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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 appeal.  Don't be surprised if you are denied and be ready to file an appeal at once. 

5.  If I am denied, what options do I have?

In most cases, the best option is to file an appeal and ask for an in person hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  Denials are often overturned in hearings and benefits eventually get paid (usually with back pay).

6.  Do I need to be represented?

I think so, especially in the appeal process.  It is a complicated legal matter.  About 90 percent of all claimants who file an appeal do so with a legal representative helping them.  The judge who hears your case will probably recommend representation, though it is not required.  You will not pay a representative or attorney until you are approved for back pay.  At that point, Social Security will withhold the attorney fee out of your back pay and pay your representative directly.  If there is no back pay, no fee can be charged.  It's like the old doctor's joke:  "Can I remove my own appendix?"  The answer is yes--but do you really want to?

7.  Can my disability application be "back dated" to get me more money?

You may collect disability benefits under Title II for up to 1 year prior to the date of application, providing you can prove disability back to that date.  In addition, you may recover 5 months for the waiting period. SSI (Title XVI) has different rules.

7.  Should I get a local representative here in North Alabama or call one of those 1-800 numbers that advertise on the TV?

You are entitled to the representative of your choice.  It's difficult to think of an advantage to hiring an out of state representative instead of a local one who is just as qualified.  You will probably get more personal service with a local advocate.  A local representative will be more accessible and you will not be charged for travel expenses.  Be sure that whoever you appoint to represent you has extensive experience in the area of Social Security disability.  The fee arrangement is regulated by the Social Security Administration, so the fee is probably going to be the same whether your representative is in Huntsville or New York.  However, expenses may be different.  Keep in mind, also, that many of the out-of-state firms will hand over your case to a local person to handle the hearing, anyway.  The problem with that arrangement is that you may only meet your representative on the day of the hearing.  With a local firm, you would work with your representative all during the process, not meet him at the last minute.

8.  Is it possible to run up large legal bills, then fail to get any benefits?

No, that is not possible because of a Social Security rule that says your representative cannot charge you a fee unless you win and collect past due benefits.  So, if you do not collect past due benefits, your attorney or representative cannot charge you a fee.  If you don't win there are no legal bills. 

Do you have more questions?  Call the Forsythe Firm at (256) 799-0297.

Forsythe Firm
7027 Old Madison Pike NW, Suite 1089
Huntsville, AL 35806
PHONE (256) 799-0297 or (256) 431-1599 



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I win many Social Security disability cases by showing how my client has trouble with concentration, persistence and pace (CPP).
These issues are not obvious to the casual observer but certainly may qualify for a disability benefit. Under SSR 96-9(p), Social Security considers "work" as the ability to work 8 hours per day, 5 days per week or an equivalent schedule.  CPP issues prevent this and qualify for disability.
CONCENTRATION is the ability to remain focused and on task for at at least 2 hours at a time and to complete an 8-hour workday.  Most workers will be off task about 5 to 9 percent of the workday and this is tolerated.  However, concentration can be hindered by pain, fatigue, depression or other mental health issues.  When a worker is off task more than about 10 percent of the workday on a consistent basis due to one of these medical issues,  they become unemployable.
PERSISTENCE is the ability to report to work and do a job  8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks o…



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…


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.  

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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…