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How Much Does a Social Security Disability Advocate Cost?

Many people apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on their own, thinking that the cost of working with a Social Security Disability advocate is out of their reach.

The truth is, most advocates – including those at Mountain West Disability – don’t charge upfront fees or ask for a retainer. Advocates work on a contingency basis, which means they only earn a fee if they win an SSD claim. As a result, you can count on an advocate to make a great effort to ensure your case ends with an approval.

For more on how – and how much — a Social Security Disability advocate gets paid, read the information below.

Social Security disability lawyer vs. advocate

The Contingency Fee

When you initially hire an advocate to help with your SSI or DIB case, you sign a contingency fee agreement. This allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide a payment upon claim approval.

The fee agreement will go through a review process by the SSA to ensure it meets the necessary guidelines. Your advocate will only receive the amount they are entitled to, which is limited to 25 percent of your past-due benefits and cannot exceed $6,000.

The Payment Arrangement

You don’t have to worry about paying your advocate after your disability claim is approved. This happens automatically, and the funds come from the past-due benefits you are awarded.

Before your first backpay check is issued, the SSA will take out the entire advocate fee. The payment can be up to $6,000, but quite often the amount falls below the cap.

If you aren’t awarded any back-dated disability benefits, your advocate will not receive a fee. In this situation, however, they can petition the SSA to request a reasonable fee for the services they have provided.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

While you won’t have to pay any upfront Social Security Disability advocate fees, you may have to shoulder a few expenses as your disability claim proceeds.

Most attorneys and advocacy groups charge a fee to obtain your medical records. Mountain West Disability, however, covers this cost with no expectation of repayment. To get approved for SSI or DIB, you may need to schedule additional physical or psychological examinations, and these costs would be your responsibility as they are separate from the advocate fee. In addition, you may have photocopying and postage charges. The out-of-pocket costs are not excessive, and these are expenses you would have if you applied for SSI or DIB without the assistance of an advocate.

When you work with an experienced Social Security Disability advocate, like the team at Mountain West Disability, you increase your chance of getting approved for benefits. Based in northern Utah, we’ve been helping disabled individuals across the country for several years – and we always fight to get our clients every dollar they deserve.

For more information about Mountain West Disability, or to consult with one of our friendly and knowledgeable Social Security Disability advocates, contact us today.

Social Security Disability Appeals: The Disability Hearing

The Social Security Disability appeals process begins with a reconsideration, which is a complete review of your claim by examiners who were not involved with initial decision. If that fails, the next step is a disability hearing with an administrative law judge.

Hearings are not open to the public, and the judge may appear in person or via video conference. Most take place in an office or small meeting room, and disability hearings usually last no longer than an hour.

As this level of Social Security Disability appeal is a legal proceeding, consulting with experienced advocate is a smart way to prepare. After all, what happens at the hearing will depend upon the complexity of your claim. But for a general idea of what to expect, read on.
Appealing a social security disability denial

The Judge Will Ask Questions

After introducing your case and explaining the issues involved, the judge will ask you about your medical condition, how it limits your ability to work and how your health impacts your life. You may also be asked to clarify your past employment responsibilities and your educational background.

Provide honest, thorough answers – and keep in mind, the judge is simply trying to get all of the relevant facts, not trying to prove you have no disability.

The Judge May Question Witnesses

The Social Security Administration may ask a neutral expert witness, such as a medical professional or vocational expert, to attend your disability hearing.

If any expert witnesses are present at your hearing, the judge may ask them for details regarding your work abilities and any jobs you may be able to perform, despite your medical issues.

Your Representative May Speak on Your Behalf

Following the judge’s questioning, your legal representative will typically have a chance to ask questions of you and any expert witnesses present.

If your representative plans to ask you any questions during the disability hearing, you should know ahead of time. You will go over everything together before the proceeding, as that allows you to prepare clear, specific answers that effectively support your claim. You may, however, be asked additional questions by the judge.

You Will Not Receive a Decision at the Disability Hearing

Occasionally, a judge may issue a bench decision at a hearing, telling the claimant whether they will be approving or denying the Social Security Disability appeal. But this does not happen very often. In most cases, the decision comes by mail several weeks later.

If your disability hearing does not result in an approval for benefits, all is not lost. You can request a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can decide your case or return it to an administrative law judge for a second hearing.

Do you have questions about fighting a disability denial? Turn to highly experienced advocates at Mountain West Disability. Based in northern Utah, we work with clients across the country – and we only collect a fee the approval of your claim.

For more information about the Social Security Disability appeals process and expert help preparing for your disability hearing, contact us today.

Can You Get Social Security Disability for a Mental Illness?

If you suffer from a mental illness and the condition affects your ability to work, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Mental disorders and illnesses can be seriously debilitating, and the Social Security Administration recognizes the potential for these conditions to cause long-term disability. However, as these types of claims can be a challenge to win, working with a disability claim advocate may be in your best interests. In the meantime, learning more about how the SSA considers mental disability claims may help.

SSDI for mental illness

Meeting the Criteria for Social Security Disability

 In order to meet the SSA qualifications for a mental disability claim, your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor. In addition, your mental disorder must:

  • Prevent you from performing any work for which you are qualified
  • Render you unable to complete training for another type of work position
  • Be expected to affect your ability to work for at least 12 months

Mental Illnesses that May Qualify for Disability Benefits

The SSA considers mental disability claims for a range of disorders. If you suffer from any of the following mental illnesses, you may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB):

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Mental retardation
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

This list is not complete, as the SSA approves claims for other types of mental illnesses. If your condition makes it impossible to perform gainful work, you may be able to get disability benefits.

Proving Your Mental Illness Causes Functional Limitations

Winning a mental disability claim can be an uphill battle without the support of a psychiatrist or psychologist, and experienced advocates recommend getting a detailed report from your doctor regarding your limitations and how they affect your ability to work.

In addition, to prove your claim, you will need to provide medical records from every provider involved in your care. Any records from past hospitalizations or emergency room visits related to your mental illness can also be beneficial. And, if your disorder requires you to take any prescription medication, you may want to submit pharmacy records.

Subjective evidence can also play a role in your Social Security Disability claim. You can provide the SSA with a detailed account of how your mental illness affects your daily life and your ability to earn an income. Make sure you speak honestly with your health care providers as well, as that way your medical records will reflect the information you provide in your personal account.

No one can guarantee the SSA will approve your claim, but working with an experienced advocate can increase your odds. If you are ready to apply for Social Security Disability, turn to the team of professionals at Mountain West Disability.

Our disability claim advocates have extensive experience helping people get the benefits they need. And, Mountain West Disability will only collect a fee if the Social Security Administration approves your application.

To learn more about our advocate services, or to schedule a consultation to discuss applying for Social Security Disability on the basis of a mental illness, contact our Murray, Utah, office today.

Social Security Disability Application Tips

If you are disabled and cannot work, you may be thinking about filling out a Social Security disability application. Approval for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) could put you on better financial footing and allow you to get the medical care you need.

But how do you go about applying? For a look at your options and expert tips on how to increase your chance of getting approved for disability benefits, read on. 

Tips for getting disability claim approval

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

You can apply for SSI or DIB in person at your local Social Security office or, if you prefer, you can schedule a phone interview.

The Social Security disability application can also be completed online. However, this option may be off the table if you are applying for SSI benefits.

Another way to apply is to work with a disability advocate – like the team at Mountain West Disability. An advocate can complete the necessary paperwork, saving you time and saving you the frustration of making sure the application is filled out properly.  

What You Need to Fill Out the Disability Application

To complete your Social Security disability application, you will need easy access to certain information. Before you start, gather the following:

  • Names, phone numbers and addresses of the doctors, hospitals and clinics that have provided you with medical treatment
  • Names and dosages of every medication you currently take
  • Names and dates of birth of your spouse and minor children, if any
  • Names and addresses of recent and current employers
  • Your most recent W-2 or a copy of your federal income tax return
  • Medical and laboratory test results already in your possession
  • The date your disability began to interfere with your ability to work

Tips to Increase Your Odds of Approval

No one can guarantee that your initial Social Security disability application will be approved, but taking appropriate care in answering the questions can boost the likelihood of success.

When filling out the disability application paperwork, make sure to:

  • Provide complete, thorough answers that offer as much detail as possible
  • List every condition that limits your ability to work, including mental health struggles
  • Avoid downplaying or exaggerating the severity of your symptoms
  • Explain how your symptoms and limitations affect your day-to-day activities
  • Never leave any answers blank; instead write “does not apply” or “do not know”

If you are worried about completing the disability application properly, seek out expert help from a professional advocate. Here at Mountain West Disability, you can get assistance with no upfront cost – we take our fee, which is set by the Social Security Administration, out of the back pay you are awarded. We only get paid if you do, so you can count on our team to help you achieve success with your SSI or DIB claim.

Mountain West Disability, located in northern Utah, has been helping people across the country for several years. Contact us and schedule a free consultation to discuss your Social Security disability application today.

Social Security Disability: A Glossary of Common Terms

The process of applying for Social Security disability can be confusing, as can many of the terms used. And, while a simple Google search is enough to decode the meaning of some terms, others are not as easy to understand.

To help you decipher the language the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses during the disability process, here are clear and simple explanations for several common terms.
How to file a disability claim

Award Letter

If the SSA approves your application for Social Security disability, you will receive an award letter. This official document contains the amount of your monthly disability payments and the total of any back pay to which you are entitled. If your case is not approved, you will receive a denial letter instead.

Back Pay

Back pay is a term used to describe past due benefits, or money you would have received if the SSA had approved your claim immediately. The amount of your back pay depends upon the date you file your application, your disability onset date and whether you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).

Consultative Exam

If the medical evidence you provide is insufficient for the SSA to make a determination on your disability, you may be sent for a consultative exam. This is a medical assessment performed by your doctor or another qualified professional and paid for by the Social Security Administration.

Dependent Benefits

If you are eligible for disability, your dependents may also receive benefits. Minor, unmarried children and children who are under 19 and full-time students may qualify for payments. Your spouse, ex-spouse or dependent grandchild may also be entitled to benefits.

Onset Date

The onset date refers to the date you became disabled and eligible for benefits. This date, which is only official after verification and approval from the SSA, determines if and how much back pay you can receive.

Substantial Gainful Activity

In order to be eligible for disability benefits, you must be unable to perform what the SSA refers to as substantial gainful activity (SGA). In other words, you can only work and earn a minimal amount of money. In 2019, the SGA limit is $2,040 for blind applicants and $1,220 for non-blind individuals.

Do you need an explanation for other Social Security disability terms? Or are you ready to apply for Supplemental Security Income or Disability Insurance Benefits? For free answers and advice from an expert, call on the team of highly-experienced advocates at Mountain West Disability.

After working with clients across the country for several years, the legal professionals and case managers at Mountain West Disability understand process of applying for SSI and DIB, and we can assist with every aspect of your claim. Contact our northern Utah office and schedule a free consultation to discuss Social Security disability today.

Timeline for the Social Security Disability Claims Process

Getting through the Social Security disability claims process can be a frustrating endeavor, particularly if you don’t know what to expect.

The steps to applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) are the same. However, not everyone ends up taking every step, as approval can come at any point. Below, the professionals at Mountain West Disability break down the timeline for the Social Security disability claims process to clear up the uncertainty about what happens when you apply for benefits.

How long does it take to get disability insurance

Initial Application

The first step to applying for SSI or SSDI is to file an application with the Social Security Administration. A Disability Determination Service (DDS) reviewer will evaluate your case and return a decision within about 3 to 6 months.

Reconsideration

In the event the DDS denies your application, you will have 60 days to request reconsideration. A second reviewer will then look at your application, typically within 3 to 4 months of your request.

Administrative Law Judge

If your disability claim is not approved during the reconsideration stage, you will have 60 days to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. You can expect to wait 18 to 24 months for the hearing, and another 45 to 90 days for a decision.

Appeals Council

If the judge does not approve your disability claim, you will have 60 days to request a review from the Appeals Council. Getting a decision at this stage generally takes 15 to 18 months.

Federal District Court

If you receive a denial from the Appeals Council, you will have 60 days to file a federal lawsuit challenging the decision. The Federal District Court can approve or deny your claim, or they may send it back for further review. In any event, the wait time for a determination is at least 2 years.

Receiving Benefits

If your claim is approved and you are awarded benefits at any step of the process, the time it will take to start receiving checks will be relatively short. Most people learn the amount they will receive and get their initial benefits within 4 to 6 weeks.

Completing the Process

Are you interested in applying for SSI or SSDI? Working with a qualified professional can increase your chances of obtaining benefits from the Social Security Administration.

If you want expert help with the Social Security Disability claims process, the professionals at Mountain West Disability are the team to trust. Based in northern Utah, we’ve been working with clients across the country for several years – and we only collect a fee if your claim is approved.

For more information about Mountain West Disability, or to begin the Social Security disability claims process, contact us today.

SSI vs. DIB – Understanding Benefit Amounts

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two programs for disabled individuals in need of financial assistance: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).

Both SSI and DBI provide cash benefits to people who are unable to work, but the amounts are not the same. But how much will you actually receive if the SSA approves your disability claim?

SSI and DIB benefit amounts for 2019

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based program for designed to help low-income individuals who cannot work due to disability.

Those who are approved for SSI receive the federal benefit rate, which changes when the cost of living increases. For 2019, the maximum monthly payment amount is $771 for a single person and $1,157 for a disabled individual with an eligible spouse.

When Supplemental Security Income benefits are awarded, so are Medicaid benefits in most states. So, in addition to cash assistance, SSI usually comes with immediate Medicaid health coverage.

Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)

Also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), DIB is designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who have paid sufficient Social Security taxes from previous work.

With Disability Insurance Benefits, the amount an individual receives varies, as it is based upon past earnings. In 2019, the average monthly cash payment is $1,234, while the maximum cash benefit for those approved for DIB is $2,861.

When DIB is awarded, other members of the individual’s family may be eligible for benefits. On average, a disabled individual who is married and has one or more children receives $2,130 per month.

Those who qualify for DIB receive Medicare benefits two years after they begin receiving disability benefits. For claims that take a long time, Medicare coverage starts two years from the date the DIB benefits should have started.

Can You Receive SSI and DIB Benefits?

Some individuals may receive concurrent benefits or cash assistance through both the Supplemental Security Insurance and Disability Insurance Benefits programs. This occurs when a disabled person’s past earnings qualify them for a DIB payment that is lower than the federal benefit rate.

So, in 2019, those who are approved for DIB of less than $771, Supplemental Security Income makes up the difference. When applying for disability, it is not necessary to request assistance through both programs, as consideration for concurrent benefits is an automatic part of the Social Security Disability process.

Do you qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Disability Insurance Benefits? Are you ready to apply? For expert help with no upfront cost, turn to Mountain West Disability.

Based in Murray, Utah, Mountain West Disability has a team of highly experienced Social Security Disability advocates who can handle every aspect of your claim. Our qualified legal professionals and case managers provide a full range of services, and we only collect a fee – set by the Social Security Administration — upon the approval of your disability claim.

For a free evaluation and answers to your questions about Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits, contact Mountain West Disability today.

Understanding Social Security Disability Dire Needs Requests

The pace at which Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are processed and reviewed is notoriously slow. And, when you’re unable to work or earn a living because of a disability, this can place you in a perilous financial situation.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does, under certain circumstances, agree to expedite a portion of the process. To request consideration, you must submit a dire needs request.

Although this approach does not work in every case, it can be invaluable to help speed up the process if you are facing one of the situations the SSA considers to be a dire need.

Social Security disability dire needs requests

What Are SSDI Dire Needs Requests?

A dire needs request, sometimes called a dire need letter or DNL, are a method of requesting an expedited hearing in your SSDI claim.

Providing full detail is imperative for getting the SSA to consider your request.

To make a request, you must follow the required format and provide clear proof of the dire circumstances involved. The SSA will not approve your request without first verifying the details and severity of your situation.

What Circumstances Qualify as Dire Needs?

The most common reason that DNLs get approved is the imminent threat of homelessness. In other words, you are facing eviction from your rental property or foreclosure from a home you own.

You may be granted an expedited hearing in some cases if your utilities are in immediate danger of being shut off, or if you cannot afford life-sustaining medical treatment or care.

The final reason that you might have a DNL approved is if you an injured member of the military. However, the viability of these requests depends on your status and the date of your injury.

When Can You Submit a Dire Needs Request?

In most cases, you can only submit this request when you are awaiting a hearing before an administrative law judge. Upon approval, your hearing will be scheduled ahead of other non-urgent applicants who are awaiting their hearing.

Unfortunately, no matter how serious your circumstances may be, this process cannot be used to expedite the review of your original application or of a request for reconsideration appeal.

At Mountain West Disability, our team of dedicated Social Security disability advocates assist clients with every aspect of the process. As qualified legal professionals, we provide the same level of service provided by Social Security disability attorneys – and more. Our team of specialists provides a full range of services for clients seeking to apply for disability benefits or appeal a denial of their claim.  In fact, disability claims are all we do.

Our services require no money from you up front and we only collect a fee upon the approval of your claim. Contact us today to learn more about whether a Social Security Disability dire needs request can help expedite your case.

What to Do After a Social Security Disability Claim Denial

If you have received a social security disability claim denial, it can feel like the end of the world.

You’re struggling with your health issues, unable to work or bring in an income. You have been counting on an approval for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim application. When the denial letter came, you could feel your heart drop in your chest.

Fortunately, a denial does not mean you’re out of options. Social security disability advocates help people in your situation every day – and they can help you file your SSDI appeal.

Social Security disability claims appeals

Why Do Social Security Disability Claims Get Denied?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a frustratingly high rate of disability claim denials. In fact, getting your initial application is extremely difficult, especially if you prepared and submitted it yourself.

The reasons for this overwhelmingly negative response are complex and confusing but they don’t necessarily mean that SSA thinks you aren’t disabled. In most cases, denials come because SSA didn’t have the right information to make a determination.

Like most government agencies, the SSA staff is overworked, underpaid and under substantial pressure to process claim applications. Typically a claim reviewer doesn’t have the time to dig through a mountain of paperwork to find the precise information they need to approve a claim.

What Documentation Do You Need for an SSDI Claim or Appeal?

To have the best chance of winning your appeal, you must provide the right documentation to prove your disability. But, more importantly, you must provide information that illustrates how your disability affects your life and your ability to work.

This is accomplished by having a doctor complete an assessment known as Residual Function Capacity (RFC). Because this document forms the basis of your claim, it is critical that the doctor understand how to complete this assessment. Medical records such as test results, surgery records, treatment plans or related documents are than attached to support the assessment.

At the time of appeal, the SSA might request another doctor’s opinion, known as a consultative examination (CE). Never agree to a CE without talking to a legal professional because, if the consulting doctor does not specialize in your specific disability, it could damage your claim.

Who Can Help You with Your Social Security Disability Claim Denial?

Once you receive a denial, you must proceed with caution for two reasons.

First, you only have a limited time – typically 60 days – to formally appeal an SSA denial or request reconsideration. Miss that deadline and your only option is to submit a new claim, which could diminish the back pay you are entitled to.

Second, your documentation must be perfect before you submit your appeal. Otherwise, you will have few options left for pursuing your claim. Don’t leave this critical process to chance.

The Social Security disability advocates at Mountain West Disability know precisely what type of documentation to submit for your claim. We have extensive experience with the processes and regulations used in SSDI programs and we put this knowledge to work on your behalf. Our team of seasoned legal professionals is passionate about helping our clients with disabilities recover the benefits they deserve.

If you received a Social Security disability claim denial, contact us today. We can walk you through the process, explain your options and assist you in filing your disability claim appeal or request for reconsideration.

Why Social Security Disability Advocates Use a Team Approach

When clients choose a Social Security Disability advocate to assist them with their SSDI claim or appeal, they are often surprised to find that they will be working with a team, rather than a single individual – as they typically might if they chose to use a SSDI lawyer instead.

When you understand why SSD advocates use a team approach, however, you’ll see that it not only makes sense but, in most cases, it provides a variety of advantages that you may not have with an attorney.

Social Security Disability advocates work as a team

Social Security Disability Advocates vs. Lawyers

In a typical law firm, attorneys assist their clients with different types of cases. This could include personal injury law, criminal matters, business law, etc. They also delegate various elements of their cases to paralegals, legal assistants and others, who perform some aspects of your casework behind the scenes.

When you work with an SSDI advocate, each member of the team specializes in a specific aspect of the process. So, during any given phase of your case, you will work with a case manager who has extensive knowledge and expertise in that part of the claim.

Social Security Disability Advocates Are Highly Specialized

SSDI claims are highly complex in nature – which is why so few law firms are dedicated exclusively to this specialization.

However, advocates break this specialization down even further, with each member of the team contributing expertise in a single phase of the process. The team works together, seamlessly delivering a level of service that you might not otherwise receive.

How the SSDI Advocate Team Approach Benefits You

Having someone on your side, fighting for your rights and the benefits you deserve, makes you realize you’re not alone. The team approach provides support and encouragement to help get you through the process. The increased level of communication and assistance ensures that you get the answers you need.

More importantly, working with a Social Security Disability advocate team ensures that SSA gets the information they need in the format they require. Attempting to file the paperwork yourself or working with a less experienced legal professional could increase your chance for a denial of your claim or rejection of your request for appeal.

Mountain West Disability not only specializes in handling SSDI claims and appeals – it’s all that we do. Our team provides individualized service that is tailored to your case and your claim. We fight every day for our clients’ rights and we understand the intricacies of this complex area of the law.

If you’d like to find out if you qualify for SSDI benefits, contact us today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. You don’t have to pay us any money out-of-pocket and, in most cases, you don’t have to pay us at all, as our fees are established by the SSA and deducted from your back before they release it to you.

Contact us today to learn more about how our team of Social Security Disability advocates can help you through this challenging time.