Common Questions About Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits, Appeals, and Attorney Representation
How do I know if I am disabled enough to apply for social security disability benefits?
As a general rule, SSA makes it easier to be found disabled as you get older. It becomes easier for a few people at age 45, for more people at age 50, for most people at age 55, and even more people at age 60. If you’re over age 55 and you cannot do any job you have done in the past 15 years, you should definitely apply. If you’re over age 50 and have a severe impairment that keeps you from doing all but the easiest jobs, you ought to apply. But you don’t have to be bedridden, even if you’re a younger person. If you’re under age 45 or 50 and you cannot do your past jobs and you cannot work full time at any regular job, that should to be enough. Nevertheless, being unable to work and being found “disabled” by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are two different things. It is often difficult to convince SSA that someone is “disabled” even when they genuinely cannot work. That is where a good, experienced disability advocate can help.
How do I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
Telephone the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. When you call, you will be given the option of 1) going to the social security office to apply for benefits or 2) having your application taken over the telephone. If you choose to go the social security office, the person at the 800 number will schedule an appointment for you and give you directions to the social security office. If you want to apply by phone, you will be given a date and an approximate time to expect a phone call from someone at the social security office who will take your application over the phone.
Additionally, you can file your claim online by visiting: www.ssa.gov/disability. If you decide to apply online be sure to print and save (your re-entry number and a copy of the application confirmation sheet.
Do you have any advice about applying for disability benefits?
Yes. Give SSA all the information it asks for in a straightforward way. Be truthful. Do not exaggerate or minimize your disability.
When Should I Contact a Disability Lawyer to help me apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
As a rule, a person does not need a lawyer’s help to file the application. SSA makes this part very easy and, in fact, it usually will not let a lawyer (or anyone else) sign the application for you. If you need assistance or guidance with filing a disability claim, please contact our disability advocates at 305-562-7333.
Once the application is filed, however, a lawyer’s help may make the difference between winning and losing. The sooner we get involved the better.
What happens if I am denied benefits and I do not appeal within 60 days?
You’ll have to start over with a new application – and it may mean that you’ll lose some back benefits. So it’s important to appeal all denials within 60 days. It’s better if you appeal right away so that you get through the bureaucratic denial system faster. The quicker you can get to the hearing stage the better.
How Do I Appeal?
You can appeal in one of three ways. 1) Telephone the Social Security Administration and make arrangements for your appeal to be handled by phone and mail. Or 2) go to the social security office to submit your appeal. If you go to the social security office, be sure to take along a copy of your denial letter. 3) you may file an appeal online and appeal the SSA medical decision by visiting: wwww.SSA.gov/disability. Be sure to print and keep a copy of the Receipt of the appeal.
Your denial letter will tell you about appealing. The first appeal is the “reconsideration” appeal. After the reconsideration is denied, you must request a hearing within 60 days.
Most Common Mistakes When Pursing SSDI?SSI, social security disability benefits?
Failing to appeal. More than half of the people whose applications are denied fail to appeal. Many people who are denied on reconsideration fail to request a hearing.
Another mistake, although much less common, is made by people who fail to obtain appropriate medical care. Some people with long-term chronic medical problems feel that they have not been helped much by doctors. Thus, for the most part, they stop going for treatment. This is a mistake for both medical and legal reasons. First, no one needs good medical care more than those with chronic medical problems. Second, medical treatment records provide the most important evidence of disability in a social security case.
Should I Have My Doctor/Physician Write a Letter to the SSA?
SSA will gather the medical records, so you don’t have to do that. Whether you should ask your doctor to write a letter is a hard question. The problem is that the medical-legal issues are so complicated in most disability cases that a doctor may inadvertently give the wrong impression. Thus, obtaining medical reports may be something best left for an experienced disability lawyer to do on your behalf.
When Should I Contact You About Representing Me?
In the past, we encouraged people to wait until it was time to request a hearing before contacting us. But things have changed. The Social Security Administration has put new emphasis on making the right decision at the earlier stages. It is also applying the same legal rules at the earlier stages that used to be applied only at the hearing stage. This means that a lawyer’s help at the early stages may make a difference.
We recognize that about one-third of those people who apply will be found disabled even without a lawyer’s help. We understand that some people may want to go through the earlier stages by themselves. On the one hand, if you are successful in handling it yourself, you will save having to pay the advocate’s fees. On the other hand, your case might be one in which an advocate’s help would make the difference. It is up to you whether to contact us when you first apply or to wait until you are denied, but the general rule is that it is better to contact us earlier rather than later.
How Much Do You Charge?
Almost all of our clients prefer a “contingent fee,” a fee paid only if they win. The usual fee is 25% of back benefits due with a maximum of up to six thousand dollars. Although the usual fee will not normally exceed six thousand dollars, if we have to appeal after the first ALJ hearing, and we proceed to Federal Court, then our contract drops the limit. But under no circumstances do fees come out of current monthly benefits.
In addition to the fee, you will be expected to pay the expense of gathering medical records, obtaining medical opinion letters, etc.