At the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that people may encounter when they are dealing with a debilitating medical condition. To alleviate the burdens placed on them, the Social Security Act was passed into law to provide benefits to those long term disabled from working, known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. These benefits are designed to assist individuals who are unable to hold a job making gainful wages for what is expected to be a year or longer as a result of a physical or mental health condition that severely impacts their ability to work. Maine residents who find themselves in this situation can consult Social Security attorney Russell J. Goldsmith, who has represented Maine’s injured and disabled for more than 33 years. The knowledgeable team at the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith can assist you with documenting, presenting and advocating your claim of disability benefits, handling claims of this type at all levels of the claims and appeals processes. We are committed to providing disabled Mainers with the tenacious, honest, and professional representation that we believe all of our clients deserve.Asserting Your Right to Receive SSDI
When it reviews a claim, the SSA will determine as a preliminary matter whether the applicant has accumulated a sufficient number of work credits to be eligible for SSDI. This is based on whether he or she has contributed money from his or her paycheck to Social Security for a certain number of years, which depends on the applicant’s age and prior work history. This initial determination is followed by a review by claims examiners at Disability Determination Services (DDS) who must decide whether the individual meets the medical requirement for receiving SSDI.
The evaluation process that the Social Security Administration uses when it reviews an initial claim can be roughly divided into five steps (called Social Security’s five step sequential evaluation process). First, after the Field Office has determined as part of step 1 that the applicant has not been involved in substantial gainful activity, which essentially means working on a regular and consistent basis, making what is deemed at this time to be $1170.00 per month earnings, DDS will begin its medical review process. Individuals who have not been undertaking substantial gainful employment can then proceed to the second step in the evaluation process, which is DDS’s determination as to whether any of the claimant’s medical conditions constitute “severe impairments.”
The agency examiner will then proceed to evaluate the claim and answer whether the claimant meets Step 3 of Social Security’s sequential evaluation process, and that revolves around whether the medical conditions they suffer from meet the criteria for any of Social Security’s medical Listings of Impairments. At this stage, the state agency examiner at DDS will review the medical records/reports on file, and will enlist the assistance of their own doctors to review the paper record. A person who is deemed to satisfy the appropriate criteria for a certain Listing will be found automatically entitled to benefits.
In the event the applicant is not found to meet a medical listing of impairment, the DDS examiner will next look to determine the claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). The fourth and fifth steps in the process fall within this assessment. While the fourth step considers whether an applicant is able to perform any of his or her past relevant work (that is to say, any of the jobs he/she performed in the 15 years prior to becoming disabled), the fifth step requires the DDS adjudicator to determine whether there is any type of work that currently exists in significant numbers in the local, regional or nationwide economy that the individual would be able to perform based on the claimant’s age, education and experience in light of their RFC. If the answer is “no” to both questions posed in the fourth and fifth steps, the applicant will be deemed eligible for SSDI.
Unfortunately, a final denial letter is an all too common occurrence. An experienced Social Security lawyer will be able to assess for you the possible reasons for such a denial and how they will go about appealing the decision with the hopes of turning around such a decision. While the receipt of a denial letter is frustrating, applicants should feel reassured with the advice provided that there are opportunities available to correct the injustice that has taken place. Understand that if an initial claim is denied, a claimant may file a Request for Reconsideration, which asks DDS to review the file again with updated medical and disability-related documentation. A knowledgeable and zealous attorney can assist with providing new evidence that addresses the agency’s prior concerns and can ensure that any additional disability-related documentation requested from the claimant (such as the forms DDS asks claimants to fill out on appeal, for example, the Adult Function Report, Third Party Adult Function Report and Work History Report), are filled out accurately and in a manner that appropriately supports their claim. The Social Security Administration is required to assign a new DDS examiner to consider his or her case once again. The new examiner is not supposed to take into account the prior findings of the previous examiner into account. An applicant who is unsuccessful at this stage can seek a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who is not bound by prior decisions and is empowered with making what is called a “de novo” (or “as of new”) decision. Should these options be exhausted, additional appeal options remains, such as an appeal of the ALJ decision to the SSA Appeals Council, and an appeal of the Appeals Council Decision to the Federal District Court. At each stage, it is advisable to have an experienced attorney by your side advising and assisting you.Contacting an Experienced Maine Attorney Now for Your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Claim Can Make All the Difference
At every stage of the SSDI process, whether the initial claim or an appeal, you are well advised to have an experienced lawyer assisting you. There are no upfront retainer fees, as fees are paid on a contingency basis with the attorney only getting paid if you win. You will not need to pay anything for advice from a legal professional unless we are successful in obtaining benefits for you. Having served claimants in Maine for decades, SSDI lawyer Russell J. Goldsmith is thoroughly familiar with the disability benefits application and appeals processes and the wide range of options available to claimants moving forward. To discuss your situation with a skilled professional, call the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith toll-free at (800) 773-8622 or set up an appointment through our online form.