Social Security Existing Client Tips & FAQs
FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CLAIMS:
I am available for questions and updates by phone or e-mail. Please try to call after 1 p.m. as I usually will be working on your file and other files in the morning. If I am not available at the time you call, it is helpful to leave a message on voicemail because it allows you to go into detail and allows our staff to more efficiently work on your case. E-mail also has the same advantage. We try to get back with you as soon as possible but sometimes it can take us a day or so to get back to you because we often are in court.
Typically, I need to know if you go to a new doctor, change doctors, get an important test like an MRI or angioplasty, have surgery scheduled or have had other significant changes in your medical condition. There is no need to let us know if your medication has been changed. I also need to hear from you if you move, change phone numbers, or experience any other significant life changes. If you have questions about completing forms, deciding what health-care direction to take, or whether you can or should work, those typically are things I want to discuss with you.
Initial level-typically, it takes Social Security around six months to process your initial application.
This level will usually takes between two to four months.
In 2013, it is taking 14 months to get to a hearing from the time you request a hearing.
Appeals Council and Federal Court
The time frames here vary quite a bit but can take years.
Timeline from initial application to hearing
It is taking around two years from the time of initial application to the time of hearing.
The question often comes up whether you should work. I tell my clients to do what it is they have to do. By that I mean if your financial condition is such that you must generate revenue or suffer horrendous consequences or you have an opportunity that is too good to pass up, go ahead and work. As of 2013, if you make more than $1040 per month, Social Security will assume you are not disabled. If you work at least six months at that level, it may change the benefits available to you. It may create what is called a closed period of disability. For example, if you stopped work on January 1, 2005 and then resumed it in December 2006, you may be entitled to benefits from January 2005 through December of 2006.
Interestingly, I am often asked if the client should have surgery. What I tell them is as follows. First, have you exhausted all treatment types? Have you tried medication, physical therapy, injections, and the like. Are you in such pain that life is unbearable? Is there a good chance that even if the surgery fails, your pain probably could not get worse. If you have tried all treatment options, and the pain is excruciating and probably could not get worse, then I recommend surgery.
Near the time of the hearing, the following will usually happen. I will contact you about getting updated medical records. I will copy the file and send a summary to the judge. I will meet with you to prepare for the hearing. Normally, I will drive you to the hearing unless it is too difficult for you to do that. By driving you to the hearing, I assure that you will be at the hearing and we can discuss the case. As for dress, I recommend wearing something comfortable that is respectable with minimal jewelry and minimal makeup. You do not need to wear a coat and tie or dress.
You will be asked to complete several forms from Social Security in preparation for your case. Please write legibly. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you need additional space, refer to it in the original space with a question. Typically, they want the forms faxed back if it is the initial or reconsideration level. I can do that for you. If you cannot fax, you can mail. Always make copies of completed forms in the event they are lost. Try to complete them in a timely manner.
There may be family or friends willing to testify on your behalf. My experience is that judges disregard oral testimony from witnesses. They either believe you or they do not. If you want statements from witnesses, you can get them hand written and I can submit them. They do not need to be notarized. They should be legible. A statement from a past employer can never hurt.