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Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability

Can I hire an attorney to represent me in pursuing Social Security Disability benefits if I have not yet filed a claim?

Yes. At Coover & Associates, we can assist you in preparing your initial application for benefits. We will assist you in completing your application, gathering your medical records and other evidence that supports your right to receive benefits and communicating with the SSA about your case.

I filed an application on my own, but my application was denied? Does that mean I should give up trying to obtain benefits?

No. The majority of initial applications for SSD benefits are denied. If the SSA denies a claim for SSD benefits, they will send a denial letter to the applicant which will notify the applicant of their right to file an appeal of the denial and the applicant’s right to have a hearing on the denial before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An experienced SSD attorney assists an individual who has received a letter from the SSA denying their application in filing an appeal and preparing for the hearing. The paperwork that needs to be completed and submitted to the SSA can be complex and an applicant could jeopardize their chances of being approved if the paperwork is not completed properly.  An experienced attorney with Coover & Associates will maximize the applicant’s chances of being approved by helping to prepare the paperwork for the appeal, gathering the necessary medical records and other supporting evidence and preparing the applicant for the hearing. The SSD attorney represents their client at the hearing and ensures that the ALJ understands all of the reasons why the applicant should be determined to be entitled to receive SSD benefits. The SSD attorney and supporting staff assists the claimant every step of the way and makes sure that the applicant understands every step of the process.

How long does it take for the SSA to decide if I should be approved for benefits?

Every case is different, but it typically takes four to six months for the SSA to make a decision on a claimant’s initial application. It usually takes 12 to 14 months to have a hearing on an appeal of a denial of benefits.

I received a denial letter. How long do I have to file an appeal and do I need to have all of my medical records prior to filing an appeal?

An individual has 60 days (plus an additional five days that the SSA allows for mailing) for receipt of a timely appeal of a denial of Social Security Disability benefits. Any medical records or other supporting evidence that you have in support of your appeal can be submitted, but you do not need to have all of your medical records before filing an appeal. The SSA requires that any claimant filing an appeal sign a form allowing them to collect any medical records that they determine that they need in making a decision on the appellant’s claim. An experienced attorney with Coover & Associates can assist you in completing the necessary forms that the SSA requires so that they can obtain your medical records. Coover & Associates will also assist you in contacting your medical providers to obtain records that the claimant does not have and will submit the medical records to the SSA for you when they receive them.

What criteria do I need to meet to be determined to be eligible to receive SSD benefits?

First, an individual only qualifies if they have paid enough money into the SSA to be eligible to collect benefits. The SSA has a chart that they use based upon the applicant’s age to determine if an individual has paid insufficient wages to be eligible to receive SSD benefits. If an individual has not paid in wages to the SSA for at least five quarters over the last ten years, they can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (also known as SSI).

A qualified candidate for SSD benefits also has to be unable to engage in employment due to illness or injury for a period of at least one year.

Finally, the qualified candidate cannot be engaging in substantial gainful employment at the time that they apply for benefits.

I am currently working a few hours a week. Does that make me ineligible to receive SSD benefits?

Not necessarily. The SSA determines if an individual is engaged in what is called substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is the amount of money that an individual can make per month before the SSA determines that they are making too much to qualify them for receipt of SSD benefits. The current SGA levels are $1,130.00 per month for non-blind individuals and $1,820.00 per month for blind individuals.

How much money does hiring an SSD attorney cost?

There are no fees that need to be paid upfront to hire Coover & Associates to assist a client with their Social Security Disability case. If the SSA determines that a person is eligible for SSD benefits, the SSA will make a payment to the applicant of the amount of money that they are owed from the onset of their disability until the time they are awarded benefits. This amount is known as the applicant’s “past-due benefits.” If we are successful in assisting a claimant to secure SSD benefits, Coover & Associates would collect 25% of the past-due benefits that are paid by the SSA up to a cap of $6,000.00.  Additionally, Coover & Associates would seek reimbursement for any fees that we have paid to secure the medical records or other documentation to help win the case. The firm does not make any claim to ongoing or future payments received. In the event that the case is lost and the firm is not successful in securing SSD benefits for the claimant, Coover & Associates does not receive any payment for their services and are not reimbursed for fees they have paid for the case.

How much money will I receive per month for SSD benefits if I win my case?

That depends on how much money the claimant paid into SSA when they were working.  After the SSA approves an applicant for benefits, they will review the payments that have been made to SSA from the individual’s wages to determine what the applicant’s monthly benefit should be.

The letter that I received from the SSA that denied my application for SSD stated that I can file an appeal of the denial without having a hearing. Can I do that so that I can avoid having to go to a hearing?

A claimant has the right to decide not to go to a hearing, but attending the hearing is usually in the claimant’s best interest. At a hearing, the claimant gets to meet the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who is deciding whether the claimant should receive SSD benefits. The claimant gets the opportunity to explain to the ALJ about their condition and symptoms they are experiencing. This is their opportunity to state how the condition affects their ability to work or engage in other activities. At Coover & Associates, we understand that it is common to be nervous about attending a hearing on your case since you are not used to appearing before a judge. However, our attorneys have experience in attending these hearings and will help you prepare for the hearing and accompany the claimant to the hearing. An SSD attorney represents their client at the hearing and ensures that the ALJ understands all of the reasons why the applicant should be determined to be entitled to receive SSD benefits. The SSD attorney and supporting staff assists the claimant every step of the way and makes sure that the applicant understands every step of the process.

How can hiring Coover & Associates increase my chances of securing Social Security Disability benefits?

There are statistics available that show that applicants who hire attorneys to help them with the process of applying for and obtaining SSD benefits are usually more successful in obtaining benefits than people who attempt to represent themselves in the process. That is because there are several different forms that the SSA requires and the process can be complicated. Our staff is familiar with the forms and the process of obtaining medical records and will ensure that all records and evidence that supports the claim for benefits will be submitted. Our firm also has experience in communicating with the SSA about cases. We are familiar with the hearing process and will make sure that everything is properly prepared for the hearing and that the facts that support the applicant’s claim for SSD benefits are pointed out to the ALJ. We will be there with the claimant every step of the way from the time that we are hired to represent the applicant until the SSA makes a decision on their application for benefits. Email us or call us at 717-461-7789 for more information.