Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting Disability Benefits Quickly

When seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, you not only want to win your benefits, but you want to win them quickly. Attorneys usually get paid 25% of the past due benefits when working on SSD cases. Therefore, the faster your SSD application is approved, the smaller your attorney fee. It is best to retain an attorney who has experience litigating SSD cases in federal court as they generally have a better understanding of the entire approval process. On the other hand, you should be wary of companies who call themselves disability advocates, where attorneys may not even work on your case.

An insurance company attorney retained me after his SSD application was denied. His application was approved today without a hearing, even though a doctor from Industrial Medicine Associates (“IMA”) examined the claimant for Social Security, and said that the attorney could work. I was able to get the claimant’s application approved without a hearing by showing the evidence used to support the denial was unreliable, and by supplying reliable evidence that unambiguously supported disability.

The denial had been based on the IMA “orthopedic” consultative examination (“CE”) by Linell Skeene, who indicated the claimant has a sedentary work capacity. The claimant had orthopedic and pulmonary impairments. I notified the hearing office that Dr. Skeene is not an orthopedist, but in fact specializes in emergency medicine, and was unqualified to assess the claimant’s impairments. On the other hand, I provided the hearing office with disability opinions from the claimant’s orthopedist, pulmonologist, and physiatrist, each of which showed the claimant lacked a sedentary work capacity.

I have reviewed thousands of SSD claims prepared by non-attorney representatives, who were frequently satisfied with getting one treating physician’s opinion to support a claim. Having litigated SSD claims in federal court as well as at the administrative level, it is obvious that having multiple supporting opinions is not merely cumulative, or “gilding the lily.” The opinions corroborate one another and show that the CE’s opinion is the aberrant one that is inconsistent with the record as a whole. That is an example of the sort of thing that SSD attorneys understand, but many non-attorney disability advocates do not.

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