Thursday, April 07, 2011

Social Security Disability: Knowledge to Win

I was once asked in an e-mail why it is that a person who is truly disabled for SSDI or SSI and whose doctors believe this person is disabled, still has to lose twice and then is forced to get a lawyer before they win their case. The e-mail was implying that there's some sort of conspiracy to force people to get lawyers before they can win their claims. I can assure you nobody from Social Security wants to make sure lawyers get clients. I think the problem is not that one is forced into getting a Social Security Disability lawyer to win their case at a later stage in the process to win, or that they win just by having a lawyer. I think one of the major problems and I have been writing about this for sometime, and it was the inspiration for me starting my website, is that people in general do not have access to the knowledge required to know what they have to show to win their claim. I believe lawyers are partly to blame for this, because most lawyers will not take cases at application because the fee they receive is based on past due benefits and they feel the work that is required to make sure the application is done correctly with all the evidence needed to win is not worth the fee they would get if they win at this stage. Many lawyers tell people to apply and call back when you are denied. You add this response, to the general belief that no one wins at application (which is not true 30 to 40% of cases at application win), and what you get is many people applying with no help and no knowledge of how to win. I personally handle cases at application for a few reasons. First, I believe if I help with the application I know the client will not only have a better chance at winning at application, but even if we do not win at application I know the application was done in a way that won't hurt but will help the case throughout each stage of the process going forward. Another reason to take cases at application is, because if we win I might only get a small fee if any, but I will have a very happy client who will refer me to other people. If you think about it if you get a lawyer at application and you win you may have no fee at all. Since SS will not pay a claimant for the first 5 months they are disabled there is a good chance there will be no past due benefits or very little therefore no fee at all or a small fee. One of the biggest problems is that people wait until they have been denied one or two times before they get a lawyer to help them. I can assure you there is not a conspiracy which forces people to get lawyers. Lawyers in particular lawyers who exclusively do disability claims know exactly what needs to be proved for any given case, and they know what evidence they need to prove the disability. A lawyer not only goes to law school to learn how to understand law and present evidence, but if they are experienced in a particular field like SSDI they have handled hundreds if not thousands of Social Security Disability claims. Can someone applying and pursuing SSDI on their own ever hope to be able to know as much or be able to handle a disability claim as well as a lawyer like this. I am a lawyer who has been practicing SSDI law for 15 years but when I bought and sold my last house I used a real estate lawyer. Could I have researched and done it on my own? Yes, but would I do as good a job as a lawyer who only does real estate law? Probably not. Ok, so I explained why experienced SSDI lawyers are helpful in getting SSDI benefits. That all being said, there is always going to be people who want to do it on their own, or who have a really strong case and do not need a lawyer. They will need the knowledge of what they have to prove to win and need to know what evidence is needed to prove they are disabled. Again, I have to say that lawyers are partly to blame here as well. When I looked up SSDI law on google about 4 or 5 years ago all I found was websites for lawyers with little or no good information on how to win a claim on your own. All I found was websites created by website companies looking to sell leads to lawyers that knew nothing about SSDI law but know how search engines work. The other type of websites I found were law firm and non-lawyer companies websites created by website people with no helpful information except reasons why you need their particular company or lawyer to win. This is when I started my Ultimate Social Security Disability website. I decided I was going to tell the world exactly what you have to do to win your claim for benefits in as easy to understand language as possible. I think if you spent any time reading my website, you will see that is exactly what I have done. Yes, I still get clients from the website, but I also get so many e-mails from people who were able to win their cases with the help of following the advice on my website, and from my e-mail responses to their questions. If you know someone who has a really strong case then tell them to read my website before just jumping in. In an e-mail to me it was asked how someone at SS can ignore all the doctors and conclude on their own that a person is not disabled despite what the doctors say. This can be an example of how knowledge of SSDI and what you need to win can be explained. One thing is that there are not just the claimant’s doctors but several SS doctors are involved as well. Some examine the claimant and give opinions and others look at the evidence and give opinions of what the client can do and not do in a work setting. If the claimant's doctors just write "it is my opinion the claimant cannot work" it is not worth the paper it is written on. If the claimant's doctor on the other hand fills out an RFC form which explains exactly what the claimant can and cannot due and why, then the claimant will have a much better chance of winning. This comes from understanding that you have to assume SS doctors will almost always have these forms filled out showing limitations that would allow the claimant to work. If the claimant has their doctors do the same thing but show the claimant cannot work then SS, by their own rules, must find in favor of the client because the treating doctor's opinion holds more weight than a SS doctor if the treating doctor’s opinions are consistent with the medical evidence. If a person knew this from the beginning, they would have made sure to have their doctors fill out these forms and could quite possibly win their Social Security Disability case much sooner. If a claimant on their own with this knowledge or if they had a lawyer they would have done this. This is just one small example of how knowledge of what you have to prove and how you do it for your particular claim can make the difference between winning at application with or without a lawyer and waiting 2 years with no money until you win. Just my view and I hope you can see a different side of the situation. I too believe the system can be unfair and takes too long and I also believe SSDI lawyers can take allot of the blame for not taking cases at application and Social Security and disability lawyers not taking time or effort to educate the public on how to win a claim on their own if they want to.