If you receive Social Security disability or are thinking of applying for these benefits, it is important to be aware of what the law requires, how the process works in your state, and what other factors could interfere with your application and/or existing benefits. We explain all of this in more detail below.
What Is Social Security Disability?
Social Security disability is paid through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Under the law, the applicant:
- Cannot be gainfully employed;
- Must have a medically recognized condition that prevents them from performing the basic activities of work and/or have a particular medical problem so severe that, by virtue of having the condition, they simply cannot work and are thus considered disabled;
- Cannot have the functional capacity to return to any previous work they’ve learned to do in 15 years prior to filing the claim; and
- Must (via a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge) demonstrate that they cannot do any other work (while taking into consideration the person’s functional capacity, age, education, and work experience).
The law defines disability as the inability to perform any substantial gainful activity due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment (an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be demonstrated by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques; a physical or mental impairment must be demonstrated by medical evidence which consists of symptoms, signs, and laboratory findings) which is expected to last for a continuous period of no less than 12 months or result in death.
It is also important to note that, in order to qualify for Social Security disability, you need to have recent work credits within your Social Security account. This typically means having worked and earned 20 credits in the 10 years prior to becoming disabled.
Louisiana Disability Determination Services
Disability Determinations Services (DDS) is the state agency in Louisiana responsible for determining if an
individual is disabled within the Title II and Title XVI requirements of the Social Security Act. The Act provides both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI.
Under Title II, there are three categories of eligibility:
- Disabled insured workers under age 65;
- Individuals disabled since childhood who are dependent on a parent entitled to Title II disability or retirement benefits, or a deceased insured parent; and
- Disabled widows and/or widows between the ages of 50-60 (if the deceased spouse was insured under Social Security).
Title XVI allows individuals with limited income and resources to obtain payments on the basis of disability if they are either a child or adult who is disabled.
DDS initially processes disability claims for the state of Louisiana. Appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided by Hearing Officers in DDS itself or by Administrative Law Judges in the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.
Unbearable Waits & Delays
In some states, more than half of the applications for Social Security disability are initially denied, and it can take years to even get a disability hearing; and longer to get a decision. Once you have an established onset date, it can take months from that date to start receiving benefits. Some call it a never-ending battle for the benefits needed just to survive. After going through the process several times, many point out that, had they known it was like that, they would have hired an attorney from the start.
Where you live is a factor in how long you wait to obtain a hearing and/or a decision. According to the Social Security Administration data, a “short” wait time could be around 14 months, while a “long” wait time could be 23 months (or 699 days). The average wait time to get a hearing in New Orleans, for example, is 15 months.
How many people go broke or die waiting for their hearing or decision? Some people with severe conditions have already received two or more denial letters. At that point, they realize that hiring an experienced SSDI lawyer to help them with their case is a necessity.
And yet you never know when disability is going to strike; no one has control over becoming so disabled that they can no longer work. The catch-22 is: when someone becomes disabled and loses their job, they also lose the health insurance that came with that job. Without health insurance, there are no medical records to provide as proof of the disability.
Can Medical Marijuana Cost You Your Social Security Benefits?
A recent trend amongst those receiving Social Security disability is the fear that applying for medical marijuana could impact their Social Security disability benefits. Many of these patients suffer from severely debilitating conditions such as fibromyalgia and neuropathy. It is fairly common for patients like these to not only need medical marijuana but to be unable to work due to their condition (thus the need for Social Security disability).
It is important to note that nothing in the Social Security Act or its regulations prevents someone with a medical marijuana license from also receiving Social Security disability payments. However, where things can get tricky is, for example, if someone with a medical marijuana license drives under the influence and is convicted of a criminal offense. Anyone who is confined to a jail or prison for over 30 continuous days and/or a full calendar month can have their SSDI payments blocked. Thus, if you are an individual who receives SSDI payments and has or is applying for a medical marijuana license, you will want to ensure that you work with an experienced SSDI attorney to ensure that you are complying with the law and that your SSDI benefits are not in jeopardy.
Social Security Disability Lawyers Serving New Orleans, Louisiana
If you cannot work because of an illness or injury, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. Our Social Security disability lawyers in New Orleans can help you understand the process and review the evidence you need to prove your case, as well as submit your application for benefits and/or help you handle your appeal if you have already applied and the Social Security Administration denied your application. We can help you secure the benefits you deserve. Contact us today to set up a free case review.