Can you receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Social Anxiety?

Can you receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Social Anxiety?

While many people are affected by high levels of stress and anxiety in their daily life, there are others who suffer from anxiety on a regular basis. Anxiety is a mental condition that is marked by extreme fear and worry in the midst of everyday activities that can lead the person to seek complete control over everything that goes on during their day. In some cases, this anxiety can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life, inhibiting your ability to function in a workplace and secure gainful employment. When this occurs, you may be entitled to seek out social security benefits as long as your anxiety meets the medical and other qualifying requirements.

Symptoms of Severe Anxiety

It is easy to become stressed and anxious when you are in a situation that is out of your control. But for those who suffer from severe anxiety, they have an extreme fear of public humiliation and judgment of others. This level of anxiety can be either mildly or extremely disabling for the individual. In fact, people who suffer from extreme anxiety are likely to underperform or underachieve so that they can fly below the radar and go unnoticed by others. They also may try to protect themselves by limiting their activity, sometimes even confining themselves to their homes to avoid public places such as grocery stores. 

When severe anxiety occurs, it can have major effects on an individual’s physical and mental behavior. Some of the symptoms of severe anxiety include:

  • Flushing in the face
  • An increased heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tense muscles
  • Inability or difficulty speaking
  • Irrational fear in common situations
  • Avoidance of people or places
  • Problems concentration or focusing
  • Fear of crowds
  • Feelings of extreme panic
  • Feeling faint
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • An inability to perform activities at home, work, or school

Anxiety disorder is most often diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, once they have completed a full evaluation. After diagnosis, they will often use cognitive-behavioral techniques and therapies, counseling, and medications to reduce symptoms. While these can minimize symptoms, sometimes the side effects of the medication can cause problems as well. 

Medical Evidence Needed to Support an Anxiety Disorder

Anyone who gets anxious from time to time may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but for your anxiety to be classified as severe and possibly grounds for disability, there are some medical parameters that will need to be satisfied first. Your doctor or psychologist will need to diagnose you with a specific form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can be classified as:

  • General Anxiety Disorder: Which includes symptoms of anxiety during daily activities with no underlying cause specifically to blame. 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This is marked by stress related to recurring thoughts about a past event that was stressful.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Which can involve obsessing over and repeatedly performing simple tasks. 
  • Panic Disorder: This is marked by a physical response even when no actual danger is present.
  • Agoraphobia: This can involve the avoidance of public places and even result in self-confining to one’s home. 

To be approved for disability, SSA will look for evidence of both psychological evaluations and testing to show that the diagnosed case is present. It is also important that disability is made aware of what the possible ramifications of your illness would be if you were in a workplace. Would you have a hard time concentrating? Would you avoid customers and coworkers? Would workplace stress trigger your condition? Would you experience limited functioning if your anxiety was triggered?

Qualifications Under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments

In order to qualify for disability, your doctor’s diagnosis will have to characterize your anxiety as causing three or more of the listed conditions.

  • Difficulty concentrating or staying on task
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle tension
  • Becoming easily fatigued

Once three or more of the above characteristics have been established, it will need to be proven that your anxiety inhibits normal function. You will need to have demonstrated extreme impairment in one of the following areas listed below or a serious problem in two or more of the areas.

  • Problems comprehending, retaining, or using information, inhibiting your ability to follow instructions, exercise good judgment, or learn new things.
  • Difficulty interacting with others, preventing you from exercising socially appropriate behavior.
  • Problems staying on pace or concentrating on a task, leading to your inability to complete them.
  • Difficulty adapting to change which can cause behavioral problems.
  • Problems with self-care.

If you have already been in a protected and structured situation such as intense therapy or receiving an immense amount of psychological support, these issues may be diminished, but that does not mean you won’t necessarily qualify. If our doctor determines and has documented support that the above conditions are likely to exist if you are removed from your protected setting and put into real-life situations, you may still qualify. 

Medical Eligibility Requirements

There are also medical eligibility requirements that will have to be met in order for you to qualify as disabled due to anxiety. You will need to be able to meet these Blue Book listings regarding your anxiety disorder as well as have historical documentation of all your associated symptoms that could limit your capability to work. There are different requirements based on the specific disorder you are diagnosed with, but you will be required to meet at least two of the following criteria below.

  • Demonstrated restrictions in the activities involved for daily functioning.
  • Severe difficulties functioning in a social setting.
  • A significant difficulty in maintaining pace, concentration, or persistence.
  • Experiencing repeated episodes of decompensation.

To qualify, you will need to have experienced these difficulties and been unable to work for at least a twelve-month period. You can either apply for Social Security Income or Social Security Disability dependent on your current income levels and what is included in your work history. 

Residual Functional Capacity

There are cases where your anxiety disorder would not be considered to be severe enough to prohibit you from working, but may still limit you. In these instances, you will be given a “mental residual functional capacity” statement from the Social Security Administration. This statement will detail the type of work that you are capable of performing and how often you can perform these tasks. For example, a diagnosis of panic disorder could lead you to concentration problems as your panic will take over in certain situations. Your statement may prohibit you from performing complex tasks but allow you to perform shorter takes that are simpler and can be learned in less than a month. They can also put more restrictions in place, such as no contact with the general public and limited contact with other employees. 

In this situation, you would likely be denied benefits as you can still perform minimal tasks, but if your panic attacks were to become more frequent, limiting your concentration level to around eight hours, then it is likely that you would be unable to perform any type of employment and could be awarded disability. 

In short, to be awarded disability benefits, your residual functional capacity deemed by the SSA will need to limit you from working any jobs that you have previously had, and from performing been simple tasks available to unskilled workers in the United States. 

Making a Disability Case fo Anxiety

Even if you meet the requirements, obtaining Social Security Disability for an anxiety disorder can be a long and difficult process. Since there are no definitive medical tests to diagnose anxiety, it can require months of medical history, a significant amount of testing, and multiple assessments for a diagnosis to be accepted by SSA. Additionally, the process can take months to complete, and there is a higher percentage of applications that are denied initially. This does not mean that you should avoid applying for fear of denial. If at first denied, you can go through an appeal process that can allow you to address the concerns in the denial and prove your case.

Since the application process can be long and difficult, and often result in the need for an appeal, you will have the best chance of securing benefits if you seek out the services of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. The experienced attorneys at Lilac City Law know the ins and outs of the disability process and can help to better prepare you for the case. By better understanding the process and what to expect, you will have a greater chance of obtaining the benefits you need. Contact Lilac City Law today to discuss the particulars of your case. 

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Understanding Guardianship for Young Adults with Disabilities

Understanding Guardianship for Young Adults with Disabilities

As a parent, friend, or family member of a young adult with a disability, you are intimately aware of your loved one’s capabilities and limitations. This person may require assistance in making important decisions that impact their quality of life, health, education, or financial wellbeing, among others. While acting as an informal advisor provides some level of support, there may come a time when a legally-binding arrangement better serves your loved one’s best interest. 

Securing a legal guardianship to act on a young adult’s behalf involves working through a complicated court process. Common missteps typically cause everyday people to suffer delays, refile cour documents, and even start the process over. Compounding the problems associated with the dense bureaucracy, there are no one-size-fits-all guardianships for young adults. At Lilac City Law, we work with loving families every day to navigate the guardianship process. If you are considering a young adult guardianship, these are things you can anticipate during the process. 

What You Need To Know About Guardianships

Caring people outside the legal professions often believe that securing a legal guardianship is their only option to protect a loved one. This is not necessarily the case. Several alternative options may adequately resolve any concerns or needs. Washington State’s guardianship statutes require other legal pathways to be considered. Moving forward with a young adult guardianship filing could prove a waste of time and resources unless the following items are considered first. 

Education Representative

In Washington State, an automatic Transfer of Rights occurs when a minor turns 18 years old. In instances of minors with disabilities, the school district may notify parents, guardians, and the student before this transfer. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to promptly file for guardianship rights as the age of majority approaches. But retaining rights over a young adult with a disability can have unforeseen negative results. For instance, a guardianship could impact the person’s right to vote, among others. Becoming a legally designated educational representative limits authority and decision-making power. But it also leaves the individual’s other rights intact. 

Payee Representative

Guardianships for young adults tend to deliver broad decision-making powers. But when a loved one only needs assistance in niche areas, becoming a legal representative can have advantages. Representative payees typically field revenue such as Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of the person and oversee their bill-paying obligations. This legal designation limits oversight to financial matters without impacting other rights. 

Power of Attorney

A somewhat broader solution may be gaining a power of attorney. This allows loved ones to make informed decisions on financial, medical, and other essential life issues for the young adult. This designation is typically voluntarily transferred by the young adult.  

Wide-reaching alternatives to a young adult guardianship also include items such as a special needs trust, and vulnerable adult protection orders, among others. In all likelihood, the court will ask to what degree alternatives were considered or pursued before agreeing to a guardianship arrangement. If you have not thoroughly explored these possibilities, your guardianship petition could be rejected. That means the time invested would be wasted as the court sends you back to square one. 

Filing Young Adult Guardianship Paperwork

A young adult guardianship attorney can help decide the most straightforward pathway for protecting your loved one’s best interest. Having an attorney who routinely works through this process, your petition will be strengthened by the fact alternatives have been explored. Articulating the reasons why a guardianship provides the best possible protection and care will help avoid the court denying the petition and forcing you to start all over. 

The time saved by diligently navigating the process can help avoid a gap between when the person turns 18 years old, and the guardianship begins. Although the guardianship tends to be rigorous and requires complicated filings, it can be expedited in a matter of months if no errors or missteps occur. That being said, these are standard documents that are required to be filed with the court, among others. 

  • Petition for Guardianship 
  • Guardian ad Litem Order
  • Notice of Petition 
  • Declaration of Service
  • Order Appointing Guardian
  • Declaration of Proposed Guardian
  • Guardian Oath
  • Mandated Guardianship Training Declaration 
  • Standby Guardian 
  • Guardianship Inventory

Failing to file accurate petitions supported by thorough documentation ranks among the primary reasons why everyday people suffer delays in the young adult guardianship process. Financial concerns often drive the decision to try and negotiate the high legal standards and bureaucracy. Working families are often pleased to discover they may qualify for no-cost court filings and guardian ad litem services. Enlisting the help of an experienced guardianship attorney can save you time, as well as money. 

Common Steps To Secure A Young Adult Guardianship

Although the documentation required to petition the court for a guardianship can be quite stringent, judges understand that a vulnerable community member sometimes needs the support of loved ones. The court proceedings are designed to deliver that support while ensuring the young adult’s best interests are served. 

Commonly acceptable reasons to petition the court include a disabled minor nearing the age of 18, inability to provide self-care, or manage finances. It may also be necessary to intervene when a disabled person suffers from neglect or is being exploited. If you are seeking a young adult guardianship, these are procedural elements you can expect.

  • Guardianship Training: If you are a non-professional or “layperson” in legal jargon, the court will mandate that you undergo guardianship education. Training sessions are generally free of charge and can be conducted online. The coursework typically takes about two hours and outlines a guardian’s duties and responsibilities. The court will require a declaration of completion. You can save time by completing the sessions before petitioning the court. 
  • Petitioning For Guardianship: The paperwork mentioned above will need to be completed and supporting documentation compiled. With the help of your guardianship lawyer, a guardian ad litem candidate may be included. Having a diligently prepared filing can save substantial time and avoid common setbacks.  
  • Court-Appointed Guardian Ad Litem: At the initial court hearing, a guardian ad litem is usually appointed. This certified professional will conduct an independent review and provide the court with a report. You can expect an in-home visit, and additional professionals may be included. It’s not unusual for a social worker to accompany the guardian ad litem. These professionals consider the environment and ask questions to understand whether the proposed guardianship is in the young adult’s best interest. 
  • Guardianship Hearing: During the formal hearing, judges ask specific questions to determine whether a guardianship is in the person’s best interest. It’s not unusual for a judge to bring up alternatives, and your legal representative will need to articulate why the petition before the court is the best option. Parties who are against the guardianship may also speak at the hearing. Your lawyer can cross-examine any opposing parties and making arguments on your behalf. 
  • Letters of Guardianship: Should the court rule in your favor, a formal document will be issued that transfers decision-making powers to the guardian. The letters may also outline certain restrictions.

The young adult guardianship process does not necessarily have a specific timetable assigned to case review and completion. A diligently drafted petition with supporting documentation can save you a significant amount of time. And, having completed to guardianship training in advance helps facilitate the process. Other important time-related issues include being available for the guardian ad litem visit and potential follow-up questions.

Working With An Experienced Guardianship Attorney Saves Time

Although the court system can be challenging to negotiate for everyday people, lawyers who secure vital guardianships for community members have the skills and experience to expedite the process. Along with common pitfalls such as misfiled court papers and inadequate supporting documents, laypeople sometimes don’t indicate the scope of guardianship. Judges may be willing to order a limited guardianship rather than agree to full and unfettered decision-making authority. 

When everyday people try to petition the court on their own, these are the types of issues that get them bogged down. By working with an experienced young adult guardianship law firm, your case can flow through the court system seamlessly. Having a qualified legal professional to answer technical legal questions helps everyday people overcome potential setbacks and keep the process fast-tracked. 

If you have a minor child approaching 18 years old or are considering securing a guardianship for other reasons, Lilac City Law provides determined legal services that support our vulnerable community members. Contact our law office and schedule a young adult guardianship consultation today.

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Should I Nominate a Health Care Agent Today?

Should I Nominate a Health Care Agent Today?

Having a disability can be challenging. Not only will you have to face a number of daily challenges, both mental and physical, but you will also have to deal with a number of legal issues, as you may need assistant making decisions in the future. Challenges that you may face include financial management as well as managing your own health care. Medical assistance is a necessity for everyone, and due to the high levels of privacy and various needs for consent, navigating the health care system can be difficult, These difficulties can be compounded if you face challenges that make it difficult for you to understand the paperwork and make decisions regarding it. That is unless there is someone appointed to make these decisions on your behalf. That is where the duties of a health care agent come into play.

What Is a Health Care Agent?

A health care agent is a person designated to make health care decisions for you. This can be for reasons such as your being too sick or debilitated to make these important decisions for yourself. It could also be that you difficulty making decisions when your mental competence is too low to understand the information set before you so that you can come to an informed decision. 

The agent should understand medical jargon and be willing to liaise with you nurses, doctors, and other medical teams to discuss treatment options while taking into consideration your wants and needs. This way, you will have an advocate in your corner, making sure that your wishes are being closely followed for every aspect of your treatment. 

It is important to note that even though you have assigned a health care agent, you will still have control over your medical decisions. You can have your health care agent work with your medical team, or you may choose to work with them yourself unless it has been decided by doctors that you are not in a condition to communicate your medical decisions properly or if the court has deemed you incompetent for making these types of decisions. 

What Authority Will a Health Care Agent Have?

A health care agent will have the power to make decisions on your behalf in terms of health care, but they will not have decision-making ability in work issues, finances, or any other matters that fall outside of the scope of health care. They also will be restricted from making decisions that go against your expressed instructions and wishes. In most situations, your health care agent will also not have the ability to give consent for certain conditions such as commitment to a mental institution or electroconvulsive type of therapy. 

When designating a health care agent, you can also set limits on what their decisions can entail and also what period of time or specific medical treatments you would want their assistance utilized for. 

What You Should Consider When Appointing a Health Care Agent

Sudden illness and disability can happen in an instant, and if you have a cognitive impairment, it may be difficult for you to make good decisions on medical issues even when you are healthy, let alone when they have become injured or have fallen ill. Since time is of the essence, having a health care agent ready and willing to make those decisions on your behalf can make the process go smoother and ensure that you get treated in the manner that is in accordance with your wants. 

But this is not the only reason to have a health care agent in your corner, willing to fight for your needs. Another primary reason why having a health care agent is critical is, if no one is in place, it can fall to family members to make decisions on your behalf. Even the closest families can become divided when it comes to making medical decisions on behalf of a loved one. With infighting going on in the family, it can take longer for treatment decisions to be made and sometimes even lead to possible legal battles. In the end, the decision that is made may not be what you had wished or intended, even though a family member thought it would be best. For those without close family, important decisions will be left in the hands of family members who may know little about your situation and desired medical decisions. 

How to Choose the Right Person as You Health Care Agent

Since your health care agent will be making medical decisions that can affect your life, it is critical that you choose the right person to represent you in these matters. First and foremost, you will need to choose someone that you can trust. You will be discussing with your agent what you want in terms of your medical decisions and will want to make sure that the person you choose will stick to your wants and best interests. Start with a list of people close to you that you can trust and then ask yourself the following questions about each of them to assist you with making your final decision.

  • Are they willing and able to make the decisions you choose, even if they disagree with them?
  • Do your wants and needs align with their morals?
  • Can they keep their emotions out of the decisions, so that they can make the right choice?
  • Are they strong enough to advocate for you and your wants to medical officials and even family members? 
  • Are they comfortable with medical information so that they can ask the necessary questions needed to make an informed decision?
  • Are they confident enough to stand up to medical staff and get answers and clarification to questions, so they fully understand the situation?
  • Will they be able to make quick and informed decisions even if situations change rapidly?

When you find a person that you trust and your answer to all the above questions is yes, they are likely a good candidate to be your health care agent.

What Type of Person Can Be Selected as a Health Care Agent?

While most commonly, people will look to their family members to choose a health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf, you don’t have to choose a family member for this position, and sometimes it is not advisable. You may automatically think of family because they love you and you can trust them, but for some family members making hard decisions regarding your health can be difficult fo them, and they may have a lot harder time keeping their emotions and wants out of the decision, sometimes ending in a result that you did not want or intend.

Sometimes it is better to choose someone who may care about you but have less of an emotional connection. Friends are a good option because they do not have to interact with family members on a regular basis, so they may be less likely to be swayed from the decision they know should be made. Some people may opt to choose more than one agent, so there is a collaboration when it comes to decision-making, but this is not always advisable as it can lead to delays in treatment due to disagreements. Another good option may be choosing someone comfortable with medical terminology so they can better understand and communicate with doctors and other medical staff.

How to Finalize Your Health Care Agent Choice

Once you have determined the best person to assist you with your medical decisions, you will need to have some hard conversations where you communicate with them your wishes and desires when it comes to certain medical treatments and concerns. If they agree to represent your interests in the medical decisions you have requested, now it is time to finalize your decision. You will need to officially name them by filling out a health care proxy document. You will need to have witnesses to the document signing, and it is advisable to have it properly notarized in the event a legal issue arises. 

Get Help with Your Health Care Agent Designation

If you or a loved one is disabled and wants to learn more about what goes into designating a health care agent or would like guidance on what it entails and how to file the proper paperwork, Lilac City Law is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and enjoy the peace of mind or having a health care advocate in your corner for when you need them most. 

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What is a Ward of the Court?

What is a Ward of the Court?

People essentially become wards of the court because they are unable to take care of themselves at some level and require certain legal protections.

This legal designation is also commonly called being a “ward of the state” and may apply to minors as well as adults. It’s also important to understand that a ward is not necessarily someone who has no family or support system within the community. Rather, they may require enhanced protections beyond what a legal guardian or family can provide. Other salient issues involve otherwise responsible legal guardians not wanting to bear the sometimes onerous financial burden associated with minor children or adults who unable to maintain self-care.

To say that the process and issues involving wards of the court are complicated would be something of an understatement. In an effort to provide loved ones with a working understanding of what it means to be a ward of the court, we hope the following overview proves useful.

How Does One Become an Adult Ward of the Court?

As we are acutely aware, not all adults have the ability to care for themselves adequately. Whether that stems from a disability, age, or illness, the courts can provide enhanced protections to ensure ongoing treatment, care, and financial oversight, among other items.

An adult ward of the court may have no remaining family members to step up as a legal guardian. Others may indeed have loved ones that are willing to act as their guardian but are not necessarily in a position to shoulder burdens such as financial support as well as caregiving. Still, other wards have court-appointed guardians connected with government agencies. These professional organizations may include the following.

  • Social Services
  • Human Services
  • Mental Health Agencies
  • Health Departments
  • Departments for Aging Adults

In order to become an adult ward of the court, that person must undergo a review process that may include assessments by medical and psychiatric professionals who support a claim the person is not competent to successfully maintain minimum health, safety, and financial standards. In the vast majority of cases, the courts will hold a hearing and secure written and oral testimony from experts, friends, and family members, among others. If deemed incompetent, the individual may enjoy the legal protections afforded by the court.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the courts do not necessarily impose guardianships. People who recognize they are seeing the signs of diminished capacity to maintain their health, well-being, and estates, can work with an attorney to voluntarily petition the court. In these instances, the potential ward of the court can have substantial input about the parameters of the guardianship and who the court appoints to that station.

In other cases, a friend or family member can petition the court on someone’s behalf, even in cases of involuntary guardianships. These cases can be emotionally taxing for family members, particularly when your loved one does not recognize their failing state. In these involuntary cases, the ward generally has little or no input about issues such as oversight of their well-being or the designated guardian. The court imposes what it believes is in the best interest of the ward.

What Does an Adult Guardian Do?

A court-appointed guardian is often tasked with overseeing healthcare and financial planning decisions. It’s not uncommon for the guardian to work closely with the ward through the process and move forward with the person’s full consent. These are common items a guardian works with the ward.  

  • Place of Residency
  • Mental Health Treatments
  • Physical Health Treatments
  • Bill Payments
  • Personal Affairs
  • Estate Planning
  • Last Will & Testament

If the ward has significant financial resources, the court may also appoint a conservator with some expertise to manage their estate. The guardian, on the other hand, advocates on behalf of the ward’s best interest in all other matters and generally submits periodic reports to the court.

How Long Can an Adult Remain a Ward of the Court?

Once a person has been deemed a ward of the court, that legal designation is usually only removed in the event they are no longer hindered. In some instances, the court may dismiss the guardianship because it’s in the person’s best interest. Although the latter tends not to be the norm, people who have recovered from a physical or mental health condition may see the ward designation lifted, and the guardianship discontinued. In the overwhelming majority of cases, wards of the court remain so until they pass away.

When Does A Minor Child Become A Ward of the Court?

When children are deemed wards of the court, the circumstances and prevailing issues can be quite different. For example, when the court appoints a legal guardian, it is more often not the case that they become financially responsible for support. In these cases, guardians are also not generally liable for other expenses associated with the child. However, when children become wards of the court, parental rights are usually terminated.

This is an important distinction for minors and parents alike to understand. That’s because there are instances when the court may assume authority over the child even though the minor remains in the custody of a parent. In this scenario, the court has asserted some degree of authority but has not yet gone as far as to remove parental oversight. In such cases, minors are not necessarily a legal ward of the court.

That same reasoning holds true in cases when minors work with an attorney to successfully petition the court to be declared emancipated. Although such minors are no longer under the legal control or protection of a parent or guardian, they are not automatically under the court’s protection either. Therefore, they do not meet the legal standard of a ward of the court.

Another compelling situation is when minors commit crimes and are incarcerated. The mere fact that the state has assumed control and placed the child in a correctional facility does not necessarily make them a ward of the court. As long as a parent or appointed guardian is in place, the minor may not be considered a ward.  

What Triggers A Minor Becoming a Ward of the Court?

Like the adult process, there are a number of ways that a child can go from being the responsibility of a parent to a ward of the court. Sadly, ranked among the more prevalent pathways, the court places children under its protection when they are neglected, abused, or otherwise mistreated. We hear and read about many extreme cases in the media of children being subjected to squalor, malnutrition, and other horrors. The legal protections of the court are often inserted until the children can be treated, and a suitable living environment can be secured.

In other cases, the court may proactively take control over wayward youths. It’s not unusual for a minor with a growing criminal record, history of drug and alcohol abuse, or mental health issues to be removed from a parent’s custody. Wards may be placed in institutional settings that include rehabilitative programs. The court’s goal in cases of wayward youths is to redirect negative behaviors and integrate them as productive members of the community.

There are also cases when parents are physically or mentally unable to provide the stable homelife a child requires. Whether that evolves from diminished physical health or an emerging mental condition, parents have the option to work with an attorney and petition the court to place their child under its protection. Parents are often required to sign over custody in voluntary petitions. In these types of cases, parents can have significant input regarding placement and the future well-being of their child. It’s also not unusual for parents to regain their capacity to care for a child and ask the court to reinstate their rights.

Protect Your Loved One’s Rights & Interests

If you or a loved one is facing the possibility of becoming a ward of the court, or you fear for how guardianship will transpire in a known or unknown future scenario, it’s imperative that you engage the best legal counsel possible. The legal hurdles, hearings, and documentation required to negotiate the process tend to be highly complicated. And, missteps can cause unexpected setbacks and a less than desirable result. Whether you are considering an adult wardship, or want to protect a minor child’s future, Lilac City Law has the experience and compassion to diligently guide you through the process and get the outcome you deserve.

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What is a Plenary Guardian?

What is a Plenary Guardian?

If you have a teenage child or young adult child with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), you may have concerns over how they will navigate the world as an adult. You may be wondering whether you need to assume legal guardianship to protect them from potentially costly mistakes. It is only sensible to think about whether or not they may need your help in making important life decisions moving forward. That is why it is important to learn more about different types of guardianship. The more you learn about the legal avenues that are available to you, the better you will be able to decide what is best for your child.

What is Plenary Guardianship?

Plenary guardianship is the official legal term for full guardianship. It is the most complete form of guardianship that can be granted by the court — where you take full decision-making responsibility for your child.

Deciding to seek full guardianship for your child is a major choice that should not be made lightly, as it will remove all of your adult child’s legal rights to make major life decisions. The last thing you want to do is lower their quality of life, so you will want to discuss the possibility of plenary guardianship with multiple key figures in your child’s life to ensure you are completely certain about your decision. These figures may include your special needs lawyer, the child’s other parent, your child’s primary physician and other medical experts. Not only will these experts help you decide what your child really needs, they can also help you present a complete argument to the court if you find you need to seek plenary guardianship.

If you do get plenary guardianship from the court, you will take over responsibility for some or all of your child’s major life decisions, including:

  • Voting
  • Driving
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Medical decisions
  • Financial decisions
  • Entering into contracts
  • Living arrangements
  • Creating a will

There are definitely individuals with such a severe IDD that they require plenary guardianship. For those individuals, plenary guardianship is a necessity for their safety and those around them. But it is also important to understand that plenary guardianship is often not necessary. Just because someone has an IDD, even a fairly significant IDD, does not mean that they should have all of their rights taken away and put in the hands of someone else — even someone as well-intentioned as their parent.

Why Do Parents Seek Plenary Guardianship?

The primary reason for plenary guardianship is to ensure the safety of the individual under guardianship. An IDD can be so severe that it can make an individual vulnerable to dangerous decisions and/or being taken advantage of by others. You want your child to live a relatively safe, comfortable, secure life. If you are certain that having full rights to get married, divorced, drive, enter into contracts, make medical decisions, make financial decisions, and so on, is likely to put your adult child in significant danger, it may be necessary to take away those rights.

How to Decide if Plenary Guardianship is Necessary

Seeking plenary guardianship for your adult child with an IDD or soon to be adult child is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. You love your child and want what is best for them — and that may mean taking over some or all of their decision-making through full guardianship. But how do you decide if plenary guardianship is the right choice?

There is no simple, easy answer to this question. But there are some questions you can ask yourself and other experts like your special needs attorney that can help guide your decision, including:

  • Is your child completely incapable of making health care or financial decisions? Decisions like whether to get a life-saving surgery, take birth control and pay rent are extremely important choices that adults must make for their own well-being. If you do not believe your child is capable of making such decisions, you may feel compelled to take over such decisions to ensure their safety. 
  • Can your child make some major decisions with reasonable — or even extreme — assistance or accommodation? Many young adults with an IDD are capable of making some major decisions, particularly if they have some help from others that they can trust. It is far better to err on the side of caution when it comes to taking away your child’s rights to make their own decisions both for their happiness and your own. 
  • Is there a less extreme legal option you can utilize other than plenary guardianship? Plenary guardianship is considered the most drastic choice because it fully removes the rights of your child and puts them in your hands. There may be other options, like limited guardianship or power of attorney, that would allow you to provide adequate protection without the need to take away all your child’s rights. 

Alternatives to Plenary Guardianship: Limited Guardianship

If after careful consideration you determine that your child is unable to make some decisions safely due to their IDD, but not all, you could seek a limited guardianship. As the name implies, a limited guardianship is granted to address specific limitations the individual with an IDD may face. For example, if you know that your child is not capable of making sound financial decisions but is capable of making other major decisions like driving or choosing a life partner, you could seek a limited guardianship for financial matters. 

Alternatives to Plenary Guardianship: Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is even less restrictive than a limited guardianship. It grants you the power to make specific decisions on behalf of your child, such as health care decisions or financial decisions. You could get a power of attorney to help in the areas where you know you are needed without having to go through the extensive process of getting guardianship. 

Remember — The Court Will Err on the Side of Caution

As you are making your decision about what type of guardianship or legal option you want for your child with an IDD, it is important to keep the priorities of the court in mind. Generally, courts are averse to taking away any more of an individual’s rights than they have to. You are going to have a much harder time convincing a court to give you plenary guardianship than you would limited guardianship. Power of attorney will be easier to get than limited guardianship. 

Of course, if you are absolutely certain that plenary guardianship is necessary and you and your attorney can provide sufficient evidence and a compelling argument, you will likely be granted full guardianship. 

Trust Your Judgment and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

You know your child better than anyone — which means you are the best-equipped to determine what kind of help they need as they come into adulthood. However, since the question of plenary guardianship is so significant, you should not be afraid to seek help as you make your choice. Your family physician, any specialists your child sees, and your special needs attorney have likely all encountered similar situations with other patients/clients. They can give you some insight that will probably make you feel better about your final decision. They can tell you about examples they have seen of full guardianship, experiences of adults with IDDs, information about the legal hurdles you may face and more. 

In the end, it will be up to you whether you choose to seek plenary guardianship, limited guardianship, power of attorney or some other avenue to protect your adult child with an IDD. But you will likely feel better having consulted with experts before you finalize your decision. 

Getting Help with Guardianship Decisions

For parents of children of with an IDD, the approach of their 18th birthday can bring mixed feelings. On the one hand, you know it is a joyous occasion that your child has reached one of the great milestones of life — as with every new 18-year-old, they gain the right to vote, to marry, to become part of the armed forces and to move out on their own. But the reality of their IDD could give you serious hesitation about leaving them to their own devices. You know better than anyone how capable — or incapable — they may be to make significant life decisions. You want to protect them, and you may need to take legal action to do so.

At Lilac City Law, we understand how difficult it can be to decide questions of guardianship for an adult child with an IDD. We want you to know that you do not have to go through this process alone. We are committed to helping our clients find the best available option for their children and their own wellbeing. We can help you decide if full guardianship is the right choice for your child and we can help you seek guardianship from the court.

If you have questions about plenary guardianship and your other options for protecting your adult child with an IDD, please reach out to us using the contact form below or just give us a call. It is our mission to help you protect your family, and we are ready to assist in whatever way we can. 

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5 Reasons You Need a Lawyer for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It is not fair. You have worked hard and paid into the system. Now it is time to collect on that because you have been injured and cannot work anymore.

You play by the book, go to your doctor appointments, get all the paperwork and send in your application for Social Security disability.

No money is coming in. You are getting desperate, waiting on a reply from the Social Security Office. Finally, it arrives in the mail.

You rip open the envelope. Denied! Now what?

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. At least 70% of people get denied the first time they apply for Social Security disability. 

Many people give up when they receive the first denial letter and do not bother filing a social security disability appeal. That is a mistake.

Here are five ways a lawyer for social security disability appeal can help.

Experience

It is hard to understand all the jargon and terminology involved in disability claims and appeals. The Social Security Administration has a list of rules and regulations that can be confusing to the average person.

A lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability benefits has the experience to cut through all the red tape. It is hard enough for someone who is already dealing with an injury and all the doctor’s appointments to have to try to figure out the paperwork involved.

According to the SSA, 31% of applicants get denied for reasons not related to their medical condition. Frankly, a big portion of this 31% is because of not filing the correct paperwork or missed deadlines.

Provides the Right Evidence

Your attorney will communicate with your physician and any other medical facility to get required medical records. If witnesses are needed to strengthen your case, your lawyer will present them at your hearing.

An experienced SSD lawyer knows the evidence that will strengthen your case, so you have the best chance of winning.

Your Lawyer Will Be at Your Side

When you do have to go in front of the judge, you will have your lawyer by your side. He or she will help prepare you for the questions you will face.

There will be medical experts at the hearing, and your attorney will ask the right questions during cross-examination to help your case.

Reduces Stress for Your Social Security Disability Appeal

It can take up to two years or longer to get your case resolved. Much of this depends on the complexity of the case, and where you live.

After your initial application, it takes on average, six months to receive a decision. After your first appeal, it takes anywhere from two to seven months.

These lingering timelines can be highly frustrating, exhausting and stressful.

Because of all the paperwork and phone calls, it is easy to become overwhelmed and you may feel like giving up. Having an attorney can help you see the end goal more clearly to keep you going in the right direction.

SSD Attorneys Work on a Contingency Basis

It can be difficult for a person who is struggling to pay the bills because of the lack of income. How are you supposed to have money to pay for a lawyer?!?!

Good news! An SSD lawyer receives payment only after winning your case.

The Social Security Administration regulates legal representative’s fees, and the lawyers must file a fee petition or fee agreement with the SSA.

The average payment to a lawyer for SSD representation is 25% of the past-due benefits with a maximum of $6,000. Some disability lawyers will charge for any out-of-pocket costs as well.

We Can Help

There is no need to go it alone. Put the burden on our shoulders and let us help carry the load. 

Contact us right away so we can start working on your Social Security disability appeal so you can get the benefits that you deserve. 

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Out of Work Due to a Disability? 6 Community Resources That Can Help

Being out of work due to a disability can be scary and overwhelming.

Especially if you are unsure of what you should be doing until you get approved for social security.

Thankfully, there are many community resources available that can provide you with assistance and aid during your period of unemployment.

Here are 6 community resources that can help you as you navigate this period of transition.

AbilityOne

AbilityOne is a network of many community-based agencies that offer job opportunities and job training for people living with disabilities. In fact, there are more than 600 community groups involved with this organization. This makes AbilityOne a great resource for finding work, or for receiving any training you may need to make a career switch.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities become employed and fully engaged within their community. This office provides employment services as well as individual counseling to people with disabilities. They even provide technical assistance and job training.

In order to be helped by the DVR, you must apply for the services. They will collect information regarding your identity, disability, and work status. You can see if you are eligible for DVR services here.

Independent Living Centers

Independent Living Centers (ILC) are another great community resource for unemployed people with disabilities. Your local ILC office can provide you with a variety of things, including job coaching and training. They also usually have connections with employers in your area that are interested in hiring people with disabilities, so they can provide you with job connections.

Disability Guide

Are you a veteran looking for more information about what disability benefits you may be entitled to? Or are you simply looking for more informational resources about disability benefits and employment? Either way, this free disability benefits guide can answer important questions such as:

  • What benefits are available to me?
  • How do I qualify for benefits?
  • How do I get these benefits?

Want to learn more? Download our free disability report.

American Job Center

Did you know there are close to 3,000 American Job Centers across the country? These centers have many resources to help you get back on your feet, such as job training and free computer access. Their counselors can help you explore job opportunities, revise your resume, and find something that works for you.

Legal Assistance

Are you stressed that you will not receive the disability benefits you deserve? If so, you should connect with a qualified attorney who can help you increase your chances of receiving your benefits. Some law firms have also compiled a variety of blog posts and articles on the subject of disability benefits that you can read before meeting with a lawyer to discuss your options.

Final Thoughts on Community Resources for People with Disabilities

Being unemployed with disabilities can be scary. But with the right community resources, it doesn’t have to be! By exploring the resources available you can find the assistance you need until you get approved for social security.

Are you looking for legal assistance for your disability benefits? Not sure where to start? Contact us for efficient and courteous legal assistance.

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How to Choose a Social Security Lawyer

How to Pick a Social Security Lawyer

If you’re in the process of applying for Social Security Disability, or if you’ve already applied and are looking to get a bit more help for an appeal – then the following criteria can help you select the best Social Security lawyer for your case.  

Work With Someone That Makes You Comfortable

A Fear Factor Can Play a Big Role in Your Relationship with Your Attorney

The first and maybe most important factor in picking a Social Security Lawyer is overcoming the initial fear factor of reaching out for help.

Let’s be honest, most of the time the first person called is the attorney with the commercial on TV or that website that shows up on the top of Google.  However, as we’ve learned in our firm, a lot of clients gravitate towards representatives that can understand them.  For instance, if you’re seeking to claim PTSD and already apprehensive about reaching out for help, getting someone on the other end of the phone that has an imposing persona very easily could lead to trouble at many points during the claims process.

A Social Security claim or appeal can be complex, it’s very important that you have confidence in your lawyer, but also that you have the impression that you can communicate with them or their office without worrying about how they might view, judge, or aggravate your impairments.

Be careful to choose a lawyer that doesn’t intimidate you in any way.  You’re going through a tough enough process, keep the barriers to your relationship low and the trust factor high.

Trust w/ Your Social Security Lawyer

Your Lawyer-Client Relationship is Built on Trust

The things that generate trust vary widely from one person to the next.  However, there are some basic principals that everyone can rely upon when determining if a given Social Security Lawyer is trustworthy.

Ratings & Reviews

Avvo is a great tool for getting straight-forward ratings and reviews of attorneys.  They have a proprietary ratings system and review system that they claim can’t be gamed.  This is very important, and as you can imagine, review and rating stuffing is common and sadly something that erodes confidence in any rating system.  

In addition to Avvo, Google provides a great system for getting reviews of all sorts of lawyers, including disability lawyers.  If you do a search for disability lawyers near you, or for a specific disability lawyer, you will likely see their Google ratings & reviews pop-up next to their listing.  This is a bit more crowd-sourced than Avvo but is a very valuable tool for both selecting a great disability lawyer, and for reviewing them after you’ve worked with them.  Here is an example of ratings and reviews using Google.

Videos

The internet has been around for a while at this point.  As have digital cameras.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is just as true today as when it was coined.  In fact, it might even be truer today than ever.  Consider how a picture helps to establish rapport and trust.

You want a disability lawyer that shows you they know what they’re doing.   They are respectable and respected.  And they will be the best champion for your fight, right?  That’s why every attorney, doctor, consultant, author, etc. has a professional picture of themselves somewhere on their website.  But one of the biggest problems is that pictures can (and are) staged.  However, an authentic video is much harder to fake.

Check out the prospective disability attorney’s Facebook and YouTube channels.  First off, do they even have social media at all?  And on those channels, see if they have videos sharing insights, talking to clients, answering questions.  Sometimes these videos will also be on the lawyer’s website or blog as well.

Watching how the lawyer answers questions will give you a lot more than a picture – at least in helping you to build an idea of who they are and how they communicate.

Ask yourself, “is this someone that can communicate my challenges, is this someone I can communicate my challenges to?”

A short video will usually give you an enormous amount of insight into answering those questions.

Blogs

When seeking insight into a disability lawyer’s persona don’t forget to look at the extras on their website.  Blogs, especially, will tell you how committed they are to sharing information with you.

Is their website a bunch of short questions with hooks at the end of each one?  If so, how does that help you, as a potential client, to understand the processes involved in your claim?  Alternatively, do they have a wealth of information about all aspects of your claim, and questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet in their blog or newsletter?  Six months from now when you’re wondering what your chances are of succeeding, this might be exactly what you need to keep your spirits high.

A blog may not be what you initially thought of when thinking, “how do I pick a Social Security lawyer,” but now that you’re in the search, take a look around and see who’s keeping their clients and future clients informed and who’s just fishing for the next client.

Capacity

You Should Feel Like You’re the Only Client

Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?  Think about this for a moment.. this is something that can help you to identify what type of disability lawyer or disability law firm to work with.

One might argue that a huge firm with many thousands of cases is big because they are good.  They certainly have the advertising budget to portray that success. However, the continued existence of many hundreds, or even thousands, of community disability lawyers fly in the face of that sentiment.  At the end of the day, you can deal with one bureaucracy (huge firm) to fight another one (SSA), or you can work with a personalized firm who remembers your name when you call.

It comes back to that question, big fish or small fish?  The small fish sometimes has a hard time being heard.

Responsiveness

Communication is Key!

In response to the big fish/small fish question, you do, at some, point want to consider how responsive your disability lawyer will be to your unique needs.  Hint, they have to recognize that you indeed do have unique needs in the first place.

Like a Dr. Office, it’s probably not reasonable that the attorney can stop immediately talking to one patient (client) to take a call from another.  That’s why staff and client liaisons exist.  However, it is reasonable and should be necessary, to have an attorney that is available to talk, within a reasonable amount of time.

Can you call the firm and get a response from the attorney in a reasonable amount of time?  Can you schedule a time to actually come into the firm and talk to the lawyer that’s representing you?  Not everyone can…

Being able to communicate, even briefly, is something you’re going to want to do as a disability hearing approaches.

Helpfulness

The Strength of Our Network is the Strength of Our Work

During the course of your claim (or appeal), there will be curveballs thrown your way.  Whether those curveballs originate from within the claim itself or they happen to come from directions yet unseen, you want someone on your side that “knows someone.”

One of the best things about working with an experienced and established disability lawyer is that you’re also working with their network.  A good lawyer doesn’t gain experience by being an island unto themselves.  They often work with partners in similar fiends to increase the effectiveness of their own services.

To you, the client or future client, this means – that when that curveball arrives you can ask for referrals, assistance, resource information, and things like this.  Or rather, you should be able to.  Unfortunately, this also relies on the idea that your disability lawyer is local, which as we know from previous discussions, is just not always the case.

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How to Win An SSI Appeal (Step by Step)

How to Win An SSI Appeal Step by Step

If you have applied for SSI or SSDI, you probably know that for many, getting approved on your first shot is a challenge. 

Getting approved is not an impossible challenge, but the odds can be against you if you did not sufficiently prove your disability, or if you did not demonstrate how you rate social security benefits. 

If you now have, or fear that you will have a denial letter in hand, here’s a step-by-step approach to help you in appealing an SSI or SSDI denial.

 

Step 1: Create a Plan to Appeal Your SSI or SSDI Denial

In a previous article, we covered, briefly, what you can do if you do receive the dreaded denial letter.  The first thing you should do is not panic, take a few breaths, and accept that this is not the end of the process.  Like most initial applicants, you have been denied.  However, the evidence shows that if you stick with the claim, you have a strong chance of eventually overturning the denial in appeal.

Of course, your chances of success at this point are directly related to the quality of your plan and your ability to execute it.  Or for many, to find someone who can build a plan for you and carry it out as well.  We are talking about a professional advocate or attorney.

 

Step 2: Retain an Attorney (Optional but Encouraged)

Technically, this step is optional.  Also, you can retain an attorney at almost any point during the claim or appeal process.  However, a strong case can be made that hiring an attorney early on is the more prudent approach.  Regardless, you are reading this article from a post on a law firm’s website, so…

There are some reasons, a lot of reasons actually, that you would want to consider this as an option.  First being that this is one form of law that is based entirely on contingency.  If a lawyer does not win your case for you, they will not be getting paid.  Everyone then, you and the law firm, has a financial incentive, and hopefully a personal one too, to get you the benefits you need.

The second reason, and from a coldly logical perspective, a very powerful reason is that you might go through this process only once in your life.  Many of the things that will gum-up the process are avoidable.  And the un-avoidable issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently if you know they are likely to arise.  Only going through this process once, you have to learn all of this the hard way, or be extremely lucky.  Alternatively, a disability attorney goes through these processes a couple of hundred times a year (thousands of times in a career).

You can get pretty good at handling these things throughout several thousand claims. Still, for the die-hard do-it-yourself type, we will go back to the step-by-step.  Remember though; you can retain an attorney at almost any point in the process.

 

Step 3: File for Reconsideration

You need to know that at the point of denial the clock starts ticking.  60 days.  That’s what you have to act.  Whether that action is retaining a disability attorney or beginning the process of appeal yourself, you need to make sure you do so before 60 days is up.  Otherwise, you’re going to have to start all over again.

You can file for reconsideration a couple of ways.  One way is to file a Form SSA-561 (Request for Reconsideration).  The other is to file online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeal.  The basic instructions for this process will also likely accompany your disability denial letter.

So what is a reconsideration, you ask?  It’s an independent review of the original claim by someone who has not been a part of the original decision.  Their job is to take a look at the initial evidence submitted (by you or others) and to take into account any new evidence you might have.  This last point is something that you want to start investigating at this point too.

 

Step 4: Get Your Records Together

To understand the basis for your disability denial, you usually have to investigate what records the Social Security Administration considered in making their determination.  It’s very common for critical pieces of medical evidence to be absent from the disability determination records.  It may be that you, or your doctor, didn’t share specifically what was needed.  Or that there was confusion about the conditions leading to your inability to work.

Whatever the case may be, getting a copy of your records is going to be essential to re-stating, re-phrasing, and correcting your appeal claim.   Write down a list of all the doctors, therapists, support groups, or even friends who’ve helped you during the last five years.  If you can’t remember the last five years, write down what you can remember.


Tip!

Sometimes remembering when a meeting or appointment occurred can be hard. Using holidays or key dates as markers to your memory can be very helpful.

For example, if you remember you had a Dr. appointment a couple of years ago but not when thinking about what else you had to adjust to make it happen.

“I remember I had to schedule that Dr. appointment around Thanksgiving because my sister was visiting..”  <-  The appointment happened sometime before or after Thanksgiving.

It can be hard to remember all this stuff, but if we use something we’re better at remembering to act as a memory anchor, it can help.


Step 5: Start Working on Understanding Why you Were Denied

Good to go, you’re getting your records together.  This simple act is going to give you the tools to understand where your claim went sideways.  At this point, you want to work on figuring out if there was a lack of understanding on the part of the Social Security Administration, or was there a lack of evidence.  Sometimes these go together.

If it was a lack of understanding, you can start approaching the problem from the perspective that Social Security has all the evidence, they didn’t have the understanding to put it together.  Naturally, you’re the one living your life, so in many respects, you’re the only one who knows how your challenges affect your ability to work.  Not even your doctor may understand why you can’t pursue gainful activity.

This brings up a very common situation.  Although we are all the expert on what we experience, we can’t always describe it or convey it very well.  Sometimes, we lack the speaking or writing ability to describe adequately the level of impairment we are facing.  Consider trying to convey the level of your disability in various ways (recorded conversation, writing it down, pictures, etc.).

The whole point of understanding, in this step, is to put yourself in the place where you can see why your claim was denied.  If it was as we just described a lack of understanding on the part of Social Security, you can focus on making it more clear to everyone the challenges you face.  If however, your problem was lack of evidence, you can attack that problem in a relatively straightforward approach.  Get the evidence, everywhere you can.

 

Step 6: Request an SSI Appeal Hearing (If Your Reconsideration is Denied)

No one is going to be surprised that reconsiderations often result in the same outcome as the initial claim.  You have very little time to file for reconsideration and you’re probably still trying to get a grasp on why the initial application was denied – all while the reconsideration is processing.

Let’s assume for the sake of this step-by-step approach that your reconsideration failed to overturn the initial disability denial.  At this point, you can (should) request a hearing.

A hearing is your chance to present to an administrative law judge (ALJ) your claim.  You can provide witnesses and there may also be professional witnesses present (medical or vocational experts) as well.

After the hearing, you’ll receive a determination from the judge, usually received via US Mail.

 

Step 7: Study!  Find Info to Help You Through this Process

During this whole process, you should be looking to find resources to help you out. You don’t want to be figuring this out on your own.  If you do, you’re hurting your chances, and potentially costing yourself further financial burden and stress.

Here are some resources to help you with the process:

The Appeals Process: This is a PDF from Social Security that helps you understand the process of appealing.

MDJunction Forum: This is a forum for general advice and support relating to Social Security Disability and claims advice

Disability Answers WA State: This is a Facebook page built for the community and to facilitate sharing information for those experiencing disabilities.

Lilac City Law Blog: Shameless plug here, but we’re genuinely trying to provide as much information as possible for those working through the disability claims process.  And for those that need the help, we ensure that too.

Social Security Disability Resource Center: An incredible, free resource, compiled by a former disability claims examiner.  The goal is to inform applicants about the Social Security Disability and SSI claims & appeals process.

Our Lilac City Law Ultimate Disability Guide: A free resource that breaks down the basics in an easy to read & portable format.  

4 Biggest Myths About Social Security E-Book: Get to know how & why this process is confusing.  And best of all, what you can do to find success in your claim!


Step 8: Work on Centering Yourself

This step is about self-care.  In truth, this process is slow, it is stressful, and it doesn’t always result in the correct decision.  Sometimes you need to go through it more than once, and sometimes you need to appeal to a higher authority.  Regardless of where you fall in this whole mess, having a sense of urgency is going to result in you potentially harming your mental health.  The system won’t go faster, unfortunately.

Consider, joining a support group on Facebook (you can even join our Facebook page and share your questions & frustrations there).    Other things to consider is making sure your close family or friends know what that you’re pursuing this.  While this might be something you want to keep to yourself, you very easily could end up needing some moral support during the appeal process.  It’s not usually easy.

And, the last point on this, don’t discount the value of a good therapist — someone who can help you to stay confident and centered during the appeal.

 

Step 9: After the SSI Appeal Hearing

Well, one way or another, you’re going to get a decision.  It may be great – “your claim has been approved, and here’s the expected back-pay amount.”  Or it may feel like Groundhog’s day, yet another denial.  If you’re denied at the hearing level, is it the end?  No.

You can keep going; you have the option of asking for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council.  At this point, though, some requests are denied.  Meaning, you may not be given a review by the Appeals Council.  If the Appeals Council denies the review, you’ll receive a letter as to why you remain denied. You can either re-file for disability at this point (yes back to the beginning, sorry) or you can file

If the Appeals Council grants a review, they may review themselves or send it to back to an ALJ (judge) for review.

At this point, if you disagree with an Appeals Council decision, or if they decided not to review the claim, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court.

This will all be laid out in the decision letters you receive at each stage of the process.

 

Step 10: Keep At It! Never Give Up on Your SSI or SSDI Appeal

We’ve said it several times at this point, but the best thing you can do to eventually get the decision you’re looking for is to stick with your claim.  Keep at it.  Don’t miss deadlines, and reach out for help when you need it.  Or even before you need it.  Do your best to be pro-active.  And try as best you can to stay patient and stay centered.

If you have questions about any part of this process or any support during the appeal – let us know.  And if you have great tips for others going through an appeal, we want to hear them too!

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Understanding the Difference Between SSD & SSI Benefits

If you’ve recently developed a disability and lost the ability to work, you should know about the benefits available to you. The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two main types of programs for people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Make sure you understand the main differences between SSDI and SSI before you start applying.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Also known as SSD, this federally funded program pays disability benefits to people with disabilities under certain conditions. For one, your illness or impairment cannot be partial or short-term: it must prevent you from working for at least 12 months or be expected to end in death. You must be younger than your full retirement age, and you must have worked in a job covered by Social Security long enough to qualify. You can usually continue to receive benefits until you are able to work again on a regular basis, or until you retire, at which point your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits.

While your eligibility for SSI depends on your income, SSDI can theoretically be granted to a disabled person of any income level. Benefits are paid to you and your dependent family members based on a formula applied to your past earnings.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A federal income supplement program called SSI program is available for people with disabilities who have little or no income and limited access to resources. It is funded by general tax revenues. SSI specifically pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities, as well as people without disabilities who are 65 and older, as long as they meet the financial limits. It provides them with the cash they need to secure basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.

Generally, anyone who is disabled, blind, or aged 65 or older can qualify for SSI if they also have limited income and resources. You will have to meet a number of other specific requirements—for example, you must be a citizen, national, or eligible alien; you must reside in the US; and you must not be confined to an institution like a hospital or prison, to name a few.

Unlike SSDI, you must stay below a certain income threshold to continue receiving SSI benefits.

The SSA has certain definitions in place for children and adults with disabilities. Children with disabilities generally have a physical or mental impairment that either severely limits their functional capabilities and can potentially lead to death, or that lasts longer than 12 months. The adult definition of disability is similar, but it involves a medically provable physical or mental impairment that prevents the adult from working (or pursuing “substantial gainful activity”). If your medical condition is serious and obvious, the SSA will try to provide your benefits as quickly as possible.

If you meet the legal and medical definition of a disabled person, and you believe you will be unable to work for a year or more, you should look into SSDI and SSI. You’ll need to complete the required application forms and send medical evidence of your disability. You should consult a knowledgeable attorney if you have any concerns about your eligibility or application status. The lawyers at Lilac City Law can offer you advice, file your forms, and make sure you have all the appropriate documentation. We can also help you appeal a previous decision. Give us a call today to get the persistent legal representation you need. We’ll help you secure fair compensation for your disability.

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