Social Security payments can become what you rely on as your income when you’ve been injured or retired. Here’s why it’s good to have an attorney on your side.
Receiving your Social Security payments can be hassle. It is a process many people don’t think about until it is suddenly relevant.
If you qualify for Social Security pay, it means you’re either older or have a disability. In either case, you don’t want to be worried about whether you’ll be receiving your payments or not.
Social Security payments make up 90% of the income of one in five elderly Americans. Moreover, it makes up at least 50% of the income of nearly half of elderly Americans.
Whatever your need, you’re owed what you’re owed. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to get your payments on your own, it’s time to hire a professional.
Navigating Social Security payments can be a bit complicated. Today, we’ll review why that is, along with a few reasons you’ll want to consider hiring an attorney to make sure you get what you’re owed.
Retirement Payment Eligibility
Retirement payments come from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund. This is an account set up by the United States Treasury which your taxes go into.
Once you are eligible for retirement benefits, you can begin getting payments from this fund. To simplify some complex ideas for a moment, you are generally eligible somewhere between the ages of 65 and 67.
For some people, there’s also the option of getting your payments early. You can choose to start receiving payments as early as age 62, but the rate is reduced. Starting at age 62 will reduce your payments by 28.3%, with the reduction decreasing the longer you wait.
Of course, the process isn’t quite that simple. There’s also the fairly complex credit system you need to contend with. You need to earn 40 credits by working in the United States, with 4 credits usually earned for every year of full-time work.
This credit process can blindside people, especially if you worked odd hours for low wages. It can also be a surprise to those who stayed at home for multiple years as an adult, perhaps to raise children. Remember that receiving your retirement payments isn’t just based on age.
This credit process warrants an article to itself. We recommend thoroughly researching how it works, even if you intend to hire professional help.
Disability Payment Eligibility
Your Social Security taxes also pay into a fund called the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. As the name suggests, the goal of this fund is to help pay people with disabilities and/or their families.
The hope is these payments can help those whose disabilities may raise (sometimes greatly) their cost of living. The payments can help with medical costs, food, and the other necessities of living a full life.
Unlike retirement payments, what are commonly known as “disability payments” are mostly disconnected from a person’s age. Even children can be eligible for these payments, although slightly different rules apply in those cases.
Disability payment eligibility is arguably more complicated of a process than it is for retirement payments. It isn’t enough to just have a disability and be living in the United States.
A very similar credit system to that of qualifying for retirement payments still applies, except younger people require fewer credits. For example, those under 24 only need 6 credits in a 3-year period.
Additionally, your disability has to have what would generally be considered a dramatic impact on your livelihood. Generally speaking, it must:
- Prevent you from working as you previously did
- Prevent you from making reasonable adjustments and then working more or less as you previously did
- Be expected to last at least one year or until your death
These determinations aren’t made by you either. The government has to be convinced the relevant party fits these metrics.
If you’re wondering what conditions tend to qualify you for disability, the federal government has a list of criteria on their website that different conditions are judged by.
As touched on earlier, bear in mind that children and adults are judged differently. If you’re trying to get disability payments for a child, remember to tailor your research to their age group.
For the purposes of determining if someone is an adult, assume they must be neither married nor the head of a household. They must also either be under 18 or under 22 and regularly attending school.
Common Social Security Mistakes
There are two big Social Security mistakes that should be immediately highlighted before we start discussing other common errors. Here’s a quick overview.
Retiring early can be a major error unless you’re actually planning around it. Your payments can be reduced by almost 30%!
There are legitimate reasons to retire early, such as due to financial difficulties or poor health. However, unless you absolutely need the money or don’t expect to live for another few years, you should wait.
Missing the 65 Medicare Deadline
There is a 6-month window before and after (3 months before, 3 months after) your 65th birthday where you are expected to sign up for Medicare, one of the bigger benefits Social Security offers. There are penalties for late registration so it is important to keep on top of when you’re eligible.
Many people also make the easy mistake of either thinking they’re eligible for benefits when they’re not or simply not realizing they could start receiving social security payments.
If you’re reaching retirement age, don’t just assume the whole process will work out. Do your research, make sure you’re eligible, and don’t cut corners just because the process is confusing.
Disability applications can also be a thorny process to navigate. Considering 70% of disability applications are denied, it’d be wise to talk to a trained attorney/advocate before assuming you are or are not eligible.
It’s better to be careful and ensure your chances of approval are at their highest rather than rush through the process yourself to try and get your payments as quickly as possible.
Remember that unless you’re very careful and willing to do the relevant research, failing to hire a legal professional may not save any money at all. If you fail to get Social Security payments of any kind that you should be eligible for, you’ve failed to save anything by skipping some legal fees.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you can find an attorney who specializes in making sure people can navigate the Social Security process, it can make the process much easier.
For example, our law firm has more than enough expertise on the Social Security disability to maximize your chances of getting approved for payment. We also do most of the hard work for you.
One of the things that makes all of this work so confusing to the average person is that most people only have to set it up once. You are forced to learn a lot of complex information quickly. Then you’ll submit the necessary documents and hope you’ve done it right.
Yes, it’s possible to attempt this on your own, but remember that attorneys do this for a living. They’ve gone through the process countless times, and they know the oddities and tricks of the system.
Most importantly, they will be on your side through the entire process. It is their job, within the confines of the law, to get you the Social Security payments you’re entitled to.
Speaking with an attorney can also ensure you aren’t wasting any time. They can quickly identify any problems you might have with your eligibility. Paying a lawyer will save you money (and time) in the end compared to spending what might be many hours on a process that’s doomed to end in denial.
Get What You’re Owed
Social Security payments aren’t charity. Your hard-earned tax dollars go to paying for these programs. Thay way, when the time comes to collect, the government has money to pay you.
It’s a safety net, but one largely of your own construction.
If you’ve reached retirement age or you’re suddenly disabled, you deserve to be paid. After all, you’ve already been making the payments the government requires. Government services are the whole point of paying taxes in the first place.
Unfortunately, getting what you’re owed isn’t always easy when bureaucracy is involved. That’s exactly where legal professionals can be a big help. Social security lawyers know how to cut through red tape and see through common tactics to avoid paying legitimate claimants.
Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. If you have trouble getting your disability payments or have any questions about the process, contact us at Fitzpatrick & Associates. The consultation is free and we’re ready to help you get what you’re owed.