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How much do you charge?

Answer: The fee for our representation is 25% of retroactive disability benefits, but with a cap of $6,000, plus costs. For example, if retroactive benefits were $10,000 the fee would be $2,500. If retroactive benefits were $100,000, the fee would stop at $6,000.

However, no fee is owed if there is no recovery of retroactive benefits.

Costs are limited to out-of-pocket expenses for medical records, reports, and doctor opinions. Typically, there are no costs at all. If there are costs, they are usually less than $100.

When do I need an attorney?

Answer: To increase the chances of success, claimants should seek counsel early in the Social Security process.

Helpful tip: If you proceed without counsel during the early stages, it is very important to employ an attorney when your claim is assigned to an Administrative Law Judge. While the hearing is informal, it is a trial-type experience at which vocational and/or medical experts frequently testify. Having legal counsel guide the claim at this point is especially critical in obtaining a decision in the claimant's favor.

What does the attorney do?

Answer: First, this southwestern Ohio disability lawyer, also serving residents in portions of northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana, helps collect the outstanding medical information including hospitalization reports, doctor’s office notes, medical tests results, lab results, as well as medical opinions on the subject of disability and submits those to Social Security.

  • The attorney follows up with Social Security to determine what the status of the claim is, when it will be decided, and if it can be decided sooner.
  • Finally, the attorney points out the various legal theories and arguments that would support the claim at Social Security.
  • After the case has been scheduled for a hearing, the attorney prepares a legal brief summarizing the medical evidence and making various legal arguments that would support an award of benefits.
  • The attorney also prepares the client for the hearing in advance of the hearing so he/she knows what questions will be asked, what the atmosphere at the hearing is, what the attitude of this particular judge is, what additional issues need to be resolved before the hearing is conducted and what the chances of success are along with the expected financial recovery if successful.
  • The attorney can also answer questions regarding medical insurance through Social Security, benefits for children and so forth.

How long will my claim take?

Processing a claim is a slow-moving, three-step process.

  • The initial decision usually takes 5-6 months and is more often than not a denial.
  • The second step, called reconsideration, is an appeal that usually takes about 2-3 months and, again, is typically unsuccessful. Also see questions 18 and 19 for additional information.
  • The third stage, where the claim is finally presented to a Social Security Administrative Law Judge in Cincinnati, Ohio, is currently taking about 12 to 14 months, depending on the particular judge assigned.

Occasionally, on particularly strong claims, the Social Security Disability attorney can convince the judge to grant an "on the record" decision. This is done by letter and does not involve a hearing. The time period for this varies.

How is Social Security disability different from private disability benefits?

Answer: Social Security provides disability insurance to insured workers who are totally disabled. Benefits are not payable for short-term or partial disability. You must be unable to do any work to be considered disabled and your disability must be expected to result in death or last for at least one year.

Alternative public and private disability insurance programs may offer disability benefits for injuries or illnesses over a short time period, or for partial disability.

Should someone meet the criteria for both Social Security and other disability benefit programs, that person should be aware of a few facts: First, the law states that disability payments from private insurance plans don't affect your Social Security disability benefits. Second, if you receive both Social Security disability benefits and Veterans Administration benefits, your Social Security benefits won't be reduced.

Workers' compensation and certain other public disability benefits, may reduce your Social Security benefits.

Other public disability payments that may affect your Social Security benefits are those paid by a federal, state or local government for disabling medical conditions that are not job-related.

If you receive workers' compensation or other public disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits, generally the total amount you receive cannot exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings before you became disabled. You may want to contact your private or state disability insurance program for more information about how Social Security could affect those benefits.

How much money can I expect from Social Security?

Answer: Benefits under Social Security are proportionate to the number of years worked and the amount of earnings per year. Thus, a person who made $100,000 a year for the previous 20 years may receive over $2,000 a month, whereas an individual who worked off and on for the previous 20 years and never earned more than $12,000 a year might only receive $500 a month.

Social Security benefits can be awarded for 12 months prior to the date the individual applies if he/she was disabled during that 12 month period. For such Social Security benefits there is a five-month waiting period. This means that if an individual becomes disabled on January 1 and Social Security agrees they became disabled on that date, the first check will be in June of that same year. Thus, they receive no money for the first five months of their disability.

Social Security also has a program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for individuals who have not worked or worked very little in their career. This pays a maximum of $698 a month (2012 rate). Additionally, minor children may be entitled to SSI -- both retroactive and ongoing monthly benefits if they are disabled.

How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

Answer: The best, surest way to file a Social Security disability claim is to go to the nearest Social Security office in person and wait to see someone to file the claim in person. (Click here to find out where the nearest office is for you):

Helpful Tip: If you go in person, avoid Mondays and Fridays and any afternoon. Make sure you take ID. You might also want to take along a book to read while you wait.

If you cannot go personally, you may file online at ssa.gov or contact Social Security by calling (1-800-772-1213) and arrange for a telephone interview to file the claim.


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Mike Mooney / Stephen Olden

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