Jon has been with Jan Dils Attorneys at Law for over five years. In his current role, Jon is a VA Leads Specialist, and a Social Media Specialist. In December 2011, Jon Received his Masters Degree in corporate Communication from West Virginia University. Jon also has an RBA in Criminal Justice and Communications from West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
Jenny Cochran has been with the Jan Dils Team for just over four years. Jenny started out in our Case Management Pod, and recently moved into the role of Outlining Specialist. The one element of Case Management she missed was working with the clients one on one, so writing for our all new blog was a natural fit. Jenny is eager to learn as much as she can as she hopes to go to law school soon. In her spare time, Jenny loves going to concerts, watching Netflix, and spending time with her friends and family. Jenny’s coworkers are quick to point out that she has a fantastic sense of humor and a wonderful personality.
In the United States, there are two federal programs designed to provide people with a monetary safety net that protects them if they are too impaired to provide for themselves. These programs come in the form of social security disability insurance and supplemental security income. Although they sound similar, they are still distinct enough to serve as two separate programs. Whereas social security disability insurance is designed for people that have worked long enough and paid enough taxes to qualify for aid, supplemental security income is instead assigned based on demonstrated need.
Applying for these programs is similar across each state, but West Virginia has developed a particular reputation for rejecting applications at a rate far above the national average. While an SSI attorney can certainly help to ensure that an application survives the claim process, it also helps to have a deeper understanding of these programs and how they work in West Virginia.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Although most people tend to think of social security as being a retirement program, in reality it serves multiple functions. In the case of social security disability insurance in West Virginia, it helps to alleviate the financial strain on people that are incapable of continuing to work.
Unlike other disability programs, federal regulations require that a social security disability insurance recipient be severely limited in their functionality, whether that be due to mental or physical limitations. As a result of this limitation, applicants can not expect to be accepted with a minor impairment or disability as they potentially could with worker’s comp or a similar program.
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance in West Virginia
In order to begin the claim process in West Virginia, an applicant will need to initially pass two different earnings test. The first earnings test is to prove that an applicant worked for a sufficient period of time before becoming disabled. This period of time is further defined based on when the applicant became disabled. If the impairment began before the applicant turned 24, they must prove that they worked for at least 1.5 years in the 3 year period before they became disabled. For those that became disabled before turning 31, but after 24, they must prove that they worked for at least half of that time leading up to their impairment. Any applicants that became disabled after turning 31 need to simply prove that they worked for at least 5 out of the last 10 years leading up to their disability. It’s worth mentioning that blind applicants are often excused from meeting this test’s requirements.
The second test is a duration of work test, to prove that an applicant worked long enough under social security to be entitled to its benefits. The requirements for this test are a little harder to define, but generally require that a person worked for a certain number of years up to the age of 28. Roughly every 4 years after that, an applicant must have at least an additional year of work in their history.
Anyone that meets these requirements can then submit their work and medical history online at socialsecurity.gov or file a claim with a local social security office. Once the application process has begun, West Virginia’s Disability Determination Services will pass the case on to an evaluation specialist to review all of the case’s associated materials. At this point, they’ll decide to either accept or reject the claim.
If the claim is accepted, the applicant will be entitled to benefits on a monthly basis that are the average of the claimant’s lifetime earnings. In addition to receiving their own benefits, other family members in an applicant’s life may be entitled to the social security disability insurance benefits. This includes any spouse that is older than 62, a spouse of any age that is raising a child younger than 16, and any child that is unmarried and younger than 18.
How to Appeal the Decision
In the case of a rejection, the applicant has 60 days to decide whether or not they wish to pursue an appeal. Once the appeal process has begun, it is not considerably different to the original application process. Assuming nothing of significance has changed between the original and secondary process, the case can then be moved on to a hearing. At this point, a hearing is much more in favor of a claimant has long as they’ve been keeping proper records at each stage of the process and can prove that they are sufficiently disabled.
What is Supplemental Security Income?
Although the process is very similar to applying for social security disability insurance benefits, supplemental security income is different enough to warrant a separate discussion. Unlike social security disability insurance benefits, applicants seeking supplemental security income do not need to provide proof that they’ve worked for a specific period of time. This is because supplemental security income is not actually derived from social security, but is instead generated from general federal taxes.
Supplemental security income is primarily designed to help adults and children that are incapable of working due to their age, blindness, disability, and also have a general lack of income. It is awarded to successful applicants at a base monthly rate of $733, which is then adjusted based on the federally calculated cost of living. From this base income, additional payments can be added at each state’s discretion. In the case of West Virginia, no additional payments are awarded to supplemental security income. It’s also important to remember that the base value does not include subtractions from other benefits programs, or any other subtractions that can result from a recipient’s countable income.
Applying for Supplemental Security Income in West Virginia
The supplemental security income application process in West Virginia is not significantly different from its social security disability insurance counterpart. Despite this, it is still recommended that applicants seek out the experience of a professional SSI attorney, as West Virginia is much stricter in its evaluation process than many other states. To help make the application process run more smoothly, the Social Security Administration has a tool that allows applicants to easily see whether their disability will potentially qualify them for benefits.
How to Appeal the Decision
If an appeal has been rejected, it does not necessarily mean that the claim is completely devoid of merit. Oftentimes, small mistakes in the application process can cause the entire claim to be rejected. Applicants that feel their disability is justified will want to quickly rectify any existing errors and then begin the appeal process before 60 days have elapsed since the rejection. As with the social security disability insurance benefits appeal process, it will likely take a claimant’s hearing to prove the validity of the disability before any benefits will be awarded.
Given the way in which they were designed, both social security benefits programs are effective tools for keeping the disabled out of poverty. Unfortunately, they are also open to abuse, which has understandably made it much more difficult to qualify for these programs. Anyone that is legitimately in need of social security disability insurance benefits can’t afford to suffer through many months of appeal processes, which is why SSI lawyers try to streamline the process as effectively as possible.
Are you worried that you will not receive the benefits you deserve after separating from the military? Well, you’re not alone. Each year an estimated 24,0000 – 36,0000 military personnel separate from one of the armed services. With that, there are several records to account for, red tape can cause a sticky mess. The key to success, is to make sure that you have everything in order before your discharge date.
Get Care for Existing Conditions
Those who are injured while on active duty, diagnosed with a condition like PTSD, or who have developed a chronic medical or psychiatric condition should begin treatment while still on active duty. If you’re unable to seek treatment from a military doctor or at a military medical facility, go to a civilian doctor. Make sure to document the doctor’s name and the name and address of the clinic or treatment facility in case you need to provide that information to the VA or Discharge Review Board later.
Before your discharge, you’ll receive a full separation medical exam. This is the time to report any undocumented medical or psychiatric issues, even if you have not sought or received medical treatment. Make sure to fill out your DD Form 2697 completely, and double-check that the doctor conducting your separation exam documents all of the details of your condition(s). Answering ‘no’ or ‘uncertain’ to questions about whether you intend to seek treatment from the VA at some time in the future will not disqualify you from applying for care when the time comes.
If you’ve been found unfit for duty, or you’re considering leaving the military due to disability, there are several things to take into consideration. All disability determinations, whether self-referred or referred by your Commanding officer (CO), are subject to review by the Disability Evaluation System (DES) to determine if you qualify for discharge and severance pay. The outcome can affect your benefits and compensation, so you should be aware of your options ahead of time and decide on an optimal outcome; changing your mind later may give you less leverage in controlling what happens.
One of the biggest factors is how close you are to completing 20 years of service. In the case of a severe disability that leaves you incapacitated, you may not have a choice in the matter. However, medical retirement is different than traditional retirement.
For one thing, the medical retirement pay rate is lower. If you feel that you can complete your service and perform your duties until you reach retirement age, hold off on seeking medical retirement. A referral from a doctor or your CO will require you to prove your fitness for duty. You should provide any awards or citations received during your service and offer any other evidence you have that will support your claim that your condition does not affect your ability to fulfill your duties.
Whether or not you’re close to your retirement date when you’re referred, you’ll be evaluated for fitness by the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB), who may then refer your case to the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). Disabilities that leave you unfit for duty will generally fall under two categories: Unfit with Placement on Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) or Unfit and Placement on Permanent Disability Retirement List (PDRL). The designation depends on the percentage of your disability and on whether it is considered stable or unstable.
Generally, you must be at least 30% disabled to be recommended for disability discharge. Stability is determined by how much your condition is likely to change in the future. If your disability is below 20%, you won’t qualify for any severance pay, so you should consider remaining in the military if possible.
If you’ve had medical treatment for any condition that’s likely to have a recurrence, undergone drug rehabilitation or psychiatric care, obtain a complete record of all treatments, doctors, and care facilities. That includes getting copies of all findings and obtaining or copying statements from your commanding officer and medical practitioners. It’s also essential that you fill out any paperwork giving permission to access your medical, legal, dental, and psychiatric records prior to leaving the service.
Make sure you go over your records carefully before your discharge to catch and correct missing or erroneous information. Some records and information are not automatically included in your Official Military Personnel File or your Service Record Book. Other records have to be specifically requested separately, including psychiatric records and substance abuse treatment or referrals, even if you did not follow-up.
In the case of non-medical incidents, criminal cases, and Congressional reviews involving your unit, get a copy of any records from the investigating body and any correspondence with Congressional members pertaining to the inquiry. If you’ll be requesting a discharge upgrade, make sure that your discharge packet includes information about non-judicial proceedings related to your discharge for misconduct and copies of any medical reports or exams if your discharge is due to disability or for medical reasons.
Aside from health care and separation pay, former members of the military may be eligible for other benefits once they leave the service. Unemployment compensation is available to former service members who are unable to find a job when they return to civilian life. The amount and eligibility requirements vary from state to state, and claims must meet certain criteria. Each case is different, but generally, you’ll qualify under the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX) Act if you meet the following conditions:
- You were active duty in a branch of the US armed forces
- You were honorably discharged from active duty or the reserves after completing your full term of service
- Unemployment insurance protection wasn’t deducted from your pay
- You have a completed DD Form 214 and you are actively searching for employment
The amount you’ll receive is based on the rates and eligibility of the state you reside in, but it’s determined by your active duty pay rate. Other things that may affect your unemployment benefits are the amount of separation compensation you receive and your retirement pay. If you’re turned down initially, you have the right to appeal that decision.
Having a plan in place before you retire or leave active duty helps ensure continuity and a more hassle-free transition to civilian life. Document any treatments, ongoing or not, before your discharge, and obtain copies of any paperwork even if you’re not sure it’s relevant; it may be difficult to get proof or obtain copies of your records after the fact. It’s important to note that less than honorable discharges may not be automatically upgraded after the initial six-month post-discharge period.
It’s up to you to ensure that you and your family are protected after your military service has ended. Once you leave the military, it’s more difficult to prove that you qualify for coverage due to conditions that were present pre-release
Sadly, last week we said goodbye to one of our long time employees. Jackie Roberts has been with us for 14 years. Jackie is a kind soul and has been a great part of this firm for a long time. Her daughter Shannan works for us a Non-Attorney Rep, and together they helped build this firm to where we are now. It’s hard to see such a good employee go. While I always liked Jackie, I can honestly say I haven’t the slightest idea what she did here. Don’t get me wrong, I know she is very hard working. She is usually here before I arrive in the morning, and she is often still working after I leave for the day. I Also know that Jackie’s job dealt with DDS. I just have no idea what DDS, what it means for social security, and how someone adequately performs a DDS task. With Jackie retiring, I thought it might be a good time to figure out what DDS means, and how it impacts a social security claim.
You might be wondering why I am even writing for a social security blog if I don’t know what DDS means. Well, my background is in VA disability. The VA does not really have a DDS equivalent. I am currently expanding my knowledge of social security. Did you know that Social Security is really confusing? I’m going to assume that if you filed a claim, you are already aware of that.
The first thing I had to do was figure out what the letters DDS mean. Acronyms really irritate me. They don’t save that much time, and if people didn’t use them, I wouldn’t have to be writing this blog. But, the world isn’t perfect. It turns out DDS stands for Disability Determination Services. According to the social security website, Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State agencies (usually called Disability Determination Services or DDS). The field office is responsible for verifying non-medical eligibility requirements, which may include age, employment, marital status, or Social Security coverage information. The field office then sends the case to a DDS for evaluation of disability.
Further, the social security website states that DDS tries to obtain evidence from the claimant’s own medical sources first. (Your private medical records.) If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, DDS will arrange for a consultative examination (CE) to obtain the additional information needed. The claimant’s treating source is the preferred source for the CE, but the DDS may obtain the CE from an independent source. After completing its development of the evidence, trained staff at the DDS makes the initial disability determination.
So, that can be a little confusing. In other words, DDS makes your initial decision for social security disability. One issue a lot of our clients see with DDS is a denial. Actually, it’s not just our clients; it is social security as a whole. Approximately 90% of all claims get denied through DDS.
Now that we have a better understanding of what DDS is, how does one work in a “DDS” position in a law firm? That was actually interesting to learn. Jackie role was essentially a liaison between DDS and our office. Anytime DDS needed additional information for a client, Jackie would handle those requests for individuals we represented. During her time with us, Jackie made a lot of great relationships with the individuals at our local DDS office, and her work helped thousands get the benefits they deserve.
If you’ve been denied, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather be contacted at a later time, fill out this form now, and we’ll have someone contact you at a better time.
Every hearing will be different and every judge will have their own preferred ways to run the show, but most hearings will follow the same general 5 step process.
Introduction- This part is pretty straightforward. The judge will introduce himself or herself and explain how they will operate the hearing. Any other people in attendance such as hearing assistants or medical experts will also be introduced. It might be reassuring to know that this isn’t a public hearing with other people in the room waiting for their turn. Just you, the judge, hopefully your attorney, and maybe a few others.
Opening Statements- Now the claimant or attorney will make an opening statement explaining why the claimant is disabled. If the claimant doesn’t have an attorney the judge will explain the right to legal representation. If the claimant waives the right to representation, the hearing will proceed. However, if the claimant wants to have representation they can ask the judge to postpone the hearing.
Evidence- All evidence will be collected and reviewed by the judge.
Testimony- This step will take up the majority of the hearing. Witnesses and the claimant will give their testimony. After original testimony, questioning might take place if the claimant or their attorney wishes.
Closing Statement- Once all testimony, evidence, and questions have been completed the claimant or the attorney will have the opportunity to give a closing statement summarizing why they are disabled.
Again, every hearing will be slightly different than the others, but these 5 steps will most likely happen in some form. Knowing these steps will help you prepare for your hearing and avoid surprises. At Jan Dils Attorneys at Law we’ve been through countless ALJ hearings with our clients so we can go to your hearing with confidence. If you’re going through an ALJ hearing, we would love to help and give you a free consultation.
Please join us in congratulating our September 2015 MVP, Kelly Fritz!
Kelly was nominated by Tammy McGee for being wonderful with our clients, demonstrating patience and empathy when talking with them and answering their questions.
She also has been known to help her teammates in any way she can. This includes working on other case managers’ contact lists in order to ensure they are as current as possible and clients are contacted even sooner than expected.
Kelly recently passed the non-attorney rep test and is transitioning from case manager to a new position in the firm as a review specialist. Keep up the great work, Kelly!
When most people apply for benefits through the social security disability insurance program, they tend to think only about why they should be considered eligible and awarded their claims, while keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for a hitch-free, first-time approval. However, reality paints a different picture and more often than not, there is always a higher chance of a denied application than an approval at the first instance.
In some instances, the reasons for a denial may be out of your control; other times, a clear understanding of the rules can help you avoid doing something that would warrant a denial. If you’re applying in Charlotte, NC and you fall in one or more of the following categories, your benefit claim will very much likely be denied, at which point only a social security disability lawyer may be able to help.
- Your disability is not considered severe enough. Usually, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must be fully convinced that your incapacity is severe enough to be able to make a claim. Disabilities that take less than a year to heal are not likely to be considered, with the only exception being blindness. This is a leading reason for denial as the SSA sees tons of applications every day from people with more severe or even life-threatening disabilities.
- Another reason for the rejection of claims is if you earn too much money to be considered disable. Typically, social security disability benefits those who have low income levels and must rely on the program to make ends meet. If the SSA believes that your current income is above a stipulated limit, then your application may be denied.
- If addiction to drugs or alcohol constitutes the basis of your disability, the SSA is not likely to progress your application. Of course they would still consider a claim if you still meet their disability requirements even after the drugs or alcohol have been removed from the equation. Other exceptions to this rule may be exploited by social security disability attorneys to help plead your case.
The undeniable truth is that the entire application process, including eligibility and approval or denial, is a lot easier if you’ve got a disability lawyer to help you. If you’re in Charlotte, NC, you can simply contact trusted law firms, like Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, for a free consultation and discuss the peculiarities of your case before applying or appealing. You’d always stand a better chance of approval with the right legal representation.
Publications. Social Security.
Social Security Disability: 8 Reasons You May Be Denied Benefits. NOLO
Social Security Disability: How SSDI and SSI Claims Are Decided
When Using Drugs or Alcohol Can Keep You From Getting Disability Benefits
Did you know we have a Jan Dils YouTube channel?
On our channel, you will find around-the-office features such as our MVP employee of the month announcements, community events we participate in and more of what goes on behind the scenes at the firm.
But we also include videos for our clients to keep them knowledgeable about various issues they may face throughout their experience.
To subscribe to our YouTube channel, click here and press Subscribe.
It’s time again to shine our spotlight on a teacher who makes a difference in the Mid-Ohio Valley. For April, our Golden Apple Winner represents Franklin Elementary School in Parkersburg, WV. Ms. Vicki Rodeheaver is this months’ winner. Vicki has been teaching for 38 years! While that is an impressive accomplishment, she states that her favorite part of teaching is “the moment when a child realizes what you have been trying to teach them.” Vicki also went on to describe how much she enjoys seeing her former students return to the school and reminisces about the lessons she taught them.
Ms. Rodeheaver was presented the award by Cheryl Wingrove of Jan Dils Attorneys at Law on Tuesday April 28th, 2015 at Franklin Elementary School. As always, the winner receives a plaque for their contributions as an educator, and a special piece of jewelry from Baker and Baker Jewelers.
To learn more about the April 2015 Golden Apple Award Winner, check out the video here.