What to Expect
Getting Professional Legal Help With Your Social Security Disability Claim in South Carolina
At the Beatrice E. Whitten law firm, we are proud to serve you and look forward to receiving your call. We know this is a difficult time for you, so your initial call will be brief. We’ll ask you for some basic information: your name, age and educational level; how we can get back in touch with you; and a brief description of your medical problems. We can then schedule an appointment for you to meet with Bea or our office manager, Pat, who has spent many years helping Bea with the technical aspects of Social Security rules. You usually can get an appointment within 48 hours.
Right from the start, we’ll let you know if we are able to help with your case. While we have assisted hundreds of clients, every case is different. If we can’t help you, we’ll explain the reasons why so you will better understand the system.
When we’ve established that we can help you, we’ll explain in detail how the Social Security disability claims process works and what you can expect every step of the way. Sometimes you’ll be working with our paralegals, who have many years of experience with Social Security disability in South Carolina. They will help you with the forms, paperwork and necessary contacts with the Social Security Administration. The paralegal assigned to your case will be available to answer your questions as they arise. Bea and Pat are also available to you in person or by telephone.
Local and Connected
We pride ourselves on our commitment and dedication to helping our clients and on our relationships with the judges and Social Security personnel in South Carolina. It’s very important to work with a lawyer who has a proven track record in your state. And because we’re local, we can be available to you whenever you need us. This level of service simply is not possible over the telephone with an out-of-state law firm.
Compassion and Confidentiality
We have served hundreds of people who require disability benefits. We know it isn’t easy to trust someone with personal details about your medical history, your life and your finances. We pledge that we will always do our best to be compassionate and understanding about your needs and your problems. Bea is serious about her responsibilities as a legal and personal advocate. In addition, all information received from you is privileged and confidential, and we will always treat it that way.
When it comes to making a claim for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration and its employees are not your friends. The agency has plenty of honest, hardworking people, but it also has plenty of bureaucrats who care more about collecting their paycheck and their government benefits
than about helping you. Add to that the fact that the government’s rules are designed to make it difficult for nearly everyone to collect disability benefits – even if you are disabled and cannot work. The bottom line is that even the honest, diligent employees sometimes are not allowed to pay someone who they know is disabled.
The Social Security Administration’s game is to deny your claim, and, indeed, all claims are denied the first time you apply. A majority of claims also are denied after you appeal the first denial. After the second denial, you are allowed to have a hearing before an administrative law judge who works for Social Security. This is where your attorney and advocate can do you the most good, and this is where most disabled people finally are able to claim their benefits.
Many employees at the Social Security Administration will tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. You should consider the source of that unsound advice.
The South Carolina SSD Process
Your first step should be to call a lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability claims. Most attorneys, including Bea, will meet with you at no cost and with no obligation. Meanwhile, you should make sure you are receiving high-quality medical care. The best possible situation for a disability case is to have a regular doctor who specializes in your specific medical problem, knows you well and has seen you for a long time and knows your entire medical history. We recognize that this is the ideal situation and that it might not be possible for everyone. If you can’t see a specialist regularly, then get the best medical care you can afford, and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
You will need to document as much information as you can. Work with your doctor to make sure he or she knows everything that is wrong with you. It is difficult to prove disability if your doctor doesn’t know that you are in pain or have other symptoms. Keep written records of your doctor’s appointments, hospital visits and medical procedures. Tell your doctor that you are applying for or thinking about applying for disability, and find out whether he or she will support you in a disability claim.
The Social Security Disability Application Process in South Carolina
Apply for Benefits
- Initial application stage – This can be done through our office, or you can make the application yourself in one of three ways
- If your case is denied, you will receive a letter stating that you do not meet Social Security’s definition of disability.
- First, don’t be discouraged. The vast majority of disability applications are denied at this stage.
- Second, do not take Social Security’s explanation to heart. It will say that you are not sick enough, that you can go back to your old job or that you can do other kinds of work. This form is sent to everyone who is turned down. Don’t take it personally, and don’t let it hurt your feelings.
- You will need to send in a written form, a Request for Reconsideration, appealing the denial, along with some other forms that can be requested from Social Security. These forms also can be filled out and filed online. If you are our client, we will complete the forms for you or help you with them.
- Social Security will assign your case to a different worker and will update your medical information.
- If you are denied again at the reconsideration stage, you will need to send in a Request for Hearing form, which can be filled out and mailed or filed online.
- Your case will be sent to the local hearing office, the Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The Charleston hearing office is located at 3875 Faber Place Drive in North Charleston.
- This is where the real delays begin. It might take several months for your case to even reach the hearing office. Typically, it takes a few more months for your file to be logged in at ODAR and placed on a list. Once it goes on the list, we can get regular reports on its status. The file must then be assigned to a judge and placed in a queue to be scheduled for hearing. The hearing office does not gather additional information of any kind about your case, which is one reason it is so important to have complete and accurate applications up to this point and to have a reputable lawyer as your advocate.
- The Charleston hearing office, one of the more efficient Social Security hearing offices in the entire country, is currently taking 14 to 18 months to schedule hearings. Many other hearing offices – one in Atlanta, for example – are taking closer to three years to hold hearings.
- The delays are the hardest part of a Social Security disability application. Social Security is trying to address the problem and over the years has come up with several programs aimed at shortening the wait. A Social Security attorney is in the best position to know and understand these programs and to use them to benefit people who are disabled.
- When your hearing date finally comes, you will have a short, informal, conference-like administrative hearing before the Social Security administrative law judge. These hearings are for the purpose of gathering further information about your case for the ALJ, who will determine whether you are disabled.
Most people who are disabled win their benefits at the ODAR hearing stage, but it is possible that you will be turned down again. This is not the end of the line, however. You can appeal to the Appeals Council, which is located in Virginia, simply by filing a Request for Review of Hearing Decision form. You also can send additional information or a written argument to the Appeals Council.
Federal District Court appeal – If you are denied at the Appeals Council level, the next step is to file a lawsuit in the federal District Court. However, only certain kinds of cases should be appealed to this entity – there must be an argument that the ALJ made a legal error in his decision.
At the Beatrice E. Whitten law firm, we have handled many cases over the years, and our rate of success at the federal court level is impressive. Many of the cases are referred to Bea by other attorneys who do not practice in federal court, because this is a highy specialized area of law.