Washington County, TN Social Security Disability Lawyer for Initial Applications and Appeals
Serving Washington County and the Surrounding Communities, including Johnson City, Piney Flats, Colonial Heights, Kingsport, Elizabethton, Graysburg, Greeneville, Jearoldstown, Chuckey, Lost Cove, and throughout Tennessee.
Many individuals erroneously believe that securing Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is a simple process; however, this is often not a reality. Over 70% of initial applications are denied, even when individuals have qualifying disabilities.
Obtaining benefits requires significant paperwork and medical documentation, and even small clerical errors will result in a denial. Because the information necessary to secure benefits is substantial, it’s easy to lose track of claim details. Unfortunately, unintentional contradictions, errors, memory lapses, and discrepancies all work to erode credibility, often resulting in a rejection.
Our Experience – Get the Help You Need at the Outset
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we have over three decades of experience in working with injured clients. Mark Hurt has extensive knowledge of the SSD claims process and understands what is needed to secure benefit approvals. If you’re interested in applying for SSD or need help appealing a denial, call our office to schedule a free consultation. We can help avoid minor issues and inconsistencies, prepare an initial application, or tenaciously appeal a denial (if needed).
How Much Does It Cost to Use a Washington County SSD Attorney?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a set fee that disability attorneys can charge for representation. Fees are assessed on a contingent basis, which means that if you do not receive Social Security Disability benefits, we do not get paid.
In general, the current SSA approved fee is 25% of the past-due benefits (otherwise known as back-pay), up to a maximum of $6,000. Before commencing representation, we provide clients with a detailed engagement letter that explains our fees, and we are happy to answer any questions regarding our services.
Will I Qualify for Tennessee Social Security Disability Benefits?
To qualify for SSD, applicants must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled.” According to SSA law, an individual is disabled only if a physical or mental impairment is so severe that they are unable to accomplish their previous work and cannot otherwise engage in any substantial work activity (considering age, education, and work experience).
The Administration uses a five-step evaluation process when making a disability determination. This process can be complicated, and involves a detailed, case-by-case analysis, However, the five steps can be simplified into the following three questions:
- Is a physical or mental impairment preventing an individual from working?
- Has this condition lasted for twelve continuous months, or is it expected to last at least this long?
- Is the person less than the “full retirement age” (this age will vary depending upon when you were born)?
If you are interested in applying for SSD and answered “yes” to the questions above, it may be worth beginning the process of applying for benefits. However, there are additional requirements that must be met. We would thus encourage you to call our office to schedule a free consultation, and, at that time, we can review with you your situation and discuss what needs to be done to secure benefits.
Can I Do Anything to Increase My Chances of Being Approved for SSD?
Being diligent and thoroughly documenting a disabling condition can help to increase the chances of securing benefits. The following are a few tips that can help build a strong claim:
- Compile Medical Evidence. As is the case with most legal claims, what counts in disability determinations is what you can prove with evidence. If an individual does not have medical records to support a disability claim, they will likely be unsuccessful. The SSA believes that if a medical condition is severe enough to prevent someone from working, it should require physician visits, testing, and treatment, all of which should be documented.
- Follow Treatment. Examiners want to see that an applicant is trying to get better; thus, they will rigorously evaluate whether a doctor’s treatment recommendations are being followed. When a claimant believes that a treatment regimen will not help, it is vital to ensure that a physician documents the odds of success or failure, rather than merely avoiding treatment.
- Keep Records. After months or years, it is common to forget details and dates, which can be crucial to a claim. Thus, as a general rule, it is vital to keep records of doctor visits, lab tests, prescriptions, and therapy received. Obtaining business cards, keeping pill bottles or receipts of filled prescriptions, and making detailed notes can only serve to strengthen a claim.
- Do Not Minimize or Gloss Over Details. The SSA does not expect applicants to be medical experts on their conditions; however, they do need enough detail about symptoms to assess a claim fully. No matter how insignificant something may seem, it is essential to explain all conditions with particularity (without exaggerating or minimizing) and to not omit or gloss over lesser conditions because another impairment is more severe.
- Physical Restrictions. Determinations are based primarily on what an individual can still do, despite having a physical restriction. Therefore, thoroughly explaining all limitations can help an examiner reach a timelier determination.
- Keep Track of Life Impacts. It is essential to convey to the SSA how an impairment affects daily activities. For example, have personal care (hygiene, dressing, bathing), household (cleaning, shopping, driving), and social (sports, visiting with family and friends, hobbies) activities been affected?
- Be Consistent. Minor errors or inconsistencies can result in a denial, as examiners may believe that an applicant is lying. It is vital that any information provided be consistent.
CRITICAL – An Initial Denial Can Lead to Months of Additional Waiting
Many people incorrectly believe that if they did not submit all of the correct information in the initial application and their claim is denied, they can simply submit the additional information and the examiners then can approve their claim. This is not the case.
When a claim is denied, the applicant must go through the specified appeals process, as described below. It will be far better for an applicant in most cases to seek an experienced social security benefits lawyer who can review and help prepare a claim to increase the chance of approval at the outset than to file a claim and learn that a small error was made (which will result in months of delay).
It’s also important to understand that because social security disability benefit lawyers (including our firm) are compensated based upon a percent of the “back pay”, representing a client at the initial claim filing stage will typically cost much less than retaining a lawyer at the appeals stage.
I Was Denied SSD Benefits. Can I Appeal?
Yes, and you should appeal if you believe that you have a qualifying disabling injury.
Many SSD claimants are discouraged by the denial of an application, but they should not be dissuaded, as 70% of initial applications are denied. Fortunately, a significant portion of the claims that are appealed are ultimately approved.
The SSA provides the following appeal options for denied claims:
- Request for Reconsideration. A short form must be filed within sixty days of a denial. It is vital to provide a current list of medications and the name(s) and address(es) of every medical provider seen since the submission of the initial application.
- Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). 17 out of 20 claimants who file for reconsideration are denied and must request a hearing. Much like a traditional court trial, an administrative hearing requires presenting evidence and witnesses before a judge who will decide whether benefits are warranted. At this stage, we highly recommend retaining an attorney if you have not already done so.
- Review by the Appeals Council (AC). If an ALJ denies a claim, it may be possible to appeal to the SSA’s Appeal Council. However, if the Council believes that the hearing decision was correct, they can refuse to evaluate a case. If the AC decides to proceed, it can render a determination itself or return it to an ALJ for further review.
- Federal Court Appeal. If an applicant is rejected at all previous appeal stages, it may be possible to fight in Federal Court for SSD benefits.
If your SSD application has been denied, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free case evaluation. Mark Hurt can evaluate the facts and circumstances regarding your injury or illness and provide guidance on potential next steps.
Call to Schedule a Free Consultation – No Upfront Fees Required!
At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we make client service a priority. We provide free case evaluations for all disability claimants residing in Washington County and the surrounding areas, including Tennessee. If you would like to file an initial application or appeal a denial, call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
 There are certain exceptions to these limits, which we can explain.