My SSDI claim under the new Expedited Program for 100% Disabled Veterans was handled perfectly!
According to the Oceanside Social Security office, I was the first veteran (in March, 2014) to file for SSDI benefits in San Diego under the new Expedited Program for Disabled Veterans (only for veterans Rated 100%, Permanent and Total). What I did not understand, at the time of my initial electronic filing, was that there was a 70+% chance that my claim would be denied, which it was. In fact, my claim was denied a second time when I appealed their first decision.
I could not believe that the SSA wrote, in both their Denial Letters, that I was capable of working 100% time, especially given the fact (documented by the VA, and the UCSD Moores Cancer Center) that I had incurable cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy twice a week for the rest of my life. What???
There is an old saying which is completely true, "Once a Marine, always a Marine."
I had a choice to make. I could do nothing and accept their verdict, or, I could appeal. I decided to deny their denial of my claim.
So, what do you do when you are about to embark on any conflict?
You prepare and get the best defense you can.
The first thing I did was search the internet, where I found the AVVO website. I searched San Diego disability lawyers, and then I found the one with the highest (10.0) rating, Lee Jurewitz. I emailed her office. No response. I called them, and it was lucky I did because their server was having problems. I told them my story and was accepted as a client.
If you are reading this, you should understand that SSDI claims take a LONG time to process.
My claim took 17 months from my initial application, to the successful hearing with the Administrative Law Judge and my attorney, Ms. Jurewitz. And I had an expedited claim, not only because I am a disabled veteran (100% P&T), but also I am a TERI (terminal illness) case. 17 months. There were others at the downtown Social Security office, waiting for their hearings, who had waited over four years.
So, you need to learn several things:
1) Be patient. SSDI claims will take a long time to process. They are understaffed and overworked.
2) Hire a good, reputable attorney. The maximum they can make on an SSDI claim is $6,000, or 25% of the retroactive backpay, whichever is less. They are well worth the money (which is deducted from your final payout from Social Security).
3) Document, document, document all your medical appointments, etc. Help your attorney to help you.
4) Be honest with your attorney, and above all, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If you are truly disabled, it will be obvious to everyone because of your medical documentation and your demeanor. Do not fake anything or you will ruin your credibility and you will deserve to lose your case.
It may seem that the ALJ hearing is adversarial, but it is the job of the judge to make certain you are disabled, and believe me, the ALJ will ask you some very personal and embarrassing questions--but that is their job. Be honest and make sure the judge understands your disability. Explain how your disability affects your life and why you cannot work.
SSDI is not just handed out, and it should not be. If you are able to work, or you are faking it because you think you might get some easy money from the government, I will tell you right now that you are sworn to be truthful during your hearing and the penalties for defrauding the government are severe. They should be.
So, if your initial SSDI claim is denied, which in all likelihood it will be, and you have a legitimate case, I would strongly urge you to find a good, reputable attorney to represent you, and AVVO can help you find the right attorney for you.