The lawyers at Tom R Johnson Attorney at Law help clients obtain Social Security benefits. To qualify, one must have a severe impairment likely to last 12 months or longer, and you must not be able to engage in substantial work activity.
If you really cannot work, apply for social security disability benefits. If you are denied, do not give up. Most applications are denied at first, and additional appeal processes often result in a reversal of that decision. Keep appealing any denial at least through the stage of the protest process where you can present the case in a hearing before an administrative law judge.
It is easy to apply. Telephone the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. When you call, you will be given the option of 1) going to the social security office to apply for benefits or 2) having your application taken over the telephone. If you choose to go the social security office, the person at the 800 number will schedule an appointment for you and give you directions to the social security office. If you want to apply by phone, you will be given a date and an approximate time to expect a phone call from someone at the social security office who will take your application over the phone.
During your application, give SSA all the information it asks for in a straightforward way. Be truthful. Do not exaggerate or minimize your disability.
Tom R Johnson Attorney at Law can help you either at the application stage, or after you receive a denial of benefits. As a rule, a person does not need a lawyer’s help to file the application but how it is done can make the difference in getting your benefits accepted sooner. After meeting with our clients we develop a theme that we start implementing right away. A lawyer’s help may make the difference between winning and losing even at this stage. An experienced lawyer can assist you in accurately describing your disabling conditions and then help you develop the record.
Often, applications are denied initially. After receiving notice of this, you must appeal the decision within 60 days in order to continue processing the claim. Remember, the vast majority of initial applications are denied, and then a substantial portion of these decisions are reversed later in the appeal process.
If you have missed the appeal deadline, you can re-apply, and in some cases get the denial excused for good cause. If you re-apply but that may mean losing some back benefits or approving additional changes in your condition. So it’s important to appeal all denials within 60 days. It’s better if you appeal right away so that you get through the bureaucratic denial system faster. The quicker you can get to the hearing stage the better.
Making the appeal is done in one of three ways: Either 1) Telephone the Social Security Administration and make arrangements for your appeal to be handled by phone and mail. Or 2) go to the social security office to submit your appeal. If you go to the social security office, be sure to take along a copy of your denial letter. 3) Through the SSA web site. We can process the appeal for you at our office electronically.
Your denial letter will tell you about appealing. The first appeal is usually a “reconsideration.” But SSA is experimenting in Wisconsin with procedures allowing some people to skip the reconsideration step. If you’re involved in one of these experiments, your denial letter will tell you that you can appeal by requesting a hearing. Otherwise, you must request reconsideration and then, after the reconsideration is denied, you must request a hearing within 60 days.
The biggest mistake people make when trying to get disability benefits is simply failing to appeal. More than half of the people whose applications are denied fail to appeal. Many people who are denied on reconsideration fail to request a hearing. Another mistake, although much less common, is made by people who fail to obtain appropriate medical care. Some people with long-term chronic medical problems feel that they have not been helped much by doctors. Thus, for the most part, they stop going for treatment. This is a mistake for both medical and legal reasons. First, no one needs good medical care more than those with chronic medical problems. Second, medical treatment records provide the most important evidence of disability in a social security case.
Developing medical evidence:
Since medical evidence is so important, the SSA will gather the medical records, so you don’t have to do that. Whether you should ask your doctor to write a letter is a hard question. A few people win their cases by having their doctors write letters. You can try this if you want to. The problem is that the medical-legal issues are so complicated in most disability cases that a doctor may inadvertently give the wrong impression. Thus, obtaining medical reports may be something best left for a lawyer to do. We have vast databases of forms that have proven to be effective. We work closely with your doctors to provide the evidence you need to prove your case.
It is your choice whether or not to hire a lawyer. In the past, we encouraged people to wait until it was time to request a hearing before contacting us. But things have changed. The Social Security Administration has put new emphasis on making the right decision at the earlier stages. It is also applying the same legal rules at the earlier stages that used to be applied only at the hearing stage. This means that a lawyer’s help at the early stages may make a difference.
We recognize that about one-third of those people who apply will be found disabled and receive social security benefits even without a lawyer’s help. We understand that some people may want to go through the earlier stages by themselves. On the one hand, if you are successful in handling it yourself, you will save having to pay attorney’s fees. On the other hand, your case might be one in which an attorney’s help would make the difference. It is up to you whether to contact us when you first apply or to wait until you are denied; but the general rule now is that it is better to contact us earlier rather than later.
Almost all of our clients prefer a “contingent fee,” a fee paid only if they win. The usual fee is 25% (one-quarter) of back benefits up to $4,000.00. That is, the fee is one-fourth of those benefits that build up by the time you are found disabled and benefits are paid. Although the usual fee will not normally exceed $6000.00, if we have to appeal after the first ALJ hearing, our contract drops the $6000.00 limit. But under no circumstances do fees come out of current monthly benefits.
In addition to the fee, you will be expected to pay the expense of gathering medical records, obtaining medical opinion letters, etc.
Do you have a Social Security Disability claim? It is important to protect your legal rights.
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Tom R. Johnson, Attorney at Law
865 Howe Avenue #205 | Sacramento, CA 95825
Telephone: (916) 922-9903