If you are pursuing Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you probably have a lot of questions regarding who is eligible for disability payments, how the process works, how to file an appeal, and more. This page answers some of the most commonly asked questions. Schedule a free consultation with our Muskegon SSDI attorney by calling (231) 403-0040. We serve clients in Grand Rapids and the surrounding West Michigan areas.
SSI & SSDI
Should I Retire Early or Apply for Social Security Disability?
If you are having health problems that have made working impossible and you are nearing the age of 62, you may have been told that retiring early may be the best option.
But you need to look at the overall picture and determine whether early retirement or applying for Social Security disability would be the best option in your given situation. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has very specific guidelines regarding retirement benefits and disability benefits.
Early Retirement Benefits
You can apply for early retirement and start receiving monthly benefits as early as age 62. You can wait to apply for benefits as late as age 70. Your monthly benefit amount will be reduced if you start receiving them before you reach what is called “full retirement age”.
Your full retirement age is based on when you were born. As an example, if you were born before 1937 you can start receiving benefits early at age 62, but you will only receive 80% of the monthly benefit because you will be receiving benefits for an additional 36 months because your full retirement age is 65.
Social Security Disability Benefits
If you choose to apply for disability benefits and you qualify for Social Security Disability, you will receive 100% of your monthly benefit. That 100% rate will continue when it switches over to Social Security when you reach your full retirement age. So, if you can successfully prove your disability case, you will receive more money each month continuously.
Disability claims can be time consuming and challenging, but if you have the proper documentation to support your claim, you should be able to prove your case and be awarded benefits.
Your Social Security Disability Claim
The key to a successful disability claim is providing the proper documentation to support your claim and show that your medical condition makes it impossible to work. You should be approved for disability benefits for your medical condition if you prove your diagnosis, the severity of your condition, all your limitations and restrictions, any treatment you have undergone and how you responded to that treatment, and how your daily activities have changed since your diagnosis or since your condition progressed.
You should include all your doctor’s records, surgical notes, test results, doctor notes, any documentation or journaling you have maintained in regards to your condition.
The Social Security Disability Application Process
You can start the Social Security disability application process online. If you prefer, you can visit your local SSA office and start the application in person by meeting with an employee face-to-face. Because of the complexity of a disability claim, an advocate or an attorney can be very beneficial in helping you win your case. You should speak with an attorney before you officially start the application.
Most claims are denied at first, and many go all the way to an administrative law judge for a ruling. However, those who have enlisted the assistance of an advocate or attorney are much more likely to have their disability claim for benefits approved.If you questions about your rights, or you are considering filing for Social Security Disability, call today or contact us online for more information.
How Many Claims Get Approved?
There are numerous Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODARs) in Michigan. Their approval rates (the percentage of applications granted at the hearing level) vary from office to office.
In 2018, certain West Michigan offices had the following approval rates:
- Mount Pleasant: 43%
- Grand Rapids: 42%
- Lansing: 47%
- Livonia: 53%
- Flint: 46%
The approval rate for the judge handling your case is also very important.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Decision?
This depends on the level or “stage” at which your application is pending. When you first file your application, the decision is made by an office in Michigan called the “Disability Determination Service.” This is a state of Michigan agency that applies the SSA’s rules. After you file your application, it will probably take between 90 and 120 days to receive a decision.
If your initial application for benefits is denied, you can appeal and request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). This means that, eventually, you will go before the judge to argue your case for disability benefits.
Unfortunately, it can take months to schedule an appeal. The average wait time for a hearing in Grand Rapids is 14 months; in Lansing, it’s 12.1 months; and in Mt. Pleasant, it’s 17 months. It also takes some time after the appeal to receive the judge’s decision.
How Much Will I Receive in Benefits?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are based on need. The monthly maximum benefit amount starting in 2019 is $771 per month for individuals, and $1,157 for couples. However, depending on your situation, you may not receive the full amount.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments are based on the worker’s Social Security earnings before the disability occurred. That is, the more you earned prior to becoming disabled, the more your SSDI payments will be, up to a certain maximum.
The amount you receive in benefits will also depend on the “onset date” for your disability. With a convincing case, you could receive months of back pay due to an early onset date ruling.