The sooner you contact a disability lawyer the better. If you have questions about the initial application process, you can call an attorney and set up a time to go over the procedure, your reason for filing, what to expect, and any other questions you have about the process or benefits you should be receiving.
If you already applied, you can still contact a lawyer and they will help you to figure out what to do to best approach whatever step you are at in the application or appeals process.
Contact A Disability Lawyer Today!
What a Disability Attorney Will Do
Some positives to having a disability lawyer on your side are:
They will avidly work so that your case is seriously considered and give you the best chances possible at getting awarded
They will go over your medical history to properly present your case
They prepare you for questioning that is bound to happen in court
They gather further evidence from physicians and so on to further prove your case
They can appeal your claim to the federal district court level
They will NOT miss critical filing deadlines!
Hassle Free & Less Stressful For Everyone!
Most disability lawyers will offer you a free consultation to go over your case. We certainly do! They can also review your denial letter and request your original claim file. The disability lawyer can look through your file and see if you missed any important information that will help your case. They can also see if you made any mistakes in the initial application.
Cost of Hiring a Disability Lawyer
Something else to keep in mind while deciding on hiring a disability lawyer is that they work on contingency. Contingency means your lawyer will only get paid if you win your claim. In the end, your hired lawyer can only receive 25% (up to $6000) of your back pay for their fees.
Feel free to do your research on lawyers. There is a long road ahead of you! Most Disability lawyers will gladly do a free initial review of your claim. Doing so will open up the opportunity early on to decipher the good and the bad of your original claim.
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.
You’ve filed for Social Security Disability (or SSI) because you’re unable to work due to an injury or illness. Great job! But now what can you do to set yourself up of the best possible chance of success?
Here are four things to do for anyone who has filed a social security disability claim.
Keep Going to the Doctor
It’s incredibly important that you continue to go to all scheduled medical appointments. If the Social Security Administration determines that you aren’t going to regularly scheduled appointments, while they’re evaluating your disability claim, they may decide against your claim on the basis that IF you did go to the doctor your impairments would be manageable. And thus, you would be able to seek, obtain, and maintain employment (or other substantially gainful activity).
Going to appointments can be difficult, depending on your conditions. If you find it difficult to maintain a schedule of medical appointments you should make sure to note this. Better, even than keeping personal records on this though, is retaining an advocate and making sure they know how difficult it is for you to attend your medical appointments. They may be able to secure some accommodations and/or they may be able to communicate your challenges effectively to the Social Security Administration.
Maintain Good Records of Any and All Hospital Visits
In a perfect world, everyone who needs access (and has permission to access) your medical records, would do so prior to making a decision that impacts you. However, it’s not a perfect world, and one of the most common goofs on disability claim decisions occurs when the adjudicator makes a decision without all the evidence they should have. Sometimes, a big piece of the pie is tracking down what SSA knew, and what they should have known.
Of course, this isn’t the only reason to keep records of visits. It’s good practice to do so even if everyone is on the same page because you never know when someone might lose a record, claim to have never received it, or claim that you didn’t go to that medical appointment in the first place.
Keeping good records can be as easy as making sure everything goes into a specific folder or box. Just don’t throw them away!
Keep Track of Challenges you Have During the Day
At some point, someone is going to want to know what kind of impact your impairments have on your everyday life. You can sit there across from a judge, or in front of a doctor and try to recall ALL the ways in which you’re affected, or you can rely on the notes you’ve taken in preparation for that question.
This means, take notes. Keep a journal. Take pictures, if that’s easier. Keep a video diary. Just document your challenges in some way.
This one action helps eliminate the ambiguous understanding (on the part of the SSA) that Social Security Disability claims denials often spring forth from.
Consider Discussing your Claim with an Excellent & Local Social Security Disability Lawyer
It’s never really too early to start a discussion with an excellent local Social Security Disability Lawyer. There are several reasons you’d want to do this.
#1) An experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer can give you advice from having gone through this process >1000 times. This is probably your first time through the process. If you can get any direct advice or even support, it’s worth your time to reach out for it!
#2) If your claim is denied (it happens far too often) – you have a short turn-around to file an appeal. Being able to bring in a disability attorney that has already heard the merits of your claim, provided input on them, and that you have a pre-existing relationship with – will help to reduce your stress at a very difficult point.
If you’re wondering why Social Security denied your disability when your doctor soundly believed that your ailments were disabled…you’re not alone! That may offer some relief, but now that you’ve been denied (or were denied some time ago), you need to get ready to take another look at your application for social security disability.
Whether you’re re-applying for disability or filing an appeal with a disability appeal lawyer, you probably want to know what led to the miscommunication or outright disconnect between your doctor and the Social Security Administration.
To help you with this, we compiled the most common reasons we have noticed that Social Security denied claims against doctors’ opinions – for our social security disability appeal clients in Spokane, WA.
Your Doctor Didn’t know How to Communicate your Disability to Social Security
This reason is so common that we should write a whole article for the purpose of talking to doctors about how to communicate with Social Security (and the VA). The point here is that in almost every case doctors practice medicine, not law. And while your disability is a medical condition, the benefit – and process of obtaining it – is a very legal process.
Imagine you’re taking your car into a shop because it is misfiring.
You have someone that’s willing to pay for the repairs, but they need to know how it’s misfiring so they give you a form that says, “please describe what’s wrong with the car.”
You show up to the shop and ask the mechanic to fill out the form, and without context, the mechanic looks at the form and examines the car. On the form the mechanic accurately describes what’s wrong with the car:
“The car’s tires are 40% worn, they need to be rotated. The car needs an oil change. Windshield wipers need to be replaced. Rear window is cracked. Electrical issues – radio doesn’t work. Transmission needs service. Car Idles rough.”
Technically the mechanic answered the questions. But when you turn the form back in to get the repair $, your benefactor says, “I looked at the mechanics response, the problems with the car are generally superficial and are what you can expect from a 20 year old car, there’s no mention of a misfire, I’m denying your repair”
“Why,” you wonder? The reason, without context the mechanic had no idea what to focus their report on. They didn’t necessarily know that you needed to have that one item assessed. They didn’t know how their report would play into the overall discussion. Had they known they might have written something to the effect of:
“vehicle has wear and tear in a number of places, however, there is a critical misfiring causing a rough idle and imminent breakdown.”
Both statements are true – but in one the mechanic didn’t have context, and in the second one the mechanic knew the context.
This happens more often than you can believe! And it’s not only Social Security disability that this occurs in, VA claim denials are famous for this situation. A doctor will describe a constellation of issues, but not focus on the issue that is material to your disability claim. As such, it can create predictably poor results.
Your Doctor (or you) Didn’t Get Your records to Social Security Fast Enough
At every step of the Disability Application and Disability Appeal process you are under a ticking clock. You have timelines you have to hit, and the system will not wait for you. From the SSA’s (Social Security Administration) perspective, they have tens of thousands of cases to assess and to keep the process moving forward they have to decide or decline by a standard deadline date.
A side note to this reason is that if you missed timelines as a result of a disability of yours, that would be something you’d want to be documented in your reconsideration/appeal. You might also want to get help in filing those, as you don’t want to have the same problems at that point. If your doctor missed timelines, that’s going to be something that needs to be addressed too. A great advocate or local disability lawyer is great for this.
Your Doctor Never Even Met You
Be honest.. did you show up to your doctor appointment(s)? Did you know you had doctor appointments? Were you aware that the SSA might try to get ahold of medical records for the care you received (or sought to receive) on your conditions? In some cases, applicants have a pattern of not showing up to doctor appointments, even critical doctors appointments set by SSA for the purpose of evaluating your disability.
This is common enough of a problem that we had to cover it. It also means that you probably need some additional help when you file your new application or appeal. If you need someone to remind you, provide you transportation, give you motivation and a helping hand – reach out to them and ask for help. We don’t mind providing reminders either!
You Gave Your Doctor Confusing Information
This is in the same arena as the mechanic story above. If you’re not clear about why you are seeing your doctor, they may not be clear about what you are needing.
Also, confusing statements that appear to contradict your claims occur very often in medical records. Consider the simple question, “how are you today?”
Do you even think before answering this question? Most people don’t – it’s become a salutation like, “hi” and “hey.” You probably get asked some variation of this question at least 4-5 times a day without giving it a second thought. Here’s the issue…
If you’re filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there is likely some aspect of your health that is not “fine” – “good” – or “grand.” And you need to be deliberate, honest, and accurate in answering that question and others like it when speaking to a doctor, or a judge.
Your Doctor Isn’t Necessarily an Expert in Your Ailments
We use terms like “doctor” or “lawyer” in generic ways. However, like lawyers, most doctors have specialties. For instance, a dermatologist has a different specialty than a neurologist. There’s a lot the two will have in common, including a great understanding of medicine. However, one is far more prepared to give testimony on skin issues whereas another is better for brain issues.
A general practice physician may not be able to provide enough information to declare the limits of your abilities or disabilities if they’re very specific. Ideally, a specialist can provide a more thorough diagnosis and prognosis. If your only medical testimony is from a doctor who doesn’t specialize in your challenges, you may be reliant upon the judgment of an adjudicator at the SSA.
On That Note…
You probably want to work with someone who knows disability and disability law if you’re in a situation where you have already been denied benefits. A social security lawyer is different than a family law lawyer, or a tax lawyer, etc. In this manner, a social security lawyer in Spokane is different than one halfway across the country! If you’re going to consult a lawyer, make sure they have experience in Social Security Law, and that they are actuallylocated nearby.
If you’re looking for a Social Security Lawyer in Spokane, WA or northern Idaho here’s a checklist of five things to consider.
Are they actually located in Spokane?
Are they Connected to the Community of Spokane?
Do they Help You to Understand Your Social Security Claim?
Are they an Expert
Are they Approachable?
Are they actually located in Spokane?
These are perfectly legitimate question to ask any lawyer your considering working with. Where are you located? Can I visit you if I have questions? Can we schedule a time to discuss my case?
It may surprise you to discover that some law firms that advertise in the Spokane area are not from Spokane at all. In fact, they only rent an office space, just to have a local address. Shocking, but we covered these types of misdirection in another article, here.
Are they Connected to the Community of Spokane?
One of the biggest benefits to working with a local Social Security lawyer is that you benefit from the connections they’ve made in their work. It’s very common that someone seeking the help of a Social Security lawyer has other support needs that are a natural handoff to someone who has a robust local network. An excellent local law firm will have a list of, or at least referrals to, other excellent firms and resources available at request.
Do they Help You to Understand Your Social Security Claim?
It’s very important that you consider the commitment a local law firm places in helping you to understand your Social Security claim. The process of appealing SSI & SSDI denials can be confusing, and it can be frustrating. A great blog & newsletter might seem small when you’re first looking into representation, but these will be the first places you look when you want to know more about something like a reconsideration denial.
In a not so subtle way, a firm that commits to educating their clients is a firm that will be committed to bringing them along every step of the way. So…take a look at that blog & newsletter. See if it helps you understand your situation? Does the firm demonstrate awareness, understanding and expertise in the way they break down the things you don’t know?
Are they an Expert & Are they Approachable?
Ok, this is a two-part criteria, but you’re aiming to find someone that is both of these at once. An expert that is unapproachable is not going to help you understand your claim. And an approachable novice is a novice nonetheless.
They say there’s no substitute for experience, and it takes time, commitment, and success to gain that experience.
As for approachability, take a look at the videos on the lawyer’s website. Look at their social media pages, and check out the reviews. You’ll get a “gut” sense pretty quickly about whether that lawyer is someone you can relate to, trust, and share your story with.
How Lilac City Law Stacks Up to this Criteria
Now that you’ve seen our list, take a deeper look at our firm.
Are you unsure if you have a disability that qualifies for Social Security?
Do you know when to reach out for help?
Does PTSD qualify you for a Social Security Disability?
Have you worked through a disability for years and now you can’t cope anymore!
In this short booklet from the Lilac City Law Support Series, Randi Johnson shares important information to help you understand if you have a disability and what you can do to best set your claim up for success.
Is there a link between Social Security Disability and drug addiction? Do you have to apply for Social Security three times in order to get approved? Is Social Security Disability straining the benefits system for future generations?
Find out what’s true and what’s fiction in our latest resource for Social Security Disability:
You bet it does! Though it comes down to the severity and how PTSD presents on a daily basis. We’ve covered the chances of you getting a successful claim through the initial filing process before, and I suspect that some of the reason this question gets asked is that it seems mental health challenges are often mischaracterized in disability reports. To assess the situation from a wholistic perspective consider the following five questions.
How are you sleeping?
If the answer is anything other than, “I get a decent amount of sleep” .. then, you, me, and everyone (SSI/SSDI) needs to know why?
Are you having nightmares, insomnia, lack of consistency, where are you sleeping? Do you need special equipment to sleep? A fan for white noise, the TV turned on, a CPAP machine.
Bottom line, if PTSD is causing trouble sleeping or being made worse by lack of sleep, it has an impact on your health and employability in many different areas.
What motivates you?
It seems a basic question, but this is something that cuts straight to the heart of PTSD and other mental health challenges.
Are you distant, non connected, ambivalent towards goals? Are you hyper focused on a certain subject?
Any of these could be “normal” in the right circumstances, but experiencing PTSD can change the balance of “normal” for anyone.
What do you do for recreation?
This doesn’t necessarily mean, “what do you do for fun,” but you can think about it like that.
If you can’t really answer this question then ask yourself what did you do in the past for recreation? Did you find it enjoyable or fun then? Do you do it now, and if you do, do you get enjoyment from it?
Many times with PTSD a fear of social engagement, or triggers, will cause people to stop doing activities they once found enjoyable. If you can’t engage in recreation, or other enjoyable activity, there’s almost certainly an impact to your ability to work. Clearly, a lot to your story needs to be told.
How do you cope?
Let’s start by dismissing coping as good or bad. Everyone copes with challenges everyday. Being able to identify and put into perspective the level of coping is key in making a compelling description of how PTSD impacts your life.
Coping can almost be anything, some people cope through working out, for instance. But if you’re working out 12 hours a day and your marriage fell apart, and your finances are a mess – it’s obviously become more of a hinderance to your overall state of being than it has a help. The same can be true for alcohol, drugs, excessive sleep, risk taking behaviors, isolation, aggression, social media, eating, the list is endless.
So how are you coping with challenges brought on by PTSD?
Do you have a diagnosis?
Do you believe you have PTSD but you haven’t received a diagnosis? Do you believe you were misdiagnosed? In your opinion did an examiner not ask the right questions to be able to adequately determine if you experience PTSD, and perhaps the level of impairment you might have?
Sometimes this can all be placed in the fact that you might not have PTSD…per a clinical definition. That doesn’t mean though, that you aren’t experiencing clinical anxiety, depression, intrusive memory or hallucinations, ADD, or any number of other symptoms that in themselves are diagnosable mental health conditions.
Sometimes, we focus on labeling too much and not enough on the challenges presented by what we’re experiencing. If we expand the label outwards a little, there may be similar diagnosis that would better match the conditions you might be experiencing.
The Last Question: How Can you Best Tell this Story?
The surprising thing most people don’t know about “ local ” Social Security disability law firms.
Imagine you want to go to school. You go online, and see there’s a local campus in your city. After some searching you can’t find the hours the campus is open, so you give them a call. They answer quickly and are very friendly. They get your info and send you all your application papers. You fill them out and return them in the pre-stamped envelope provided to you. All is great.
Well it seems great, but now you have a question. You want to know if you can meet with your instructor before class starts. You aren’t sure about the class you’re going to be taking. So you call.
The nice person on the other side of the phone says they’ll have the instructor call you back. But you don’t want a call back, you want to meet with them. You’d like the ability to sit down face to face with them, if possible, before class starts.
It’s only at this point, after much insistence on your part, that you find out from the school that the instructor doesn’t actually live in the area. In fact, the school itself is in another state. All of your work is going to be done remotely, and you might never even talk to the instructor until your final test date. They (the instructor) will fly in a couple hours before your test, answer any questions you have, then give you the test. Don’t worry though, you can always talk to the someone from the school – over the phone, of course..
Maybe this scenario is a little silly, there’s almost no industry where this actually happens. Well “almost” is the key word. Let’s take this story and change a few things around. And in so doing, reveal the secret implied in the title of this article.
The Big Secret..
Instead of a school, let’s say you’re looking for a disability attorney. And instead of an education, let’s say you want to successfully appeal a denial of your disability claim.
In this revised story, you have a disability denial and you called a disability lawyer in Spokane. You signed up to work with them, and when you had a question about your disability claim you called the local office. Only through your insistence to meet with your social security lawyer did you find out they didn’t actually have an office in Spokane. Nor in Idaho, or anywhere in the Inland Empire.
The Spokane Disability Lawyer you found online actually only has a rented space, with a rented receptionist. Guess what? The boss will never be in.
With the exception of an occasional phone call, you’ll have a completely virtual experience with your disability attorney.
At this point you should know that all disability lawyers charge the same amount. It’s set by law. So if cost is thrown out of your decision tree, what would be the big reason for going with an out of state attorney vs one close to home.
We take a lot of pride in being part of this community. As your actual “local” disability attorney we have all the knowledge and experience of the out of town firms with the added benefit of being here for you anytime you have a question.
Give us a call, or stop by and find out why when you work with us, there’s no surprises.
Most people look at military discharges as a two way street. Either your career went one way and you received and Honorable Discharge, or it went another way and you received a Dishonorable Discharge. In reality, there are many different discharge characterizations and each of them entitles you to a slightly different mix of benefits or resources.
It would help to first cover the types of discharges and the reasons you might have received these discharge characterizations. To begin, discharges are broken up into Administrative and Punitive.
An administrative discharge is “run of the mill.” It is a standard discharge that didn’t require any additional actions, other than your fulfillment of your initial service contract requirements. Within the scope of Administrative Discharges are…
An honorable discharge is the most common type of discharge among Veterans. Simply put, a Veteran with an Honorable discharge fulfilled all the terms of their contract in an honorable manner. They showed up, met their physical and mental requirements, and their service record isn’t populated by a lot of misconduct. Service members with an Honorable Discharge are eligible for most/all Veterans benefits through the VA and shouldn’t have restrictions in receiving service connected disability compensation and Social Security disability if they rate either or both.
A General discharge is also known as General Under Honorable Conditions. This is what you would receive if for some reason you were not able to complete the terms of your original service contract. Having to leave service for a hardship, family reasons (pregnancy), inability to serve (but not misconduct or medical), and other similar reasons are the usual backgrounds of those who received this type of discharge. A General discharge qualifies Veterans for most benefits; however, some education benefits can be a challenge with this type of discharge. Most important to what we do at Lilac City Law, you can receive full service connected compensation and Social Security, if you qualify, with a General discharge.
Other than Honorable
Other than Honorable Discharges are also known as OTH’s and General under Other than Honorable Conditions discharges. They may also be referred to as Undesirable discharges. These are tricky in that it can be very dependent upon when someone served as to whether their conduct would have rated an OTH vs a Bad Conduct Discharge. We’ll cover Bad Conduct Discharges in a moment. The reasons a Veteran may have received an OTH always come down to some sort of misconduct. Most often the misconduct was not so severe that it warranted a Court Martial – and thus a punitive discharge. However, it’s common that Veterans will take a ‘plea’ deal in a Court Martial in exchange for an OTH. OTH’s are common for service members with patterns of misconduct: minor assault, substance abuse, domestic violence, attendance, failure to adapt, etc.
If you are a Veteran with an OTH, you might be able to receive service connected compensation for a disabling injury or illness. However, the VA determines that on a case by case basis. And YES you do get a right to appeal their decision if they determine the facts of your situation incorrectly. If you are not entitled to compensation, and your injury is service related, you are still entitled to limited health care for those service connected conditions through the Veterans Health Administration. You may also be entitled to Social Security and disability benefits.
Lilac City Law advocates on behalf of the disabled in their claims for for Social Security Disability and SSI
Take advantage of our FREE 30 minute consultation!
Punitive discharges differ from administrative in that the only way to have received a punitive discharge is to have been convicted in a special or general court martial. We won’t go into the weeds on different types of courts martial; however, it is important to remember that a court martial was part of the process for receiving these discharges. As such, they can be understood and viewed as analogous to and through the lens of their civilian counterpart convictions
(misdemeanor = BCD / felony = Dishonorable).
Bad Conduct Discharge
Bad conduct discharges are also known as BCD’s and by various slang terms, e.g. “Big Chicken Dinner.” To receive a BCD a service member must have committed misconduct warranting either a Special or General Court martial.
BCD’s are usually received for misdemeanor type misconduct. Assault, theft, desertion/dereliction, etc.
If a former service member has a BCD from a Special Court Martial they still may receive health care support for a service connected medical condition as long as that medical condition was not the result of the action that warranted the BCD in the first place. Also, the condition can not be the result of something that occurred while being held for the Court Martial or while being AWOL (absent without leave). A former service member with a BCD may still receive Social Security and disability compensation from the SSA if they are eligible for these benefits.
A Dishonorable Discharge is by far the least common type of discharge from military service (less than 1%). It can only be the result of a general court martial, which you can equate to the civilian equivalent of a jury trial. Dishonorable discharges are the result of misconduct that goes beyond the scope of OTH and BCD. Generally speaking, we’re talking about felony type misconduct. Conspiracy, Fraud, Murder, Rape, Espionage, Drug Trafficking, etc.
A former service member with a Dishonorable Discharge is not going to be able to access benefits from the VA or most Veterans benefits programs. However, they may still be eligible for Social Security benefits if they meet certain requirements.
Uncharacterized and other Discharges
There are a number of discharges that don’t fit the scope described here. For instance there are a whole classification of discharges known as uncharacterized because they don’t fit the molds above. These would be fraudulent enlistment, entry level separation, and similar situations. Generally speaking these are case-by-case basis situations and are best covered in consultation with Lilac City Law (contact us here).
Also missed in this discussion are Reserve and National Guard discharges. This will be a distinction we’ll cover in a future article. For now, what you need to remember is that it is also a case by case situation; however, the basics are.. If an injury occurred the Reservist or National Guardsman were on duty, or on their way to or from duty, they may be eligible for service connected benefits.
Hopefully this has been helpful. If you’ve found it to be, please consider sharing this article with someone who could benefit from it.
Lilac City Law advocates on behalf Veterans in appeals for Service Connected Disability Benefits