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Common Social Security questions – Part 2

Ask the Advocate

What is Disabled Widow's Benefits?

This is a disability program where the claimant can apply for benefits based on the deceased spouse's earnings record. You must be 50 years or older and the onset of your disability must be within seven years of your spouse's death.

What is Divorced Spouse's Benefits?

A claimant can apply for benefits based on his or her divorced spouse's earnings record. If you were married to your ex-spouse for 10 years, are, at least, 62 years old and are currently unmarried you would qualify.

What is the five step sequentially in the evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled?

At Step 1 they will determine whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. Generally, if an individual shows earnings from employment or self-employment above specific levels set out in the regulations, it is presumed that he or she has demonstrated the ability to engage in SGA. If an individual engages in SGA they are not disabled regardless of how severe their physical or mental impairments are.

At Step 2 Social Security will determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that are severe. An impairment is severe if it significantly limits an individual's ability to perform basic work activities.

At Step 3 Social Security will determine whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the Listings. Social Security has a list of medical conditions which is called the Listings. If an individual has a condition that is the same as or equal to the severity of that condition listed then they are found disabled. If one does not meet the Listing go on to Step 4.

At Step 4 Social Security will determine the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity and when given that Residual Functional Capacity whether the claimant can perform past work. If it is determined that the claimant cannot do past work then move to the last step of the sequential evaluation process.

At Step 5, Social Security will consider the claimant's Residual Functional Capacity, age, education and work experience and whether there is any other work the claimant can do.

If I get a Representative how much will it cost?

Generally, representatives who handle SSDI and SSI cases will charge 25 percent of past-due benefits, not to exceed $6,000. They will only get paid if you win your case.

What can I do to help win my Social Security case?

1. Submit all medical records you have to Social Security when you first apply.

2. Continue to get medical treatment and try not to miss appointments.

3. If you are denied...appeal right away.

4. If you start to see a new doctor, have a hospital stay or go for a new test...tell Social Security or your representative immediately.

5. Whether you are handling the case by yourself or you have a representative, always stay involved in your case.

6. The Social Security process is long and frustrating. Never take it out on Social Security employees, it can only hurt your case.

7. Every few months check the status of your case with your representative or the local District Office where you filed.

8. If you don't already have a representative, consult with a representative who has handled many Social Security disability cases.

9. Speak to your doctor and see if he or she will complete a Medical Source Statement. These forms can be obtained from Social Security or from your representative.

10. Keep a journal of your day to day life and how your condition affects you. In this journal note things like any side effects from your medications, how your daily living is affected by your disability, sleeping patterns, etc.

Will Social Security grant benefits to those who have my particular illness or injury?

When Social Security decides if someone is disabled or not it is not based on the illness or injury as much as it is how that illness or injury limits you. One example is herniated discs of the spine. Some people experience very little discomfort or limitations from herniated discs. However, others are in great pain and severely limited not just in their back but sometimes arms and legs as well. As can be seen from this example, it is not the diagnosis you have but how does it affect you as a whole and limit you from working. Another example is depression. One can be diagnosed with depression and when on proper medication and other treatment function fairly well. There are also those who suffer from depression and even under treatment or medication still have difficulty remembering things, concentrating, dealing with people and in extreme cases even being able to function on a minimal basis. As you can see, what your illness or injury is called will not predict whether you will win or lose your Social Security Disability claim. This is why you should speak with a representative who has handled many Social Security Disability cases. The representative will help you present the limitations you have from your illness or injury and relate that to how it affects your ability to work.

An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and is a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email [email protected] or visit http://www.CaliforniaDisability.net.