1. What should I do if I receive a denial of my social security benefits?
The first thing is to not take it personally. Many people with credible disabilities are denied and win on appeal. You should appeal the denial notice. Our staff is here to help you with your appeal any time Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm.
2. How long do I have to appeal the denial?
You have 60 calendar days plus 5 mailing days from the date of the denial notice to appeal.
3. What if I want to appeal and 65 days have passed?
In certain circumstances, you can ask for good cause for filing your appeal late. Examples are if you have a mental, physical, educational or linguistic limitation that prevented you from filing a timely appeal.
4. How much do you charge for my appeal?
There are no upfront fees. Our fee is contingent and the amount is regulated by the Social Security Administration. The fee is 25% of your retroactive back payments or $6,000, whichever is less. Social Security pays our fee directly. You do not pay anything if you do not win your appeal.
5. What do I need to bring to my first appointment?
At your appointment, you need to bring a photo I.D., your most recent denial letter, all of your currently prescribed medications (the actual bottles), and information/addresses related to the treatment of your disability (clinics, hospitals, doctors, etc..).
6. What happens at the first appointment?
An attorney or legal assistant will talk to you about your disability and inform you about the appeals process. We will ask you about your medical sources and discuss what your doctor thinks about whether or not you can work. We will file all the necessary paperwork for your appeal.
7. What happens after the first appointment?
You will be assigned a legal assistant who will gather your medical records or secure a letter or questionnaire from your treating doctor. She will be your contact person. The attorney representing you will also be available to speak with you if you need to speak with her.
8. What languages are spoken at your office?
In addition to English, we have both a legal assistant and an administrative assistant who are fluent in Spanish. We also have an office assistant available Monday to Friday from 1-5pm who is fluent in Vietnamese.
9. Where are you located?
We currently have 3 offices. Our main office is in San Jose, CA. Additionally, we have two other offices, one in San Mateo, CA. If you are unable to drive to any of these offices, we are happy to mail paperwork to your home and then speak to you by telephone. We are also able to meet you at the hearing office if that is easiest for you.
10. What counties do you currently serve?
We currently serve Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, and Solano Counties. We often have clients who move outside of these counties and we will continue to represent them.
11. What happens after the hearing?
If you filed for SSDI and SSI or SSI only, you will be contacted by your local SSA office. A claims representative will either interview you over the phone, or schedule an appointment for you to come in to talk to them about starting your benefits. If your case is an SSDI only, it will be sent directly to a payment center for development. It can take anywhere from six weeks to two months before you receive your back pay.
12. Will I get anything from SSA explaining how they calculated my benefits?
Yes, once your benefits are calculated you will receive a Notice of Award letter. This letter will tell you how your payments were calculated, what your back payment will be, how much you will receive monthly, and when you can expect to receive your payment.
13. What do I need to bring to SSA for my interview?
Once SSA has contacted you they will send you a letter with a list of items they will need in order to process your case. In most cases they will want current bank statements, a rental agreement, and proof of any assets. If you are our client and we represented you in your Social Security appeal, and you have any questions before, or after your interview, please call our office. We receive the same letters you do and can answer your questions or contact SSA on your behalf.
14. Is there anything I need to know before my interview with SSA?
You will be assigned a claims representative; a person who will be working on your case. Always write down the name of the person you speak with, make copies of any paperwork you give to SSA, and have SSA date-stamp anything you give them, so you have proof the paperwork was provided to them in case it gets lost. Keep all of your SSA paperwork together in a file for easy reference.
15. Fees vs. Costs
Attorney fees are paid from your retroactive benefits. Once SSA calculates the total back pay, they will withhold 25 percent and pay the attorney directly. Costs are a separate charge. As your case is being developed, we update your medical records to document your disability, and submit them to the judge as evidence. I pay for these records up front so you do not have to. If the case is won, and you have been paid, you will be sent an invoice and are responsible for paying costs.