Social Security Disability

Tips to Prepare for a Social Security Disability Hearing

Preparing for a disability hearing can be stressful, and it can even seem overwhelming. However, if you come equipped with a few disability hearing tips, you can greatly improve your chances of a favorable outcome. So take a moment or two to review the following disability hearing tips. Understanding these tips is key to knowing how to win a Social Security disability hearing.  That said, your best bet after learning a few disability hearing tips is to consult a qualified disability law attorney. We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. Social Security Disability Hearing Tips There are several crucial tips to help you know how to prepare for your Social Security disability hearing. Hearing Tip #1: Understand the Experience The first helpful tip about a Social Security hearing is understanding what the experience will be like. A disability hearing is not like a formal criminal hearing that you might see on a legal television show. Instead, most disability hearings take place in a small conference room or over video conference platforms. They don’t involve a jury. Most times, only a judge and court reporter are in attendance.  It is likely that you will be asked about several things, including: Your medical history;  Your physical capabilities; Any medical treatment that you have received for your condition; Your mental abilities;  Your professional training and education; and Your work history.  Knowing you will be asked about these topics, you will be better off if you come prepared.  Hearing Tip #2: Have Current Records Possibly the most important part of your hearing is making sure you have the right information available at the hearing. It is not wise to expect other groups, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA), to give you all the records you need before your hearing. Instead, you should be proactive.  When you receive your hearing notice, request your current medical records from all your medical providers. Usually, you will receive at least several weeks’ advance notice before your hearing. That should be enough time for you to contact your doctors and obtain your latest medical records from them. Once you receive your hearing notice, don’t wait to contact these doctors. In some cases, you might even need to have an additional evaluation or test performed to complete your medical record.  Hearing Tip #3: Get Your Doctor Involved Your doctor’s opinion can carry a great deal of weight in the disability hearing. That being the case, it’s a good idea for you to approach your doctor beforehand, discuss your upcoming Social Security disability hearing, and obtain a detailed letter from them. In this letter, your doctor should include specific statements about your medical limitations. They should list the activities that you cannot perform or can only partially perform, and they should state the degree to which you are able to perform those activities. Let Our Social Security Disability Law Attorneys Help You Knowing how to prepare for a Social Security disability hearing is far from simple. With the above disability hearing tips, you can get a solid advantage. However, the best course of action is to reach out to a disability law lawyer sooner rather than later.  Here at Cottrell Law Firm, we understand completely what you are going through, and we can help you defend your rights. We have over 32 years of experience helping our clients get the compensation they deserve, and as our testimonials show, we also specialize in excellent customer service. Although every case is different and outcomes can’t be guaranteed, our results show a history of helping our clients earn large settlements and verdicts. Call us today at 800-364-8305 or contact us online. 

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Social Security Disability

Arkansas Disability Benefits: What You Should Know

If you have a serious mental or physical disability, it can become impossible to do many normal life activities. This can include even the most basic and routine actions like working, sleeping, walking, and eating.  Fortunately, there are multiple Arkansas disability benefit options for people who have a disabling physical or mental condition. Long-term Arkansas disability benefits can stem from both Arkansas’s workers’ compensation program and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Yet while there are similarities between these two disability payment programs, they represent two distinct pathways for disabled individuals and often serve different needs.  We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits Arkansas’s workers’ compensation program covers accidental injuries that employees receive through their employment. It is a no-fault program, which means that the injured worker does not need to prove that their employer was negligent. They are covered even if they accidentally caused their own injury. Under this program, covered injuries include both temporary injuries as well as more permanent disabilities.  Furthermore, almost every employer in Arkansas has to provide workers’ compensation to their employees.  However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, employers that have fewer than three employees do not have to offer workers’ compensation. In addition, certain types of employers — like non-profit organizations, religious sects, and charitable groups — are exempt from the workers’ compensation requirement.  Also, there are three injuries that you Arkansas Workers’ compensation benefits do not cover: Hearing loss; Back injuries that develop gradually; and Rapid repetitive motion injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome).  Even though Arkansas features a no-fault workers compensation insurance system, the employee still has a responsibility to their employer to promptly report the injury and file a claim. If you had an injury at your workplace some time ago but have not yet filed a claim, you may need to act quickly to obtain compensation. An Arkansas disability attorney will be able to guide you through the state’s workers’ compensation claim process.  How to Obtain Social Security Disability Insurance in Arkansas The SSA offers SSDI benefits for individuals who have a qualifying physical or mental health disability. Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, which include a payment program for people who have a short-term disability in Arkansas, you can get SSA disability benefits only if your physical or mental health disability has lasted at least 12 months or is expected to last more than 12 months. Also unlike with workers’ compensation, your disability does not have to be work-related to be eligible for SSDI benefits. A huge range of medical and physical conditions qualify as disabilities, including: Schizophrenia, Lupus, Bipolar disorder, Heart disease, Diabetes,  Kidney stones,  Hemophilia, and Missing hands or legs.  Unfortunately, the process for obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is quite complicated. Therefore, your best choice is to contact a knowledgeable disability law lawyer right away.  Do You Have More Questions About Arkansas Disability Benefits? If you are considering hiring an attorney for Arkansas disability benefits, you have come to the right place. We know that you have several Arkansas disability lawyers to choose from. However, Cottrell Law Office is not like your typical law firm. We have over 32 years of experience helping the injured and disabled in Arkansas and other states. In addition, we have won awards from the National Trial Lawyers and Martindale-Hubbell. On top of that, our testimonials show that we are dedicated to providing the best client service possible and giving our customers the personal attention they deserve. Most importantly, our outstanding results show how much we love winning big for our clients.   Don’t wait. Give us a call today at 800-364-8305 or contact us online. 

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Social Security Disability

What to Do If You Are Denied Social Security Disability in Oklahoma

Sometimes you find yourself suffering an injury, illness, or disability that is beyond your control and limits your ability to work. If you find yourself in this situation, you have options for support, including Social Security disability income (SSDI) payments. Not every disabled individual receives payments for Social Security disability in Oklahoma, but do not give up if you receive a Social Security disability denial. If you are denied SSDI benefits, you can appeal. Who Can Receive SSDI Payments? If you have a disabling condition, you and certain qualifying family members can receive SSDI payments. Individuals with disabilities who are eligible to receive SSDI payments are those who: Have paid Social Security taxes out of their work income; Have worked long enough to earn 40 Social Security credits; and Are unable to work for at least one year because of a disability. Typically, you have to have earned at least 20 of your Social Security credits within the last 10 years, and how much you need to have worked to earn credits changes on a yearly basis. In 2021, every $1,470 of work income you earn is worth one credit. You cannot earn more than four credits in a year.  Receiving Social Security Disability in Oklahoma If you live in Oklahoma, Social Security Disability eligibility partly depends on Oklahoma’s Disability Determination Services. You apply for SSDI through the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Once you gather the proper information and submit your SSDI application, the SSA reviews your application to evaluate your current work activities and determine whether you have enough Social Security credits to receive benefits. After the SSA evaluates your work history, it forwards your application to the Oklahoma Disability Determination Services to determine if your disability qualifies for benefits. Some individuals receive SSDI benefits after an initial review of their application, and some do not.  Reasons for a Denial On average, the SSA denies benefits to 81% of SSDI applicants after their initial application. The most common nonmedical reason for denial of benefits is that the disabled worker did not have enough recent Social Security credits to qualify. If you are trying to apply for SSDI and you are unsure if you have enough Social Security credits, you should consult an experienced Social Security Disability attorney immediately. Depending on your age, you may still qualify for SSDI with fewer than 40 credits.  If you have enough Social Security credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, the SSA may still deny benefits to you for medical reasons. Medical reasons to deny SSDI benefits may include a determination that: Your impairment is not expected to last at least 12 months; Your impairment is not severe enough; You are still able to perform your usual work; You are able to perform another kind of work; Your impairment comes from substance abuse; You have not submitted enough medical information; or  You refuse to comply with prescribed treatments. If the SSA denies SSDI benefits to you for medical reasons, do not be discouraged. You have multiple options to appeal a denial, and an attorney can help you.  How to Appeal a Social Security Disability Denial If the SSA denies you SSDI benefits, they send you a Social Security Disability denial letter. There are four levels of appeal following a denial:  Request reconsideration of an initial denial; Request a hearing by an administrative law judge (ALJ) regarding a determination made during reconsideration; Request a review by the Appeals Council regarding an ALJ’s decision; and Request that a federal court review a decision (or lack thereof) by the Appeals Council. Normally, you have only 60 days from the date you receive a denial letter to make any kind of appeal. If you are struggling with a disability that limits your ability to work, you have enough to worry about in regard to supporting your household and maintaining your health. While you handle your household, an experienced attorney can meet the deadlines for your appeals and present the best arguments to help you obtain benefits.   Find an Attorney to Fight for Your Livelihood and Comfort At the Cottrell Law Office, we know that you need results in your SSDI case, and we are among the best at winning results for our clients. We have over 32 years of experience, and we strive to make your fight for benefits as painless as possible. Reach out to us online, or call us at 855-503-8140. We want to win for you.

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Social Security Disability

How Does a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect Social Security Disability in Missouri?

If you have been injured on the job, you may have filed a workers’ compensation claim and are in the process of seeking a settlement. This can be a great step in getting the compensation you need to recover. However, if you also collect social security disability benefits, you may have questions. A workers’ compensation settlement provides valuable compensation after a workplace injury. But social security disability benefits also provide valuable benefits. It is important to have an understanding of how each one works and how one might affect the other. Doing so can help you maximize your ultimate recovery. If you have questions about workers’ compensation, social security disability, and lawsuit settlement in Missouri, contact the MO social security disability and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Cottrell Law Office today. We can help you get the answers you’re looking for and fight to get you the compensation you need and deserve.   We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. Will My Social Security Disability Benefits Be Reduced If I Get a Settlement Check from a Lawsuit? Not necessarily. If you receive benefits through the Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program, receiving a settlement payment from a personal injury lawsuit or workers’ comp claim will not reduce or affect your SSDI benefits. However, if you receive monthly disability benefits through workers’ compensation, those monthly benefits could affect your SSDI benefits. If you receive supplemental security income (SSI) benefits, any type of settlement check could impact your disability benefits. This is because SSI is considered a “needs-based” benefit that individuals must qualify for based on their assets. Thus, depending on the amount of your settlement, your SSI benefits could be reduced. If you currently receive social security disability, settlement may impact what you currently receive. Speak with an attorney today to discuss your situation and determine how best to move forward. Does a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect Social Security Disability Benefits? If you receive a workers’ compensation settlement payment, it is important to understand how it may affect your social security disability benefits. Again, because SSI is a need-based benefit, any additional income or assets you come into will affect your level of need. When it comes to SSDI, however, the extent to which a workers’ compensation settlement affects your social security disability benefits depends on whether it is classified as a lump sum settlement or a monthly disability benefit. Lump sums settlements do not affect SSDI benefits, but ongoing workers’ comp disability benefits do. Typically, Social Security dictates that your combined workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits can’t exceed 80% of the average income you earned when you were working. To illustrate, imagine that your regular income before your disability was $2,500 per month, your workers’ compensation disability benefits are $1,400 per month, and your SSDI benefits are $1,600 per month. SSDI won’t let you collect more than $2,000 per month (80% of $2,500). Therefore, SSDI will use the workers’ comp benefits to offset what you could have received from Social Security. As a result, your SSDI benefits will decrease to $600 per month. How Can I Minimize the Impact of My Social Security Disability Settlement on My SSDI Benefits? Even if you do receive a disability benefit from workers’ comp, however, there are ways to potentially reduce a workers’ compensation settlement’s impact on your social security disability benefits. In Missouri, a workers’ compensation settlement agreement can be drafted to help minimize the impact of the settlement. You can do this by adding an amortization provision to the original written settlement agreement. With this approach, your workers’ compensation disability benefits are classified as a lump sum settlement to be paid out over a certain period of time, rather than a monthly benefit to be paid out indefinitely. The downside is that you can’t go back to your workers’ comp insurer and ask for further disability benefits once the payments run out. But you can avoid the SSDI offset. An experienced workers’ comp and social security disability attorney can help ensure that this type of language is added to your settlement agreement. They will examine all of your potential benefits and help you draft an agreement that maximizes your total recovery. Do I Have to Report a Lump Sum Settlement to Social Security in Missouri? The short answer is yes. As soon as you accept a lump sum settlement, it is imperative that you report the settlement to Social Security. Because SSI benefits are income and asset-based, any lump sum settlement you receive may impact your benefits. Thus, you should report any settlement to your caseworker as soon as possible. In fact, you must report anything that could affect your eligibility for social security disability benefits. Examples of other changes you must report include changes in: Living arrangements, Income, and Assistance with living expenses. You must report a settlement or any other changes that could affect your SSI no later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the payment was received or the change occurred. Knowingly failing to do so could result in sanctions against your payments. This could result in withholding of disability payments for as little as 6 and up to 24 months. Our Results for Those with Missouri Social Security Disability Benefits Social Security attorney Wesley Cottrell of the Cottrell Law Office has helped countless clients get the representation they need and deserve. Some of the results we have helped achieve include workers’ compensation settlements and verdicts in Missouri for: $450,000; $240,000; $206,000; and $200,000. While we can never guarantee the same or similar results in any given case, we do have a reputation for success. We will always strive to get the best results for our clients that we can. If you are looking for strong legal representation in your Social Security or workers’ compensation case, contact our team today to see what we can do for you. How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can […]

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Social Security Disability

Your Joplin Disability Lawyer Can Assist with Your Hearing

If you receive a denial of benefits letter from the SSA, there is still hope. You can always appeal the decision. An appeal must be submitted in writing within 60 days from the date you receive the denial, and there is a presumption that you received the letter within five days after it was sent.  After a denial, there are three levels of appeal and your Joplin disability lawyer can help you navigate through them. How to Prepare for a Social Security Disability Hearing The unfortunate reality is that most people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits are denied the first time around.  This means that most people end up appealing the decision.  However, it will take two separate levels of appeal before they get to have a disability hearing before a judge, which can take nearly a year to get scheduled.  If it takes that much to get a hearing, it is certainly important to be prepared.  The most important thing you will need, in preparing for a disability hearing, is medical evidence of your disability. You Need to Present Current or Updated Medical Documentation The most important part of preparing for your disability hearing is to gather any additional medical records so that when you arrive at your hearing, you can present the most recent medical records that exist. Be sure that you do not have any gaps in your medical documentation. In most situations, the Social Security Administration will not obtain additional medical records for you, before your hearing. Although the initial claims examiner will obtain updated records when your claim is first evaluated, when your case file is transferred to the hearing office, all “case development” will usually cease. That means, no further records will be obtained on your behalf and no further review will be conducted. Obtain a Statement from Your Treating Physician An essential part of your medical evidence is your physician’s medical opinion.  In order to adequately prepare for your disability hearing, it is crucial that you obtain supportive statements from the physicians who treated you in the past. To be effective, your physician should write a detailed “medical source statement” explaining in detail the work activities you are unable to do.  That is referred to as your functional limitations.  For example, if you are unable to sit or stand longer than 20 minutes, or unable to lift more than 20 lbs., those limitations need to be explained. Review Your Case File Prior to the Hearing You are allowed to request your entire case file from Social Security, before your hearing. Here again, you can seek the assistance of your Joplin disability lawyer.  It is important to take advantage of this opportunity and review your file to determine whether there are any missing medical records or mistakes in the claims examiner’s reasons for denying you benefits. Reviewing your file also helps you prepare arguments ahead of time, as to why Social Security has incorrectly denied you benefits. A Joplin disability lawyer Should Represent You at the Hearing When you are represented at your hearing by a Joplin disability lawyer, your lawyer will take care of requesting and submitting your most recent medical records and medical source statements.  All you will need to do is simply arrive at the hearing.  Your lawyer should also prepare you for questioning by the Administrative Law Judge. Seeking a Review by the Appeals Council If you are again denied benefits, following the appeals hearing, you can request further review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The council will consider the request for review but is not required to review your claim if it agrees with the ALJ’s decision. Otherwise, the Council can either decide your case itself or require the ALJ to look at the case again. The Council’s decision will be sent to you in writing. The Final Step – Appealing to the Federal Court If the Appeals Council upholds the ALJ’s denial of your claim, or if they refuse to review your case at all, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. You only have 60 days from the Council’s decision to file the lawsuit. The SSA cannot assist you in filing the lawsuit, so it is wise to obtain legal representation at this point if you haven’t already. This part of the appeals process can take at least a year to complete. At this point, there are three possible outcomes: the case can be remanded to the ALJ for reconsideration; the court can affirm the ALJ’s decision, to deny your claim; or the court can reverse the ALJ’s decision and award your social security benefits. If you have questions regarding appeals, hearings, or any other social security disability claims issues in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Social Security Disability

Rogers Social Security Disability Claims: What You Need to Know

When you apply for Social Security benefits, it can be a challenging and somewhat intimidating process. Submitting a claim requires strict adherence to the often complicated rules governing both the application process and eligibility requirements. Completing the necessary forms accurately can be a challenge as well, as they are often confusing.  However,  completing those forms properly following all of the rules can improve your chances of being approved for Social Security benefits the first time. The Social Security Administration makes an initial determination based entirely on the information you provide in your application.  If you want to get it right from the start, it is wise to consult with a Rogers social security disability attorney as early as possible. Common Mistakes People Make When Applying for Social Security Disability The statistics show that most social security disability claims are denied initially.  To be exact, approximately 65% of all claims are denied when they are first filed, and approximately 85% are denied on appeal.  Clearly, knowing some of the common mistakes that result in denial would be beneficial.  One important step you can take toward filing a successful disability claim is consulting with a Rogers social security disability attorney before filing your initial claim. You Should Not Collect Unemployment After you Apply Most people do not realize that applying for unemployment benefits creates a serious conflict with a claim for social security disability.  When you file for unemployment, you are required to confirm that you are ready and available for work, but you just can’t find any.  However, when you file for Social Security disability, you are stating the opposite, that you are unable to perform substantial work activity for twelve months or more.  As you can see, these two statements are mutually exclusive. As such, collecting unemployment benefits is likely to jeopardize your disability application. What Proof is Necessary for a Successful Claim? You are considered disabled “if you cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).” The Social Security Administration expects that your disability will last for at least one year or result in death.  However, the Social Security Administration does not actually make the decision. Your Rogers Social Security Disability attorney can help you prepare your claim right the first time. Who Determines Whether You are Disabled? When your disability application is submitted, your file is turned over to a designated state office that actually reviews your medical records and any other documentation you submit along with it. In Arkansas, this office is called Arkansas’s Disability Determination for Social Security Administration. These state agencies determine medical eligibility for Social Security disability for their residents. However, the process has been standardized throughout the country. It is Best to Stop Working While your Application is Pending Like collecting unemployment benefits, it is better to stop working, since you are claiming your disability prevents you from working.  If you don’t quit your job entirely, you should at least cut your hours substantially, in order to not jeopardize your eligibility for disability benefits.  Social Security actually determines the amount of work you can do, while still being eligible for benefits.  This is known as the SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity). If you earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity limit, your claim will likely be denied. In 2019, the SGA is $2,040 for blind disabled applicants and $ 1,220 for non-blind applicants. Keep Track of the Status of your Application Once you have submitted your application for Social Security disability, there is still more to do. It is important that you continue to check the status of your claim regularly. There is always a chance that your paperwork could be misplaced, slip through the cracks so to speak, or the agency may neglect to inform you that your claim has been denied. Without knowing the status of your claim, you could be waiting around for nothing, only to find out later, some action was needed, or your claim had already been denied. Be Aware of the Deadline for Filing an Appeal if You are Denied If you are one of the many applicants who are initially denied, and you plan to file an appeal, make sure you do not miss your deadline.  Missing the deadline is always a basis for denying an application or a reconsideration of your application. The deadline for requesting a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) is 60 days from the date your disability claim was last denied. If you have questions regarding social security disability claims in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Social Security Disability

When Is a Person Considered Disabled by Social Security Disability?

When it comes to applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the proof you submit in support of your disability claim is crucial to the success of that claim. Your treating physician’s opinions and the contents of your medical records can have a huge effect on whether your disability claim will be accepted. This blog will explain how disability decisions are made and when a person will be considered disabled for purposes of Social Security Disability benefits. How is “Total Disability” Defined? Under the Social Security Administration’s rules, you are disabled “if you cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).” It is expected that your disability is either long-term (lasting for at least one year) or result in death. Who is Responsible for Determining Disability? The purpose of Social Security Disability benefits is to provide replacement income for those who are unable to work because of a long-term injury or illness.  You may be surprised to know that it is not actually the Social Security Administration that is responsible for making the decision regarding disability claims. Instead, when your disability application is submitted, the file will be sent to the designated state office for review of your medical records and any other medical evidence you submit with your claim.  This office has a different name in each state.  In Arkansas, it is called Arkansas’s Disability Determination for Social Security Administration. In Missouri, it is called the Missouri Disability Determination Services. When Is a Person Considered Disabled? Social Security analysts typically expect to see at least a 12-month medical history, relating to the applicant’s condition for which disability is being claimed.  This medical information should be “current,” meaning records of medical treatment received within the last 90 days. However, in many cases, applicants have run out of money or insurance to pay for treatment, making current medical information hard to obtain.  Unfortunately, many individuals applying for social security disability are already financially strained because they have been unable to work due to their medical condition. How Will My Disability Claim Be Processed? Most Social Security disability claims are processed through the local Social Security Administration field offices.  This means, your state’s social security agency will determine your medical eligibility for disability benefits. The process for making this determination has been standardized throughout the United States.  This means that each analyst in each state will utilize the same questions in determining whether a claimant meets the disability standards. If you appeal an unfavorable determination, it will be decided either by a Disability Determination Services agency or by an administrative law judge in the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Why Are So Many Disability Claims Denied? The most common reason that Social Security disability applications are denied is lack of sufficient medical evidence.  In many cases, applicants need to submit to a consultative examination, during the application process.  This extra step is most often required when an applicant either has no medical evidence or the evidence they had submitted is too old to be considered. The Need for a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment Except for very limited situations where approval of a disability claim is automatic, you will be required to submit a Residual Functional Capacity assessment. This assessment must be prepared by your treating physician. The only exception is in cases where your disability is included in the Social Security impairment listing. The purpose of the assessment is to establish what the claimant is still capable of doing despite the claimed disability. The Residual Functional Capacity assessment is a detailed report from your treating physician describing any limitations you have as a result of your medical condition.  The assessment also specifies how your limitations affect your ability to do certain work-related activities. The problem is, there are some physicians who are unwilling to complete the assessment form, which presents a challenge in proving your disability claim. Helping Your Physician Understand What Is Needed If your physician does not know what to expect or what is expected of them, you can help by assuring her that all that is required is completing the form. The opinion she gives to the agency will not affect her practice or threaten her license. Once the form is submitted, that is typically all that is required of your physician. If your physician believes that completing the form will be far too time-consuming, showing him the Residual Functional Capacity assessment form might help.  The required information can usually be obtained during a regular appointment since the physician is already familiar with your condition. If you have questions regarding disability claims or any other Social Security Disability matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Social Security Disability

Advice on Appealing Disability Denials from a Joplin Disability Lawyer

Social Security Disability benefits are provided to those individuals who are unable to work due to a disability.  Being eligible for Social Security Disability Income, often referred to as SSDI, requires proof of a qualifying disability.  The federal statutes define exactly what the term “disability” means.  However, even if you are able to prove that your medical condition qualifies, your claim still may not be approved by the Social Security Administration.  If your claim is denied, your next step is to appeal. Here is some great advice on appealing your disability denial from our Joplin disability lawyer. You are Required to Prove Your Disability when You First File Your Claim The term “disability” is defined by the Social Security Act as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.  There are several factors that the Social Security Administration considers when determining whether the medical condition you claim actually qualifies you for benefits. This includes determining whether your condition is severe enough to warrant an award of benefits.  The Social Security Administration also considers the applicant’s age, education and work experience in determining whether he or she can still perform the work previously performed. Your Joplin disability lawyer can assist you in providing all the information you need the first time. What is the Next Step if Your Application is Denied? If you receive a denial of benefits letter from the Social Security Administration, there is still hope. You can always appeal the decision. An appeal must be submitted in writing within 60 days from the date you receive the denial, and there is a presumption that you received the letter within five days after it was sent.  After a denial, there are three levels of appeal that can be navigated: a hearing by an administrative law judge, review by the Appeals Council, and finally, review by a federal court. What Should I Expect at My Appeals Hearing? The basic purpose of the first appellate step, the appeals hearing, is to re-examine the “disability” issues.  These typically include whether you are disabled when your disability began and whether it has ended. The Administrative Law Judge, who presides over the hearing, will be a neutral party who was not involved in the initial denial of your claim. At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your case in person and provide new information to support your claim. You are also allowed to bring witnesses to testify on your behalf. After reviewing the evidence submitted at the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a written copy of his decision. Be sure to let your Joplin disability lawyer review the decision as soon as you receive it. Requesting Another Review by the Appeals Council If you are again denied benefits, following the appeals hearing, you can request further review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Council will consider the request for review but is not required to review your claim if it agrees with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. Otherwise, the Council can either decide your case itself or require the ALJ to look at the case again. The Council’s decision will be sent to you in writing. Again, let your Joplin disability lawyer review the letter as soon as you receive it. Appealing to the Federal Court is Your Last Option If the Appeals Council upholds the Administrative Law Judge’s denial of your claim, or if they refuse to review your case at all, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. You only have 60 days from the Council’s decision to file the lawsuit. The SSA cannot assist you in filing the lawsuit, so it is wise to obtain legal representation at this point if you haven’t already. This part of the appeals process can take at least a year to complete. At this point, there are three possible outcomes: the case can be remanded to the ALJ for reconsideration; the court can affirm the ALJ’s decision, to deny your claim; or the court can reverse the ALJ’s decision and award you social security benefits. If you think you may qualify for Social Security Disability Income, you need a social security attorney who understands the Social Security system, and how to submit an application that will be approved, or will work hard to obtain the benefits you deserve on appeal. If you have questions regarding Social Security Disability appeals or any other Social Security Disability matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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Social Security Disability

How Can I Make My Disability Claim Successful?

Applying for Social Security benefits can certainly be a challenge, as our Rogers disability lawyer is fully aware. The process, including appealing denials, can be stressful and even intimidating for those who have never been through it. Strict compliance with the intricate rules for the application process and for eligibility itself is required. Properly completing the necessary forms can be overwhelming and confusing.  However, completing them properly will most often improve the likelihood of being approved the first time. The Social Security Administration will make an initial determination based solely on the information you provide in your application.  You may be thinking, how can I make my disability claim successful? Here are some things to consider. Mistakes to Avoid With Your Social Security Disability Claim Statistically speaking, the majority of social security disability claims are denied when first submitted.  In fact, nearly 65% of all claims are denied initially and close to 85% are denied again on appeal. Clearly, knowing some of the common mistakes that result in denial would be beneficial.  One important step you can take toward filing a successful disability claim is consulting with a Rogers disability lawyer before filing your initial claim. Who Decides Whether I Am Disabled? When you submit your disability application, your file is turned over to a designated state office that actually reviews your medical records and any other documentation you submit along with it. In Arkansas, this office is called Arkansas’s Disability Determination for Social Security Administration. In Missouri, it is known as Missouri Disability Determination Services. These state agencies determine medical eligibility for Social Security disability for their residents. However, the process has been standardized throughout the country. What Needs to Be Proven for Disability Benefits? You are considered disabled “if you cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).” The Social Security Administration expects that your disability will last for at least one year or result in death.  However, the Social Security Administration does not actually make the decision. Be Sure to Check the Status of your Application Once you have submitted your application for Social Security disability, there is still more to do. It is important that you continue to check the status of your claim regularly. There is always a chance that your paperwork could be misplaced, slip through the cracks so to speak, or the agency may neglect to inform you that your claim has been denied. Without knowing the status of your claim, you could be waiting around for nothing, only to find out later, some action was needed, or your claim had already been denied. You Should Not Continue Working While your Application is Pending Just like collecting unemployment benefits, it is better to stop working, since you are claiming your disability prevents you from working.  If you don’t quit your job entirely, you should at least cut your hours substantially, in order to not jeopardize your eligibility for disability benefits.  Social Security actually determines the amount of work you can do, while still being eligible for benefits.  This is known as the SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity). If you earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity limit, your claim will likely be denied. In 2018, the SGA is $1,180 for non-blind disabled applicants and $1,970 for blind applicants. Collecting Unemployment Can Conflict with Your Disability Award Most people fail to realize that a request for unemployment benefits raises a serious conflict with a claim for social security disability.  When you file for unemployment, you must confirm that you are ready and available for work, but you just can’t find any.  However, when you file for Social Security disability, you are stating the opposite, that you are unable to perform substantial work activity for twelve months or more.  As you can see, these two statements are mutually exclusive. As such, collecting unemployment benefits is likely to jeopardize your disability application. If You Need to Appeal, Don’t Miss the Deadline If you are one of the many applicants who is initially denied, and you plan to file an appeal, make sure you do not miss your deadline.  Missing the deadline is always a basis for denying an application or a reconsideration of your application. The deadline for requesting a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) is 60 days from the date your disability claim was last denied. The denial date is typically stamped on the first page of the denial letter (or notice of denial after a reconsideration). If you do not request a hearing by the deadline, you must start the whole process over from the beginning. The only other option is to demonstrate “good cause” for requesting a hearing after the deadline has passed. If you have questions regarding the disability claims process or any other Social Security disability matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (800) 364-8305.

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Social Security Disability

What Kind of Evidence Is Used to Evaluate and Decide My Disability Benefit Claim?

When it comes to applying for Social Security Disability benefits, the disability benefits evidence you submit in support of your disability claim is crucial to the success of that claim. Your treating physician’s opinions and the contents of your medical records can have a huge effect on whether your claim will be accepted. This blog will provide some recommendations from our Social Security disability attorney about supporting your disability claim with sufficient disability benefits evidence. You Must Comply With Your Physician’s Instructions One of the most important things to remember is that the agency will assess the validity of your claim by determining whether you have complied with your physician’s recommendations regarding your treatment. If you do not take your physician’s advice, take the prescribed medication or keep your appointments, then Social Security may not believe that you are actually suffering from the condition you claim or that the condition is not as limiting as you represent in your claim. Your compliance will be part of your disability benefits evidence. The Need For a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment Except for very limited situations where approval of a disability claim is automatic, you will be required to submit a Residual Functional Capacity assessment. This assessment must be prepared by your treating physician. The only exception is in cases where your disability is included in the Social Security impairment listing. The purpose of the assessment is to establish what the claimant is still capable of doing despite the disability. The Residual Functional Capacity assessment is a detailed report from your treating physician describing any limitations you have as a result of your medical condition.  The assessment also specifies how your limitations affect your ability to do certain work-related activities. The problem is, there are some physicians who are unwilling to complete the assessment form, which presents a challenge in proving your disability claim. Why Your Physician May Not Provide Disability Benefits Evidence There are several possible reasons why your physician may be reluctant to help with your disability claim.  For example, not all physicians understand what is expected. Others simply may not agree with the disability program in general or may not believe you are actually disabled.  Some physicians may not have the time or may want to take the time to provide the assessment. If you are concerned about your physician’s willingness to help with your claim, speak to our Social Security disability attorney. Physicians Are Not Always Familiar With the Required Disability Benefits Evidence It may be surprising, but not all physicians are familiar with the social security disability process and do not know what type of information is necessary to support a claim. Regardless, one of the most important things your physician can do is keep detailed records of your condition and its symptoms for a consistent period of time. Since you are claiming that your condition and its symptoms are making it difficult for you to perform your daily or work activities, having medical records that support those claims is crucial. It is equally important to be able to show that you sought treatment for your condition and your medical records will demonstrate that, as well. Your Physician May Need Help Understanding What is Needed If your physician does not know what to expect or what is expected of them, you can help by assuring her that all that is required is completing the form. The opinion she gives to the agency will not affect her practice or threaten her license. Once the form is submitted, that is typically all that is required of your physician. If your physician believes that completing the form will be far too time-consuming, showing him the Residual Functional Capacity assessment form might help.  The required information can usually be obtained during a regular appointment since the physician is already familiar with your condition. Dealing With a Physician’s Misgivings Regarding the Disability Process Another issue may be that your physician has inaccurate expectations about the assessment process. He or she may assume that the assessment form will be very long or complicated and they are unwilling to spend the time completing it. Some physicians are concerned about being asked to testify on a patient’s behalf. Some are concerned that their reputation in the community could be negatively affected if a disability claim they supported is not approved by the Social Security Administration. If you have questions regarding Residual Functional Capacity assessments or any other Social Security Disability matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (800) 364-8305.

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