Social Security Disability Q&A

Filing for Social Security disability or SSI can be very stressful and frustrating for the individual. The system seems to encourage many forms which at times seem duplicitous.

What should you do if you are no longer able to work?

Many individuals wait until they receive a denial to consult with an attorney. It may be a good idea to consult with an attorney before you file so that the system can be explained to you. Most attorneys who practice Social Security disability law will not charge a fee for your initial consultation.

What type of information should you give to Social Security?

You should advise Social Security of all of your impairments which do or can interfere with your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (work) on a full time basis, including both physical impairments and mental impairments. This is because, most of the time, you must prove that you cannot engage in your past relevant work (the type of work you have performed in the last 15 years) or any other type of work for at least a twelve month period.

Should you give up if you are denied benefits?

Most individuals are denied at the initial application level in spite of what they feel are truly disabling conditions. Some just throw in the towel. It is important that the individual appeal this denial if he feels he cannot work. The individual will again probably be denied at this appeal level. Again, do not give up. But, at this denial, it is very important to seek the advice and probably hire an attorney to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The attorney can assist you in fully developing the evidence and preparing you and your witness for a hearing.

How should you choose your attorney?

It is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with the Social Security disability system. Many attorneys today are very specialized and may only occasionally handle a Social Security disability case. Ask questions regarding the number of years the attorney has practiced and the number of years the attorney has represented Social Security disability clients. It is also important to know if the attorney is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). Most attorneys who are active in the Social Security practice belong to this organization which is a good tool for keeping the attorney abreast of any changes in the Social Security law or procedures. Some individuals mistakenly hire “representatives” who are not attorneys. Most attorneys charge a fee only if the case is won. The customary attorney’s fee is 25% of the past-due benefits with the maximum fee capped at $6000. The client is usually responsible for reimbursing the attorney for the costs of obtaining medical records. Some attorneys require a costs deposit and some merely require reimbursement for costs at the termination of the case. From a personal standpoint, it is important that you feel comfortable with the attorney you hire because you will be discussing many very personal matters which are very important to resolving your case favorably.