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New Rule Limits Social Security Disability Eligibility

Since 1978, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has taken language barriers into account when evaluating applications for Social Security disability. The lack of proficiency in English, while not considered disabling in and of itself, has been viewed as having a significant impact on an individual’s ability to find work.

As of April 27, 2020, this will no longer be the case. At the end of February, the SSA announced a new rule has been finalized, and the inability to communicate in English will no longer be a factor in determining eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

Disability benefits advocate

The Rationale Behind the SSA Rule Change

According to the SSA, research shows that proficiency in English is no longer indicative of an individual’s education or their work prospects. The new rule supports this as well as the administration’s commitment to ensuring the Social Security disability rules remain current.

In addition, the Carter-era rule has been criticized for both treating non-English speakers as not educated enough to hold a job and for giving them an unfair advantage over applicants who are proficient in English. The SSA rule change recognizes that our country’s diversity means that communicating in English is not a prerequisite for joining the workforce.

What the New SSA Rule Means for Disability Claimants

For disability applicants who can communicate in English, the SSA rule change will not affect the evaluation process. For non-English speaking individuals, however, qualifying for benefits will be more difficult under the new regulation.

Proficiency in English has only ever been relevant if the applicant has already supplied evidence that a medical or physical disability limits their ability to do the work they have in the past. At this point, Social Security considers whether the individual could transition to another job – and under the previous rule, a language barrier typically meant getting approved for disability benefits.

Now, non-English speakers cannot expect the SSA to rule in their favor because of their inability to communicate – even if they have no work opportunities in their local area. The Social Security disability program is national in scope, and the law only requires the administration to consider whether enough jobs exist in the national economy that are suited for an applicant’s functional capacity, age, level of education and work experience.

Are More SSA Rule Changes Likely?

Yes. This new rule is not the only change on the drawing board – there has been a proposal to create a new category for disability applicants, and the effect of being placed in this group would be the requirement for more frequent continuing disability reviews.

This rule could be implemented in 2020. If that happens, millions of people who already receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) may find it much more difficult to comply with the review process and keep their monthly disability benefits.

Are you worried about SSA rule changes affecting your eligibility? The experienced advocates at Mountain West Disability, based in northern Utah, can answer your questions and offer advice on how to get the Social Security disability benefits you need. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.

Can a Dire Need Request Help Expedite Your Disability Claim?

People who apply for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits often experience frustrating delays in the process, and for some, a dire need request can help shorten the waiting time on a decision.

The question is, will writing a dire need letter or DNL work to speed up your disability claim? The approach isn’t always effective, but it may be worthy of consideration.

SSDI lawyers vs disability advocates

Criteria for Social Security Disability Dire Need Requests

Your disability claim may be processed more quickly if you can prove that you’re facing one or more of the following situations:

  • You don’t have food and are unable to obtain it
  • Your home is without utilities and has become uninhabitable
  • You’re homeless and can no longer stay at a shelter
  • You’re in imminent danger of eviction or foreclosure
  • You cannot afford the medicine or medical care you need

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may also give your claim expedited processing if either of the following is true:

  • You’re a veteran and you have received a 100 percent permanent and total disability compensation rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • You’re a current or former member of the military who sustained a physical or mental impairment while on active duty status

When to File a Social Security Disability Dire Need Request

You may have a pressing need for assistance, but you cannot file a request for faster processing with your initial disability application. And if your claim is denied, writing a DNL won’t expedite the reconsideration review, the first stage of the appeal process.

The only way a DNL could help is if the reconsideration doesn’t find in your favor. Submitting the letter at this point, when you request an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge, could shave a few months off of the wait time.

How to Write an Effective Dire Need Letter

Due to high case volumes, the SSA is unable to expedite disability claim processing for everyone who submits a DNL. For a better chance at speeding up your appeal hearing, you’ll need a compelling letter. SSD experts recommend:

  • Writing the DNL yourself, as authenticity is crucial
  • Including as many details as possible in the letter
  • Attaching documentation that supports your claim

You can, of course, get guidance and advice on how to write a DNL. Here at Mountain West Disability, we assist clients with every stage of the SSD process. And while our professional team cannot guarantee an approval of your disability claim, we only collect a fee if we’re able to score a win.

Mountain West Disability, based in northern Utah, has been helping clients across the country for many years. For more information on Social Security disability dire need requests, contact us today.

Social Security Disability Claims – Debunking the Myths

The Social Security Disability claims process can be quite confusing, and most people in need of information turn to the internet. Unfortunately, much of what they find isn’t actually correct.

Quite a few misconceptions about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) are floating around, many of which sound completely believable. Below, we shed light on several of the most pervasive myths concerning SSD claims.

SSDI facts and myths

Myth: You Need to Be Disabled for a Year Before Appling for Benefits

Reality: You can file an SSD claim as soon as you become disabled and unable to earn a living. You don’t have to wait a year to apply – rather, the illness or injury that prevents you from working must be expected to last for at least 12 months.

Myth: You Can’t Receive Disability Benefits if You Have a Job

Reality: The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to work and receive disability benefits – in fact, they want you to earn a living to the best of your ability. There’s a maximum amount you can make and still be eligible, but your SSD claim won’t be denied just because you’re currently employed.

Myth: Every Social Security Disability Claim is Initially Denied

Reality: Though many people who file SSD claims are denied the first time they file, this isn’t always the case. The Social Security Administration approves some claims at the outset, and some applicants start receiving disability benefits within months of their filing date.

Myth: Your Condition Must Be in the Blue Book to Get SSD Benefits

Reality: The SSA uses what’s known as the Blue Book, which lists disabling physical and mental impairments, in making decisions about SSD claims. But if your illness or injury isn’t listed, you can still qualify for disability benefits if it prevents you from doing any gainful work activity.

Myth: Getting Expert Help with a Disability Claim Costs Too Much

Reality: The law limits how much disability advocates can charge for their services. Furthermore, the fees are typically contingency based – which means you won’t pay a dime until your SSD claim is approved. And the payment for your advocate will automatically come out of your past-due benefits, so you don’t have to worry about coming up with the money.

Do you want the facts on Social Security Disability claims? The expert advocates at Mountain West Disability, based in northern Utah, can answer your questions and explain everything you need to know about applying for Supplemental Security Income or Disability Insurance Benefits.

The Mountain West Disability team can also guide you through the entire SSD claims filing process – and we’ll do whatever we can to help you get the benefits you need. To learn more about our advocate services, or to schedule a free consultation to discuss your Social Security Disability claim, contact us today.

Should You File a Supplemental Security Income Claim?

If your income is limited and you have few resources, filing a Supplemental Security Income claim could be in your best interests.

SSI, a federally funded program administered by the Social Security Administration, can provide you with the financial support you need – if, that is, you qualify to receive benefits. Here, we explain the SSI eligibility requirements, benefit amounts and how to file an application.

How to determine SSI eligibility

Qualifying for SSI Benefits

To be eligible for SSI benefits, one of the following must be true:

  • You’re under 65 years of age
  • You’re partially or totally blind
  • You have a disabling medical condition that will prevent you from working for at least one year

In addition, you must have a limited income. For an individual in 2020, that means earning no more than $783 per month, and for a couple, the monthly earning must be no higher than $1,175. But, not all income counts for the SSI benefit program, so you can bring home more money and still qualify.

Because SSI is a needs-based program, you must also have limited assets. The limits on resources are $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples, but that total doesn’t include everything you own. For instance, the SSA doesn’t count the value of the home you live in and that of your primary vehicle.

SSI Benefit Amounts

If you file a Supplemental Security Income claim, how much can you expect to receive each month?

Everyone who qualifies gets the same basic SSI benefit payment, which is equal to the income limit. For 2020, that amount is:

  • $783 for an individual
  • $1,175 for a couple

However, many states – including Utah – administer supplemental payments, which increase the monthly SSI benefit amount. Conversely, based upon where you live and the size of your household, you could receive less.

Filing an SSI Claim

You can start the application for SSI benefits online, or you could choose to set up an in-person or telephone appointment with an agent from your local Social Security Administration office. For an easier time, however, you may want to work with a Social Security Disability advocate.

An experienced advocate, like the team at Mountain West Disability in northern Utah, can handle every aspect of the Supplemental Security Income claim process. Plus, since Social Security Disability advocates work on a contingency basis, you won’t have to worry about upfront fees – and you can count on an advocate to make every effort to ensure your claim is approved.

For more information on how Mountain West Disability can help you get the SSI benefits you need, or to get expert assistance with your Supplemental Security Income claim, contact our Murray, Utah, office today.

How Much Does a Social Security Disability Advocate Cost?

Many people apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on their own, thinking that the cost of working with a Social Security Disability advocate is out of their reach.

The truth is, most advocates – including those at Mountain West Disability – don’t charge upfront fees or ask for a retainer. Advocates work on a contingency basis, which means they only earn a fee if they win an SSD claim. As a result, you can count on an advocate to make a great effort to ensure your case ends with an approval.

For more on how – and how much — a Social Security Disability advocate gets paid, read the information below.

Social Security disability lawyer vs. advocate

The Contingency Fee

When you initially hire an advocate to help with your SSI or DIB case, you sign a contingency fee agreement. This allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide a payment upon claim approval.

The fee agreement will go through a review process by the SSA to ensure it meets the necessary guidelines. Your advocate will only receive the amount they are entitled to, which is limited to 25 percent of your past-due benefits and cannot exceed $6,000.

The Payment Arrangement

You don’t have to worry about paying your advocate after your disability claim is approved. This happens automatically, and the funds come from the past-due benefits you are awarded.

Before your first backpay check is issued, the SSA will take out the entire advocate fee. The payment can be up to $6,000, but quite often the amount falls below the cap.

If you aren’t awarded any back-dated disability benefits, your advocate will not receive a fee. In this situation, however, they can petition the SSA to request a reasonable fee for the services they have provided.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

While you won’t have to pay any upfront Social Security Disability advocate fees, you may have to shoulder a few expenses as your disability claim proceeds.

Most attorneys and advocacy groups charge a fee to obtain your medical records. Mountain West Disability, however, covers this cost with no expectation of repayment. To get approved for SSI or DIB, you may need to schedule additional physical or psychological examinations, and these costs would be your responsibility as they are separate from the advocate fee. In addition, you may have photocopying and postage charges. The out-of-pocket costs are not excessive, and these are expenses you would have if you applied for SSI or DIB without the assistance of an advocate.

When you work with an experienced Social Security Disability advocate, like the team at Mountain West Disability, you increase your chance of getting approved for benefits. Based in northern Utah, we’ve been helping disabled individuals across the country for several years – and we always fight to get our clients every dollar they deserve.

For more information about Mountain West Disability, or to consult with one of our friendly and knowledgeable Social Security Disability advocates, contact us today.

Social Security Disability Appeals: The Disability Hearing

The Social Security Disability appeals process begins with a reconsideration, which is a complete review of your claim by examiners who were not involved with initial decision. If that fails, the next step is a disability hearing with an administrative law judge.

Hearings are not open to the public, and the judge may appear in person or via video conference. Most take place in an office or small meeting room, and disability hearings usually last no longer than an hour.

As this level of Social Security Disability appeal is a legal proceeding, consulting with experienced advocate is a smart way to prepare. After all, what happens at the hearing will depend upon the complexity of your claim. But for a general idea of what to expect, read on.
Appealing a social security disability denial

The Judge Will Ask Questions

After introducing your case and explaining the issues involved, the judge will ask you about your medical condition, how it limits your ability to work and how your health impacts your life. You may also be asked to clarify your past employment responsibilities and your educational background.

Provide honest, thorough answers – and keep in mind, the judge is simply trying to get all of the relevant facts, not trying to prove you have no disability.

The Judge May Question Witnesses

The Social Security Administration may ask a neutral expert witness, such as a medical professional or vocational expert, to attend your disability hearing.

If any expert witnesses are present at your hearing, the judge may ask them for details regarding your work abilities and any jobs you may be able to perform, despite your medical issues.

Your Representative May Speak on Your Behalf

Following the judge’s questioning, your legal representative will typically have a chance to ask questions of you and any expert witnesses present.

If your representative plans to ask you any questions during the disability hearing, you should know ahead of time. You will go over everything together before the proceeding, as that allows you to prepare clear, specific answers that effectively support your claim. You may, however, be asked additional questions by the judge.

You Will Not Receive a Decision at the Disability Hearing

Occasionally, a judge may issue a bench decision at a hearing, telling the claimant whether they will be approving or denying the Social Security Disability appeal. But this does not happen very often. In most cases, the decision comes by mail several weeks later.

If your disability hearing does not result in an approval for benefits, all is not lost. You can request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can decide your case or return it to an administrative law judge for a second hearing.

Do you have questions about fighting a disability denial? Turn to highly experienced advocates at Mountain West Disability. Based in northern Utah, we work with clients across the country – and we only collect a fee the approval of your claim.

For more information about the Social Security Disability appeals process and expert help preparing for your disability hearing, contact us today.

Can You Get Social Security Disability for a Mental Illness?

If you suffer from a mental illness and the condition affects your ability to work, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Mental disorders and illnesses can be seriously debilitating, and the Social Security Administration recognizes the potential for these conditions to cause long-term disability. However, as these types of claims can be a challenge to win, working with a disability claim advocate may be in your best interests. In the meantime, learning more about how the SSA considers mental disability claims may help.

SSDI for mental illness

Meeting the Criteria for Social Security Disability

 In order to meet the SSA qualifications for a mental disability claim, your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor. In addition, your mental disorder must:

  • Prevent you from performing any work for which you are qualified
  • Render you unable to complete training for another type of work position
  • Be expected to affect your ability to work for at least 12 months

Mental Illnesses that May Qualify for Disability Benefits

The SSA considers mental disability claims for a range of disorders. If you suffer from any of the following mental illnesses, you may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB):

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Mental retardation
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

This list is not complete, as the SSA approves claims for other types of mental illnesses. If your condition makes it impossible to perform gainful work, you may be able to get disability benefits.

Proving Your Mental Illness Causes Functional Limitations

Winning a mental disability claim can be an uphill battle without the support of a psychiatrist or psychologist, and experienced advocates recommend getting a detailed report from your doctor regarding your limitations and how they affect your ability to work.

In addition, to prove your claim, you will need to provide medical records from every provider involved in your care. Any records from past hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to your mental illness can also be beneficial. And, if your disorder requires you to take any prescription medication, you may want to submit pharmacy records.

Subjective evidence can also play a role in your Social Security Disability claim. You can provide the SSA with a detailed account of how your mental illness affects your daily life and your ability to earn an income. Make sure you speak honestly with your health care providers as well, as that way your medical records will reflect the information you provide in your personal account.

No one can guarantee the SSA will approve your claim, but working with an experienced advocate can increase your odds. If you are ready to apply for Social Security Disability, turn to the team of professionals at Mountain West Disability.

Our disability claim advocates have extensive experience helping people get the benefits they need. And, Mountain West Disability will only collect a fee if the Social Security Administration approves your application.

To learn more about our advocate services, or to schedule a consultation to discuss applying for Social Security Disability on the basis of a mental illness, contact our Murray, Utah, office today.

Social Security Disability Application Tips

If you are disabled and cannot work, you may be thinking about filling out a Social Security disability application. Approval for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) could put you on better financial footing and allow you to get the medical care you need.

But how do you go about applying? For a look at your options and expert tips on how to increase your chance of getting approved for disability benefits, read on. 

Tips for getting disability claim approval

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

You can apply for SSI or DIB in person at your local Social Security office or, if you prefer, you can schedule a phone interview.

The Social Security disability application can also be completed online. However, this option may be off the table if you are applying for SSI benefits.

Another way to apply is to work with a disability advocate – like the team at Mountain West Disability. An advocate can complete the necessary paperwork, saving you time and saving you the frustration of making sure the application is filled out properly.  

What You Need to Fill Out the Disability Application

To complete your Social Security disability application, you will need easy access to certain information. Before you start, gather the following:

  • Names, phone numbers and addresses of the doctors, hospitals and clinics that have provided you with medical treatment
  • Names and dosages of every medication you currently take
  • Names and dates of birth of your spouse and minor children, if any
  • Names and addresses of recent and current employers
  • Your most recent W-2 or a copy of your federal income tax return
  • Medical and laboratory test results already in your possession
  • The date your disability began to interfere with your ability to work

Tips to Increase Your Odds of Approval

No one can guarantee that your initial Social Security disability application will be approved, but taking appropriate care in answering the questions can boost the likelihood of success.

When filling out the disability application paperwork, make sure to:

  • Provide complete, thorough answers that offer as much detail as possible
  • List every condition that limits your ability to work, including mental health struggles
  • Avoid downplaying or exaggerating the severity of your symptoms
  • Explain how your symptoms and limitations affect your day-to-day activities
  • Never leave any answers blank; instead write “does not apply” or “do not know”

If you are worried about completing the disability application properly, seek out expert help from a professional advocate. Here at Mountain West Disability, you can get assistance with no upfront cost – we take our fee, which is set by the Social Security Administration, out of the back pay you are awarded. We only get paid if you do, so you can count on our team to help you achieve success with your SSI or DIB claim.

Mountain West Disability, located in northern Utah, has been helping people across the country for several years. Contact us and schedule a free consultation to discuss your Social Security disability application today.

Social Security Disability: A Glossary of Common Terms

The process of applying for Social Security disability can be confusing, as can many of the terms used. And, while a simple Google search is enough to decode the meaning of some terms, others are not as easy to understand.

To help you decipher the language the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses during the disability process, here are clear and simple explanations for several common terms.
How to file a disability claim

Award Letter

If the SSA approves your application for Social Security disability, you will receive an award letter. This official document contains the amount of your monthly disability payments and the total of any back pay to which you are entitled. If your case is not approved, you will receive a denial letter instead.

Back Pay

Back pay is a term used to describe past due benefits, or money you would have received if the SSA had approved your claim immediately. The amount of your back pay depends upon the date you file your application, your disability onset date and whether you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).

Consultative Exam

If the medical evidence you provide is insufficient for the SSA to make a determination on your disability, you may be sent for a consultative exam. This is a medical assessment performed by your doctor or another qualified professional and paid for by the Social Security Administration.

Dependent Benefits

If you are eligible for disability, your dependents may also receive benefits. Minor, unmarried children and children who are under 19 and full-time students may qualify for payments. Your spouse, ex-spouse or dependent grandchild may also be entitled to benefits.

Onset Date

The onset date refers to the date you became disabled and eligible for benefits. This date, which is only official after verification and approval from the SSA, determines if and how much back pay you can receive.

Substantial Gainful Activity

In order to be eligible for disability benefits, you must be unable to perform what the SSA refers to as substantial gainful activity (SGA). In other words, you can only work and earn a minimal amount of money. In 2019, the SGA limit is $2,040 for blind applicants and $1,220 for non-blind individuals.

Do you need an explanation for other Social Security disability terms? Or are you ready to apply for Supplemental Security Income or Disability Insurance Benefits? For free answers and advice from an expert, call on the team of highly-experienced advocates at Mountain West Disability.

After working with clients across the country for several years, the legal professionals and case managers at Mountain West Disability understand process of applying for SSI and DIB, and we can assist with every aspect of your claim. Contact our northern Utah office and schedule a free consultation to discuss Social Security disability today.

Timeline for the Social Security Disability Claims Process

Getting through the Social Security disability claims process can be a frustrating endeavor, particularly if you don’t know what to expect.

The steps to applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) are the same. However, not everyone ends up taking every step, as approval can come at any point. Below, the professionals at Mountain West Disability break down the timeline for the Social Security disability claims process to clear up the uncertainty about what happens when you apply for benefits.

How long does it take to get disability insurance

Initial Application

The first step to applying for SSI or SSDI is to file an application with the Social Security Administration. A Disability Determination Service (DDS) reviewer will evaluate your case and return a decision within about 3 to 6 months.


In the event the DDS denies your application, you will have 60 days to request reconsideration. A second reviewer will then look at your application, typically within 3 to 4 months of your request.

Administrative Law Judge

If your disability claim is not approved during the reconsideration stage, you will have 60 days to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. You can expect to wait 18 to 24 months for the hearing, and another 45 to 90 days for a decision.

Appeals Council

If the judge does not approve your disability claim, you will have 60 days to request a review from the Appeals Council. Getting a decision at this stage generally takes 15 to 18 months.

Federal District Court

If you receive a denial from the Appeals Council, you will have 60 days to file a federal lawsuit challenging the decision. The Federal District Court can approve or deny your claim, or they may send it back for further review. In any event, the wait time for a determination is at least 2 years.

Receiving Benefits

If your claim is approved and you are awarded benefits at any step of the process, the time it will take to start receiving checks will be relatively short. Most people learn the amount they will receive and get their initial benefits within 4 to 6 weeks.

Completing the Process

Are you interested in applying for SSI or SSDI? Working with a qualified professional can increase your chances of obtaining benefits from the Social Security Administration.

If you want expert help with the Social Security Disability claims process, the professionals at Mountain West Disability are the team to trust. Based in northern Utah, we’ve been working with clients across the country for several years – and we only collect a fee if your claim is approved.

For more information about Mountain West Disability, or to begin the Social Security disability claims process, contact us today.