The Social Security act defines ‘disability’ as the inability of an individual to engage in any Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) on the basis of physical or mental impairment. There are several requirements that need to be met before one is declared disabled by the SSA – for instance for one needs to prove that the disability has lasted for a continuous period not exceeding 12 months. Another requirement is that the impairment must be medically determinable to be capable of leading to the death of the disabled individual.
What Does SGA Mean?
Substantial gainful activity is a legal term that has a pretty deep meaning. In 2014, the SGA guideline set $1,070 to be the substantial monthly income for non-blind, disabled individuals. This act also put $1,800 to be the substantial monthly income level for blind, disabled individuals. This means that a non-blind person who does work that brings him/her anything less than $1,000 per month is eligible to apply for SSD benefits unlike if he was making $1,500 per month.
The process of determining if a person is engaging in SGA among self-employed disabled individuals is a bit more complex. According to current Social Security rules, work of a self-employed disabled person is evaluated considering ‘countable’ earnings. Note that some types of income earned by a blind person are not included when assessing whether they’re engaging in SGA or not.
How To Choose A Social Security Representative
Although it is not mandatory that the representative you choose to help you in Social Security matters is an advocate or attorney, it is highly recommended that you find someone who understands all the litigation of Social Security law. You and your chosen representative will then be required to sign a sworn statement. The representative must then forward the application for ‘Appointment of Representative’ form to your local field office. It is always best that you seek the assistance of experienced attorney as the process of filing for SSD can be a frustrating ordeal if handled by someone who is not familiar with the rules of the game.
Hiring an experienced attorney can relieve some burden of navigating through the bureaucracy of applying on your part. This is particularly important if you’re suffering from a debilitating condition which prevents you from undertaking all the tasks of filing an application.
Although it is possible to seek the help of an attorney during the appeal stage (after your first application is denied), research has shown that those who do this often lose their appeal cases. So the safest bet for you is to enlist a qualified disability attorney at the initial level. It is always in your best interest to have solid legal representation to dispute any issues for your claim at any stage of the case be it the initial level or the appeals process.
Now that we have talked extensively about the need for competent disability attorneys to represent you, let us take a quick look at some important factors to consider when selecting an ideal representative to help you through the whole claims process.
Tips to finding the best representative for your social security claims
*Reputable person with proven track record
To make the right choice, you should first consider what is important to you. One thing you should always keep in mind is that a good representative needs to be a reputable person. By reputable we mean a person who has represented other people before you and helped them win their claims. A reputable representative is one who is ready to sit down with you to analyze your possibilities of winning the case. Is the representative available to answer your questions as you would wish? A representative who is not available for you at the initial stages of soliciting his/her support may not be suitable to handle your claim. Therefore look for a person who has a track record of maintaining good customer service.
Aside from being reputable, a good Social Security representative should be a knowledgeable person. In other words he/she should be in a position to show you how to fill your claim forms. He should be someone who is familiar with the whole hog of completing and submitting disability forms for your claim.
Most disability claims require one to be very keen in making periodical follow-ups with disability examiners. Therefore, make sure that your chosen representative is ready to seek frequent updates on the status of your claim. The representative should always be ready to submit any sort of evidence that may be required for your claim to be expedited and approved.
*Do plenty of research
For some people, choosing a representative might simply come down to the first website or TV commercial they come across. However, in terms of the importance of winning your SSD or SSI claim, one of the mistakes you could make is failing to carry out adequate research when choosing a representative. You need to find out the number of years your representative has been handling SSD claims. You may also want to find out what other clients are saying about that particular representative or firm. If you come across a representative who seems suspicious, don’t take your chances with them. Keep researching until you find someone who is worth his salt. Always make sure you choose a representative who is detailed and well-organized for the task ahead. Look for an expert who is adequately prepared to build a strong case for you.
One last factor to consider (actually the most important of all) is the amount of fees the representative charges you. Normally, maximum representative fees are set by the SSA as $6000. You don’t pay unless your claim is approved and you’re awarded the benefits. You either pay 25% of the back benefits received or $6000 whichever is cheaper. It is also worth keeping in mind that you may have to pay up for other fees such as: administrative fees, printing fees and medical records fees etc. Be sure to iron out all the fees issues with your representative during the consultation stage.
Having a Social Security Disability claim approved does not come by accident. You need to seek the assistance of a reputable representative who will assure you of the best representation for your claim. All the best!
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