SSDI claim rejected - help needed.
August 28, 2009 3:19 PM   Subscribe

A relative's husband has come down with Parkinson's Disease in his early 60's. His application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has been rejected and he had his wife are devastated as he is unable to find a job so they were counting on this income. Does anyone know of a free advisory service they could go to who could help them in the appeal process? There are tons of "for profit" agencies and law firms who do this work but, due to their circumstances, a free service would be better. Thanks for any information.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try looking for a Center for Independent Living in their region. CIL's specialize in being a referral source for people with disabilities.
posted by metahawk at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2009

Another good place to go for this is your elected representatives. Most of them have people on staff who really do nothing but help people navigate the often unfriendly and confusing world of federal benefits. Have them call the local office (i.e. not the DC office) of their local Congressional Representatives and inquire. It may be that the office itself is not the best place to deal with their issue but they should be able to give you the proper referral. This is called constituent services and it's one of the things your elected reps should help you with.
posted by jessamyn at 3:28 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

due to their circumstances

What are the circumstances? Attorneys and non-attorney representatives in Social Security claims do all work on a contingency fee basis - they are not allowed to do otherwise.
posted by dilettante at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2009

dilettante is right; they won't have to pay anything up front and can only be charged 25% of the back benefits with a cap of around $5000. It's totally worth it -- I was in law school when I applied for disability and I still needed a lawyer's help to get it done. Also, a good lawyer can help with getting the most favorable date of disability (ie, backdating the claim to the actual date of disability rather than the date filed) which can mean many thousands of dollars more for the recipient.
posted by katemonster at 3:38 PM on August 28, 2009

I've heard that most SSDI applications are denied at their first try. The theory is, I suppose, that applicants will give up and go away, thus saving $X.

Don't give up! Appeal and re-appeal. My understanding is that your benefits, once they are granted, will be retroactive to the date of your first application, so keep at it. The suggestion to get help from a CIL is a great start. Search for your local one. Also many places have Legal Aid non-profits - they are also there to help.
posted by jasper411 at 3:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

seconding jasper411 -- more than one relative of mine has had this experience. Their applications have all been approved the second time around, with benefits being paid out retroactive to the date of their first application.
posted by palomar at 3:54 PM on August 28, 2009

If you've got a law school in your area (the more prestigious, the better) they may have a legal clinic that can help you with this.
posted by availablelight at 4:44 PM on August 28, 2009

As a Board certified specialist who does this for a living, I can tell you that is very common to be turned down the first step of the process and your friends should certainly appeal. And do so right away.

Congressional staff is good at ironing out snafus and finding missing checks but they will not be any use to someone trying to establish disability. Your friends need a lawyer that specializes or concentrates in this area of the law. What wins these cases is medical evidence. An attorney who does this work will know what evidence to obtain, how best to obtain it from the treating physician, and how best to submit it to the Agency.

You may wish to contact NOSSCR for help finding such an attorney in your area. If you e-mail me or me-mail me, I may be able to refer you to someone that I know who is good in your area.

Others are correct; these cases are taken on a contingency fee basis and the fee is the lesser of 25 % of back benefits or $6,000. (katemonster is a bit out of date: the attorney fee cap is now $6,000.)
posted by pasici at 5:05 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

If they're in Washington state (and perhaps even if they're not) I'd advise calling the Alliance of People with disAbilities, which helped a friend of mine with a tricky SSDI case that had to go through several rounds of appeal. Goofy name, hideous website, good people.

There may be a similar rights-focused disabilities group in their area. Even if they've never heard of such a group or service, they'd be smart to enlist the help of the reference librarians in their public library in looking for one, especially if they're in or near a city. I recently had to find some help in a big hurry for someone who needed a very particularly targeted set of nonprofit services. The head reference librarian at my local branch was a service-locating superhero.
posted by sculpin at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2009

My understanding is that your benefits, once they are granted, will be retroactive to the date of your first application, so keep at it.
posted by jasper411 at 5:51 PM on August 28

The benefits are retroactive to the date that the person is adjudged to have become disabled, not from the date of application. Let's say this guy was laid off because of inability to perform his job functions in 2006 but didn't apply until 2007; if/when he is awarded SSDI benefits, he'll be eligible for benefits from 2006 to today, not from 2007 to today.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:07 PM on August 28, 2009

Definitely call the Legal Services Corporation:

They are an umbrella group for lots and lots of legal-counseling non-profits nation-wide (full disclaimer: I worked for a small section of LSC over the summer.) They should be able to direct you to a free legal counseling service in your area, or, even better, quite possibly a specialist in this sort of thing.

Even if all you need is a second application, it can be very helpful to have someone walk you through the process and maybe even give some tips and tricks for getting the most out of SSI. The web of bureaucracy surrounding it can be extremely complex and it's always best to get help from (free!) experts.
posted by WidgetAlley at 4:52 AM on August 29, 2009 is a not-for-profit group created expressly to help folks figure out how to navigate the ssdi maze. They're awesome.
posted by qurlyjoe at 5:04 AM on August 29, 2009

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