How can I tell if I am disabled enough to apply for social security
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 65 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 fobs, you ought to apply.
But you don't have to be
bedridden, even if you're a younger person. If you're under age 50, and you
cannot do your past jobs, and you cannot work full time at any regular job, that
ought 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. But it is not impossible.
If you really
cannot work, apply for social security disability benefits. And keep appealing
denials at least through the hearing before an administrative law
How do I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI
Telephone the Social Security Administration
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 to 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.
you have any advice about applying for disability benefits?
Give SSA all the information it asks for in a straightforward way. Be truthful.
Do not exaggerate or minimize your disability.
Should I contact a 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. After the application is filed, however, a
lawyer's help may make a difference between winning and losing even at this
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 the 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?
can appeal in one of two ways.
Telephone the Social Security
Administration and make arrangements for your appeal to be handled by phone or
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.
Your denial letter will tell you about appealing. The first appeal is
usually a "reconsideration." But SSA is experimenting in Wisconsin with
procedures allowing some people to skip the reconsidering step. If you're
involved in one of these experiments, your denial letter will tell you that you
can appeal by requesting a hearing. Otherwise, you must request reconsideration
and then, after the reconsideration is denied, you must request a hearing within
What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to
get 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
Since medical evidence is so important, should I
have my doctor write a letter to the Social Security Administration and should I
gather medical records and send them to 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. A few people win their cases by
having their doctor write letters. You can try this if you want to. 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 records may be something best left for a lawyer to
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 early 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 lawyers 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
attorney's fees. On the other hand, your case might be one in which an
attorney'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.
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% (one-quarter) of back
benefits up to $5,300.00. That is, the fee is one-fourth of those benefits that
build up by the time you are found disabled and benefits are paid. Although the
usual fee will not normally exceed $5,300.00, if we have to appeal after the
first ALJ hearing, our contract drops the $5,300.00 limit. But under no
circumstances do fees come out of current monthly benefits.
the request of a client, we charge a non-contingent hourly or per case fee.
There are a few cases where the contingent fee arrangement or the $5,300.00
limit on fees is insufficient to allow for an adequate fee. In these cases, we
use a different method for calculating the fee.
In addition to the fee,
you will be expected to pay the expense of gathering medical records, obtaining
medical opinion letters, etc.
If I have any other questions, will
you answer them by telephone?
Yes. If this memorandum does not
answer your questions, please contact us.