If you’re disabled and can no longer work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
However, the application process can be complicated and hiring a lawyer is often the fastest way to obtain the benefits you deserve. Here’s how a disability lawyer can help you win your case.
What Does a Disability Lawyer Do?
An estimated 13.4% of Pennsylvanians live with a disability. While some people can easily manage their health condition, others suffer from severe disabilities that make employment impossible. Fortunately, people who aren’t able to work due to a mental or physical disability may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Social Security disability benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays out benefits to disabled individuals through two programs:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI benefits are funded from Social Security taxes. They don’t depend on your income level, but are based on your degree of disability and work history. To qualify, you must have worked at least five of the past ten years in a job where Social Security taxes were withheld.
SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based program funded by general tax revenues and designed to assist disabled individuals with low or no income. You can receive SSDI and SSI at the same time if you have a disability and a low income.
To be eligible for any type of Social Security disability benefits, you must be considered medically disabled. Almost any physical or mental impairment qualifies for disability benefits, including:
- Back pain
- Joint problems (arthritis)
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Muscular dystrophy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder.
The diagnosis in itself isn’t a decisive factor in whether or not you are eligible for benefits, but rather the limitations that your impairment imposes. You don’t have to be completely or permanently disabled, however, your impairment must be recognized by the SSA as a disability that has or will prevent you from working for at least 12 months.
The Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) that assists the SSA in determining whether you are eligible for disability benefits processes around 145,000 Pennsylvania disability claims every year.
Why do I need a disability lawyer?
You don’t have to hire a lawyer to apply for Social Security disability benefits. However, because the majority of disability cases are resolved at an appeal hearing before an administrative law judge, having a qualified lawyer represent you can make the difference between winning and losing your case. Statistics show that people who are represented by disability lawyers are three times more likely to have their claim approved.
Disability lawyers have specialized knowledge of the Social Security system and can help you navigate the complex rules and strict eligibility criteria of the SSDI and SSI programs. Here are some of the benefits of hiring a disability lawyer:
- A lawyer will explain the different kinds of Social Security benefits and determine which program you qualify for.
- A disability lawyer has a good understanding of the Social Security rules and regulations and can identify the argument that will have the best chances of winning the disability claim.
- A knowledgeable lawyer has experience when it comes to dealing with medical professionals and addressing their questions or concerns.
- A lawyer can help you get your disability benefits more quickly if you win.
Furthermore, a disability lawyer can assist you with the following:
- Fill out your application correctly
- Submit the application in accordance with SSA filing requirements
- Represent you in court
- Obtain expert opinions about your work limitations from your physician
- Submit supportive medical evidence
- Deal with denied disability insurance claims
- File an appeal if your claim is denied.
How Long Does It Take for a Lawyer To Get Your Disability Benefits?
Waiting periods to get Social Security disability benefits vary depending on where you live, the complexity of your case, and how many levels of appeals are required. The whole process can take up to two years, although this period could be shorter or longer in your particular case:
- The initial determination takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
- If your claim is denied at the initial level, you have the right to a request for reconsideration which takes around 2-7 months.
- If the claim is denied at reconsideration, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The wait time for a hearing is 12-17 months and another 2-3 months to receive the judge’s decision.
Can I get a disability hearing faster?
A disability lawyer won’t necessarily help you get a hearing faster, however, he or she will make sure that you don’t make any mistakes that will slow the process down.
However, if you’re risking foreclosure, eviction, or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may be able to qualify for an expedited hearing. In order to apply, you need to send a dire need letter to the hearing office where your claim is pending or have an attorney send it for you. Alternatively, you can contact your local congressman and request that they make what’s known as “congressional inquiry” into your case.
Can You Appeal a Denied Disability Claim?
The Social Security Administration denies over three-fourths of initial applications, even for people who meet all the legal requirements. The denial is even higher during the reconsideration stage of appeals when it reaches about 90% for Pennsylvania claimants.
Some of the most common reasons for denial of SSDI and SSI benefits are:
- Your condition doesn’t meet the SSA’s definition of a disability.
- You are still working and earning more than $1,170 a month.
- You failed to provide adequate medical evidence and documentation of your disability.
- You failed to follow your doctor’s instructions and treatment plan.
- You failed to cooperate with the SSA, for example, you missed your medical exams on purpose or failed to respond to document requests.
- You waited too long to apply and your medical information became outdated.
- Your disability is linked to a criminal conviction.
- Your disability is based on alcohol or drug addiction.
If you get denied on a Social Security benefits claim, you have the following choices: give up, file a new application, or file an appeal.
Starting a new application immediately is rarely recommended as in most cases it leads to denial of benefits. Usually, the best solution is to file an appeal as soon as possible. If you were denied SSDI or SSI, you have the right to file an appeal within 60 days.
Best Disability Lawyers in Pennsylvania
Chermol & Fishman
Chermol & Fishman is a Philadelphia disability law firm that specializes in representing individuals seeking SSD and SSI benefits. Most of the Chermol & Fishman attorneys have previous working experience from the Social Security Administration. The co-founding attorney David Chermol has worked as an SSA lawyer for 10 years and has personally developed litigation strategy in most of the major SSDI and SSI decisions.
The firm doesn’t charge a fee unless they win your case. Otherwise, they will receive 25% of your past due benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.
Rubin & Badame
Rubin & Badame is a Social Security disability law firm that handles all types of SSDI and SSI cases for clients in Norristown and the surrounding area. Their compassionate and caring disability attorneys will work on your case regardless of whether you’re only starting an application or wish to appeal a denied disability benefits claim. The initial consultation is always free, and unless they successfully resolve your case, they won’t charge you for their services.
Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo
Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo is one of Pennsylvania’s top-rated workers’ compensation law firms with more than 80 years of experience and over 300,000 cases won across the state.
Once your case is accepted, you’ll be assigned a full legal team consisting of a disability lawyer, medical coordinator, client care coordinator, secretary, and paralegal. The team will coordinate and develop a strategy that will offer you the best chance to win your case. All cases are supervised by the firm’s managing partner, Geoffrey W. Dlin, who has more than 15 years of experience as a workers’ compensation judge.
DiLoreto, Cosentino & Bolinger
DiLoreto, Cosentino & Bolinger is a disability law firm that represents disabled clients and their families in Chambersburg, Franklin County, and central Pennsylvania. Their disability lawyers will help you understand your rights and options, and work closely with you throughout the process to obtain SSDI and SSI claims. They’re known for offering a compassionate and personalized service where they take the time to understand each client’s unique situation and create a customized plan to suit their personal objectives.
The firm has no consultation charges and works on contingency so that you won’t be charged anything until they win your case.
Marzzacco Niven & Associates
Attorneys at Marzzacco Niven & Associates provide comprehensive legal services to Pennsylvania residents who are living with mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from working. They have experience and legal backgrounds that enable them to develop customized solutions to meet each clients’ unique needs. Attorneys Michelle Rhizor and Thomas Meister have more than 50 years of combined legal experience within Social Security disability benefits. The owner Christopher Marzzacco has been listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” and named in “Super Lawyers” every year since 2017.
The lawyers will respond to your inquiry within 24 hours and the initial consultation is free.
Law Offices of Eric A. Shore
Law Offices of Eric A. Shore has assisted more than 40,000 people with claiming Social Security benefits since 1999. The Eric A. Shore disability lawyers handle claims at all stages of the process, from the initial application to the administrative hearing.
Their contingency fees and costs are limited to 25% of your back pay and don’t exceed $6,000. In addition, they won’t charge you unless the firm secures or reinstates your SSDI or SSI benefits.
Pond Lehocky Disability
Pond Lehocky is one of the largest workers’ compensation and social security disability law firms in Pennsylvania that represents clients at every stage of the process, from filing initial benefit claims to appealing denials. The firm has won numerous national awards for its legal representation and exceptional customer care. The firm’s founding partner and head of the Social Security Disability Department, Thomas J. Giordano, was selected as one of the National Advocates Top 100 Lawyers.
The Disability Law Office of Jeffrey S. Lichtman
The Disability Law Office of Jeffrey S. Lichtman is a team of highly skilled disability lawyers who have been handling different aspects of SSDI and SSI claims since 1990. The firm also specializes in serving clients seeking compensation for disabled widows or widowers, and child benefits for adults with disabilities.
Initial consultations are always free. In addition, the majority of cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. This means that the firm takes a percentage of the past-due benefits you receive from the government only if they win your case.
Handler Henning & Rosenberg
Established in 1922, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg is one of the largest firms in the area. Their Pennsylvania Social Security Disability attorney team represents clients with disability claims in Carlisle, Hanover, Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, and neighboring communities. Their extensive resources and experience enable them to take on even the most complex disability benefits cases.
The first consultation is free and there are no fees unless your case is resolved successfully.
Young, Marr & Associates
Young, Marr & Associates have handled thousands of social security benefits claims across Pennsylvania. All the firm’s disability attorneys have previously worked for the SSA, which gives them the necessary experience to handle a variety of disability benefit cases. They will assist you in everything from filing a claim and appealing a denied claim to exploring what benefits are available for your disabled child and resolving a disability insurance dispute. The firm’s success rate is 80%, which is well above the industry average.
You won’t be asked to pay a fee unless the attorney recovers your benefits and there are no up-front costs.