Social Security Disability
Q. How do I apply for Social Security Disability?
Go to your local Social Security office. In northern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, there are offices in Duluth, Minnesota, Superior, Wisconsin, and Hibbing, Minnesota. Tell them you want to apply for Social Security Disability. The office personnel from the Social Security office will assist you in completing the appropriate forms and authorizations.
Alternatively, you can apply online at www.ssa.gov.
Q. What do I put on my application for disability?
You want to tell the Social Security Administration, on your application, all of the conditions, physical and mental, that prevent you from working. For many people, this is simply one condition (for example a back injury). But for many other people, there are multiple conditions, which individually may not be disabling, but which in combination are disabling. Further, sometimes after a work-ending disability, people develop situational depression. Likewise, for people who simply have one disabling condition, they may have other conditions, that were previously non-disabling, but now impact their ability to work, such as high blood pressure, or diabetes, or obesity. So every medical condition should be listed as a potential disabling condition.
Q. What else will Social Security want to know?
Social Security will want to know about all of the medical facilities where you have treated (doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, therapists, counselors, etc.), as well as a list of your prescription medications. They will want you to sign authorizations so that they can obtain the appropriate medical information. Sometimes Social Security sends you to a doctor of their own choosing to be examined. You should fully cooperate at such an exam. Many times people are found disabled shortly after those exams.
Also, they will want a list of the jobs you have had over the past 15 years, including some details of your work duties at these jobs.
Q. What if they turn me down?
Generally there are 60 days to appeal. Do not let the 60 days lapse. You should appeal right away. If there are questions about how to appeal, contact either the local Social Security office, or an attorney who practices in the area of Social Security Disability.
Q. How much money will I get?
There are two types of Social Security Disability programs. One program, Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) pays depending upon how much money you paid to the Social Security system through Social Security taxes coming out of your paycheck. So the amount of money you receive depends upon how much you paid in Social Security taxes.
The other type of program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is the same amount for all people. Each year there is a cost of living increase for SSI.
Q. What is the difference between DIB and SSI?
Again, you can qualify for DIB if you’ve paid a sufficient amount of Social Security taxes through your previous employment.
For SSI, you qualify if you have very limited income, assets, and resources. Certain things, such as your house or your car are not counted towards those income, assets, and resources. If your spouse works, however, your spouse’s income will count against that. If you think you may meet the financial qualifications for SSI, then you should apply for both DIB and SSI.
Q. Do I have to apply separately for each type of program?
Yes. A DIB application is generally not the same as an SSI application, and an SSI application is generally not the same as a DIB application. The questions are very similar. But you should fill out a separate application for each type of program. The standard for disability is the same for both programs.
Q. How much does hiring an attorney cost me?
Attorneys are paid in Social Security Disability cases according to law. Social Security law provides that attorneys are paid 25% of all past due benefits (that is benefits from the commencement of the disability until the favorable outcome), subject to a maximum fee of $6000.00. Attorney fees also have to be approved by the Social Security Administration, typically a Social Security judge. Therefore, attorneys do not get paid until they have a successful outcome for their clients and until a judge approves the fee.
Q. When should I contact an attorney?
Generally people do not need attorneys until they have been denied on their initial application or on a reconsideration application. However, you should feel free to call an attorney at any time. We will be happy to answer any of your questions at that time. We would be better able to advise you as to whether you did or did not need an attorney at that time.
Q. I live in Minnesota but I got hurt in Wisconsin (or I live in Wisconsin and got hurt in Minnesota) what law applies?
It’s possible that either one of the laws will apply. Generally the law in the state where you were injured applies. However sometimes, another law may apply (or perhaps both laws would apply, although you are only allowed to collect benefits under one system, not both).
Q. What are the benefits?
The benefits, in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, are somewhat similar. Injured employees are entitled to be paid total wage loss (which is paid at 2/3 of the wage at the time of the injury) or partial wage loss (which is paid at 2/3 of the wage differential between your wage at the time of the injury and your current wage). There are limitations, in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, on how long a person is entitled to either total or partial wage loss.
There are also benefits for permanent partial disability, although the type and manner in which those benefits are paid are substantially different in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. People covered by Minnesota or Wisconsin are also entitled to medical benefits, such that their medical expenses shall be paid. There are vocational rehabilitation benefits, including potentially retraining. There may be additional benefits that a person may be entitled to, depending upon the circumstances and the applicable law.
Q. How long do I have before I can file my claim?
In Minnesota, the general rule is that you have 30 days to inform your employer that you were injured, although there may be exceptions that allow up to 180 days. (Most people inform their employers if they were injured immediately, or shortly thereafter, and in many circumstances, the employer knows that the person was injured right away). In Minnesota, you generally have three years before you can commence a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Once benefits have been paid (in any form whether it be wage loss, medical, or otherwise), there is no more statute of limitation problem in Minnesota. In other words, once the insurance company has paid a single benefit, a claim can be commenced at any time thereafter, sometimes years, even decades later. In Wisconsin, an employee is required to notify an employer of an injury within 30 days of the injury or 30 days of when the employee knew or should have known of the disability. In Wisconsin, an employee has to file an application for a hearing within 12 years from the date of injury or the date of last payment of compensation. If the claim is denied, an employee must file an application for hearing within two years from the date of the injury or the date the employee knew or should have known of the disability.
Q. How do attorneys get paid?
In Minnesota, attorneys are paid 25% of the first $4,000 of benefits recovered and 20% thereafter, subject to a maximum fee of $13,000 (although occasionally there are exceptions to the maximum fee limitations). In Wisconsin, attorneys are paid 20% of all compensation recovered. In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, attorney fees must be approved by a workers’ compensation judge
Q. Should I get a lawyer? (Especially since the insurance company is paying all of my benefits).
Generally, because workers’ compensation, whether in Minnesota or Wisconsin, is very complicated, and because the laws are constantly changing due to the political winds, seeking attorney advice is always a good idea. Again, it costs nothing to hire a lawyer for a workers’ compensation claim. The lawyer will be paid only a percentage of the benefits the lawyer helps you obtain. If you are already receiving benefits, the lawyer will not begin receiving a percentage of the benefits you are receiving. The lawyer will only receive a percentage of the benefits he or she helps you obtain.