How To Apply For Disability In Florida

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits in Florida is just like applying in any other state. This is because Social Security Disability benefit programs are federal and are provided by the United States government through the SSA.

Even though each state follows the typical application process, there can be minor differences between states such as approval rates and state supplements.

According to the most recent statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), more than 10 million people are receiving Social Security benefits based on a disability. That total included 8.9 million disabled workers, more than 1 million disabled adults, and 259,000 disabled widows and widowers in 2015.

In addition, 141,000 spouses and 1.6 million student children of disabled workers receive benefits. 

So if you want to benefit from disability benefits, here is an overview of what disability benefits are, eligibility requirements, how to apply for disability in Florida, and tips to help you in claiming disability benefits in Florida.

What is a disability?

The legal definition of “disability” states that a person can be considered disabled if they are unable to perform any substantial gainful activity due to a medical or physical impairment or impairments.

More specifically, under the ADA 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2 definitions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) defines an individual with a disability as “any person who has or has had a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

What Is Disability Benefit?

Social Security’s Disability Insurance Benefits are federally funded and administered by the U.S. SSA stands for Social Security Administration.

Social Security pays disability benefits to you and certain members of your family if you have worked long enough and have a medical condition that prevents you from working for at least 12 months or is expected to end in death.

Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age.

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Things to know before you apply for disability in Florida

Are You Working?

The SSA has a very strict definition of work when it comes to disability benefits. If you can perform work, or “substantial gainful activity,” despite your disability or will be able to resume work within one year, you are not eligible for SSDI.

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is defined as any work with a monthly income greater than $1220 in 2019 (SGA is adjusted annually).

Is Your Condition Severe?

Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. This is generally defined as any combination of impairments that prevent you from engaging in gainful activity.

These impairments can be mental or physical. Medical records and workers’ compensation claims could be provided as evidence of your condition, but a doctor’s determination alone is not sufficient to be awarded disability benefits.

Is Your Condition Listed as a Disabling Condition With the SSA?

This one can be tough to determine without the help of a disability advocate. The way the SSA lists disabling conditions comes under larger umbrella headings by “major body systems.”

According to the SSA, “For each of the major body systems, we maintain a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, we have to decide if it is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list.”

Can You Do Your Previous Job?

If your condition is severe, but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the SSA must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied.

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However, you may need someone with the experience necessary to prove to the SSA that you can’t work at your old job.

Can You Do Any Other Work?

If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the SSA will see if you can adjust to other work. They consider your medical conditions and your age, education, and past work experience as well as any transferable skills you may have.

If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will likely be denied.

Below we will discuss how to apply for disability benefits/rights in Florida.

Eligibility to apply for disability in Florida

To be eligible for disability benefits, you must:

  • Be unable to work because you have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
  • Not have a partial or short-term disability.
  • Meet SSA’s definition of a disability.
  • Be younger than your full retirement age.
  • If you qualify for disability benefits, certain members of your family may be eligible to receive benefits based on your work record.

Documents required to apply for disability benefits in Florida

You may be asked to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States;
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968;
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year;
  • Medical evidence already in your possession. This includes medical records, doctors’ reports, and recent test results; and
  • Award letters, pay stubs, settlement agreements, or other proof of any temporary or permanent workers’ compensation-type benefits you received.

Information needed when applying for disability benefits in Florida

Information About You

  •  Your date and place of birth and Social Security number
  •  The name, Social Security number, and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate)
  •  Names and dates of birth of your minor children
  •  Your bank or other financial institution’s Routing Transit Number and the account number, if you want the benefits electronically deposited

Information About Your Medical Condition

  • Name, address, and phone number of someone we can contact who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application
  •  Detailed information about your medical illnesses, injuries or conditions:

Information About Your Work

  • The amount of money earned last year and this year
  • The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year
  •  A copy of your Social Security Statement
  • The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968
  • A list of the jobs (up to 5) that you had in the 15 years before you became unable to work and the dates you worked at those jobs
  •  Information about any workers’ compensation, black lung, and/or similar benefits you filed, or intend to file for.

How to apply for disability in Florida

There are three separate ways you can file for Social Security Disability benefits in Florida:

  • The best way to apply for disability benefits and the simplest is to apply online on the SSA’s website at ssa.gov. You may begin the process at the time that is most convenient for you.
  • Telephone: You can apply over the telephone by calling the SSA’s toll-free customer service line at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)
  • In-person: You can apply in person at your local Social Security field office.

How to increase chances of getting a disability claim

Ensure That Your Application is Complete

Before beginning your disability application, take the time to prepare yourself and gather all of your required documentation. The SSA has developed a very helpful checklist that can be printed out. By doing so, you can see what information you have on hand and what you might be missing.

In addition to providing your basic personal information such as citizenship and birth information, marriage and divorce history, and the names and birth dates of your children, you should be prepared to answer questions about your health.

You will need to provide extensive information on your medical conditions, treatments that you have received, hospitals or clinics that you have visited, and the names of your doctors and other healthcare providers.

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Finally, you will be required to share information on your job history for the last 15 years, as well as your educational background and training.

Keep Accurate and Complete Medical Documentation

Disability experts will tell you that SSDI claims are won or lost on sufficient medical evidence. Before starting the application process, it is wise to gather all of your medical records and documentation.

While the SSA will request the medical records directly, physician’s offices and hospitals are overwhelmed with clinical care needs, as well as paperwork. By requesting and organizing your medical records yourself, you will ensure that all of the documentation makes it into the right hands.

Further, once you have completed your application, be certain to continue to gather any new medical evidence that you can. For example, request the results of new medical tests that you may require, such as blood work, x-rays, or treatment records.

To enhance your case even further, begin a journal that records the dates of all interactions that you have had with any health care provider. Be sure to include all health practitioners, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your case.

For example, if you are seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety, but your application is for cancer, be certain to include this in your documentation.

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Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Physician(s)

Up until 2017, the SSA put a tremendous amount of weight into the opinion of a claimant’s treating physician. It was rare to see for an administrative law judge or a claims examiner to go against the advice of an applicant’s physician.

However, a new rule enacted in 2017 makes it such that the SSA no longer gives special consideration to a patient’s doctor.

Instead, the SSA will consider all medical opinions on the merit of consistency and supportability. In other words, how well does the opinion match the medical evidence on file?

Regardless of the new rule, you must maintain good relationships with your treating physicians. First of all, you may want to enlist your doctor to provide a written statement describing your condition and how it limits your ability to work.

Asking your doctor to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation will enhance your claim. Further, if your case ends up going to a hearing, having your physician as an expert witness is always helpful.

Keep Close Tabs on the Status of Your Claim

The SSA works with millions of claimants a year. While you might be quite ill and deserving of benefits, you are among a large group of people in similar situations. To ensure that your case is being handled appropriately, you will want to stay in close contact with the SSA.

If you have questions about the status of your claim or other pertinent information, contact a claims representative. It might make sense to keep a separate log of your communications, including the date, name of the person that you spoke with, and their phone number.

Keeping a close eye on the status of your claim will ensure that you do not miss subsequent important deadlines. For example, if your claim is denied, you have a short timeframe to appeal the decision.

Follow up on all Treatment Recommendations

Be certain to follow all of the recommendations made by your physician, including taking medications as prescribed, attending all treatment appointments, and following any lifestyle change recommendations.

Do your best to attend all scheduled appointments. Regular health care visits enhance the volume of medical evidence, thus strengthening your claim.

The Social Security Administration wants to see that you are doing everything you can to improve your condition. If you stray from your prescribed treatment, you could face an SSDI denial.

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Employing a lawyer

Even though you may think you are eligible to receive disability benefits because you have a disability that prevents you from working, this doesn’t mean that you will get these benefits automatically.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) carefully evaluates claims before reaching a decision.

Unfortunately, 70% of disability claims are denied initially which means you have to file an appeal to try again to get the disability benefits you believe you are entitled to receive. When the appeals process gets underway your chances of winning your appeal may improve if you worked with a disability lawyer.

When you reach the hearing level, your disability lawyer can argue your case in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

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The key reason for hiring a disability attorney to help with your disability claim is that your chances of your claim being approved are much increased.

Evidence shows that the SSA is more likely to approve an applicant’s claim if she or he is represented by a disability lawyer. From the first application to the hearing date a disability attorney understands how to present a case that favors the disabled client.

How to win disability benefits

How to win a disability benefits claim is by showing you have a severe medical condition that has lasted or will eventually last a whole year.

It must be so severe that you can’t go back to your past work. And it must be severe enough that you can’t do some other type of work, based on your age, skills, and education.

Working with a disability lawyer and having as much medical evidence as possible to support your claim can help you win your disability claim.

Your lawyer will help to determine if your disability meets a listing in the Blue Book. If it does, the attorney will review the requirements described in the listing and compare them to the evidence that you have provided for your case.

If your lawyer thinks additional testing is needed so that the evidence proves your disability is in the Blue Book he or she will arrange for this to be done.

When you make contact with a disability lawyer he or she will conduct an initial interview with you so that relevant facts about your disability and your case for disability benefits can be assessed.

If your case doesn’t have much chance of winning the lawyer will probably be unwilling to represent you. If the lawyer decides you have a case for winning a disability benefits claim he or she will ask you to provide all the medical records you have.

These will be reviewed to determine if you need to undergo any more testing. Your lawyer may ask the SSA to organize a consultative examination (CE) with one of their doctors if this is required and will help to support your claim for disability benefits.

Most disability lawyers will speak with their clients by telephone but may ask your lawyer to meet you in person if you prefer.

Before the pre-hearing meeting with your attorney, he or she will have studied your file and will have highlighted what issues still need to be assessed.

When meeting with your lawyer you should carry around with you or the relevant medical documentation for your case. Your lawyer will ask you some questions that you will most likely be asked at your hearing.

This will help you put on a good performance at the hearing and offer the best chances of getting disability with a lawyer at hand.

FAQs

What are the rules for disability income?

To qualify for SSDI, you must earn less than $1,310 per month. To qualify for SSI, you must earn less than $794 per month. While these numbers do fluctuate, the income limit typically falls around this range.

How much money can a person on disability have in the bank?

The general rule is that if you have more than $2000 as a single person or $3000 as a married couple, then you will likely not be able to receive SSI benefits – even if you are disabled. These assets can include Any money in any bank accounts, including savings, or any cash you have. More than one vehicle to your name.

Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?

No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled.

What happens if your claim is denied?

If an individual disagrees with the initial determination in the case, he or she may appeal it. Appeals must be filed in writing and may be submitted by mail or in-person to any Social Security Office.

Conclusion

More than 10 million people, the majority of whom are disabled widows and widowers receive Social Security benefits based on a disability. So, if you live in Florida and are eligible for disability benefits, this will show you how to apply for disability in Florida.

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