Monthly Archives: December 2010

Questions Always Asked at a Social Security Disability Hearing

You may be nervous about your Social Security Disability hearing. What type of questions will the Administrative Law judge ask? Who will be there? What happens if you say something wrong or do not know the answers the disability questions?

The good news is the Social Security Disability hearing is not the type of hearing we have all seen on television. There is not a defense attorney present, and the Social Security Disability claimant will not have to sit in front of a crowded courtroom with hundreds of spectators looking on.

The Social Security Disability hearing is generally held in a small room at a county courthouse or another predetermined location. The attendees generally include the claimant’s Social Security Disability lawyer, the Administrative Law Judge, a vocational expert and possibly a medical expert.

Social Security Disability Hearings can last from fifteen minutes to one hour and are very informal. The claimant should dress in normal everyday attire. The Social Security Disability hearing is tape recorded, and the claimant and all of the other witnesses are answering their questions under oath.

Every Administrative Law Judges has their own method of conducting the Social Security Disability hearing. Some Administrative Law Judges prefer to ask all of the questions themselves, while others rely heavily on the claimant’s Social Security Disability attorney to ask the questions.

If your Social Security Disability lawyer is responsible for asking the questions this is good news for you. Hopefully, prior to the hearing, you have met or spoken with your SSD lawyer and discussed the rules and procedures for the disability hearing. You Social Security Disability lawyer should also review all possible questions with you, specifically the questions which are asked at every Social Security Disability hearing.

Questions which will always be asked, either by the attending Administration Law Judge or your Social Security Disability lawyer, include:

  • What is your full legal name?
  • What is your social security number?
  • What is your mailing address?
  • How tall are? How much do you weigh?
  • What is you highest level of education?
  • Have you received any vocational or educational training after high school?

The Administrative Law Judge will also need to know if you meet the most basic criteria for disability benefits which include the inability to work at a substantial gainful level. Questions which will generally be asked about your ability to work can include:

  • Are you currently working?
  • If so, how many hours per week and how much do you make per month?
  • Have you had any unsuccessful work attempts?
  • If you had unsuccessful work attempts how long did you attempt to work and why did you finally have to leave your job?

The Administrative Law Judge does not have a specific amount of time to render their disability decision in fact, they may take as long as they “deem necessary”. They are encouraged to make the Social Security Disability decision as soon as possible, but it could still take six to 12 weeks due to the backlog at many Social Security Disability hearing offices across the United States.

The good news is that many Administrative Law Judges can make a disability decision right away because they do not have to wait months to receive medical documentation (unlike the Disability Determinations Office), and the medical development of the case and evidence for the claim have already be gathered and evaluated.

If you are scheduled to attend a Social Security Disability hearing, it is important to contact a Social Security Disability lawyer as soon as possible. Some Administrative Law Judges will not hear a case if a claimant is not represented either by legal counsel or by a non-attorney representative who understands the Social Security Disability hearing process and can argue the Social Security Disability claimant’s case.

How can I avoid delays in my SSD case?

If you are disabled and unable to work you have probably applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Now it is time for you to wait. One of the most common Social Security Disability questions asked by a claimant is- how long do I have to wait to receive my disability benefits and what can I do to expedite the processing of my Social Security Disability claim?

First, it is important to understand why the process to evaluate Social Security Disability claims takes so long. The Social Security Administration receives thousands of disability claims each year, and they are generally understaffed to process every claim quickly. Most of the delay in processing time however, is due to the length of time it takes for the Disability Determinations Services Office to request and receive medical records from the claimant’s medical sources.

The Social Security Administration may wait weeks or months to receive medical documents, and it may take several more weeks to evaluate the medical information and make their disability determination. What happens if the claimant fails to provide detailed or accurate information about the medical treatment they have received? What happens if the Disability Determination examiner decides they do not have adequate information to make a disability claim?

If the medical records supplied by the medical sources are insufficient the disability examiner will require the claimant to visit a Consultative Examiner or CE. The Consultative Examiner is not a government employee, and they are supposed to provide an objective analysis about the claimant’s mental or physical health condition.

If the claimant fails to provide accurate contact information for their medical records the Social Security Administration will have to spend additional time contacting the claimant or the medical information requested may be incomplete.

This leads us to the questions posed earlier. What is the most important thing a claimant can do to expedite their Social Security Disability claim?

1.      Make sure you are not working at a substantial gainful activity level. If you are working too many hours or at a “substantial” level your claim will be automatically denied.

2.      Make sure you have a disabling health condition which is expected to last at least 12 months or result in your death. Social Security Disability benefits are not given for partial or short-term disabilities.

3.      Talk to a Social Security Disability lawyer who can give you advice on whether or not you have a valid Social Security Disability claim and what information should be included in your Social Security Disability application.

4.      Seek medical care. Even if you can not afford to see a doctor regularly it is important to get some type of medical care and begin building your Social Security Disability case. Medical care may be provided at free health clinics or a small outpatient clinic. Begin building a rapport with your doctor and talking to them about your Social Security Disability claim.

5.      Review your medical records. You have the legal ability to request copies of your medical records. Many claimants are surprised by what is and is not included in their file. Hundreds of Social Security Disability claimants have files which contain medical records which are illegible. Your Social Security Disability lawyer can not present a solid Social Security Disability case if they can not read your medical records. This is something that could be evaluated and corrected early in your medical care.

If you can not work and you have a severe mental or physical health condition, do not wait to file your Social Security Disability claim. Although the condition must be severe and be expected to last 12 months, you do not have to wait 12 months to file your claim. Contact a Social Security Disability lawyer today for more information.

Social Security Disability Forms

Modern Social Security card.
Image via Wikipedia

If you are trying to file for Social Security Disability benefits you can call the Social Security Administration to set up a telephone or in-person interview, or you can complete the application process on-line. The Social Security Administration recommends completing the Adult Disability checklist to ensure you have all the information your need to complete the application.

The Social Security Administration provides all Social Security Disability forms for free. If you have questions or can not find the information you need you can contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). The Social Security Administration is also available to help you complete the forms.

For many claimants the following Social Security Disability Forms will need to be completed. All forms are not applicable for every Social Security Disability claimant. Each form serves a specific purpose and provides the Social Security Administration with pertinent information they need to make your disability decision.

Many of the Social Security Disability forms must be filled out by the Social Security Disability claimant. Some claimants hope to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer and have them complete all of the forms, but in most cases, the Social Security Disability application process is so time-consuming and tedious most Social Security Disability lawyers simply do not have the time to complete the application forms for each of their clients. Social Security Disability lawyers do, however, help with Social Security Disability appeal paperwork such as filing the Social Security Disability reconsideration forms or the hearing request forms.

How much does a Social Security Disability Lawyer make?

Social Security Disability lawyer’s salary will vary based on the number of Social Security Disability cases they handle each year. Some Social Security Disability attorneys can make a substantial amount of money, but what you are most likely interested in is how much money you will have to pay them to accept and win your Social Security Disability case.

It is important to understand that Social Security Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis and will not be paid by their clients unless they win the case. Most Social Security Disability lawyers will not take Social Security Disability cases they do not think they have a chance to win.

The Federal government has capped the amount of money that the disability lawyer can win and periodically updates this amount. In 2010 the maximum allowed is 25% of a Social Security Disability claimant’s back pay or a maximum of $6,000 per case. Do all disability claimants have back pay? Most disability claimants will have a certain amount of back pay due to the length of time it takes the Social Security Administration to process Social Security Disability claims.

The fee charged by the Social Security Disability lawyer may not be the only costs for accepting a disability claim. There may be additional “processing fees” which can include any out of pocket expenses the disability attorney incurs. One of the most common expenses is for requesting medical records for the claimant. Almost all medical sources will charge for reprinting a claimant’s medical records. This cost may be incurred by the attorney who will try to recoup it from their disability claimant. Disability lawyers may also charge their clients costs to travel to and from the Social Security Disability Administrative hearing. If you are unsure about what a Social Security Disability lawyer may charge it is important to finalize these details before signing the fee agreement.

Before deciding whether or not to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer you need to consider not only the cost of hiring them, but also what benefit a Social Security Disability attorney may offer. The real question is not cost, but can you win your Social Security Disability claim without hiring an attorney.

The Social Security Disability process can take a long time, and the Social Security Administration will need detailed medical information from you. Most claimants are denied at both the initial application level and the Reconsideration level which means they eventually will have to attend a disability hearing and plead their case to an Administrative Law Judge. Are you ready to plead your claim? Do you understand the Social Security Disability hearing procedures? Have you reviewed your medical records? Are you sure your medical records provide evidence that you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity?

If you have answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you are not ready to argue your Social Security Disability claim before an Administrative Law Judge. It is time to contact a Social Security Disability lawyer for help.