FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES - Disability Attorneys

 

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DISABILITY ATTORNEYS Disability Attorneys

66% of the people we surveyed with FM and/or CFS/ME receive disability payments. Most of these people needed help from attorneys to win their case. This section is devoted to information and resources about disability attorneys.


Choosing A Good Disability Attorney

If you've got FM and/or CFS/ME chances are you're going to think about applying for Social Security Disability at some point in time. Applying for disability is a long, often frustrating experience. However, having a lawyer who specializes in Social Security, disability law or FM/CFS/ME will make this process much easier! Here are some qualities good lawyers should have:


Integrity

Many lawyers will offer you a free half hour consultation, during this time you will be able to give the lawyer a brief insight into your particular problem. Once presented with the facts a good lawyer will always tell you up front what they think your chances of winning the case are.


Background History

You should feel comfortable in the lawyer's presence. A good honest lawyer will have nothing to hide when it comes to asking about previous cases that they have won or lost. Obviously they may not be able to go into great detail but they should be able to give you an idea of how many cases they have succeeded in winning and if any of those cases were similar to yours.


Special knowledge

A good lawyer will be knowledgeable about the area of law in which they practice. If you're attempting to get SSD or SSI you'll want an attorney who specializes in social security or disability law. They will have expertise explaining your disabilities in terms of work limitations. Disability law is a specialty and therefore you are better off with a lawyer who just specializes in disability law as they will have more experience and knowledge.


Thoroughness

A good lawyer must be able to listen to you with an open mind, to understand the changes you have suffered since your disability. A good lawyer will look for what has motivated you throughout your career, and what barriers you now face. It is this attention to detail that helps make a convincing case for court.


Good judgment

Because the practice of law involves real people interacting with often complex legal principles, good lawyers must exercise good judgment. This involves being able to see the big picture. A good lawyer will ask whether all of the pieces really fit together to make a single cohesive whole. Chasing after weak claims can sometimes weaken a strong claim. So a good lawyer must decide what claims are credible and what claims are not. Then they must work with you to build a case which can stand up to serious scrutiny.


Trial skill

A good lawyer must be willing to take a case all the way through a trial and have a good track record in court. Although few cases may actually go to trial, the quality of a settlement often depends on the defense team's assessment of how well the lawyer might do in court.

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Interviewing The Attorney

Once you've chosen a few attorneys to work with you'll want to interview them to be certain they are right for your needs. With a face to face meeting you'll quickly see whether the lawyer knows how to listen, gets to the heart of issues, answers your questions honestly and clearly, and understands your personal needs. Ask a lot of questions up front so you're not left wondering later. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How long have you been practicing social security disability and/or ssi disability law?

  • How much training do you get each year. (Those who focus their practice on Social Security cases usually join the National Organization of Social Security Representatives and attend at least one or more seminars sponsored by NOSSCR each year. Lawyers are required by their ethical rules to continue to get more training and stay up to date on the law.)

  • Will you help me to complete all the forms that I must file to pursue my claim? (You want an attorney who will be there for you every step of the way.)

  • Will you get my file in advance of the hearing and go over the evidence before the hearing date? (Going into the hearing and reading over the file just thirty minutes before the hearing is a sign of weak preparation.)

  • Will you prepare a written statement about the evidence and use that to persuade the judge at my hearing to find I am disabled? (This is a sign of a representative who puts out additional effort for your case.)

  • Will you meet with me several days before the hearing to discuss what I should expect at the hearing? (If not, you are going to that hearing less well prepared.)

  • Will you take my appeal all the way to federal court? If not, why not? If the attorney is not licensed to do this, will you be given a referral to someone who is able to do that appeal?

  • What percentage of your clients are from referrals? (If they have a high referral rate then you know that he/she has done a good job for many people in the past.)

  • What fees will you charge for my case? (You only pay the attorney a fee if you win your case. You do not pay an attorney up front. Generally, every disability attorney will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not pay an attorney's fee unless you win your case, but always ask them in your interview!)

  • How long does it typically take to get to a hearing date scheduled?

  • What contact do you normally have with your clients over the course of the disability process?

  • How will you report to me on the progress of my case?

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FAQ's About Disability Attorneys

What does P.C. After an Attorney's Name Stand For?

ANSWER: These initials indicate the person has incorporated their practice. State laws dictate the indicator that must be part of the corporate name - PC for Professional Corporation, PA for Professional Association, and PLLC for Professional Limited Liability Companies.

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Do I Need A Disability Attorney?

ANSWER: The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn't require you to have an attorney, you can represent yourself. Professional representation is a valuable service. The disability determination process is complex. Claimants without professional representation appear to be far less likely to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. For example, in 2000, 64% of claimants represented by an attorney were awarded benefits at the hearing level. However, only 40% of those without representation were awarded benefits at the hearing level.

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Do I Have to Pay The Attorney's Fee?

ANSWER: You're probably wondering, "How can I afford an attorney when I am not working?" The answer is simple, you only pay the attorney a fee if you win your case. You do not pay an attorney up front. Generally, every disability attorney will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not pay an attorney's fee unless you win your case. Thus, everyone seeking disability benefits can afford an attorney. The question you should be asking yourself is "can I afford not to be represented by an attorney?"

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Are Attorney Fees Regulated?

ANSWER: The SSA and federal law set the attorney's fees in disability cases. The standard fee agreement most attorneys use states the attorney's fee is contingent upon winning your case. The fee is 25% of all past due benefits for you and your family, up to a maximum of $5,300, or whichever is less. Some attorneys may use a fee agreement which provides for a maximum fee of $7,000.

The attorney's fees are usually only a fraction of the benefits you receive; depending on the amount of your past due benefits, it can be a very small fraction.

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What Is My Case Worth If I Win?

ANSWER: The answer to this question depends on a number of factors including, how long you have been disabled, when or if you will ever return to work, the amount of your monthly benefit and whether you have eligible dependents.

For example, if you are 45 years old, your monthly benefit amount is $1,000, and you do not return to work before age 65; your case can easily be worth $250,000! This amount does not include the value of the Medicare or Medicaid insurance you will be eligible for after being found disabled. As many of you know, the price of medical insurance in middle age, with pre-existing medical conditions, can be staggering and not affordable. This of course assumes that an insurance company is willing to insure you.

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Does Hiring A Disability Attorney Increase My Odds of Winning?

ANSWER: There are many reasons hiring an attorney can significantly increase the odds of winning your case. One significant reason is that disability attorneys understand the complicated laws and regulations that determine success or failure.

They know what you need to prove in order to win your case, and they know how to go about proving it. Hiring an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law is extremely important because they have the expertise in representing people with your type of diagnosis. It is also important that your attorney believes in your case and that they can win it. I suggest you ask the attorney how much experience they have with your type of diagnosis and how often do they win? Any disability attorney should be willing to provide you with this information.

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How Soon Should I Hire An Attorney?

ANSWER: From the beginning, the attorney should set forth a strategy that you both of you should follow to win your case. It is critical to understand what is necessary to prove your case and how you will go about winning it. The sooner you know this, the sooner you can take steps to execute the strategy and thereby increase your odds of winning. Thus, you should consult with and hire an attorney either when you file your claim oras soon thereafter as possible.

I encourage you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to help you understand the process. The consultation should not cost you anything except your time. By understanding the process and having a strategy, you will significantly increase your odds of winning your case.

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Is There A Right Way To Fill Out The SSA Forms?

ANSWER: Judges don't usually approve your case based on what you say on the forms. However, they often use what is said in the forms to support a denial of your claim. This is because if the SSA or a judge is going to approve your claim, they will base it on more compelling objective evidence such as medical records and/or treating physicians' opinions regarding your inability to work.

Here are a few tips when completing the SSA's forms that should significantly reduce the likelihood of making a serious mistake that comes back to bite you in the you-know-what!

  • Limit your answers to the space that has been provided and do not write in the margins or attach additional sheets of paper.

  • Answer all questions as if you're having a bad day. Simply put, if you were back working on a sustained basis, most likely every day would be a bad day.

  • You should mention all the diagnoses that have even a small impact on your inability to work. Use 5% of the allotted space to reference diagnoses and 95% to discuss the frequency, severity and duration of your symptoms and limitations. Explain how they limit not only your ability to work but also your ability to function on a daily basis.

  • Completely resist the urge to be the perfectionist you are! Before you became ill you were probably an organized perfectionist who was incredibly productive. Everything in your life had its place; I know it kills you it is not that way now. However, this is not the time to be a compulsive, organized perfectionist!

    One of the hallmarks of your inability to work is your concentration problems, memory impairment and brain fog. Your life is now an unorganized mess. The SSA needs to see the real you and not a top notch administrative assistant who is articulate and possesses phenomenal organizational and typing skills. Do not typewrite your answers. Always handwrite them even if your answers become illegible. The clarity of your handwriting and the way you answer the questions tells a lot about the severity of your concentration and memory problems.

    I remember it took me several days to complete my SSA forms. Your goal should be to have your answers look like it took you days. In fact, if it did take you days, make sure you tell the SSA that somewhere on the form.


  • Although the primary reason you are unable to work may be due to a physical diagnosis, don't overlook the psychological issues that often arise after years of dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. You want to win your case anyway you can, whether it is due to physical or psychological problems, or quite frequently, a combination of both.

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