Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
Pursuing a Social Security disability claim in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is by no means an easy process, and having the assistance of an experienced and aggressive Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer can make all the difference in your case. Given most disabled workers do not have private disability policies to cover their lost wages, the Social Security disability system provides a great relief to many who have become long term disabled from working as a result of a severe medical condition. If one is denied on their initial application, the latest statistics for 2015 show that Massachusetts residents stand a very small chance of success as part of appealing that decision (that is, requesting reconsideration). For fiscal year 2015, the allowance rate in Massachusetts is 40.6%, but if you're denied on your initial claim, one is looking at only a 20.4% allowance rate. If denied on reconsideration, one can expect to wait for longer than a year to get to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
To go through the application, request for reconsideration and ultimately, the hearing process, can take upwards of two years. Given this fact, discussing your case early on with a knowledgeable Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyer can ensure you understand where you and/or your case may be falling short in the process. Whether it be suggestions for what additional medical treatment (including free treatment programs that may be available: see for example the non-profit organizations Needy Meds and the Massachusetts Medical Society as resource sites for listings of free medical services available throughout the Commonwealth for those with limited or no insurance) or referrals to specialists that may be appropriate, a caring lawyer will take the time to analyze your individual circumstances and advise you from the very beginning as to how your case may benefit by the steps the two of you can take together early on in the process.
Likewise, an understanding of the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) evaluation process is essential from the very beginning of your involvement with our office.
From an initial standpoint, it's important to know that there are two different types of benefits: 1) Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (otherwise known as SSDI benefits or DIB benefits) which one pays for through their Social Security taxed earnings (much in the way of a private disability plan) and 2) Supplemental Security Income (otherwise known as SSI benefits), which is a welfare benefit and which benefit is based on need (and requires a review of one's income and assets to determine if they qualify for such benefits.
The SSDI program requires that you have sufficient quarters of coverage earned so as to be "insured" for the disability insurance benefits. For 2016, a quarter of coverage is earned for each $1,260.00 of Social Security taxed earnings (with the amount needed to earn a quarter of coverage being adjusted annually). Thus, if one were to earn $5,040.00 per year in Social Security taxed wages they would be acquiring 4 quarters of coverage. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits one typically needs to have 20 out of 40 quarters of coverage at the time they become disabled from working, and need to acquire a totally of 40 quarters of coverage over their life time. There are more lenient rules for those who are younger individuals who have not been of an age to acquire as many quarters of coverage given the years they would be expected to still be in school and not of full time working age.
SSA will undertake a 5 step sequential evaluation process when determining whether you are "disabled" medically under their rules. One will need to show that they have remained or will remain totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment for a year or longer, as a result of a medically determinable severe impairment, despite prescribed treatment. At step 1 of the process, SSA will determine whether you are undertaking gainful employment, in which case, a denial would be issued at step 1 of the evaluation process. Step 2 of the process requires that one show they are suffering from a medically determinable severe impairment: if not, at step 2 of the process a denial would be issued. Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process requires that SSA review your medical condition(s) to determine whether your condition(s) meet(s) one of their listed impairments (these are conditions deemed so severe under Social Security's rules that a finding one meets the requirements of a particular listed impairment results in an automatic determination of medical eligibility for benefits without any further determination as to whether one is capable of returning to some manner of employment). Assuming one is not granted benefits at Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process, SSA will proceed to step 4 of the process, which requires that they determine whether you remain capable of returning to any of your past relevant work (that is to say, work you've performed in the 15 years prior to becoming disabled). Assuming one is deemed capable of performing their past relevant work, a step 4 denial would issue at that time. However, assuming one is found incapable of returning to their past relevant work, SSA will turn to the final step, step 5, to determine whether you remain capable of returning to work that exists in significant numbers in either your region or other regions of the national economy. Assuming the answer is no, a finding of "disabled" under Social Security's rules would follow.
Consulting with a knowledgeable Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer to determine whether your circumstances are likely to allow you to meet both the medical and the non-medical rules for both Social Security disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs is invaluable. Neither you nor your lawyer wants to waste what could prove to be years pursuing a path that may not be right for you and your particular circumstances.
The SSI and SSDI benefit programs are meant to ensure that those who become ill or injured, and remain long term disabled from working, are not left in poverty and unable to care for their needs. What is unfortunate, however, is that many do fall through the cracks and become homeless or are relying on the kindness of friends and family to get by. Unlike many of the neighboring New England states, including Maine and New Hampshire, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does have a program that allows for a cash benefit for those who become unable to work and in the interim have not been approved for either SSI or SSDI. The benefit, administered through the MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is called Emergency Aid to the Elderly Disabled and Children (EAEDC). Assuming one qualifies, it allows a single individual on average $303.00 per month (in addition to what might be approximately $200 in food stamps), assuming there are no other resources that need to be accounted for. Clearly, this is not a sufficient amount upon which to live, and seeking Social Security benefits many times requires the support of friends and family as one attempts to undertake what can be a very lengthy application and appeals process. One can find their local DTA office by utilizing the MA DTA locator.How We'll Get Started
Whether you're initiating a Massachusetts Social Security disability claim application for the first time, or you're seeking to reopen a past application, request reconsideration or about to go to a hearing before an ALJ, you'll see we will do our homework first. We'll start by gathering a great deal of background information about you: including but not limited to your living/financial circumstances, your medical history (including treatment history) and work history.
Given the need to do everything possible to win your case at the initial level of adjudication, it is wise to have an experienced MA Social Security lawyer to assist with the application material. This will help ensure that critical mistakes are not made which might result in an unnecessary denial. Our office will likewise ensure that medical evidence is obtained from your treatment providers so as to make clear to Disability Determination Services (the state agency responsible for evaluating your claim, with offices in Boston and Worcester) that you meet the medical criteria for establishing disability (and consequently entitlement to benefits). SSA will look to see that you have remained disabled from all forms of gainful employment (which has been increased to $1130.00 per month for 2016 for non-blind individuals and remains at $1820.00 per month for blind individuals) as a result of your disabling conditions for what has been or is likely to be a year or longer (or that your condition is likely to result in death). Likewise, as a condition of being found medically approved for benefits, it will be necessary to show that alcohol and/or drugs are not substantially contributing to your disabling conditions.
Should you be denied at the initial application, we will assist you with the filing of your reconsideration request. Once again, given the high rate of denial on reconsideration, you will want an aggressive Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer to proceed with the Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge paperwork on your behalf. Attorney Russell Goldsmith personally appears at all hearings,, whether you need to appear at the Boston, MA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (where hearings are conducted by 13 different judges: Chief ALJ Daniel Driscoll, Constance Carter, Paul Carter, Stephen Fulton, Joel Gardiner, Paul Goodale, Henry Hogan, Francis Hurley, Robert Kelly, James Packer, William Ramsey, Carol Sax and Sean Teehan. Likewise, depending on where you reside, your case could be heard at either the Lawrence, Massachusetts ODAR or the Springfield, Massachusetts hearing office. There are presently 7 judges hearing cases at the Lawrence Office: Chief Judge Jonathan Baird, Timothy Belford, Joan Benson, Ellen Bush, Brian Curley, Eric Eklund and Anthony Dziepiak. The Springfield ODAR office has seven (7) judges assigned to hear Social Security disability cases: Addison Masengill (Chief), Michael Breton, Leonard Cooperman, Kim Griswold, Brian LeCours, Peter Martinelli and Judith Stolfo.
Many times, by undertaking an argument brief well ahead of the scheduled hearing, our office is able to dispense with the need to proceed to the actual hearing. Should your case need to proceed to the actual hearing, however, Attorney Goldsmith will undertake significant preparation with you to ensure that you feel comfortable through the process: he will likewise appear on your behalf to make arguments for the judge hearing your case and will ask questions in an effort to ensure that the presiding judge understands the significant disabilities you suffer from that keep you from working.
At the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith, we'll put our 26 years of experience to work for you so that the Massachusetts Social Security procedures are no longer a mystery and so you can feel comfortable that everything that can be done is done to win your case.
Contact Boston, MA Social Security lawyer Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 for the advice and assistance you deserve for your claim.