Washington State Social Security Disability FAQs
Get answers and advice to common questions about your Social Security Disability Claim, then contact us for a free evaluation of your case.
1. Am I eligible for disability benefits from Social Security?
While you may be unable to work, that fact alone won’t guarantee you Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration is a large and complex government agency. They use a complex legal system to decide who deserves benefits, and you can only win benefits if you meet their strict definition of "disabled."
We’ll help you determine whether you do. Contact us for a FREE evaluation of your disability claim and find out if you qualify for benefits.
2. How do I apply for Social Security Disability?
The first step is to file your initial claim with the Social Security Administration. You should take this first step yourself because you may be able to win benefits without our help.
There are many ways to apply: On the web at socialsecurity.gov, through the mail, over the phone, or in person. You can call the national Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 and set up the option that works best for you. While the staff at the national office is great at setting up appointments and doing basic tasks they sometimes get the tough questions wrong. Call our office or go into your local Social Security office to get answers for the more complex questions.
3. Do I need a Social Security Lawyer to win disability benefits?
Strictly speaking, you don’t need a Social Security Lawyer to win disability benefits. But we can help you build the strongest possible case. Social Security has complex rules to determine disability, and these rules change depending on your age, education, training and work experience. Our office will evaluate all the aspects of your case to determine the best course of action.
If your initial claim is denied (and most are), legal representation is advisable. Social Security’s own statistics show that people win benefits more often when they have legal representation. We’ll help you set up your appeal, gather evidence and prepare for your hearing.
If your claim goes all the way to Federal courts, we strongly advise that you retain an attorney. Gary Penar has extensive experience in Federal Court, and we’re well qualified to handle your case.
4. I already applied for Social Security Disability. What do I do now?
The most important thing you can do is to visit your doctor regularly and maintain a record of the hospital visits and problems you encounter day to day. These records will serve as evidence in the event your claim is denied.
5. My initial application was denied. Should I appeal my Social Security Disability denial?
Probably. You’ll have a better idea after you contact our office for a free consultation. We’ll review the reasons for denial and help you determine whether an appeal is likely to succeed. You only have sixty days to file an appeal, so don’t wait to contact us.
6. When should I contact a Social Security Lawyer about representation?
As a general rule, the sooner the better. You should file your initial claim without legal help, but if it’s denied (and most are), you’ll want to get in touch as soon as possible to make sure you meet all the appeal deadlines. If you’ve been denied, contact us immediately.
7. How does the Social Security administration define disability?
To qualify as disabled under Social Security rules, you’ll need to be able to prove…
- You can’t do work you did before;
- You can’t adjust to other work because of your medical or psychological condition; and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or to result in death.
8. How does Social Security decide if I can work?
By reviewing your documentation. That’s what the appeals hearing is about. The Social Security Administration will examine your medical records, your employer records and any personal or expert testimony in deciding whether you’re unable to work for a year or more.
9. How long does it take Social Security to make a decision once I file my initial disability claim?
The Social Security Administration is a vast government agency, and they can take as long as a year or more to make their decision. We can help you avoid errors that can slow your appeal. We’ll be on the lookout for ways to shorten your wait. And of course, we’ll be with you throughout the process to make sure the Social Security Administration is doing everything it can. But in the end, we can’t make them move any faster. No legal firm can.
10. How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits?
You don’t have to wait at all. In fact, it’s best to file your claim immediately, while evidence is still relatively easy to obtain. You might decide not to file a claim if your health issues are minor. But if you expect to be unable to work for a year or more, you should file your claim immediately.
11. My doctor says I’m disabled. So why is Social Security denying my disability claim?
It could be any number of reasons. Doctors don’t always know what constitutes a disability under Social Security rules, so we make sure they describe and present your information in a way that makes sense to the Social Security Administration. We’ll help you collect, evaluate and present your evidence for the maximum chance of success.
12. What information will Attorney Gary Penar need?
When you first contact our office, all you’ll need is your most recent denial letter from Social Security. After that, we typically help clients obtain two types of information…
MEDICAL RECORDS—Physical documentation of your condition is important to proving a disability as defined by Social Security’s rules and regulations. We’ll help obtain the medical records Social Security missed and see to it that they’re thorough and complete.
MEDICAL TESTIMONY—The Social Security Administration often hires expert witnesses to testify that claimants are not disabled. To counter that testimony, we’ll review your doctor’s records and often request their medical opinions regarding your functional limitations, asking the specific questions that the Social Security Administration needs answered.
13. How can I improve my chances of winning my Social Security disability claim?
First, be honest and thorough when reporting your condition to Social Security. People are sometimes embarrassed to report psychological difficulties or learning disabilities, even though both can be important factors in receiving benefits. As you fill out forms regarding your limitations, think in terms of what you can't do, not what you can do. Hiring a lawyer will also improve your chances; Social Security’s own numbers show that people with legal counsel are much more likely to win benefits. Contact our office. We’d be happy to talk.
14. What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to win disability benefits?
- Failing to Hire a Representative can be a costly mistake. The Social Security Administration has complex rules and regulations. A skilled representative can help by looking into all the facts and setting up the strongest case based on your age, education and work experience. Gary Penar has successfully represented thousands of claimants and has the skills it takes to win your case.
- Waiting Too Long to File—You should file immediately after an injury, as delays tend to lessen your chances of winning benefits.
- Insufficient Proof—Be sure to visit your doctor regularly and maintain a record of the hospital visits and problems you encounter day to day. These records will serve as proof to substantiate your claim.
- Starting Over—If your initial claim is rejected, you should appeal the decision. Many people make the mistake of filing a fresh application, which causes serious delays.
15. Do I have a severe impairment?
The Social Security Administration considers your impairment severe (and therefore eligible for benefits) if it interferes with such basic work functions as…
- Physical abilities like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling
- Seeing, hearing or speaking
- Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions
- Using good judgment
- Responding appropriately to supervisors, co-workers and typical work situations
- Dealing with changes in a routine work setting