Q - I'm not sure if I'm disabled but I can't work like
I always have. Should I file?
A- Many people associate disability with visible problems like being wheelchair bound. Social Security's definition of disability requires that you be unable to perform any type of work for 12 months or longer. You do not have to wait until you have been off work for 12 months to file; just have a disabling impairment or combination of impairments that is expected to last that long.
Social Security recognizes that it is more difficult for the aged worker to adjust to other types of work. Also, the ability to work means consistent work activity, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. Many
people have chronic illnesses that prevent them from carrying
out a normal workweek even through they do have some good days that would allow work.
If you call us, we can quickly tell you whether
or not you have a good case.
Q - When should I seek help with a disability claim?
A - Talk to a disability professional before you even file a claim. Social Security disability claims are complicated and can take months just to process the initial claim. You are asked to provide many details on forms that seem repetitious.
We can let you know what to expect and even help you complete the needed forms. Generally, less than 1/3 of initial disability claims in Texas are awarded at that first level and they can take as long as six months to process. Cases that go to hearing usually must wait 12 months or longer to be scheduled.
Statistics have shown that having a representative can improve your chances of success. We like to get involved with a claim early in the process. Our tracking and oversight can relieve much of the stress associated with filing for disability and possibly help
secure an earlier award.
Q- Do I need an attorney to help with this?
A - You need a knowledgeable representative, but it does not need to be an attorney. Social Security allows non-attorney representatives to help with the administrative levels, even appearing with you before an Administrative Law Judge. Social Security withholds the fee for attorneys and non-attorney representatives who have proven their experience and knowledge by passing a competency exam created by SSA. Our clients value the "SSA insider" experience that we share with them as well as the personal attention we are able to give. Large firms tend to employ paralegals and case managers to handle the day to day business, and the client on deals with the attorney or hearing representative at the ALJ hearing. Many clients become frustrated with such an impersonal process.
Q - What do I have to pay to get representation?
A- Most disability representatives and attorneys work on a fee contingency basis and the fee agreement must be approved by Social Security. MG Disability never charges for the initial consultation or medical records and a fee is only charged when you receive your disability benefits. Social Security can authorize a representative fee of 25% of the retroactive benefits awarded to the claimant and his/her dependents up to a maximum fee of $6000.
The definition of disability is the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death of which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
SSA pays disability benefits under two programs; Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is for insured workers, their disabled surviving spouses, dependents, disabled adult children (disabled prior to age 22), retired or deceased workers. SSI is for people with little or no income and resources. The medical criteria for both programs is identical.
1. Tell your doctors about all of your symptoms. Social Security disability is a system based on medical problems. This means that Social Security puts a lot of weight on what is written in your medical records, and much less weight on what you say when you fill out their forms. If you have bad back pain, but it is only mentioned in one medical record a year, it is much less credible than if you mention it at each of your doctor visits.
2. Keep a calendar or journal to keep track of your symptoms. Note your symptoms in a calendar so that you can answer questions of frequency. For example, if you have migraine headaches, SSA will need to know how often you have them. If you have this information documented already, these questions will be easy for you to answer. It is also important that your doctor has this information documented. Copy your calendar or journal and take the copies with you to your next appointment. Ask your doctor to make it part of your medical record.
3. Tell your doctors how your symptoms affect you on a daily basis. Instead of just saying that you have back pain, explain how that pain interferes with your ability to sit, stand, walk, sleep, etc. This will help SSA properly evaluate your claim.
4. Get statements from friends and family. Sometimes it is helpful for SSA to hear about how your impairments have affected you from the perspective of your friends and family. Some of the most helpful statements come from previous co-workers or supervisors, church clergy or other leaders from the community.
5. Get help!!! The Social Security disability process is daunting and requires a lot of preparation, record gathering and form completion. Claims can typically only be appealed within 60 days of the previous denial, so paying attention to these deadlines is critical. A representative can do all of these things for you to take the stress out of the process while advocating for you to the adjudicator. A representative will also work to expedite your claim and
maximize your benefits.