When you have a disability and limited income in Florida, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is a program managed through the Social Security Administration (SSA), and it can be a godsend when you most need it. The problem is the SSI process. It can be confusing for many people given the stringent rules and necessary documentation. Getting it right and producing the proper support needed for a successful claim can be taxing on individuals.
At Asbury Law, our disability benefits lawyer based in Florida aims to minimize your stress and help you successfully file a claim for SSI benefits. Contact us today at (904) 203-8776 to schedule a free 30-Minute Initial Consultation and get the assistance you and your family need.
Overview of the SSI Process in Florida
Supplemental Security Income is a nationwide rather than state-wide program that provides benefits to adults who are disabled, blind, or over the age of 65. Disabled and blind children can also qualify for SSI. It is possible for an adult to qualify for both SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but they are two different and distinct programs.
Qualification for SSI is not based on your work history but rather on your income. In most states, people who qualify for SSI also qualify for other government programs, like Medicaid.
Before filing for SSI, it is important to know what the requirements are to receive benefits. Eligibility is based on you:
- Being disabled; or
- Being blind; or
- Being over the age of 65; and
- Having limited income and resources; and
- Being a U.S. citizen, national, or a certain type of alien.
You cannot be confined in an institution at the expense of the government, which includes some hospitals and prisons. Other qualifications that you must meet may exist depending on your situation, which is why speaking to a social security disability attorney is always in your best interests.
For a child to qualify for SSI, they must have a physical or mental impairment expected to endure more than 12 months or result in death.
Stages of the SSI Claims Process
The SSI claims process is where a lot of confusion comes into play. Many people simply do not know where or how to proceed, and once they do, they do not understand what comes next. This is significant because most claims filed without the help of a competent disability benefits attorney are denied. Moreover, people whose claims are denied do not realize they can file an appeal, where their chances of approval may improve, if only they file it timely and with supporting documentation.
Thus, knowing the SSI claims process is an important part of getting your SSI claim approved.
If you meet the qualifications, you should apply for SSI benefits as soon as you are able so that you can start receiving your payments. The application can be completed by telephone or online.
You will need to provide the SSA with certain information, documentation, and releases, including:
- Social security number
- Proof of your age
- Citizenship status (including documentation if you are an alien)
- Proof of income
- Proof of any resources you have, like stocks, vehicles, checking and savings accounts
- Proof of your living arrangements, including your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, and food
- Medical status and documentation if you are filing based on your disability or blindness
- History of work, including any type of work you have performed in the last 15 years and the income you received
If you are filing on behalf of a disabled child, you will need to provide documentation of their disability, including their individualized education plan (IEP), and the contact information for their caregivers and teachers.
Once a decision is made, you will be informed. Again, most claims are denied, so if you disagree with the initial decision from the SSA, you have 60 days to request a reconsideration.
The SSA will tell you why your claim was denied, and if your denial was not based on a medical reason, you could request a reconsideration online. If your claim was denied for a medical reason, you may also request a reconsideration online, although the process may be different. For both types of reconsideration, a new claims examiner will review your claim from start to finish, and can also consider any new evidence not previously submitted.
So, if you did not have a lawyer when you initially filed, you should seriously think of one for reconsideration. A lawyer can identify new evidence to be used to help you get your claim approved. But also, a lawyer can review what you already filed and identify where you may have gone wrong and make strategic changes accordingly.
Hearing Before An Administrative Law Judge
If your claim was not approved during the reconsideration phase, you still have an opportunity to get your claim approved. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is your next step. You must make a request for this hearing within 60 days of the decision with which you disagreed.
The ALJ may question you as well as any witnesses you bring with you to the hearing and may have someone else there to testify, such as a medical expert. Once the hearing concludes, the ALJ will issue a written decision, and it will be mailed to you.
Review By Appeals Council
Again, if the decision is still not in your favor, you still might have another opportunity. From the date the ALJ decision was issued, you have 60 days to appeal the decision to the Appeals Council.
There is no guarantee the Appeals Council will grant your review. If they do, they can make their own decision or remand it to the ALJ for further consideration.
What Are Your Rights as an Applicant for SSI Benefits in Florida?
Anyone can apply for SSI benefits, and as an applicant, you have certain rights. These rights include the ability to:
- File at no cost to you
- Have help in filling out the SSA forms and obtaining necessary documents
- Be represented by a person of your choice
- See your records and obtain copies of your records
- Have a letter sent to you that explains your ability to receive benefits
- Appeal if you disagree with the decision of the SSA
The district in which you file may grant additional rights as well.
Five Reasons You Should Hire a Disability Lawyer in Florida
- Improved chances of a better initial outcome. As your attorney, we will prepare and file the claim for you in the initial stages. We will make sure the application contains the pertinent information necessary to maximize your benefits and minimize your waiting time.
- Improved chances of a better appeal. If the initial application was denied, we will help you appeal the decision. Appeal preparation is essential in SSI applications simply because of the sheer number of denied initial applications.
- Essential management of evidence. Evidence is critical to get your SSI application approved in Florida. We manage the evidence for you. We know what type of evidence can help your case. We also proactively look for any gaps or questions that may arise and fill the holes or answer the questions before they are identified or asked.
- Representation when you need it. If your application is denied and a hearing is requested, we will represent you. It can be intimidating to go before a judge, so we will guide you through the process. We will also bring witnesses (expert and lay witnesses) – as we know from experience judges often rely heavily on their testimony.
- Overall smart legal advice and analysis. As your SSI claim progresses, it may get more complicated. We provide advice and guidance throughout, helping you understand what is happening and what to expect.
Contact a Disability Attorney in Florida Today
Getting the financial help you need at a time when you suffer a disability or are otherwise not bringing in the income you need is important. That's why SSI benefits have been established. It is your right to obtain these benefits when you qualify.
At Asbury Law, our disability benefits attorney based in Florida helps make sure your rights are upheld and you get the maximum benefit available to you and your family. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at (904) 203-8776 to schedule a free 30-Minute Initial Consultation. We are here to answer your questions regarding your disability benefits and how our social security attorney might be able to help you.