability programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These are the largest Federal programs which provide assistance to people with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) – The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides disability benefits to disabled workers, regardless of income or assets. Social Security Disability benefits are determined by how much a taxpayer has paid into the Social Security program. In addition to being disabled you must have earned enough Social Security work credits, based on your total yearly wages, by earning a certain number of work credits within a certain number of years. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the 10 years preceding the onset of your disability; however, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Social Security Disability Insurance pays beneficiaries a regular monthly income with annual cost-of-living increases. As of May 2012, the average monthly benefit for an individual was $1,111.17; however, your monthly benefit could be much higher, depending on your lifetime earnings. In addition, as of May 2012, dependent spouses and children of SSDI recipients received an average monthly benefit of approximately $300. 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI benefits, you are also eligible for Medicare, including Part A (hospital benefits), Part B (medical benefits), and Part D (prescription drug plan). Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled people, children and adults, based on financial need, despite whether those persons meet the work history requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Therefore, if you have never worked or have not earned enough work credits to quality for SSDI benefits, you may still be able to apply for SSI. It is designed to help disabled people, who have little or no income. Although administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI benefits are funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes. You may qualify for both SSI and Disability benefits if you have an eligible work history and limited income and resources.
The first step is to complete and submit a disability application to the Social Security Administration. The application can be filed online, over the phone, or at your local Social Security office. During this initial step, extensive information must be collected and submitted along with a voluminous amount of paperwork. Some of the information and documentation needed to complete your application include: (1) your social security number; (2) your birth certificate; (3) contact information for your doctors and the dates of your visits; (4) the names and dosages of the medications; (5), a complete history of your medical records; and (6) your most recent W-2 and a detailed work history. While it is not required, the Cloud Law Firm can assist you with properly completing and submitting an application with the appropriate information and documentation. If you meet certain initial requirements, the SSA will submit your application to the Florida Division of Disability Determination to make the initial disability determination. Often, they will ask you to attend one or more consultative medical exams before making a decision. Once a determination is made, the SSA will send you a letter notifying you of the decision. If you are approved, the letter will provide information regarding your monthly benefits and when those benefits will begin to be paid. If your application is denied, the letter will explain why you were denied and what you need to do to appeal the decision. In Florida, the average applicant will wait approximately 3-6 months to obtain a decision on the initial application. If you are homeless or have one of the rare diseases listed by the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance program, you may qualify for an expedited decision. Some resources indicate that only about 30% of initial applications are approved and that approximately 70% of initial disability applications are denied. This is likely why many disable people seek lawyers like the Cloud Law Firm to assist them in the disability application process.
If your initial disability application is denied, your claim may be sequentially appealed at four different levels: (1) Reconsideration; (2) Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge; (3) Review by the Appeals Council; and (4) Federal Court Review. Reconsideration: If your initial disability application is denied, you should request a reconsideration (the first step in the appeal process), within 60 days of the denial date of your application. If you fail to timely file a request for reconsideration within the allotted period, and wish to continue to seek disability benefits, you will generally be required to file a new application and start the process over again. A reconsideration is a complete review of your claim conducted by an examiner who did not take part in the first decision. At this stage, the SSA will reconsider all the evidence submitted before the original decision was made, along with any new evidence provided for consideration. At this stage, it is very important to update the SSA with any medical and work documentation obtained since your initial application was submitted. While it is not required, it is recommended that an attorney assist you with the reconsideration process. The Cloud Law Firm will help you identify important information which may have been inadvertently left out of your initial claim. Once a determination is made, the SSA will send you a letter notifying you of the decision. If you are approved, the letter will provide information regarding your monthly benefits and when those benefits will begin to be paid. If the reconsideration is denied, the letter will explain why you were denied and what you need to do to appeal the decision. Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge: If the reconsideration of your application is denied, you should seek a hearing (the second step in the appeal process), within 60 days of the denial of your reconsideration. If you fail to properly request a hearing within the allotted period, and wish to continue to seek disability benefits, you will generally be required to file a new application and start the process over again. At this stage, your claim will be taken from the SSA claims processors and placed before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who was not involved in the denial or reconsideration of your application. The ALJ will consider all of the previously submitted evidence, along with any new evidence. Typically the ALJ will hold a hearing; however, the Cloud Law Firm is sometimes able to obtain a decision on the record prior to, and without, attending a hearing. If a hearing is held, the ALJ and your attorney, Mia Cloud, will question witnesses under oath, including: you, any witnesses we bring to the hearing which are permitted by the ALJ, and other witnesses requested by the ALJ, such as a doctor or vocational expert. While it is not required, it is strongly recommended that the Cloud Law Firm assist you with the hearing process. An experienced attorney can help assure that the proper evidence is submitted and that the appropriate testimony is given before the judge. Review by the SSA Appeals Council: If the hearing ends in a denial, you may request a review by the Appeals Counsel (the third step in the appeal process), within 60 days of the denial. If you fail to properly appeal within the allotted period, and wish to continue to seek disability benefits, you will generally be required to file a new application and start the process over again. At this level, the Appeals Council will review the disability hearing decision to determine if it was rendered in accordance with applicable law. That is, the Appeals Council does not reevaluate the factual merits of your disability claim, but only whether the ALJ followed applicable laws at your hearing. For this reason, it is very difficult to win disability benefits at this stage of the appeal process. If the Appeals Council finds that the ALJ made a technical error or failed to consider evidence, the Appeals Council can remand your claim to the hearing level to have your case heard by an ALJ. In the alternative, under limited circumstances, the Appeals Council may also overturn the ALJ’s prior decision and award disability benefits. While it is not required, at this stage of the disability process, we believe you should already have hired an attorney. Federal Court Review: If your claim is denied by the SSA Appeals Council, the fourth and final step is to file a lawsuit in the United States District Court for your district. Reportedly, less than one percent of applicants pursue their disability claim to this level.
The biggest mistake made by disability applicants is failing to appeal. After their initial disability application is denied, many people just give up. In fact, there are statistics indicating that more than half of the people whose applications are denied fail to appeal. Similarly, of those who request reconsideration, which is the first stage of the disability appeal process, many fail to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Claimants should know, based upon the information provided on this website, that the Social Security disability process favors claimants who appeal over initial applicants. Nationally and here in Florida, two thirds of initial applications are denied while over half of those who appeal are ultimately awarded disability benefits. Another mistake commonly made by disability applicants is failing to obtain appropriate medical care. Some people with long-term chronic medical problems feel that they have not been helped much by doctors and doctor-prescribed treatment. As such, they stop treating. This is a mistake for both medical and legal reasons. First, no one needs medical care more than those with chronic medical problems. Second, medical records provide the most important evidence of disability in a social security case. As such, if your disabling condition continues, and your physicians continue to prescribe treatment , I recommend that you continue treating. Of course, there are many other common mistakes made by disability applicants that are beyond the scope of this brief article, which we would be happy to discuss with you.
You can apply for disability and pursue the appeal process on your own; however, that is not my recommendation. If your head is not already spinning just from reading the information on this website, and you have not already done so, take a look at the Social Security website for disability benefits (http://www.ssa.gov/disability) and determine how you will prove that you are disabled, the benefits to which you are entitled, the proper processes for application and, if necessary, the proper process for appealing a denial of your application. Although the Social Security website is written for your benefit, you may quickly begin to feel like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole as you attempt to navigate through and understand the complexities of Federal disability law. There are rules, timelines, and procedural requirements for disability claims. There are complex specifications which govern the Social Security Administration’s determination of a “disability” and the benefits which will be awarded. Strategy can be important, especially at the hearing stage of a disability claim. This is why an experienced disability lawyer can speed the process and substantially increase your chances of successfully obtaining disability benefits. Please consider contacting the Cloud Law Firm today.
Hi, my name is Mia Mancinelli Cloud. I am the attorney pictured on this website and the managing partner of the Cloud Law Firm. I personally know and understand the financial hardship and disheartening feelings associated with a disability. After working with several attorneys who have been practicing for 30-40 years, and a nationally recognized social security disability law firm, I founded the Cloud Law Firm. During those early years I came to realize that many local firms focus on volume, as opposed to quality of services. Worse yet, many national firms advertising on the internet and television do not have local attorneys employed by the firm. Persons who retain national firms are often shocked at the last second when they arrive at their disability hearing and realize that the national law firm has subcontracted an unknown local lawyer, and in some circumstances a non-lawyer, to cover their disability hearing. You have a lot riding on your disability claim and, in my opinion, you deserve something better. I founded the Cloud Law Firm to serve injured and disabled persons exclusively within the western portion of central Florida. The primary Social Security hearing locations for these counties are in the greater Tampa Bay area. My primary office is centrally located in Largo (between the various hearing locations) and I maintain virtual offices in central Florida where I make myself available to conveniently meet with clients. I personally handle all of my clients’ cases from start to finish. I personally meet with my clients and speak to them on the telephone. I personally review every disability application. I personally conduct each of my client’s disability hearings and I review each medical record before the hearing. I generally write a brief in each case, to assist the Administrative Law Judge in understanding your case and why you should be awarded benefits. Believe me, most firms cannot or will not provide this level of personal service. I am a trained legal professional. After graduating from Florida State University Cum Laude, with Honors, I was awarded a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. I am a trial attorney, with real trial experience, and have represented numerous clients in State and Federal Courts. I am a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR), a past president of the Highlands County Bar Association, and a current member of the Highlands County Bar Association, Hillsborough County Bar Association, and Clearwater Bar Association. I am also licensed to practice before United States District Courts for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida so, unlike non-lawyer representatives, I am licensed to handle your disability claim at the highest levels. Based on the foregoing, I encourage you to contact the Cloud Law Firm for a free consultation about your disability claim. If for some reason you choose not to contact me, I strongly encourage you to contact another local disability attorney. Meet with the attorney face-to-face. Evaluate whether the attorney has the knowledge, time, and compassion to provide you with the service you deserve. Determine how many disability and other types of cases the attorney is currently handling. Ask the attorney whether he or she will personally handle your disability hearing and how many disability hearings the attorney has personally conducted before an ALJ within the last year. Finally, be cautious of firms advertising high success statistics as that may be an indication that the firm will not fully pursue difficult cases.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) sometimes denies disability claims for people who meet all of the legal qualifications for disability benefits. Why? Because the person failed to prove their disability case to the satisfaction of the SSA. In an imperfect world, and especially in the legal system, evidence and persuasion matter. That is why hiring an experienced disability attorney can provide you with an advantage. Hiring an attorney will not change the facts of your case, but an attorney can provide an advantage by helping you properly posture and prove your disability claim. Here is what the Cloud Law Firm does for its Social Security disability clients:
I recommend that you contact us immediately. We will assist you in completing your application and press for an award of disability benefits at the earliest stages. If you have already submitted a disability application and been denied, it is even more important to contact us as soon as possible. In fact, you can contact us at any stage of your disability case.
The Cloud Law Firm provides Social Security Disability services for a “contingent fee.” We get paid only if we win your disability case. If either the Social Security Administration or an Administrative Law Judge favorably decides your claim(s), the fee is 25% of your past due benefits up to a maximum of $6,000.00. But, under no circumstances do our fees come out of your current or future monthly benefits. In addition, there is no fee unless we win your disability claim.
The Cloud Law Firm serves clients throughout central Florida, including: Charlotte County, Citrus County, Desoto County, Glades County, Hardee County, Hernando County, Highlands County, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, Lake County, Lee County, Manatee County, Marion County, Okeechobee County, Orange County, Osceola County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Sarasota County, Seminole County, Sumter County, and their encompassed towns, cities and other areas.