Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?

Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?

Do I Need a Disability Lawyer When Working With Social Security?

 

Do you need to file for disability through Social Security?

Have you already filed disability and been denied?

Maybe we can help!

Hiring a disability lawyer is both helpful for new disability claimants and critical for those who have been denied.

Here’s how & why hiring a disability lawyer is a great idea in your Social Security claim.

 

Success Rate When Using a Disability Lawyer

Did you know that those who are filing for disability increase their chances significantly when hiring a lawyer? Nearly three times more successful to be exact.  We wrote about this in depth in our article, The Odds: Getting Your Social Security Claim Approved.

 

Cost of a Disability Lawyer

For most, the biggest concern comes with how a disability lawyer is paid. You may worry that you cannot afford a lawyer and therefore will not be able to receive the help. The truth is that a disability lawyer is only paid if you are approved for social security disability. When you are approved for disability social security will owe you back pay for the time that you suffered from your disability, but were not yet receiving benefits. Once your case is approved your lawyer fee will be taken from your back pay (up to twenty-five percent or $6,000).

Here’s more information on how you can afford a disability lawyer.

 

Best Time to Contact a Disability Lawyer

When is a good time to contact a disability lawyer? That depends on how comfortable and confident you are with filling out all of the necessary paperwork for disability applications.

Remember the chances of getting your initial claim approved hover around 20%, for a variety of reasons.  With a lawyer involved at this stage, chances increase by almost 10 percent, and if you stick with them through your appeal, your chances of success grow to well over 50%.

A disability lawyer comes in handy later on when going through the rigamarole of Social Security.

 

Advantages of Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Here are some clear-cut advantages to hiring a disability lawyer:

  • You will not have to keep going to the social security office and spend so much time waiting
  • The paperwork alone is easily more than forty pages long. An attorney can help to gather all the paperwork needed.
  • Disability Lawyers know the language. Social security and courts are very wordy and hard to understand at times. Your lawyer will know all the terms and appropriate ways of responding.
  • An experienced attorney knows the system like the back of their hand. This means that the whole process will be a lot faster and no guesswork for you!
  • You will never miss a deadline. The social security administration is very serious about their deadlines, and if one is missed, you may have to start the whole application process over again. A lawyer can be there for you and stay on top of the mundane things such as this.
  • When appealing a claim that has already been denied your attorney may be able to send in a brief that compels the judge to not need a hearing and approve your benefits then and there.
  • Rest assured that your attorney will be professional and ethical; it’s the law and rules of conduct for the social security administration
  • No upfront payments needed. No payments until you start receiving back pay and only then will your lawyer receive payment from your backpay before you even receive your first check.

 

We Help Disability Claimants In Spokane, Eastern Washington, & Northern Idaho

No matter where you are in the process, we can help.  Contact us today!

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Basics of Social Security Lawyers’ Fees

Basics of Social Security Lawyers’ Fees

Hiring a social security lawyer for your claim or appeal might seem to be an overwhelming task.

When you factor in the anxiety most people have about how to pay for a social security lawyer, you begin to see why so many try to pursue their claim alone.

You do not have to go it alone though.  You can afford a social security lawyer!  How?

Social security lawyers only work on a contingency basis.

Let’s take a look at what that means.

The Contingency Fee Agreement

A contingency fee means merely that social security lawyers do not get paid unless you win your claim.  Their costs will be paid out of your benefits before you even get your first check.

Some contingency fees are set up as a lump sum payment that comes out of your benefits at the very beginning, and then you are done.  Others are set up to be taken out, monthly, before your check is sent to you.  This will be decided by you and the social security lawyers when you sign a contingency fee agreement.

A contingency fee agreement states that the social security administration has the permission to pay your legal counsel when you begin receiving your benefits. The social security administration will also be sure to make sure that your agreement follows all applicable regulations.

Your attorney will not be receiving any more than 25% of your benefits or more than $6,000.

There are times when social security lawyers require extra fees. Of course, these fees must meet ample lawful justification before the social security administration approves them. This happens on very rare occasions, and most requests for more money out of your benefits are not approved.

Two Tier Agreements

Some attorneys may have you sign what is called a “two-tier agreement”. It got this name because although similar to the regular contingency agreement, it covers two scenarios instead of one.

The first scenario is the one we laid out just a moment ago: receiving twenty-five percent

The second approach is if your claim is denied and you social security lawyer proceeds with any further appeals on your behalf. In this case, your lawyer may choose to petition for a higher amount rather than accepting the regular amount.  The Social Security Administration would have to approve the higher amount before your lawyers get paid.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Some social security lawyers will also charge you some out-of-pocket fees.  These typically cover the cost of requesting your medical records, copies, postage, etc.  These fees do not usually cost more than $200, but your lawyer should tell you about them before you sign anything.  If they do not, then be sure to ask about any out-of-pocket fees and what they will cover.  These fees are always negotiable.  Moreover, it may be worth it to shop around for attorneys to see if any of them are willing to waive those fees in taking on your case.

Contact a Social Security Lawyer in Spokane, WA

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What You Can Do When You Receive an SSDI or SSI Denial Letter

What You Can Do When You Receive an SSDI or SSI Denial Letter

Have you applied for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI)?

Did you wait months and months to hear back only to see an SSI denial letter in your mailbox?

Did you know that up to seventy percent of claims are denied after your first application?

Claimants often have to go through the appeal process, just to get the benefits they deserve.  

Things to Avoid on Your Initial Application

Some things to avoid while going through your SSDI or SSI disability application:

  • Applying for disability while currently working: There are no rules against this, but the social security administration will look to see if you are able to perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).  It is exceedingly difficult to make a clear case that you are disabled to a point where you cannot earn an income when you are currently working and earning an income. 
  • Applying for disability with a condition that is temporary: Your debilitating condition should be expected to last for more than a year if you are looking to apply for benefits. Your case may be harder to prove that you have a long-term ailment if you are applying too soon.
  • Keeping it too simple: Some applicants do not provide enough evidence to prove your case fully. A consultative exam, provided by the social security administration is not enough. Doctors letters, RFC’s, and medical records help significantly.
  • Not following the doctor’s directions:  Social security examiners will look into your history of treatments when considering your application. It is very important to follow treatments your doctor has recommended, even if that means it will improve your condition and possibly hurt your chances of being approved.
  • Not checking in with the experts:  Even if it is premature to hire an attorney (is it ever?) you can reach out for consultations.  Read their blogs, sign up for newsletters.  Get to know the process and your place in it.  

What to do if You Receive an SSI Denial Letter

After receiving your SSI denial letter, it is important to apply for an appeal. You have sixty days, with five days for mailing, to send this application in. The four levels of appeal are:

  • Reconsideration: You will fill out a request for reconsideration for after you have received your denial.
  • Law judge hearing: This is optional for you. If you do however choose not to be seen by a judge in a live hearing, your appeal request will be determined by information strictly from your file.
  • Appeal council review: Next you can request the appeal council to review your case. During this time you can add any new evidence that may help out your case. The council can accept, deny or dismiss your request for review. If accepted you will then be sent back to a law judge hearing.
  • Federal court: Finally, if need be, you can file for a civil action. This is if the council denies your claim again. You will have sixty days to file for civil action which will then be taken to federal court. U.S district court will then be sent to review your case and make the final decision considering your claim.

Your final option, if you have gone through the previous steps and continue to be denied, is to simply reapply.

We Can Help You

Lilac City Law helps clients through Reconsideration and Appeal of their Social Security Disability Claims.  If your claim has been denied, is in reconsideration, or needs to be scheduled for an appeal hearing, we will help!

Contact a Lilac City Law Disability Attorney Today

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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.

How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

To receive Social Security benefits, you must have worked jobs that are covered by Social Security as well as have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of “incapacitated.”

Social Security has a strict method to define incapacitated. Unlike other programs, to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must typically be incapacitated (disabled) and have done insignificant (non-substantial) work for the past 12 months.

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) define incapacitated? In order, to be considered incapacitated, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).

More On Substantial Gainful Activity

According to the SSA, substantial work activity means you are doing significant physical or mental activities even if it is part-time or your income is less than when you became incapacitated.

Gainful activity is something that you get paid to do or could get paid to do, even if you are not getting paid to do those activities. We are talking about volunteering, home business, babysitting (potentially) and similar.

Moreover, there is also a wage component to SGA. You might be able to do minimal work but not earn a basic minimum wage in doing so, due to your disabling conditions or incapacity. For 2017, that amount is $1,170 for non-blind applicants and $1,950 for blind applicants. If you are making over this amount per month from your job, then the SSA believes that you are not disabled and can engage in competitive employment.

Finances Do Factor into Some Disability Discussions, But Not All

The SSA does not take into consideration any money you bring in from outside sources such as interest, investment, or gifts when looking at SGA for SSDI. However, low earnings do not necessarily constitute low SGA. For example, if you are working as a substitute teacher, you can still be found as doing SGA though you are not likely getting paid very much, or very regularly.

In that example, your low-income rate is not due to being disabled, but rather due to the on-call nature of your job. In this same vein, volunteer activities could also be considered SGA if they are something that could be considered a paying job, even if irregular, or non-paying. The fact that others earn a living doing the work could leave the impression that you are not incapacitated from doing the same.

On the other side of the coin, high earnings do not necessarily mean you were doing SGA either. For instance, if you are working under certain special circumstances, your wage might not have any correlation with your incapacity. Here are some examples:

  • You required assistance for co-workers to complete your tasks
  • You were able to take a frequent rest break or able to work irregular hours
  • Special equipment was provided to assist you in your tasks
  • Work was assigned specifically to you based on your disability
  • You relied on other people to transport you to and from work
  • A lower standard of productivity or efficiency was allowed due to your disability

Incapacity and SGA

You can probably see at this point how the SSA looks at SGA to define “incapacitated” and apply it to your situation or to state that you are not incapacitated. If the SSA sees that you are making SGA, your claim will be likely be denied barring special circumstances (as listed above). This is the point where you want to reach out for help if you have not done so already.

So what if you recently quit working but are not sure you cannot work elsewhere or perform SGA? If you apply for benefits and then stop working due to your disability, you can keep looking for opportunities to earn work. In fact, if you are successful in becoming gainfully employed, that is great! If however, you are unsuccessful, those can be considered unsuccessful work attempts and with the help of a good advocate, they will help to make your SSDI case stronger with the SSA.

SGA Helps to Define Incapacitated!

Substantial gainful activity plays a considerable part in the Social Security Administrations approach to define incapacitated; though there are many grey areas involved. In fact, we covered just a few above. There are most certainly more. If you have questions about how to define incapacitated as it relates to your specific situation, please reach out to us today, and we will give you a clear assessment of your situation.