At Seidel, Baker & Tilghman, P.A., not only do we know the intricacies of laws and regulations of Social Security Disability benefits, we know what the people making the decisions want to see and hear. Our office will help you with the complicated and seemingly repetitive paperwork. We will eliminate the need for you to wait in long lines, and more importantly, we will eliminate the worry and stress of you feeling that no one is looking out for you. We make sure you and your case are treated with all of the respect you deserve. Each client of ours is very unique and has his or her own disabilities and needs. Every client’s case is reviewed carefully, throughout the process of their case, and each case is handled individually to ensure personalized attention to each detail.
Once you are a client of ours, we will take over your case. We will be in contact with the Social Security Administration and your doctor(s). We will make sure all deadlines are met and all paperwork is done properly. Part of our job is to make sure the Social Security Administration knows the full extent of your disability and how you meet their requirements for being disabled. We will contact you for any necessary papers to be signed and for updates of your medical condition, as well as to give you updates of your case. We only ask that you also contact us any time there is a change or update in your medical and/or living situation.
We only get paid if you win. Our fee in almost every Social Security disability case is 25% of the back due benefits, only payable to us upon the successful completion of your case. Clients are responsible for doctor’s charges and any costs throughout the course of the case.
If you have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, you are not alone, in fact, most people are denied the first time they apply for their benefits. You have many more chances to win your claim. The Social Security Administration has set up a very specific process for those individuals who have been denied benefits, it is called an appeal process. There are several steps to this process, and your claim can be approved at any one of these steps.
It is very important for you to try to keep a copy, for yourself, of any paperwork related to your disability claim. This includes, but is not limited to, any papers from Social Security, any employment records and any medical records. Many of these papers will be very helpful to your attorney and your claim.
The basic process, once you have been denied disability benefits at the initial level, is as follows:
Reconsideration Level – You, or your attorney, must ask for a reconsideration of the decision made at the initial level within 60 days of the initial decision. The Social Security Administration will send your file to an independent examiner to evaluate your claim. Normally, this examiner will request additional records, send additional forms for you to complete, and may set up an independent medical evaluation for you to go to with a private practice doctor that is not your treating doctor. Social Security will pay for the cost of this evaluation. This examiner will make a decision based on their evaluation of all of the records in your file. This step normally takes approximately 4 – 6 months from the date your request for reconsideration is received. Some people get an approval of their claim at this level, most do not.
Hearing Level – If you are not happy with the decision you received at the Reconsideration level, you, or your attorney, must ask for an appeal of the decision made at the Reconsideration level, and request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge, within 60 days of the reconsideration decision. The Social Security Administration will now send your file to the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. Your file will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge and a hearing will be scheduled. You, your attorney, and the judge will be present at the hearing, as well as any expert the judge calls and any witnesses your attorney calls. The judge normally does not make a decision at the hearing, but rather makes a written decision that is mailed to you and your attorney approximately 4 – 8 weeks after the hearing. Each judge varies greatly as to the delay between the hearing and the decision being issued. This level normally takes about 10 – 14 months from the date your request for hearing is received to the date of the decision. Most people get the approval of their claim at this level, some do not.
Appeals Council Level – If you are not happy with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, you, or your attorney, must ask for an appeal of the decision made by the Administrative Law Judge, and request a review by the Appeals Council, within 60 days of the judge’s decision. Your file will now be forwarded to the Appeals Council for review. The Appeals Council can only review the judge’s decision, decide whether or not the judge did everything correctly in making their decision, and consider any evidence that the judge did not have access to at the time of the decision. The Appeals Council cannot consider new disabilities or issues that did not exist when the judge made their decision. The Appeals Council can make one of three determinations, they can overturn the judge’s decision and give a favorable decision (this is very rare), they can uphold the judge’s decision, or they can send your case back to the hearing level for a new hearing. This level normally takes about 12 – 18 months from the date your request for review is received to the date the Appeals Council decision is issued, and often means starting at the hearing level again.
U.S. District Court – If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Appeals Council your attorney may file suit against the Social Security Administration in the U.S. District Court. A judge in this court will review the decisions made by the Appeals Council and the Administrative Law Judge. The judge will not make a disability determination of your file. A decision will be made as to whether or not there were any errors in the process of the prior decisions. This could mean errors in procedure, not taking evidence in the file into proper consideration, not granting valid requests of the attorney or claimant, et cetera. The decisions normally made at this level are either upholding of the prior decisions, or sending the case back to the hearing level for a new hearing. This level could take several years, and if favorable, mean starting at the hearing level again.
As you can see the process can, potentially, take many years before you receive a final or favorable decision of your claim. For most people, it does not go on for years and years. An average disability claim will take about 12 – 24 months from the date of original application to the date of the decision. The time period for our clients, once they come to see us until the date of the decision, averages about 10 – 14 months.
There is no reason to be discouraged. If your claim is favorable, you will receive any back due benefits you are owed. In other words, if the first day you became disabled and unable to work is January 1, 2000, and your claim is decided to be fully favorable on January 1, 2002, you will be paid any benefits you are due back to January 1, 2000, as well as any future monthly benefit payments you may be due.
If you are truly disabled and can no longer work, do not give up your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, call us, we will help you through the process.