Paying the Bills

The Social Security Disability process is a very, very long process. The majority of claims end up going into the appeal stage, which means that it can sometime take 2 whole years before you start receiving Social Security Disability benefits. This is a very long span of time to be left without an income, especially for people who are probably incurring a lot of medical bills.

This period of time is made especially difficult by the fact that the very first requirement for applying for Social Security Disability benefits is that you not be working. Social Security Disability is a program that is reserved for people whose medical condition makes it impossible for them to work. While it’s possible to still meet Social Security’s definition of disabled while working a part time job earning below a certain level, doing so will cast serious doubt on the sincerity of your claim.

There are several options available for people who are unable to work and who do not have other resources available to them while their Social Security Disability claim is pending. For people over the age of 62, Social Security will offer to start sending you the Reduced Retirement Benefits while your Disability claim is pending. The State of Michigan also has several very helpful resources available to help pay for housing, food, and medical care. These programs can be applied for at http://www.Michigan.Gov/MIBridges.

Contact our Grand Rapids office today for a free consultation, located here in Kent County in West Michigan.

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Gathering Medical Records

Many people in need of Social Security Disability Benefits hesitate because they are afraid of the daunting task of having to go get all of their medical records. They may have had experience with other social service programs, like Bridge Cards or Unemployment, which require tediously running around and trying to get copies of things like leases, electric bills, or pay stubs.

Unlike many of these other programs, Social Security actually does the work for you when it comes to gathering your medical records. All you have to do is tell Social Security where you have been for medical treatment and Social Security will do the rest! Social Security will contact your doctors, pay for copies of your medical records, and sift through them for relevant information.

So, when considering whether it is worth it to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits, be sure to remember that most of the heavy lifting is done by Social Security.

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Administrative Law Judges. Who are they, what do they do?

When you appeal an initial denial for Social Security Disability benefits, you have a hearing scheduled before an administrative law judge. An administrative law judge acts as both a judge and a jury in an administrative proceeding. In other words, where the judicial branch has trials in front of a judge and a jury, the executive branch has administrative hearings in front of an administrative law judge.

Most hearings before an administrative law judge tend to be less formal than trials in court. These hearings usually take place in a conference room rather than a courtroom, there is usually not an audience, and the rules of evidence are generally more relaxed. An administrative law judge also takes a more active role in the hearing than a judge would in a trial. At your hearing, it is very likely that almost all of the questioning of you and any witnesses will come from the administrative law judge rather than from an attorney.

In Grand Rapids, there are 8 administrative law judges. There is Judge Kenneth Ball, Judge Michael Condon, Judge Carol Guyton, Judge Douglas Johnson, Judge Nicholas Ohanesian, Judge James Prothro, Judge William Reamon, and Chief Judge Donna Grit. Hearings before these judges will take place at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review at 99 Monroe NW, Suite 300, in Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

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The Social Security Disability Application

The initial application for Social Security Disability benefits can be a long, tedious, and boring process. However, if you go into the application knowing what to expect and already having your answers prepared, the application can be a quick and painless process. There are three main types of information that you will need for the application.

First, you will need to have all of the basic information about yourself that you have put on every application you have ever filled out. For example, you will need your full name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number. Second, you will need to have information about your work history. This is the part where many people, not expecting to have to have this information available, end up giving up in frustration. You will need to know the name and contact information for every job that you have worked in the last 15 years. You will also need to know the dates that you worked there, how much you earned and the type of work that you did. For most people, it can be next to impossible to remember all of this information, and so approximations are acceptable. The most important part is remembering what type of work you did and what sort of earnings you had.

Third, and most important, is your medical information. You will need to know the name and contact information for every place where you have ever been seen for any medical reason that is in any way related to your disability. You will also need to know the dates of the visit, any tests that you done, and any medication that you have been on. This section is the most important because the Social Security Administration uses this information to gather your medical records, and whether you are approved or denied depends almost entirely on those medical records.

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What Medical Evidence is Presented to an Administrative Law Judge?

After you have appealed your initial Social Security Disability denial you will have a hearing before an administrative law judge. Shortly before the hearing, this administrative law judge will review your entire Social Security file, giving special attention to your medical records. The medical records reviewed by the administrative law judge are all of the medical records that have been submitted to the Social Security Administration. Those which are most important are those which address your ability to do work.

Medical records come from two main sources. First, most of the medical records will have been gathered by the Social Security Administration from all of the doctors that you named on your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits. Second, your Social Security Disability attorney will have gathered medical records from any doctors that you have told your Social Security Disability attorney about. If any of those medical records were not already gathered by the Social Security Administration, your Social Security Disability attorney will have submitted them as evidence for your hearing.

In addition to the medical records created by your doctors after your visits, your Social Security Disability attorney will have requested that your doctor provide additional statements about your ability to do work related tasks. These records are extremely valuable to the administrative law judge because regular medical records are meant to address your healthcare, whereas these records are specifically designed to address your ability to work.

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What are my chances?

The most common question asked and the hardest question to answer is “what are my chances?” The odds of successfully obtaining Social Security Disability benefits will vary greatly from person to person, and even among people with the exact same medical conditions. Whether a person receives Social Security Disability benefits depends on many factors, ranging from the completeness of their medical record, to their work experience, to which Administrative Law Judge they are assigned. Even the most experienced Social Security Disability attorneys cannot state with any certainty whether someone will be approved or denied.

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I live in West Michigan. Where is my Local Hearing Office?

Campau Square Plaza Building, Suite 300
99 Monroe NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

 

 

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