The following are answers to questions commonly asked by our disability clients:
1. What happens now that I have been turned down for disability?
WE APPEAL, or ask Social Security (SSA) to make a "reconsideration" in your case. Our staff will assist you while SSA makes its reconsideration decision.
2. How long does reconsideration?
3 to 5 months. THIS IS ONLY AN AVERAGE: some appeals take less time; some appeals take more time. You should never compare your claim to others as every claim is different. When Social Security makes its reconsideration decision, you will get a letter from them telling you whether you have been found disabled or not.
What should I do if I still have not received a decision after 5 months?
CALL US. We will call SSA to try and find out why no reconsideration decision has been made. We can't force SSA to make a decision faster, but we may find out if there is a problem holding up the decision that we can solve.
3. What does SSA do with my case at the reconsideration level?
Your case is reviewed by Disability Determination Services ("DDS"), a department of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services in Austin. A government worker, called a "disability examiner," will gather and review medical records of the treatment you have received since you were turned down at the initial stage. The disability examiner then makes a new decision on your case with the help of doctors who also work for DDS (but have never examined you). This is basically a repeat of what happened when you first applied for disability. The only difference is that a different disability examiner and a different doctor at DDS will be reviewing your case.
4. Will Social Security ask me to do anything during the reconsideration level?
You may be asked to do some or all of these things:
A. Fill out forms.
SSA may send you a long form asking you to tell all about the things you do and don't do at home since you have been off work.
REMEMBER: SSA will compare what you do at home to what you would have to do on a job. If the level of activity is the same, SSA will think you can work. They will also compare your answers on this form to the answers you gave on the form you completed when you first applied for benefits. If you do not know what to say on the forms, CALL US.
B. See a Social Security doctor.
Not everyone has to see a Social Security doctor. If you have a regular doctor, SSA should ask your doctor for the information they need or ask your doctor to examine you again to get the information.
If you don't have a regular doctor, SSA may pay for you to see one or more doctors 1 time each to get the information they need. You will get a letter with the doctor's name, address, and the day and time you are set to see him.
Before you go, CALL US to talk over what will happen at your doctor appointment.
C. Talk to the disability examiner.
The disability examiner may call you to ask questions about your disability. We feel it is best for you to ask the disability examiner to CALL US to answer any questions because it is hard for you to know what answers might hurt your case.
D. Help get your medical records.
If your doctor has not sent SSA his/her records about you, SSA may send you a letter asking you to get the doctor to send them. If you get this letter, call your doctor and ask him to send his records to SSA as soon as possible.
5. Will I get my disability at the reconsideration level?
Probably not. Most people are turned down at the first and second stages. You should expect that you will not win your case at this point.
What happens if I get turned down for disability at the reconsideration level?
WE APPEAL by requesting a hearing to appear before a Social Security Judge (called an Administrative Law Judge). We have the ability to file your appeal online and will send you a copy of the appeal, so you will know that it has been filed. We also will send you more information about this stage.
Mark your calendar for 4 weeks after you receive your "Notice of Reconsideration" denial letter. If you don't get a copy of your request for bearing and information from us by that date, CALL US to make sure we got a copy of your "Notice of Reconsideration." (Sometimes SSA forgets to send our copy).
6. What should I be doing to help my case at the reconsideration level?
A) See Your Doctor Regularly.
See your doctor at least every 4 - 6 months. Don't miss appointments. Follow the treatment the doctor recommends. Tell your doctor you have applied for Social Security disability. Discuss with your doctor whether he/she thinks you can do any kind of work and whether he/she will help you prove you can't work.
B) If you don’t have a Doctor, Get One and See the Doctor Regularly.
Not having insurance and/or not having money to see a doctor is not always a good excuse because you can get FREE medical care, or you can sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act. In Dallas County, you can go to the Parkland Hospital Clinic for free; in Tarrant County, you can go to the John Peter Smith Hospital Clinic. If you do not live in Dallas or Tarrant Counties and you do not know where to get help, CALL 211 and ask for free clinics in your area, or call our office for a list of indigent health care providers.
If you don't go to a doctor. Social Security will think nothing is wrong with you to keep you from working OR that you don't want to get better.
CALL US for help in finding a place to get FREE treatment for your problems, or for information on the Affordable Care Act. It is more important than ever that you start seeing a doctor before your hearing. DON'T PUT IT OFF!
C) Apply for Vocational Rehabilitation at the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Service (DARS).
Wouldn't you rather get a new job you can handle than live on disability benefits? DARS can help you get that job. If DARS can't help you, that will be good proof that you are disabled. Either way, going to DARS is good for you. CALL US for more information about how to sign up for vocational rehabilitation with DARS.
It is also more important than ever that you try to get help from DARS for vocational rehabilitation before you see the ALJ. DON'T PUT IT OFF!
7. When will I get to meet my lawyer?
As soon as the ALJ sets a date for your hearing. The ALJ's office will call us to schedule a date and time for your hearing. As soon as we know the date of your hearing, a meeting with Mr. Heeps will be scheduled for you and we will send you a letter with the date and time of your appointment. If you receive a "Notice of Hearing'' and you have not heard from us, please call our office.
8. When should I call The Law Office of Jonathan A. Heeps?
ALWAYS CALL US IF/WHEN:
A. You have a new address and/or telephone number.
B. You go to an emergency room, a hospital or see a NEW doctor (not listed on your forms).
C. You are scheduled for surgery or special procedure (like steroid injections).
D. You have a new diagnosis and/or new medication.
E. You receive a letter or telephone call from Social Security.
F. You stop getting medical treatment.
G. You start working (full or part-time).
** Reminder – Please Do Not Contact Social Security for any Reason *