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Why You Need a Lawyer

Social Security and Disability Insurance and Social Security Income Claimants:

You may have a disability or symptoms or signs of an illness or medical condition that makes it impossible to perform your job duties. You want to apply for Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You go online to start looking at the process, the requirements, the forms, the evidence required to be approved, among many other things. At this point, usually, one of two things happen:

  • You become overwhelmed and seriously stressed about it and so keep putting the application off for another day; or
  • You try to apply on your own but fail to provide sufficient supporting documentation, and so the claim is denied

There is a solution to the above problem: retain a disability benefits attorney. You do not need an attorney to apply for disability benefits, but the process of application can be rather tedious. An attorney who deeply understands the process and knows how to provide accurate and sufficient evidence of the disability, among other things, can go a long way to making sure your claim is approved. 

Your paperwork has to be accurate and the supporting documentation has to be complete, appropriate, and adequate. Here's an overview of the processes for both programs and why hiring us at the Law Firm of Madeline M. McIntosh is to your benefit.

What is the process to apply for Disability Benefits?

Here is an overview of the process, including the process to appeal a denial.

Step 1: Application & Documentation Gathering

The forms for both SSDI and SSI benefits are found online and can be filed online with the exception of SSI benefits, where you usually need to make an appointment at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to complete the application. We help you thoroughly fill out your application and other paperwork involved, at no charge to you.

Your answers must be specific and failure to answer the question can lead to a denial or loss of retroactive pay. For example, you must provide the alleged onset date of the disability. This matters because you can receive retroactive pay as far back as 12 months from the date you applied for benefits if you were disabled prior to applying for disability. 

Also, there's no retroactive pay for SSI benefits, so you will want to apply as soon as possible. 

Second, proving the disability or medical condition meets the legal requirement of disability is not easy. It requires treatment via medical evidence, including your doctor's diagnosis, testing, and other proof that standard medical procedures for the specific condition were undergone and provided for via documentation, expert testimony or consultations, among other forms of evidence. You may simply not know the extent of the evidence required and, as a result, provide insufficient evidence that will result in a denial.

Step 2: State Disability Determination

After you submit the application, the disability claims are processed first through a local SSA field office regardless if you filed online, by mail, or in person. The field office verifies non-medical eligibility requirements, including things like:

  • age
  • employment
  • marital status
  • citizenship and residency
  • Social Security coverage

For SSI benefits, the field office also verifies:

  • income
  • financial resources
  • living arrangement

The application is then processed through a network of state agencies, known as Disability Determination Services (DDS). The DDS reviews and investigates the medical part of your application and makes the determination about your disability. The DDS will look into the medical sources you provided. If it finds what you provided is insufficient, it will arrange a consultative examination (CE) to establish more evidence of your disability.

Step 3: Initial Determination/Outcome

The DDS will make a determination and send the case back to the field office. The field office will act on the DDS's decision and either:

  • compute the benefit amount and begin disability payments for approved claims; or
  • retain the file and inform the applicant that the claim was denied and he or she can file an appeal

Step 4: Request Hearing or Appeal, if Necessary

If your claim was denied,  you should appeal the decision. The appeal works the same way as the initial claim, but a new team at the DDS will handle the appeal. The determination in this instance is known as a reconsideration determination.

If you are unhappy with the reconsideration determination (i.e., your claim was denied again), you can request a hearing at the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) and before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During this part of the process, you can provide new and additional evidence. Sometimes, in more complex cases, the ALJ may subpoena more evidence or testimony. 

What is the benefit of having an attorney when you apply for Disability Benefits?

The benefit of an attorney to help you file your disability are many, including:

  • We can help complete forms accurately and quickly, making the process more efficient, more likely to succeed, and less stressful and we do not charge a fee for this service
  • We make sure that the disability is one that qualifies for disability benefits
  • We will make sure that proper, complete, and the evidence is provided regarding your disability claim
  • We are able to file an appeal to further assist you in gaining benefits you may be entitled to

Fees are collected only if you are successful in your claim for benefits assistance. If your case is denied you do NOT owe anything. As well, we are paid twenty-five percent of the total of your past-due benefits if you are successful.

Importantly as well, the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 161.202(a)(3)-(4) conditions that a health care provider or a health care facility may NOT charge a fee for medical or mental health records when requested by a patient, former patient, an attorney or an authorized representative of the patient or former patient, when: the records are supporting an application for disability benefits, other benefits or assistance which you may be eligible for, or for an appeal with regard to denial of benefits or assistance with regard to SSD or SSI.

Accordingly, a fee should NOT be charged  to obtain  medical records in support of your SSD or SSI claim.

Bankruptcy Filers:

If you decide to seek bankruptcy relief, you can represent yourself, you can hire an attorney to represent you, or you can get help in some localities from a bankruptcy petition preparer who is not an attorney. THE LAW REQUIRES AN ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER TO GIVE YOU A WRITTEN CONTRACT SPECIFYING WHAT THE ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER WILL DO FOR YOU AND HOW MUCH IT WILL COST. Ask to see the contract before you hire anyone.

“The following information helps you understand what must be done in a routine bankruptcy case to help you evaluate how much service you need. Although bankruptcy can be complex, many cases are routine.

“Before filing a bankruptcy case, either you or your attorney should analyze your eligibility for different forms of debt relief available under the Bankruptcy Code and which form of relief is most likely to be beneficial for you. Be sure you understand the relief you can obtain and its limitations. To file a bankruptcy case, documents called a Petition, Schedules, and Statement of Financial Affairs, and in some cases a Statement of Intention, need to be prepared correctly and filed with the bankruptcy court. You will have to pay a filing fee to the bankruptcy court. Once your case starts, you will have to attend the required first meeting of creditors where you may be questioned by a court official called a ‘trustee' and by creditors.

“If you choose to file a chapter 7 case, you may be asked by a creditor to reaffirm a debt. You may want help deciding whether to do so. A creditor is not permitted to coerce you into reaffirming your debts.

“If you choose to file a chapter 13 case in which you repay your creditors what you can afford over 3 to 5 years, you may also want help with preparing your chapter 13 plan and with the confirmation hearing on your plan which will be before a bankruptcy judge.

“If you select another type of relief under the Bankruptcy Code other than chapter 7 or chapter 13, you will want to find out what should be done from someone familiar with that type of relief.

“Your bankruptcy case may also involve litigation. You are generally permitted to represent yourself in litigation in bankruptcy court, but only attorneys, not bankruptcy petition preparers, can give you legal advice.”  11 US Section 527.

We at the Law Firm of Madeline M. McIntosh understand the process, and know what needs to be done to optimize your chances of being granted Social Security disability benefits. Contact our office today at 469-678-7274 to schedule an initial free consultation to learn more about how you may qualify for disability benefits.

Contact Us Today

If you have any questions about any aspect of your disability claim, a denial or filing Bankruptcy, contact the Law Firm of Madeline M. McIntosh today at 469-678-7274 or [email protected].