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  • Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Benefits

    Do I need an attorney to represent me in a Social Security disability claim?

    Not necessarily. Social Security rules state that disabled individuals can represent themselves. Representing yourself does come with risks. For example, if you choose to represent yourself, you may not be familiar with rules and laws surrounding the claim approval. Social Security rules allow non-attorney disability advocates to represent individuals. These advocates do not need to have a law degree or bar membership. They will not be able to represent you if the claim goes to federal court. Generally speaking, they will charge the same legal fees as an attorney, but do not offer the wide variety of services.

    At our law firm, you will be represented by a licensed, practicing attorney, either Dr. Joseph Brown or one of his associates. Dr. Brown utilizes his knowledge of the medical field and law practice to achieve positive outcomes for each individual.

    How much will it cost?

    Our firm does not charge legal fees until you receive your disability benefits. If you don’t receive anything, there is no legal fee. We typically charge the standard contingency fee of 25% of the retro or back-payments. The Social Security cap for legal fees is $6,000 in 2013 for claims decided at or before the hearing level.

    Why should I hire Dr. Brown instead of a disability advocate or another attorney?

    Dr. Brown is an experienced physician and an attorney. Knowledge about medical conditions is vital in medical disability claims, and you will benefit from Dr. Brown’s extensive training. Disability advocates do not have professional legal training from law school and are not members of the bar association, yet they charge the same legal fees as an attorney would even though they are limited in what they can provide for you.

    Dr. Brown will oversee your disability claim from start to finish with assistance from various members of his legal team. Most of your legal work will be completed by a licensed attorney, not a paralegal or secretary. If your case requires a hearing by a judge, our team will prepare thoroughly, sometimes weeks in advance and be in constant communication with you about the upcoming proceedings.

    How does Social Security disability procedure work?

    There are several steps in filing for social security disability:

    File an application for disability benefits over the phone, by mail, in person, or online. The Social Security Administration will conduct an application interview over the phone. They will ask you about your medical conditions, work history, current doctors and medications, and physical or mental limitations.

    It takes about three months for the SSA to make a determination. Most applications are disapproved. Dr. Brown can file an appeal. The SSA will take another look at your claim and make another determination.

    After reconsideration, Dr. Brown can ask for a hearing by a judge. The judge will listen to your testimony and review the medical records and assessments. Based on the evidence, the judge will make a decision. Wait times vary from state to state. You can wait anywhere from six months to two years or longer. If the judge rules unfavorably in your case, there are further levels of appeal available.

    How does Social Security determine if I am eligible for benefits?

    They use a five-step question process to decide if you are medically disabled:

    1. Have you engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA)? This is around $1,000 per month. If you have earned more than this, you are not medically disabled.
    2. Is your condition severe enough to interfere with work activities for more than one year?
    3. Does your condition meet or equal the severity of a medical listing?
    4. Can you do the work you performed previously?
    5. Can you do any other type of work?

    If your condition satisfies steps 1, 2, and 3, you may receive benefits. If not, the evaluation continues to steps 4 and 5, where Social Security must prove that you have the capacity to work at a prior job or learn a new job. If the claimant is approaching 65, it is more difficult to prove the disabled person can work.

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