A disability lawyer won't take my case. Why not?
With millions of workers applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits each year, it can take months or years for many disability applicants to have their case approved. Although hiring a disability lawyer will not necessarily expedite the disability process, it can give you a better opportunity to win benefits at every stage of the process.
Unfortunately, disability lawyers may not be willing to help every claimant. What do you do when you have talked to several disability lawyers and they refuse to take your disability case? Does this mean you are not disabled? Not necessarily; in fact, there are a variety of reasons why a lawyer may not be willing to help:
1. They do not believe they can win your case.
Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis and are only paid if you win your SSDI case. If you win, they are paid 25% of the past-due benefits awarded to you, up to a maximum of $6,000. If you do not win your SSDI case, the disability lawyer is not paid.
Disability lawyers try to take cases that they believe they can win. If they do not believe that you have a strong case for any reason (i.e., you are making too much money, you have not seen a doctor, your condition will not last 12 continuous months, etc.), they will refuse to help you.
2. You are making too much money.
SSDI is awarded to claimants who meet certain medical and non-medical criteria. To qualify for SSDI benefits, a worker must not be able to work or perform what the Social Security Administration calls "substantial gainful activity" (SGA).
Activity that is “gainful” is work that generates a certain amount of income per month. In 2017, work is considered gainful if a non-blind worker generates $1,170 per month (blind workers may generate $1,950). This calculation does not include income generated from non-work activities such as gifts, interest or investments.
A disability lawyer will not take your SSDI case if you are working and making too much money, because they know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will deny your case immediately, regardless of the severity of your condition.
3. You are working too many hours.
As mentioned above, if you are performing gainful work and earning too much income, the SSA will automatically deny your SSDI case. Another consideration is whether the workload is “substantial.”
The SSA may decide that you are able to work and you are not disabled, even if your current job does not generate high earnings.
For example, if you are able to work 25 hours per week in paid employment, and you volunteer another 15 hours per week, the SSA may decide that you have the physical and mental capability to work a full-time job. Under this assumption, the SSA could argue that the volunteer work includes activities that could normally generate an income—therefore you are not disabled.
4. You do not have enough work credits for SSDI.
Disability lawyers may not take your SSDI case if you do not have enough work credits to be insured for SSDI benefits. According to the SSA, the number of work credits needed to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on the age when you become disabled. Most non-blind workers will need 40 work credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year that the worker becomes disabled.
To find out more information about the number of credits you have, you can review your work record at the SSA website, or contact the Social Security Administration.
5. You only qualify for SSI benefits.
Disability applicants who do not have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI is offered to the aged, blind and disabled who have limited income and resources, and who cannot work for at least 12 continuous months.
Many disability lawyers will refuse to take SSI cases because the amount of back pay is limited, and they cannot make much money by accepting these types of claims.
6. Your injury is not severe and will not last 12 continuous months.
Social Security Disability Insurance is awarded for many conditions that are not considered permanent, but to qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have a condition that is so severe that it will last at least 12 continuous months.
For example, short-term conditions such as pregnancy, simple broken bones and short-term surgeries are not covered by SSDI benefits. The SSA expects that claimants will have other options to generate income while recovering from short-term health conditions, such as personal leave benefits, vacation days, FMLA benefits or personal savings.