Ask just about anyone about Social Security and they can tell you that obtaining disability benefits is a long and difficult process. In fact, some 70% of applicants are turned down on their first attempt. Why do so many struggle? As leading Social Security disability lawyers, our firm helps individuals determine if they are eligible for social security, what qualifying conditions are, appealing disability denials, and many other facets that help us maximize the benefits they are eligible for.
To get the inside scoop on why this Farah and Farah department has been so successful, we went straight to the source. Meet Social Security Department Manager, Erin Floyd.
What Is Social Security Disability?
The Social Security system was “created to promote the economic security of the nation’s people,” says the Social Security Administration (SSA). Despite Social Security Disability benefits getting a lot of the limelight, there are many other programs that the SSA manages. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other federal benefits like Medicaid and Medicare all play into the Social Security disability application process.
Erin Floyd, Social Security Department Manager for Farah and Farah Jacksonville, explains that many aren’t aware that several benefit programs fall under SSA’s umbrella. Farah and Farah handles both SSD and SSI claims. Social Security Disability is based on work credits. “It’s like insurance that you pay into,” says Erin. The SSD program pays out benefits to workers and their family when they have worked long enough, recently enough, and paid Social Security taxes.
SSD has many pitfalls, though, with one of the most common being timing. SSD benefits have a limited lifespan, and many applicants simply lose entitlement to their benefits by being late to file a claim. In that case, hope is not completely lost, and the individual may still qualify for SSI.
SSI pays benefits for adults and children who meet strict requirements for a qualifying disability. It has its own set of asset thresholds, which can be offset by other benefits received. SSI also has a monthly cap that changes annually. Knowing all of these requirements like the back of their hands, the Farah and Farah Social Security Department helps steer applicants through the process.
What Is Erin’s Role as Department Manager at Farah & Farah?
“My page of duties is four pages long,” Erin jokes. The job of managing a busy department of one of the Southeast’s most dynamic personal injury firms certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. On a typical day, Erin will oversee her team’s case management software, SmartAdvocate, manage employees and attorneys, handle fee collection and costs, review new clients, schedule hearings, attend conferences, and, if there’s a few moments to spare, lend expertise in a training class.
Where others may dread the fast-paced role, Erin absolutely thrives as Department Manager. I see my role as “guiding and teaching,” says Erin. With 19 years in, Erin has seen far more than most, yet says she still learns something new every day. Supervising attorneys may also seem like a tough job, but not if it’s at Farah and Farah. “Our team is super cohesive and has lots of different strengths,” says Erin.
The top-down policy Eddie and Chuck foster is one of collaboration over competition, where the entire firm can leverage each other’s strengths. The result is a firm where work is a lot less work-like, and the end result is a far better experience for the client.
What are Clients’ Biggest Pain Points?
“The sheer frustration of having to deal with Social Security,” Erin was quick to point out. These types of cases were already notoriously slow simply because the federal government has far more applicants than it does employees to process them. Throw in a global pandemic, and the SSD process is now far worse than Erin has ever seen it.
One of the biggest hurdles SSD applicants face is a bit of a misconception. Some applicants think calling a Jacksonville Social Security Disability attorney means their entire case is now being handled. “Whoever the attorney is, there are certain things we can’t do,” explains Erin.
The bulk of the application process is simply filling out the volumes of forms the SSA requires. These forms ask for in-depth details of the applicant’s day-to-day life. Erin wants potential applicants to know that representation can certainly help in the process, but will still need help from the client in supplying all of the correct information.
Even with the paperwork, the benefits of having an attorney are many. Erin and her team help applicants avoid the common pitfalls and get through an arduous process that much quicker and more smoothly.
What Does the Social Security Disability Process Look Like?
- Intake: When you first call Farah and Farah or open up a chat online, you will speak to an intake specialist. These are trained professionals that can help determine if you qualify. When all the eligibility requirements are met, representation can be secured.
- Application: After acceptance, the assigned Case Manager will reach out to the client and help them through an online qualification that captures all the pertinent information like work history and medical information. Once the application is ready and the applicant is found to qualify, the SSD forms are submitted.
- Submittal & Follow-Up: Having great working relationships with the Social Security Administration is crucial to Farah and Farah’s success. Our team knows how the SSA wants to receive its forms and where it goes every step of the way. Every form is reviewed before being filed to make sure it’s done the way it should be. After submitting the application, Erin and her team will follow up with the SSA as the application makes its way to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) group. This is where medical work up is done. The SSA will send out medical records requests to the applicant’s doctors and review them. Sometimes they’ll ask for additional information or tests such as an X-ray.
- Review: Once they have all the information they need, a medical doctor at Disability Determination Services (DDS) decides if the individual is medically disabled. Sometimes they’ll agree the applicant is disabled, but disagree about the onset date, potentially limiting benefits. Most applicants doing it on their own don’t know they can fight this determination when they have significant medical records proving otherwise. Maximizing your social security disability benefits is all about the details.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Social Security Attorney?
There are many junctions of the SSD application where a certain decision has pros, cons, and long-term repercussions that must be considered. An application for SSI means an automatic application for Medicaid, while an SSD application automatically applies for Medicare.
There are many rules and timetables with each of these which can affect the client’s insurance and premiums. That’s where having an advocate who knows the process and can explain the repercussions is a significant benefit.
Getting Through the Appeals Process
If a client falls into the 70% statistic of first time applicants that get denied, it isn’t the end. With Farah and Farah, a medical denial is almost always grounds for an automatic appeal. The first appeal is a request for reconsideration that’s sent back to the DDS office. They may have updated questions, forms, and records, or ask for more doctor’s appointments. If the appeal is approved, everyone celebrates. If not, there is still hope.
A denied appeal leads to a request for a hearing. “Most cases get approved at the hearing level,” says Erin. That’s because it’s the first time your Social Security Disability attorney gets to present in front of an actual judge. These judges are far more experienced and knowledgeable than the employees at the DDS who do initial application reviews. With all the records on the table and a powerful advocate in your corner, most cases don’t go beyond the hearing.
But what happens when they do? “If a client goes to a hearing and gets denied, they can file a new application and change the onset date to the day after the hearing,” Erin points out. This would start the whole process over again, but provides another shot for obtaining benefits. There are also other special circumstances where an applicant might actually want to withdraw their application to preserve benefits so they can file again in the future.
Requirements for Filing a Late Appeal
Sometimes people file an application, get denied, and then miss the deadline for filing an appeal. They may want to file a new application, but that might mean they miss out on benefits. An attorney may have grounds to show “good cause” in filing a late appeal.
Knowing these and every other requirement is how Farah and Farah helps maximize the benefits due to the client. This all is part of the strategy that an SSD attorney helps their clients look at before moving their case forward.
Having Trouble With Your Social Security Claim? We’re Trained to Help
The entire process for achieving Social Security benefits can be cumbersome and there are many different paths you can take. Depending on your unique situation, one path can be far more advantageous than another, especially with ancillary benefits like Medicare and Medicaid.
If you would like to discuss your social security disability claim in more detail, you can reach out to an entire team of Social Security Disability attorneys and seasoned legal pros like Erin any time of the day or night. We’ll review where you are at in the process and look at what options may be available to help your case move forward.