What to Look for in a Great Disability Lawyer

Have you submitted a disability benefits claim and are waiting to hear whether or not it’s been approved? Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against you. Only 23% of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are approved at the initial application stage. Sometimes, even less if you did not use a disability lawyer.

Of course, you can always appeal a denial of disability, but even then, you’re facing an uphill battle. The total number of approvals, whether initially or upon appeal, is only about 34% of all claims filed.

Is there a way to improve your chances of receiving disability benefits? Luckily, the answer is yes. You can hire a disability lawyer to help you navigate this complex process.

A Successful Disability Lawyer Has Medical Knowledge

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cases are particularly tricky because they require an in-depth understanding of medical conditions that can interfere with a person’s ability to perform their job duties. Therefore, the lawyer that you choose must be experienced in the specialty of disability law.

You are most likely not going to get the results you are looking for if you hire your tax lawyer to tackle your disability case. Look for a law firm whose lawyers have experience litigating medical-related cases. Ask them how many disability cases they have handled and if they have dealt with your particular disability before. 

A Successful Disability Lawyer Understands the Law

This statement should go without saying, but the complexity of disability cases means that a lawyer must know the Social Security system’s requirements inside and out.

In all disability situations, your lawyer will be seeking to demonstrate one, or all, of the following:

  • your medical condition meets the criteria of a condition that is among those described by the Social Security Administration (aka a “disability listing“)
  • you cannot perform your previous work in accordance with Social Security’s “grid” system, which classifies exertion associated with job duties
  • you cannot work even a sedentary position
  • you have limitations that aren’t covered by the grid but impact your ability to perform a job

An Experienced Disability Lawyer Will Be Choosy About Cases

Lawyers who specialize in disability claim appeals cannot charge clients an upfront fee or retainer.

Instead, they receive compensation on contingency. Once your appeal has been approved, and you have been awarded a sum of back pay from the Social Security Administration, your lawyer’s fees will be deducted.

Not having to pay any amount upfront is a massive bonus for clients who may already be struggling financially due to their disability. It means you can afford excellent representation – and you can be awarded your disability benefits even within our challenging disability system!

It also means that if a lawyer takes on your case, they are also taking on the risk of not achieving a favorable outcome. It is in everyone’s interest to work hard for you.

A Great Disability Advocate in Lilac City Law

Our disability team has the know-how and expertise to help you fight and win your disability appeal. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us today.

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Top 5 Tips on Filing a Disability Claim for Pseudoclaudication

Living with back pain can be immensely hard and, at times, all but impossible. For those who suffer from pseudoclaudication, dealing with extreme back pain is a daily struggle.

The cramping in the lower back, hips, and legs can lead to individuals having to cause you to put your entire life on hold to deal with your symptoms.

Fortunately, if you are living with this disorder, you can get financial help in the form of a Social Security Disability Claim.

Here are five tips on filing a disability claim for your pseudoclaudication.

Start Your Disability Claim as Soon as You Can

The time between filing a disability claim and receiving benefits can be anywhere from 3 months to 3 years.

If you suffer from pseudoclaudication and you think you may qualify for benefits, it is vital that you begin the process as soon as you possibly can.

The sooner you file, the sooner you can receive the help you need.

Get a Formal Diagnosis and a Second Opinion

You may be sure of your pseudoclaudication — but, without a licensed doctor’s report, it can be difficult to prove you’re deserving of the help you need.

If you’re considering filing a disability claim, the entire process will run a lot smoother if you have an official diagnosis on file.

Visit your doctor and talk to them about your concerns and about receiving a diagnosis for your condition.

Also, you should keep in mind that getting a second opinion is always an option and that you should never be afraid to seek out extra help.

Have Your Medical Records On Hand

The process of filing a disability claim is tedious and time-consuming, because of that, it helps to stay organized.

Even if you are only thinking about filing a claim, you should always keep a copy of any and all your medical records on hand. At any point during the claims process, you may need to provide evidence of treatments, procedures, or even of an official diagnosis. A good disability lawyer will do this for you!

Stay Organized

Filing a disability claim can feel a bit like jumping through bureaucratic hoops sometimes.

To help stave off the inevitable frustration and confusion you must remain organized. Keep all your records that pertain to your case in the same place and make sure you have everything clearly and concisely labeled.

By staying organized you’ll be able to better keep your wits about you no matter what hoops the Social Security Administration throws your way.

Hire a Lawyer

Finally, trying to take on something as complex as a disability claim all by yourself can be both daunting and trying. On top of that, by going it alone, you’re on one hand telling SSA that you cannot work, and on the other hand, showing you can successfully pursue work like activity (representing people – aka yourself – in a disability claim).

If you’re suffering from Pseudoclaudication or other back pains, you already have enough to deal with — let a trained professional handle the rest.

How to File a Disability Claim for Pseudoclaudication

If you suffer from pseudoclaudication and would like to file a disability claim, but aren’t sure where to begin, we can help.

Contact us today for more information, or to get started filing your claim today.

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Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Is sleep apnea a disability?

Sometimes the guidelines regarding whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI can be confusing.

Some disabilities, Sleep Apnea, for instance, are not always straight to the point.

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Sleep Apnea happens to be one of those disabilities that can fall into different categories.  In particular, the aspects surrounding severity and cause.  Either or both of these could be relevant to your disability case, even minus the apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes momentary loss of your ability to breathe properly or to use respiratory muscles while you are asleep. This can happen from ten to thirty seconds at a time and can happen many times throughout the night. 

Sleep apnea often causes those who suffer from it to lose countless hours of sleep and wake in the morning still feeling tired. This may seem minor; however, can cause serious hazards if it goes undiagnosed. Not only will sleep apnea affect your mood, memory, and alertness, but you are also at greater risk of falling asleep at awkward or even dangerous times, such as while in conversation or while driving.

Moreover, chronic sleep apnea is often a contributing factor to high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive: When your airways are being blocked. Airways can be blocked when the body is relaxed by your throat muscles, tongue, tonsils, uvula or fatty tissue.

Central: This is a more rare form of sleep apnea and is caused by the central nervous system and when the proper signals aren’t sent from your brain to the muscles in control of your breathing.

How Will I Know if My Sleep Apnea Qualifies?

When you apply for social security, your disability will be evaluated under a five-step process to determine if you are eligible or not. An examiner will work with a physician and at the hearing, a decision will be made.

  1. The first step is to meet the nonmedical thresholds.  You cannot even be considered to receive benefits if you do not meet these criteria. Basically, if you make more than a certain amount of money in employed work, you will not be approved.
  2. Second, the SSA via a medical professional will determine if your sleep apnea is considered severe, or otherwise detrimental to your ability to do employment type activity. Your attorney can help with this part as you may need to gather all medical evidence as well as fill out any questionnaires
  3. Third, your sleep apnea will be evaluated to see if you land under social security’s “listing of impairments”. There are fourteen separate categories, and sleeping disorders typically land in the third “respiratory system impairments.”
  4. Fourth your work history will be looked into, and it will be determined if you can perform at any of your previous jobs.
  5. Finally, your age, work experience, and education will be considered to see if any other jobs would be available to you.

In Brief Summary..

Is sleep apnea a disability? Technically yes, but how it affects you on a day to day basis is every bit as important (perhaps more so) than the diagnosis in the first place.  

If you believe you have sleep apnea, or you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are applying for Social Security disability benefits, contact us for help today. 

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Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Do SSI Lawyers Really Help You with Your Disability Claim?

Did you know that hiring an SSI Lawyer to help with your appeal can increase your chances of being approved by double?

How? Why? Does it matter that much to retain a great SSI lawyer? 

Reasons to Hire an SSI Lawyer

The process of applying for SSI can take anywhere from one month to three years (Initial decision through any appeals if needed). Having someone to help you at any point during the process will make it less stressful and ensure you meet deadlines and guidelines.  Missed deadlines are one of the big reasons disability claims end up getting denied in the first place.

In addition to helping you to meet all deadlines, even the ones you did not know existed, SSI Lawyers should be able to access medical evidence, employment records, and all the other parts of your life that go into making an airtight case for the benefits you rate.  The goal is always to present the best case that demonstrates you meet the Social Security Administration’s official disability definition.

Your attorney will also spend time preparing you for questions you may come to face when in an appeals hearing, such as:

  • Describe your symptoms?
  • Are you currently seeing a physician for your disability?
  • When were you unable to continue work?
  • Are you still able to take care of personal hygiene?
  • How long can you be physically active before needing to rest?

This is a very brief overview; for a more in-depth discussion on SSI Appeals, and the steps necessary to win them.

You might also want to read: “Your Odds, Getting Your Social Security Claim Approved”


Talk to an SSI Lawyer About Your Case, Today!

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Cost of a Disability Lawyer

There are little to no out of pocket fees to hire SSI lawyers! Disability lawyer fees are paid out of your back pay for your benefits and are limited to 25% (up to $6000). You will be asked to sign a contingency fee agreement stating that they will only get paid if you receive disability benefits.   Any out of pocket fees you pay will be from medical record requests, any copies, and sometimes postage. Be sure to ask up front, what out-of-pocket fees you may have and if you need to pay them before or after they close your case.

If you would like to discuss your case with a disability lawyer, feel free to give us a call!

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

How to Appeal A Denial for Social Security Disability in Washington State

Applying for Social Security in Washington State can be an overwhelming process. 

If you are one of the greater than 70% of those who are initially denied your claim, it can be devastating, and your path to getting the benefits you have earned can be hard to see. 

What should you do?  Who can help you? This article was written to give you some clarity.

The first step is calm down, take a deep breath, and if needed contact a disability professional to help you. 

The first thing to know is that your denial letter should explain why you were denied and give you a list of the places social security requested and received medical evidence.  It is very common to read through these letters and be confused and frustrated.  Clearly the Social Security Administration missed the mark somewhere; otherwise, you would not even be reading this article.  Nevertheless – you should familiarize yourself with their statements and prepare yourself for your appeal options.  

Here are your four appeal levels for Social Security in Washington State.

Request for Reconsideration

With your denial letter in hand, you now have 60 days (plus five days for mailing) from the date you received your denial notice to complete a request for reconsideration form and return it to the Social Security address listed in your letter.  You can do this either by mail or by dropping it off at your local Social Security office.   Here is a handy tool to locate Social Security offices in Washington State.

If you were denied because the Social Security Administration did not determine you to be disabled, ask to see what medical evidence they have in your file. When filing your request for reconsideration, you should seek to include as much of the following as possible with your request for reconsideration form:

  • Letter from your doctor stating why he believes you are disabled
  • Letter from friends or family stating how your disability has affected your day to day activities
  • Additional medical evidence that was not originally included in your claim

You do not need to be present for the reconsideration.

And remember, if you are denied because Social Security believes you no longer have a disability, you do have the option to meet with a Washington State Social Security representative to explain you still have a disability.

Talk About Your Social Security Denial With A Disability Lawyer Today

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Disability Hearing

If your request for reconsideration is denied, then you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Typically, the time between your request and the hearing is 1-2 years, though this timeline can vary widely depending on where you live.  In Spokane, WA – the timeline for disability hearings was 487 days as of the date this article was written.  It is important for you to attend the hearing and bring your representative (if you have one).

Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts will likely testify for Social Security.  You or your attorney representative will be able to ask them questions during the hearing and make a strong case for your disability is a barrier to employability.

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision, and you will receive a letter and copy of the decision.

Review by the Appeals Council

If you disagree with the decision made by the judge on your appeal, you can ask for the decision on your claim to be reviewed by the Appeals Council.  At this point, if you have not used a Social Security Disability attorney, it is necessary to start consulting with one.

In short, the Appeals Council will look at your request and decide if they agree with the hearing decision – the decision of the judge based on the evidence provided.

If they believe the ALJ (administrative law judge) decision was correct, then the judge’s decision will be upheld.

If the appeals council believes there was an error in the ALJ’s decision, they may remand your claim back to another administrative law judge for another appeals hearing.

And, rarely, but it does happen – the Appeals Council will overturn a denied claim if they believe the judge’s decision was completely in error. This action would result in an approved disability claim.

Here is data on the Appeals Council Requests for Review so you can get an idea of their backlog.

Federal Court Review

If you do not agree with the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court.  In the letter sent to you about the Appeals Council decision, you will find information on how to file with the federal court.  You will need an attorney at this point, in any case.  They should be aware of the process of filing a federal district court lawsuit.

5 Warning Signs You Might Have a Lousy Disability Lawyer

5 Warning Signs You Might Have a Lousy Disability Lawyer

When you file for Social Security Disability (SSDI), it is a good idea to begin talking to a disability lawyer. Engaging the expertise of a Social Security Disability Lawyer early in your application process can help avoid some of the big reasons claims get denied later on.

One of the big challenges of finding and retaining a disability lawyer, though, is that there are many lawyers to choose from, and not all of them are as good as they could be.

So, when you hire a lawyer how do you know if you have a good lawyer?

Here are five warning signs that you might have a lousy disability lawyer.

Your Disability Lawyer is Not Available

Disability lawyers usually have a lot of cases they are working on so you may not always speak to your lawyer when you call. However, you should always be able to speak with someone at the lawyer’s office (secretary, an assistant, paralegal).

If they are unable to answer your question, your disability lawyer or someone who can answer your questions should return your call in a reasonable amount of time. If this is not happening, you may want to find a lawyer who will be more accessible to you when you have questions or concerns.

Your Disability Lawyer Makes Impossible Promises

Having a disability lawyer does not guarantee that you will win your case. A disability lawyer should never promise that they will win your case. They need to be upfront and tell you what chance you should have. Most disability lawyers will not take your case unless they feel there is a chance of winning, but again that does not guarantee it. A disability lawyer should also never promise you a dollar amount if you should win your case.

Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Follow-Through

If your disability lawyer says they are going to do something and they do not follow through, then this should raise some red flags. Their job is to help you gather the medical evidence and statements that will help make your case strong. When they say they are going to contact your medical professionals or third-parties to collect the evidence, they should be following through. You will not have a case if this is not done promptly.

Your Disability Lawyer Doesn’t Meet With You

Your disability lawyer should call you or meet with you in person a month or two before your hearing to prepare you for the hearing. They should review with you questions you may be asked during the hearing and help you prepare answers that will benefit your case not harm it.

Your Disability Lawyer is Not Respectful

A disability lawyer should be respectful of your situation and not make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about. They should be kind and understanding when you explain your situation and help you understand the process. They should also be respectful of your time.

This goes back to number one above (availability) as well as working with your schedule when scheduling meetings or phone calls.

You Deserve Better and It’s Not Too Late

If your disability lawyer is doing any of these, you should probably get a different lawyer. Filing for SSDI is already confusing and difficult enough without your lawyer making it complicated. When choosing a disability lawyer, asking questions before even meeting with them will help you find the right lawyer for you.  Here is an article that will help find a great disability lawyer.

Disability Hearing: Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Disability Hearing Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Are you ready for your disability hearing? You are going to be side by side with your attorney, in front of an administrative law judge. Experts will be commenting on your desire and ability to work. And, you will have many things on your mind.

What if they think I am faking my injury?
How will they make a decision?
When will I be able to move past this appeal!?
Is this Social Security nightmare almost over?

This period before your hearing is an uncomfortable time for most people. You are not alone in wondering how everything is going to proceed when you finally get your day in front of the ALJ. Here are a couple of tips to help you get yourself in a mindset that will reduce, though not likely eliminate, your anxiety.

Review Your Challenges & Barriers

At this point, you are bar-none the expert on knowing what your challenges are. How they impact you on a daily basis, and how you are unable to establish and maintain employment because of them. However, you should not be complacent and feel that you can “wing it” when asked.

Even before meeting with your disability attorney for your pre-hearing discussion, you should go over all the issues at least one more time by yourself. Take an hour or so and write down, exactly what challenges you face every day.

Start your review with thinking about how you get up in the morning, make breakfast, your daily routine, evening routine, leisure, chores, nightly routine, and sleep/rest.

This tip sounds simple, almost to the point of unnecessary, but often, we get so busy doing things that we forget the challenges we have to overcome to accomplish them. Taking a couple of minutes to review your day, and write things down, often results in a better personal understanding of your challenges, and puts you in a better frame of mind to recall them for others.

If you have been keeping a disability journal – you have 90% of this covered already.  You just have to simply review it.

Review Your Disability Claim

Now that you have considered your daily barriers, you should examine your disability claim. Make sure to look at things like, when you filed your disability claim. Who helped you file your disability claim? Also, what has the experience been like since you filed your claim?

Try to get a basic timeline put together of your current disability application status. Include application dates, appeals, doctors’ appointments, and even disability lawyer visits if that applies. All of these items are no-doubt already facts of the case, and readily available for both your disability lawyer and the judge, but you should strive to have an accurate and easily recallable understanding of how your disability claim has ended up at the hearing level too.

At worst, going through this exercise will be a bit of time out of your day. However, it might help you to be more effective in telling your story in context during the upcoming hearing, or in conversation with your disability lawyer before the hearing.

Show Up Early to Your Disability Hearing

If there was/is ever a time to be early for something this is it. It is very possible, your disability lawyer set up a prehearing conference with you, just to avoid this. However, regardless of why you should plan to be early, make it happen.

Plan for traffic to be the worst traffic in history. Plan for your vehicle to break down in your driveway. Realize that the bus will miss your stop. Understand that your alarm will break in the middle of the night while you are fast asleep. In the worst of all possible scenarios, how will you make it to your hearing?

Talk to Your Disability Lawyer

This last tip should be obvious, assuming you have a good disability lawyer. However, it is not uncommon to hear stories about claimants who meet their disability lawyer for the first time just prior to their hearing.

If you have a disability lawyer that has given you very little information or even ideas on how to prepare for your hearing, now is the time to be proactive. It may already be very difficult to change horses so far downstream, but that does not mean you have to be completely passive in regards to your disability claim.

Ask your disability lawyer, or their assistant, how you can best prepare. Ask them what info you should bring, whether you are going to be meeting with them, and what to expect. A great disability lawyer will not throw you to the wolves, they will prepare you for your hearing, and will help you so that you do not get blindsided during it.

If you are only now retaining a disability lawyer, keep in mind how well they communicate. We have talked about this before, and the particular threat of going to a disability hearing unprepared is a poignant example of why communication and working with a great disability lawyer matters.

Talk To A Lilac City Law Disability Lawyer Today!
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4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

 

Social Security Disability appeals can be arduous.  They often take an incredibly long time to process.

The questions asked by medical experts and judges can leave you confused, and to top it all off, you’re expected to remember minute details about a condition that has been plaguing you for years (by the time you actually get to talk to a judge). 

A very simple thing you can do today that can really make a big difference in your claim or appeal is to start keeping a disability Journal. 

Here are 4 easy steps you can follow to create a disability journal today.

 

Recording Everything About Your Illness or Injury

You may think your illness/injury is pretty straight forward and that it doesn’t need further explanation; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone should or does understand your condition(s).  Your best bet is to do your best to capture the actual impacts your injuries or illnesses manifest in your life and let that description tell your story.  In this way, you can add more than a diagnostic description to your condition, you can tell a story in your own words of how you’re affected every single day.

To start off, your disability journal should include the date, time and duration of any barriers or challenges.  For instance, an episode of pain or seizures, etc.  It should also include the level of severity for pain, seizures, or other barriers and include the time of the day and/or how frequent you experienced it.

Make sure to note down what, if any, triggers may have caused pain, anxiety, or other issues.  Specific foods, times of day, proximity to people, activities, sounds, and stress are all common triggers, but many others exist and this is not even close to an exhaustive list.

Some illnesses or injury can be hard to explain so don’t worry about getting things perfect, just try to give it your best shot to describe your situation as you live it, and the true impact of your injuries or illnesses will become apparent to any non-biased reader of your journal.

 

Including Your Medication in Descriptions of Your Barriers

Many, maybe most, medical condition involve medication at some point.  Certain medications can cause side effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea, disorientation, hallucination, etc. These side effects can prove to be positive or negative with respect to their impact on your life.  Regardless, include it in your disability journal.  If you can’t drive due to drowsiness, put it down.  How does that make you feel, sad?  Write about it.  One of the things many people miss discussing in claims for Social Security disability is the issue of side-effects due to the medication they’re taking to cope with their injury or illness.  It’s all related, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not sharing the entire impact of your condition if you don’t talk about this.

Sometimes medications can be confusing or hard to differentiate in describing them to others.  One trick might be to tape a copy of your medication label in your disability journal.  By doing this, you’ll have a record of what was prescribed, and when you took it.  That could come in handy at a later date when someone asks about medications you took in the past.  You’ll also be able to look at how they affected you, how often those medications had an impact, and what – if anything- you were able to do to cope with the barriers they (the medication) presented.

 

Being Honest in Your Disability Journal

It may seem awkward at times to keep such a detailed disability journal of your condition(s).  One of the biggest surprises people find is that things they didn’t think happened a lot, actually, pop up on a daily basis.  And other things: aches and other pains aren’t as common as they seem.  This can be a really tempting time to elaborate, exaggerate, and stretch the truth a little.  Be careful you don’t fall into that temptation.  We promise you if you keep a record of your challenges it’s going to tell a far more compelling story if it’s accurate to your situation than it will if it contains false information.

You don’t have to exaggerate your condition.  You’re not able to work because of it, your condition! That’s the barrier.  This journal will help you to describe it, detail it, and record it.  But if you’re not honest in using the journal, you’ll never be able to use it as an effective tool if someone takes a critical look at it.

Stay true to yourself and you don’t have to worry about telling different stories to different people.

 

Keeping Your Disability Journal Up to Date

For something like a disability journal to be helpful, it’s got to be updated on a regular basis.  You can get to the point that it’s a habit to do the journal – it only takes a month or so to reach that point.  It’s certainly plausible that even this idea might take some effort – if your conditions include injuries to your hands, for instance.  Or from being able to move across the room to access your notes.  If these are the cases, you can do videos on your cell phone or even audio recordings.

No matter how you record your day-to-day, if you keep adding your life impacts of your injuries or illnesses, your final case will be much stronger.  Help yourself to help yourself.  If you do have barriers, reach out to a great Social Security law firm, and ask if they can help you with any ideas.

 

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