social security disability benefits

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

Navigating the Social Security disability benefits application process is no easy feat. The requirements are specific and detailed. Many, if not most, applicants get initially denied and thus have to go on to maneuver the appeals process. Once you have been granted disability benefits, you will likely feel much-needed relief. While Social Security disability benefits can provide critical financial support to those in need, there are other consequences, such as tax consequences, that benefits recipients should be aware of. We will discuss more on that here.

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

In some cases, Social Security disability benefits are taxable. This depends, however, on the type of disability benefits you receive. It also depends on your overall level of income. You see, there are two benefit programs that the Social Security Administration runs for individuals with disabilities. The two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income).

SSI is financial assistance for disabled and other qualifying individuals who have low incomes and limited financial resources. The money comes from the U.S. Treasury as opposed to Social Security taxes, even though the Social Security Administration runs the program. SSI benefits are not subject to income tax.

On the other hand, however, you have SSDI. SSDI is taxable under certain circumstances. This hinges almost exclusively on your level of income. Whether or not you will pay tax on SSDI benefits is based on, as the Internal Revenue Service refers to it, your “provisional income.” Your provisional income is calculated using the sum of your adjusted gross income, your tax-exempt interest income, and half of the amount you get in Social Security benefits for a particular year. If these numbers add up to less than $25,000 per individual taxpayer or less than $32,000 for a married couple filing jointly, there will be no tax consequences for receiving SSDI benefits that year. 

For those individuals with provisional incomes at $25,000 or more or for married couples filing jointly with provisional incomes at $32,000 or more, there will be tax liability for SSDI benefits and the amount will range on a sliding scale based on your provision income. For individuals with provisional incomes ranging from $25,000 to $34,000 and couples with provisional incomes of $32,000 to $44,000, up to 50% of your SSDI benefits will be subject to taxation. Alternatively, for those individuals with provisional incomes at over $34,000, 50% to 85% of your SSDI benefits will be subject to taxation.

In reality, the majority of SSDI benefit recipients do not face tax consequences for receiving these benefits. This is due to the fact that most benefit recipients are out of work due to their disabling condition. In fact, the Social Security Administration reports that only approximately one-third of disability benefit recipients end up paying taxes on those benefits, usually due to the income generated by a household member such as a spouse. 

Disability Attorney

Do you have disability benefits questions? Roeschke Law has the answers you are looking for. Contact us today.

disabled person holding railing

What Is Presumptive Disability for SSI Benefits?

The process for applying for SSI benefits can be lengthy in and of itself. Gathering the necessary documentation and properly filling out all of the forms can feel like an endless task. Once you have completed your application, however, the wait time can also be extensive. It is not uncommon for the Social Security Administration to take several months to process an SSI disability benefits application. Meanwhile, applicants are left financially struggling as they wait on word of their status for qualifying for these much-needed benefits. SSI is, after all, a program designed for disabled individuals and other qualifying individuals who have low enough incomes to be granted benefits under this need-based program. The good news may be that certain medical conditions may qualify an applicant for advance payments while their application is pending. These are referred to as presumptive disability (PD) benefits.

What Is Presumptive Disability for SSI Benefits?

When an applicant for SSI benefits has a certain qualifying medical benefit and seems more likely than not to be approved for SSI benefits, he or she may be granted presumptive disability benefits which are advance payments made while the official decision on the application is being made. These payments can go on for up to 6 months and usually do not have to be repaid. Even when an applicant who receives presumptive disability benefits ends up being found not medically qualified to receive SSI benefits, it is not usually required that he or she repay the presumptive disability benefits.

A determination that an applicant should be awarded presumptive disability benefits is made based on the severity of the impairment claimed as well as the strength of the medical evidence provided in the disability benefits application. Certain conditions that often merit presumptive disability benefits include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spinal cord injury that requires the use of a walker or similar mobility assistance
  • Terminal illness with a less than six months life expectancy
  • Total blindness
  • Total deafness

In order to receive presumptive disability benefits, there is no need to file a separate application. The determination will be made right from your SSI application filing. Once your application is filed, the initial review will be conducted by a Social Security Administration field office and it is this office that will usually make the presumptive disability benefits determination. Disability Determination Services (DDS), however, are ultimately responsible for either approving or denying disability claims and are also empowered to render decisions on presumptive disability benefits. While field offices are usually limited to granting presumptive disability benefits to applicants with conditions such as those listed above, DDS is granted broader discretion and can award such benefits to applicants with other conditions or impairments. 

Presumptive disability benefits will cease once the SSA has rendered a decision on your SSI application or in six months, whichever comes sooner.

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If you have disability benefits questions, Roeschke Law is here to help. Contact us today.

woman with fibromyalgia

Can You Be Eligible for SSD Benefits if You Have Fibromyalgia?

While some disabilities are very visible, others are more difficult to recognize. Fibromyalgia is a disease that may be harder for others to recognize, but it often impacts the individual in significant ways. 

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Those who suffer from fibromyalgia generally experience tenderness and muscle pain throughout the body. This is also commonly accompanied by other issues with memory, mood, fatigue, sleep issues, restless leg syndrome, sensitivity to light, noise, and temperature, issues with bladder or bowel control, and numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. 

Additionally, while a physical condition, fibromyalgia is commonly associated with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although fibromyalgia is a very real disease, it is often diagnosed after ruling out other causes of one’s pain. Currently, the causes of fibromyalgia remain unknown, though many believe there are both environmental and genetic components.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia it can be debilitating and prevent you from being able to work. But luckily, it may also qualify you for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. 

Qualifying for SSD Benefits

Despite the significant impact that fibromyalgia can have on your life, it’s important to understand that being diagnosed with the disease doesn’t mean you will automatically receive SSD benefits. Rather, it’s the decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA will look at its “Blue Book” requirements when making this determination. 

Blue Book Requirements

The SSA will look at the Blue Book to see if the applicant meets the following criteria:

  1. A history of widespread pain that has persisted for a minimum of three months. This does not require that pain be constantly present or to the same degree. Widespread pain includes pain in all quadrants of the body. 
  2. A minimum of 11 positive tender points on a physical examination. These points must be located on both the left and the right sides of the body, above and below the waist. (The physician must test the tender-point sites per the requirements of the Blue Book). 

Contact a Medical Professional if Experiencing Symptoms

If you are suffering from chronic, widespread pain throughout your body, as well as extreme fatigue or any other of the abovementioned symptoms of fibromyalgia, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. In addition to managing your disease, this medical record is a requirement for determining if you meet the Blue Book standards.  

The Arizona SSD Attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC Can Help

When you are struggling with a disability that prevents you from working, you may not know what to do. Luckily, the attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC can help. We understand the impact that a disability can have on your ability to make ends meet. That’s why we’re here to help you. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

military officer on computer

Can Your Military Pay Impact Your Eligibility for SSD Benefits?

For those whose disability makes them unable to work, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can prove to be a true lifeline. But for current and former members of the United States military, the receipt of pay, pensions, and disability compensation can raise concern over whether their SSD benefits will be impacted. 

What Type of SSD Benefits Are You Applying For?

Whether a military member’s compensation will impact their ability to qualify for SSD benefits is dependent upon the type of Social Security benefits for which they apply. There are a couple of different types of social security disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Receiving military pay will not affect a veteran’s ability to receive SSDI. However, it can impact their ability to receive SSI.

When looking to apply for SSD benefits, you should first consider your income level. This income can come from multiple sources: pay, pensions, and disability compensation. Those on active duty may receive regular pay and those who have given 20 years or more of service may receive a pension. 

VA-Determined Disability Does Not Guarantee SSA Disability Status

Military veterans may receive monthly benefits from the VA’s disability program. However, simply receiving benefits for this disability program does not automatically mean that they will be approved for SSD benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, veterans’ claims will be expeditiously processed. 

With any type of disability benefit, the applicant must provide proof of their disability. SSDI is for those applicants who can show that they are unable to maintain gainful employment and have worked long enough and have enough work history “credits” to qualify. What you currently earn would not be held against you in terms of eligibility for SSDI benefits. 

Understanding what types of benefits you may be eligible for can be a bit confusing. You want to receive the most benefits possible without causing yourself to be ineligible for Social Security Benefits. After all, you’ve given so much to your country – you deserve to be given something in return. That’s why a knowledgeable and experienced Social Security Disability attorney can be so helpful. He or she can help you to understand which benefits you may be eligible to receive. 

The Arizona SSD Attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC Can Help

When you are a former or current military member and are struggling with a disability that prevents you from working, you may not know what to do. Luckily, the attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC can help. We are so grateful for the hard work and immense commitment that our military service members have given to our country and understand the impact that a disability can have on your ability to make ends meet. That’s why we’re here to help you. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

social security disability claim

What Is the Five-Step Process SSA Uses to Determine Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) must first determine that an individual has a total disability before approving them for the receipt of disability benefits. This determination is made through a five-step process in which an applicant is reviewed to be disabled or not at each step. The central, defining aspect of disability for the purpose of social security disability benefits is whether or not an applicant retains the ability to work. Let us go through the five-step process the SSA uses to determine disability.

What Is the Five-Step Process SSA Uses to Determine Disability?

The first step is determining whether the disability applicant is currently engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The amount which constitutes SGA changes year to year. If an applicant is working and generates an average monthly income exceeding the SGA level, then he or she will not be found to be disabled. If the applicant makes less, then the SSA moves on to step two of the determination process.

The second step is an evaluation as to whether the applicant has a severe physical or mental condition. The applicant must have a medically determinable impairment, either physical, mental, or both, that is both severe and meets the durational requirement. A severe condition is one that prohibits the most basic of work-related functions. The durational requirement is that the condition must be projected to last at least 12 months or be terminal. If either of these criteria is not met, then the individual will not be found to be disabled. If both are met, then the SSA will move on to step three of the process.

The third step of the process involves a determination of whether the applicant’s medical condition either meets the severity of a social security disability listing or is found to be equivalent to such a listing. In the SSA’s blue book, there is a list of medically determinable physical and mental impairments and criteria that must be met in order for a listing to be satisfied. An individual’s condition must either meet one such listing or be found to be the equivalent to such a listing in order for the SSA to move on to step 4 of the process.

Prior to moving on to step 4, the residual functional capacity (RFC) of the individual will be determined. This is an analysis of the individual’s ability to participate in and retain full-time work. In step 4 of the determination process, the SSA looks to whether the applicant can still perform any of his or her past relevant work (PRW). This involves lining up the applicant’s RFC alongside his or her PRW to see if the applicant retains the ability necessary to participate in past jobs. If the applicant is unable to do so, then the SSA moves on to the final step of the disability determination process.

The last step, step 5, asks the question of whether the individual can adjust to any other kinds of work. A number of factors, such as age, work experience, education, and training, as well as the applicant’s RFC are considered in this determination. If it is found that the applicant cannot adjust to any other work, he or she is determined to be disabled.

Arizona Disability Attorney

The disability determination process can be complex and hinges greatly on the information you provide to the SSA. At Roeschke Law, we assist in presenting the strongest case to the SSA so that you can access those disability benefits which you seek. We are not only here to help you understand the Social Security disability process, but also to successfully navigate the process. Contact us today.

disabled worker

How Does the SSA Determine If I Can Do My Past Work?

In order to qualify for social security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must first find that you are disabled. SSA will only pay for total disability which means that you cannot do the work you did before because of your medical condition, you cannot adjust to another kind of work because of your medical condition, and your medical condition is expected to last for a minimum of one year or be terminal. There is a lot to unpack here and so it can be helpful to break things down into parts. Here, we will focus on how the SSA works to determine whether you are unable to do your past work.

How Does the SSA Determine If I Can Do My Past Work?

In order to decide whether you can or cannot still do your past work, the SSA will need to know about your past work. This means that the SSA will need to know details about how you did your job and any skills you acquired on your job. In order to remain potentially eligible for SSA disability benefits approval, the SSA will need to be able to determine whether your injury, illness, or other conditions prevent you from engaging in your past work.

The analysis will involve examining the responsibilities and demands of your recent past jobs. Recent past jobs will usually involve the work you did in the 15 years running up to your disability benefits application. Jobs will include any activities involving physical or mental exertion that was done for pay or profit or done with the intention of receiving payment or profit. Furthermore, a job will be something that you engaged in long enough to receive the necessary training to fulfill the requirements of the job.

After sifting out what past jobs are relevant to the analysis, the SSA will work on detailing how you engage in this past relevant work as well as how others generally engage in such work from a national economy perspective. As you can probably tell, the descriptions of your past jobs will be incredibly important as these will be looked at against the SSA’s evaluation of what your remaining abilities are to still engage in basic work functions.

Once the SSA sizes up your remaining abilities to engage in work functions as you previously did, a decision will be rendered. If it is determined that you can still engage in past work as you used to or as it is generally done in the national economy, the SSA will determine that you are not disabled for purposes of qualifying for social security disability benefits. If the SSA determines that you are unable to engage in past relevant work either as you engaged in it or as it is engaged in on the national economy level, then the SSA will proceed onto the next step of the disability determination process. This next and last step of the determination process will be whether you can engage in any other types of work despite your injury, illness, or condition.

Arizona Disability Attorney

Do you have questions about the social security disability application and determination process? Talk to our team at Roeschke Law. We have the answers you are looking for. Contact us today.

doctor in ssd process

The Importance of Your Doctor in the Disability Claims Process

When you apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to provide medical records as well as statements from your treating doctors. These are critical elements to a successful disability benefits application. In fact, one of the most common reasons for the denial of applications for disability benefits is not providing the right or enough medical evidence to support the claim. It is also often the case that the objective medical findings held within medical records are not sufficient to really demonstrate the extent of a person’s disability. This is where a written statement from your doctor can be invaluable in adding insight as well as perspective on your disability. Here, we will continue to discuss the importance of the role your doctor can play in the disability claims process.

The Importance of Your Doctor in the Disability Claims Process

First, your doctor will be important in the process of getting the right medical evidence to the SSA. You can work with your doctor to go through the SSA bluebook disability guide to see what information and testing you need in order to submit your claim with the strongest possibility of having it approved. Talk to your doctor about the fact that you are submitting a disability claim and have them elaborate on any opinions they may have as to whether your condition is severe enough to merit Social Security disability benefits. It is important that your doctor is supportive of the process because they can play such a large, supporting role in it.

As you go through the process of treating and testing for your disabling condition, continue to discuss with your doctor concerning the impacts your condition has on your daily activities. Be clear with your doctor about any increase in the severity of your symptoms and whether or not the current course of treatment is working for you. These types of discussions will not only help you receive the treatment you need for your disabling condition but will also assist your doctor in providing a clear and comprehensive statement to the SSA regarding your disability.

A written statement from your treating physician can provide unique insight into your disability claim and give it a clearer form for those reviewing your claim at the SSA. The SSA gives significant deference to those statements and opinions of treating doctors because of the unique insight they can provide. A doctor’s statement to the SSA about a patient’s disability can note the severity and extent of the disabling condition as well as its duration. Furthermore, the statement can detail how the disabling condition impacts your ability function in everyday life as well as how you may be responding to treatments. The statement can also provide insight into how your disabling condition prevents you from performing activities that may be necessary to retain substantially gainful employment.

Disability Attorney

Having a supportive team of professionals to lean on as you go through the disability benefits application process can be invaluable. At Roeschke Law we are here to support you throughout the process and answer any questions you may have along the way. Contact us today.

How Is My Disability Claim Evaluated When I Have Multiple Medical Conditions?

It is not uncommon for someone seeking Social Security disability benefits to have multiple medical conditions, and not just one. There may be one central condition that is disabling, or multiple conditions may all play a contributing role in preventing a person from engaging in substantially gainful activity. When applying for disability benefits, be sure to detail all of your medical conditions, including the ones that may be more minor to the more serious conditions.

The SSA will consider the combined impacts of all of your medical conditions, from the more severe to the non-severe, when rendering a decision on whether to approve your application for benefits. The combined effects of your multiple medical conditions will be assessed by the SSA in a multi-step, sequential evaluation process. Here, we will explain more about how your disability claim will be evaluated should you have multiple medical conditions.

How Is My Disability Claim Evaluated When I Have Multiple Medical Conditions?

In evaluating your disability claim, the SSA will begin by asking whether you are currently engaging in substantial gainful activity. This will be evaluated based on the number of your monthly earnings. Should you not be engaging in substantial gainful activity, the SSA will move onto the next step in the application evaluation process where the medical evidence you provided to them is evaluated. The SSA will use this evidence to decide whether you have a severe impairment or whether you have a severe combination of impairments.

A severe impairment is considered to be one that substantially impacts your ability to perform either physical or mental work tasks. These tasks can range anywhere from lifting and bending to focusing and the ability to follow directions. On the opposite side of things, a non-severe impairment is considered to be one that has no more than a minimal effect on a person’s ability to work.

If you have a severe impairment or a severe combination of impairments, your claim will proceed to the next step in the evaluation process. If you are not engaging in substantial gainful activity and it is found that you have a severe impairment or a severe combination of impairments, the SSA will go on to determine whether your condition meets the requirements set forth in the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book outlines serious medical conditions that, when the criteria stated in the Blue Book are met, will automatically qualify an applicant for disability benefits.

Should you not automatically qualify for disability benefits by meeting the Blue Book requirements, you can still be approved for benefits, but the SSA will go on to assess your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). RFC refers to the most work activity a person can do. It includes the ability to do both mental and physical work activities despite the symptoms caused by your medical conditions. The SSA will evaluate whether your RFC would prevent you from performing jobs you have held in the past and whether your RFC would prevent you from retaining other occupations. Listing all of your medical conditions can greatly increase your chances of being approved for benefits based on your RFC.

Disability Attorney

Disability applications are complicated. Having multiple medical conditions is also complicated. Navigating the disability claims process can be extremely complicated. Get the help you need at Roeschke Law. We are not only here to help you understand the Social Security disability process, but also to successfully navigate the process. Contact us today.

attorney explaining the ticket to work program to ssd client

What Is the Ticket to Work Program?

Are you on disability benefits and are wondering about the Social Security Administration Ticket to Work Program? While the Ticket to Work Program may not be right for everyone, it can be a valuable resource for some. Here, we will go into more detail about the SSA Ticket to Work Program and whether it may be a good fit for you.

What Is the Ticket to Work Program? 

Those found eligible for disability benefits must have shown that they were unable to earn enough money to support themselves. Sometimes, beneficiaries of Social Security disability benefits may wish to re-enter the workforce and improve earning potential. The SSA established the Right to Work Program for this group of people.

The intent of the Ticket to Work Program is to support career development for those disability beneficiaries from 18 to 64 years of age who want to work. The program claims to offer disability benefit recipients opportunities to engage in meaningful employment with the assistance of program service providers referred to as “Employment Networks” with the goal of achieving financial independence and no longer needing to rely on disability benefit payments.

Through the Ticket to Work Program, participants have access to employment support services, vocational and rehabilitation services, as well as the ability to gain work experience all while maintaining eligibility to keep receiving Social Security disability benefits. The program is free. You can get career counseling as well as job placement and training. The program service provider, either the “Employment Networks” or your State Vocational Rehabilitation agency, will essentially become part of your employment seeking and training team, assisting you as you look to work enough to gain financial independence.

To get started with the Ticket to Work program, you can call HelpLine to verify your eligibility. You will then select a service provider that is the right fit for you. You will then collaborate with your service provider in establishing a plan to help you achieve your goals. This may involve job training, career counseling, and more ways of preparing for and exploring the job market and how best to reenter the job market in the most competitive and competent way.

Disability Attorney

While the Ticket to Work Program offers an impressive list of free benefits to participants, it is not right for everyone. Not everyone is able to or best situated to increase earning potential or become financially independent from needing social security benefits and other forms of assistance. Are you curious about the Right to Work Program and other aspects of Social Security disability benefits? Talk to our knowledgeable disability benefits team at Roeschke Law. We are committed to providing trusted legal counsel to those who seek to receive disability benefits or who are currently receiving disability benefits but have questions about the program. Come to us with your questions and concerns. We are here for you. Contact us today.

disability hearing

What Will the ALJ Ask at My Hearing?

Has your application for Social Security disability benefits been denied? Now is not the time to give up, although it can feel very defeating to get that denial letter. Most people, in fact, are initially denied when applying for Social Security disability benefits. Many find more success in the disability benefits appeals process. One level of the appeals process is the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Now, the idea of presenting yourself in front of an ALJ for a hearing on your disability application may feel intimidating. Here, we want to go over some of the things the ALJ will likely ask you about at your hearing so you feel more prepared for it.

What Will the ALJ Ask at My Hearing?

The ALJ will start by asking you some basic questions such as your name, date of birth, where you live, and who lives with you.  Then, the ALJ will likely turn to the heart of matters, which is your disability. The questions will likely be extensive. You are tasked with presenting your claim to the ALJ in a way that shows him or her that you have a disabling condition that prevents you from retaining substantially gainful employment. This will involve answering questions regarding the nature and extent of your medical conditions.

The ALJ will want to know not just about the condition itself, but how it has impacted your life. Were you working before the condition became disabling? When did you stop working? What else has the disabling condition prevented you from doing? Have you tried to work since the disabling condition arose? If so, how did that turn out? So, as you can see, the ALJ will want to know about your medical condition, your work history, and how your medical condition has impacted your ability to work. Be prepared to be as specific as possible about the limitations imposed upon you by your disabling condition. If it prevents you from lifting a certain amount of weight, state that you are unable to lift a specified amount of weight or greater. If your condition prevents you from sitting or standing for an extended period of time, be specific about the amount of time you are limited to comfortably sitting or standing at a time.

If you are applying for Social Security Income (SSI), which is a needs-based program for disabled individuals, the ALJ will also be interested in learning about your financial situation. Questions will likely be asked about your living situation. Do you own your house? Are you renting? Do you live with a family member? What financial resources are accessible to you? What assets do you own? You may want to consider bringing documentation to provide to the judge and also for you to reference during the hearing.

Disability Attorney

At Roeschke Law, we understand that approaching the disability claims process and the legal system can be overwhelming and intimidating. We are here to assist you in any way we can. We are here to support you and help you succeed as you navigate the disability claims process. Contact us today.