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YOUR DISABIILTY CLAIM WAS DENIED. IT WAS PROBABLY A MISTAKE.

IS YOUR DISABILITY DENIAL CORRECT?

You applied for Social Security disability.  They sent you to a doctor for an examination, then denied your benefits.  Should you assume that Social Security made the correct decision? No.  You should assume they made a bad decisionbecause they probably did.

In nearly one-half of denials which are appealed, a judge will review the evidence and overturn the denial to award full benefits to the claimant.  In simple terms, Social Security got the first decision wrong.

Never assume a denial by Social Security is correct.  Assume it is wrong and can be overturned.

What is the biggest mistake you can make after being denied by Social Security?  Failing to appeal the denial within 60 days is the single biggest mistake you can make. Claimants lose millions of dollars every year by failure to appeal denied claims.  Don't make this mistake.

What are the risks if I appeal and lose?  There is no risk.  In an appeal, you have everything to win and nothi…

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY

The Forsythe Firm in Huntsville specializes in Social Security disability.  Here are some common questions and answers about SSDI.

1.  Who decides whether I can receive SSDI (disability) benefits?

The Social Security Administration decides eligibility.  There is a lengthy application process.  It takes 90 to 120 days to get a decision.

2.  What are the basic requirements for SSDI?

A medically severe impairment lasting at least 12 consecutive months which imposes a serious limitation on the ability to perform full-time work.  Also, the claimant must have enough recent work credits to be insured by Social Security.  Usually, a person needs 20 quarters of coverage during the past 10 year period.  The rule is different for young workers.

3.  How long does it take to get a decision on my application?

90 to 120 days.  Nothing Social Security does is fast.

4.  On average, what are the odds of approval of my application?

Slightly under 30 percent of applications are approved without an appea…

SSDI BENEFITS: CAN YOU QUALIFY?

Can you qualify for Social Security disability?
Answer these questions:

__ Yes  __ No   Have you worked at least 5 out of the past 10
                          years? 

__Yes  __  No   Do you have a severe medical condition that
                          makes you unable to do any full time work?

__  Yes  __  No   Has that condition lasted for at least 12   
                           consecutive months, or is it expected to last
                           for at least 12 consecutive months OR to 
                           end in death?

__ Yes    __ No   Have you had medical treatment that has
                           established the nature and severity of the
                           medical condition?

If you answered Yes to all 4 of these questions you may be able to get Social Security disability benefits.  You will need medical records to show the date your impairment caused you to be unable to work, the severity of your symptoms and what medical care you have received.  We refer to…

ABC SOUP: SOCIAL SECURITY ACRONYMS

We all know the government is found of acryonyms:  AOD, DLI, EOD, etc.  To understand Social Security language, you need to know what these terms mean.

AOD:  Alleged Onset Date.  This is the date on which the claimant says he/she first became disabled.  It's probably also the date the claimant asks for disability payments to begin.  It can be earlier than the date of application.

DLI:  Date Last Insured.  Just like all other insurance programs, SSDI has a beginning and ending date.  A worker loses his or her insured status with Social Security abut 5 years after they stop working (because they no longer pay FICA tax by payroll deduction).  This date affects your ability to file a NEW disability claim under Title 2, the regular disability program based on your work record.

EOD:  Established Onset Date.  This is the date a Social Security agrees that you became disabled. It may be later than your AOD.  For example, you may claim to have become disabled on 3/1/16 but Social Security may…

WHO IS COVERED BY THE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY PROGRAM?

Not everyone is covered by Social Security's disability program.  You are only covered if you have worked long enough, and recently enough, and earned the minimum number of "quarters of coverage."  So, the SSDI program is for covered workers, not the general public.

What is a "quarter of coverage"?  A quarter represents one quarter (3 months) on the calendar. For example, the first quarter of a year runs from January through March.

How much do I need to earn to get one quarter of coverage?  The amount of earnings required is based on the national average wage index and changes year to year.  Below are some years and the amount of earnings needed to earn 1 quarter of coverage?

YEAR               EARNINGS REQUIRED FOR 1 QUARTER

1980                  $290
1990                  $520
2014                  $1200
2017                  $1300
2018                  $1320

Remember, these earnings represent the wages earned in a 3-month period or 1 quarter.  For example, in 1980 if…

What Veterans Need to Know About SSDI Benefits

If you are a recently disabled veteran and have been recently discharged from active service, or if you are about to be discharged, here are things you must know about Social Security:

1)  You are covered by both VA disability and Social Security (SSDI) disability.

2)  You may be entitled to receive SSDI benefits for the period of disability, even before you separation (discharge) date.  They go by the date you became unable to perform your military duty, not the date of separation.

3)  Social Security disability is a totally separate process from VA disability.  One does not depend on the other.  Different applications, different rules, different process, etc.

4) If you meet the requirements, you can get full VA benefits and full SSDI benefits.  One benefit will not offset or eliminate the other one.

5)  Social Security has special, faster processing rules for veterans with a 100 percent permanent VA rating, who were disabled while on active duty.  Note:  You do not have to have a 100 per…

WAITING TIME FOR A HEARING HITS 20 MONTHS IN NORTH ALABAMA!

Claimants must now wait 20 months to get a disability hearing in North Alabama!  

Last month I was telling my clients it would take about 18 months to get a hearing.  Now, it's taking 20 months.

One year ago, I was telling clients it would take about 15 months to get a hearing.  They are further behind now than then.

Back in 2012, I was telling clients it would take 12 months to get a hearing - and I thought that was bad.

The average processing time in the Florence, AL hearing office (responsible for most hearings in north Alabama) - is 574 days.

 As time goes along, it is taking longer and longer and longer to get a hearing.  

There are about 4,930 appeals pending in the north Alabama (Florence) Office of Hearing Operations.  That office has 7 administrative law judges.  The average judge disposes of 2 cases per day.  This office is not particularly slower than most.  The average waiting time in Alabama is 18.5 months.

Assuming that it takes about 4 months to get a decision on the initi…

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET DISABILITY BENEFITS?

NEWS FLASH -- 11/17/17 -  The waiting time for a hearing out of the Florence, AL ODAR has now hit 20 months!

You have suddenly become disabled and can't work.  Your income has stopped but expenses continue:  medical bills, mortgage, utilities...they never end.  You apply for Social Security disability benefits but start to get the idea this could take a really long time.  What's a realistic time frame to get benefits started?

Initial Application Period.  It usually takes 90 to 120 days to get an initial decision from Social Security.  They have to write to all your doctors, get medical records, review them and have one of their medical experts review the evidence.  A typical disability examiner is working about 80 cases at a time.  So, it takes a while.  The chances on an initial disability application--based strictly on state averages are as follows(approximately):

Approvals    29 percent
Denials        71 percent

Appeal Level (Hearing) - based on Alabama averages

If your claim is …

DENIED BENEFITS? YOU HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!

The real fight begins when you are denied Social Security disability benefits.  

It's not the end of the game.  It isn't even half time.  It's time to rally the forces, circle the wagons and start the fight that can get you approved.

When your claim is denied, you are entitled to a personal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  It is the ALJ's duty to look at all the evidence, including new evidence you submit, listen to your testimony and make a brand new decision on the merits of your case.

These judges will almost always make a decision that is better considered and more fair than the initial determination (denial).  That isn't to say they always approve benefits; but often they do.  Based on national averages, about 45 percent of claimants who go before a judge will be awarded benefits.  My firm's numbers are higher than that but we are selective about taking on new cases.

The main point I want to make here is this:  If your disability claim comes …

DOES YOUR DOCTOR CARE IF YOU STARVE TO DEATH?

DOES YOUR DOCTOR CARE IF YOU STARVE TO DEATH?

A lot of times, individuals can get disability benefits that they desperately need to pay rent, buy food or get medical care.  But it often requires your doctor to spent a few minutes completing a form called a Medical Source Statement.

Some doctors will complete these forms for their patients, giving a fair, truthful opinion of the claimant's medical condition.  But, then, there are other doctors.....

Who promise they will do the form when they get around to it....but they never do...or they do so after you have been denied.

Who simply tell you, "We don't do disability forms."

Who refuse to complete the form but offer to farm you out to another doctor somewhere who might.

You should ask yourself the question:  Does my doctor care about me and my needs as they relate to my health and ability to work?  Or, is this doctor only interested in collecting his $30 co-pay and sending me on my way with my problems?

Choose your doctor car…

DISABIITY CHECKLIST: WILL YOU QUALIFY FOR BENEFITS?

Can you qualify for Social Security disability?
Answer these questions:

__ Yes  __ No   Have you worked at least 5 out of the past 10
                          years?

__Yes  __  No   Do you have a severe medical condition that
                          makes you unable to do any full time work?

__  Yes  __  No   Has that condition lasted for at least 12   
                           consecutive months, or is it expected to last
                           for at least 12 consecutive months OR to 
                           end in death?

__ Yes    __ No   Have you had medical treatment that has
                           established the nature and severity of the
                           medical condition?

If you answered Yes to all 4 of these questions you may be able to get Social Security disability benefits.  You will need medical records to show the date your impairment caused you to be unable to work, the severity of your symptoms and what medical care you have received.  We refer to this a…

SOCIAL SECURITY MAY TAKE YEARS: DO YOU NEED HELP IN THE MEANTIME?

"I need help.  I've filed for Social Security disability months ago.  How can I survive until my case gets settled?"

This is a good question.  If you are disabled, not working and have little or no income--survival is the question.  It may take months or years for Social Security to decide your case.  What can you do?  Here are some sources of help you may want to consider:

FOOD STAMPS:  Contact your county's Department of Human Resources.  In Madison County, it's located at 2206 Oakwood Avenue NW.  Phone (256) 427-6000. Each county has a DHS department.  Website:
http://dhr.alabama.gov/counties/county_results.aspx?id=Madison

MORTGAGE PAYMENTS:  Contact "Hardest Hit Alabama" at www.hardesthitalabama.com  or call 1-877-497-8182.

LOW COST MEDICAL CARE (DOCTORS): Click on the link below for a list of low cost clinics near you. The list is state-wide, generally listed in alphabetical order.  Scroll the list to find a clinic near your home.


http://www.needy…

WHY THE ANTiQUATED D.O.T. WILL MAKE YOU LOSE YOUR DISABIITY BENEFIT

In its effort to determine whether or not you are entitled to a disability benefit, Social Security will use the antiquated Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to determine if there are any jobs in the US economy that you might be able to perform.  Well and good, except for the kind of jobs the DOT lists.

If you are found able to perform one of the jobs in the DOT, you will most likely be denied your benefits.  Here are some actual jobs still listed in the DOT and they are ridiculous:

Radio-telegraph operator.  Yes, it's still there, in spite of the fact that Samuel Morse sent the first telegram on May 24, 1844 and the last telegram ever sent in the United States was on July 14, 2013.

Human projectile.  The job description for this one includes being shot out of a cannon.  This worker may also perform other feats of daring like falling off a trapeze.

Coach driver.  This fits perfectly with the telegraph operator.  The coach driver not only drives a coach but must also be prepared …

SSDI DISABILITY QUESTIONS...ANSWERED

Answers from the Forsythe Firm, a Social Security disability advocacy firm in Huntsville.  If you don't find your question here, please check out "Frequent Questions" at OUR WEBSITE

Q.Can Social Security stop my SSI or SSDI disability benefit?

A.    Yes.  If they determine that your condition has improved to the point that you are no longer disabled, or if you have returned to work, they can stop your benefit.

Q.  How complicated is a disability application?

A.   Fairly complicated due to so many forms.  If you file online Social Security will send you the following additional reports to complete and return:  Work History Report (8 pages), Function Report (14 pages).  Possibly other forms. It is very

QWill an attorney or representative help me fill out the application paperwork?

A.  Some will, some won't.  At the Forsythe Firm, we assist with all paperwork and forms if we represent you.  There is no additional charge for this service.  

Q.  What's the next step if my…

UNEMPLOYED, UNINSURED? NEED A DOCTOR IN LIMESTONE COUNTY?

As a disability advocate, I often see individuals who are disabled, uninsured and unemployed.  They can't afford to see a doctor.  

Here is a possible source of medical care that you may not have considered if you live in Limestone County:
Limestone County Health Department
20371 Clyde Mabry Drive
Athens AL 35611
256-232-3200
Website

This health department offers primary care, women's services, social services and more.  They accept patients from all income levels and charge a sliding scale fee based on your income and ability to pay.

If yo…

WHAT IS A MEDICAL SOURCE STATEMENT?

If you are trying for Social Security disability, you need to know what a Medical Source Statement (MSS for short) is and how to use it.  It can and should be Exhibit 1 in your medical evidence.  

The "source" is your doctor or other healthcare provider. The statement is your doctor's opinion about you can and cannot do. The statement is a form which attempts to state your physical or mental functional ability, with your impairments being considered.  A physical MSS will state how much you can lift, how long you can sit, stand, walk; how frequently you can bend, stoop, crouch, crawl, etc. There is a separate form for mental impairments. Social Security has it's own form; however, they will not send it to your doctors.  You must get your hands on the form, get it to your doctor, get it completed and send it to Social Security yourself.

Try to pick your most sympathetic doctor to fill out the form.  If a certain doctor encouraged you to apply for disability, he or she wo…

MENTAL HEALTH DISABILITY

Mental disorders of various types compose 18.9 percent of all disability awards made by Social Security.  

What evidence must you have for an award?  A history of treatment by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist is a starting point.  As with all types of claims, the more severe the impairment, the more likely of an award.  Claimants with a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations have a high probability of being approved, though others with significant symptoms that interfere with the ability to work may also be approved.

Getting your doctor to complete a medical source statement increases your odds of getting benefits.

Representation by a qualified Social Security attorney or non-attorney representative will also give you a better chance.

CONTACT THE FORSYTHE FIRM