SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CLAIMS

Do you need to an experienced attorney to help you file a claim for Social Security Disability in Seattle or a Social Security Disability claim in Tacoma? Don’t wait until your claim is denied to look for assistance, call Washington Law Center for help today!

Filing for Social Security Disability Insurance can be a long and strenuous process. It is especially challenging if you’ve already been denied once before. Washington Law Center is here to help by offering you a free consultation.

Our social security attorneys can help you through every phase of your claim:  initial application, reconsideration, the hearing, appeals counsel, and federal court.

The number of social security disability claims in Seattle and claims for social security disability in Tacoma that get denied every year is increasing. Don’t let yours be one of them. The experienced social security attorneys at Washington Law Center will make sure that you’re awarded the benefits you deserve. We will also make sure that you receive the back-due benefits that you are owed as well. Our attorneys will represent your best interests. We don’t charge you a fee unless we win your case.

We fight, you win.

See how we can help you by giving us a call, sending us a quick email or filling out our contact form.

Washington Social Security Disability Claims FAQ

  • Why hire an experienced social security disability attorney immediately?

    Why hire an experienced social security disability attorney immediately?

    Only about a third of social security disability filings are approved at the Initial Application phase, and many of these were diligently prepared by experienced social security attorneys or involved claimants in higher age categories with undeniably-severe disabilities (like terminal cancer or dementia).  Claimants who attempted the application process on their own failed to get approved in overwhelming numbers according to the Social Security Administration’s own statistics.

    Claimants who are denied at the Initial Application phase and do not consult a Washington social security disability attorney before entering the Reconsideration phase also fail in the Reconsideration phase in overwhelming numbers.  Approximately nine out of ten claims will be denied at Reconsideration, just as they were at Initial Application.  The claims which buck this trend tend to be those which were rescued by experienced counsel.

    Claimants who are denied at the Initial Application and Reconsideration phases must then request a Fair Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  A failure to win at Initial Application or Reconsideration means a substantial additional delay, often far more than a year as compared with claims which were successful at earlier stages of the process.  Some claimants have impairments which will almost certainly be forced to a full hearing, but others should avoid the extended wait by hiring an experienced counsel as early as possible.  Indeed, the longer one waits to hire a Washington state attorney, the higher the attorney fees tend to be because those attorney fees are calculated based upon a percentage of back-due benefits paid as of the date a disability is finally determined by the Social Security Administration.  An early victory therefore means a small, often negligible, or even zero attorney fee.

  • How will the social security attorneys at Washington Law Center help with my claim?

    How will the social security attorneys at Washington Law Center help with my claim?

    Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney is a simple matter, which can be done in person at our Seattle office or at your home, by electronic communication (email), or by traditional mail.  There is no up-front cost.  No Attorney Fee will be charged UNLESS and UNTIL your claim is decided in your favor.  Our charge is 25% of back-due benefits, and NO FEE will be taken from prospective benefits (those that you will likely receive for many years into the future if we are successful in your claim).

    Our Seattle attorneys can travel to any state of the union to represent your claim.  If you move during the pendency of your case, we’ll insure that no disruption occurs in the processing of your case.  We reserve the right to withdraw from any and all claims should there arise a conflict of interest, should you return to work before a disability period can be lawfully established, should you go to prison or otherwise become ineligible for benefits. Should you decline to follow our advice or stay in contact with our office, or if your case proves to have insufficient merit after we conduct a reasonable investigation we also reserve the right to withdraw from your claim.

    Once we have agreed to represent you and your claim, we will assist you to obtain the medical evidence you need, in a format that will help you meet your burdens of proof and persuasion;  we will assist you in processing all necessary filings and in coordinating efforts such as Consultant Exams; we will prepare your case, including your own testimony, for presentation before an Administrative Law Judge; and we will artfully and effectively cross-examine the government’s expert witnesses which may be called to testify against your interests in your case.

    Give yourself the highest chance of winning your Social Security Disability and/or SSDI claim(s).  Consult with Washington Law Center today.

  • Early Retirement or Social Security Disability, which is the right choice?

    Early Retirement or Social Security Disability, which is the right choice?

    The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution contains the Equal Protection Clause. This clause binds the government to treat all individuals equally. At retirement, this means that everyone who earned the same number of taxable wages in covered employment during their relevant work lifetime MUST receive the exact same retirement annuity. With the Early Retirement option, retirees withdraw their Social Security Retirement (“SSR”) benefits over a longer period of time, thus receiving lower monthly benefits, than if they wait until Full Retirement Age or even age 70.
    For example, one retiree elects a $1,100 monthly benefit starting at age 62 (Early Retirement). This early retiree is scheduled to receive 204 monthly installments until reaching an actuarial life expectancy of 79 years old. Therefore, this early retiree has a retirement annuity under the Social Security Act worth $224,400.00 (204 x $1,100).
    Another retiree with the exact same lifetime earnings waits until Full Retirement Age of 67 to retire and start drawing Social Security Retirement benefits. This retiree has only 144 months of benefit payments before reaching actuarial life expectancy of 79 so will receive a monthly retirement benefit of $1,558.33, an increase of nearly 30%. Both receive the same retirement annuity.
    Now consider the case of an individual who can credibly allege “disability” under the Social Security Act starting at or before age 62. If this person has a Primary Insurance Amount of $980 per month under Title II, Social Security Disability, and elects to give up the difference between this and the Early Retirement benefit of $1,100 (a difference of $120 per month) starting at age 62, and remains on SSD until full retirement age of 67, this person will achieve a net gain in total Social Security benefits of $58,800 (the SSD amount which will be paid over the 5 years lasting from age 62 to 67). This person will receive $58,800 in SSD benefits while “saving” his/her full retirement annuity until age 67, at which time the Full Retirement Benefit is still enjoyed at the rate of $1,558.33 per month.
    Thus, if at all possible, SAVE your Full Retirement Benefit by filing instead for Social Security Disability benefits. Too many people with pension or early retirement options outside of Social Security believe that their receipt of those benefits will preclude a Social Security Disability application. This is simply not true.
    Thus, these people should contact Washington Law Center immediately to learn how to legally obtain Social Security benefits in Seattle or Social Security benefits in Tacoma far greater than they previously thought available.

  • Am I entitled to social security disability benefits in Washington?

    Am I entitled to social security disability benefits in Washington?

    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are disability benefits provided under the Social Security Act to those who cannot work or should not be expected, by reason of any medically determined impairment or combination of impairments, to make excessive adjustments in order to return to working at a level known as “substantial gainful activity.”  Claimants to such benefits have burdens of both proof and persuasion.  A failure in either burden will result in a claim denial, which unfortunately happens quite frequently even for people with significant disabilities.

    The burden of proof to establish disability rests upon the claimant.  See, Mayes v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 963, 968 (9th Cir. 2001); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).  The claimant carries the initial burden of proving disability in steps one through four of the sequential evaluation process.  See, Swenson v. Sullivan 876 F.2d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 1989).  A claimant must present “complete and detailed objective medical reports of his condition from licensed medical professionals (only a Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathy is recognized to establish a diagnosis, and thereafter, other medical professionals can comment on the severity of the given condition).”  Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999); Johnson v. Shalala, 60 F.3d 1428, 1432 (9thCir. 1995)(citing 20 C.F.R. 404.1512(a)-(b), 404.1513(d)); and cannot posit disability on impairments for which he has presented no medical evidence.  Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1164 (9th Cir. 2001).  It is the claimant’s burden, and not the Social Security Commissioner’s burden, to prove the claimant’s residual functional capacity.  Pearsall v. Massanari, 272 F.3d 1211, 1217-18 (8th Cir. 2001); Anderson v. Shalala, 51 F.3d 777, 779 (8th Cir. 1995).

    • At Step 1 in the Sequential Evaluation Process, the ALJ must determine whether you are, or have been during your claimed disability period, engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (20 C.F.R. 416.920(b)) Essentially, “have you been working since you stated that you became disabled?”  Proof that you have been earning substantial amounts of money can be used to disqualify you from eligibility for benefits.
    • At Step 2 in the Sequential Evaluation Process, the ALJ must determine whether you have a medically determinable impairment that is “severe” (20 C.F.R. 416.920(c)).  Obviously, if there’s nothing that “severely” wrong with you, there is no possibility you will be found “disabled.”  The severity of a condition is determined “after best mitigation,” which means, for example:  if you allege blindness, but putting on glasses restores your vision to near-normal, you will not be considered to have a “severe” condition of blindness.
    • At Step 3 in the Sequential Evaluation Process, the ALJ must determine whether your impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the severity of the disability listings set forth by Congress at 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).  If your conditions “meet or equal” the severity indicated, then you should be found “disabled” under the Social Security Act.
    • At Step 4 in the Sequential Evaluation Process, your residual functional capacity (“RFC”) must be determined (20 C.F.R. 416.920(e)).  Your RFC is your remaining ability to function despite your various impairments, both severe and non-severe (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e) and 416.945; SSR 96-8p).  Once your RFC is determined, the ALJ must then determine whether or not you can still perform your Past Relevant Work (20 C.F.R. 4040.920(f)).  This is generally inclusive of work performed in the past 15 years prior to the date on which a disability must be established, and in addition, must have lasted long-enough at a substantial gainful earnings level so it may be concluded that you actually learned how it was performed (20 C.F.R. 416.960(b) and 416.965).  If you can perform your Past Relevant Work, you must be found “not disabled.”
    • At Step 5, the final step in the Sequential Evaluation Process (20 C.F.R. 416.920(f)), the ALJ must determine whether you can do any other work which exists in the national economy, given your Residual Functional Capacity, age, education and work experience/transferrable skills (20 C.F.R. 416.912(g) and 416.960(c)).  If you cannot do other work that is available, within these parameters, then you should be found “disabled” under the Social Security Act.
    • The Burden of Proof for anyone LESS THAN 50 YEARS OLD is that they cannot perform any of their Past Relevant Work, and they are further limited to Sedentary Employment, generally involving sitting most of the day or lifting no more than 10 pounds on an occasional basis.
    • The Burden of Proof for anyone OLDER THAN 50 BUT YOUNGER THAN 55 YEARS OLD is that they cannot perform any of their Past Relevant Work, and they are further limited to Light Employment, generally involving lifting no more than 20 pounds on an occasional basis regardless if they are sitting or standing.
    • The Burden of Proof for anyone OLDER THAN 55 BUT YOUNGER THAN 60 YEARS OLD is that they cannot perform any of their Past Relevant Work, and they are further limited to Medium Employment, generally involving lifting no more than 50 pounds on an occasional basis.
    • The Burden of Proof for anyone OLDER THAN 60 YEARS OLD is that they cannot perform any of their Past Relevant Work.

    Note that a person can meet their burden of proof, as described above, but still lose their disability case.  This happens when the person loses on the burden of persuasion, which involves considerations of the claimant’s credibility, the qualifications of the claimant’s physicians and other care providers, the frequency and nature of treatment rendered, the sufficiency of diagnostic techniques employed, the reasonableness of limitations contended to result from particular impairments, as well as deeper public policy rationales which are not clearly defined in law but are understood by experienced attorneys and the adjudicators who decide claims.

    The Social Security Administration itself has published findings that the single greatest indicator of whether a person will be found disabled is how quickly (how early in the claim process) the person appointed a representative to help prepare and present their case.

    At Washington Law Center, we assist claimants to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits at all phases in the process, including pre-application planning, initial application filing, reconsideration, appeals, formal and informal remands, and in the federal courts.  Our attorney fees are purely contingent, which means we only get paid when our clients win.  Even then, our attorney fee applies only to back-due benefits.  Once we’ve assisted you to prove your claim, no additional attorney fee will be charged (you receive all future benefits without paying for an attorney fee).

  • Frequently Asked Questions about Washington Social Security Disability

    How do you recommend that I apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

    In general, our office prefers that you call 1-800-772-1213 and ask for a telephone appliation, in which the government will make an appointment in the future and then complete your application by phone.  You should not make an in-person application if you can avoid it, because government workers will then make observations of you and include their observations in your disability claim file (this is required by law).  We do not want lay individuals to have an influential say in whether or not you get awarded benefits.  We would prefer to have that analysis reserved chiefly for your doctors.  We also prefer telephone applications, because the first day you call is the day you will have been considered to have “applied,” which means your application can be done immediately, versus spending the time it may take on the Internet or through exchange of applications with our office.  Keep in mind that there is no SSI application yet available on the Internet, and once you have applied by telephone, you will be sent a copy of your application to sign.  Therefore, we can review this copy for you (and suggest any necessary changes if there have been misstatements) before you submit your finalized application, which means you should feel at ease engaging in the telephone application process.  If instead you would prefer to complete paper applications, these are also available upon request through our office.  In any circumstance, we cannot represent you in your claim until you have a claim, so we need you to apply as soon as possible.

    When applying, how should I answer the questions about my disabilities?

    Answer truthfully.  We would not have accepted your case for representation if we felt like truthful answers would be insufficient to prove your case.  Do not exaggerate.  However, do not minimize or trivialize your difficulties in any way.  Remember that if you complete a telephone application, we will have the opportunity to review your application and assist you to make amendments before it is finalized.  If you complete a paper application, we will review this also before we submit it on your behalf.

    Why do I have to ask my doctor to complete the Medical Source Questionnaires? Isn’t that why I hired an social security disability attorney?

    As your social security disability attorneys, we have a fiduciary duty to protect you from excess costs.  A majority of doctors will complete our questionnaires for free if requested directly by their patients.  Look your doctor in the eye and shake his/her hand and say “please.”  It’s a remarkably-effective tactic between human beings.  A minority of doctors will simply decline and refuse to fill out any disability paperwork at all.  At the same time, most medical office Practice Managers will demand to be paid for medical opinions, sometimes hundreds of dollars or more, before they will even submit our questionnaires to the attending doctor.  The cost of completing these questionnaires is a cost which must be paid to the doctor, which means that it is not part of our attorney fee under our contract and must be paid by you.  Thus, if you take our questionnaires personally to your doctor, you will hopefully be able to bypass the Practice Manager and you will likely avoid all costs for obtaining crucial expert opinions, especially if you have a strong or personal relationship with your physician.  Doctors do not generally like to discuss money with their patients, so if they are at all amenable to completing our questionnaires, they will generally do so for free, so long as the Practice Manager doesn’t see the forms first.  By contrast, when we send the doctor our questionnaires in a law firm envelope, with a request on law firm letterhead (which we are certainly willing to do if you insist), we are invariably asked for money, because the doctor is virtually never the person who opens the mail.  Bottom line:  we’re trying to save you money, based on our experience. We are acting in your best interests, as we must.

    Once I’ve obtained my doctor’s signatures on my Medical Source Questionnaires, may I return those directly to the Social Security Administration?

    No. The government commonly loses paperwork that’s not submitted through approved (receipt-confirmed) processes.  In addition, we often find discrepancies, inconsistencies or vague statements in doctors’ reports which can and should be clarified before these are submitted.  For these reasons, please submit all paperwork directly through our office.  Do not submit paperwork directly to the government on your own.

    What if my doctor absolutely won’t complete the provided Medical Source Questionnaires?

    Please call your assigned paralegal case manager.  We will arrange for you to be seen by a doctor who will assist with the forms, although there will be a charge for examination and completion of our paperwork.  A typical charge for this service is around $250, depending on where you live and the specific type of specialization of the doctor who will provide the service, as well as the amount of time that will be spent.  The cost must typically be paid by you directly to the doctor’s office.  This cost is not part of our fee.

    Do I have to attend the Social Security Administration’s Medical Examination even though I have my own doctor?

    Yes and no.  If the government is not satisfied with your own doctor’s medical reporting for some reason (for example, if your family medicine physician is treating you for depression and the government wants a psychiatrist to examine you more fully), or if you have a cas