How to apply for Social Security Disability
Wednesday, April 5th
Generally, lawyers do not help with initial disability applications. Here, we will if client is unable due to circumstances, but usually clients apply on their own, and we help if there is a denial.
Two easy ways to start the application process: 1. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 2. go to ssa.gov and apply online.
Be very careful when applying online and make sure you are providing information to the official government website for Social Security for which the address should end in .gov
CDL Drivers need legal representation
Monday, November 21st
If you have a CDL, you know what I mean when I say that CDL drivers need lawyers. If you receive a ticket on the job, or even in your personal vehicle, the stakes are much higher than for regular drivers.
I invite you to call my office should you receive any traffic ticket while holding a CDL. After agreeing to a fee, I will call the court where you were ticketed and enter a not guilty plea. Generally, you will not have to appear in court for the plea and arraignment date on the ticket you received.
Please call early. The later you call the higher the stress level for everybody. After entering your not guilty plea, I will set a trial date and we can discuss the appropriate strategy to best benefit you as a CDL holder.
Worker's Compensation time and place
Friday, September 23rd
Worker's Compensation claims must be filed as soon as possible. When reporting an injury an injured worker should know when, where, why and how the injury occurred. A reported claim that lacks an exact time and place of injury my be denied. Persistence may be required to get claim accepted.
Social Security and Date Last Insured
Thursday, May 12th
Social Security Disability claimants must know their date last insured. A claimant's date last insured (DLI) is the latest date a claimant can prove an onset of disability and be eligible for SSDI benefits instead of just SSI benefits. It's important not to let the date come and go. Often claimants become discouraged after a denial and just let time go by without appealing the denial, starting a new claim or going back to work and paying in payroll taxes.
Claimants should do one of the three. Every quarter that goes by without a pending claim or payroll taxes being paid in brings a claimant closer to their DLI.
Generally, a claimant must work 5 of the last 10 years to remain insured and eligible for SSDI benefits. Check your date and make sure you know where you stand.
Remember SSDI benefits resemble a long term disability insurance policy; payroll taxes are the premiums paid for the benefits.
Long Term Disability Insurance (ERISA)
Monday, January 25th
Long Term Disability Insurance Policies come in a variety of types and are governed by different laws. Often times these cases are referred to as ERISA cases because the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 governs the case.
No matter which type of long term disability policy is involved, the stakes are high and the issues are complex. Difficult questions related to federal preemption versus the states’ rights to regulate insurance policies sold within their borders exist. There are also complicated offsets between social security benefits and workers’ compensation benefits that must be addressed.
Most importantly, ERISA cases are generally tried based on the evidence before the insurance plan claims administrator when the decision to approve or deny was made. Accordingly, claimants cannot add evidence after the final decision to deny the claim has been rendered. This means that claimants should hire an attorney early so the record in their case can be properly developed.
If you have a LTD plan and have been denied check the deadline to appeal. Most plans allow for at least one appeal within 180 days of denial. Beware, that six months goes by quick, call early.
Social Security: Early retirement, disability or both.
Tuesday, December 15th
Each Social Security recipient has an early, middle (full) or late retirement eligibility date. Often people take early social security retirement benefits because of health problems that keep them from working. Early retirement pays less than full or late retirement and comes with income limitations that can lead to serious over payment issues. If forced to retire due to bad health consider filing a disability claim in conjunction with the early retirement claim. If approved, the disability claim usually pays more than the early retirement and may provide benefits from an earlier period of time.
The Disability Triangle
Tuesday, September 22nd
We have all heard of the Bermuda Triangle, but what about the Disability Triangle? It's not a geographic location, but it's very hard to navigate, especially without an experienced lawyer.
The Disability Triangle refers to Social Security Disability, Workers' Compensation and long term disability insurance (usually under ERISA). These sources of disability income commonly claim some sort of off-set against the other.
If you become injured at work and eventually disabled your claim may over lap with two or all three of the sources of income mentioned above.
If you are in this boat call me as soon as possible. These sort of cases require long range planning and detailed execution at just the right times.
Good News for Long Term Disability Claimants
Thursday, July 16th
On December 19, 2012, Jay Bradford, the Arkansas Insurance Commissioner, approved Insurance regulation or Rule 101. Rule 101 prohibits discretionary causes in long term disability policies issued in Arkansas effective March 1, 2013.
The stated purpose of Rule 101 is to eliminate conflicts of interest for insurers who are responsible for both deciding and paying claims.
Rule 101 is a step in the right direction and should prove helpful for claimants of private disability insurance benefits. These claims are commonly referred to as ERISA claims because the policies are usually purchased through an employer and come under federal ERISA jurisdiction.
As always, don't wait until the last minute to hire an attorney to appeal a denial. Once the administrative appeal process ends it's very difficult to supplement the evidence in a claim file.
Most denial letters provide 180 days to send a written appeal. Generally, all administrative remedies must be exhausted prior to filing a law suit. Hire a local lawyer sooner than later.
When's the best time to hire a lawyer for Social Security Case?
Tuesday, June 9th
Claimants seeking Social Security benefits should hire an attorney after they get denied. Most people can and should file the initial application for benefits on their own.
If denied initially its ok to file the Request for Reconsideration yourself. Most of the work done on your case at this level will be by DDS, and some times there is not much for a lawyer to do.
Once denied at the recon level, it is definitely time to hire a lawyer. The lawyer will get the case ready for the ALJ hearing. Most cases are won or lost at this point.
In most cases, I recommend hiring an attorney after any denial. Remember that most all denials must be appealed within 60 days, or you start all over again.
Even if you appeal your first denial, hire a lawyer to get ready for the ALJ hearing.
After the ALJ hearing it may be more difficult to hire a lawyer, and the case may be too far gone for a lawyer to help.
When in doubt, hire a lawyer the day you get a denial letter. Hire a local lawyer and meet him or her at their office and file an appeal with your lawyer.
Tuesday, April 28th
There is an interesting tool available at the official Social Security website, ssa.gov.
Once on the website go to "online services" and then go to "Find out if you Qualify for Benefits." Then complete the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool or "BEST" to see if you are eligible for any type of Social Security benefit.
Generally, people know if they are old enough for retirement (middle option usually the best) or if they are disabled and need to apply for disability benefits, but what about less common benefits that involve deceased parents or former spouses. Why not give it a shot? It does not apply for benefits or even require you to provide your SSN. It only takes a few minutes and could be very beneficial if you happen to qualify for something.
Remember when conducting any Social Security related business online make sure you are on the official government site, ssa.gov.
Another suggestion, while at ssa.gov set up your own Social Security account. It's also easy to do, and allows you to make sure your yearly earnings are being properly recorded by the administration, and informs you as to what you can expect to receive if disabled or retired.
Friday, March 27th
I have successfully handled traffic tickets for commercial drivers for many years.
If you have a CDL, you know how serious a minor moving violation can be to your livelihood. I charge reasonable rates to enter not guilty pleas over the phone, and then show up ready for a trial if it's in the client's best interest.
Talk to me before you plead guilty to a traffic charge that may cost you a lot more than the fine.
What's your date last insured for Social Security Disability and why does it matter?
Monday, February 23rd
I often ask clients if they are insured for Social Security Disability and quickly realize they have no idea what I mean.
Eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits is based on your taxable earnings and the payroll taxes you have paid into the system (Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI).
(Supplemental Security Income or SSI) does not require earnings and is based on poverty.
SSDI is like a mandatory long term disability insurance policy managed by the government. To receive either SSDI or SSI benefits you must be disabled, but it is important to know your date last insured because to receive SSDI benefits you must prove an onset of disability before the expiration of your date last insured.
For example, if your date last insured is 12/31/15 you must prove an onset of disability before 1/1/16.
If you prove an onset after your date expires you can still get SSI if you meet the poverty requirements, but usually SSDI is better.
Generally an individual with a pending claim who has worked and paid payroll taxes for five of the last ten years remains insured and is eligible for SSDI benefits. Usually, SSDI benefits are preferred to SSI benefits because other assets you may own don't reduce your benefits. The richest person in Arkansas could get SSDI.
At long last, here's the point. Do not wait to file your claim. The day you can no longer work, file your claim. Not waiting reduces the risk of your date last insured expiring before you prove an onset of disability.
Working and Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance
Monday, January 19th
Can you work and still apply for SSDI?
Yes. So long as your gross earnings do not exceed the current substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. The level changes periodically and has been around $1,000.00 per month or $3,000.00 per quarter lately.
Often times an employer can reduce your work load and earnings due to your health problems and you can proceed with your claim. Always check with Social Security to confirm current SGA level.
Once approved you can consider the trial work period before making a final decision to leave the work force or not.
Be very careful not to exceed the current SGA level as doing so will result in an almost certain denial of your claim.
Report Worker's Compensation Claim to Employer's WC carrier ASAP
Monday, December 29th
Happy holidays from Dwebblaw.com. Looking forward to handling Social Security, Workers' Compensation and Long Term Disability Claims in 2015.
Always report your worker's compensation injury to your employer and make sure the claim is forwarded to your employer's worker's compensation insurance carrier immediately.
I hear many stories involving an employer and employee who decide to ignore the worker's comp carrier and handle the claim with the employer continuing to pay the employee's lost wages and health insurance paying the medical bills. This does not end well. Usually, the employer does not realize the expenses involved and gets tired of paying before the claim is fully paid.
At the same time, the employee gets cut off at the worst time imaginable and never gets fully compensated.
Lastly, the worker's compensation insurance carrier is not happy to get late notice of the claim and may deny on that basis.
Worker's Comp cases are essentially insurance claims, and with all insurance claims it is essential to provide early notice to the insurance company you want to pay the claim.
Don't let your employer talk you into bypassing their worker's compensation insurance carrier.
Good luck in 2015!
Loss of a former friend/client
Wednesday, December 17th
Recently my old friend/client was murdered. I met him in junior high school. Much later, in the mid 2000s I successfully represented him in two unrelated legal matters.
I was always proud of our success, and I liked my friend/client a great deal. He was a very unique person, and I am sure I will never meet another person anything like him.
His death opened my eyes, once again, to the ever present violence and desperation that exists in our society. What can we do to stop the increase of violence and hatefulness? I wish I knew.
I will greatly miss my friend, and in his honor and memory I hope to make our world a friendlier place.
Suggestions for managing wait time in Social Security claim
Monday, December 8th
Unless your claim is approved initially or at the reconsideration level, getting your Social Security claim through the system may take longer than you are prepared to wait.
Here are a couple of thoughts for people with chronic health problems who sooner or later will be unable to continue working.
First, work as long as possible. If you can make it to 50 years old your claim will be easier to get approved, and you may have a larger monthly benefit.
Second, talk to your employer about reducing your work load to a point where you are earning under the substantial gainful employment (SGA) level. If you are earning less than SGA you may be able to proceed with your claim and still work part time while you wait for your hearing.
Hire Local Attorney for Social Security
Monday, December 1st
As an advocate for Social Security claimants in Little Rock I have noticed a recent development that alarms me. Recently, a new client indicated that he had provided information on the internet thinking he was dealing exclusively with the Social Security Administration. Instead it turned out that he had hired an out of state firm to handle his claim. He was baffled and unsure how all this had happened, and I felt badly for him.
When filing a claim online people should be careful and know exactly who they are providing information to. The Social Security Administration is run by the United States government and generally government websites end with a .gov. I suggest dealing with the government directly unless your claim is denied.
If denied, I suggest hiring a local attorney who is licensed and practices in the area where your claim is pending. You can visit personally with your local attorney to prepare your case in a face to face environment. I would feel more comfortable meeting my attorney and knowing exactly where he or she works and how to reach them efficiently to provide new evidence and updates on my case.