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Texas & New Mexico Social Security Disability FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1. What are Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB) are part of a federal program that acts as an insurance policy to protect workers who become too ill or injured to work any longer. Your eligibility depends on how long and how recently you paid social security taxes out of your paycheck and whether your injury or illness is severe enough to constitute a disability according to the Social Security Administration's rules. If you qualify, you will be entitled to an ongoing cash payment each month and perhaps a lump sum payment for past months since the sixth full month after the date your disability began.

In addition, some of your family members may be eligible for benefits based on your work: For example, your spouse may be eligible if he or she is 62 or older or if he or she is caring for your children under age 16 or disabled. Your unmarried children under age 18 (or under age 19 if still in high school) or those of your children age 18 or older who became disabled prior to age 22 might qualify as well.

2. What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that pays monthly benefits to adults and children who are:

1) disabled, blind, or age 65 or older, and

2) who have limited income and resources (e.g. no more than $ 2,000 for an individual and $ 3,000 for a couple)

If you qualify, you will be entitled to an ongoing cash payment each month and perhaps a back award for past months since your application date. This amount may be reduced if you exceed the asset limitation. Furthermore, you may be eligible to receive SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB) if the SSDIB amount is less than the maximum SSI amount. When this happens, SSI will make up the difference plus an additional $ 20.

The Jeff Diamond Law Firms does not charge a fee unless we win your Social Security disability claim. Moreover, our fee is regulated by federal statute, and we charge 25% of your back benefits up to a total of $ 6,000. Also, in New Mexico the gross receipts tax is collected on the attorney fee.

3. How does the Social Security Administration determine if I am disabled?

If you believe you are too sick or injured to work, The Jeff Diamond Law Firm can help you file a claim for benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA evaluates every claim using the following 5-step analysis:

  1. Step 1 - Are you engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity? If working full-time or earning over a specific amount of gross income per month regardless of how much you work, you are automatically disqualified for benefits. If you are neither, the SSA then moves on to step 2.
  2. Step 2 - Do you have a severe impairment? This is usually an easy step to satisfy, as the SSA often finds that you have a severe impairment as long as a medical professional diagnoses it. If the SSA does not make such a finding, you are automatically disqualified. If it does, the SSA moves on to step 3.
  3. Step 3 - Does your impairment meet or equal a Listing? If your impairment, mental and/or physical, meets or equals very specific medical criteria for that particular diagnosis/illness/condition, you are found eligible at this step. This determination must be made by a medical professional. If your impairment does not meet or equal a Listing, the SSA then moves on to step 4.
  4. Step 4 - Does your impairment prevent you from performing your past relevant work? You must, to the best of your knowledge, provide the SSA with a list of all the jobs you held during the 15 years preceding the date your impairment began. The SSA will then evaluate your list to determine whether your impairment prevents you from performing any of your past relevant work. If not, you are disqualified. If so, the SSA then moves on to step 5.
  5. Step 5 - Does your impairment prevent you from performing any other type of work, even with the limitations and restrictions imposed by it? This step requires an evaluation by a qualified vocational expert to determine whether there are any jobs, other than your past jobs, that you can still perform despite your impairment(s). If the vocational expert so finds and the SSA adopts those findings, you are disqualified. If not, you are disabled and therefore eligible for benefits.
4. How long does it take to obtain my disability benefits once a claim for benefits is filed?
It can take approximately six months to receive a decision on your initial application. If your application is denied, it can take an additional year and a half to obtain a decision as your claim works its way through the appeals process. However, certain circumstances can shorten that time period, so let our attorneys determine if any are applicable to your case.
5. Is there any way to get my Social Security disability benefits faster?
There are procedures for expediting decisions on your claims for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Depending on the circumstances of each individual case, The Jeff Diamond Law Firm may be able to get an expedited decision on your claim if you are facing immediate medical hardship, suffering from a terminal illness, or the evidence is so great that the decision could be decided "on the record" without the necessity of a hearing. We try to obtain evidence in support of your claim as rapidly as possible and present it for as prompt a decision as the facts and circumstances will allow.
6. If I win my case, how much money will I receive?

If you are found eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), the amount you will receive each month is calculated based on your lifetime earnings, which differ for every individual. Please refer to your latest bi-annual statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to see how much (if any) SSDI you may receive. Also, if you have unmarried children under age 18 (or under age 19 if still in high school) that live in your home, you may receive additional money to help care for them.

If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will receive a monthly payment of up to $ 674.00 per month for an individual or $ 1,011.00 per month for an eligible couple. This amount may be reduced, however, if you and your spouse have too much income or resources.

7. If I win my case, what type of medical benefits will I receive?
If you are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), you will be eligible for Medicare coverage after a waiting period of 24 months. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will be entitled to Medicaid coverage as soon as your entitlement to SSI begins.
8. Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I’m still working?
Even if you're working, you may still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration's regulations state that you are disqualified if you are engaged in "substantial gainful activity," i.e. working and earning more than $ 1,000 a month. However, if you are in a sheltered workshop, receiving subsidized employment which is not competitive in the labor market, working only part-time, earning less than $ 1,000 a month, or there are other special considerations in your work, you may still be eligible to apply for and receive SSDIB and/or SSI. The attorneys and staff at The Jeff Diamond Law Firm are trained to understand exactly what constitutes "substantial gainful activity" and how to analyze your work situation.
9. Can I get Social Security disability benefits and Workers’ Compensation?
Workers' Compensation benefits can reduce your Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDIB). For example, lump sum Workers' Compensation settlements can be used to offset monthly SSDIB if not worded properly to reflect a pro-ration of the lump sum, for example, over the worker's life expectancy. The attorneys at The Jeff Diamond Law Firm can advise you or your workers' compensation attorney about the best wording of settlement documents, so you get the least offset against future SSDIB.
10. What should I do if my claim was denied?
According to a December 2007 report from the Office of Disability Programs, 65% of initial claims for disability benefits are denied. If your claim is one of those, The Jeff Diamond Law Firm can appeal the denial for you by filing a Request for Reconsideration with the SSA. This must be done within 60 days of the date of the denial decision, so contact usimmediately to preserve your rights.

Unfortunately, 87% of claims that are appealed to the Reconsideration level are denied there. If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, we can appeal this second denial for you by filing a Request for Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge with the SSA. Again, this appeal must be made within 60 days of the reconsideration denial, so contact us immediately to preserve your rights. Once this appeal is filed, your claim will be sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) that services your area. The time that it takes to get a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) varies among the ODAR offices throughout the country. Fortunately, 62% of claims that are appealed to the ALJ hearing level are approved. It is absolutely vital that you have representation at the hearing level. The attorneys at The Jeff Diamond Law Firm have represented thousands of claimants at such hearings.

If, however, your claim is denied at the hearing level, we can file an appeal with the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can then do one of three things: (1) deny your appeal, (2) award you benefits, or (3) remand your case back to an ALJ for another hearing. The Appeals Council denies 69% of appeals filed, awards benefits outright in only 3%, and remands 26% of the appeals filed. The Jeff Diamond Law Firm has been very successful in filing appeal briefs with the Appeals Council and has the expertise to argue the law and the facts that support your case. While your claim is pending with the Appeals Council, it may be possible to file another claim while your appeal is pending. The attorneys at The Jeff Diamond Law Firm can discuss this option with you.

Finally, if your claim is denied by the Appeals Council, the next option would be to file a civil action against the Social Security Administration in federal district court. This option can be very beneficial to claimants; 5% of actions filed in district court result in an outright award of benefits and 46% of cases are remanded back to Social Security with instructions to hold another hearing before an ALJ. Only an attorney can file a federal court action. Just like appeals before the Appeals Council, the attorneys with The Jeff Diamond Law Firm have been very successful in filing actions in federal district courts.

11. Why do I need an attorney to help me?

If you need Social Security Disability benefits, you should consider seeking professional expertise, like a lawyer, to help you apply or appeal if you have already been denied.

Why do we recommend obtaining legal counsel? An attorney with a law degree has training for complex legal matters, such as administrative law, the type of law used by Social Security.

If you are denied, you are entitled to a number of appeals. At some point, you may need to appeal to the United States Federal Court. An experienced lawyer knows how to do that.

If you would like to learn more about the background of the attorneys at The Jeff Diamond Law Firm click here.

If you would like a free consultation with The Jeff Diamond Law Firm, click here, or call us toll-free in New Mexico at 1-800-722-0927 or in Texas at 1-888-722-0934 or 1-888-722-0935.

You may also call our offices locally at:

  • Carlsbad: 575.885.3500
  • Roswell: 575.627.0400
  • Albuquerque: 505.881.6500
  • El Paso: 915.781.1388
12. How much does it cost me to hire an attorney for my disability case?
The Jeff Diamond Law Firms does not charge a fee unless we win your Social Security disability claim. Moreover, our fee is regulated by federal statute, and we charge 25% of your back benefits up to a maximum of $ 6,000. Also, in New Mexico the gross receipts tax is collected on the attorney fee.

We also charge for certain costs and expenses, and they include, but are not limited to, copying, long distance phone calls, cost of getting medical records, and faxing. In Texas, physicians are not allowed to charge for copying and sending their medical records. Conversely, in New Mexico, physicians can and generally do charge our firm for the cost of copying and sending their medical records.

13. What information will my attorney need?

Your attorney will need the following information:

  • Medical records
  • Contact information for your doctor(s)
  • Work history going back at least 15 years
  • Your contact information, including name, phone number, address, email address, Social Security number, age, etc.
14. Does The Jeff Diamond Law Firm offer telephone appointments?

Yes! Call us today toll-free in New Mexico at 1-800-722-0927 or in Texas at 1-888-722-0934 or 1-888-722-0935.

You may also call our offices locally at:

  • Carlsbad: 575.885.3500
  • Roswell: 575.627.0400
  • Albuquerque: 505.881.6500
  • El Paso: 915.781.1388
15. I’m interested in talking with The Jeff Diamond Law Firm. What should I do next?

Contact us today to protect your rights! We encourage you to call us toll-free in New Mexico at 1-800-722-0927 or in Texas at 1-888-722-0934 or 1-888-722-0935. You may also call the office closest to you directly.

  • Carlsbad: 575.885.3500
  • Roswell: 575.627.0400
  • Albuquerque: 505.881.6500
  • El Paso: 915.781.1388

Or, if you'd prefer, submit your contact info and we will follow up with you. Simply click here and fill out the Contact Us form and someone from our offices will contact you to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

 

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Lawyers have been the real peacemakers of the West. We have always been in the small towns promoting mining and ranching and helping families make a new life. The Spirit of the West, commissioned by Jeff Diamond, is a mural by Mark Spore. It covers the entire east wall of the Jeff Diamond Law Firm headquarters as a gift to the public and the legal profession.

The Mural
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Albuquerque Office:
2920 Carlisle Blvd NE #119 Albuquerque, NM 87110
El Paso Office:
6070 Gateway Blvd E.Ste. 509 El Paso, TX 79905
Additional offices: New Mexico -- Roswell, Carlsbad. Get the full list of office locations here