Social Security Disability Process Advice

Question:  I suffer from severe, chronic back pain that keeps me from working a full time job.  I have tried to work but can’t keep a job due to needing additional breaks or taking off when I have a bad day to deal with the pain.  Do I qualify for Social Security benefits and what is the process?

 Answer PART 1:  I will address this question in two separate posts due to the length.  I have been representing disabled individuals in claims for Social Security benefits for over fifteen years.  The process is time consuming for most claimants.  On average, you can expect a wait of two years from the time you first apply and the time you receive a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge.  You may be qualified to receive two kinds of Social Security benefits.  If you have worked and paid your Federal taxes for a sufficient period of time you will qualify for Disability benefits.  If you do not qualify for Disability but are disabled you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you meet certain asset criteria.  In some cases you may qualify to receive both Disability and SSI.

Here are the steps in a nutshell:

1.         Go to www. ssa.gov.  Complete the online application for Disability and/or SSI benefits.  The process is fairly simple.  A telephone appointment with SSA will be scheduled after your online application is filed.

2.         You will either be approved or denied usually within the next three months.  Expect to be contacted by Disability Determination Services (DDS).  They may even send you to a medical professional for a consultative examination.

3.         When you are denied, and close to 90% of applicants are denied, you only have sixty days from the decision to file an appeal.

4.         Retain an experienced Social Security lawyer immediately!

5.         File the appeal called a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the other forms required.  This became an online process earlier this year.  In fact, all attorneys must file the appeal online.

6.         You will have a hearing usually within the next 12-17 months where you may present evidence and testimony to an ALJ.  It is the ALJ’s job to determine if the SSA’s denial was correct.

7.         If you lose, you can appeal to the Appeals Council located in Falls Church, Virginia.  It will take approximately two years for a decision.  If you lose this appeal you may then appeal by filing suit in Federal Court against the SSA.

 I hope this is very helpful.  The process is lengthy and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel after your initial denial.  In my opinion, there is not a whole lot at the initial application stage that an attorney can effectively do to assist you.  However, as soon as you receive your denial you should immediately hire an attorney who practices this type of law.   If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contact the Davidson Law Firm.

Legal Thursdays – Child Support Advice

Here is the link to the No Sleep in Helena blog page for this article: http://helena-alabama.blogspot.com/2012/03/thursday-in-helena_15.html

I have received several questions regarding child support recently so I will address those this week.   My office handles all types of domestic law cases so give me a call if you need help or have question.

Question:  I am considering a divorce but my husband says he won’t pay me any child support.  Is this true?

Answer:   This is a pretty big issue that I see often in my practice and is something that many people do not understand.  A divorce is between you and your spouse.  Child support has nothing at all to do with the problems between you and your spouse.  Let me say that once more for those of you steaming mad at your ex or soon to be ex: child support has nothing to do with whatever is going on between you and your spouse.  Child support is about taking care of your children.  The law very clearly states that a non-custodial parent must take care of its obligations to support its children through the payment of child support.   A judge cannot let the non-custodial party not pay child support unless there is really, really, really good reason.   So, the short answer is no that is not true.  If you would like to know about how much you will receive just contact my office and I will be happy to calculate the number for you or you can look at the information at http://www.alacourt.gov/ChildSupportInfo.aspx for links to the guidelines.

Question:  My former spouse has not paid child support in over a year.  What do I do?

Answer:  The answer depends on which Court awarded child support.  Since you said former “spouse” I will assume it was the Circuit Court that rendered a judgment of divorce.  The Court that issued your divorce retains jurisdiction over the matters in the order, particularly child support.  My first recommendation is to hire an attorney immediately to represent you in the enforcement of the Order because you will need to file a Motion for Rule Nisi.  This is lawyer speak for asking the Court to hold the other side in contempt of court for failing to obey the order.  The court can hold a contemptuous (read, deadbeat) party in either civil or criminal contempt and force it to pay what it owes (called purging), award you attorney’s fees, and even throw them in the slammer (hooscow, pokey, clink) for up to five days per violation.  Yes, that’s five days in jail for each month he or she has not paid.  You would be surprised how money suddenly becomes available when they are looking at two months as a guest of the County.

Send your legal questions to Brian Davidson at cbdavidson@davidsonlawoffice.com