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Legal FAQs

Social Security sets these rules.  You do not pay me any money up front or anything while I am working on your claim.  I only get paid if we win and you are granted benefits.  Then I get paid either one fourth of your past due benefits or $6000, whichever is less.  For example, if you get $10,000 in back pay, I get $2500 of it.  If you get $30,000 in back pay, I do not get $7500 (the one fourth), I get $6000 of it.

I like the SSA rules. The rules mean I will tell you  if I think you have a really weak case and I will decline the opportunity to represent you.  If I take your case, I will work hard for you because if we don’t succeed, I get paid nothing for all the hours of work my office put into your claim.

There can be other costs. If you have been to doctors outside Minnesota, there are usually charges for getting copies of your medical records. This is your responsibility to pay. In Minnesota, if you are not on public assistance, the provider can now charge you $10 per record.

When we ask your main doctor to write a letter or complete a statement that supports your claim, more and more health providers are charging you for this also.  We always ask them to waive any fee for this  because a person seeking disability benefits is almost always in very tough financial shape, but fewer and fewer are willing to do this.

Very few claims are appealed past the Administrative Law Judge hearing, but if we decide to do that we would sign a new fee agreement and then, with the additional work, the fee could be larger than $6000.  But the same SSA rule applies. If I don’t win for you, I get paid nothing.

The two most common ways SSA has a right to deny your claim is if you drink or use drugs OR if you are not doing everything possible to improve your health.  First, the Social Security laws/federal regulations give them a right to deny you if they find use of alcohol or other drugs is a contributing factor to why you can not work full time.  Many of you need to have regular blood work or other lab work done regularly.  Those reports tell SSA the level of drugs in your system.  The doctor’s or therapist’s case notes say you showed up with blood shot eyes and slurred speech or smelled of alcohol.  For many of you, mixing these with your prescribed medications is both dangerous and stupid.  So I am telling you loud and clear.  If you drink, stop completely.  Don’t even have that occasional beer with a friend.  You do not want to give SSA any excuse to turn you down.

Second, SSA needs to see you are following your doctor’s advice and doing everything you can to improve your health.  If  your doctor prescribes medicine, take it.  Do not stop without telling the doctor just because you have side effects.  Talk to your doctor and see if a different prescription is a better choice.  If you think you can’t afford your medicine, talk to your clinic plus your county case worker.  If your doctor sends you to physical therapy, go to all the sessions and do your best.  If you are advised to lose weight or stop smoking, SSA needs to see you are taking active steps toward those goals.  If your doctor wants you to see a specialist, go.  The federal regulations allow one exception to not following your doctor’s advice—–surgery that has a significant risk of making you worse or killing you.  SSA will expect you to get a second opinion before turning down the risky surgery.

This is part of the Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance you pay into out of every paycheck.  How much you get is based on how much you paid in.

SSA does not care if you win the lottery or have a wealthy spouse. You have to report your wages to SSA if you are working part time. You do not have to report income from other household members or your unearned income like an inheritance.

Many people who work for cash and fail to report this income on their taxes get an unpleasant surprise when they become medically disabled. They do not have “enough recent quarters of coverage” This means they have not paid in enough in the past ten years to be covered by this insurance.

This is government program that provides benefits to disabled children and adults no matter what your past work history is. You need to provide the same medical proof to SSA as people in the other program do. In addition, your household has to be below certain income and asset limits.

For a single adult, your assets must be below $2000.00. You can own a home or one vehicle of any value but most other things count as assets. Owning more than one vehicle is usually a problem even if you think the second car is a junker. Whole life insurance with a cash value counts against you. “Toys” like snowmobiles, fishing boats, power tools are all assets.

SSI can be wonderful for a family with a child who has serious medical problems. If the child can get SSI, the child almost always can get Medical Assistance. Do not assume your household is over income for this. Check with SSA.