This letter attempts to answer some questions many people often have about their disability cases.
How long will it take for a determination to be issued?
It varies a lot. It usually takes anywhere from 1 to 6 months after the initial application for a decision to be made by SSA. If you are denied, we need to file a Request for Reconsideration. Again, it generally takes between 1 to 6 months after that appeal before we get a decision from SSA. If that appeal is denied, we need to file a Request for Hearing in order to get a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. It generally takes 18 months or more to get a hearing date once we have requested the hearing.
Do you think we have a chance of winning now?
I am always hopeful. However, less than 40 percent of people who apply are found disabled at the initial or reconsideration stages. Although this does not mean that I will not try to win your case at this level, do not be discouraged if we receive a denial notice. I agreed to represent you because I thought you had a good case. It may be necessary to go to a hearing to win your case. We are willing to do that.
What happens when I get a denial notice?
The first thing you need to do is make sure that I received a copy. It is necessary for you to do this because the Social Security Administration frequently fails to send me a copy of the determination. If I do not get a copy of the notice from Social Security, I won’t know that a decision has been made on your case unless you tell me. Therefore, please call me when you get the notice of determination in your case, so that we can be sure to file your appeal on time. In fact, please call me within 10 days after you receive any correspondence from SSA.
Do I need to get medical records or reports for my representative?
No. You don’t have to get any medical records or reports yourself. In fact, it’s better if you do not even try to get such things unless I ask you to.
But what if my doctor gives me a report?
If you happen to get something such as a disability form completed by your doctor for an insurance company, etc., be sure to send me a copy.
Should I send anything to the Social Security Administration?
No. As a rule, do not send anything of any substance to the Social Security Administration without my office seeing it first. The only exception to this rule is if SSA asks you to sign medical consent forms, you may sign them and send them directly back to SSA. I don’t need to see those. If you are not sure whether you should send something to SSA, please call my office so that we can help you take the correct action.
Will I have to fill out any additional forms?
Sometimes SSA will send you a form to complete about your daily activities, etc. Sometimes SSA asks you to complete other forms that ask about your symptoms. If you want to discuss a form with my office before completing it, please call, but here’s the advice I always give: Be truthful. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t minimize your problems either. Include plenty of details and examples that show your limitations, but don’t go on and on. Complete any form as soon as possible after you get it and send it to me. I’ll review it and forward it to SSA.
Do I need to give any other forms to Tree Law Office?
Yes. If you have not yet completed the Tree Law Office Disability Questionnaire, please fill that out and return it to us as soon as possible. This form is very detailed and will probably take some time to complete, but it is very helpful to us in better understanding your case and deciding what we need to prove in order to win your case.
In addition, it would be very helpful for our office to have a copy of your earnings report. Social Security is supposed to send everyone each year a form called “Your Social Security Statement.” This is a concise, easy-to-read personal record of the earnings on which you have paid Social Security taxes during your working years and a summary of the estimated benefits you and your family may receive as a result of those earnings. If you have a recent copy of “Your Social Security Statement,” please bring it in to us right away so that we can make a copy. If you do not have a copy, you can request this document from the local Social Security office at any time. If you need help making this request, we would be happy to assist you. Please bring us a copy of “Your Social Security Statement” as soon as you receive it from SSA.
Will SSA ask me to see one of their doctors?
Sometimes SSA will ask you to see a private doctor who is paid by SSA for what they call a “consultative examination.” However, the quality of such examinations varies widely. SSA’s rules state that your own doctor can perform such an examination if your doctor is able to do it and agrees to accept the payment offered by SSA. If SSA wants to send you for a consultative examination, we may ask that your own doctor do this exam. If you get a notice to go to a consultative examination, please call us to make sure we received a copy of the notice.
What will Tree Law Office do to represent me?
We will review your case. We will figure out what we need to prove to win your case and figure out how to prove it. We will make sure that the Social Security Administration gets the necessary medical records and other records. We will obtain reports from your doctors, if necessary. Before the hearing, one of our attorneys will review your exhibit file and will meet with you a week or so before your hearing to get you prepared to testify. That attorney will also talk with any witnesses from whom we may want to present testimony at your hearing.
Should I call Tree Law Office whenever I see a doctor?
No. It is not necessary to telephone me to tell me about routine medical care. But keep track of the dates of all medical treatment from now on. I will gather this information from you when we request your hearing. My staff or I may periodically request updated medical information from you.
Under what circumstances do I need to call Tree Law Office?
If one of the following things happens, please call my office immediately:
* There is a dramatic change in your condition – for the worse or the better.
* Your doctor gives you a new diagnosis of your medical condition.
* You start seeing a new doctor.
* You are hospitalized.
* You go back to work.
* You change your address and/or telephone.
* Someone from SSA contacts you.
* You get a notice asking you to attend a consultative examination.
* You get a letter from SSA that you don’t understand.
* You get a notice from SSA telling you that you are or are not disabled.
Additionally, if at any time you have a question about your case, please feel free to call my office. My staff is well trained and can answer the vast majority of the questions that you may have. If there is ever anything the staff is unable to help you resolve, they will notify one of the attorneys.
Thank you for trusting us to represent you on your claim. We look forward to working with you on this case.
Very truly yours,
D. James Tree