FAQs Answers (Continued)

How can I tell if I am disabled?

As workers age, it becomes easier to be found disabled. If you are 45 and you cannot do any job you have done in the past 15 years and have a severe mental or physical impairment that keeps you from doing all but the easiest jobs, you should apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI) and supplemental Security Income (SSI). Younger persons and children are also eligible for benefits. The rules about social security disability are complex, however. The one sure thing that will keep you from getting disability benefits is not applying for benefits or not appealing a denial of benefits.

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What if SSA discourages me from applying or appealing?

Of the people who apply for SSD, over 50% are turned down (from SSA stats). Fewer than 50% of those are turned down appeal. Of those who appeal, over generally 50% are accepted disabled. You should not be discouraged by an SSA representative from filing. You should not necessarily believe them when they tell you that you are not disabled.

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What if I get turned down?

If you really can not work in a full time or regular scheduled part time capacity due to injury or illness that has prevented you from working or will keep you from working for 12 months or more, apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income benefits. If you are turned down you will have 60 days to file your appeal. Keep appealing denials at least through the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. If you fail to file your appeal, you may lose valuable rights to you entitlement to SSD/SSDI benefits. Remember, the law does not help those who sit on their rights. According to the Social Security Administration, the biggest mistake people make when trying to get disability benefits is failing to appeal or waiting too long (more than 60 days) to file their "“Request for Reconsideration" and/or "Request for Hearing".

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How much can my representative charge me?

Attorneys fees are limited to 25% of the award of your past due benefits. That is one-fourth of those benefits that build up by the time you are found disabled and benefits are paid. Fees are also capped administratively with the Social Security Administration so that the cap can be even less than 25% of past due benefits in excess of $25,000.00. Under no circumstances do fees come out of current monthly benefits.

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What about my right to representation?

You can have a representative, such as an attorney, help you when you do business with Social Security. SSA will work with your representative, just as they would with you.

For your protection, your representative cannot charge or collect a fee from you without first getting written approval for SSA. However, your representative may accept money from you in advance as long as it is held in a trust or escrow account.

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What can an attorney do for me?

Once you appoint an attorney, he or she can act on your behalf in most Social Security matters by:

  • Getting information from your Social Security file;
  • Helping you get medical records or information to support your claim;
  • Coming with you, or for you, to any interview, conference, or hearing you have with SSA;
  • Requesting a reconsideration, hearing or Appeals Council review; and
  • Helping you and your witness prepare for a hearing and questioning any witnesses.

Your representative also will receive a copy of the decision(s) SSA makes on your claim.

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How should I choose an attorney?

You can choose an attorney or other qualified person to represent you. You also can have more than one representative. However, you cannot have someone who has been suspended or disqualified from representing others before the Social Security Administration or who may not by law, act as a representative. Attorneys who have active licenses can represent you, but check on their experience and record.

You can appoint one or more people in a firm, corporation or other organization as your representative, but you may not appoint the firm, corporation or organization itself.

After you choose a representative, you or your attorney must tell SSA in writing as soon as possible. To do this, get Form SSA-1696-U4, Appointment of Representative, from the SSA website ( www.socialsecurity.gov ) or from any Social Security office. We take care of this detail for you once we are retained, otherwise you must give the name of the person you are appointing and sign your name. If the person is not an attorney, he or she must give his or her name, in writing, state that he or she accepts the appointment and sign the form.

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When should I contact an attorney?

As a general rule it is better to contact an attorney earlier rather that later.  Non-lawyers are not licensed or required to expeditiously and zealously represent you or to expedite your claim. The SSA now applies its complex processes, making the help of an experienced lawyer even more important.

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How often should I meet with my attorney during my case?

At the DiLorenzo Law Firm, you will be interviewed by an attorney at the onset of your case. That attorney will be the one whose staff will be in charge of your file.

When your case gets to the hearing stage, our staff will send you a fairly extensive questionnaire that you must complete for us since these questions are the ones whose answers your attorney will be reviewing with you when you meet with him or her for your pre-hearing work-up.

The hearing is generally informal (only you, the judge, assistant and a medical or vocational evaluator will be in the hearing room) and you will be seated before the judge with your attorney. Your attorney, the judge or both will direct questions to you and any subsequent medical or vocational witnesses who may testify after you.

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