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Social Security: What You Need to Know

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It is always in your best interest to speak with an attorney about your case. If you cannot afford an attorney, a legal aid organization may be able to represent you for free or at reduced cost. However, certain restrictions apply and they may not be able to take your case. You may also qualify for reduced-cost legal services through the LSBA's Modest Means Directory. You also have a right to represent yourself, and there are diverse services available to help you learn more.

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Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Louisiana

Louisiana Disability Determinations Services (DDS) is the state agency that is responsible for determining whether or not Louisiana disability applicants are eligible for benefits. DDS is operated by the Department of Children & Family Services, Economic Stability Office. There are three Louisiana DDS offices, listed below.

Baton Rouge DDS

5825 Florida Blvd. Room 2110

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Tel: 800-256-2288

Shreveport DDS 

2920 Knight St., Ste. 232

Shreveport, LA 71105

Tel: 800-256-2266

New Orleans Area DDS

3510 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste. 301

Metairie, LA 70002   

Tel: 800-256-2299

Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation

Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation:

Disabled Louisiana residents have access to a variety of services designed to help them get and maintain employment through the Workforce Commission in the department of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. This includes job readiness evaluations, vocational training, medical therapeutic services, career counseling, and job placement assistance. Louisiana Rehabilitation Services has 15 locations throughout the state – you can use the directory on the LRS website to locate the closest one or visit their office.

Louisiana Rehabilitation Services

27 North 4th Street

Baton Rouge, LA 70802  

Tel: (225) 219-2225   

Fax: (225) 219-4993

FAQs on Social Security Disability

I have medical problems and I cannot find a job.  Will Social Security find that I am disabled?

Social Security has a 5 step evaluation to determine whether an adult is disabled. With some exceptions, Social Security must find two things for you to be disabled under the law. 

Social Security must find that, because of your medical conditions, you cannot do any job you have done over the past 15 years.

Social Security must also find that, because of your medical conditions, you cannot do any other job that Social Security picks out.  These jobs do not need much effort. These jobs may involve activities like watching security television screens or sitting at a desk to greet people. 

Once you are 50 years old and older, Social Security takes into consideration that it is harder for a person to adjust to a new job and that the person has decreased strength, but these still must be demonstrated to Social Security. As a person gets older Social Security will look at a fewer kinds of jobs when deciding whether there is some kind of work you can do.  

Before considering if you can do any of these jobs, Social Security will look at whether you have a health issue on Social Security's list.  

This list is called the Listing of Impairments.  If you have one of these problems on the list, the agency can find that you are disabled. If your condition is on the list, Social Security does not consider any particular jobs you can or cannot do. The list has rules about how to tell if a person has a medical condition that qualifies. See the links to the "Listings" at the end of this guide.

Social Security might turn down your application even if you should qualify as disabled. It is important to appeal.  More than half of those who appeal win

When will Social Security give me an answer about my application? 

In 2013, the average processing time for the first decision on an application in Louisiana was over 85 days. 

Social Security denied my application.  When do I need to appeal?

You have 60 days to appeal (also known as a Request for Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge).  Social Security assumes that it took five days for the letter to get to you.  Technically you have 65 days from the date on the letter to appeal. 

Do not wait until your time has almost run out to appeal!

Example: Social Security sends John Doe his denial letter on March 1, 2014.  Social Security assumes it took five days for the letter to get to him.  John Doe has until May 5, 2014, to file an appeal with Social Security. 

How can I appeal a denial?

You can get an attorney to help you.  It is always a good idea to get a lawyer to help you if you can.

There are four levels of appeal:

(1) Reconsideration,
(2) Hearing by an administrative law judge,
(3) Review by the Appeals Council, and
(4) Federal Court review.

You can request Reconsideration on your own. There are three ways to make the request.

(1) You can use a computer to file your request for Reconsideration online.  Go to www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html and fill out the form for request for Reconsideration.

(2) If you do not want to use a computer, you can use a telephone to call in to your request for Reconsideration.  Call 1-800-772-1213. Explain that you don't want to use the online request process but do want to appeal the decision made in your case. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM.  Social Security will then mail you the forms with a return envelope.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free "TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778.  Social Security will mail you the forms with a return envelope.

(3) You can use a computer to print out your request for Reconsideration form and you can bring it to your local Social Security office.

If you go to the local office make sure that Social Security workers fill out the bottom of the form and that you get a copy of your completed form. This is your proof that you have requested Reconsideration.

What if I miss my appeal deadline? 

If you miss your deadline try to talk to a lawyer right away.  If you missed your 65 days to appeal, Social Security will still consider a late appeal.  You must prove to them that you had a good reason for being late. In other words you have to show “good cause” for missing the deadline.  You must explain why you are late.

Example: If you did not file your appeal on time because you were in the hospital or because of another medical reason tell Social Security. You should give Social Security proof of your hospital stay or medical treatment.   

 I filed my appeal. What happens next?

It can take one to two years, on average, before you get a hearing on your claim. 

Keep up with your medical treatment while you wait for your hearing date. Try to get a lawyer to help you. An attorney can help you get your medical records to prove your claim. Sometimes a lawyer can get Social Security to decide on your claim without a hearing. 

If you cannot get a lawyer at all be sure you get copies of all your medical records. Make sure you get a letter from your treating doctor about your medical condition. The letter should explain your health problem. The letter should explain how your health issue limits what you can do.  

If you do not have a lawyer to help you, give Social Security a copy of the medical records and the doctor's letter.  If you get a lawyer, your lawyer should give Social Security the medical records or other evidence and letters from your doctors.

I was getting benefits as a child. Social Security sent me a letter saying I am no longer disabled.  If I was disabled as a child, why is Social Security saying I am not disabled now?

Social Security has different disability rules for adults and children.  For children, Social Security looks at school records, information from teachers and medical records.  Social Security may look at how a health issue affects how a child gets along with others, how the child thinks, and how a child is doing physically. Learn more about the different rules.  

For adults, Social Security looks at how a health issue affects a persons' ability to work.  Social Security also looks at the person's age, education, and skills in addition to the person's mental and physical health issues. 

I was found disabled several years ago. I just received a letter from Social Security saying that I am no longer disabled and that Social Security is going to stop my benefits  Can Social Security do this?

Yes, Social Security reviews cases of adults and children from time to time.  Once Social Security decides that you are disabled, you should keep up with your treatment.  Tell Social Security right away if your health issue improves and you can work. Telling Social Security about this may avoid overpayment of benefits.  (See the next question.)

Social Security sent me a letter saying I have been overpaid.  What can I do? 

If you disagree with any part of the letter, act quickly to appeal. If possible, contact an attorney as soon as possible. You or the attorney need to file a "Request for Reconsideration" and a waiver as soon as possible.

The way to appeal is to ask for a "Request for Reconsideration."  A Request for Reconsideration is used when you disagree that you were overpaid or if you disagree with the amount Social Security says you owe.  

A person has 60 days from the date a notice of overpayment is received to request reconsideration.  Social Security assumes that it took five days for the letter to get to you.  Technically you have 65 days from the date on the letter to appeal.  It is important that you read the complete notice, there are certain circumstances where your appeal deadline may be shorter if you want to keep getting your benefits during your appeal.

You can also ask for something called a "waiver."  For a waiver, you must prove that the overpayment is not your fault. You also have to prove that paying back the money would create a hardship for you or that it would be unfair for some other reason.  There is no time limit to ask for a waiver. 

If Social Security is collecting an overpayment from you and your financial situation changes you can ask for a change in repayment. The form to ask a change in repayment is the same form as the one to ask for a waiver. 

Get the form for a Request for Reconsideration and the form to ask for a waiver.

I have paid Social Security Taxes and became disabled.  When I applied for benefits Social Security said I do not have enough "quarters."  What do they mean by not having enough quarters?

"Quarters" refers to the way Social Security looks at your paid work history. In 2019, every $1,360 you earn in a year counts as one "quarter of coverage."  You can earn up to four quarters in a year. (View the chart of how much was needed for a quarter of coverage in earlier years). Social Security looks at your quarters of coverage to see whether you can get SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) instead of SSI (Supplemental Security Income).  The difference is important.  SSDI can pay more than SSI.  

When you are applying for disability benefits Social Security looks at how many quarters you had in the last 10 years.  If you have five years worth of quarters (20 quarters) in 10 years before your disability and if your application was filed in time, you can get SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) if you are found disabled by Social Security.  These quarters do not have to be earned one right after the other.  

Without enough "quarters" in the system you cannot qualify for SSDI, even if you paid into it.  If you do not have enough quarters you are limited to SSI. Learn more about qualifying quarters. Retirement benefits have different rules.

A widow who is at least 60 years old of a worker who had enough quarters may qualify for Widow’s benefits without being disabled.  If the worker's widow is between 50 and 60 years old the widow must be disabled to get widow benefits.  Learn more about widow benefits.

I started getting Social Security benefits; can other family members get benefits too?

Yes. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, retirement benefits, or you have passed away, then your spouse, divorced spouse, children, disabled children, adult child disabled before age 22, and, in certain circumstances, dependent parents can receive benefits from your record.  Learn more about family benefits. 

LEAP

The Legal Education and Assistance Program (LEAP) is a project sponsored by the Louisiana State Bar Association, with the support of the Louisiana Library Association, the Law Library of Louisiana, LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Acadiana Legal Services. LEAP aims to provide support and assistance to public librarians throughout the state by providing them with the tools to help their patrons with their legal questions. LEAP understands that librarians are prohibited from providing legal advice, but instead helps them provide legal information, including referrals to attorneys.