Social Security Disability – Navigating A Difficult Process
Nancy: Today on North Carolina Law TV, David Daggett, Injury and Disability Lawyer from Daggett Shuler Law out of Winston, Salem talks to us about social security disability.
David: A worker has paid into that system and if they’re disabled that’s their insurance benefit if they become disabled. It’s not welfare. It’s something paid into just like any other insurance policies. Well, unfortunately, the stigma that goes along with that is somebody who’s disabled sometimes feel guilty about filling out that application. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that. That’s a benefit that you deserve and that you paid for sometimes for many, many, many years. Unfortunately, the vast majority of initial applications are denied.
For example in North Carolina the most recent statistics are now a couple years old. Over 70% of people have their initial application denied and that number has gone up in recent years.
Nancy: That’s on next on this episode of North Carolina Law TV.
Nancy: Social Security Disability is an intricate and multifaceted area of law. For the scores of people who apply with little to no outside help the process can be frustrating and overwhelming. The social security disability application process is also unique and because every day people often try to handle it themselves. Generally, if you were going to court for any reason you wouldn’t choose to represent yourself in the courtroom. You would want someone with the degree and with the experience, someone who had successfully handled hundreds of similar cases in the past and yet so many people try to navigate their social security disability claim alone often with limited success.
David Daggett is here today to give us an insider’s look at the world of social security disability law and to explain how having an attorney on your side can streamline this rather difficult process. David, thanks for being with us today.
David: Thanks for having me, Nancy.
Nancy: Some people think that social security disability is government sponsored welfare.
David: Well, that’s a misconception that needs to be cleared up, okay, and it has gotten popular lately in the news and that sort of thing to beat on social security disability applicants. What people need to understand is in your paycheck each month that FICA that gets taken out, what that is is it’s an insurance premium that goes to an insurance company, this this case the United States Government, to provide disability benefits if somebody becomes disabled. It works just like any other insurance policy.
Now, over the years we’ve convoluted that notion and we’ve comingled that money but still a worker has paid into that system and if they’re disabled that’s their insurance benefit if they become disabled. It’s not welfare, it’s something you’ve paid into just like any other insurance policy.
Nancy: So people are contributing to the insurance the possibility.
David: Sure. It’s just like life insurance. If you’ve paid your life insurance premium and something happens you expect to recover on it and nobody points the finger at you. It’s the exact same thing with social security disability.
Nancy: Well that’s certainly a different perspective as to what is portrayed as often in the media.
David: Absolutely, absolutely. So well and unfortunately the stigma that goes along with that is somebody who’s disabled sometimes feels guilty about filling out that application. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that. That’s a benefit that you deserve and that you’ve paid for sometimes for many, many, many years.
Nancy: And that’s why it’s there.
David: That’s why it’s there.
Nancy: And that’s why it’s built into your paycheck to be there in case something unfortunately bad happens and you need to use it and not everybody uses it. Everyone contributes to it and just like any other type of insurance is what you’re saying.
David: Just like any other type of insurance.
Nancy: So, what’s some of the information that needs to be provided to the social security administration when applying?
David: Well, what happens is is if you’re disabled and the definition is is you have to be disabled and unable to work for one year. Now, that can be prospective 1 year if your situation is bad enough but you have to either be disabled or a forecast of disability for 1 year. So, when you apply for social security the important thing is, you know, all your basic personal information and then your work history. Because your work history is the history you’re paying your premiums into the system and then of course your medical history and your medical documentation is the most important thing when the benefits are finally awarded.
Nancy: So, tell me what you mean this most important thing when the benefits are awarded.
David: Well, you have to have that medical documentation in order for the benefits to be awarded. So the only determination they’re making is, are you insured under the system meaning have you paid out the FICA over the years and if you’re insured under the system the only question is, are you disabled from any gain for employment 9due to your condition?
Nancy: And the medical documentation is what helps them determine that.
David: The medical documentation is what supports that. Now, there’s something that’s important is many people they sort of suffer in silence with their disabilities and they don’t go for medical treatment. If you don’t go for medical treatment you don’t have that documentation and you can’t prove your claim and you can’t win. So it’s very important to make sure that you don’t suffer in silence you actually get the medical treatment you need both4 to help you and to document your claim.
Nancy: Right. So you need to have that, you need to take care of yourself so you can have that help being taken care of, you know, for that year that you are not working.
Nancy: So, what advice do you have for individuals facing extreme circumstances like homelessness or bankruptcy while they’re waiting for that decision?
David: Well, there’s no good advice to give. I mean there’s not something magic that you can do. The important thing is to file that application for benefits as soon as you think you might be disabled. Unfortunately it takes a long time to work its way through the system, 18-24 months, maybe longer. So as soon as you feel like you are disabled to need to get that application started and get it going through the system. Now, unfortunately, the vast majority of initial applications are denied.
For example, in North Carolina the most recent statistics are now a couple of years old over 70% of people have their initial application denied and that number has gone up in recent years. So the odds of being denied in the initial application are very high. So in your opening you said a lot of people tried to handle it on their own which they do and a lot of people fill out the initial application on their own. What they have to keep in mind is most likely that’s going to get denied which means there’s then some technical legal requirements they need to file an appeal for a hearing and you get in a hearing that’s a courtroom just like any other courtroom there’s a judge and you have to be able to present your case.
Many and I would say most people simply aren’t qualifies to do that and they may need experienced help in order to get those benefits that they deserve.
Nancy: So this is something the average person doesn’t really know what the steps are and so that’s probably why the denial rate is so high and probably take it on without a lawyer and might eventually get to needing to have a lawyer help them through that process so why not do that in the beginning.
David: Yes. Correct. Correct. So in many law firms will either help with the initial application process guide you through it so it’s a smoother transition when that gets denied so that you’re on track for going to the hearing and eventually getting approved for benefits that you really need for you and your family just to survive and exist. Again, nobody gets rich off the security system. I mean this isn’t anybody would choose to do this is something you have to do should the unfortunate disability occur.
Nancy: Just to help you with the normal everyday things.
Nancy: Well that’s really good information. Thanks so much. What else can you share with us before we go?
David: Well, I think it’s important that people just know a little bit about what their rights are so that they know where to go and who to talk to should they need help.
Nancy: Right. Well thank you so much.
David: Thanks for having me on today.
Nancy: Thanks for being with us. If you or someone you know needs assistance with their Social Security Disability Application, you can call David’s office at (336) 724-1234. Until next time, this is Nancy Hollett for North Carolina Law TV.