Case for veteran's benefits won

Case Spotlight – November 2023

Disability Law Group recently received a decision approving our client’s case for Social Security Disability (‘SSD’) benefits. He is a veteran from Troy, Michigan, currently receiving service-connected VA disability benefits, rated at 100% Permanent & Total. Due to the combination of his service-connected and non-service-connected conditions, he has been unable to work since 2009. However, like many people, he did not know that he could file for SSD benefits, and he was unsure of whether he could be eligible for VA service-connected disability benefits and also other forms of disability benefits at the same time.

He called Disability Law Group and spoke with our team, who answered all of his questions, assuring him that he can be eligible for both his service-connected VA disability benefits as well as SSD payments at the same time, without any offset between the two. However, because he waited so long to file for SSD, he would be limited as to the retroactive SSD benefits he would be entitled to under the law. Additionally, since he had not worked in roughly 15 years, he would be up against a large hurdle in the process: his work credits had expired in March of 2011. This means that in order for him to be eligible for SSD benefits at all, he would need to prove disability all the way back to that timeframe, more than a decade ago. To make matters worse, most medical facilities do not keep medical records back that far.

How a Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Help

Thankfully, Disability Law Group is known for taking on tough cases, and our track record for success despite bureaucratic red tape and the hard work required to win. We filed the SSD application on behalf of our client and helped him every step of the way, alleging disability began back in August of 2009, prior to when his work credits expired. Attorney Erika Riggs, partner at Disability Law Group, represented this client and worked with our team to ensure all medical records and supportive evidence were timely obtained and submitted. We prepared his case for a hearing scheduled for October 2023.

Prior to the hearing, Mrs. Riggs prepared a legal brief, outlining her theory for this case and how the combination of her client’s health problems following his discharge from military service should result in a finding of “disability” back to 2009. She carefully summarized the key components of his case, including his deployment to Afghanistan as a reconnaissance team sergeant, sustaining numerous injuries, primarily stemming from an enemy rocket attack which threw him back 15 feet. As a result of his service, and the TBI he sustained overseas, he continues to suffer from migraine headaches, memory loss, concentration problems, sleep problems, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She pointed to the relevant evidence and medical research supporting her client’s symptoms and significant work-related limitations in support.

Ultimately, the Administrative Law Judge (‘ALJ’) agreed and issued a decision in just one week following the hearing! The decision found our client to be disabled as of August of 2009, before his work credits expired in 2011, resulting in more than $30,000.00 of past-due benefits, monthly payments, and immediate entitlement to Medicare. This decision was a major victory for this client in many ways, including the insurance he would now be entitled to that allowed him to see civilian doctors or receive private care, rather than limiting him to treatment at the VA.

Not Just Another Disability Attorney

Whether you have a physical, mental, or cognitive health condition, or a combination of health problems, you do not have to go through the process alone. At Disability Law Group, disability is all we do, and we will fight alongside you to help win every benefit deserved. Our Disability Attorneys are not only experts in the field of disability law, but we are also certified to handle veteran’s disability claims. At Disability Law Group, every client matters.

Types of SSD Benefits

If you have a disability, you might wonder whether you can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. People who can no longer work due to a physical or cognitive disability may be eligible for benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSD benefits are available to those with disabilities, but the eligibility requirements vary depending on the program. For more information, contact an SSD attorney who can explain the different types of SSD benefits available and help you determine whether you qualify. 

What Types of SSD Benefits Are Available? 

The SSA provides disability benefits to individuals with a qualifying disability and, in some cases, their family members. The following benefits are administered under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program:

  • Social Security Disability Benefits – SSDI benefits are paid to qualified individuals with a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from working full-time for a year or more. The amount of benefits is based on the disabled worker’s earning history.
  • Social Security Dependent Benefits – These benefits are paid to the spouse of a disabled worker who qualifies for SSDI benefits, including same-sex spouses. The spouse must be at least 62 years old or caring for the worker’s child under age 17. Minor children and children who became disabled before age 22 can also collect dependent benefits. These benefits are based on the worker’s earning record. There is a cap per family. 
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits – Widows and widowers can receive benefits if their spouse qualified for SSDI, based on their deceased’s spouse’s earning record. They can begin collecting these benefits once they reach age 60 or age 50 if they are also disabled. Survivors’ benefits for children work the same as child dependent benefits. 

Additionally, if you are approved for SSDI, you will begin receiving Medicare after a 24-month waiting period. 

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

The SSA provides disability benefits through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs have different eligibility requirements, but both the SSDI and SSI programs require applicants to demonstrate that they suffer a physical or cognitive condition that prevents them from working and is likely to last at least twelve months or result in death. 

SSDI eligibility requires a work history that demonstrates the worker has sufficiently paid into the Social Security system because SSDI benefits come from Social Security funds. Workers can obtain a “work credit” each calendar quarter by earning a certain threshold of income subject to Social Security tax. The number of work credits an applicant needs to qualify for SSDI depends on the applicant’s age, with younger workers requiring fewer credits. Applicants must also have a recent work history, which usually means having worked at least five of the past ten years. The SSDI benefit amount depends on their qualifying earnings before their disability.

On the other hand, the SSI program provides benefits for individuals who are blind, elderly, or have a disability and have little or no income and assets. Work history is not required to apply for SSI. Instead, applicants must prove that their income and assets fall below the thresholds set by the Social Security Administration. Recipients receive a benefit payment equal to the federal government’s monthly benefit amount. Their benefit amount can be reduced by other sources of income they receive. 

How Do I Ensure I Receive All of the Benefits I Am Entitled To?

The SSA denies many SSD benefits applications on initial review because the SSA uses a strict definition of disability to ensure that resources go to people who need them the most. Working with an SSD attorney can be helpful because they are familiar with the claims process and the evidence you will need to support your claim. An attorney can determine which benefits you may qualify for and help you prepare a comprehensive and persuasive application. Your lawyer can also advocate on your behalf if you pursue administrative hearings to challenge an initial denial of your application. An SSD attorney may also be able to advise you on other benefits you may qualify for while on Social Security Disability, such as Medicare, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or state supplemental payments.

Contact Our SSD Attorneys Today

If you have any questions about the types of SSD benefits you might qualify for, contact Disability Law Group today for a consultation to speak with our SSD attorneys. Our firm can help you pursue the financial benefits you need after you’ve suffered a permanent disability.

Tips For Getting More Out of Social Security Disability If You Can’t Work

If a disability prevents you from working, Social Security Disability (SSD) can provide the financial stability you need. While applying for SSD benefits takes time and effort, there are several steps you can take to make the process smoother and get the most out of the SSD program.

What Can I Do to Maximize My SSD Benefits If I Can’t Work?

If you can’t work due to a disability, you can take steps to apply for and maximize your SSD benefits, including:

  • Apply for benefits as soon as possible: Some individuals wait to apply for disability because they think they can manage without the benefits or are afraid they’ll be denied. However, this approach could cost you because SSA will only provide retroactive benefits for a short period before you are awarded benefits. The sooner you apply for benefits, the sooner you can start receiving them if approved.
  • Review your Social Security statement: The Social Security Administration (SSA) lets you set up a free online Social Security account where you can receive an annual Social Security statement that summarizes your work history and potential benefits you can receive. Your SSDI benefits are based on your earnings history, so if your account is missing information, your potential benefits may be lower than they should be. Inform your lawyer if your statement appears to be missing information.
  • Ensure you are receiving the cost-of-living adjustment: Periodically, the SSA issues an upward adjustment in benefits based on the increased cost of living. This increase can sometimes be substantial. For example, the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment increased benefits by 8.7 percent. These adjustments are supposed to be automatic and are typically included starting with beneficiaries’ payments in January following the adjustment. If your benefits do not increase, contact the SSA to ensure you are receiving the increased amount.
  • Check if you are receiving all benefits for which you qualify: You or your family may qualify for more than one type of benefit. Eligible family members who may qualify for SSDI benefits may include a spouse, ex-spouse, child, disabled child, widow or widower, or a disabled adult child who was disabled before the age of 22. Depending on your age and circumstances, it may be preferable for you to delay claiming one benefit until you reach a certain age. If you are disabled and married to a disabled spouse, you may qualify for spousal Social Security disability benefits, as well as your own disability benefits. A disability lawyer can review your situation and determine which benefits you qualify for, as well as the time that is best to claim these benefits in order to maximize your SSD benefits.
  • Have your benefits recalculated: There are certain times when the SSA must recalculate your benefits, which could result in an increase in benefits if a previous computation underestimated your benefits. For example, you may have previous earnings that were not credited.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me Receive as Much in Benefits as Possible?

The most important step you can take to maximize your benefits is to work with an experienced SSD benefits lawyer in Michigan who understands the system and how to maximize your SSD benefit payments. An experienced lawyer can ensure that your application is completed correctly and the SSA is informed about changes in your status. A lawyer can also help gather strong evidence to prove your claim. 

Here are some more ways an attorney can help:

  • Explaining whether you meet eligibility requirements: Knowing which criteria you must meet to qualify for SSD benefits is essential. An attorney can review the requirements and assess your eligibility for benefits.
  • Evaluating the laws that apply to your case: SSD laws often change, so staying current on all relevant regulations is critical. A lawyer can identify and respond to any legal changes that could affect your case. 
  • Helping you file your claim correctly: Errors in paperwork can lead to costly delays in receiving benefits. A lawyer can help you fill out forms correctly and make sure your application is error-free.
  • Gathering evidence: An attorney can gather medical evidence and other documentation to support your claim. 
  • Representing you in court: If your claim is denied, your lawyer can prepare you for and represent you at hearings.
  • Manage the appeals process: If your initial claim is denied, an attorney can file an appeal and prepare you for additional proceedings.
  • Making personalized recommendations: Your lawyer can analyze your particular situation and make personalized recommendations. For example, if you are considering attempting to return to work, your lawyer can advise whether it is a good idea, as well as explain SSA programs that can protect your benefits while you make such attempts.  

More Than $3k/Month in SSD Benefits Possible If You Can’t Work

It may be possible to claim more than $3,000 a month in Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if you cannot work, based on your work history. When you apply for benefits, the SSA considers factors like your age, health condition, education, and past earnings to determine how much you can collect in benefits. 

Contact Disability Law Group Today to See How We Can Help

At Disability Law Group, we understand how difficult it is to manage life with a disability. Our experienced disability attorneys are ready to review your case and provide personalized solutions to maximize your SSD benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Michigan SSD benefits attorney.


Do People 50 and Older Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

Workers over 50 who become disabled may wonder whether they can file for SSDI benefits despite nearing retirement age. You might be asking, do people 50 and older qualify for these crucial benefits? Here, we’ll describe this issue. If you have any further questions, reach out to an experienced Michigan SSDI attorney. 

When Do SSDI Benefits Start?

When your SSDI benefits start depends on numerous factors. While a Michigan SSDI lawyer can give you more information about your specific case, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the timing of your SSDI benefits and what you need to know about.

Is There a Waiting Period for SSDI Benefits?

In most cases, approved applicants must wait five months before receiving SSDI benefits, with the first benefit payment coming in the sixth month after the applicant’s date of entitlement. The date of entitlement is tricky to explain in just a few sentences, but an experienced disability attorney can help you understand what that date would be in your case. 

Generally, an applicant is able to receive benefits as far back as one year prior to when they were found to be disabled – or the alleged onset date – but this is limited by other factors, including when the application was filed and if there were any other claims that could be re-opened for an earlier date of entitlement and additional back-pay benefits.

How Long Does It Take to Get SSDI Benefits After Applying?

According to the Social Security Administration, the approval process for SSDI takes about three to five months, but this timeframe has been known to vary widely, especially considering backlogs that the government normally has to work through. However, the process may take longer depending on the evidence needed to render a decision and whether your case needs to be appealed after a denial.

You may be able to expedite your claim depending on your situation, including whether you have evidence of significant hardship, a wounded warrior, or a terminal condition. You will want to provide as much detailed information and evidence as possible to support this. Further, it can be easier for an applicant who is over the age of 50 to be approved quicker under the Medical-Vocational Rules.

How Is SSDI After 50 Determined?

The Social Security Administration will decide whether an applicant has a qualifying disability through a five-step process:

  • Step 1: Work Activity – First, a reviewer will examine whether you still perform enough work to meet the threshold for substantial gainful activity, defined as earning a certain amount of monthly income that is adjusted each year.
  • Step 2: Severity of Your Medical Condition – The reviewer will examine medical records and testimony to determine if your medical condition significantly limits your ability to perform basic work activities and if the condition has lasted or will last for at least 12 months or will likely result in death.
  • Step 3: Listing of Impairments – The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical impairments considered severe enough to disable a person from substantial gainful activity. When an applicant has a condition on the list or a condition of equivalent severity, the applicant will qualify as disabled.
  • Step 4: Ability to Do Past Relevant Work – If an applicant does not have a listed or equivalent impairment, the examiner will evaluate whether the applicant’s condition prevents them from doing any of their past work.
  • Step 5: Ability to Do Other Types of Work – The examiner will also consider whether the applicant can do any other work, given their education, training, work experience, and age.

What Rules Do You Need to Know to Apply for Disability After 50?

One of the most important factors the SSA considers, especially for applicants over the age 50, is whether you can perform previous work or adjust to new work. The SSA uses residual functional capacity (RFC) to evaluate the strength-related work you can perform, which is divided into four categories:

  • Sedentary – No lifting more than 10 pounds, and essentially a seated job for the majority of the day
  • Light – Lifting of ten pounds or less frequently and occasional lifting of no more than 20 pounds
  • Medium – Lifting of 25 pounds frequently and occasional lifting of 50 pounds
  • Heavy – Lifting of more than 50 pounds frequently 

Generally, the less physically demanding work that the applicant has performed over the past 15 years, the more likely they will be eligible for disability after age 50. The SSA treats older workers more favorably when considering the RFC score because it acknowledges that adjusting to a new type of work may be more difficult for older workers. As a person ages, they may qualify for disability benefits even as their ability to perform work, or their RFC, is above sedentary.  

Are There Special Rules for Workers Over 50 Who Are Applying for Disability Benefits?

Applicants older than 50 may have a clearer path to proving they suffer from a qualifying medical condition and qualifying for disability benefits. The SSA also accounts for the fact that older workers would have a harder time than younger people competing in the job market if they transitioned to a new line of work. The special rules that apply for SSD applicants are called the Medical-Vocational Rules (MVR). The MVRs can seem daunting and complicated, but an experienced disability attorney can help you understand them and know how to apply them in your case. 

Is There a Social Security Disability Review After Age 50?

The SSA may continue to conduct disability reviews for any SSDI recipients, including individuals over the age of 50. Reviews generally occur every six to 18 months for expected medical improvement, every three years for possible medical improvement, and every seven years when a recipient is not expected to medically improve. However, in most cases, the SSA will not conduct disability reviews more often than every seven years for recipients aged 55 and older.

Contact Our Michigan SSDI Lawyers Today

Are you 50 or older and interested in pursuing SSDI benefits? The last thing you should worry about is how to understand and navigate the SSD process on your own. Contact Disability Law Group today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Michigan SSDI attorney about your eligibility today. At DLG, disability is all we do, and to us, every client matters.

Filling out a claim for for social security disability

How to Expedite Your SS Disability Claim

The SS disability claim process is known for being a long and difficult process that can be overwhelming. Many people do not know that there is also a five-month waiting period from your disability onset date once disability benefits are approved. However, the wait can become even longer if the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your initial application. Fortunately, you may qualify for an expedited SS disability claim.

What Is an Expedited SS Disability Claim?

An expedited SS disability claim can move more quickly through the system under certain circumstances. The SSA created specific categories to speed up certain claims. Each type has separate rules and eligibility requirements. 

You can expedite your claim from the beginning. Or, if your circumstances change, you can request an expedited hearing on appeal. However, what is most important is understanding the process for expediting your SS disability claim and recognizing what Social Security requires to expedite disability cases.

What Is the Process for Expediting a Social Security Disability Claim?

First, SSA has put together a list of conditions with certain requirements that could qualify someone for expedited processing. You will want to check out the compassionate allowances list and see if your condition is listed and whether you may meet the criteria provided. The list is in alphabetic order and includes conditions like ALS, breast cancer, and organ transplant need. 

Second, fill out your application as completely and accurately as possible. The SSA rejects many claims on the first try because applicants fail to provide enough information or because the information is not accurate. You must be truthful, and be sure to provide as much helpful information as possible, including any and all diagnoses, and not only the condition that you feel is most disabling.. Be certain to include your qualifying condition, if you have one listed in the compassionate allowance list, as that will flag your application for quicker processing. 

Finally, you may wish to hire a Michigan SS disability claim lawyer to guide you along every step of the process. Your disability attorney will also receive every correspondence from the SSA. You may find this help vital when your health is compromised and this process becomes overwhelming. An experienced disability lawyer can also make sure everything submitted is accurate and that your file is complete, including preparing and submitting medical source statements from your doctor to help support your case. 

How Can I Qualify for an Expedited Social Security Disability Claim? 

You can qualify for an expedited SS disability claim if your situation falls under one of these categories: 

  • Compassionate allowances: If you have a serious condition or injury, you may fall under the compassionate allowances category. 
  • Dire financial need: This category applies to claimants facing food and housing challenges, including imminent eviction or foreclosure. 
  • Terminal illness: This category applies to terminal conditions like stage IV cancers and ALS. The SSA automatically expedites these claims. 
  • Military service: Veterans can file expedited claims if they are a “wounded warrior” disabled in service after October 1, 2001. Others injured before that time must have a compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total disability. 

The SSA expedites all applications and claims on appeal that indicate a compassionate allowance condition, terminal illness, or qualifying veteran status. If you fall under these categories, mention them in your application, or be sure to update SSA if your condition qualifies after you file or even on appeal. If you are a veteran, be sure to identify yourself as a veteran in the online application. If you see an error on your paperwork, including your application, you can contact SSA to make any corrections and to update your diagnoses.

For dire financial need, inform the SSA via telephone or write a “dire need” letter explaining your situation. Your dire need letter should explain your circumstances thoroughly and clarify why you need help. You can also submit this letter after an appeal to expedite your hearing date if you have one. Prior to the hearing level, you will be assigned a case examiner, both at the initial application and reconsideration stage, and it’s important to keep them updated on any important changes. Specifically, if your condition falls under the compassionate allowance, you have a dire financial need situation, your condition is terminal, and/or you qualify as a “wounded warrior,” you will want to notify SSA right away regardless of the status of your claim. 

Contact Our Michigan SS Disability Claim Lawyer Today

When health conditions and financial needs collide, you may be feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. A lingering SS disability claim can make those feelings worse, especially with not knowing what the future holds. An experienced and caring SS disability claim lawyer in Michigan can manage this process for you while you focus on your health. Contact Disability Law Group today for a free consultation. We will make your disability case a priority and be sure to help you understand your rights and ways to expedite your case. To us, every client matters. 

What to Know About 2023 Disability Rate Increases

If you are receiving disability benefits in Michigan, your Social Security or VA disability pay is about to increase significantly. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced the 2023 Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), and the increase is much higher than in previous years.

While the 2023 COLA increase is certainly good news for anyone already receiving disability benefits, not everyone has claimed the benefits they qualify for. The Michigan disability lawyers at the Disability Law Group can help you apply for disability benefits and make the most of them. Keep reading to learn more about how Social Security disability benefits will change in 2023, and contact us today if you need help with your claim.

2023 Disability Rates

According to the Social Security Administration, anyone receiving disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits will receive an 8.7% COLA increase in 2023. This is a much larger increase than last year, when benefits went up by 5.9 percent, or the 1.3 percent increase for 2021.

The particular amount recipients will receive in 2023 depends on their disability rating, whether they have dependents, and other factors. Nonetheless, this increase should make a substantial difference for anyone receiving Social Security benefits. The SSA says that, after the COLA increase, the average monthly payment for those receiving disability benefits will be $1,483. That compares with $1,364 per month before the COLA increase.

What Is Increasing?

The 8.7% COLA increase applies to the following benefits:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • VA disability benefits

There are other changes to disability benefits coming in 2023 as well. An SSA news release explains that the maximum earnings amount subject to Social Security taxes will increase from $147,000 to $160,200. Similarly, the earnings limit for those reaching full retirement age in 2023 is increasing to $56,520. If you are unsure how these changes impact your benefits, talk to a Michigan disability rights attorney.

When Does the Change Take Effect?

People receiving disability and retirement benefits should see the 8.7 percent COLA increase starting with their disability pay date in January 2023. Those receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits will see their pay go up in late December 2022. Talk to a Michigan disability lawyer if you do not see any changes in your benefits in the coming months.

How a Michigan Disability Attorney Can Help You

Claiming disability benefits can be a complicated process. According to the SSA, less than one-third of Social Security disability claims are approved, even after appeal or reconsideration. A Michigan disability attorney can help you navigate this complicated process by:

  • Explaining which benefits you may qualify for
  • Gathering your medical records and other evidence to support your claim
  • Filling out the necessary paperwork to reduce the chance of avoidable errors
  • Helping you with any appeals if your initial claim is denied

Disability Law Group is here to help you claim the disability benefits you need and deserve. Call us today or visit our contact page for a free and confidential consultation.

Disability attorney shaking hands with client

Different Stages in the Disability Appeals Process

If your application for Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits got denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you might want to file an appeal. Since the vast majority of applications for disability benefits get denied the first time, most people who end up getting the benefits they deserve have to go through at least one stage of the appeals process.

The good news is that your benefits can be retroactive if your application got denied and you win on appeal. The rules for appeals are strict and unforgiving, so you might want to work with a Michigan SSDI attorney to go after your benefits. Let’s explore the four different stages in the disability appeals process.

First Level of Appeal – Reconsideration

You have 60 days (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your application to file a request for reconsideration. The person who takes a fresh look at your disability claim will not be someone who was involved in the initial denial.

You can file additional evidence and request an appeal online if your claim got denied for a medical reason. If the SSA denied your disability benefits application for a non-medical reason, like your income or assets, you can request an online appeal of the non-medical determination letter that denied your application for benefits.

Second Level of Appeal – Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

You have 60 days (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your reconsideration to file a request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If you are not happy with the results of the reconsideration, you can ask an administrative law judge (ALJ) to take a look at your file and hold a hearing.

Sometimes, the hearings are in-person. Usually, the in-person hearings take place within 75 miles of where you live. Under some circumstances, the applicant can request and receive a video hearing. Since many people have experienced Zoom and other online video conferencing tools during the pandemic, they are less uncomfortable with this option and might find it more convenient.

Third Level of Appeal – Review by the Appeals Council

You have 60 days, typically though sometimes less (plus 5 days mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision on your hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to file a request for a review by the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council looks at your request for review and your file and decides that the decision of the ALJ complied with the applicable laws and regulations, they might deny your request for a formal review.

If the Appeals Council grants you a review, they can either send it to an ALJ to review it more, or they can handle the review themselves. If they send your file to an ALJ and you are not happy with the decision of the ALJ, you can ask the Appeals Council to review it themselves.

Fourth Level of Appeal – Federal Court Review

The fourth level of appeal of an adverse decision on your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is to file a civil lawsuit in federal court. You typically have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) from the date of the notice of the adverse decision by the Appeals Council to file your case in federal court. However, depending on the facts of your case, and procedural history, your timeline may be different. it is important to contact an experienced Michigan Social Security Disability attorney right away to know your rights and be mindful of any appeal deadline you may have. 

We understand that this four-stage appeals process can be intimidating and overwhelming. You do not have to go through this experience by yourself. A Michigan SSDI attorney can help you at any stage of your appeal. For legal assistance get in touch with our office today, we offer a free consultation.

Person filling out SSDI document

What You Should Know About the SSI Restoration Act

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021 (SSI Restoration Act) is an attempt to patch holes in the SSI program. The purpose of SSI is to provide a safety net so that people living in poverty do not become destitute. Current economic conditions make it harder than ever for people who rely on SSI benefits to avoid going hungry or experiencing homelessness. However, many people do not realize that for individuals younger than full retirement age, can qualify for SSI by virtue of being disabled so long as they meet the strict financial eligibility rules. 

The SSI Restoration Act would bring the financial eligibility rules in line with today’s economic realities. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you navigate the application process for SSI and other government benefits. Here is an overview of what you should know about the SSI Restoration Act.

The Current SSI Program

The maximum federal SSI payment for 2022 is $841 a month for an individual, and $1,261 for a couple, according to the Social Security Administration. The federal poverty guidelines for 2022 are $13,590 a year for an individual and $18,310 a year for a couple. 

Stated on a monthly basis, the federal poverty level is $1,132 a month for an individual and $1,525 a month for a couple. In other words, a person who is elderly or disabled and relies on SSI benefits to survive will be living significantly below the federal poverty level. Consigning people to abject poverty because they are old or disabled is not acceptable.

What the SSI Restoration Act Wants to Do

The SSI program might have been appropriate 50 years ago when the benefits program started, in 1972. The problem lies in the fact that the asset and income eligibility rules have not changed in 50 years. Also, benefits have not kept up with the increased cost of living.

Proponents of the SSI Restoration Act want to accomplish these goals:

  • Raise the asset limit. Currently, an individual can only own $2,000 of countable assets and $3,000 for a couple. The last time this asset limit was increased was in 1989. In the more than 30 years since that increase, the cost of assets has increased substantially. Using 30-year-old numbers means that people can own fewer actual assets to fall within the asset limits.
  • Increase the SSI monthly benefits from below the federal poverty level to match the current poverty level. Also, indexing these benefits to inflation will prevent eligible beneficiaries from seeing the purchasing power of their SSI check dwindle with each passing year. 
  • Allow SSI recipients to earn up to $399 a month from working and receive up to $123 a month in other types of assistance, like Social Security, pensions, and veterans benefits without having those amounts reduce their monthly SSI check. The current income limits have not been updated since 1972. Also, after getting updated, the income limits should get indexed every year to keep up with current economic realities.
  • Get rid of the current marriage penalty that exists in the SSI system. Each recipient should receive the individual benefit level.
  • Eliminate the in-kind help rules that reduce monthly benefits that SSI beneficiaries might receive from relatives or friends, like food or housing.

These improvements to the SSI program would offer motivation to recipients to try to earn some income that could restore their dignity and remove the roadblocks to them returning to employment. More importantly, updating the SSI program would be a fair and moral thing to do.

A Michigan SSDI attorney could advocate for you and handle your appeal if your application for SSI or SSDI benefits got denied. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.

social security attorney meeting with client

Can I Collect SSDI Benefits if I Applied for or Received Unemployment Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Michigan Unemployment are two different benefits programs that have different eligibility requirements that can conflict with each other. If you get approved for both SSDI and unemployment benefits, you will need to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Michigan Unemployment Department.

You might have to repay some of the benefits, or the two programs might partially offset each other, thereby reducing your unemployment benefits. These situations are complicated, so you will want to work with a Michigan SSDI attorney to make sure that you do not get into trouble. Here is some information that could be helpful if you are asking the question, can I collect SSDI benefits if I applied for or received unemployment benefits? 

The Inherent Conflict Between Applying for Unemployment and SSD Benefits

You have to be willing and able to work to be eligible for unemployment compensation. When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you have to declare that a severe illness or injury is the thing that prevents you from working.

If you apply for benefits from both programs and the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Unemployment Department communicate with each other, you might find yourself denied by both programs. If you do happen to get approved for SSDI and unemployment benefits, you have a duty to notify both programs of that fact.

Eligibility Requirements for SSDI Benefits

You must convince the Social Security Administration that all of these factors are true to qualify for SSDI benefits: 

  • You have a severe medical condition that meets the standards of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book and is a long-term condition. For purposes of SSDI, long-term means that the medical condition has already lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months, or is fatal. 
  • Because of the medical condition, you cannot work your previous job or any other type of gainful employment.
  • Your current monthly income does not exceed the substantial gainful activity (SGA) income limit. 

The second factor in the SSDI eligibility requirements usually causes problems when applying for unemployment benefits. You must certify to the Social Security Administration that you are unable to work.

How to Qualify for Michigan Unemployment Benefits

The Michigan Unemployment Department requires you to meet these qualifications before you can receive unemployment benefits:

  • You were employed before you submitted your application for unemployment benefits.
  • You are not employed at the time that you submit your benefits application.
  • You did not become unemployed through any fault of your own.
  • You are looking for appropriate full-time employment, and both able and available to work. 

If you certify that you are able to work, the fourth factor you must meet for unemployment benefits, then you most likely do not qualify for SSDI benefits, which require you to be unable to work. There are legal risks to applying for both unemployment and SSDI benefits. 

Sometimes it takes a while for the two government benefits programs to share information and discover the inherent conflict in the applications. When that happens, you might have a massive amount of money to pay back to the government. 

You should talk to a Michigan SSDI attorney before applying for both SSDI and unemployment benefits. Contact our office today for legal help, we offer a free consultation.

Family member of SSDI client

Are My Family Members Eligible for My Social Security Benefits When I Die?

When you have family members depending on your paycheck, you might worry about what will happen to them if you are no longer alive to be the provider for your loved ones. You might not have enough life insurance to meet the needs of a surviving spouse or disabled child for the rest of their lifetime.

A Michigan SSDI attorney can talk to you and evaluate whether survivors’ benefits will be available in your situation. Let’s address the question, are my family members eligible for my Social Security benefits when I die?

Who Can Be Eligible for Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has several different kinds of survivors’ benefits available, but you must have paid the required amount in Social Security taxes from your paychecks over the years for your family members to be eligible. If you worked jobs that deducted money from your paychecks for Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes, you have paid into the Social Security system. 

If you meet the requirements for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your dependent close relatives might be eligible for survivor benefits. If you are not eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, then your family members will not be eligible based on your earnings record. They might be eligible for other kinds of benefits (not survivors’ benefits) for some other reason, even if they do not qualify under your work record. 

Does Your Social Security Disability or Retirement Check Get Sent to Your Family Members After You Die?

No, the Social Security administration should not continue sending your disability or retirement monthly check to your family members after you die. If your family members do receive Social Security disability or retirement checks made out to you after you pass away, they should return them to the Social Security Administration. If they do not do so, they will have to pay back the money.

The SSA will calculate the amount of survivors’ benefits for each of your eligible dependents. The amount will not necessarily be the same amount that you received as your disability or retirement monthly check. Your family should notify the SSA at once of your passing and apply for survivors’ benefits.

Who Can Get Social Security Survivors’ Benefits?

There are four categories of family members who might qualify for survivors benefits through you:

  • If you were married at the time of your death, your widow or widower might be eligible for benefits. If your surviving spouse is not disabled, they will likely have to wait until they are 60 years old to start getting Social Security benefits under your account. A disabled spouse can start collecting Social Security benefits at age 50. Your surviving spouse’s age is irrelevant if the person takes care of your disabled child who is under the age of 16. 
  • You might have divorced years ago, but if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, your ex could be eligible for Social Security benefits through you, the same as a surviving spouse.
  • Your children could be eligible for some monthly benefits from Social Security through you if they are under the age of 18 and single, or going to high school full-time and not yet 19. If you have a disabled child who is older than 18 and became disabled before turning 22, that individual might receive survivors’ benefits.
  • If you provided at least half of the support for one or both of your parents who are over 62 years old, they might be eligible dependents for survivors’ benefits. Sometimes, adopted children, step-children, grandchildren, and step-grandchildren might qualify for survivors’ benefits through you.

The rules for survivors’ benefits eligibility are strict and sometimes complicated. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you seek the benefits you deserve and appeal a denial of benefits. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.