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Social Security Disability Attorney Rick Fleming Answers Client Concerns

As you might imagine, we get a lot of questions about the Social Security Disability process, who qualifies and why or why not. We sat down with Attorney Rick Fleming who leads our Social Security Disability department and is a NC Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability law. He offered some thoughtful answers to help dispel some common misconceptions.

Over the 15 years I have worked in Social Security Disability for the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin I have heard my share of false assumptions when it comes to applying for and being granted benefits through Social Security Disability. It helps when an applicant knows the right steps to the approval process.

Disability is a government-funded program that has strict guidelines. If there’s one thing I try to let our clients know, those working in Social Security Disability determination offices must be uncompromising. They have to be. They don’t work for the public, they work for the government. If your case doesn’t meet strict government guidelines, it won’t be approved.

How does the federal government define disability?

Social Security Disability Attorney Rick Fleming Answers Client Concerns

Disability, according to the government, is the unquestionable inability to perform work for at least 12 continuous months. It is important for clients understand that those 12 months must be ongoing or have already passed before someone applies. They also may qualify if it is highly likely that they will be expected to be unemployed for the next 12 months.

There must be a finding of a severe medical impairment.

The Social Security Disability Determination Services expects proof of impairment through medical records. Medical diagnosis and prognosis may be either physical or psychological and they are both covered under Social Security Disability. Clients are often concerned because they do not know what evidence they should use to prove they need Social Security Disability benefits.

Those suffering from disabilities are unable to participate in the kind of work they have done before, or any work in the national economy. When we ask clients if they have the ability to work in the national economy, it doesn’t just mean North Carolina, it means nationally, in all sectors of business in America. The reality is the job simply has to exist. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a job the applicant could actually get. The law wants to know if you have the ability to theoretically work if given the opportunity.

I get a lot of calls from prospective clients who are working and earning substantial wages yet wish to apply for disability benefits. Social Security Disability says that if you are able to work and earn a certain amount of money, then you are not disabled no matter what’s going on physically or psychologically.

Disability can be determined solely on annual income. In 2017, if you are able to earn $1,170 per month gross you are probably not disabled. Even with a physical or psychological impairment, working for that much money means you are likely not entitled to disability compensation.

Is there a difference in applying with an attorney vs. without one?

I would say yes.

It’s a complicated procedure that can be unclear to people because, let’s face it, we don’t grow up learning the Social Security Disability process. If someone has impairment, they may not comprehend all the things required in the application process or be in too much pain to even have the energy to put together a strong case.

They may miss items on the checklist and get something from Disability Determination Services (DDS) called a failure to cooperate denial. If an applicant receives one of these, they did not do all the things they were supposed to do in the application and may need to start over from scratch. That’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re going through something of this magnitude, and you shouldn’t be penalized for it. This is can be an overwhelming situation to handle. A lot of times it helps to have someone else in your corner who’s making sure your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

Our duty is to be a strong and knowledgeable advocate for you.

Do a client’s assets and resources have an impact on the outcome of the case?

There’s a complex answer there, but I’ll try to explain it simply.

There are two kinds of disability. Title II Disability, or regular Social Security Disability, is something you pay into through payroll taxes. When you look at your check you will see either a FICA or Old Age Survivor’s Disability Insurance (OASDI for short) deduction. Both the employer and the employee pay into this type of Social Security benefits.

If you have a Title II case, then what you own or have does not matter as long as you are applying for a benefit for which you’ve contributed throughout your working life. It’s like making a claim on your medical insurance or car insurance or homeowners insurance – you’ve paid the premium, and now you’re making a claim.

However, applicants under Title XVI (16) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are in a hardship or poverty program. This program is for people who have not worked enough or recently enough to qualify for Social Security Disability or Title II, and are poor enough to qualify due to a lack of assets or resources. Under Title XVI you cannot have more than $2000 in assets or other resources as a single citizen, and married couples must have less than $3000 in assets or other resources to qualify. As a side note for people married to a working spouse, you are reviewed with the income of your household. Assets of one spouse are legally deemed available to the other spouse. Married couples with two vehicles and anything worth more than $3000 exceed the asset quota, automatically receiving a technical denial.

We often get calls from parents or guardians who stay at home to take care of children or family members. If they’ve stayed at home long enough that they are no longer insured for Title II, their only option is SSI. If that is your situation, contact us at 1-866-900-7078 and have an experienced Social Security Disability attorney review your situation for free.

What determines the amount of money the client could potentially receive? Do disability benefits correlate to their last salary and benefit arrangement?

Social Security Disability benefits are based on work history. So if you are someone who made minimum wage, your benefit (if you qualify) will be lower than someone who earned six figures. Benefits also depend on how long you paid in to the system. Someone found disabled at age 26 after beginning to work at age 16 has only 10 years of contribution, whereas someone who has worked 30 to 45 years with high earnings is likely to have more money coming their way from Social Security Disability. That being said, Social Security benefits are modest and average only $15,329 a year for disabled workers.

When a client hires an attorney, does that speed up the claims process and potentially increase chances for approval?

It does not result in an automatic approval. Although, because we know what documentation and evidence to present and how to make sure it is completed properly and meet deadlines, it may potentially help get to an approval.

It may also hasten the process, in that we do everything we can to try to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. There should be open communication between the Social Security Administration, and the attorney representing the applicant or claimant. This networking and experience makes us confident in our ability to potentially win cases. We do our best to try to make sure things will not be forgotten, and therefore the process should go smoother and run more efficiently in most cases. Also, as an attorney I’m expected to frame the issues and use the correct kind of medical evidence that tries to build an unquestionable case of disability.

On our website readers can learn more about Social Security Disability wait times.

Do attorneys make the decisions regarding who is and is not disabled?

No. At the initial reconsideration level, the case goes to a place called Disability Determination Services and the case is assigned to a disability examiner, and either physical or psychological doctors, depending on the variables of the case. It’s that team at Disability Determination Services that makes the decision on the first and second level of appeals.

Each of our paralegals was a Disability Determination Services employee before joining our Social Security Department. They know very well what the agency is looking for and how to try to ensure your paperwork is properly submitted.

If the person is denied at both those levels, the case goes to the hearing level.

The hearing is where an administrative law judge (ALJ) holds a hearing that may include expert witnesses and is responsible for reviewing the applicant’s case and previous reasons for denial. After the hearing level, if the judge’s decision coincides with the lower determination and denies benefits, an applicant may seek to have their case sent to the appeals council where Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJs) make the determination. Here, it will again be decided if the case should be approved, denied, or remanded for a new hearing.

If you do not have success at this level, you can file a civil action in the United States District Court, where an Article III judge will make the decision. Afterward, those denied may apply to the circuit court, which for North Carolina residents is the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. If you’re not successful there, you can attempt an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

When you are denied you, the applicant, or the attorney if you have one, have a duty to file an appeal within 60 days.

How long does each process take?

Wait times vary considerably depending on the level of your filing.

At the reconsideration level it’s going to be about six months for a decision.

At the hearing level it’s going to be about two years. At the district court level, it’s probably about one year, and the circuit court level it could be one to two years. The Supreme Court could have multiple factors determining the timing of decisions.

Some people are of the opinion that attorneys hold up cases to get more money. Is this true?

Of course not.

The truth is the Social Security Administration has too few employees and hundreds of thousands of cases to process. At present the backlog of cases awaiting a hearing before an ALJ is over one million. While our paralegals have a history of knowing how to work effectively in most situations, sometimes there’s nothing we can do, and these backlogs cause the process to take time.

What people don’t realize is that stalling the system doesn’t bring us or the client any more money because the government caps our fees.

In Social Security Disability cases fees are capped at 25% of back-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.

So if we did delay cases, we would actually be billing more hours than the fee cap provides. So if you’re talking about a case that lasts six months vs. 36 months, at some point we are losing money because we have more time and money in than we can possibly get out. Believe me, we would rather win sooner than later.

Since all employees are obligated to pay into the system, are they entitled to receive back taxes as disability benefits?

They will be entitled to retirement income in the form of Social Security, once they reach retirement age, but there is no entitlement to disability until you meet the strict requirements of disability under the Social Security Act. Think of it like health insurance or car insurance. Yes, you have paid for it, but they may deny it if your claim doesn’t meet the requirements.

Will applying for Social Security Disability assure payment?

No. Not one penny is received for disability until after you are seen as disabled under the law.

What are the keys you look for in a solid case, and what are the red flags.

Going back to some of the things we talked about before, there is a list I can use to initially screen an eligible candidate.

  1. Are you working? Have you had a break in employment already or do you have an impairment that is so severe, it is reasonable to assume you will be out of work for at least 12 continuous months?
  2. Does what you allege as a prospect, make sense medically? If you allege for example that you are blind, but you say you can drive to our office to meet with me to discuss the case, I’m going to know you cannot be found to be blind if you offered to drive to my office.
  3. Do you have medical evidence? Social Security Disability is grounded in medical evidence and you, the claimant, have the burden of proof – you must provide medical evidence to support your case. If you have never been to a doctor in your entire life, then there is no medical evidence to support your allegations of a severe medical impairment. No proof, no disability.

Do factors like a history of drug use or criminal charges factor into receiving Social Security Disability?

Yes.

This is a great question because it all depends on the perspective or reason for the disability claim.

If a client says, “I am disabled because I see and hear things,” and you see in their records they’ve tested positive for LSD then there is a problem. LSD causes one to see and hear things, thus drug use would be a factor to their disability and they could be barred from receiving any sort of benefits.

The flipside is if someone has a diagnosis of bipolar 1. Any psychiatrist is probably going to tell you that part of being bipolar is having some sort of a lack of impulse control, leading to some proclivity to drugs or alcohol use. So in that case it is different. It may be that it’s not the drug or alcohol causing them to be bipolar. Rather, substance abuse is a symptom of the bipolar disorder. One does not cause the other; this is to say that if the person stopped using drugs or alcohol they would not stop being bipolar.

Now criminal behavior is simple. If the injury was caused while in the process of a crime, they cannot receive any benefits. Let’s say, for example, during the course of a bank robbery the bank robber fell and broke both legs and tore the ACL in each knee. In this case the bank robber cannot claim disability for these impairments because it happened during the commission of a felony.

However, if their disabling impairment has nothing to do with the commission of a crime then they could potentially receive Social Security Disability benefits.

What is the cut-off age for receiving Social Security Disability?

In this case it is important to remember the right to disability ends at full retirement age, which you can find by clicking here.

For most of the population right now this means after 66+ years, the only benefit you can receive is retirement and not disability. If someone is working up until 70 and wishes to file for disability they can’t.

If a client dies from terminal illness, can their family assume the pending claim?

What we can do is file a special claim for the ill client. A claim marked TERI (terminal) which expedites the case to receive a quick decision. Assuming the case is approved, the disabled person would collect benefits until they passed. Then benefits would end. But if this client is a parent of minors, their children would be considered survivors of the deceased. This scenario brings Old Age Survivors Insurance in to play. When the client passes, their children are to receive benefits as a survivor under their parent’s social security number until their 18th birthday.

Another scenario is when a person dies while their case is pending. In some situations we can substitute in a proper party (a surviving spouse, parent, or child) and allow the case to proceed to a decision. Any benefit won would be for the time period prior to the death of the deceased claimant.

What would you say to those who say, “I know I’ll get some sort of compensation because my friend or relative got it for the same situation”?

We hear that a lot and it’s often that these people don’t know the specifics of their friend’s case. If for example the person has a low IQ, or met a certain listing, or if there is some fact that they don’t know about their neighbor, then they are comparing apples and oranges.

Are there any patterns you see in people who get accepted or denied?

No.  Just that they meet the requirements of the statute. The most important thing is to have consistent medical evidence and support of doctors.

For people who have to take medicine for diabetes, thyroid, or other illness, is there a way they could be declared disabled?

No. Taking a lot of expensive medications is only part of the analysis. In and of itself it is not conclusive evidence of disability.  When people say their condition has caused their doctor to restrict them from driving, does this mean they are disabled.

No. You can take public transportation, catch a ride with a friend, or call Uber. Whether you can drive or not is irrelevant. As long as there is a job that exists that you could reasonably do you are not disabled Under the Social Security Act.

If people are working to put food on the table, but they feel like they are disabled, are they?

Not according to the government. People who think they should receive disability because they are only working to pay rent or to feed themselves or family are missing the point of disability.

It doesn’t matter why you are working, it only matters that you are working.

That’s where the analysis stops for a perspective client. The government does not care why you are working. This is probably the most common conversation we have, and it is sad. We understand these situations – we see them all the time. Essentially, the analysis ends there and they cannot apply. Click here for information on working and applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Before people contact us about a case what should they think about first?

I would tell them to ask themselves if they meet the conditions under the definition of disability.

If you can drag yourself to work two more days, six more months, five more years, or as long as you can, do it! You’ll probably get more money working than you will from Social Security Disability. The benefits are modest at best.

Do you have documented proof of your condition? You need to have strong medical proof (documentation) of your disability and meet the guidelines set forth by the Social Security Administration. If you can provide evidence that you fall under the legal definition, you should expect proper compensation, and you have the right to!

What should people do if they want a case evaluation?

If you've become disabled, don't be afraid to file for Social Security Disability benefits. It's your right. Just as importantly, don't think you will necessarily receive these benefits without a strong case that is backed with thorough medical evidence.

We offer FREE case evaluations and we are available 24/7. Our experienced lawyers and paralegals respond to the call of many clients statewide that have trouble dealing with their disability. Click here to contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your Social Security Disability case.

P.S. Don't feel like you can't afford to hire Social Security Disability attorney. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we work on a contingency basis, so you don't owe us an attorney's fee if we don't get you compensation for your claim.

Click here for other frequently asked questions.

I’ve worked all my life. Why aren’t I eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Not everyone is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Only those who have worked and paid FICA taxes within five of the past 10 years and meet the government’s disability requirements.

Here is a simplified explanation of what you need to know if you’re thinking of applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

SSDI is Insurance for Disabled Workers

Social Security Disability Insurance is just what its name implies. Insurance.

When you work, a portion of each paycheck goes into a federal insurance fund (FICA, which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act). This is a fund for SSDI. Just like medical insurance or car insurance, you hope you never have to use your SSDI. But if you’ve paid into it (which you are required to if you receive a paycheck) you will be covered for benefits if you become disabled and the Social Security Administration determines that you are unable to work.

Spotty Work History?

What if you were working but you stopped temporarily to raise your children through elementary school? Or what if you were laid off and subsequently unable to find a suitable job for several years? What if you’ve been out of work due to a work injury?

Whether you may get SSDI depends largely on the date you last worked.

The government considers this very important date as the last date you would potentially be eligible for SSDI. To determine whether you may be eligible you must pass a "recent work" test. There is only one question on this test, so you either pass or fail.

Have you worked five of the past 10 years (or in government jargon, 20 of the last 40 quarters?

If you become disabled after your date last insured (DLI) has passed, you cannot get SSDI benefits. It would be similar to getting in a car accident after you stopped paying for car insurance.

Here is an example of DLI. If you worked up until five years ago today, your DLI would be today’s date. If you worked up until two years ago, your DLI would be three years from now. If you haven't worked for six years, your DLI passed one year ago and you are no longer eligible for SSDI unless you are found disabled before your DLI.

Show Me the Money

Occasionally we have seen instances in which someone assumed they were not eligible for SSDI. Yet upon closer inspection and reviewing their work and payment history, we discovered that a client’s employer failed to pay the employer and employee taxes and sought to correct the error. (Of course, payment is subject to IRS provisions on the ability to amend tax returns or file late.) While this doesn’t happen often, it serves as a reminder of how we have been able to help people uncover benefits they did not know were available to them*.

What if You Do Not Qualify for SSDI?

If you do not qualify for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits, provided you meet the extremely low income and asset requirements threshold.

SSI is for people who have never worked or haven't worked enough to qualify for SSDI. You can only get SSI if your income and assets are extremely low.

For 2017, the federal benefit rate is $735 per month for individuals and $1,103 for couples (and this is subject to reductions). Some states supplement the federal amount. North Carolina is not one of them.

Think You Can’t Afford a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

Think again. Uncle Sam limits the contingency fees for all Social Security Disability lawyers to 25% of back-due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From N.C. Social Security Disability Lawyers

We know applying for Social Security Disability can be a confusing and lengthy process. (It can take nearly two years in N.C. just to get a judge to hear your case – 23 months in Charlotte, 22 in Greensboro, 20 months in Fayetteville, and 19 in Raleigh.)

We understand from firsthand experience what you are up against.

Nearly every person on our Social Security Disability team has worked inside the Social Security Administration.

We know how the system works, what they look for to accept a claim, the importance of filing the correct forms and meeting strict deadlines, and what medical records to present. And sometimes we know where to look for benefits you may not be aware of.

If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability, contact us as soon as possible or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation about your unique situation. We’re available 24/7.

*Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Will I Be Denied Social Security Disability Benefits if I Work 1 Day a Week?

The government has a methodical five-step evaluation process to determine if you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security examiners must follow those five steps in sequential order every time someone walks in their office to find out if they qualify for benefits.

There’s no wiggle room.

We know from firsthand experience. Nearly everyone on our Social Security Disability team previously worked for the Social Security Administration. You must be able to proceed through the first three steps or all five steps in order to be found disabled.

However, if you fail the first step the inquiry ends altogether.

Step 1. Are You Working?

The first step is the one that trips up many people. It is at this step that the inquiry can end abruptly. Here is how this works.

Step 1 asks about your current work status. What many clients do not realize is the weight and importance the government gives to whether or not you are working. It is very telling that your work status is the first question rather than what disability or disabilities you claim to have.

Here is what the Social Security Administration says about work status as it relates to potential benefits:

“At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled.”

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

As you might imagine, the government has a very specific definition as to what substantial and gainful activity means with regard to your potential to receive disability benefits.

Substantial refers to anything you are doing physically or mentally, and can even include part time work or volunteer work.

Gainful is something you get paid to do. But even if you don’t get paid (such as volunteering or helping a friend or family member with their startup business by taping boxes to ship) the Social Security Administration may conclude your activity is gainful if other people usually get paid to do it.

In 2017, substantial gainful activity is defined as earning $1,170 or more monthly ($1,950 for those who are blind).

Someone Has to Put Food on the Table”

We will sometimes have clients come to us and say they are working only because it is necessary in order to put food on the table for their family. They explain to us how difficult it is for them because of XYZ disability and they are barely getting by. We understand and we empathize. But the government reasons, if you are able to put food on the table today, you can do it tomorrow and the next day. The Social Security Disability Benefits document makes this very clear:

“Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.”

FREE Social Security Disability Case Evaluation

When you are completely unable to work to put food on the table is when you should come see us. Unfortunately, the government ties the hands of all Social Security Disability lawyers unless you say you are not working during Step 1 questioning.

Everyone’s situation is unique and we have helped hundreds in their time of need. If you’d like a FREE case evaluation, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We would love to try to help in any way we can.

Scam Targeting Your Social Security Benefits. What You Should Know.

Have you received a suspicious call from someone stating that they are an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigator? Don’t buy it.

The Social Security Administration and the Office of the Inspector General have received numerous calls from people who have reported receiving such calls.

These are very likely scammers and should be reported immediately.

Reports say the caller will identify himself or herself as an “officer with the Inspector General of Social Security and that your Social Security account, Social Security number, and/or your benefits are being suspended. The caller instructs the person to call a non-SSA number to resolve the issue. When you call the number, the person answering claims there’s a warrant for your arrest. This person then tries to strong-arm the caller to purchase iTunes or other gift cards or prepaid banking cards, for hundreds of dollars, and to provide the card information to him or her to resolve the warrant.

Here is what the OIG advises:

  • Avoid calling any number provided by a suspicious source, as the unknown source might pressure you to provide your personal information, or to make a payment or purchase for fictitious reasons.
  • Avoid making payments over the phone or purchasing gift cards or bank cards to resolve government or business matters.

If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the OIG, report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

For that matter, any suspicious communication — a phone call, email, letter, or text – claiming to be from the SSA or the OIG, contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday to verify whether it is a legitimate call.

NC Social Security Disability Hearing Wait Times Almost 2 Years! We May be Able to Help.

How many times have you heard from your children, "That's not fair!" Too many to count? We can laugh it off when they're young, and older brother gets to play football with the neighborhood kids while the little tykes are told to stay on the sidelines until they're old enough to play.

But the reality is sometimes life is not fair. We see it every day fighting for our Social Security Disability clients. And it's no laughing matter.

Many of our clients have been sidelined for life as they were going about their daily routines. One client was stopped in traffic on his way home from work and got rear-ended by a driver going above the speed limit. His injuries were so devastating he vomits three or four times a week. He has headaches so severe they wake him up several times a night, and he has photosensitivity to the point where he can no longer go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Another client was injured on the job just by walking up a flight of stairs.

One client simply sat down at church when a bolt came lose on the chair and she fell to the floor causing her permanent and total disability.

Some of our clients have fought for our country and returned home physically or mentally unable to exercise their inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness - a right promised to all U.S. citizens in the Declaration of Independence. Sadly, these veterans are among the more than one million people on the Social Security Disability wait list whose delay in having their cases heard can be more than two years in many parts of the country!

Now that's not fair!

Social Security Disability Wait Times in North Carolina

While Social Security Disability is available to help our citizens who have been sidelined by catastrophe, getting it can be very difficult for a number of reasons. One is the long wait time. According to the Social Security Administration, the wait times in North Carolina are currently:

  • Charlotte - 21 months
  • Fayetteville - 20 months
  • Greensboro - 21 months
  • Raleigh - 19 months

Some are forced to wait so long they have died before their hearing date because some are simply unable to pay for medication they need to live. We have seen this happen.

When they finally get a hearing many are denied benefits. More than two-thirds are denied the first time and 88% the second time. Of those who are accepted, it can take several more months in many cases to begin receiving payments and back benefits.

Sadly, some are denied because they attempted to navigate this overwhelmingly large bureaucratic aircraft carrier by themselves.

James Scott Farrin Social Security Disability Team of "Insiders"

These are the circumstances that motivate our Social Security Disability team to come to work every day. We know what you're up against because most of us have worked on the other side.

All but one of our paralegals has worked for the Social Security Administration as a
Disability Determination Services examiner, where initial applications are
accepted or denied.

This inside experience is helpful in knowing how the system works, including:

  • What they look for to accept a claim
  • The importance of filing the correct forms, filling them out correctly, and meeting demanding and unwavering deadlines
  • What medical records you need to produce - and which ones not to produce

Just the paperwork alone can be overwhelming for one person.

Not only can we help you complete it correctly, process it on time, and in the manner in which Social Security Disability requires, but we can also follow up in a timely manner and try to keep the process moving. We can also help you obtain your medical records so that when your case goes to hearing, we know we've tried to do everything possible to make sure your information will not be sent back because of a technicality, for example.

Of all the attorneys licensed in NC, fewer than 1%* are board certified specialists in Social Security Disability law. I am one of them. I also chair the N.C. State Bar's Social Security Disability Law Specialty Committee and I lead the committee charged with writing and grading examinations for attorneys who wish to specialize in Social Security Disability law.

Capped Fees for Social Security Disability Clients

Some people may mistakenly think they cannot afford us to help them through this daunting process. If you are one of them, you are mistaken! This is one area where the federal government is your friend. Not only do we work on a contingency basis, like all Social Security Disability lawyers, the federal government has capped legal fees in order to help keep costs low for you.

The contingency fee for Social Security Disability clients is limited
to 25% of back-due benefits, or $6,000, whichever is less.

NC Social Security Disability Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

If you need to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, or if you have applied and were denied, click here to contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. Our attorneys and team of former "insiders" will fight to try to improve your chances of getting the benefits you may deserve.

(We think that's a fair offer.)

* Percentage from the NC State Bar as of December 2016

Top 8 Questions Our Clients Ask Us Before Their Social Security Disability Hearings

We understand that going to a Social Security Disability hearing can be intimidating. More than two-thirds of those who file for Social Security Disability the first time are denied, according to the Social Security Administration. And 88% are denied a second time.

A lot is at stake.

Understandably, our clients have all kinds of questions before a hearing. Most of them are about paperwork and what they can do to get ready for their hearing.

There is really only one main thing we ask that our clients do themselves to help support their case. Keep up their medical treatments.

We can handle the paperwork side of things, since we know what the Social Security Administration is looking for in most instances.

Here are eight of the most common questions our clients ask us before we go into a hearing together*.

8 Common Questions Our Clients Ask Before Social Security Disability Hearings

 

1.     How long will it take for a decision to be issued and for benefits to be paid?

After the hearing, it often takes two to five months for a decision to be issued.

If approved

  • Current benefits: it can take a month or two for current benefits payments to begin.
  • Back due benefits: it can take from one to six months for all back benefits payouts to begin.

If denied

Your attorney will discuss the judge's decision with you to help determine the next course of action.

2.     Do I need to get medical records or reports for my representative?

No.  You do not have to get any medical records or reports yourself unless your lawyer asks you to.

3.     But what if my doctor gives me a report?

If you happen to get something, such as a disability form, completed by your doctor for an insurance company, etc., be sure to forward a copy to your lawyer.

4.     What if the judge sends me a form that needs to be completed by my doctor?

Sometimes you may be sent a form to be completed by a doctor. If the judge sends you a form for your doctor to complete, call your attorney immediately so he or she can discuss and decide how to address this issue.

5.     Should I send my attorney the "acknowledgement" that comes with a Notice of Hearing?

No. There will be a document included with your Notice of Hearing that you must mark to let the judge's office know you will attend the hearing. This document is called an Acknowledgement of Notice of Hearing. Ordinarily, this acknowledgement notice should be sent directly back to the judge. Your lawyer shouldn't need a copy.

6.     Should I send anything else to the judge?

No. Your attorney is responsible for all evidence submission. You should talk with your attorney before submitting anything to ensure you're not sending duplicates of what is already in your file.

7.     What will my attorney do to prepare for the hearing?

Your attorney has a lot to do on your behalf to prepare for your hearing. Much of it is working behind the scenes obtaining and reviewing your files and medical history. Your attorney will review your social security file and research the laws and facts of your case to plan what he or she believes is the best course of action to try to prove your case and potentially win your claim for benefits.

He or she will obtain necessary medical records and any other records needed, including reports from your doctors. Prior to your hearing, your attorney will speak with you to help prepare you to testify.

8.     What can I do to help get ready for my hearing?

The most important aspect of your case is medical evidence. No matter how severe your condition is, the Social Security Administration is required to have well-documented and current medical evidence on file. That is why we emphasize to our clients that they make every effort to maintain steady treatment with their doctors. This medical evidence is crucial to ensuring the potential for a successful outcome of their trial.

We understand maintaining medical treatment is sometimes difficult due to financial limitations and the cost of insurance. If our clients are having trouble paying for medical treatment, we ask them to contact us for a list of low-cost clinics in their area.

NC Social Security Disability Lawyers Give FREE Case Evaluations

We hope this information offers a bit of insight into how we endeavor to work together with our clients to try to present the best case possible at their hearing. If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability or if you've been denied, give us a call. We'll give you a FREE case evaluation.

And don't worry about paying us an attorney's fee up front. We work on contingency, which means we do not get an attorney's fee unless you receive benefits. Second - and very good news for our Social Security Disability clients - the federal government caps that fee. They know money is tight for people on Social Security Disability. That Social Security Disability fee is limited to 25% of back-due benefits, or $6,000, whichever is less.

Contact us right now or call 1-866-900-7078.

 

* Each case is unique, and this information may not be applicable in all situations.

5 Ways to Help Strengthen and Maybe Hasten Your Social Security Disability Case

According to the Social Security Administration, nearly 67% of those who file for their initial Social Security Disability cases end in denial. And 88% of those filing a second time are denied! The third time is not a charm for applicants either, with a 37% denial rate.

What gives?

Clearly, the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a struggle for many. Although Social Security Disability benefits can often be worth the effort, the system can be a complex web of government rules, regulations, and procedures, and understandably, wrought with confusion for those unfamiliar it.

And the wait times can be long too. Currently in Raleigh, for example, the average wait time for a Social Security Disability hearing is 19 months, according to the Social Security Administration's Hearing Office.

But don't despair.

We Can Help - NC Board Certified Expertise in Social Security Disability Law

Our NC Social Security Disability attorneys are familiar with the system. Very familiar. One of our attorneys, Rick Fleming, is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability law. Out of the 28,000 North Carolina-licensed lawyers, only 51 in the entire state can make that claim1. Not only is he certified, he's actually the vice chair of the N.C. State Bar's Social Security Disability Law Specialty Committee (the entity that certifies attorneys).

And many of our staff members have more than ten years of Social Security Disability experience, including experience with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Disability Determination Services division. They understand what you're up against.

Although the denial rate is high for Social Security Disability cases and the wait time can be long, there are ways our Social Security Disability lawyers can try to improve your chances for approval.

5 Ways a NC Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Help

 

  1. Wade through the bureaucracy. Our attorneys can help handle the mountains of paperwork, and help ensure rules, timelines, and methods are followed, and deadlines met.
  2. Offer you piece of mind - and time to heal. We can focus on the legal aspects of your situation, which gives you more time and opportunity to focus on healing.
  3. Direct examiners to the most important information. We can help examiners focus on the important issues by highlighting the most critical aspects of your case. Sometimes we've found this can increase the chance of more expedient success.Although many people believe they've given accurate information, often clients forget about some past medical experiences. Or think they're unrelated. In Social Security Disability cases, everything counts and our attorneys are skilled at helping you try to file the most compelling claim possible.
  4. Go to court prepared! We know the drill. It's a process we've repeated over many years and we've continually honed our process to try to achieve maximum results. We know how to handle the medical records, question witnesses, and interpret the rules and regulations that govern both a court of law and the various Social Security programs.
  1. Increase your chance for a successful outcome. All of the above can increase your chances for success.
    Consider a client of ours who, at first, had been seeking Social Security Disability on his own. After initially being denied, we helped him appeal that decision by presenting additional information about his medical condition before the Social Security Disability Administration. Subsequently, our client's case was approved2.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation by North Carolina Social Security Disability Lawyers

You don't need to stumble through this process alone. We encourage you to contact us.

If you think you can't afford to hire us to fight for you, think again! We work on a contingency basis, which means if we don't recover for you, you don't pay us one penny in attorney's fees. So don't hesitate to ask for assistance when it comes to getting the help you need.

If you're having problems applying for Social Security Disability, or just can't seem to get approved, click here to contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. Our skilled team will work tirelessly to review and try to improve your chances to finally get you the benefits you may deserve.

1 Figures provided by NC State Bar December 31, 2015

2Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Social Security Disability Cases Take Too Long

How We Can Help

I love my job as a Social Security Disability attorney. I really do.

It's rewarding to know I'm trying to help someone achieve a financial lifeline. Especially when I read articles like the one published June 10, 2016 in the The Washington Post. It confirmed something our staff instinctively knew: hearing wait times are taking longer and longer.

The article claims, "The average wait for a hearing [for Social Security Disability] rose from 360 to 540 days between 2011 and 2016.  And the number of applicants awaiting a hearing has risen to over 1 million, an all-time high."

Those are national numbers. In North Carolina, wait times are even longer. In Charlotte and Greensboro the average wait times are 21 months, and in Raleigh it's 19 months.

Why so long and how can you potentially hasten your decision?

Fewer Social Security Disability Reviewers Take on More Case Loads

The article explains that these extended wait times are a result of Social Security Administration budget cuts, which forced a hiring freeze in 2011.

You don't need to tell us that fewer reviewers are taking on more Social Security Disability cases. Our growing caseload speaks volumes.

Consequences of Delayed Social Security Disability Benefits

The ripple effects these cuts can have on human lives are shameful and shocking. Here is an actual example of what happened to a client who waited patiently while fewer workers took on more cases.

Our client had multiple and obvious disabilities. Even so, the client had to wait over a year to reach the stage to just request a hearing. Unfortunately, a couple of months after our client's hearing request was finally approved, she passed away due to untreated medical conditions. The client's ailments were treatable, but were not given medical attention because she could not afford treatment.

I often ask myself, if our client had received the benefits she so clearly needed, would that client be here today? Troubling as this was, we were able to pass the case on to our client's spouse, as is customary, in hope that the spouse could receive the benefits the family needed. Several months later, the spouse died too.

Without a steady stream of income, many of our clients may not be able to pay for essentials like food, shelter, and medical treatment. In these instances, Social Security Disability benefits are not only a financial lifeline, they can be a literal lifeline. As we witnessed firsthand in this case, without treatments and regular medical assistance, the lifespan of these cases have a huge impact on those who desperately depend on their Social Security Disability payments.

We cannot change the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration. That is why we believe it is more important now than ever to hire an experienced attorney who will try to do everything in their power to help move you through the process as quickly as possible, so you may be able to start receiving the benefits you may need.

Having a lawyer, especially one who focuses in Social Security Disability, can make it a lot easier to move a case through the system. Our lawyers, and the whole team in fact, know what's important to include in an application, and often what can be left out.

-Social Security Disability paralegal Andrea Davis, 17 years of Social Security Disability Experience



Just the paperwork alone can be overwhelming for one person. We have an entire team of experienced people dedicated to that effort. Not only can we help you complete it correctly, process it on time, and in the manner in which Social Security Disability requires, but we can also follow up in a timely manner and try to prod the administration along. We can also help you obtain your medical records so that when your case goes to hearing, we know we've tried to do everything possible to make sure the i's were dotted and t's crossed.

Get Your FREE Case Evaluation From a NC Social Security Disability Lawyer

Our Social Security Disability lawyers and paralegals know how to navigate this complex (and quite frankly, slow) system. Just because the government doesn't necessarily give your case the attention it may deserve in a timely manner, it does not mean we won't.

You are our #1 priority and we are always available to answer your questions 24/7/365. Click here to contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

P.S. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don't pay any attorney's fee unless we win your case for you. Further, the federal government caps the fees lawyers receive from Social Security Disability cases. Read about Social Security Disability contingency fees here.

Denied Social Security Disability Benefits? Don't give up. Tony didn't.

If you've been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, don't be disheartened. Sometimes even the most clearly disabled are denied the first two or even three times.

That was certainly the case with our client, Tony (click here to read his full story).

Tony went from working in a job he loved, to being so disabled after a car accident that he can't eat, sleep, or even go outside on a sunny day. He vomits almost daily and his headaches are so severe they sometimes cause him to cry. Within a year he dropped from 155 to 123 lbs. - and he's 6'2".

Even though he's disabled by almost anyone's definition, the Social Security Disability administration denied him benefits. Twice. But he didn't give up and neither did we. It took some relentless work, but eventually we won him disability benefits1 - including back-due benefits - and he became immediately eligible for Medicare.

Don't Give Up After Being Denied Benefits

The moral of this story is that it's not unusual to be denied benefits the first or even the second time you apply. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 67% of Social Security Disability applicants applying for benefits are denied the first time around, and 88% are denied the second time.

Sometimes All You Need Is Experienced Legal Help

A good Social Security Disability lawyer who is familiar with the system may be able to help you through the complicated and cumbersome process and may even potentially speed up your claim.

Think you can't afford to hire an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer? Think again.

Many, like our firm, work on contingency, which means you don't pay us one penny in attorney's fees unless we get you your benefits. Don't give up because you are frustrated or because you think you cannot afford legal help.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from our NC Social Security Disability Attorneys

If you are disabled, ask one of our Social Security Disability lawyers if they think they can help before you wade through the disability process alone.

One of our Social Security Disability attorneys is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law. Out of the 28,000 licensed North Carolina lawyers, only 51 can make that claim2. That same attorney also happens to be vice chair of the N.C. State Bar's Social Security Disability Law Specialty Committee.

Yet all of our Social Security Disability lawyers and paralegals know their way around the system and its processes. It's what they do. And helping those in need is their passion. If you've been denied once, twice, or even three times, don't give up. Contact us instead. Better yet, contact us before you apply. We are here to fight for the benefits you may rightly deserve. Call 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your situation.

 

1Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

2Figures provided by NC State Bar December 31, 2015

 

Contact Information

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

517 Owen Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28304
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

1001 Morehead Square Drive, Suite 350
Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Greenville Law Office

702 G Cromwell Dr.
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

214 South William Street, Suite 3
Goldsboro, NC 27530
Phone: (919)-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

3202 Sunset Avenue, Suite B
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078