LAW OFFICES OF JOHN NOWAKOWSKI
302 Washington St. # 417, San Diego, CA 92103 Phone: (619) 684-1034 Fax: (619) 568 - 3371
Frequently Asked Questions:
DO I QUALIFY FOR SSD?
Approximately 2.5 million people apply for Social Security Disability (SSD)
benefits every year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is one of the
largest bureaucracies in the country and the primary component of America’s
system for caring for workers who become disabled. Benefits average over
$1,000/month, but range depending on how much the worker has contributed
in social security taxes. Benefits are not paid for the first six months of
disability and are not paid more than 12 months prior to the effective date of the
The applicant must prove that as a result of their medical impairments they are
unable to engage in substantially gainful activity for at least 12 consecutive
months. It is a tough standard to qualify for SSD. The SSA will look at the
applicant’s age, education, work history, and medical impairments to determine
whether there is any job the applicant could find that would pay approximately
$1,000/month. The test is whether any job could be done, not just how severe
the impairments are.
It is unlikely that you will need an attorney’s assistance for your initial
application. By contacting someone at your local SSA office, someone will
guide you through the initial application process. It is a rather straightforward
procedure. However, if you are intimidated or confused by the process, the
Law Offices of John Nowakowski will be happy to help you with your initial
Your initial application is reviewed by someone at your local office. This is
usually a state employee who works under federal supervision. The review is
not done face to face. The employee has very little in the way of discretion.
As such, roughly 2 out of 3 initial applications are turned down.
REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
If your initial application is turned down, you will receive a letter informing you
of the denial. It will also tell you that you have 60 days to appeal. The first
stage of appealing a denial is the Request for Reconsideration. A Request for
Reconsideration means that another state employee in the local SSA office,
different from reviewer of the initial application, will consider your application.
Again, the person has little discretion as a state employee. As such, roughly 2
out of 3 Requests for Reconsideration are denied.
REQUEST FOR HEARING BEFORE AN
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE (ALJ)
If your Request for Reconsideration is turned down, you will receive a letter
informing you of the denial. It will also tell you that you have 60 days to
appeal. The second stage of appeal is a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). At the hearing before an ALJ you will have the chance to testify,
bring witnesses, introduce more evidence, and question the government’s
Vocational Expert. In other words, this is the first time you will have a face to
face chance to argue for your application before someone with broad discretion
to approve your claim.
This part of the process is extremely important and an attorney can be of great
assistance. A good social security lawyer can help you fill out the forms,
gather your evidence, prepare you to testify by knowing what questions will be
asked of you, know what questions to ask the government’s expert, and so
on. As most applicants have an attorney assist with the ALJ hearing, roughly 2
out of 3 applicants are approved! However, from the time one applies for an
ALJ hearing it can take over a year to finally have it. Yet, accrued benefits are
paid going back up to 12 months prior to your initial application.
APPEALS COUNCIL AND DISTRICT COURT
If your ALJ Hearing results in a further denial, there are more avenues to
continue appealing. You can request a review of the hearing by the Appeals
Council. If the Appeals Council denies you, that decision can be appealed in
federal court. These types of appeals are rare.
HOW MUCH WILL AN ATTORNEY COST ME?
You should not have to pay anything up front. The attorney should only collect
a percentage of your back benefits if your appeal is successful. The Law
Offices of John Nowakowski follow the standard rate of 25% of accrued back
benefits awarded with a cap of $5,300. Nothing is taken from your future
benefits. Call us at (619) 684-1034 for a free consultation.
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