By Your Side Throughout the Claim Process
Our law office has more than 25 years of experience serving clients in the area of Social Security disability. If you have a disability and you are not able to work, you deserve experienced representation, personal attention, and convenience. Leen, Chase & Dufour in Bangor, Maine, offers this ideal combination. Time and time again, our clients tell us they appreciate our strong emphasis on individual attention, and we are always available to answer their questions in a timely manner.
Many people make the mistake of filing or pursuing the disability claim without hiring a professional. From the initial application to appealing a denied claim, we are ready to step in at any stage of a case. An experienced representative can greatly improve your chances of success and help you avoid a claim denial.
There are only four hearing sites in Maine. For many people, traveling to a hearing location is time consuming and can be intimidating. At Leen, Chase & Dufour, our clients are able to simply travel to our office, centrally located in Maine, and participate in hearings through video teleconferencing. We are one of the first law firms in the State to offer this option, and we service clients throughout Central, Eastern and Mid-Coast Maine.
No Fees Unless Your Claim Is Successful
Our fees are contingent upon the successful outcome of your case. We only get paid if and when you do. It costs you nothing to meet with us, so contact our representatives today to arrange a free consultation.
Don’t Wait Until You are Denied
It is common for the initial Social Security application to be denied. If your application has been denied, don’t lose hope. You have the right to request reconsideration and a hearing with an administrative law judge. Regardless of your occupation, if you can no longer work due to a disability, you are entitled to receive the disability benefits you have been contributing to throughout your working career.
If you are already involved in the Social Security disability claim process, you probably know that it can be a long road. In Maine, the time between the initial application and the first hearing can be nearly two years. At Leen, Chase & Dufour, we understand that this can be disheartening. We know that a high level of communication with our clients is important during this time, and we will do everything we can to help you know what to expect, answer your questions, and be by your side during the process.
Don’t wait to be denied. Our representatives can work with you from the beginning, establish a trusting relationship with you, identify potential pitfalls, and develop valuable strategies.
It is important to know that there is a limited time to appeal a denied — you only have 60 days to request reconsideration or a hearing. Our team can help you take your appeal all the way to the Federal Court, if necessary.
Your Physical and Mental Health Conditions Matter To Us
Some of the more common disabilities our clients have include degenerative issues, joint injuries, arthritis, spine and disk injuries, heart problems, vascular problems, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia, as well as emotional and mental conditions, such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), learning disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, anger management issues, and antisocial behavior/social anxiety disorder.
Getting the appropriate medical treatment and documentation from a physician is vital to the success of your application. It is not enough for your doctor to simply say you are disabled or unable to work. You must establish how the conditions affect your ability to function in the workplace.
We understand that you may be hesitant to visit a doctor. Perhaps you have seen many specialists in the past and your health condition has not improved. No matter whether the medical treatment helps your condition or not, it is necessary to show you are compliant with any recommended medical treatment in order for you to receive benefits. At Leen, Chase & Dufour, we can help make sure that you are in compliance with the appropriate medical treatment and that the proper medical evidence is captured.
Disability Benefits Are Not Just for Adults.
Your disabled child may be eligible for benefits. If your child has a medical condition that interferes with age-appropriate functioning, we can help you determine if you should file a claim on your child’s behalf. SSI is available for children with disabilities. Eligibility for childhood SSI benefits is based on a household’s total income and assets. Disability standards are different for a child than an adult and require consideration of many factors.
If a parent of a disabled child is disabled and receiving Social Security disability benefits or retired and receiving Social Security retirement benefits, the child may be eligible for benefits based on the parent’s past wage history. This may also be true if a parent of a disabled child is deceased but had a work history while alive.
At Leen, Chase & Dufour, our professionals can help you determine if your disabled child is eligible for Social Security disability benefits, SSI benefits, or both. We can provide guidance throughout every step of the process, from completing the initial application to appealing any denials.
Be Prepared For Your Hearing
Your claim may require a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. During your SSD or SSI hearing, you will have the opportunity to tell your story and explain how your disability has affected your life. The person who is making the decision whether your claim will be approved or denied will have the chance to meet you and talk with you.
When a hearing is scheduled in your claim, our representatives will meet with you beforehand to help you prepare for your hearing. You will know what to expect and you will be ready to provide the Judge with the essential information to prove your case.
While some lawyers build cases based only on medical records, at Leen, Chase & Dufour, we consider every area of your life when preparing you for a hearing. We believe this is vital to a successful outcome. Often, people with disabilities have a difficult time explaining how their conditions affect their lives and their ability to work. At Leen, Chase & Dufour, we have found that through personal discussions with our clients, we are able to identify many important aspects of their disabilities that may be useful in building their claims.
An individual’s history, personal situations, daily activities, and other details can be extremely important. For example, if you have a physical disability, you may only focus on how your disability contributes to your inability to work. There are many factors that contribute to a person’s inability to work full time, including, but not limited to, sleeplessness, pain, side effects of medication, age, education and work experience.
Many attorneys strive to take on a high volume of business, serving as many clients as possible. Often, the client may not even meet your lawyer until the day of your hearing. This has never been and never will be the way we operate at Leen, Chase & Dufour. Our services are tailored to our individual clients, and we do not use “cookie-cutter” solutions. Clients appreciate our strong personal contact, both in-person and on the phone, and you will likely speak with us multiple times before a hearing.
You may have a Social Security disability claim and a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Leen, Chase & Dufour can provide legal services for both your Workers’ Compensation claim and your Social Security disability claim. An injured employee can collect Social Security disability benefits and workers’ compensation at the same time. However, the total amount of these benefits combined cannot exceed 80 percent of your pre-disability average current earnings as determined by the Social Security Administration.
It is important and helpful for a Workers’ Compensation claim and a Social Security claim to be managed together. Leen, Chase & Dufour has the expertise necessary for you to maximize your benefits from your claims in both areas.
If you are already receiving workers’ compensation, you may want to file your Social Security application as soon as possible if you have been or expect to be unable to work in a full time capacity for a period of twelve months or more. There may be valuable benefits available to you that you are not currently receiving.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the eligibility requirements to get Social Security disability benefits?
To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a work history and have worked enough to achieve an insured status. You achieve an insured status when you pay into the Social Security system from your wages.
Also, your disability must have lasted 12 months, expect to last 12 months, or expect to result in death.
How do I earn Social Security credits and how many do I need to qualify for benefits?
You earn Social Security credits when you work and pay in to the Social Security system. You will earn up to four quarters each year if you work full time and so long as you earn enough each quarter. In 2016, you must earn $1,260.00 in the quarter of the year to receive a credit. The amount needed to earn one credit increases automatically each year when average wages increase. You must have worked five out of the ten years (and earned 20 out of 40 possible quarters) prior to your disability to be eligible for disability insurance benefits.
How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
Applications can be completed online at the Social Security Administration website (www.ssa.gov). You can also apply by contacting the Social Security Administration directly. The law office of Leen, Chase & Dufour can assist you with your application.
How much will I get for Social Security disability benefits?
Your Social Security disability benefits will be based on your actual earnings history. The Social Security Administration can tell you what your monthly benefit will be.
Can I get Social Security disability benefits for any months before I apply?
Yes. You can collect benefit for as much as 12 months prior to your application so long as it is determined that you were disabled at that time.
Is there a waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
There is a five-month waiting period from the date of disability before benefits will start.
How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?
After your initial application, it is likely to be up to six months or more before you receive a decision.
How do I appeal a decision on my application for disability benefits?
The law office of Leen, Chase & Dufour can help you with your appeal.
An appeal of a denial can be made on the Social Security Administration website or by contacting the Social Security Administration directly. It is important to remember that there are important deadlines for appeals.
How do I prove that I am disabled?
Whether you are disabled is typically proven by medical evidence. However, your report of symptoms and limitations is extremely important.
Can I return to work while getting Social Security disability benefits?
To be entitled to disability benefits, the standard generally is the inability to work full-time. However, some people with disabilities are willing and able to work part-time. In these cases, it does not necessarily mean that one cannot collect benefits.
The amount of your earnings may impact the determination of disability. It is important to note that you cannot tailor your earnings in order to qualify for disability benefits. If you are able to work full-time performing substantial, gainful activity, you must do so. You cannot reduce your work hours to part-time for the purpose of collecting more SSD benefits.
If I get Social Security disability benefits and I reach full retirement age, will I then receive retirement benefits?
Your Social Security disability benefits will automatically convert to full retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age.
How do Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments differ?
The two programs are financed differently. Employment taxes primarily finance Social Security retirement, survivors and disability insurance benefits. Generally, Social Security benefits are calculated for eligible workers and their families based on the worker’s earnings. An individual’s resources are not considered for Social Security disability payments.
The Supplemental Security Income program is a federal welfare program funded by general taxes and serves the needy. It is not necessary that the disabled person have a work history. However, SSI eligibility is only available to those disabled people with limited income and resources.
What are resources and how will they affect my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments?
Resources are things you own and can use to pay for food and shelter. Resources include bank accounts, personal property, and real estate. The Social Security Administration will use the value of your resources to determine if you can get SSI. They don’t, however, count all your resources. For example, the value of your home is not considered a resource in determining whether you meet the financial requirements of the program.
How much will I get for Supplemental Security Income benefits?
The monthly payment amount for the SSI program is based on the "federal benefit rate" (FBR). In 2016, the FBR is $733 per month for individuals and $1,100 for couples when both receive SSI benefits. The SSI amount increases annually if there is a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment.
Your SSI benefit may be reduced if you receive support from another individual. For example, if you live somewhere rent-free, Social Security may reduce your SSI benefit benefits based on the fact that you do not have to pay for shelter.
If I get married, will it affect my benefits?
Getting married will not affect Social Security disability benefits. However, it can affect Supplemental Security Income benefits because the earnings and assets of your spouse will be included in the resources Social Security will consider in determining your financial qualification for SSI. In other words, you may meet the financial requirements for SSI based on your own resources, but not meet the financial requirements when your spouse’s resources are added together with yours.
Will unemployment benefits affect my Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income?
Social Security does not count unemployment benefits as earnings. They do not affect retirement benefits. However, when an individual applies for unemployment benefits, they must represent that they are willing and able to work. Depending upon the facts in the case, a claimant’s representation that they are willing and able to work may create a conflict in a disability claim.
What is substantial gainful activity?
The term “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.
The amount of your earnings will be considered to determine if you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. You would not be eligible for disability benefits if you are engaging in substantial gainful activity.
Can children with disabilities get Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits?
Yes, children with disability benefits can receive benefits from the Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income programs. The standard of disability is different than that used for adults. A child’s disability is based on the child’s age-appropriate functioning and how it is limited by medical and mental health conditions.
Will my disability benefits be reduced if I get workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits?
Most likely, your disability benefits will be reduced as a result of workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits. Social Security disability benefits are offset by workers’ compensation benefits using a formula which considers your average earnings prior to your disability.
Can I qualify for Social Security disability benefits if I get veterans’ benefits?
Yes, you may be eligible for veterans’ benefits and Social Security disability benefits. It is possible to receive disability benefits from both; however, the criteria for receiving disability benefits through Social Security are different from the criteria for receiving disability benefits from the VA, and there are separate applications for these programs. For example, the VA may pay benefits for partial disability, but SSA pays disability benefits only to people with impairments so severe they prevent any kind of substantial gainful activity (SGA). You may find that you qualify for disability benefits through one program but not the other, or that you qualify for both.