Millions of Georgia residents rely on Social Security.
In fact, these programs help support many Americans across the country.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “Social Security provides protection to more than 161 million workers and pays benefits to 58 million people.”
There are two major benefits programs administered by the SSA, both of which play a crucial role in the lives of people with disabilities.
Disability benefits programs include:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSDI is an earned benefit when you acquire work credits. You get work credits, or “quarters,” when you earn employment or self-employment income. You can receive a total of four quarters each year.
According to the SSA, to qualify for SSDI: “Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.”
SSI is a needs-based benefits program for those who are 65 years old or older, blind, or disabled, as well as blind or disabled children. It’s for those with little or no income to cover necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medicine.
To qualify, you must meet these criteria:
- Non-blind persons must not exceed a certain amount of work earnings. This amount is known as Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA. Other forms of income or assets may also be considered to determine eligibility. Discuss your SGA requirements with your disability lawyer.
- Be able to medically prove a physical or psychological disorder which causes a substantial, lasting impact on your ability to work.
- Be either a U.S. citizen or meet very narrow requirements based on your permanent residency, military service, or political asylum-seeker or refugee status.
Georgia Regional Social Security Offices
Georgia is considered by the SSA to be part of the larger “Atlanta Region,” or Region 4. This region also contains Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, with more than 243 regional Social Security office locations.
The SSA provides the following facts about Social Security in the Atlanta Region:
- 13 million people receive Social Security benefits.
- Beneficiaries receive over $14 billion each month.
- In addition to the 243 Social Security field offices, 37 Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) offices handle reconsideration and appeal cases.
There are 33 field offices in Georgia, with two offices in Atlanta.
Offices in Georgia include areas such as Atlanta, Albany, Athens, Augusta, Brunswick, Columbus, Macon, Savannah, and many others.
Field Office Services
Your local field office allows you to schedule an appointment with a representative to discuss your SSDI or SSI disability claim.
These representatives will help process your claim when you visit. You should call to schedule an appointment ahead of time, as wait times can be long for unscheduled visits. Be prepared to answer questions about your claim, provide medical and financial information, and have the proper documents with you during your visit.
These offices also provide other essential services, including:
- Survivor benefits
- Name changes
- Replacing a Social Security card
If you have any questions, your representative should be able to clarify those. You can also call your local office to discuss anything you’re unsure of.
Once your claim is filed, the SSA should update you about the status of your claim and other important updates. You can also manage and track your claim online.
Quick Stats about Social Security in Georgia
- In 2019, the SSA recorded that 64 million Georgia residents received Social Security benefits.
- More than 8 million of those people were disabled workers.
- The number of disabled adults in Georgia is 27.2%, according to the CDC—slightly higher than the national average of 25.6%.
- States with the highest percentage of SSDI beneficiaries (between ages 18-64) include Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
- States with the lowest percentage of beneficiaries include Alaska, Colorado, Utah, California, and Hawaii.
- Georgia ranks between these states, with 4.6% of its population receiving benefits.
- In Georgia, the average case processing time is 451 days, and the wait time for a hearing is 12.1 months, according to Administrative Law Judge Case Statistics.
Why You Should Consult a Georgia Social Security Attorney
The right attorney will have the experience to help navigate the Social Security claim process. While Social Security offices can be a useful resource to help with your claim, an attorney will act as your personal advocate throughout your case.
They will understand the expectations the SSA and local Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) will have to prove your claim, guiding you toward a more favorable outcome when possible.
For instance, local attorneys often have working relationships with ALJs and other court personnel. They will understand the nuances of a courtroom and how to present evidence to win your claim. They also have a local reputation in the community, which means you’ll be able to rely on their services with more confidence.
This is crucial, since an ALJ appeals hearing is statistically your best chance of winning your benefits.
Social Security claimants often don’t pay an upfront attorney’s fee. If you win your claim, the fee is limited to 25% of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000. You only owe this fee if you win your case. Otherwise, you don’t pay anything.
This allows you to consult an attorney early in the case and build an effective strategy.
Visiting your Social Security office in Atlanta can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Affleck & Gordon can be your guide.
If your SSDI or SSI claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-4978.