Why should I hire a Representative/Advocate?
Many people receive denials due to technicalities. We know the rules and can help minimize those type of denials. We can help maximize the amount of benefits you may receive because we have a thorough knowledge of the process. We maintain regular contact with Social Security to ensure your claim is moving along through the process. Social Security has limited time and staff; our office has staff dedicated to gathering the necessary evidence to prove you meet the criteria. Mountain West Disability deals solely with Social Security Disability claims, so we are very familiar with the rules and processes and would love to help you through this process.
Can you help me if I already have a claim filed?
YES! We can help even if you have already filed a claim for disability. Call our office today and we can assess your situation to determine what we can do.
I am not in Utah, can you still help me?
Our office serves clients predominately in the western United States, but we are capable of assisting with claims anywhere in the nation, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
How much do you charge?
Hiring an advocate requires no money out-of-pocket. Our fee is set by the Social Security Administration at 25% of any back pay that you are awarded, up to $6,000.00. We also include, FOR FREE, the cost of collecting all of your relevant medical records. Most other advocacy groups require you to reimbursement them for these costs, whether you are approved or not. These costs can be quite high, but our “Free Record Policy” allows you to keep more of your benefits in your pocket after you are approved.
How does your office get paid?
If your claim is approved, Social Security determines our fee and deducts it from your backpay before they release it to you. In most cases, you won’t need to worry about sending us money after you receive your backpay.
Do you handle Child’s Claims?
The rules surrounding Social Security claims for children are slightly different. We understand each case is unique, therefore there is no definitive yes or no answer. Please contact our office so we can obtain more information about your claim to determine if we can assist.
Why do I work with so many different people in your office?
Each phase of the Social Security process is different. We have trained experts in each phase of the process and so as your claim progresses, you work with a new expert. Our office works as a collaborative team designed to provide you with the best possible representation.
How can I find out the status of my claim?
Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a long process and it can take several months to receive a decision. During that time, or office corresponds with you regularly to ensure you are receiving any new information provided by Social Security. If you have hired us as your representatives, but haven’t received new information in the last several weeks, please contact our office to be connected to your case manager. We’d love to provide you with an update.
How can I speed up the process?
The easiest way to expedite your claim as much as possible is to provide Social Security with the information they ask for as fast as possible. Anytime they send you mail requesting information, reply immediately. Call our office if you have any questions regarding the information you receive from Social Security.
How long does it take to receive a decision?
Each stage of the process is different, and it can take a different amount of time to receive a decision depending on the stage your claim is in. Below are the average amounts of time that it takes to receive a decision:
Initial Decision (1st) – 4-6 months after the application is filed
Reconsideration (2nd) – 3-4 months after the appeal is filed
Decision from Hearing Judge – 2-4 months after the hearing takes place
Appeals Council – 18-24 months after the appeal is filed
If I go back to work, will it effect my claim? Can I work while applying for benefits?
As a rule, Social Security allows you to make up to $1130 gross per month, as long as you are working less than 20 hours per week, and still receive Social Security benefits. However, it is important to understand that any work activity has the potential to negatively impact your Social Security case. According to Social Security, if you can make over $1130 a month, you are not completely disabled, no matter what you may have physically or mentally wrong with you. If you make more than $1130 a month gross (before taxes are taken out) for more than six month, the Social Security Administration will deny you benefits. If you have made more than $1130 for six month or more, please let our office know immediately. Social Security gets all earnings and W2 information from the IRS to review your case. If you have worked they will know about it. Therefore, it is very important that you keep our office informed of all your work activity so that we can explain it to the judge.
Can I start working again after my claim is approved?
Any changes to your income and work activity legally have to be reported to Social Security. If you begin working after your claim has been approved this may result in a change to the amount of benefits you receive each month, and possible may result in total denial of on-going benefits.
Will my spouses income effect my claim?
There are two different types of Social Security benefits you can potentially qualify for. To technically qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits you must meet certain household income and asset criteria. If your household income is over the limits set by Social Security, it’s possible that you won’t qualify for that type of benefit regardless of your medical conditions.
How can my friends or family members help with my claim?
Having a great support system through this process is always helpful. Friends and family can help in several different ways. They can provide rides to and from doctor appointments or scheduled hearings. They can assist you with any daily activities you are unable to accomplish (cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc…). Friends and family that are very familiar with your daily struggles are encouraged to write us a letter describing what they have witnessed you go through so we can provide that statement to Social Security.
Why does Social Security send me so many duplicate documents I have already completed?
It’s critical that throughout this process Social Security has the most up-to-date information. They may send out the same document several times just to document any changes. Please complete everything Social Security sends you as soon as possible so that they can continue processing your claim.
What if I can’t find a ride to my Hearing or to my Social Security Exam?
If you do not attend a doctors appointment or hearing scheduled by Social Security, your claim may be delayed or denied. It is critical that you find a way to attend all of your scheduled appointments. Social Security notifies you several weeks in advance to any appointments they schedule, allowing plenty of time for your to arrange travel, baby-sitters, etc… Please contact friends, family, church leaders, or public transportation services to ensure that you will be able to attend all appointments.
Will Social Security reimburse me for travel?
If you have a hearing scheduled and are expected to travel more than 75 miles in one direction to the hearing, Social Security may reimburse you for travel. At the hearing you will need to request a travel reimbursement form. They will only reimburse you AFTER you have attend the hearing. Please note our office does not assist with these forms, and you will need to follow up with Social Security directly on any reimbursement requests.
Can I apply for food stamps or other assistance while applying?
Although our office doesn’t assist with applying for these type of benefits, you can apply for food stamps or other state assistance while applying for Social Security disability benefits. Please be aware while food stamps will not be considered income, some other types of benefits may affect your claim. Contact our office for more information about the type of benefit you are applying for.
Can I apply/receive unemployment while applying for Social Security disability benefits?
Ultimately the decision to apply for unemployment is up to you. However, it’s important to understand that when you apply for unemployment you are stating that you are physically capable of working and are actively looking for job. When you apply for Social Security disability benefits you are stating you are unable to work due to medical conditions. These are contradictory statements and can negatively impact each other. If you received unemployment during a period of time you are found disabled, some states require you to pay back the unemployment you received.
Do I need to get a copy of my medical records?
While Social Security will be sending out requests for your relevant medical records, we do encourage clients to obtain copies of their records if possible. This will not only provide us with a copy for review, but will also help ensure that Social Security receives everything necessary to properly review your claim.
Does your company pay for me to see doctors?
Unfortunately we cannot pay for your medical treatment. However, we can provide a list of free/low cost clinics in your area that may be able to help you. The strength of your claim is largely determined by medical records. Receiving regular medical treatment will provide Social Security with the most up-to-date information.
Can you help me apply for Medicaid?
Our office does not assist with applying for Medicaid. You will want to contact Department of Workforce Services to apply for these benefits. If requested, we can provide a letter that indicates you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits. This may help DWS make a decision regarding your eligibility.
What if I can’t afford medical treatment?
The strength of your claim is largely determined by medical records. Receiving regular medical treatment will provide Social Security with the most up-to-date information regarding your medical conditions. We understand that it’s difficult to receive treatment on a limited income. Try applying for assistance with the Department of Workforce Services, getting assistance from friends or family members, and trying free or low cost clinics through the United Way.
Do you think I have a good case?
Our office can evaluate the technical aspects of your claim at anytime throughout the process. However, the medical determination is made by Social Security. If your claim is elevated to the hearing level, we’ll be able to review the medical evidence Social Security has gathered and evaluate the strength of your claim at the time. If we have concerns about the strength of your claim we’ll discuss your options going forward.
How do I apply for Social Security Disability?
You can apply online or in person at the Social Security office. However, if you call our office we can obtain all the necessary information and file the application for you.
What is the Social Security Process?
1. Initial Application. Applying for disability benefits will start with the filing of an application. This can be done online or in person at your local Social Security office. Once the application is filed, it can take anywhere from 4-6 months for the Disability Determination office to make a decision. They will send you forms that you will need to fill out and you may be sent to their doctors for a short exam. Social Security will be responsible for requesting your medical records. If you are denied at the initial stage, we will file an appeal for you.
2. Reconsideration Application or Appeal. Within 60 days of receiving notice that the Initial Application was denied, another application or appeal, very similar to the first, is submitted. At this phase, you are asking the SSA to review your Initial Application. This will be done, according to the SSA, by someone other than the person who first reviewed it. After the appeal is filed, you are in the Reconsideration stage. This process can take anywhere from 3-4 months for the Disability Determination office to make a decision. They will send you forms that you need to fill out and you may be sent to their doctors for a short exam. Social Security will be responsible for requesting your medical records. If you are denied at the reconsideration stage, we will file an appeal for you.
3. Hearing in Front of a Judge. If you are denied at the Initial and Reconsideration level, then a Request for Hearing is filed. This is the longest stage of the process, but it is the best chance you have to win your Disability claim. Currently it can take anywhere from 12-18 months for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review to schedule your hearing. They may send you forms that you will need to fill out at this stage as well. Our office will begin collecting all of your relevant medical records and preparing your file for a hearing. You will have to attend a hearing, and one of our attorneys will be there to represent you. At the hearing, you will have a chance to present your case in person to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and we will have prepared for success by making sure all relevant medical records have been submitted, appropriate doctor opinion letters have been submitted, and witnesses in support of your case, if required, are present and available to provide testimony. After the hearing, it can take anywhere from 2-4 months to receive a written decision from the judge.
4. Appeals Counsel. If you lost your case at the hearing level, not all is lost. You can still appeal the case to the “Appeals Counsel.” This is a review board that will review the ALJ’s decision for correctness. The counsel might issue its own decision, send the case back to the ALJ for rehearing or allow the ALJ’s decision to stand.
What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?
This is a legal term used when determining your eligibility. If you are earning SGA it means that you have worked, or are working, over 20 hours per week or grossing over $1130 per month at the same job for at least 5 months. If you are earning SGA Social Security will determine you able physically capable of engaging in substantial gainful activity and will deny your claim for benefits.
How much will I receive if I am approved?
The amount of benefits you will receive is calculated by Social Security. They make this determination by considering several factors such as: The date you are found disabled, current monthly income, previous income, if any, and the date you filed for benefits.
How much back-pay will I receive if I am approved?
The amount of back-pay you will receive if approved is calculated by Social Security. They make this determination by considering several factors such as: The date you are found disabled, your monthly income for each month you spend waiting to be approved, and the date you filed for benefits.
No matter how far back you are found disabled the farthest back they will start calculating benefits is the date you filed for disability for SSI claims, and a year before the date you filed for disability for DIB claims.
What if I was disabled before, but now I am able to work? Can I still receive benefits?
If you were unable to work for a period of 12 months or more, but experienced medical improvement, it’s possible you will be eligible for a ‘closed period’ claim. This means you may receive benefits for the period of time you were unable to work, but you won’t be eligible for on-going, monthly benefits. Please contact our office for more information about this type of claim and whether it’s an options for you.
Should I contact Social Security directly to find out what is taking so long?
Although we will never stop you from calling Social Security directly. Often times, once you have a representative on file, Social Security will ask that you contact them for information about your case. Social Security receives a high volume of calls, and you can usually get the information you need faster by calling our office directly.
If I get approved, will I be eligible for any medical benefits?
The short answer is Yes. If you are approved for SSI benefits, you will qualify to receive Medicaid benefits through your state. If you are approved for DIB benefits, after a waiting period, you will be eligible for Medicare. Please note that if you are approved for DIB benefits, we can help you understand Medicare and look at plan options. Mountain West Disability has licensed insurance agents under the name of Kramer Insurance Services who can help you with your Medicare benefits once you have been approved.
What is a ‘Dire Needs’ request?
A dire needs request is something we can submit to Social Security in an attempt to expedite your claim. The criteria for these requests are very specific and not something every case will meet. Your case may be considered for a dire needs request if you are homeless, have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, are a veteran, or are unable to afford life sustaining care. We understand every case is unique and you may have more questions about this request. Please contact our office so we can evaluate your situation further.
If I live with a significant other, will it effect my benefits?
Social Security determines your eligibility for some benefits based on your household income and assets. If you are not legally married, but living with a significant other, Social Security will still consider you one household.