Q: Do I qualify for benefits?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. If we take your case, we believe in you, and we are putting in our time and money to represent you. The Social Security process is somewhat unpredictable, but we do win at significantly higher levels than are generally granted by the Social Security Administration. The standard for Social Security Disability is whether you can work eight hours a day, five days a week on a consistent basis at any job.

Q: Is it important to see a doctor?

A: Yes. Not only is it important to consistently go to a doctor and do what he or she suggests, but it is also important to see a specialist. For instance, if you have mental health issues, it is very important for you to see a psychiatrist and a therapist on a consistent basis. If you have diabetes problems, you should see an endocrinologist. If you have heart problems, you should see a cardiologist, etc. The judges give more credibility to specialists. Also, it is important that you see your doctor at least five times for him or her to be considered a treating doctor by the Social Security Administration. This is very critical because we will be asking your doctor for a statement to support your case, and it is given much greater weight if you have seen the doctor numerous times.

Q: How long does the process take?

A: At the initial application level, it normally takes three to five months. If we have to ask for a hearing, it takes 12 to 14 months unless you meet the criteria for an expedited hearing, which is that you have a terminal illness, you have received an eviction or foreclosure notice, or you have made a serious suicide attempt recently. We do everything possible to speed up the process, and we also will make on-the-record requests, which means we are asking the Social Security Administration to grant you benefits prior to a hearing. This is sometimes successful. If we have to go to the Appeals Council, it can take anywhere from six months to a year, and federal district court normally takes about a year. We will stick with you and make the process go as quickly as possible for you.

Q: Do I have to get my own medical records?

A: No. We will get your medical records and we will also pay for them, win or lose. All you need to do is tell us when you go to see a doctor, and if you go to the hospital or get tests, or if your medications change, we need to know.

Q: How much does this cost?

A: Under the Social Security Administration laws, our fee is limited to 25 percent of your back amount, which is normally your first check. There is a limit on the fee of $6,000 or 25 percent, whichever is less. That means that if you get $30,000 in back amount, we would get $6,000. If you get $10,000, we get $2,500. If you get $1,000, we get $250. If you get zero, we get zero. Sometimes, if your case is approved quickly at the initial application level, there is no back amount. In that case, there will be no charge to you whatsoever.

Q: If I lose my case, do I owe money?

A: No. We pay all the costs of getting the medical records and submitting them and doing anything else to present your case. Unlike other law firms in Central Pennsylvania, we do not charge you for this, whether we win or lose.

Q: Can I work part-time while I am seeking Social Security Disability benefits?

A: Because of financial necessity, you may need to work but can only work part-time. You can work and earn up to $1,020 a month gross, which means before taxes, and still apply for Social Security Disability benefits. It is important that you have your doctor explain that you are working part-time because this is the most that you can do and you are unable to maintain a full-time job.

Q: Is it all right to get unemployment compensation benefits and apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

A: The judges frown on you getting unemployment compensation benefits. However, under case law, they cannot deny your Social Security benefits because you have collected unemployment compensation benefits. You will need to explain why you told unemployment compensation that you could work and you are telling the Social Security Administrative Law Judge that you cannot work. This is an important matter to discuss with your attorney. Also, please note that if you are granted Social Security Disability benefits, it will not cover the period during which you received unemployment compensation benefits.

Q: I took early retirement at age 62 because I could no longer work. Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

A: Yes. As long as you are 65 or less, you may apply for Social Security Disability benefits either on your own or through our office. There is usually a several hundred dollar a month difference between early retirement, Social Security benefits and full Social Security Disability benefits. You can call the Social Security office to determine the difference and then give our office a call to discuss.

Q: If I get Social Security Disability benefits, will my children also get benefits?

A: If you have children living at home who are under 18 and who rely on you, then, yes, if you are granted Social Security Disability benefits, your children will also be given benefits. For SSI, this is not the case.

Q: What can I expect of my Social Security attorney?

A: We promise that we will return phone calls within 24 hours, that we will listen to your concerns and that we will follow up in whatever needs to be done, including getting all medical records and preparing you for hearing if necessary. We will also give you our best professional advice but let you make the decision, since you will be living with the consequences for the rest of your life. We will be proactive on your behalf and do everything possible to ensure that we have a successful outcome. We will always answer questions, and, above all, we will always put your interests first. We will use our experience, training and intelligence to ensure a positive outcome for you.