Beware of Scammers Trying to Help with Disability Applications

The Social Security Inspector General has sent out a recent alert warning of a phishing scam involving disability benefit applications. Scammers are attempting to attain personal and vital information from people by offering to help with applications for disability benefits and claims.Beware of Scammers Trying to Help with Disability Applications

The Social Security Inspector General would like everyone to be aware and cautious of these individuals. They are not just targeting people who have already applied for benefits. The scammers call an unsuspecting person and take a risk hoping that you have already started a disability benefits application. They claim to be able to “complete the process” over the phone in an attempt to get vital personal information from the victim. Some information they may ask you to provide or confirm may include: your Social Security number and/or your bank account numbers.

In any situation where someone asks you for this information over the phone you should be extremely cautious. When a scammer takes hold of your personal information you could become the victim of benefit theft or even identity theft.

Help protect yourself and prevent being scammed with these precautions:

  • NEVER give your Social Security number, account numbers or other vital information to someone who calls you

 

  • NEVER give money to someone who calls out of the blue, not even relatives whom you have not heard from in a long time. Ask to meet people you know in person and bring someone along with you.Never meet up with people you do not know or claim to be a friend of a friend. Do not wire money or send a money order, cashier’s check , or prepaid debit card.

 

  • If you are already receiving disability benefits, regularly check the status of your benefits to be sure they are correct

 

  • If you are on the phone with someone and are being pressured to provide vital private personal information, this is a sure sign of a scamming attempt. Hang up the phone right away and contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline and the FTC to report the incident.

 

The better informed you are about these phishing scams the more defense you have against becoming a victim. [Source]

For more information on social security disability claims  please contact the team at Maddox and Laffoon.

When to Call a Social Security Disability Lawyer

When to Call a Social Security Disability Lawyer

You are disabled and cannot work, and have either filed a Social Security disability claim , or are thinking about it. When should you call in reinforcements? A legal representative can help you at any stage of the process, but it is important to understand the costs and benefits of hiring one.

How much will it cost me?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued guidelines for how legal representatives should be paid. Most reputable firms adhere to these guidelines through the administrative hearing level of appeal (the fee structure changes if appeal to Federal District Court becomes necessary).

If you are successful, you will receive a back-award of benefits for the period you have been waiting. Your representative’s fee will be 25% of this back-award or $6,000, whichever amount is less. Most representatives will front the costs of your claim (primarily the cost of obtaining copies of your medical records), and will ask you to reimburse those out-of-pocket costs when you receive your back-award. You usually do not have to come up with any money before or during representation – everything is settled at the end when you get your back-award of benefits. If you do not receive a back-award, no fee is owed, but you may still be responsible for reimbursing costs.

So when is the best time to call a Social Security Disability Representative?

The earlier the better. If you have not yet filed a claim and are contemplating the idea, you may want to call a disability lawyer to determine if you may be eligible, and what to expect from the process. Most representatives are more than happy to provide information over the telephone, without charge.

Depending on your particular circumstances, a representative can help file the initial application, or direct you to the SSA office where the application can be filed. In our office we help clients file applications, unless there is an issue that needs to be handled directly by the SSA office. That in-person appointment usually takes 1-2 hours.

Many people who apply for social security disability wait until after their claim has been denied to hire an attorney. About 1/3 of the claims are approved by SSA at the Initial level, without the assistance of a representative. In those cases, not having a representative will save you the cost of a fee.

If you have applied for disability and your claim has been denied, do not despair. Keep in mind that 2/3 of the claims are denied by SSA at the initial level of review. At this point, legal representation is recommended. Not only does legal counsel help with the success of your case it can keep things moving in the right direction to get you the disability benefits you need and deserve. In cases involving a terminal illness or extreme financial issues such as foreclosure, a lawyer can request an “on the record” decision, which is an approval based entirely on the medical record, without the need for a disability hearing.

For more information on social security disability claims please contact the team at Maddox and Laffoon. We are here to listen and help.

3 Reasons to Go Local When it Comes to a Disability Lawyer

There’s a lot more that goes into preparing your Social Security case than you probably realize. Beyond the monetary amount you’re applying for, you’re trying to get back your quality of life. You have enough hurdles to go through with your disability and the last thing you need is to go through the headache of having to hold a job you’re not physically and/or mentally able to do.

As you start your application for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), you realize that there’s a lot more that goes into it than answering some questions. You must submit medical evidence, doctor’s notes, and more.3 Reasons to Go Local When it Comes to a Disability Lawyer

Having a lawyer who knows the law and your condition is a must during this process. The outcome is important to you, so you must hire the right lawyer for your case.

THREE REASONS TO GO LOCAL:

A local lawyer can meet with you face-to-face. If your application ends up going before a judge, you might have to appear in court. You don’t want to meet your lawyer for the first time on the day you have your case heard. With a local lawyer, you can meet numerous times before you go to court, giving you more confidence and peace of mind during this hard time.

A local lawyer can meet with your doctor and other expert witnesses. In part, your application requires you to prove that your disability prevents you from working. This includes sedentary work as well as manual labor. To prove this, you need statements from your doctor and others in your community. A local lawyer knows and often has relationship with the people within your community and can work with each person to prepare a strong application or appeal.

A local lawyer is more easily “at the ready” and available. When you work with a lawyer who is active in your community, you know that you can always easily contact them if you ever need anything. The process of filing a claim and getting benefits can certainly be daunting. So, it’s invaluable to have a professional you can reach out to for a second opinion at any given time.

Your application is too important to leave to just anyone. Get the quality of life you deserve by working with a local attorney who understands your community and your specific needs.

What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI Law?

 

The chief difference between Social Security Disability (SSD, or SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSD is for workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while SSI disability benefits are for low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD.

Though many people don’t or can’t tell the difference between SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), they are two completely different governmental programs. While both programs are overseen and managed by the Social Security Administration, and medical eligibility is determined in the same manner for both programs, there are very different aspects between the two.

What Is SSI?If I Move to a Different State Will I Lose My Disability Benefits?

Supplemental Security Income is a program that is stringently need-based, according to income and assets. SSI is funded by general fund taxes. SSI is called a “means-tested program,” which means it has nothing to do with work history, but only with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a severly limited income.

Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they live in. Many who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive depends on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.

What Is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits. If a disabled person has received SSDI for two years, they are then eligible for Medicaid.

Under SSDI, the spouse and children dependents of the disabled are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits. These are called auxiliary benefits. Although, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.

There is a five-month waiting period for benefits. This means that the SSA won’t pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit once the waiting period ends depends on your earnings record, a lot like the Social Security retirement benefit.

Do you need help navigating it all? Contact us today.

 

Request for Hearing and Request for Reconsideration

What’s the Difference Between” Request for Hearing and Request for Reconsideration” in Disability Law?What's the Difference Between" Request for Hearing and Request for Reconsideration" in Disability Law?

A Disability Hearing is the second appeal that you can file or request within the Social Security Administration’s appeal system. A Request for Reconsideration is the first level of appeal. If you’re Reconsideration was denied or only partially favorable, you may request a Hearing.

Besides the fact that Hearings follow Reconsiderations, Hearings differ from Reconsideration Reviews in one very important way: you get to talk to, see, and be seen by, the one making the decisions. This is your opportunity to give your own voice to your claim. At a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge literally hears your case….and, even more in your favor, you and your attorney can not only tell the judge about your limitations but, with some disabilities, the judge can also actually see your limitations! Additionally, you or your attorney can submit depositions, call and question witnesses ( your doctors, your most recent employer, and your family and friends who have direct knowledge of your limitations). You or your attorney can also cross examine witnesses, such as any vocational and medical experts that the judge may call.

ALJ Approval Rates

If your claim for federal disability benefits is denied at the Initial and Reconsideration levels, and you wish to appeal, you must attend a disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Whether or not you win benefits at the hearing level depends on many factors, not the least of which is the particular ALJ who hears your case. The ALJs are federal employees who work for the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). They are not elected or appointed, but rather hired after testing and interviews.

While ODAR may appear to be a monolith, with a reasonable expectation that all claims will be adjudicated in a uniform manner, this is not the case. Every ALJ has his or her own attitude, demeanor and expectations about the process and claimants. As independent decision makers, ALJs often interpret the rules and regulations differently, resulting in different outcomes.

In Western Washington there are two ODARs, in Tacoma and Seattle, employing 25 ALJs. According to a reputable on-line source (www.disabilityjudges.com), the current average approval rate in the Tacoma office is 49%, whereas in Seattle it is only 29%. The variance of approval rates among individual ALJs is even more remarkable:

 

ALJ Virginia Robinson                  15%

ALJ Michael Gilbert                     17%

ALJ Glenn Meyers                         17%

ALJ Tom Morris                               20%

ALJ Kimberly Boyce                      20%

ALJ Larry Kennedy                         21%

ALJ Ilene Sloan                              23%

ALJ Cynthia Rosa                           25%

ALJ M.J. Adams                              28%

ALJ Laura Valente                                    29%

ALJ Ruperta Alexis                                    30%

ALJ Stephanie Martz                    30%

ALJ Kelly Wilson                             32%

ALJ Timothy Mangrum                 38%

ALJ Wayne Araki                           39%

ALJ Cheri Filion                               39%

ALJ Gordon Griggs                       39%

ALJ David Johnson                       42%

ALJ Robert Kingsley                      47%

ALJ James Sherry                          47%

ALJ Mary Gallagher Dilley          49%

ALJ Joanne Dantonio                  49%

ALJ Gary Elliott                               55%

ALJ Michael Blanton                    72%

ALJ Gene Duncan                         72%

 

With this wide disparity, it is sometimes just the luck of the draw as to whether or not you will win your claim. There is no process to get a different ALJ once one has been assigned to your case. Also, each ALJ has his or her own preferences about how the hearing is conducted, so it is beneficial to hire a local representative who is familiar with the local ALJs to help smooth out the hearing process, give you information about what to expect and improve your chances of success.

If you should be denied your claim after your Hearing, the next step is to Request Review of the Denial by the Appeals Council. For more on that and related information, see our blog.