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nager romaine & schneiberg attorneys

Welcome to the Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg, Co. blog!  We look forward to sharing our knowledge with you in our upcoming posts. We are an state wide law practice with officesin Cleveland, OH, Ashtabula, Ohio and Columbus, Ohio.   We have a staff of more than 25 paralegals and legal assistants and 12 full time attorneys who focus on the following legal concerns:

We believe that an informed client is an empowered client, so on this blog we will bring you the latest information on popular topics. These will include personal injury, workers’ comp, car accidents, medical malpractice, insurance coverage, mass tort/class actions, nursing home neglect and abuse, and other trending topics.

Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a long and frustrating process. There are mountains of paperwork to be completed that can be both tedious and complicated. To make matters worse, approximately two-thirds of SSD benefit applications are turned down after the first submission. If you hope to beat the odds, SSD experts recommend the following tips:

Still denied? Call a lawyer.

If you have done all of the above and your application still gets denied, it is time to hire a Social Security Disability lawyer. The Cleveland Social Security Disability attorneys at Nager, Romaine and Schneiberg, Co. LPA have the expertise you need to win your appeal. There are several layers of appeals in the SSD system and eventually you will need to appear in court. If you attend your appeal hearing with a lawyer, your chances of winning increase dramatically.

Our attorneys help prove your claim that you are unable to complete any type of work, which is an absolute requirement for disability benefits. When you can't work and feel like you are out of options, let our lawyers help you regain control of your life. Please feel free to schedule a free consultation appointment today.

Most first-time applicants are turned down for Social Security Disability. The likelihood of your application’s approval increases significantly when you allow our experienced Ohio Social Security Disability attorneys to file your application on your behalf.

Social Security Disability Insurance

If you are covered under Social Security Disability Insurance — meaning you have worked a prescribed amount of time and paid Social Security taxes — you may be eligible for benefits.

To be approved, you must have a medical condition that prevents you from working and medical prognosis states the condition is either likely to persist for a minimum of one-year or end in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) applies a strict federal standard of disability to applications. The SSA has published a Disability Benefits guide to assist people in understanding if they have a case.

The Appeals Process

If you filed a disability application and were turned down, our Social Security Disability lawyers guide your case through the appeals process:

Our firm assists clients receive entitled benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In addition to SSDI, the federal government provides Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people in need. What is the difference between these two important programs?

A primary difference between SSDI and SSI is the means by which the two programs are funded. SSDI is an insurance program that provides benefits should you be disabled. Through years in the workforce, your FICA payroll taxes fund your participation in SSDI. Your dependents may be eligible for auxiliary benefits through SSDI when you become eligible. Without sufficient time in the workforce, you are not eligible for SSDI.

Eligibility for SSI is not based upon years in the workforce, but upon need, including old age, impoverishment, disability and the underlying citizenship status needed to access federal programs.

Some similarities and differences between these programs include:

SSDI and SSI are important resources for disabled individuals. Because denial of Social Security disability claims is common, speak with an experienced SSDI attorney before filing to ensure your benefits application is correct the first time.

How does the Social Security Administration define disability?

Social Security defines disability differently than other programs such as Veterans Affairs and Workers’ Compensation. Social Security defines disability as:

1. a person’s inability to work,

2. as a result of one or more medical condition, either physical or mental,

3. that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

In order for Social Security to consider a medical condition for the purposes of disability determination, the medical condition must be a medically determinable impairment. A medically determinable impairment is a physical or mental impairment that results from anatomical, physiological or psychological conditions which can be detected by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A person’s complaint of symptoms is not enough, Social Security requires medical evidence consisting of sign, symptoms and laboratory findings.

Unlike Veterans Affairs and Workers’ Compensation definition of disability, benefits for Social Security disability are not paid for partial disability. Social Security does not pay benefits for medical conditions that are expected to last less than one year.

Our attorneys and legal staff can review your information to determine if you qualify you for Social Security disability. Please feel free to contact our office today for a free consultation appointment.

Chances are somebody you know has a personal story about recovering Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Unfortunately, you may be left with a patchwork of information that is more myth than reality. And uncovering the truth can require you to dig through layers of complex regulations and convoluted policies.

The Ohio State Bar Association helps you unravel SSD facts from fiction:

A Cleveland SSD benefits attorney can help you get your application right the first time, so you can begin receiving your payments as soon as possible.

Age can be a significant factor when a Social Security Administration adjudicator determines if a claimant is disabled.  Generally speaking the younger the claimant, the more difficult it is for the claimant to receive Social Security disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration has created four age categories:

For a Younger Person, the Social Security Administration does not believe that age plays a significant role in the claimant’s ability to adjust to work.  For a person Closely Approaching Advanced Age, the Social Security Administration considers the claimant’s age along with severe impairments and limited work experience may significantly affect their ability to adjust to other work.  For a person of Advanced Age or Closely Approaching Retirement Age, the Social Security Administration has determined that age can significantly affect a claimant’s ability to adjust to other work.

If you have suffered a debilitating injury or medical diagnosis and cannot work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. But proving your disability will require you meet strict criteria, file a boatload of documentation and perhaps take two or three runs at attaining approval before claiming victory.

What are the requirements for SSD qualification?

To qualify for SSD benefits, you must:

How do I document my disability?

You may file a SSD claim online or file a claim in person at your local Social Security office.  Documentation required includes:

What are my chances of approval?

More than 50 percent of SSD claims are denied after the initial application. Requests for reconsideration are common. If an appeal is denied, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Persistence is required in most cases.

If you are unable to work because of a disability, contact an experienced SSD attorney at Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A. We are located in Cleveland and we are eager to assist you.

As we discussed in a previous blog post, the Social Security Disability (SSD) application process usually takes several months, even in the best of circumstances. If your application is denied ― and more than half of applications are denied on the first round of review ― it can take months, or even several years, to complete the appeals process. As a result, many very sick people go without benefits, and some of them die before their applications are ever approved.

How is Social Security trying to fix the problem?

In an attempt to speed the approval process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has created the Compassionate Allowance program. The goal of this program is to identify claimants whose conditions, in the SSA’s words, “obviously meet” the agency’s definition of disability. Applicants who have been diagnosed with a condition that is covered by the program can have their benefits approved very quickly ― in some cases, in as little as two to three weeks from the date on the application.

While the payments still cannot start until after the five-month waiting period that is required by law, the Compassionate Allowance program is designed to alleviate the anxiety of waiting for a decision on an application and the fear that an obviously disabled person will have to endure the SSA’s long appeals process.

The Compassionate Allowance program has been in existence since 2008, but the list of conditions that are included has been expanded several times. As of mid-2013, there are more than 200 conditions that are covered, including many (but not all) forms of cancer, dementia, organ transplants, autoimmune and other systemic diseases, and traumatic brain injuries.

It is worth noting that if you are approved for SSDI using this program, the Social Security Administration will continue to review your case even after benefits are granted. If the agency believes it made a mistake, it can reverse its decision. However, in that case, you will not have to pay back any benefits you have already received.

How can I apply for the Compassionate Allowance program?

The program uses the regular SSDI application and cases that fall within a compassionate allowance should be subject to the appropriate type of review automatically. However, when you apply for benefits, your doctor and your attorney can work together to make sure that the relevant diagnosis and the tests and other evidence that confirm it are prominently featured in your application. The experienced Cleveland Social Security Disability attorneys at Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A. can help you with your case.

A Social Security disability hearing is typically about 45 minutes long, but could be as short as 5 minutes or take over an hour. The hearing is adjudicated by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). In addition to the claimant, the claimant’s attorney and the ALJ, a court reporter and possibly a medical and/or vocational expert could be present. If the claimant is a juvenile or unable to testify on their own behalf, a family member or other person that knows the claimant is typically permitted to testify at the hearing.

Social Security hearings are inquisitive in nature, meaning the purpose of the hearing is for the claimant and claimant’s attorney to present evidence to the ALJ so the ALJ can determine if the claimant is disabled under the rules of Social Security. There is no opposing attorney or anyone else that is arguing that the claimant is not disabled.

A typical hearing can be broken down into three sections.

  1. At the start of the hearing the ALJ will ask the claimant’s attorney some administrative questions and ask the attorney to give a brief overview as to why under the rules of Social Security the claimant is disabled. The ALJ will also make all people giving testimony swear or affirm to tell the truth.
  2. Next the ALJ and claimant’s attorney will ask the claimant questions. The questions typically fall under three categories:
    1. Work history for the past 15 years
    2. A description the claimant’s physical and/or mental conditions and how those conditions affect the claimant
    3. How the claimant’s physical and/or mental conditions limit their ability to perform activities of daily living
  3. After the ALJ and claimant’s attorney have finished asking the claimant questions, the ALJ and attorney will then ask questions to a medical or vocational expert, if one is present. A medical expert is asked if the claimant meets a Social Security listing or what limitations that claimant might have as a result of their medical condition. A vocational expert is asked what jobs, if any, are available to a person with limitations similar to the claimant.

After expert testimony the ALJ will often ask the claimant or the claimant’s attorney if they have any closing remarks. It is within the ALJ’s discretion to issue a decision the day of hearing, but typically the ALJ chooses to issue a written decision which is sent by mail to the claimant and the claimant’s attorney.

In some cases, the hard fought efforts at negotiating a favorable workers’ compensation settlement is only the beginning of the battle.  Having negotiated a good settlement, the last thing a workers’ compensation practitioner wants is an angry client, frustrated that his or her workers’ compensation settlement results in a substantial reduction in his or her client’s Social Security Insurance disability benefits (DIB).  If a client is receiving DIB,  or maybe eligible in future for this benefit, thoughtful efforts must be put into drafting an agreement to ensure the injured worker’s  DIB potential offset is minimized or eliminated.

42 U.S.C §424a, provides for an offset of DIB when the claimant is also receiving state workers’ compensation benefits.  In Richardson v. Belcher, 404 U.S. 78, 84 (1971), the Supreme Court noted that the offset "reduce[s] the duplication inherent in the programs and at the same time allow[s] a supplement to workmens' compensation where the state payments [are] inadequate."

In Ohio, when the combined workers’ compensation benefit and DIB exceed eighty percent of the injured workers’ average current earnings (ACE), SSA will take a dollar for dollar offset to the extent that the combined benefit exceeds that eighty percent. This can have the effect of reducing the DIB to zero. 42 U.S.C. §424a(a). ACE is calculated by SSA using the injured worker’s pre-injury earnings record. The offset provision will continue until such time as the workers’ compensation benefit is discontinued or until the claimant reaches age 65. 20 C.F.R. §408.408(a).

Individuals subject to a reduction of DIB because of the receipt of a workers’ compensation benefits can reduce or eliminate a DIB offset by negotiating a settlement of the workers’ compensation claim. By amortizing the settlement proceeds over the injured workers’ life expectancy, the rate of compensation maybe significantly reduced. In some cases, it can reduce the combined workers’ compensation and DIB benefit below the eighty percent of ACE.

SSA has the authority to determine the appropriate method of prorating a lump sum award. 42 U.S.C. § 424a(b) .  SSA utilizes a procedure outlined in its Program Operation Manual System (POMS). POMS DI 52001.555C.4 sets forth a priority for prorating the lump sum award, and first priority is given to the rate detailed in the terms of the settlement agreement. If the lump sum award specifies a rate based on life expectancy, that rate is used to prorate the lump sum. Rodlin v. Secretary of HHS, 750 E Supp. 146, 149 at 151 (D.N.J. 1990), illustrates an excellent example of how a practitioner’s failure to amortize the settlement in the terms of the agreement can have real and meaningful consequences. In Rodlin, the injured worker was receiving temporary total disability (TT) at the rate of $269 per week and later the injured worker was also awarded Social Security disability benefits. Eventually, he settled his workers’ compensation case for $35,000. Unfortunately, no verbiage was included in the settlement documents to specify the amortization of the award. Since no rate was specified SSA divided the $35,000 by the $269 rate he was previously being paid which equaled 130 weeks of offset.  In this case, SSA reduced his monthly DIB from $535.50 to $27.20 over those 130 weeks. However, because it would have brought the total of amortized workers’ compensation proceeds and the DIB under the eighty percent of his ACE, had the settlement expressed the in its terms amortized the award over the injured workers’ life expectancy, there would have been no reduction in the injured worker’s DIB. Rodlin at 150.

Another consideration is SSA must also determine which expenses are excludable from the lump-sum award. This includes amounts specified for medical, legal, or related expenses paid. 20 C.F.R. § 404.408(d).  The expenses can be placed at the beginning (front loading method) or spread evenly (steam rolling method) throughout the specified period of the amortization. POMS DI 52001.555H.

Under the front loading method, the excludable expenses will be considered as if paid out first. Since expenses are excluded from the offset, and since according to the terms of the settlement the expenses are being considered first, there will be no offset for the time period that legal expenses and other expenses are being amortized.  This works best in older individuals approaching age since the amortized rate after age 65 is of no consequence because there is no offset after age 65.  For example, assume that a 63 year old claimant settles his workers' compensation claim for $100,000 and has legal fees of $30,000. Also assume he is not receiving DIB because of the combined benefit triggers an offset of DIB. The settlement amortized over the individual’s life expectancy equates $230 per week. The legal fees of $30,000 would be divided by the $230, which would result in no offset for the first 130 weeks following the settlement. If in that case, the amortization of the settlement would eliminate any future offset for the injured worker since the amortization of legal fees are excluded from offset. However, the practitioner only has to use this method if the amortized rate still creates an offset of DIB.

The most commonly used method is the steam rolling method. Under this method, the excludable expenses are spread over the entire period of offset. The excludable expenses are treated as a percentage of the total award. That percentage is then multiplied by the weekly rate, resulting in a reduced weekly rate of payment. For example, consider a $200,000 settlement with $66,000 legal fee and $34,000 in future medical costs.  One hundred thousand dollars is excludable from the award representing the total of the legal fee and the future medical costs. That is fifty percent of the total award. Assuming a fifteen year life expectancy or 780 weeks, the amortization of the settlement would be $256 per week which would be reduced by fifty percent to $128 to account for the excludable expenses.  Again the amortization over the injured workers life expectancy will possibly provide a reduction in the DIB offset in comparison to the client continuing to receive an ongoing award.

Since SSA allows for the workers’ compensation practitioner to amortize the proceeds of the settlement to benefit the injured worker, thoughtful planning at settlement of a workers' compensation award can mean saving the client potentially thousands of dollars by eliminating or reducing an offset of DIB. If you are looking for Social Security disability attorneys,  contact NRS Injury Law or call (855)GOT-HURT to discuss any issues dealing with your workers' compensation claim.

SSDI Benefits – How Long Does It Take?

For the average 20 year old worker, there is a 3 in 10 chance he or she will be seriously injured and permanently disabled over the course of their working lifetime. Assuming you or your loved one has paid into Social Security, you may be eligible for long term social security disability benefits.

The biggest impact on the timeline of applying for, and receiving Social Security benefits, is whether or not your claim is denied or approved. There are several steps as it moves throughout the claims process.  The process is incredibly rigorous, and often requires professional legal help. This process of application review can take up to 6 months or more.

Once your claim is approved and has completed the full process, you are eligible to receive Social Security disability. Benefits may start six months after the date of your injury or disability began.

Filing Your Social Security Disability Claim

For an injured individual and their loved ones, it can be incredibly difficult to get through the process – Not to mention, it can be very discouraging to be reduced to a ‘claim number’ when your livelihood, health and wellbeing is all on the line.

To begin, you must visit or call your local Social Security office to file an application. Alternatively, you can contact an attorney to help you from fruition, to ensure the process is as smooth and efficient as possible.  The longer it takes to process your claim, the longer you must wait in order to receive Social Security benefits.

There is a variety of information you must supply during the application process;

What to do if your Social Security Disability is Denied

Appealing a denial hearing is absolutely easier with an experienced Social Security Attorney in your corner.  If you have a disability that qualifies for Social Security benefits, we will not take no for an answer.

If you or a loved one is filing or has already filed for Social Security Disability, contact Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A. immediately.  Our attorneys will aggressively pursue your case and work to help you or your loved one obtain fair benefits and expedite the claims process as much as possible

Trust your Social Security Disability case to one of the best injury firms in Ohio!

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