Question
I have worked as a pipe fitter for more than 25 years. During that time the government consistently took social security premiums out of my paycheck. Recently I suffered a serious back injury while doing some work at home, and my doctor tells me I will never again be able to do many of the duties involved in my occupation. I filed for benefits with the Social Security Administration and was turned down. Suddenly, I am unemployed with no benefits and the social security I thought would help me in this situation is apparently unavailable. What can I do?
Answer
Part of the social security withholding taken from each paycheck does go to pay for Social Security Disability Insurance. However beware, this insurance is not available to you simply because an injury or illness prevents you from performing the duties of your occupation. Instead you must show the Social Security Administration not only are you no longer able to perform the duties of your former occupation, but that you are also unable to perform the duties of any job available in reasonable numbers in the national economy. In other words you must show you are unable to work at any occupation or profession. It does not matter that the only jobs you may still be able to perform require you to take a significant cut in pay or that, as a practical matter because your injuries, and employer may be hesitant to hire you. The guidelines for qualifying for social security disability insurance are quite strict.

I cannot tell from your question whether you will qualify for social security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration does often make mistakes at the early stages of the application process and you should not hesitate to appeal your initial denial. It is also not necessary to have an attorney assist you in preparing that initial appeal. The Social Security Administration will assist you in filing those documents. If you get denied at both the first and second stages of the Social Security Administration’s application process, your third stage will involve a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At that stage you may want to consider employing counsel. The Social Security Administration sets the fee for attorneys that practice at this stage and those fees are normally recovered if and when you obtain a successful outcome.

If you have any questions about a legal matter call Waldman Smallwood at 1-800-833-9151 or contact us online.

Tom Oxford, Attorney
Waldman Smallwood Law Firm, P.C.

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