The Law Offices of Robertson Wendt Media Kit: Frequently Asked Questions. General questions about the firm:

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1 The Law Offices of Robertson Wendt Media Kit: Frequently Asked Questions General questions about the firm: What is the firm s main practice area? The Law Offices of Robertson Wendt focus on disability benefits law, representing individuals whose working lives and careers have been cut short by disabling medical conditions prior to retirement age. What types of cases does the firm handle? The firm handles complex Social Security disability, long-term disability, and other disability-related claims. Recognizing that disability issues often lead to other legal needs, Robertson Wendt also works with clients to navigate the complex medical, legal, and administrative issues frequently associated with disability claims. How long has Robertson Wendt been practicing law? Robertson Wendt, one of only two board certified Social Security disability specialists in the state of South Carolina and one of just 59 in the country certified by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC), has been in practice for nearly 30 years and has handled thousands of Social Security disability claims. How large is the staff? The staff includes one paralegal; two retired Social Security employees who handle new client intakes, research on technical issues, and benefits processing; a receptionist and legal secretary; and a bookkeeper. Where is the firm located and what areas does it serve? The Law Offices of Robertson Wendt serve clients throughout South Carolina and can handle cases in any of the state s three hearing offices, which are located in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. The firm itself is based in North Charleston, S.C., and is adjacent to the Charleston hearing office, which hears cases for individuals who live in the following counties: Beaufort County, Berkeley County, Charleston County, Colleton County, Dorchester County, Georgetown County, Horry County, Jasper County, and Williamsburg County. How does the firm bill for services? Since the Social Security Administration requires all attorneys to use the same fee agreement, clients hiring Robertson Wendt receive a high level of experience for the same cost as a less experienced attorney without board certification. Though rates are capped by government regulation, Rob Wendt and his team help manage the entire process for clients and work to identify resources for other needs that may arise, no matter how long that may take. Why should an individual seek counsel? Robertson Wendt and his team have extensive first-hand experience with the Social Security Administration and other agencies affecting the disposition of disability claims. They understand the intricacies of the law and the federal bureaucracy governing the Social Security disability process, including the legal, medical, and vocational issues that often arise. Statistics published by the Social Security Administration show that claimants who are represented by attorneys are more likely to win their case than claimants who represent themselves. 1

2 Where can someone get more information about the services that this firm provides? For more information, please call or visit Questions about Social Security Disability Benefits: How does the Social Security Administration define the term disability? As defined by the Social Security Act, the term disability refers to an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. What are the different types of Social Security disability benefits available? There are five major types of Social Security disability benefits: Disability Insurance Benefits: These benefits are designed for disabled individuals who have worked in recent years (the requirement is typically five of the previous ten years). Disabled Widow s and Widower s Benefits: These benefits are for individuals age 50 and over who became disabled after the death of their spouse. In order to be insured, the late spouse must have worked under Social Security. Disabled Adult Child Benefits: These benefits apply to children of deceased parents or parents who are currently drawing on Social Security disability or retirement. In order to qualify, the child must have been disabled before the age of 22. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits: Unlike the benefits mentioned above, which are based on Social Security earnings, these benefits are based on financial need. Child s Disability Benefits: These benefits are designed for disabled children under the age of 18. What is the best way to apply for Social Security disability benefits? Those interested in applying for Social Security disability benefits should call the agency s toll free number to make an appointment with a claims representative at their local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The interview can take place in person at the SSA office or over the telephone. The Social Security Administration now offers online applications through the Social Security website: Does a person s income determine whether that person can apply for disability insurance benefits? No, anyone who is disabled and who has worked long enough to be insured under Social Security is eligible to apply for disability insurance benefits. Is an individual who has not worked in recent years eligible for benefits? It depends. Typically, individuals who have worked five out of the past ten years under Social Security before becoming disabled are eligible to qualify for disability benefits. The requirements, however, are slightly different for individuals under the age of 31. How long does someone have to make a claim? There is no time limit. Individuals who expect to be out of work for a year or more because of a serious injury or illness can apply for benefits right away. Too often, many people wait months before filing a claim. 2

3 Can an individual apply for Social Security disability while still working? No. While there are some exceptions for minimal work or work that is subsidized, in most cases an individual must stop working before applying for disability. Can an individual who is on sick leave apply for Social Security disability benefits? Yes, anyone who expects to be out of work for a year or more can file a claim as long as they have stopped working. There is no need to wait until there is no longer any sick leave left. Can individuals who are injured on the job and drawing on worker s compensation benefits apply for Social Security disability benefits at the same time, or should they wait until the worker s compensation ends? There is no need to wait until the worker s compensation benefits come to an end. It s actually best to go ahead and file the Social Security disability benefits claim as quickly as possible because there could be a gap between worker s compensation ending and Social Security disability benefits beginning. Is it possible to receive both worker s compensation and Social Security disability benefits at the same time? Yes, but note that the amount of worker s compensation benefits paid may reduce the Social Security disability benefits. In some states, the situation is reversed, with worker s compensation benefits being reduced because of Social Security disability benefits. How does an individual know if Social Security will recognize the disability? There is no easy way to tell, unless the disability is catastrophic (total paralysis, terminal cancer, etc). Social Security disability attorneys can offer advice, but even then there is no way to be sure. Individuals should apply based on whether they feel Social Security will find them disabled and should take into consideration whether they feel they will be able to return to work in the near future. Does an individual have to be permanently disabled in order to receive Social Security disability benefits? No, but individuals should expect to be disabled for at least one year or have a condition that will likely result in death within one year. What about individuals who have a host of health problems that combined make for a disabling condition? Social Security will consider the combination in determining eligibility. Can individuals injured in automobile accidents apply if they plan to return to work after recovery? Yes, if an individual expects to be out of work for a year or more as a result of those injuries, then that person can file for benefits. How does Social Security determine if someone is disabled? Social Security will take a close look at an individual s medical records and consider all health problems. Age, education, and work experience are also taken into consideration. Social Security will make the decision based on whether an individual is able to perform his or her past work. If they decide that the individual is not able to return to his or her past work, they will consider whether there is any other work that the individual can do, taking into consideration the factors mentioned above. 3

4 Who ultimately makes the decision about whether someone is disabled? All claims are first reviewed by a state disability examiner at the disability determination service. In consultation with a doctor, the examiner will make the decision. If a claim is denied, an individual can request reconsideration. In this case, a different examiner will review the claim. If the claim is denied again, the claimant may request a hearing, and the case will be sent to an administrative law judge employed by Social Security. Why does Social Security take a person s age into consideration when making a decision? Age must be considered as a requirement of the Social Security Act. As people age, they are less likely to adjust to a new type of work and a new environment, especially while coping with health problems. What will improve an individual s chances of a successful Social Security disability claim? Individuals filing claims should be honest and complete in providing information about the disability. Claims that are initially rejected can be appealed. In fact, most claims that are denied at the initial level are often approved at higher levels of review. Hiring a qualified attorney is helpful because the attorney understands the way Social Security works and knows how to obtain evidence necessary to prove the case. Statistics show that individuals who hire an attorney are more likely to win. How much might an individual be granted if approved for Social Security disability benefits? The amount awarded depends on how much the individual has worked and earned in the past. In the case of a disabled widow or widower, it depends on how much the deceased spouse has worked and earned. For disabled adult children, it depends on how much the parent worked and earned. For Supplemental Security Income claims, there is a base amount that an individual of limited income and resource can receive. Supplemental Security Income is reduced by the amount of other income an individual receives. Why are so many claims initially denied? Many claims are initially denied because there is no easy way of determining whether a person is disabled. Most disabled people suffer from pain, but it is difficult to gauge the amount of pain. Additionally, Social Security is concerned about making sure that those who receive benefits are truly disabled. How long does it take to receive a decision once a claim is filed? It can take anywhere from three to five months before receiving a decision on initial application. Processing times at the reconsideration and hearing levels can vary greatly from year to year, but in many cases may take months or even years. What are the chances of winning at the hearing level? Statistics show that over half win. What if the claim is denied at the hearing? Claims can be appealed to the Social Security Appeals Council in Washington. This council exists to review decisions made by administrative law judges. How long does it take for a claim to be considered by the Appeals Council? It can take a year or even longer. 4

5 Can a case be appealed beyond Social Security to the federal courts? Yes, after being denied by the Appeals Council, it is possible to file a civil action suit in the U.S. District Court to request review of Social Security s decision. Such a claim may go all the way to the Supreme Court, which hears such cases about once every one or two years. How long does it take a case to go through federal courts? It can take one year or longer. Is there a waiting period before an individual can receive benefits? Yes, there is a five month waiting period after the month disability begins in which an individual is not entitled to receive any disability insurance benefits. How long will benefits continue? Benefits will continue as long as the medical condition persists and prevents that person from returning to work. Can a person who starts feeling better after getting on Social Security disability benefits return to work? Yes. Social Security actually encourages individuals to return to work and offers work incentives, a trial period during which an individual can still receive benefits. Are mentally disabled people eligible for Social Security disability benefits? Yes, mental illness is acknowledged as a basis for receiving Social Security disability benefits. Are Social Security disability benefits taxed? Yes, federal taxes will have to be paid on benefits for those who file as an individual and have a total income of more than $25,000. For those filing a joint return, taxes have to be paid if both spouses have a combined total income of more than $32,000. What do disability lawyers do? Disability lawyers have experience and knowledge that individuals filing claims often lack. They consider what needs to be proven in order to win the claim and gather all of the necessary information, including doctor s opinions, independent medical evaluations, and reports from vocational counselors. They assist in the filing of government forms, prepare the client to testify at the hearing, prepare written legal briefs for judges, present the case, make legal argument and cross-examine the government vocational expert at the hearing, and provide the client with counsel throughout the entire process. Rev

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