How To Increase Your Odds Of Being Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits On Your First Try

Many people are denied when they first apply for Houston Social Security disability benefits. In fact, over 65% are denied on their first application, meaning less than 40% of applicants are approved. So what’s the difference?

Houston Social Security Disability Benefits

The Application Process

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t SSA’s policy to delay and deny claims the first time around. One of the biggest reasons for an initial denial is an incomplete application form.

You’ll start with the application, and go from there. The Social Security Administration has a printable checklist on its website, along with instructions to complete it. You can download, print, and use this checklist to complete your initial application. If you meet certain conditions, you may be able to complete your application online, without visiting your Social Security office.

Your eligibility assessment is also assessed on your previous work history.

It’s important to have all of the requested information as well as medical information. If you haven’t been under the care of a physician, you may have a more difficult time proving a medical disability. You would need a very good reason, such as not having medical insurance or not being able to afford any, but you still have a very high chance of denial.

Ways To Increase Your Odds Of Approval

  1. File Your Claim Immediately. Getting approved for benefits can be a very long process, and if you wait, your disability insurance may expire. You will have to have worked five of the last ten years to be eligible, and waiting to apply may be too late.
  2. Get Help With Your Application If You Need It. Mistakes and missing information are the main reasons applications are denied. Contact a disability attorney, a family member, or someone from a Social Security field office for help.
  3. Find A Disability Attorney If You Have To Appeal. An attorney who specializes in disability work will know what to do and how to do it, and make sure you’ve done everything correctly by the deadline. More applicants win on appeal with an attorney than without.
  4. Keep Up With Doctor Visits And Medical Treatment. If your disability requires medical treatment, keep up with every appointment, test, prescription and doctor visit. Failing to seek medical treatment for your condition will lead SSA to believe that your condition is not serious enough to warrant disability. SSA believes you should be seen by a “provider” every two months. If you’ve lost your health insurance, using local “free clinics” or other available care may satisfy the requirement. You should also keep up with prescribed medications.
  5. Request An RFC Form From Your Physician. The Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form is used by examiners to determine your functional ability with your medical condition. These forms are needed to close out a case, and are usually completed by a DDS physician or psychologist. If your treating physician completes it, the claims examiner may use it to create an internal RFC for your case.
  6. Use A Businesslike Demeanor With Everyone You Deal With. In other words, be nice, or it could make your journey a lot more difficult. Caseworkers deal with hundreds of individuals every day in the same situation, and losing your temper or being rude can lead to even more delays in your case. No matter what the situation, be polite and cordial no matter what the situation to maintain good relations and communications.
  7. Contact Your Local SSA Office or Office of Disability Determination Services to check on your case’s status. Don’t make the mistake of calling SSA’s toll-free number, where they don’t have the most current information. Contact the office where you made your application, or the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review if a hearing has been requested.

Why Are More Applicants Approved On Appeal?

It’s a little odd, but true. Administrative hearings may take a year or more to be scheduled. A individual’s disability progresses in that time, increasing his or her inability to work. When appearing in front of an administrative judge, he or she will see you face-to-face and determine disability on sight, rather than on paper. If it’s obvious from seeing you that you’re unable to work, as it is in a hearing, your chances of approval increase as well.

Of the applicants that file an appeal, 60% who hire a disability attorney are approved, compared to the 34% who don’t have legal counsel. A disability attorney who is experienced with Social Security disability claims is familiar with the application and appeals process, and can guide you through it.

Houston Social Security Disability Benefits Attorney

Getting disability is a long process, but we can make it easier. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians win their claims and get the benefits they need. We have the experience to help you with your Social Security application and/or appeals process.  The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application and any necessary appeals. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

What If My Application For Disability Benefits In Houston, TX Is Denied? Can I Appeal The Decision?

You’ve gathered all your medical records and filled out all the forms that were required. But after carefully preparing your application and sending it in on time, you were still denied. What do you do now?

The truth is, more than half the people who apply for benefits are denied the first time they apply. You have the right to an appeal within 60 days, so use it. Don’t assume that a denial is the end of everything, or worse, re-apply without legal help from a disability lawyer.

What If My Application For Disability Benefits In Houston, TX Is Denied? Can I Appeal The Decision?

The Process Of Appeals

Many people assume that a denial is the end of their application and either give up entirely or re-apply. Both are incorrect, and you will lose valuable time and your appeal rights in both scenarios.

There are four steps to the appeals process in Texas, and they have to be done in order.

  • Request for Reconsideration—this involves turning in your same paperwork to another SSA representative for review. You can also include additional information that was omitted from your original application. About one out of six people who request reconsideration are approved at this stage.
  • The Disability Hearing—you’ll go in front of an administrative law judge who will hear your case and decide if you are qualified for disability. Expert witnesses, such as a medical expert to discuss your condition and a vocational expert that can advise on what kind of work you may be qualified to perform. However, you are allowed to bring witnesses as well as present any new evidence that has come to light since your application or last denial.
  • ·The Appeals Council—if the judge denies your request, you can bring your case to the next level. This council consists of administrative law judges that were not involved with your case previously. These judges won’t consider any new evidence, however, they will make sure that the previous judge followed proper laws and procedure in deciding your case.

These judges can either agree with the original judge’s findings or overturn the decision and award your disability benefits. They can also send the case back to the prior administrative law judge with comments about any mistakes made in the case.

  • Federal Court Review—this is where you’ll file a lawsuit if you disagree with the decisions of the previous courts.

Why You Need A Disability Attorney

Just applying for disability is complicated and confusing. Going through the process of appeals is even more complicated as well as challenging. Finding an attorney who understands the process and knows what to do will make the process much easier, and increase your chances of winning on appeal.

Call Us For Help With Your Disability Appeal

If you didn’t have legal help with your disability application, don’t leave things to chance. The process can take many months, and in some cases, years. Don’t give up.  Let us help you with your appeal and increase your chances of winning.

We’re experienced in handling all types of disability claims and have helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the disability benefits they need. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

How Do They Decide If I’m Totally Disabled Or Partially Disabled In Houston, TX?

If you’re unable to work due to a disability, “hurry up and wait” is probably a term you’ve heard at least once. Determining disability can be confusing. Are you completely disabled, or only partly disabled? There are a number of questions to answer before you receive an answer.

How Do They Decide If I'm Totally Disabled Or Partially Disabled In Houston, TX?

Qualifying For Disability

In order to receive Social Security disability, you must have worked long enough and recent enough to earn work credits, up to four per year. Once you’ve earned $5,290, you’ve earned the four towards your total of credits.
Social Security only pays for total disability, not partial. You are considered disabled if:

• You cannot do the same work you did before
• You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
• Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or will result in death

How Disabled Are You?

This question is answered by Social Security’s five-step process that determines how much work you can do, as well as if and when you can be expected to return to work. There are a number of things that are considered the process.
Social Security will ask about your education and work experience. They will also ask about your current job—how did you do it? Can you still do some of it? Can you adjust to doing a previous job, or change professions to perform a new vocation?

One way to determine your abilities is to review your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC.) With the help of their Listing Of Impairments, SS will determine what abilities you have in spite of the conditions of your disability (standing, sitting, interacting, taking directions, etc.)

The determining questions asked involve:

• If you are currently working, and if you earn more than $1,180 per month
• If your condition severely limits your basic work abilities for more than 12 months (lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering)
• If your condition is found in the List Of Medical Conditions that are severe enough to prevent you from doing “substantial gainful activity”
• If your medical condition or impairment prevents you from doing the work you did previously
• If you can do any other type of work. Your age, education, medical condition, experience, transferable skills, and other factors are taken into consideration

One determining factor is whether or not you can do “light or sedentary work.” If you are under age 50 and can do light, sedentary work, you will not be considered “disabled.” However, if you are over the age of 55 with an RFC of “light or sedentary work” and don’t have transferable skills, you will likely be granted disability under the medical-vocational allowance. However, if you can do light work, the SSA will assume that you can learn and perform a new job or vocation.

Need Help With A Disability Claim?

If you’re assembling your application, you may be overwhelmed. There are numerous forms to fill out, doctor visits and conversations to handle correctly. One wrong item can sink your claim.

Let us help. We’re experienced in handling all types of disability claims and have helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the disability benefits they need. Call The Herren Law Firm today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and we’ll take your case on a contingency fee basis, with no up-front charges.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Migraines in Houston, TX?

If you’re one of the 28 million Americans who suffer with migraines, you know the signs when you’re getting one. Lethargy, increases in pain and the so-called “auras” are sure indicators that it’s about to happen. You may have stressors or triggers that bring on a migraine (like a smell or bright light) that tell you it’s coming. Once that happens, you know you’re down for the count until it passes.

Can You Get Long Term Disability for Migraines in Houston, TX?

You may have relatives, friends or coworkers who don’t offer support. You may even hear the comment, “but you don’t LOOK sick.”  You know you’re in pain, even if they don’t. Medications have varying degrees of effectiveness; some don’t help at all. And if you go to work anyway, instead of staying home, you know your quality of work will suffer until it passes. Meantime, you manage the best you can.

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine is a headache and condition that can seriously impact your quality of life. According to Migraine.com, migraines are the 7th leading cause of disability worldwide. Common symptoms include:

  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Blurred vision or other visual disruptions
  • Nausea
  • An “aura”—visual disturbances that includes blind spots, flashing lights, zig-zagging lines, and/or “seeing stars”

There may be other accompanying symptoms, such as fatigue and/or lethargy. Migraine episodes typically last 4 hours to 72 hours. These symptoms can also make work, social events and other everyday activities difficult or impossible to engage in.

Proving The Disability

Getting disability for migraine conditions can be difficult, even though one in four households are likely to have someone who suffers with it. As a neurological condition that’s not visible or diagnosed by a regular blood test, filing for long-term disability can be more difficult.

Note that “self-reporting” your condition may severely limit your benefits, or see them declined Migraines aren’t obvious or detectible through conventional medical testing. Supplying sufficient evidence to prove your inability to work is essential, so you’ll need to use other means of reporting to support your claim. Insurance companies want objective evidence for your diagnosis. A series of documentation will be required to successfully defend your claim, including:

·         Your own journal: record everything related to your condition truthfully and thoroughly—pain, frequency, intensity, severity, treatment, and your level of difficulty. Include dates, times, duration, and other relevant details, i.e., hospital visits, treatments given, side effects of medicines, etc. Your physician may include a review of your notes in your patient record, making it part of any claim evidence.

·         Work with your doctor: you’ll need your doctor’s support for your claim, so you’ll need to follow his or her instructions, including taking prescribed medications. If you’re unable to comply with your physician’s instructions (i.e., side effects of medication) make sure to inform him or her of these difficulties. Their records should indicate that you are doing your best to follow their instructions.

·         Other documentation to support your disability claim: this should include days missed from work, test results taken to rule out any other conditions, any treatments or medications you tried, their effectiveness, and any side effects

·         Testimony from family/friends supporting your activities that are limited by the headaches

·         Your doctor’s notes about your migraines (intensity, frequency, severity, etc.), and if these headaches are compounded by other illnesses or injuries.

·         Records of any hospital visits (including ER) related to your migraines

·         If you’re a veteran, medical evidence verifying the service-related connection, such as an incident that occurred during service time, or that it’s related to another service-related condition.

Migraines As A Catalyst

As painful as migraines are, they can also be a catalyst for additional conditions, such as fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, additional pain as well as other conditions.  If you also experience the “aura” symptoms, you may also be at increased risk for strokes and heart attacks.

Houston’s Attorney For Long-Term Disability Help

Filling for LTD can be a chore under the best of circumstances. With a condition like migraines, it’s more complicated, and of course, can be more difficult. But an attorney experienced in disability filings and appeals can help you gather the necessary information needed to file and increase your chances for a successful outcome.

Over 4,000 Houstonians have received the LTD benefits they need, and we can help you too. The Herren Law Firm can help you with your application, appeals and help you through the process so you can concentrate on getting better. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation, and no up-front fees.  We only collect if we win your case.

Houston Attorney for CIGNA Disability Claims

Most people don’t expect to become disabled. But in the US, one in five individuals is considered disabled, enough not to work. Some need time to recover from an illness or injury. Some may never return to work, and will be on disability for the rest of their lives. But in many cases, part of their journey to disability involves long-term disability insurance. And for many, that insurance company is CIGNA.

Houston Attorney for CIGNA Disability Claims

Who Is CIGNA?

It’s one of the largest healthcare insurance companies in the world, for both companies and individuals. Whether you’re buying on your own or through your company, CIGNA offers health and dental insurance, Medicare, and supplemental coverage to augment your regular insurance policies. These include accident insurance, two types of cancer insurance, heart attack/stroke insurance and “whole life insurance” for final expenses.  Companies can also choose from supplemental group plans, wellness programs, cost control options and benefit technology solutions.

If your company offers short- and long-term disability insurance, there’s a good chance it’s also through CIGNA.

CIGNA is also one of the world’s largest group disability insurance companies. Calling itself a “global health services company,” CIGNA was ranked #97 on the Fortune 500 list in 2014. The company has more than 37,000 employees worldwide, has over $35 billion in revenue and $10.8 billion in shareholder’s equity.

While CIGNA offers a wide range of related services worldwide, they are also in business to make money. Denying claims is part of their business.

What CIGNA Is Really Like

Company literature touts their slogan, “Together, all the way.”  But policy holders who have CIGNA will tell you that once you file a disability claim, it’s not always like that. For a vulnerable person who needs help, CIGNA turns their back on many of their policyholders.

The company has a reputation for denying claims immediately, with little or no investigation, and only minimal documentation is used to deny claims. They also have a reputation for ignoring policyholders, not responding to phone calls and emails, and issuing multiple requests for the same information.

The company is governed by ERISA guidelines, but uses them to its advantage. CIGNA’s deadline for deciding your claim is 45 days, but the company routinely asks for 30-day extensions to delay that decision. They also continually ask for additional bits of information to further delay decisions—every request stops the time, and then starts it over. When you receive these requests, answer them immediately. The initial claim decision generally takes about 105 days with the extensions.

If your claim is denied, you’ll have 180 days to appeal. Don’t wait—begin your appeal immediately (and if you have a disability attorney, he or she will know what to do.) Your appeal will take time to prepare—don’t wait. CIGNA will take 45 days to respond to your appeal, but may also request a 45-day extension, making it 90 days.

Another tactic CIGNA uses is to continually ask for information and stalling their decision. You may also be told by one of the many “case workers” you speak to that if you’ll just write a simple letter, your claim will be approved and your checks will begin right away. This is another stalling technique, and can be used to deny your claim. Talk to your attorney if you’re being ignored or treated badly.

Don’t Ignore Appeals

Appeals are essential to getting your claim approved if you’re denied the first time. Pay attention to the deadlines given—if you miss it, you’ll lose your ability to appeal, and possibly your entire claim to long-term disability.

CIGNA allows two appeals before either approving your claim. If you’re still denied, you may opt for a lawsuit. If you don’t have an attorney at this point, you’ll need one now.

Are You Fighting With CIGNA?

Fighting with your insurance company can be worse than having a disability. It doesn’t have to be that way. A thorough and complete application is the best way to start, and we can help.

We understand the process of applying for disability and dealing with appeals—we do it every day. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals and all documentation. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 to schedule your free consultation. We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits, and we only collect a fee if we win your case. Don’t fight alone—call us today.

Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation in Houston, TX

Confused about Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation? If you’ve become disabled, it’s important to know the difference, because the application processes and outcomes are different.

Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation in Houston, TX

Workers’ Compensation

This is a public insurance funded by employers and includes both medical treatment for on-the-job injuries and/or illness, and partial payment for lost wages. Injured employees can heal away from work, and be paid for their temporary disability. Should an employee discovered that he or she is permanently disabled, permanent benefits are paid. If an employee’s death occurs, benefits can be paid to the survivors.

Texas calculates an employee’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) as the amount of wages they receive during the period 13 weeks prior to the work-related injury/illness, and uses it to determine the amount of WC benefit payments. The maximum benefit will not exceed that amount, and will vary depending on the type of injury (temporary, longer-term, or life benefits.)

In Texas, employers may offer WC coverage for employees who become injured on the job, but they can opt-out of the state’s plan and offer their own private coverage (self-insure.) If your employer does carry the state of Texas WC, and you apply for Social Security Disability, there may be some overlap. Should you receive both at the same time, you may see a decrease in one or the other.

Social Security Disability

This federally funded program pays you based on your average monthly lifetime earnings, not to exceed 80% of your previous average monthly earnings.  SSD pays you benefits if you are unable to work due to a medical condition that will last a year, or is terminal.

You can complete your SSD application online, by phone or in person by appointment at your local Social Security office. However, you may not receive benefits right away. The Social Security Administration examines your case and makes a determination based on your application. Therefore, it’s important to completely fill out your application and have all of your important information handy when you do. This information includes your name, date/place of birth, Social Security number, the same information on your spouse or former spouse(s), any minor children, earnings, and other pertinent information. (A complete listing of required information is available on the Social Security Administration’s website.)

Possible Offsets

If you are receiving Workers’ Compensation and apply for Social Security Disability, you may receive a smaller amount of SSD than if you would if you did not receive Worker’s Compensation. Social Security calculates the amount that you would receive monthly, and you’ll only receive the difference between your WC payments and the SSD amount. Your total payments cannot exceed 80% of your average monthly income when you were working.

For instance, if you made $3,500 a month while you were employed, your total disability income would be $2,800 per month. If you are receiving disability payments of $1,800 from Workers’ Compensation, then your monthly SSD payment would be $1,000. If you are no longer receiving Workers’ Compensation, then your SSD payment would be the full $3,500 per month.

Both Social Security Disability and Workers Compensation are publicly funded programs, as are others (i.e., civil service disability benefits.) Therefore, disability payments from private sources, like pensions or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. VA benefits, state and local benefits and SSI also do not impact Social Security benefits.

In Texas, offsets to WC aren’t allowed for SSA retirement benefits, and lump-sum payments aren’t usually authorized, except for accrued benefits that haven’t been paid yet.

Need Help? Call Us

If you’ve submitted applications and are denied benefits, don’t give up. The Herren Law Firm has helped more than 4,000 Houstonians get the help they need dealing with Social Security and Workers’ Compensation cases. Call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t have to pay any fees until we win your case.

Do My Long Term Disability Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

The short answer: Yes.

It’s called an “offset.” Payments from a long-term disability policy can (and very likely will) be reduced by the amount you receive from Social Security. This is true whether you receive SSI or SSDI. The Herren Law Firm understands the process and can help you manage your claim and get you the benefits you deserve.

Do My Long Term Disability Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

What’s The Difference Between Disability Payments And Social Security Payments?

Long-term disability is private insurance that you either purchase yourself or receive as a benefit through your employer. Disability payments provide income while you are disabled and are unable to work for a long time. Long-term disability provides a portion of your income (usually 50% to 65%, depending on the policy) while you are disabled. This insurance starts when short-term disability ends, usually after three to six months.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are government-funded programs that provide income when you are unable to work due to a disability. You pay into the system with the Social Security deductions from your paycheck.

What Is “Disabled?”

Generally, it means that you are unable to work at your regular job; “long term” is more than 30 or 120 days. You must be able to prove that you are medically and physically unable to work for an extended period of time. Your policy may specify that you must be unable to work the job you were in, or if you are unable to work any job, full or part time. Review your individual policy to find out about disability payments and more.

Disability criteria differs for insurance companies and Social Security, which is much more stringent. The Herren Law Firm can help you apply for Social Security benefits, and increase your chances of approval.

The Offset

When you file your Social Security claim, your benefit payments will take a very long time. However, the date your first file is your date of disability. Individuals frequently receive a lump sum for the period before their regular benefits begin, called a “backpay.” The insurance company may require you to refund some of the payments they previously paid to you using the backpay, to offset the monies already paid.

How It Works

Some long-term disability policies will require you to apply for Social Security when your insurance payments begin. Once it’s approved, your disability plan will pay you the difference between your Social Security payment and your policy payment. That is, if your policy payment is $2,000 a month, and Social Security is $1,500, your policy payment will change to $500 instead of the entire $2,000. The “offset” is the $1,500 per month that Social Security pays you, and your total income remains the same.

Backpay Is Taxable

Even if you are required to make a large, lump-sum payment to refund your insurance company, the IRS will also collect taxes on the lump sum. Many individuals are shocked to receive a tax bill for that amount, and may be unable to pay it. If you expect to receive a lump sum from Social Security, consider saving a small monthly amount from your disability payments to protect yourself against an unpleasant surprise later.

Long-Term Disability or Social Security? Or Both?

It depends on the insurance policy you have, and how long you may be disabled. Individually purchased disability insurance may allow both without offsets, whereas group or employer policies may have more restrictions. Some policies may require you to apply for Social Security once the insurance payments start.

Reading and understanding your individual policy is essential before starting and submitting a claim, so that you understand what you can expect, and if there is an offset once you receive your benefits.

The Herren Law Firm Is Ready To Help

Applying for Social Security for disability is a long process, and most claims are denied at the outset, requiring appeals. This is where you may need an attorney to handle your claim so you can start receiving benefits. If your insurance company is denying your claim, an attorney can step in and get the process moving again.

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians just like you get the disability benefits they need. Call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our contingency fee arrangement means you only pay us if we win your case.

How Federal Debts May Affect Your SSD Paycheck

Now that you’ve gone through the Social Security disability process and started receiving your monthly benefits, you are free to use the money however you’d like. In most cases, the payments are deposited into your bank account, put onto a prepaid card, or sent to your home by check.

How Federal Debts Affect Your SSD Paycheck | Houston SSD Attorney

Under federal law, creditors cannot garnish or freeze this money from your bank account or prepaid card, but there are some important exceptions that you need to be aware of. For instance, your SSD paycheck might not be protected from federal debts, such as unpaid taxes and some federal student loans. If your SSD paychecks have been frozen, garnished, reduced, or simply touched by an outside creditor, including the federal government, you should consult an experienced SSD attorney right here in Houston.

By calling Herren Law, we’ll look over your situation and determine if you have any legal options. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Houston-based firm, call us today at (800) 529-7707.

Protections for Social Security Disability Benefits

As mentioned above, creditors cannot garnish your Social Security disability benefits. This is true even after a creditor sues you for the debt and wins the court order for your bank or credit union to turn over money from your account or prepaid card. In fact, the U.S. Department of Treasury requires banks to automatically protect some of your federal benefits from being frozen or garnished.

In general, the benefits that your bank automatically protects include:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans
  • Federal Railroad retirement, unemployment, and sickness
  • Civil Service Retirement System
  • Federal Employee Retirement System

By having your Social Security benefits automatically deposited into your bank account, the bank is required to protect at least two months of benefits. For instance, if you receive $1,000 in monthly benefits, then the bank protects up to $2,000 or, if you have less than that, the bank will protect the money remaining in your account.

If your account has more than two months of benefits in your account, your bank may be able to freeze or garnish the wages under a court order. However, if that extra garnished money is exempt as Social Security disability benefits, you can object to the garnishment in courts to have your funds released.

Protections on Prepaid Cards

If you use a prepaid card to receive federal benefits, whether SSD benefits, SSI benefits, and VA disability benefits, the benefits you receive are also protected similar to how banks protect your benefits.

Exceptions to Automatic Protections

There are some exceptions to the automatic protections for federal benefits deposited in your bank account or prepaid card. According to Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407), your Social Security benefits are protected from any creditors except for the federal government when the following apply:

  • You owe unpaid federal taxes. In this example, and according to the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP), the IRS can take 15 percent of your monthly Social Security disability insurance payments to pay for unpaid federal taxes.
    • Keep in mind that the IRS cannot simply take 15 percent of your benefits. First, the IRS will send you a final notice which states that you have 30 days to pay your tax or work out a payment agreement. Once these 30 days pass, the IRS can usually begin withholding this money until the debts are paid.
  • You have unpaid child support or alimony. Up to 60 percent of your SSD benefits can be withheld for unpaid child support or alimony.
    • If you have another child or spouse that you support, federal agencies can only withhold 50 percent of your SSD benefits.
    • If your payments are more than 12 weeks late, federal agencies can reduce your SSD benefits by 5 percent until the support or alimony is paid, unless you can prove that this would cause undue hardship.
  • You have non-tax debts owed to the federal government. The most common non-tax debts owed to the government are federally guaranteed student loans, but this can also include food stamp overpayments and federal mortgage loans.

What to Do If Your Bank Account is Garnished or Frozen

Before creditors freeze or garnish any money in your bank account, you’ll first receive a notice of garnishment explaining the court procedures for claiming any exceptions from garnishment. Due to the automatic protections with having your SSD benefits directly deposited into your bank account, or onto a prepaid card, you’ll have at least two months of SSD benefits protected. However, if you receive your SSD benefits as a check and deposit the money into the account, or if you transfer the money from one account to another, then your bank might not see that the deposited money is from a federal source and won’t be able to protect it.

If you have a legitimate objection to the garnishment, you can file an MC-49 (Objections to Garnishment) form with your local court. On this form, you can explain your objections to the garnishment of your assets on legal grounds.

Call Herren Law for a Free Consultation

Under certain and specific circumstances, the federal government can reduce your Social Security disability benefits. However, if creditors have garnished your SSD benefits, then you need to consult an experienced Houston SSD attorney. At Herren Law, we’ve helped many people throughout Houston with their SSD benefits, from providing legal counsel for the application process to protecting your wages from garnishment. For a free consultation with attorney Bill Herren, call us today at (713) 682-8194.

How Much Will a Houston Social Security Disability Lawyer Charge?

Getting Social Security disability benefits is more than just filing paperwork; you’ll need to file a claim proving to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you should be getting benefits. While an attorney is not mandatory, whether to help you file the claim or represent an appeal at a hearing, getting an experienced and professional Social Security disability attorney in Houston can provide many benefits.

How Much Will a Houston Social Security Disability Lawyer Charge? | Herren Law

From making sure that you understand the SSA’s processes to having a leading attorney who’ll diligently fight for your benefits, Houston Social Security disability attorney William Herren will carefully listen to your case and, if we take you on as a client, we’ll work with you, one-on-one, until you’re able to receive your SSD benefits. In fact, all work is done on a contingency basis, and we don’t get paid unless we win your case. For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your SSD claim, call Herren Law in Houston today at (713) 682-8194.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about how much a Social Security disability lawyer might charge.

What is a Contingency Fee Agreement

Social Security attorneys, including us at Herren Law in Houston, work “on contingency.” This means that we’ll only collect a fee if we win your disability claim. No matter if you are applying for SSDI benefits or SSI disability benefits, the fee for legal representation is regulated by the Social Security Administration and by Congress.

In essence, once you hire a Social Security disability attorney, you will sign a fee agreement that allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to pay your attorney if your claim is approved. Therefore, if you and your SSD lawyer win your case, the SSA will pay your attorney (with money taken from your benefits) based on the specifics detailed in the fee agreement.

Fee Agreements and Fee Petitions

Remember, fees for Social Security disability attorneys are set by the government, and you do not pay attorney fees unless we recover compensation for you. By law, the Social Security disability fees are limited to 25% of the past-due benefits you are awarded, up to a maximum of $6,000. Whether before filing the claim or after getting benefits, your Social Security lawyer must submit the attorney fees and costs to the SSA for approval. When you choose an attorney, you may be asked to sign an SSA-1696 form, which designates the attorney as your chosen representative. You may also be asked to sign a medical release form and a fee agreement.

After the case, you don’t have to worry about paying the attorney, as in most cases, the SSA takes the entire lawyer’s fee (up to $6,000) from your first disability check before the agency sends the check to you.

How is Disability Backpay Calculated

The fees paid to the attorney come out of the applicant’s past-due benefits, also known as “backpay.” The SSA calculates the actual amount of backpay awarded after you are approved for benefits, and this backpay includes retroactive benefits owed from the date you were approved back to the month after you applied for benefits (for a maximum of 12 months back from the date of your application).

For instance, imagine the SSA calculates a backpay of $10,000. Now, remember, the maximum your attorney can receive is 25% up to $6,000. In this example, your attorney will be paid $2,500 and you will receive $7,500 of backpay.

It is important to also note that, during the course of representation, there may be some out-of-pocket costs. For example, to win your case, the attorney may need to acquire the claimant’s medical, school, work records, and occasionally medical or psychological examinations; these can be expensive. The client may have to pay these costs out-of-pocket (i.e., separate from the attorney’s fee), but it would be unusual in most instances for these costs to exceed two hundred dollars per case.

Contact SSD Attorney William Herren Today

When injured or suffering an illness that prevents you from working, the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits can be critical to keeping your bills paid and keeping your health maintained. As such, when considering disability benefits with the SSA, you can highly benefit from having an experienced and expert SSD and SSI attorney at your side. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney William Herren in Houston, call Herren Law today at (713) 682-8194.

What Are Social Security Disability Back Payments?

If there is one thing considered a constant when filing a Social Security disability claim, it’s that these claims take a very long time. Social Security disability (SSD) claimants know this, and the Social Security Administration knows this as well. As such, in almost every case where the claimant is awarded his/her SSD benefits or SSI benefits based on disability, then the past due disability benefits (known as disability “backpay”) is also awarded. The amount of backpay usually goes back to when the initial application was filed, though in some cases it can be earlier.

What Are Social Security Disability Back Payments | Herren Law Houston

If you applied for SSD benefits, it’s essential to have an experienced Houston SSD benefits attorney on your side. At Herren Law, we boast years of experience and helping hundreds of Houston residents with their disability benefits, and we can help you too, including with issues such as backpay. For a free consultation with Houston attorney William Herren, call our law firm today at (713) 682-8194.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Social Security disability back payments below.

Factors That Determine Backpay

Back payments are paid to successful SSD or SSI applicants for the months between the application date and the day you’re awarded benefits. This is generally due to the fact that there are many people applying for benefits, and the SSA is notorious for taking forever with the SSD application process. Furthermore, for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, there is always a five-month waiting period, and for some applications, there might be retroactive benefits available. In general, the main factors that determine an applicant’s backpay include the application date, the date of disability, and the five-month waiting period.

Application Date

The first factor that determines the amount of your backpay is the application date for your Social Security disability or SSI benefits. When applying for SSD benefits, the SSA will give successful applicants backpay that satisfies monthly payments back to their date of application. Furthermore, some applicants may be considered for retroactive benefits during the year prior to the application date. Retroactive benefits might not be available to SSI applicants; SSI applicants can receive back pay that dates back to the first month after filing an application.

Additionally, some applicants can have a “protective filing date.” This date generally occurs before the applicant filed for benefits, and the applicant can receive back pay going back to this date.

Date of Disability

Next to the application date, the second most important factor when determining backpay is the date of disability. Essentially, this refers to when the disability occurred, and when filling out your claim application, you’ll have to include this date, known as the alleged onset date (AOD).

When approved for disability benefits, your DDS disability examiner or administrative law judge will give you an established onset date (EOD). Unlike AOD, which you determine, the EOD is dependent solely on the claimant’s medical records and work history. Some evidence considered for your EOD include doctor’s reports, lab results, and disability application.

It’s important to note that, for SSI, the Social Security Administration won’t give an EOD that occurs before the application date. This is due to the fact that SSI applicants cannot receive benefits before the month of application. Also, if the SSA states that your EOD is after the application date, then the SSI applicant will receive benefits starting on the EOD, not the application date. Remember, this is only for SSI applicants.

For SSD and SSDI applicants, you may be able to receive retroactive back payments if there is an established EOD before the application date.

Five-Month Waiting Period

The last major factor in SSD back payments is the five-month waiting period. This waiting period only applies to SSDI applicants, and not SSI applicants. This means that successful SSD applicants with an EOD may have five months of benefits removed from the beginning of their disability. In other words, the applicant is entitled to benefits 5 months after the EOD.

Contact Herren Law for a Free Consultation

There are numerous factors involved in every Social Security Disability case, whether that involves the date of disability, the evidence of disability and an inability to work, and so forth. In any case, you should expect a long and complex process, which is why it’s critical to get an experienced Houston SSD attorney at your side. For a free consultation with Herren Law, call our Houston law firm today at (713) 682-8194. We work on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t pay a penny unless we win your case.