Episode 22: Jeff Roberts, a personal injury attorney in Murray Kentucky, also handles social security disability claims for his clients. He’s helped them file for social security disability benefits since 1992, when he first began practicing. These cases have to do with disability or SSI, not social security retirement issues.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a benefit for those who have met the requirements for work history and what has been paid into the system. These benefits help people when they become disabled. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is paid out based on financial need. People who receive the SSI benefits typically have little to no income. The disability requirements are the same for SSDI and SSI. The non-disability requirements, however, are different.
SSDI claims can be filed at the same time as a KY workers’ compensation claim, a state disability retirement claim and sometimes a personal injury claim. Jeff explains that it may be beneficial to have an attorney who can handle these multiple claims from a case expense and an efficiency basis. The attorney would be familiar with the status of each claim and can manage the overlap so as to maximize the potential financial benefits for the clients.
At times, if the claims are properly managed, the settlement agreement of one of the claims could negatively impact the amount of the benefit of the other, related claims.
Social Security Disability Insurance
In a nutshell, to qualify for SSDI, assuming you’ve met the work history requirement, is that you are unable to currently work a 40-hour work week. There are Listings of Impairment that can be considered in determining a person’s eligibility for disability. Depending upon the types or number of listings, a person may qualify fairly easily (e.g. inoperable cancer). You may not need to hire an attorney if you meet the proper criteria, to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits.
Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia and other Mental Health Impairments
People are sometimes surprised to find out that just because they have been diagnosed with a condition doesn’t necessarily mean they qualify for SSDI benefits. It comes back to how the condition impacts the person’s ability to perform work.
Medical testing and medical records are important because they provide documented proof of a person’s condition. But again, it’s how the condition affects you and other issues. A person’s education level, his/her past work history and other factors are also considered.
Age is another determining factor for Social Security Disability benefits. The older a person is when they file a claim for SSDI benefits, can have a positive impact on the claim. There’s a break in the decision-making process if the person is age 50 and there’s another break at age 55. This means, one set of work restrictions could be disabling for a 58-year old that would necessarily be seen as disabling for a 48-year old.
When reviewing the person’s work history, if they’ve spent their time doing heavy, manual labor, and now they’re limited to a low weight restriction, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may say the person qualifies for SSDI benefits because the possibility of retraining the individual for something they’ve never done is relatively low at 59-60 years of age. If the person is only 30 year of age, the situation may be viewed differently by the SSA.
Some individuals may have very low cognitive abilities, for a variety of reasons. The Supplemental Security Income benefit provides a social safety net to provide some level of income to help those individuals.
If someone has a work history, but later develops a mental health issue, he/she may also qualify for SSI benefits. For instance, if someone is diagnosed as being bi-polar, but their ability to manage the condition with medication or other treatments becomes less effective, he/she may now qualify for SSDI and SSI benefits.
PTSD and Social Security Benefits
Some people who have experienced trauma are now no longer able to work in a normal setting due to the noise or the anxiety they experience around other people. We often think of people who have served in the military who are sometimes likely to suffer from PTSD symptoms. But, they aren’t the only ones.
The majority of the PTSD cases Jeff has handled from a Social Security perspective have involved women who have experienced trauma from sexual abuse or physical abuse. The PTSD of these traumatic experiences can often prevent someone from working in an office or factory setting until they’ve received significant therapy, counseling and possibly medication, if at all.
Social Security Benefits vs. Not Working
For the majority of individuals, holding down a job is far better than going on social security disability from a physical, mental and financial perspective. Most of the people Jeff sees would prefer to work, if it’s possible.
There may be an option of the individual returning to work or taking a job. If this happens, and it seems to be feasible, there are a lot of positive aspects to pursuing the opportunity. You should let your attorney know this is happening, but again, the opportunity to return to work may far outweigh the money received through disability benefits.
Head Trauma and Brain Injuries
Consider the possibility that someone fell, was hit in the head or involved in a car accident that resulted on significant head injuries and/or brain trauma. This person may be able to file a successful claim for Kentucky workers’ compensation benefits, file a motor vehicle accident claim and also be eligible to file for social security benefits.
Jeff finds that when head trauma and/or brain injuries are present, it’s often beneficial for him to speak with the person’s family members or spouse. Doctors explain that brain injuries may result in a loss of memory, trouble communicating or personality changes. The injured person may not realize they are exhibiting any of these symptoms.
These conditions and symptoms are often referred to as “hidden injuries.” It’s also another reason the proper medical testing and/or medical records are so important to the success of the social security disability claim. Jeff understands how to work with physicians to ensure the proper documentation is included in the injured person’s file.
For more information, visit www.JeffRobertsLaw.com. This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice. Jeff’s principal office is located at 509 Main Street, Murray, Kentucky. Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson. This is an advertisement.