Social Security and SSI benefits in New Jersey.


If you are looking for help with your Social Security (SSD), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case, it may be important to consult with a skilled New Jersey Social Security lawyer.   Bross & Frankel, P.A., offers the expertise, compassion, and experience to help you take on the government.  David S. Bross, who is a former Social Security benefit authorizer founded our law firm on a simple premise: combine the skills of a trial attorney with the knowledge of a disability advocate, to give our clients an edge in fighting for the Social Security benefits they need and deserve.


Am I Eligible for Social Security benefits?


The first question to consider is not a legal one.  The first question is: Do you think you can continue working.  In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits you either have to have stopped working, or reduced your work activity below what Social Security calls "substantial gainful activity."  As a general rule, that means your gross earnings, before taxes are taken out, have to be less than about $1,000.00 per month ($1,040.00 for 2013).  There are very few exceptions to this rule, but if you think you might otherwise qualify for benefits even though your earnings are just over this amount, or you have only recently returned to work and are struggling, call the New Jersey Social Security attorneys at Bross & Frankel for a free consultation.


If you are out of work, or your work activity is minimal, you must have an injury or illness that is expected to last at least twelve months or result in death to qualify.  Contrary to what many people have heard, you do not have to wait for 12 months to apply.  You can apply for benefits the moment you become unable to work.  The rule is designed to screen out short-term disabilities like broken bones, and similar injuries that are expected to improve in less than a year.  If you are not sure whether your impairments qualify, call our office for a consultation.


Assuming you are going to be out of work for at least 12 months due to an illness or injury, then the question becomes whether or not you could return to any of the jobs you've had over the past 15 years.  If you cannot, you will also need to prove whether or not you can make an adjustment to any other full-time work that exists in the national economy.  While it sounds daunting, there are many reasons our clients have been unable to work, including an inability to sit, stand, and walk for some combination of 8 hours; trouble using a dominant hand or both hands for typing, fingering, or assembling parts; an inability to maintain a consistent schedule, or frequent absences; and an inability to get along with co-workers, supervisors, or the general public due to psychiatric or psychological impairments.


In short, if you are unable to maintain competitive employment due to an impairment that you expect to last for at least 12 months, you very well may be eligible for Social Security.  Contact a skilled NJ disability lawyer at Bross & Frankel to see if we can help you get the benefits you need.


Filing a claim for Social Security benefits.


Many Social Security lawyers want you to wait until you've already been denied to consult them regarding your case.  In some cases, this can make sense, but in many others, it may be helpful to consult an attorney before you file.  Filing your claim can be a challenging and time-consuming process.  However, the actual application process does not have to be so daunting.  First you need to decide how you want to apply.  You can file a claim over the, online, or at a local Social Security office.  For many people with serious impairments, leaving the house to visit their local Social Security office can be difficult, if not impossible.  For many, applying online or over the phone are the only options.


When you apply, whether online or over the phone, there is some information you should have ready.  You will need your Social Security number; birth certificate; information on treating doctors, therapists, and any hospitals you have been seen at, including addresses and phone numbers; information on the medications you take; information on your work history (Social Security focuses on your last 15 years of work); and information on any recent earnings, and if possible, your most recent W-2 form.


If you want to apply for benefits online, you can begin the process by visiting Social Security's online application here.  However, if you have not worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability (or if you don't know whether you would qualify), you may not be able to apply online.  If you are filing an application for SSI, or you are not sure what benefits you should apply for, call our experienced attorneys for a free consultation.  Once you know that you're ready to apply, you can begin the process by calling Social Security at 1 (800) 772-1213.


In all cases we recommend taking advantage of a free consultation with a knowledgeable local Social Security disability benefits lawyer before starting your application.  A little information can go a long way in making sure you get things right the first time, and give yourself the best chance of getting your benefits approved as quickly as possible.
Bross & Frankel has helped many thousands of clients applying for Social Security disability or SSI benefits over the years.


Appealing denied benefits.
 
Most initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied.  According to Social Security's own data, between 2001 and 2010, an average of only 28% of initial claims were awarded.  While less than 1 in 3 odds are staggering, just because you were denied, does not mean you don't deserve disability benefits.  A lot of people wait until they've been denied to an attorney, and it is clear that this can make a huge difference.  An experienced disability benefits lawyer can review your claim, and identify those errors that lead to the denial.  Sometimes there is critical evidence missing, or a well-meaning but unhelpful medical opinion.  Other times, Social Security may determine that earnings on your record constitute work activity, and deny your claim without even evaluating your medical conditions.  Frequently, Social Security may fail to properly evaluate disabling symptoms such as fatigue, or an inability to focus on work due to severe pain.  Bross & Frankel has appealed these issues countless times and successfully reversed improperly denied Social Security benefits.  If your claim has been denied don't give up! Contact us as soon as possible and see if we can help you get your SSD benefits approved.


Social Security hearings.
 
If you have already appealed your denial of Social Security disability or SSI benefits, you may be waiting for a hearing.  In Social Security cases in New Jersey, once Social Security has denied your claim twice, you have the right to request a hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge.  These judges are part of the Social Security system, but they are not required to give any special consideration to the decisions already made denying benefits.  Instead, the Administrative Law Judge or "ALJ" will conduct a hearing at which he or she will take your sworn testimony about why your medical problems prevent you from performing competitive work, and consider that testimony along with your medical records in making a new and independent decision on your claim.  For many people, this is the first time in their disability claim that a human being is actually sitting down and talking with them in detail about why they can't work.  Until the hearing, most, if not all of Social Security's process is based on an impersonal review of records, with the decision about whether someone is disabled being made by someone who has never met or examined the person claiming benefits.


The importance of the Social Security hearing cannot be understated.  If you are at the hearing stage, and you still have not discussed your case with a lawyer who specializes in Social Security and SSI claims, it is important to do so.  Many ALJs will strongly encourage individuals showing up to their hearing without a lawyer to obtain one, and typically will adjourn, or put off, the hearing to allow the individual time to get an attorney.  Social Security's statistics show the effect of this.  While initial claims are only approved an average of less than 1/3 of the time, hearings have resulted in an award of benefits an average of over 70% of the time between 2001 and 2010.
While this may not always be entirely due to hiring a local Social Security lawyer, the ability of a skilled disability advocate to complete the record and prepare a client for his or her hearing often makes all the difference in finally getting the benefits you need.


Why local? 
 
There are many law firms and companies who represent Social Security claimants nationwide.  You've probably seen them on tv, heard their ads on the radio, or seen their billboards or bus ads.  You want the biggest and the best to represent you.  Being the "most successful" Social Security law firm in the country sounds great, but if you simply have the most cases, that's an easy claim to make.  A local law firm can offer you some distinct advantages.  First, while many of our clients have difficulty leaving their houses, and we don't require our clients to come to our office to complete routine paperwork; you can come meet your attorney in person.  Bross & Frankel prides itself on the relationships we've built with our clients over the years.  A look through our client testimonials will show you what we mean.  In fact, a large number of our clients have been referred to us by former clients who we've helped.  Knowing and liking your lawyer may not be necessary, but when you're already dealing with the stress and challenges of being out of work and fighting for your benefits, isn't it time to like your lawyer?


The second reason a local attorney can make a big difference is a little more practical and obvious.  We represent thousands of local clients in front of the same judges, and who treat with the same local doctors every day.  Knowing that a particular doctor will only respond to certain kinds of opinion requests, or that a certain judge will focus on a specific issue more heavily than another judge, may be the difference between an award and another appeal.  Additionally, unlike some of the much larger firms and companies, Mr. Bross and Mr. Frankel personally attend the majority of our client's hearings, and are always reasonably available to speak with our clients themselves.


If you are in the process of filing for Social Security disability benefits, or you have already been denied, and need help with an appeal, call the experienced disability benefits lawyers at Bross & Frankel, and get help from a New Jersey disability attorney who will provide you with prompt, personal attention in getting you the benefits you need.