Winning Your Social Security Disability Claim: The Stakes Are High (Part 1)
Most people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits do so because they have an illness, injury or psychological symptoms that make them unable to work and support themselves or their family. I often meet people who are scared about the future and worried that they might lose their home and go hungry. Winning their Social Security Disability claim is of the upmost importance to protect everything they’ve worked for. The stakes are high, both because of what might be lost, and what can be gained. For example, if a 45 year old is awarded $1000 in monthly benefits and is never able to work again, their lifetime benefits would exceed $300,000! That doesn’t even include the health care benefits that person would
receive through Medicare or Medicaid.
Dave of our firm has previously posted about 3 blunders to avoid while applying for Disability benefits. I want to talk about more common mistakes that people can’t afford to make because the stakes are so high. So, picking up where he left off…
Blunder #4 – Assuming that you can’t afford an attorney.
Wrong! You only pay a social security attorney fee when you win your claim and receive benefits. The Social Security Administration limits the amount of money your lawyer can charge you, and there are no fees required out of pocket at the start of your claim. Generally, by the time you win you disability claim, you have accrued back due benefits dating back to the date you became disabled or the date you filed you claim. The SSA tells attorneys that their fee can only be the lesser of 25% or $6000 of your back due benefits, which sometimes can be as much as $45,000 depending on your circumstances. Lawyers don’t charge anything for your future benefits. The amount of benefits can be huge, and you can’t afford to NOT hire an experienced disability attorney.
Blunder #5 – Assuming that the SSA gives you good advice.
I understand why people rely on the advice given by SSA employees – they work for the government, after all, and can be awfully stern on the phone or in person. Unfortunately, over my years of practice I’ve had people tell me some of the really bad advice given to them by SSA employees. I’ve seen people miss out on years of benefits, or apply for the wrong benefits simply because they were given bad information. So, talk to a disability attorney before giving up on your claim or making any big decisions. Often times, a disability attorney will know the laws better and will take more time to talk through the issues with you.
Blunder #6 – Assuming that a year has to pass before you can file for benefits.
Wrong! The law says that you must have a condition that has either (1) as already kept you from working for one year or (2) that you and your doctor expects your condition will keep you from working for at least one year. Once again, I’ve had so many people tell me that the SSA told them to file after a year has passed since they last worked. Not only is this inaccurate, it will keep you from back due benefits and health insurance. Apply for benefits as soon as you
and your doctors believe you have a condition that will keep you from working for a year or more.
Blunder #7 – Assuming that your claim will be approved right away.
Many folks assume that because they’ve paid into the system, they can just fill out the forms and get approved because it’s their right. Wrong! The SSA denies about 75% of first time claims. Same goes for claims at Reconsideration. The good news is that over half the claimsthat go to a hearing in front of a Judge are approved. The hearing stage is when it is critical to have experienced representation.
Please come back in a couple of days when I will publish the second part of this post and review additional important blunders you should be aware of it.
The above information is NOT a substitute for legal advice and should not be interpreted as the dissemination of legal advice. It is only meant as general guidance on various issues which may be applicable to your situation. It is critical that you
consult with an experienced attorney before taking any legal action or have specific questions addressing your particular case answered.