Most workers are required to contribute to Social Security and Medicare
from their paycheck. This payroll deduction is often met with typical
disgruntlement or indifference. It only when a worker becomes disabled
due to an accident or illness and becomes unable to work that the
importance of paying into the system is realized.
Unfortunately, disabled people often are confronted by a complicated and uncaring government bureaucracy which provides little assistance or information by which to understand the claims process. Claimants become very frustrated by the poor assistance received from Social Security Administration personnel. If you have become disabled and have not filed a claim, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to receive information from your local district office and information concerning making a claim. If you are unable to travel, a claim can be made over the phone. For persons with Internet access, you may wish to log on to www.ssa.gov obtain initial information. As you will discover, these government resources are quite limited. In order to obtain better assistance, you may wish to consult with counsel from the beginning. Legal assistance will always help a Claimant to a better understanding of the claims process and with gathering the necessary documentation by which to prove a claim for disability benefits.
The claims process proceeds in several steps.
Many times, claim files will be incomplete due to missing medical and employment information or absent/incomplete forms. Claimants are often disturbed to learn that the Social Security Administration employs physicians who "review" files and make findings of nondisability without ever examining the Claimant (or, for that matter, ever treating patients for illnesses). In other cases, outside doctors are hired by Social Security to perform examinations. These examinations tend to be very short in duration and involve little or no testing. Even more disturbing is the chronic failure of the Social Security Administration to secure the necessary medical records documenting the treatment of a Claimant by which to conduct any meaningful claims review. Due to this poor and inefficient system of claims review, it is absolutely essential for the Claimant to submit documentation to the claim file. The assistance of a skilled lawyer cannot be underestimated in the case file development process.
Disability decisions by the Social Security Administration are based on a complicated scheme of government statutes comprising the Social Security Code which is supplemented by numerous Social Security Rulings and an extensive body of case law developed over many years. Knowledge of these volumes of codes, rulings and cases are what separate a skilled attorney from other practitioners who merely say that the engage in Social Security Disability representation. An easy way to verify a counsel's experience is to request information concerning the practitioner's record in federal court. This can also be verified easily by conducting a Lexis or Westlaw search under the attorney's name. Federal practice requires a practitioner to be familiar with the emerging case law and recent changes in Social Security statutes and rulings, all of which change with surprising frequency. The skill of your advocate is essential given the importance of receiving disability benefits becomes a Claimant's sole source of income due to disability.