Average for winning Disability and SSI in 2017 is 70% at Law Office of Elizabeth A. Smith

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Seven Fields, PA, conducts disability and SSI hearings. The average wait time for a hearing is 20 months. The Seven Fields average for winning a disability or SSI hearing is 44% as of 3/10/17. My average for winning a disability or SSI hearing is 70% in 2017 as of 4/26/2017.

If your claim for disability or SSI has been denied, please call our office for a free consultation appointment on disability and SSI cases.

Let me put my experience to work for you.

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Seven Fields Pennsylvania Office of Disability Adjudication and Review

This excerpt is from the disabilityjudges.com website – information as of 2-7-17

At the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Seven Fields, Pennsylvania, 7 different administrative law judges (ALJ) conduct Social Security Disability (SSD) hearings and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearings. Currently, in Seven Fields, the average wait time for a SSI or SSD hearing is 19.0 months. The average case processing time in Seven Fields is 590 days.The Seven Fields average for winning a SSI or SSD disibility hearing is 40%. Click on the name of one of the ALJs below to see detailed information about their hearing results. This information for the Seven Fields ODAR office was last updated on 2/7/2017.

Average statistics
Office Judges Avg. Hearing
Wait Time
Average
Processing Time
Dispositions
Per Day Per ALJ
Cases
Dismissed
Cases
Approved
Cases
Denied
Seven Fields 7 19.0 months 590 days 1.8 26% 40% 34%
Pennsylvania 20.4 months 650 days 1.8 26% 42% 32%
National Average: 16.8 months 540 days 1.7 21% 44% 34%
AVERAGE TIME
Hearing Wait Time: 19.00 months
Dispositions Per Day Per ALJ 1.77
Average Processing Time 590 days
Cases Pending 6211
Dispositions 745
New Cases 1019
Hearings In Person 69%
Video Hearings 31%
LIST OF JUDGES / 18
Full Name Dismissed Approved Denied
Judge William J Bezego 24% 35% 41%
Judge Daniel F Cusick 37% 21% 41%
Judge Patricia Daum 15% 49% 36%
Judge John Kooser 27% 45% 29%
Judge Wayne Stanley 28% 46% 26%
Judge Melissa Tenenbaum 19% 54% 27%
Judge Brian W Wood 23% 46% 32%
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5 Day Rule Letter – WHAT? No worries – our office submits ALL evidence well before 5 days

SocialSecurityTNSSA has started to change procedures and notices to comply with the “5-day rule” regulations. Hearings held on or after May 1, 2017 must comply with the requirement that the ALJ receive or is informed about evidence at least 5 days prior to the hearing, with certain good cause exceptions. Prehearing memos and other written statements also have a five day deadline. Subpoenas must be requested at least 10 days prior to the hearing. Good cause exceptions apply to all of these deadlines.

SSA sent notices to all claimants who have hearings pending. Unfortunately, the notice was sent even to those with hearings scheduled prior to May 1, 2017, which is causing a great deal of confusion among claimants. Be assured that there has been no change to your hearing date already scheduled or the procedures regarding evidence submission.

Our office prides itself on submitting ALL evidence in a timely manner – so if you get this letter – and have questions – reach out to us – but it’s business as usual here.  We will be happy to update your file, estimate when your hearing will be held, and answer any questions you may have.

 

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Do I Need to Talk at My Hearing?

I’m often asked by clients if they will have to testify at their Social Security disability hearing. In many cases, the answer is yes.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) will decide cases based on the medical evidence in the file – this includes x-rays and other imaging exams, lab panels, treatment notes, and written statements from the claimant and the claimant’s treating physicians, and likely your testimony.

Your testimony is offered with the intent of allowing the ALJ to better understand your specific medical conditions and how it affects your ability to function and perform basic work activities (including your past work), and your life in general.  The ALJ may also ask about apparent inconsistencies between your medical records and your statements or testimony.

Many of my clients relay to me that the disability hearing is anxiety provoking.  For this reason, it is especially important to have an experienced attorney or advocate by your side. Your attorney can help you prepare for your hearing by discussing many of the questions that may come up, and can provide responses to some of the important issues that may arise at your hearing.

If you are asked to testify before an ALJ, your responses should be honest and detailed, but not to the point of exaggeration (i.e., “I cannot get out of my bed at all” or “I cannot do anything anymore”). You also need to avoid being modest or showing how strong you are by not complaining about how your impairment(s) impact your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Being modest about your medical condition is a mistake many claimants make at their hearing.

If you are applying for disability and have questions about testifying, it never hurts to talk to or retain my office – we can help you properly prepare your case.

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Status Updates During the Initial Application

Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) benefits can be a long process.  It typically requires you to wait for months before you get a response from anyone at the SSA. Your wait is particularly difficult when you are struggling to pay your bills because you cannot work.

STATUS UPDATES DURING THE INITIAL APPLICATION

SSA provides an online application that allows you to obtain the status of your initial claim.  You can check it out here.  You will need your application number in order process your request. You can also get a status update by contacting a representative at your local social security office.

You may also contact the disability examiner at the state agency reviewing your claim. This professional works at a disability office on the state level instead of with the SSA. It is typically easier to reach the disability examiner to ask questions about a specific application than it is to reach a representative at the SSA who can find information related to your application.

The disability examiner is able to tell you whether a decision is pending or complete, but the examiner cannot tell you whether the application was approved or denied.

A disability examiner may also be able to assist you with expediting the review process. However, it is important to understand that applications can only be expedited in special circumstances. A knowledgeable Louisiana SSD attorney can help you better understand how to have the application process expedited.

STATUS UPDATES AFTER THE INITIAL APPLICATION BUT PRIOR TO THE ALJ HEARING

Application status updates following the initial application (or a reconsideration) can be obtained by contacting the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) disability examiner. However, the disability examiner can only tell you whether the case is scheduled, ready to schedule or currently being processed.  They do not make a decision on the case and cannot tell you whether the case is approved or not.

UPDATES FOLLOWING THE ALJ HEARING

Once your hearing is held, again the ODAR disability examiner can help best.  Again, however, they usually do not tell you if you were approved or denied, but only if the case was decided, still being decided, or further information is needed.

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Average Wait Time Until Hearing Held for January 2017

The Social Security Administration announced that the average time in months from the hearing request date until a hearing was held for the Pittsburgh Office of Disability Adjudication and Review was 20 months and for the Seven Fields Office of Disability Adjudication and Review was 19 months. This is as of January, 2017.

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Trump’s Hiring Freeze May Worsen 526-Day Disability Case Backlog

Trump’s Hiring Freeze May Worsen 526-Day Disability Case Backlog

by Josh Eidelson

 

President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze may exacerbate a backlog of appeals for Social Security Disability Insurance that has grown so big that an average case takes more than a year to be heard.

“These are people who are desperate,” Judge Marilyn Zahm, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges union, said. “There may be a hiring freeze on federal employment, but there’s no freeze on people getting older, people getting sicker, people having injuries and accidents, and people needing disability insurance.”

Zahn is among around 1,650 judges tasked with considering claims from Americans whose initial requests for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits have been denied by state agencies.

As of May 2016, the average wait for an appeal to get processed was 526 days, according to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general. A total of 1.1 million people were waiting for a decision on their eligibility for benefits under the sixty year-old program, which provides income support to people who paid into the system and due to disability will be unable for at least a year to work.

The ranks of beneficiaries in the program have grown substantially in recent years: Whereas fewer than 2.5 percent of working-age Americans got checks in 1990, more than 5 percent did in 2015. Last year the Social Security Administration announced that, along with efforts to streamline the process, it wanted to grow the ranks of judges to 1,900 by the end of fiscal year 2018.

That may be impossible now that President Trump, in one of his first executive actions, has imposed a federal civilian employee hiring freeze. Trump’s order allows agencies to exempt staff needed for “national security or public safety responsibilities,” and authorizes the director of the Office of Personnel Management to grant exemptions. The order requires the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan within 90 days for shrinking the workforce, and says the blanket freeze will expire once that plan is implemented. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Monday that the order “ensures that the American taxpayers get effective and efficient government.”

But like the judges’ union, former Social Security commissioners from both parties expect the freeze will worsen the backlog of appeals cases.

“To better serve the American public, the Social Security Administration needs more budget and staff resources, not less,” said Kenneth Apfel, who led the agency under President Bill Clinton and now teaches at University of Maryland’s public policy school. “I think it’s going to be pretty devastating,” said Michael Astrue, a George W. Bush appointee who served in the same role.

Astrue blamed the backlog on multiple culprits, including what he said was a long-running failure by the personnel office to efficiently vet candidates and insufficient focus on the issue from his Obama-appointed successor. But he said freezing the agency’s hiring would only make the problem worse. “I don’t agree with the union on much, but I do agree with them on that.” Astrue said he hopes Social Security officials will seek an exemption for appeals judges and their clerks, and that Trump’s personnel department would grant it.

Officials at the Social Security Administration declined to discuss their plans. “At this time, we have no further information and are awaiting guidance,” spokeswoman Dorothy Clark said Wednesday. The Office of Personnel Management referred an inquiry to a budget office spokesperson, who did not respond.

Trump’s nominee to helm the budget office, South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney, did address the issue briefly during his Tuesday confirmation hearing. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, cited the backlog of claims, along with veterans’ benefits and drug approvals, as areas where a hiring freeze “could have the effect of even making it harder for citizens to get the services they need.”

“I don’t think you’re wrong to be concerned about it, Senator,” Mulvaney responded. “I don’t think it automatically follows that hiring more people will create more efficiency.”

Judge Zahm said many judges have been working extra uncompensated hours every day to try to get through the outstanding cases, some of which require reviewing 1,000 pages of medical records as well as experts’ assessments. “This is not a job where you should be doing slapdash work,” she said. “People’s lives, livelihoods, are at stake.”

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2015 Data regarding Disability Appeals

Here are the numbers for 2015 – if you filed a claim for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income:

*33% of initial claims approved/67% of initial claims denied

*12% of reconsideration claims approved/88% of reconsideration claims denied

*45% approval of claims at ALJ level – 18% of claims at ALJ level dismissed – 37% of claims denied at ALJ level

*1% of claims at Appeals Council allowed – 4% dismissed – 13% remanded – 83% denied

*2% of claims at Federal Court approved – 8% dismissed – 45% remanded – 45% denied

Bottom line – your best bet of winning is at the Administrative Law Judge Level.

 

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We Now Accept Credit Cards

Yes – we have moved into the 21st Century – and now accept payment by credit card.

My office has affiliated with LawPay – and whether you are wanting to make a payment on your account or make a retainer deposit or add to your retainer – you can now do that right from this website.  Look at the bottom of the HOME page for the links.

Thanks to a to be unnamed client who kicked us in the pants.

We hope this new development will serve your needs.

Credit Card Payment link for deposit to your account

Credit Card Payment link for payment on your account

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Cessation of Disability Benefits

 

When the Social Security Administration determines that you are no longer qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you will be notified of your cessation of disability benefits. As the name implies, a cessation of disability benefits means that the SSA is going to cut off your Social Security Disability benefits unless you successfully appeal.

Your Social Security benefits will not actually be terminated for two months after you receive a notice of cessation of disability benefits. During this time, you have a right to appeal the decision. You may do so in writing, or by requesting a hearing. In either case, you can (and should) have a Social Security Disability lawyer represent you.

To continue receiving Social Security Disability payments during the appeals process, you will need to file a request for a continuation of benefits. This is different and separate from your appeal, and needs to be filed within 10 days of when you receive your notice of cessation of Social Security benefits.

A cessation of disability benefits follows a Continuing Disability Review (if the cessation of disability benefits is for medical purposes) or a review of your income and countable assets (if the cessation of disability benefits is for nonmedical purposes). These reviews take place every so often. You will be notified when your case is being reviewed.

If you receive a notice of cessation of disability benefits, file an appeal immediately using SSA Form 789. Remember, you have ten days to file an appeal if you want your Social Security benefits to continue during the appeals process.SocialSecurityTN

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