Monthly Archives: July 2010

How to find a Social Security Disability Attorney

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income does not have be a complicated process, especially with the help of a professional Social Security Disability Attorney. The Social Security Disability evaluation process, unfortunately, can require multiple steps if the application is denied including: filing the Social Security Disability application, filing the Social Security reconsideration appeal (if the initial application is denied) and requesting a hearing (if the reconsideration is denied).

Most Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications will be denied the first time they are submitted to the Social Security Administration.  By hiring a SSDI lawyer and understanding the process, applicants can drastically increase the chances that they will eventually receive Social Security Disability benefits. Although most SSDI or SSI lawyers will not complete the Social Security Disability application and submitted it to the Social Security Administration for their clients, they do perform a wide variety of very important actions. Social Security Disability attorneys can do the following:

  • If the claimant has been denied the Social Security Disability lawyer can review the initial SSDI or SSI application to ensure it was accurate and complete.
  • Gather and review the claimant’s medical information.
  • Make sure the Claimant’s most recent medical Information has been sent to the Administrative Law Judge prior to the Claimant’s Hearing date.
  • Argue the claimant’s case before the Social Security Administrative Law Judge.

While a Social Security Disability attorney can not guarantee they can get their claimants SSDI or SSI benefits the experience attorneys have gained from the hundreds of Social Security Disability claims they have handled each year can help them determine if a client has a winnable Social Security Disability case. Social Security Disability lawyers understand SSD laws and can evaluate their client’s medical evidence to determine their work limitations.

Most Social Security Disability attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis which means SSD attorneys do not get paid unless they win their SSD client’s case. This can be great news for SSD claimants, many of whom do not have the extra $150 to $200 per hour which most attorneys charge for legal assistance. Social Security Disability attorneys make every effort to take SSI and SSDI cases they think they can win. Losing a case means the Social Security Disability lawyer may have spent hours or days preparing for a case without making a profit.

How can a claimant help their Social Security Disability lawyer? Claimants must continue to receive medical treatment for their condition and make sure their attorney has all of their medical records. Claimants are responsible for partnering with their Social Security Disability lawyer by answering phone calls and sending all requested information as soon as possible.

Contingency fee contracts can be a great way for claimants who are filing for Social Security Disability benefits to receive competent legal counsel with no up-front costs. Prior to signing any type of contract the claimant should understand exactly what types of services the Social Security Lawyer is providing and how much it will cost. Social Security Disability attorneys who win a Social Security Disability claim may receive up to 25% of the claimant’s past due benefits. This is paid to the Social Security Disability attorney regardless of the amount of work they did for the Social Security Disability claim.

Most Social Security Disability lawyers are hardworking professionals who do their best to get the best results for their clients. Claimants can receive strong legal counsel with little up-front cost, and the Social Security Disability attorney receives a fair payment if they win the claimant’s case. Talk to friends, do adequate research and make sure all fees and expectations are outlined before signing a contract with a Social Security Disability lawyer.

What is A Disabling Health Condition?

The Social Security Administration may consider any health condition to be disabling if it is expected to last at least 12 months or more or may result in the individual’s death. The mental or physical health condition also must be so severe that it prevents an individual from performing “substantial gainful activity” which the Social Security Administration considers as making more than $1,000 per month in 2010 or working a regular 40 hour per week work schedule (or the equivalent work schedule).

While any condition which severely limits a claimant to the extent that they can not perform any job at a level to be considered gainful and substantial can be considered disabling, the Social Security Administration does have standards which are referred to as The Listing of Impairments which they use to evaluate a claimant’s disabling health condition.

The Listing of Impairments specifically describes common medical conditions the Social Security Administration automatically considers disabling. Claimants who “meet the listing” or have a condition which is specifically outlined in the Listing of Impairments (with the same limitations and symptoms) will frequently receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits at the initial application level. If an applicant does not meet a listing the Social Security Administration evaluates the severity of the condition, if the physical or medical health condition limits the individual’s ability to work and if the condition leaves any residual functional capacity (RFC) for the claimant to continue working.

Residual functional capacity or RFC is the amount of activity an individual can perform in spite of their physical or mental health conditions. Standard physical residual functional capacity can include the claimant’s ability to stand, walk, sit, lift, bend or stoop. Mental residual functional capacity can include the claimant’s ability to work well with others, follow directions, get along with co-workers, attend work and maintain standards of cleanliness, pace and concentration.

After the Social Security Disability examiner determines the claimant’s RFC or residual functional capacity they can determine if the claimant can work full-time at any job they have had previously (examiners generally evaluate the claimant’s last 15 years of employment), and if not, if they can be retrained to work in a new job. A claimant’s ability to retrain for a new job is based not only on their RFC but also other factors such as their age, work experience and their educational level. The Social Security Administration may determine a claimant has a disabling health condition if they can not perform any past jobs or their residual functional capacity is so limiting they can not be retrained for any new type of work.

Medical records, doctor’s statements, physical and mental assessments and other documentation may be used by the Social Security Administration to evaluate a claimant’s residual functional capacity. Impairments by themselves may not be completely disabling, but the Social Security Administration will evaluate the combined effects of all listed health conditions when considering a claimant’s RFC.

It is not unusual for claimants to ultimately receive Social Security Disability benefits because both the mental and physical conditions, when considered together, leave the claimant with very little residual functional capacity. Unfortunately, given the subjection nature of evaluating Social Security Disability claims which do not meet a listing, many claims are not awarded benefits until the Hearing level when the Administrative Law Judge is able to truly evaluate the claimant in person and offer a more subjective conclusion of their ability to continue to work.