Social Security Disability Lawyers


Navigating your way through the Social Security disability claim process can be very difficult, especially when you have a physical or mental condition that makes it hard to just get through the day. That is why we are here – we give you knowledgeable and experienced service in handling your claim, so that you can focus on your health and your daily needs. If you are disabled by a physical or mental condition, and you are no longer able to work, we are here to help!

Our Social Security Disability Practice Group


The Social Security disability practice group of Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, specifically focuses its efforts on guiding Social Security disability claimants through this complicated claim process. Attorney Andrea G. Farmer is a Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law by the North Carolina State Bar. She has been practicing Social Security disability law in North Carolina and South Carolina for 12 years, and now practices disability law almost exclusively. Andrea has helped hundreds of Social Security disability clients obtain benefits that they deserved, with benefits obtained totaling millions of dollars for all clients. Attorney Hannah M. Davies has a number of years of experience as a disability paralegal before attending law school. After law school, she clerked for a United States District Court judge, assisting him with his disability cases. Rejoining the firm after law school and her judicial clerkship, Hannah brings to her practice the experience of different perspectives in the Social Security disability process. Staff members Ann Doty & Isaac Guerrero are very dedicated to doing whatever they can to support and serve our disabled clients. We serve clients in Western North Carolina and in Upstate South Carolina. You can meet the members of our Social Security disability practice group at one of our conveniently located offices in Rutherfordton, North Carolina; Shelby, North Carolina; Morganton, North Carolina or Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Social Security Disability Programs


You may be entitled to draw Social Security benefits if you are disabled. Social Security provides two programs which provide these benefits: Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There are medical and non-medical requirements for each program. The medical requirements are the same for both programs: you must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disability.”

Medical Requirements: the Meaning of “Disability” for Social Security


Social Security regulations provide that in order to be considered disabled, you must have a physical or mental impairment that keeps you from engaging in substantial gainful activity, and that your condition must last or be expected to last for not less than 12 months or be expected to result in death. Further, your physical or mental impairment must be medically determinable – this means that you must have medical evidence to prove your condition and its severity.

Non-Medical Requirements


For the disability insurance program, you must have sufficient work credits in the years preceding your disability in order to be covered or “insured” for the program. These credits are accrued by your Social Security contributions from your earnings being paid into the Social Security trust fund. Working “under the table” or for cash that is not reported to the IRS will not assist you in earning work credits. The Social Security Administration will calculate your work credits and determine your insured status; however, doing so is very complicated and you need an experienced attorney to help ensure that you are given the credit you deserve. It is NOT unheard of for Social Security to miscalculate claimants’ work credits.

For the SSI program, no work credits are required. However, there are limitations to the allowed amount of income and resources that you have. The rules about allowed income and resources are complicated and you should seek the advice of an experience attorney to help you determine if you qualify for benefits!

The Determination Process


Unfortunately, most claims are denied at least once or twice before they are approved. After a denial, it is very important to appeal in a timely fashion. A delay in appealing a negative decision may cause you to have to start over and it may even cause you to lose benefits. The administrative process includes four stages, which are: Initial Application, Reconsideration, Hearing, and Appeals Council. At the initial application and reconsideration stages, Social Security will send your claim to a state agency to obtain medical evidence and make a decision regarding your disability. The hearing level is important because your chances of approval are better and you get to appear in front of a judge. If your case is denied at the hearing level, review at the Appeals Council is very technical and requires knowledge of the regulations governing the disability process. Having competent legal representation at each stage of the process is vital to give you the best chance of obtaining the benefits you may be entitled to!

Derivative Benefit Programs


There are also programs by which you can draw disability benefits from someone else’s work record, such as your parent or spouse. These programs include Disabled Adult Child claims and Disabled Widow(er) claims. Determining eligibility for these programs is highly technical, and that’s why you need a knowledgeable attorney to evaluate your claim.

Child’s Disability


Child’s disability claims are evaluated differently from adult disability claims. Instead of focusing on the child’s ability to work, Social Security focuses on the severity of a child’s limitations in various areas of functioning. These limitations must be based on a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which means that there must be medical evidence to prove the condition and its severity. Child’s disability cases can be difficult, and that’s why you need an experienced attorney to evaluate your child’s claim!

Medicare and Medicaid


Depending on the type of disability program that you are qualified to receive, you may be entitled to Medicare and/or Medicaid medical insurance benefits to help cover your healthcare costs. Find out today what you may be eligible for with a free case evaluation by one of our experienced attorneys!

Frequently Asked Questions

The short answer to that question is, it depends. There are a lot of factors that are considered when determining eligibility, including your work history, your age, your education level, your assets and resources, and the severity and limiting effects of your physical and/or mental impairments. That being said, if you have a severe impairment that has kept you from being able to work, or is expected to do so, for 12 months, or is expected to end in death, then you may be eligible.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, or DIB, is a program that workers fund when a portion of their earnings is withheld and paid into the Social Security trust fund. If you are then forced to stop working due to a severe physical or mental impairment, then you continue to be “insured” for a period of time after you stop work. If your condition(s) meet the medical requirements of the DIB program during that insured period, then you are entitled to draw a monthly benefit, which is calculated based on your prior earnings. Also, after being considered disabled for 29 months, you will be entitled to Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is program designed to help the disabled that do not have a work records or whose “insured” period has expired. The medical requirements for SSI are the same as those for the DIB program. However, there are additional non-medical requirements, such as limits on monthly income and limits on resources, that must be met in order to qualify. If you meet the requirements for SSI, then you are also eligible for Medicaid benefits to assist you with your healthcare costs.
Both the DIB and SSI programs use the same standard when determining medical eligibility – the Social Security definition of disability. As defined by Social Security, disability is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” (found at www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/general-info.htm)

The definition of disability requires that you must have a severe physical or mental impairment, or any combination of physical and mental impairments, that are severe enough to keep you from working for at least 12 month or that can be expected to result in death. These impairments must be well-documented by medical records of your treatment for your physical and mental conditions. Also, your impairments must keep you from being able to perform not only your past work, but also other work that is generally available in the economy.

The SSI program is designed to assist those that do not have to resources to assist themselves. Thus there is a limit to your monthly household resources and income. Your countable resources cannot exceed more than $2,000.00 in value for an individual and $3,000.00 in value for a couple. Countable resources include things you own, your assets. However, there are several assets that do not count, including real or personal property that you use as your residence, one vehicle, and household goods and personal effects. Countable income includes any money from working, your spouse’s income, any other benefits you draw, and other in-kind benefits such as food or shelter. Calculating your countable income is a complicated process, but it must be below the allowable limit in order to receive SSI.
If you are over 18, there are a number of ways you can file a claim for disability benefits with Social Security. For DIB claims, and in certain cases for SSI claims, you can apply online at www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/. For either DIB or SSI, you can call the toll-free number (800-772-1213) or call or visit your local Social Security office. To find out what local office services your area, click here.
If you want to file a child’s claim or a derivative claim, such as a Disabled Widow(er) or Disabled Adult Child claim, or other SSI claims not eligible for the online application, you must either call the toll-free number listed above or call or visit your local Social Security office.
Our office assists certain clients in filing their claims if they meet certain requirements. Call us today to find out if we can help you!
This is a very popular question. Do you have to have an attorney? No…but I would not recommend it. Statistics show that claimants who have an experienced attorney representing them on their disability claim have a much higher chance of obtaining benefits. This is because navigating the Social Security disability process is a very complex task that requires specific knowledge. If you miss a deadline or neglect to gather the right information, it could cost you your benefits. Don’t take that chance – contact an experienced attorney today at Farmer & Morris Law!
It’s up to you. But before you make a final decision, you should consider several different factors: whether you have met or will meet your attorney in person prior to the hearing day, whether you can easily get your questions answered either by an attorney or by competent staff, and whether you receive a satisfactory level of customer service from this organization. It’s sad, but I often see representatives at the hearing office introducing themselves to their clients for the first time, mere minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin! The attorneys at Farmer & Morris Law take a personal approach to representing their clients. We strive to provide you a level of customer service that is beyond satisfactory, and our caring, competent staff members and attorneys are always here to help! We work hard to answer all of your questions and let you know what you can expect. We also assure you that you will not meet your attorney for the first time on the date of your hearing!
Representative fees for a disability claim with Social Security are set by federal regulation. Your attorney will not be paid any fees unless you are! In most cases, your attorney will be paid 25% of your backpay, or past-due benefits, but not greater than $6,000.00. There are some circumstances in which the $6,000.00 limitation does not apply. Also, Social Security generally withholds the attorney fee from your backpay and sends it directly to your attorney. Now, your attorney may incur costs during the course of representing you, such as the cost of obtaining your medical records. At the end of your case, you attorney will ask you for reimbursement of those costs.
Once you file your initial claim, your case will be sent to a state agency to gather information and to make a determination. Most cases are denied at the initial application stage; in fact, recent statistics demonstrate that almost 70% of cases are denied after the initial application workup. If your case is denied, you can appeal to request a reconsideration of your claim, where your case will be again sent to the state agency for review. Unfortunately, even more cases are denied at reconsideration, with statistics showing about 88% of cases at that stage resulting in a denial.

Each of these stages, initial application and reconsideration, take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, on average, to receive a decision.

If your case is denied at reconsideration, then you can request a hearing, where you will be able to appear in front of a judge. There is a great advantage to having a hearing as recent statistics show that your chances of having your claim approved are better after presenting your case to a judge. However, one disadvantage is that the wait time to get to the actual hearing is very long. Extended wait times are a national problem, and in some hearing offices, it can be over 24 months from the time you request a hearing until the time that you actually have a hearing.

If you are not successful at the hearing level, you can appeal your claim to the Appeals Council, and then on to Federal Court, if necessary.

Because of the long wait times, we always encourage our clients to use the time to their advantage. The two most important things you can do are (1) get medical treatment and (2) let us know what is going on with you.

You should obtain medical treatment for each and every condition that you have, whether physical or mental or both. The judge at a hearing cannot just go by your word of what is wrong with you – you must have medical evidence to support your claim! Get established with a primary care provider and get referrals to specialists, if needed. Tell your doctors exactly what is going on with you – how much pain you are in, how you are limited in your daily activities, etc. It can be difficult to go to the doctor if you don’t have insurance, but do the best you can. Go to free or low-cost clinics, apply for Medicaid . . . do whatever it takes. If you don’t get medical treatment, you are hurting yourself medically and financially.

Keeping our office informed if you get a new phone number, change address, or develop a new medical problem is extremely important. If we cannot get in touch with you, we cannot provide you with good representation. We want to know what is going on with you! Please let us know!

If you are denied at the hearing, you do have the option of appealing to the Appeals Council. However, you cannot appeal just because you do not agree with the judge’s decision. You must base your appeal on legal argument, pointing out where the judge did not follow Social Security rules and regulations in evaluating your case. You need the advice of competent and experienced legal counsel to assist you in this process.

If, for some reason, you choose not to appeal to the Appeals Council, you can file a new claim. However, there are ramifications to doing so, such as the effect on your date of disability and the possible payments you would be able to collect.

The bottom line is that you need the services of an experienced attorney to advise you on what path is best for you. Contact Farmer & Morris Law today!

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Meet Our Social Security Disability Lawyers


Attorneys Andrea Farmer and Hannah Davies handle Social Security Disability cases…

Social Security Disability Lawyers

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