Social Security Disability Law in Fort Collins
We represent disabled persons who are seeking benefits from the Social Security Administration. If you need help with your SSDI claim, please contact our Social Security Disability Lawyers in Fort Collins, immediately to arrange a free initial consultation.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):
Most people think of Social Security in terms of obtaining retirement benefits once they reach retirement age (early retirement age is 62). However, if someone becomes severely disabled prior to reaching retirement age, they may be able to collect those benefits early in the form of SSDI. SSDI beneficiaries will also be eligible for Medicare which is federally funded health insurance.
Who is eligible for SSDI:
To be eligible for any insurance coverage, whether it is automobile insurance or disability insurance, you must first pay premiums. You pay insurance premiums for SSDI every time your employer withholds Social Security taxes from your paychecks which are then forwarded to Uncle Sam. Someone who has paid sufficient amounts of Social Security taxes to be eligible for SSDI has obtained “insurable status”. To obtain “insurable status” you must have paid into the system for five (5) of the last ten (10) years preceding the onset of your disabling condition. The local Social Security office can tell you if you have “insurable status.” If you do not have “insurable status”, you will need to either keep working until you do obtain it, or you will need to confer with an accountant or the Social Security Administration (SSA) to correct your earning records to prove that you did in fact pay sufficient payroll taxes into the system.
Minors applying for SSDI benefits may not be subject to the same eligibility requirements. Therefore, minors should contact the local SSA office to see if they have insurable status, or simply issue an application and see what happens.
How do you apply for Disability Insurance:
Simply call your local Social Security Office and set up an appointment to apply. You can find this number in the government section of your local phone book. Here are some of the Social Security office phone numbers along the Front Range:
- Fort Collins : (970) 482-5130
- Greeley : (970) 353-2192
- Boulder : (303) 543-9492
- Denver : (303) 844-5217
- Aurora : (866) 322-0761
- Lakewood : (720) 559-4500
You will want to take to your appointment an original birth certificate and a list of all of your medical providers. When you attend the appointment, inform the SSA employee of each and every medical condition you have, including both physical and mental conditions.
Most applicants are denied, but don’t worry:
A very large percentage of applicants are denied as being not disabled. Do not let this discourage you. Upon being denied, if not before, contact the Hoggatt Law Office immediately. When the SSA sends you a denial letter, it will explain how long you have to appeal the denial. This is why it is very important to call our law firm immediately to set up a free initial consultation. Once you employ our firm to assist you, we will request a hearing before an administrative law judge and represent you in that hearing. The hearing will take place approximately one (1) year (and sometimes several months longer) after we request it. If you wait beyond the appeal deadline, you may lose your right to claim benefits. If this happens, immediately issue another application before your insurable status lapses.
What role does age play in eligibility:
As a general rule of thumb, the older you are, the less difficult it will be to obtain SSDI benefits. Disabled individuals under age fifty (50) will face the most stringent eligibility requirements. These requirements become less strict after turning fifty (50) and even less stringent after reaching age fifty-five (55).
What role does my doctor play in the application process:
Your doctor or doctors will document your disabling condition. Your medical records are the most important evidence necessary to establish eligibility. Your doctor should provide a clear and objective basis documenting your diagnosis. Also, he or she should document how your disabling medical condition(s) affects you functionally by describing in detail your work restrictions and physical limitations. This should be done even if you are not working at the time of your medical examination. The most common mistake doctors make in assisting their patients is to not describe work restrictions and physical limitations in sufficient detail and to not explain why and how their medical condition(s) contributes to these physical limitations. The same concept holds true for restrictions and limitations caused by psychological conditions.
If your doctor has not adequately documented your physical and psychological restrictions, ask your treating physician to refer you to an Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) which is a formal procedure where a physical therapist or other medical professional will test your exertion abilities (e.g. how much you can lift or how long you can stand, walk, sit, bend, etc.) and document their findings in a written report. Hoggatt Law Office will then submit the FCE report to your Social Security judge at or prior to your hearing.
How to submit evidence to the administrative law judge:
The key to a successful SSDI hearing is collecting all of your medical records and submitting them to a judge well in advance of the hearing. Unfortunately this is not an easy process. The SSA is constantly changing their rules on submitting evidence. Some judges want the records submitted electronically; while others want hard copies. Additionally, the SSA and the judges do not like receiving duplicate medical records. Our staff at the Hoggatt Law Office has tremendous experience in compiling a complete set of your medical records and submitting them to the SSA without burdening the judge with duplicate records.. Although this process may seem simple, it is not. Rather it is very time consuming and laborious. This is yet another reason to employ Hoggatt Law. The attorney will also review your records and advise you on inadequacies in your records and advise you on how to fill-in the gaps.
How does the attorney get paid:
We collect up to twenty-five percent (25%) of the SSDI benefits which you are owed retroactively, up to a maximum fee set by the SSA. Currently that maximum fee is $5,300 but is subject to change as Federal regulations are amended. If Hoggatt Law does not win your case, you do not owe us any attorney’s fees. However, regardless of the outcome of your case, you would be responsible to reimburse Hoggatt Law for any out-of-pocket expenses which we incur on your behalf. Typically these out-of-pocket expenses include but are not limited to compiling medical records and paying for medical opinions.