Monthly Archives

May 2014

I’ve Already Applied

By Three Cases

Will I be approved for Social Security disability benefits?

This is the question, I am asked most often by clients at my Lowell disability law firm. Unfortunately, it’s one of the hardest to answer. Unless your condition is catastrophic, no Massachusetts disability lawyer can tell you for certain how Social Security will decide your claim.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must be “disabled” as defined by Social Security law. Although you must have a long-term total disability, you do not need to be bedridden to qualify.

To be approved for Social Security disability benefits, you must (1) have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is severe; (2) your impairment must have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 continuous months or end in death; and (3) it must prevent you from being able to do (a) your past relevant work and (b) any other substantial gainful work, considering your age, education, and experience.

Although this seems to be a complicated definition with many requirements, for most claimants it boils down to this. You will need to prove that you cannot do any full time job. A full time job means working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, while keeping up the pace and quality of the average worker.

If you are 50 or older, the definition is a little easier to satisfy and you may be disabled even if there are some jobs you can still do. That is because Social Security law recognizes that older workers nearing retirement will have greater difficulty adapting to new work.

 

What Should I Do Now?

While your application is pending, you should do your best to cooperate with the Social Security Administration. Some clients choose to consult an experienced Disability Lowell lawyer even prior to their application being denied so that we can assist you in cooperating fully with the social security administration including completing all social security paperwork.

 

Lowell disability attorney can assist with your appeal

If you are applying for disability benefits or if you claim has been denied, highly experienced Lowell disability lawyer Gerard A. Palma can help. If you would like to schedule a free evaluation of your claim, fill out the form on this page. We will respond promptly. Or phone or email us if you prefer.

Gerard A. Palma, Esq.

Palma Law Offices, P.C.
Lowell Disability Attorney

45 Merrimack Street, Suite 330
Lowell, Massachusetts 01852

I’ve Been Denied

By Three Cases

What if my claim is denied?

The most important advice I can give you as an experienced Lowell disability lawyer is: Do not give up if your claim is denied. Unfortunately, many deserving claimants make this mistake every year. In fact, it is probably the worst mistake you can make. Many other claimants simply start over with a new application that, in all likelihood, will just be denied again.

If your claim is denied, you need to appeal until you get a hearing before an administrative law judge. The hearing is where you are most likely to succeed. Here are some statistics that illustrate the benefit of appealing. Back injury is the most common reason for seeking disability benefits. Recent statistics show that only 22% of claimants with back injuries were approved for benefits after their initial applications, while 70% of those who appealed ultimately won their claims.

Disability evaluators at the initial step never meet you in person. They tend to place a lot of importance on medical records, which do not always give an accurate picture of how severe a claimant’s symptoms are. At your hearing, you will have the opportunity to explain to the administrative law judge all the ways that your disability limits your ability to work.

How a Lowell disability attorney can help with your appeal

If your claim for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, do not give up. Persistence pays off when dealing with the Social Security system. Appeal until you get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. A majority of claimants who appeal are approved for benefits after their hearings.

Why was your claim denied?

Your claim for Social Security disability benefits may have been denied even though you are truly disabled. There are many reasons why claims are incorrectly denied that can be rectified by an appeal. For example, your disability examiner may not have received enough medical evidence to prove your claim. Sometimes doctors fail to send in a claimant’s records or the records are incomplete. Claimants can inadvertently contribute to the problem by not listing all their doctors on the application, or omitting other important information.

With only a file of documents to review, the decision makers at the first level tend to focus on the medical evidence, which may not reveal the full extent of your symptoms and limitations. The administrative law judge has more than a file to go on. The judge will see you in person, and listen to your testimony about what you can and cannot do. The judge will hear from your witnesses about how your life has been affected by your impairment. The judge will also have the arguments of your Lowell disability lawyer to help him or her reach a favorable conclusion. To learn more, watch my video, How the Judge Determines Disability.

What your disability lawyer can do for you

If your claim has been denied, consider promptly contacting an experienced Lowell disability lawyer. You have a limited time to file your appeal. Your attorney will help you complete the appeal papers and make sure your appeal is filed before the deadline.

Your Lowell disability lawyer will figure out why your claim was denied and develop a strategy to win your appeal. He or she will review your Social Security file to see what evidence is there and what additional evidence will help your claim. Your attorney can then gather the right medical and other evidence and documents and submit them to the administrative law judge.

In addition, your disability attorney will prepare you and your witnesses to testify at your hearing. Your attorney will be with you at your hearing to question you and your supporting witnesses, cross-examine medical and vocational experts presented by Social Security, and argue your case the judge.

Assistance with your appeal is available

If your claim has been denied, do not make the mistake of failing to appeal. To improve your chances of winning an appeal, one of the smartest things you can do is hire an experienced Lowell disability lawyer. Statistics show that claimants who are represented by disability attorneys are more likely to be successful than those who proceed on their own. Social Security law is complex; get an attorney on your side who understands the intricacies of the system.

If you want a dedicated and knowledgeable Lowell disability attorney to help with your appeal, please fill out the claim evaluation form on this page and we will get in touch with you shortly, or contact us by phone or email.

Gerard A. Palma, Esq.

Palma Law Offices, P.C.
Lowell disability attorney

45 Merrimack Street, Suite 330
Lowell, Massachusetts 01852

When am I likely to receive a hearing?

By Frequently Asked Questions

When am I likely to receive a hearing?

Should I apply for disability?

If your answers match the ones below, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely to award you benefits.

  • Are you gainfully employed? No
  • Do you have a severe impairment? Yes
  • Will your impairment last 12 months or result in death? Yes
  • Does your disability meet one of SSA’s listed impairments? If yes, you qualify. If no …
  • Are you able to work? No

How long do disability appeals take?

When should I apply for disability benefits?

Unless you have an obvious long-term disability, the best time to apply for Social Security disability benefits is 6-9 months after you stop working.

What does a disability lawyer do?

The big-picture answer is: analyze what needs to be proven to win benefits, figure out how to prove it, and gather the necessary evidence. Some of the specific tasks are:

  • Obtain reports from treating doctors that are consistent with Social Security regulations
  • Refer claimants to specialists for additional reports that answer questions raised by Social Security regulations
  • Obtain a vocational expert’s evaluation of the claimant’s ability to work
  • Ask that a prior application for benefits be reopened
  • Seek a waiver of a time limit
  • Request subpoenas to insure the presence of crucial witnesses or documents
  • Advise the claimant on how best to prepare for and testify at the hearing
  • Object to improper evidence or procedures at the hearing
  • Cross-examine adverse witnesses
  • Present a closing statement
  • Submit a written summary of the evidence and argument
  • If the claimant wins, make sure the SSA correctly calculates benefits
  • If the claimant loses, request review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council

How long will I wait for a disability hearing?

It can take up to two years from request until a hearing is held and a decision issued, but the time varies from state to state.

What are hearings like?

They are private, held in a small conference room, and last an hour or so. You will be asked about your education, training, work experience, symptoms, limitations, and daily activities.

What if I don’t file my disability appeal on time?

If you have not filed your appeal within 65 days of the date on your denial letter, you have to start over with a new claim. That new claim may result in the loss of back benefits.

What is the biggest mistake made by disability applicants?

Because the majority of appeals are granted at a hearing, failing to appeal a denial to the hearing level is the number one error … and unfortunately very common.

More detailed information on these and other common claimant questions is available in the library below.

What are disability hearings like?

By Frequently Asked Questions

What are disability hearings like?

Should I apply for disability?

If your answers match the ones below, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely to award you benefits.

  • Are you gainfully employed? No
  • Do you have a severe impairment? Yes
  • Will your impairment last 12 months or result in death? Yes
  • Does your disability meet one of SSA’s listed impairments? If yes, you qualify. If no …
  • Are you able to work? No

How long do disability appeals take?

When should I apply for disability benefits?

Unless you have an obvious long-term disability, the best time to apply for Social Security disability benefits is 6-9 months after you stop working.

What does a disability lawyer do?

The big-picture answer is: analyze what needs to be proven to win benefits, figure out how to prove it, and gather the necessary evidence. Some of the specific tasks are:

  • Obtain reports from treating doctors that are consistent with Social Security regulations
  • Refer claimants to specialists for additional reports that answer questions raised by Social Security regulations
  • Obtain a vocational expert’s evaluation of the claimant’s ability to work
  • Ask that a prior application for benefits be reopened
  • Seek a waiver of a time limit
  • Request subpoenas to insure the presence of crucial witnesses or documents
  • Advise the claimant on how best to prepare for and testify at the hearing
  • Object to improper evidence or procedures at the hearing
  • Cross-examine adverse witnesses
  • Present a closing statement
  • Submit a written summary of the evidence and argument
  • If the claimant wins, make sure the SSA correctly calculates benefits
  • If the claimant loses, request review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council

How long will I wait for a disability hearing?

It can take up to two years from request until a hearing is held and a decision issued, but the time varies from state to state.

What are hearings like?

They are private, held in a small conference room, and last an hour or so. You will be asked about your education, training, work experience, symptoms, limitations, and daily activities.

What if I don’t file my disability appeal on time?

If you have not filed your appeal within 65 days of the date on your denial letter, you have to start over with a new claim. That new claim may result in the loss of back benefits.

What is the biggest mistake made by disability applicants?

Because the majority of appeals are granted at a hearing, failing to appeal a denial to the hearing level is the number one error … and unfortunately very common.

More detailed information on these and other common claimant questions is available in the library below.

What happens if my disability appeal is late?

By Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if my disability appeal is late?

Should I apply for disability?

If your answers match the ones below, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is likely to award you benefits.

  • Are you gainfully employed? No
  • Do you have a severe impairment? Yes
  • Will your impairment last 12 months or result in death? Yes
  • Does your disability meet one of SSA’s listed impairments? If yes, you qualify. If no …
  • Are you able to work? No

How long do disability appeals take?

When should I apply for disability benefits?

Unless you have an obvious long-term disability, the best time to apply for Social Security disability benefits is 6-9 months after you stop working.

What does a disability lawyer do?

The big-picture answer is: analyze what needs to be proven to win benefits, figure out how to prove it, and gather the necessary evidence. Some of the specific tasks are:

  • Obtain reports from treating doctors that are consistent with Social Security regulations
  • Refer claimants to specialists for additional reports that answer questions raised by Social Security regulations
  • Obtain a vocational expert’s evaluation of the claimant’s ability to work
  • Ask that a prior application for benefits be reopened
  • Seek a waiver of a time limit
  • Request subpoenas to insure the presence of crucial witnesses or documents
  • Advise the claimant on how best to prepare for and testify at the hearing
  • Object to improper evidence or procedures at the hearing
  • Cross-examine adverse witnesses
  • Present a closing statement
  • Submit a written summary of the evidence and argument
  • If the claimant wins, make sure the SSA correctly calculates benefits
  • If the claimant loses, request review of the hearing decision by the Appeals Council

How long will I wait for a disability hearing?

It can take up to two years from request until a hearing is held and a decision issued, but the time varies from state to state.

What are hearings like?

They are private, held in a small conference room, and last an hour or so. You will be asked about your education, training, work experience, symptoms, limitations, and daily activities.

What if I don’t file my disability appeal on time?

If you have not filed your appeal within 65 days of the date on your denial letter, you have to start over with a new claim. That new claim may result in the loss of back benefits.

What is the biggest mistake made by disability applicants?

Because the majority of appeals are granted at a hearing, failing to appeal a denial to the hearing level is the number one error … and unfortunately very common.

More detailed information on these and other common claimant questions is available in the library below.