Have Questions About SSDI and SSI? Check Out Our FAQs
Dealing with Social Security Disability always comes with plenty of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.
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How much does it cost to hire an SS disability attorney?
There are a number of variables, including whether or not you'll receive past-due benefits. But it might surprise you to know that legal representation isn't as expensive as you might think.
Statistics show that hiring a Social Security (SS) disability attorney increases a claimant’s chances of receiving an approved claim. However, many people wonder if they can afford an attorney, how much they'll be required to pay, and when that payment will be due.
If you need disability benefits but are worried about the financial obligation of hiring an attorney, here’s some information to help you understand that having legal representation is a cost-effective solution to help you receive the benefits you deserve.
Costs Involved in Hiring a Disability Lawyer
When you’re considering legal representation for your disability claim, it’s important to understand that there’s usually no cost to hire an SS disability lawyer—no initial fees and no upfront payments.
Most often, the attorney is paid out of any disability benefit you’re awarded.
The general cost breakdown is as follows:
- The attorney’s fee is limited to 25 percent of any past-due benefits the Social Security Administration (SSA) awards you.
- The fee is capped at $6,000.
- The attorney is paid out of your past-due benefits—also known as back pay.
- The attorney receives no fee if you receive no back pay benefits.
Paying Your Attorney Fees
After you’ve received back pay benefits from SS, you may wonder when you're required to pay your attorney fees. Most often, you don’t pay those fees directly. Instead, the SSA deducts all lawyer fees from your first back pay award check before you receive the check. This fee can be up to $6,000.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help with your SS disability claim, hiring legal representation can be beneficial for getting your claim approved. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law assist thousands of clients— filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing the application process and more. Contact us fand we’ll evaluate your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your claim.
What are the deadlines for filing a denied SS appeal?
If you applied for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and you’ve received a notice of denial, you have 60 days to appeal the denial. This means you must get your appeal on record with the SSA within 60 days from the date stamped on the envelope of the denial letter.
There are multiple levels of appeal, and because the process can be complex and time-consuming, it’s important to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with a denied claim, regardless of what level you are in the process.
Understanding the Appeals Deadlines
In the appeals process, there are various levels of appeal: reconsideration, hearing by an administrative law judge, review by the Appeals Council, and filing a lawsuit with the Federal District Court.
However, no matter what level your appeal is in right now, you always have 60 days to file your next appeal.
But there are some important things to note about this 60-day window:
- Usually, individuals filing claims get an extra five days to ensure their appeal gets through the mail process and reaches the SSA by the deadline. However, the SSA doesn’t go out of its way to communicate this additional time.
- To meet the deadline, the SSA must receive your appeal paperwork by the deadline date. This does not mean your paperwork must be postmarked by the deadline date; rather, it must reach the SSA by the date. Because neither you nor the SSA has any control over the speed of the mail or if your appeal might get hung up in transit, you need to get your disability appeal paperwork mailed to the SSA as soon as you get your denial letter.
- Don’t assume because you’ve hired a lawyer, you can forget about these deadlines or that your lawyer will also receive a denial letter from the SSA. While the SSA sends a copy of the denial letter to both you and your lawyer, it’s possible the agency might fail to send a copy to you both. When you receive a denial letter, you should immediately contact your attorney to ensure that the appeals deadline doesn't get overlooked.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help with the appeals process after your claim is denied, call Cuddigan Law. We’ve assisted thousands of clients with this process by filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing the appeals process through each of the four levels. Having an attorney on your side can ensure you don’t miss any deadline in this process.
Contact us for a free evaluation. We’ll review your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
How do I protect my claim during a Social Security Closed Period?
When you have an ongoing medical condition that makes it impossible for you to work, you may apply to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for disability benefits. However, given the significant backlog of applications, the SSA may not get to your claim for years.
If your disabling condition made it impossible to work for at least 12 months, but your disability ends because you have medical improvement, it’s still possible to collect benefits for the amount of time you were out of work. This type of claim is for a “closed period of benefits. An example of this situation, is an individual that has surgery, recovers after the surgery and is able to return to work.
To be approved for disability benefits during a closed period, it’s helpful to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with this type of claim.
Protecting Your Claim
Some attorneys believe it’s easier to win a closed period claim than to be approved for ongoing benefits. This is because:
- When you limit your claim to show that you were disabled for a specific period of time, the SSA sees this as honest and credible. Many judges respect your intention to return to work and not continue to state that you have a disabling condition.
- It is difficult to justify ongoing disability if your condition has substantially improved.
A Partially Favorable Decision
An SSA judge can award you a closed period benefit even if you haven’t asked for one. If your medical evidence shows your condition improved, the judge has the right to limit the number of months for which you’ll receive benefits. Typically, the judge will present this during your hearing, and you'll receive the option to change your benefits request. You and your attorney should discuss whether this is the right choice. Keep in mind: you don’t have to accept the judge’s offer of a closed period benefit.
Work Attempts and a Closed Period Benefit
If you’re attempting to return to work when you appear for your claim hearing, the judge may suggest that you alter your claim to a closed period benefit request. This, of course, may not be a good idea, as you may not yet know if you can handle going back to work or meet your job requirements. Your lawyer may feel it will be too difficult to get an approved, on-going disability award if you’re back at work when you get to your hearing, so it’s important to discuss and evaluate this option before taking this direction.
Call Cuddigan Law
Your best chance of getting a closed period claim approved lies with a Social Security Disability lawyer who is familiar with closed period disability cases. If you need help with your disability claim, or you want to apply for closed period benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients with their disability claims, getting them through this complicated and frustrating process.
Contact us for a free evaluation and we wll let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
What to expect when you meet with your attorney to prepare for your hearing
The administrative hearing is the level at which most disability cases are successful. Preparation for the hearing is important .We like to meet with our clients, face to face, in the office if it is possible.The meeting generally occurs a month ahead of the hearing date We set aside one and half to two hours for this meeting. Because the meeting is so important you must attend. In the meeting we will discuss the location of the hearing office, the time of your hearing, the security at the hearing office and the layout of the hearing room. We will discuss proper attire for the hearing.
In this meeting, we will explain what Social Security definition of disability is and why it generally means more than not being able to do your last job. We will ask you when you last worked and why you stopped working, We will ask you what is it about your physical and mental condition prevents you from working now. We will ask you about the work you have done in the last 15 years and why you can't perform that work now
Before we meet with you, we will have reviewed your exhibit file which includes: social security forms, any forms you have completed and your medical records. We will review with you the medical timeline and any medical records that concern us We will discuss with you any of your providers that it might be helpful to get a report from. We will ask you if there are any other providers that have records. We ask you to bring: a current list of your medications; all pay stubs if you have worked since applying for disability; and any workers compensation documents that you have not already furnished us.We will discuss witness statements or work performance assessments
We will discuss your physical and mental symptoms. We will review your physical and mental limitations that prevent you from working.We will discuss your daily activities and any side effects from medications
We will discuss the role of the vocational witness and questions from the judge to the vocational witness. Finally,what we are trying to accomplish with our questions to the vocational witness.
Because we like to review everything one last time we ask our clients to be at the hearing office 30 minutes before their scheduled hearing. If you need directions to the hearing office ask us.
What happens when my Social Security claim goes to the Appeals Council?
If your denied Social Security (SS) disability claim was denied after a hearing by an administrative law judge, you can ask for a review by the SS Appeals Council. You have 60 days to ask for this review.
If your claim reaches this level, it’s important to have legal representation by a skilled SS disability attorney. Although you can file the appeal with the Appeals Council on your own, the process will be easier and less complicated with legal counsel.
Your Claim at the Appeals Council Level
The SS Appeals Council processes many requests for reviews each year—over 160,000 requests in 2017 alone. The Appeals Council reviews whether the administrative law judge made his decision according to the law. This Council is allowed to grant, deny, or dismiss a request for review. If your request is granted, the Council will either make a decision in the case or “remand” it to the administrative law judge for a new decision.
It’s important to note that it’s difficult to win your appeal at this level of the process. Most often, the Appeals Council sends claimants a letter denying the appeal and upholding the decision made by the administration law judge.
It’s possible, however, that the Council will find the judge made mistakes in your case. For example, the judge may have:
- Failed to look at all legitimate medical evidence
- Made a technical error during the review process
If any of these takes place, the Appeals Council can demand a “remand case,” and your claim is sent back for a second hearing usually with the same administrative law judge. It’s also possible but not likely the judge’s determination will be overturned by the Council because the decision was totally erroneous. If so, the Council may simply move forward with an approval.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help appealing a denied disability claim, or your claim was denied by the Appeals Council, call the attorneys at Cuddigan Law for help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients, filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing their cases through the four levels of the appeals process.
Contact us for a free evaluation. We’ll review your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
What should I know about my Social Security appeals claim when it’s in Reconsideration?
If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your disability claim and you wish to appeal the decision, you’ll follow the steps outlined in the letter sent to you by the SSA which advise you on how to do this. After you request an appeal in writing, you’ll move to Reconsideration, the first step in the appeals process.
Because the appeals process can be time-consuming and complex, it’s helpful to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with a denied claim and start the appeals process at the Reconsideration step.
Understanding the Reconsideration Process
During a Reconsideration appeal, your claim is reviewed by someone in the SSA who wasn't involved in the initial denial of your claim. She'll examine all evidence you submitted originally, as well as any new evidence you might have.
It’s important to note that even though a new person is reviewing your material, she is bound by the same guidelines and rules as the person who reviewed your claim initially. Ultimately, over 85 percent of claims are denied at this level.
What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied at Reconsideration
The SSA denies claims for a variety of reasons, but by far the most common is because there's a lack of medical evidence submitted proving that you suffer from a disability. This is often true at the Reconsideration level as well. Thus, if your Reconsideration request is denied and you’re still unable to return to work, you have 65 days from the date of the denial to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
It’s important to note that you have a much better chance of success at this appeals level if you are represented by a Social Security disability attorney. He'll assist you in preparing for the appearance before a judge by helping you collect as much new medical evidence, lab results, doctor opinion, blood tests, and additional medical data to help your case.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you need help with the appeals process after your claim has been denied at the Reconsideration level, Cuddigan Law can help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients—filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing their claims through the four levels of the appeals process, including Reconsideration.
Contact us for an initial evaluation, and we’ll review your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.
Cirrhosis: Your Questions Answered
Cirrhosis is classified as a liver disease. Patients with liver disease rarely exhibit symptoms; thus, this illness is often referred to as a “silent” condition. After someone suffers long-term damage to this critical organ, the liver’s healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue, and the liver can no longer perform its important functions such as fighting infections, filtering toxins, assisting in the body’s digestion of significant nutrients, and blood clotting.
If you’re unable to work due to cirrhosis, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Listed in section 5.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, chronic liver disease can be disabling, but it may be difficult to obtain benefits for this disease. An experienced Social Security (SS) attorney can help ensure you meet the criteria and submit a successful claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cirrhosis
When you’re diagnosed with a serious disease like cirrhosis, you need information about how this condition will affect your life and how to move forward.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about it.
How is cirrhosis diagnosed?
Doctors may diagnose cirrhosis by evaluating any symptoms you may have, ordering blood tests, evaluating your medical history, and giving you a physical exam. However, the only way to definitively diagnose this condition is by having a liver biopsy. A doctor performs this biopsy by removing a liver tissue sample and analyzing it under a microscope. This test is the only one that confirms a patient has cirrhosis.
How does alcohol affect the liver?
Some people believe the type of alcohol consumed is the most critical factor in developing liver disease. However, the biggest risk factor is the amount you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking. In fact, any amount of consumed alcohol can damage the liver. According to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Can liver damage be reversed?
The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate. It can replace damaged tissue with new cells. Even if the patient experiences extreme liver damage and up to 50–60 percent of the cells are killed within a three or four day period, the liver can still repair itself completely if there aren't additional complications.
But regeneration is impeded or prevented if scar tissue continues to develop. This occurs if the agent that damages the liver such as a drug, a virus, or alcohol continues to attack it. Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver and is usually part of late stage liver disease. Once the patient experiences scar tissue, it’s difficult to reverse the process.
We Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits, but it’s important to work with an experienced SS attorney who can help determine if you meet a listing in the Blue Book. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can assist you with the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
What types of treatment can I expect for my cirrhosis symptoms?
Cirrhosis is categorized as chronic liver disease. This condition develops when the liver has sustained long-term damage, is replaced by scar tissue, and no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. Because the liver is a critical organ that helps fight infections, filter toxins from the blood, digest certain nutrients, and store energy, damage to this organ can be quite serious, sometimes leading to liver cancer.
Liver disease and cirrhosis are the 7th leading cause of death in American adults between the ages of 25 and 64.
If your cirrhosis interferes with your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, because it’s not easy to obtain benefits for this condition, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) attorney to ease you through the application process and help ensure a successful claim.
Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis
In the early stages of cirrhosis, many people have no symptoms of the disease. Symptoms are usually caused by the liver’s failure to perform its normal functions and/or scarring that distorts the liver’s shape and size. Patients suffering from cirrhosis often experience the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Overall weakness
- Weight loss due to loss of appetite
- Loss of sex drive
These symptoms may not occur until a patient has complications of the condition. These complications include:
- Fluid retention that causes weight gain
- Edema—swelling in the legs and angles due to fluid retention
- Problems breathing due to fluid retention
- Abdominal pain caused by gallstones or the enlargement of the liver
- Abdominal bloating or swelling caused by fluid retention
- Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Easy bruising and bleeding from the nose or gums caused by problems with blood clotting
Treatment for Cirrhosis
Because cirrhosis is a disease that can’t be cured, treatment focuses on managing symptoms, dealing with complications, and ensuring the condition doesn’t get worse. Treatment for these things includes:
- Making lifestyle changes. Avoid alcohol, lose weight, exercise, and ensure good hygiene to reduce infections.
- Making dietary changes. Because patients with cirrhosis can become malnourished, it’s important that they eat a balanced diet filled with critical nutrients. Additionally, it’s essential to reduce salt intake to help decrease fluid build-up.
- Taking medications. Depending on the type of damage your liver has sustained, you may need certain prescription medications to help with infections and other complications. Additionally, your doctor may recommend that you take a diuretic to decrease the fluid in your system.
Cuddigan Law Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA Blue Book, or your condition could be evaluated under the agency's residual functional capacity. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on the application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
Pancreatitis: Answering Your Questions
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas—the flat, long gland located between the stomach and the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. The body needs the pancreas to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and does so by sending digestive enzymes into the small intestine. The pancreas also releases insulin and glucagon into the blood to help control blood sugar levels.
In patients experiencing pancreatitis, their digestive enzymes have been activated too soon and start to attack the pancreas.
If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, it’s helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about pancreatitis include why it happens, if there are dietary restrictions, and if there are further
complications as a result of the disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatitis, here's what you should know.
Why does someone develop chronic pancreatitis?
The progressive inflammatory process in the pancreas can cause chronic pancreatitis. This type of pancreatitis will cause scar tissue, calcifications or stones due to calcium deposits, and a dilated pancreatic duct.
When patients experience frequent bouts of pancreatitis, drink alcohol, and/or have high calcium levels in the blood, they can develop chronic pancreatitis. It’s also a hereditary condition and one that’s common if there are high fat levels in the blood. People with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop diabetes.
What type of diet should I follow if I have pancreatitis?
If you’ve experienced acute or chronic pancreatitis, your pancreas needs time to rest and get healthy again. Immediately, you should stop drinking alcohol and eat a diet low in fat. Staying hydrated is also important. Certain foods can help protect your digestive organs and provide a better diet for those suffering from pancreatitis.
- Blueberries, whole grains, cherries, and spinach
- Lean meats and clear soups—foods easier for your pancreas to process
- Fruits instead of sugary sweets, because patients with pancreatitis are at a high risk to develop diabetes
- Cherry tomatoes, hummus, and cucumbers
- Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines
Foods to limit or avoid:
- Fried foods
- Chips and fries
- Margarine, butter, and mayonnaise
- Drinks with added sugar
- Red meat and organ meat
Can pancreatitis be fatal?
Yes. Pancreatitis can create many health complications that may affect other organs. If these complications aren’t treated, they can be fatal. These complications include:
- Kidney failure
- Pancreatic cancer
- Internal infections
We Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments.
Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.
What type of treatment can I expect for my HD symptoms?
Patients who suffer from Huntington disease, also known as Huntington chorea and Huntington’s disease, experience a variety of symptoms that can initially be unsettling but manageable. Then eventually, they interfere with daily life and the ability to work. This inherited disease causes the progressive degeneration of the brain’s nerve cells due to a gene mutation.
When you’ve been diagnosed with HD, it’s possible you’ll qualify for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because the SSA lists HD as a neurological disorder in section 11.17 of its Blue Book, submitting a winning claim may be easier for this disease than for others. However, because filing for disability can be complicated and sometimes frustrating, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you with your claim.
The symptoms of HD typically come on in stages. At each stage, patients tend to lose physical and cognitive skills they once had.
Here's a brief overview of the symptoms HD patients may experience:
When people begin to experience early signs of HD, their symptoms may include some of the following:
- Fidgeting, restlessness, and minor twitching in the toes and fingers
- Occasional clumsiness
- Minor changes in handwriting
- Small difficulties in managing daily activities such as driving
Physical signs of HD may not be the only symptoms. Ambiguous and indistinct emotional and intellectual changes may occur as well, including:
- Reduced ability to handle new situations or stay organized
- Small periods of depression, irritability, or indifference
- Moments of impulsiveness
- Short-term loss of memory
It’s important to note that just because a person feels depressed or can’t remember a name or number doesn’t mean he has HD. These symptoms can happen to anyone for any reason, and it doesn’t mean that the person has the mutated HD gene.
When HD patients move into the middle stage of their condition, they might lose the ability to work and drive entirely. It may become difficult, if not impossible, to manage a daily routine and perform household chores. Additionally, they may experience:
- Challenges when swallowing and eating
- Slurred speech
- Staggered walking
- More severe motor symptoms
At this point, patients are often still able to dress and care for themselves with some assistance. With the help of physical therapists, patients are still able to control body movements, and speech pathologists can help them with their speech and swallowing issues. Patients may also see an occupational therapist to help handle thought changes.
When patients reach the later stage of HD, they typically need assistance in all areas of their life. Because they're usually bedridden and unable to speak, they often need to be in a care facility because the progressiveness of the disease makes it difficult for family members to care for them.
Symptoms can include:
- Choking, as it becomes difficult for patients to swallow
- Inability to eat, which requires that many patients have a feeding tube
- Trouble sleeping
- Auditory and visual hallucinations in 3–11 percent of HD patients
Treatment for HD
Because HD is an incurable condition, medication and treatment focus on reducing the symptoms of the disease. Here's a brief look at the types of treatment for HD:
- Movement disorders. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, tetrabenazine (xenazine) is used to reduce the jerky body movements—also known as chorea—associated with HD. However, this drug can trigger depression or make it worse. Other side effects include nausea and drowsiness. Other antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol, can also suppress the choreic movements and may be helpful in treating and managing chorea. However, they may increase muscle contractions and rigidity. Additionally, amantadine and clonazepam can help suppress chorea; however, if amantadine is used in high doses, it can cause skin discoloration and leg swelling.
- Psychiatric disorders. Antidepressants such as citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline may be helpful for HD patients experiencing depression. For individuals who experience mood disorders or psychosis or have violent outbursts, antipsychotic drugs may be used such as quetiapine and risperidone. And some patients may be given mood stabilizers.
- Speech therapy. Because HD interferes with muscle control of the throat and mouth, it’s often difficult for patients to speak, eat, and swallow. A speech therapist can help patients speak more clearly or provide communication devices to help with conversation.
- Physical therapy. Because balance and coordination can be challenging for HD patients, a physical therapist can show them exercises to improve their strength and flexibility, help them stay mobile as long as they can, and decrease the risk of falling. If a patient needs a wheelchair or other assistive device, a physical therapist can provide instruction for how to use it.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can provide caregivers with information on appropriate assistive devices and strategies for patient care such as home handrails and helpful devices for eating and drinking.
Call Cuddigan Law
If you’ve been diagnosed with HD, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. However, an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet the SSA Blue Book Listing for this condition, or qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program.
Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. We also handle disability claims for those whose applications have been denied and need help with the appeals process.