Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me today, Disability Representative, Noell Black, of Gardberg and Kemmerly. Noell, how are you?
Noell Black: I’m good, how are you?
Cindy Speaker: I’m good. It’s good to see you.
Noell Black: You too.
Cindy Speaker: Well, you’re an expert in this area. And we want to pick your brain a little bit. And we want to talk about some of the things that people need to know before they go to a Social Security disability hearing as well as some of the pitfalls to avoid. So the first thing I want to ask you is it just seems like there’s this huge amount of information to gather.
Noell Black: There is.
Cindy Speaker: Tell us a little bit about what they have to gather to get ready for a hearing.
Noell Black: Well, every case is different. But there is a multitude of different things that you need. Your training physician’s opinions, medical records, possibly work, situation letters, earnings. There’s a lot of information that needs to be given to the judge before the judge can make a proper decision in your case. And that can be very overwhelming.
Cindy Speaker: Well, exactly. That’s what I’m thinking is it … How do people do … Do people do this themselves and is that very realistic to accomplish?
Noell Black: Most of the time it’s not because usually you’re obviously filing for disability because you have, whether it be physical or mental impairment. And this is a lot to, one, know what is needed, and two, how to go about getting it, and three, to make sure that it gets to the right place in the right way. So it’s not that it’s not impossible, but it is not very realistic in most of the cases that I have experience in.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah. Well, what are some of the common issues you’ve seen that people come to you with prior to a hearing?
Noell Black: Yeah, well, the main thing that we see that people come in, they’re just too sick, be it, like I said, mental or physical. They lack knowledge about the process. They’re frustrated over the time delays because by the time they get a hearing date, it could be years down the road.
Cindy Speaker: Wow.
Noell Black: And yeah, we even have people that come in and they are like, “I actually forgot I even had a claim pending,” until they got their hearing notice because it’s just been that long of a wait. Luckily the judge’s office schedules these hearings 75 days in advance now. So if the client contacts us pretty quick, once they know about their hearing, we have a little bit of time to work on the case and try to get it prepared. But many times they don’t contact us till just a few weeks or days before their hearing. And it makes it a lot more difficult. And that is one of the most common issues that we see with people making mistakes on their claim at the hearing level.
Cindy Speaker: Okay, they don’t get to you soon enough.
Noell Black: Right.
Cindy Speaker: Now how can you help them?
Noell Black: Well, in those cases, most of the time, pretty much everything is missing to support their disability. So when they come in, they may not … Whether it be from anxiety, fear, frustration, they’re just too tired to read the letters, open them up, and see what’s going on. But they come in with stacks of letters sometimes they haven’t even opened. And if you have an attorney or representative to help you, one of the things that we do is all of those letters come to us automatically, if we take your case before the hearing level obviously. And we get those letters. And we can either handle the information that Social Security needed, or we can get with you and help you figure out how to get those forms completed and get that information from the right source to the right source.
Noell Black: So another thing is sometimes clients who do stay on top of their information, they come in and they’re like, “Well, I submitted information to the Social Security office or I told them I see this doctor, this doctor, and this doctor.” We look at their file and there is not a single shred of evidence in the file whatsoever. There’s nothing in there since, most of the time, the initial denial that could’ve been a year or two ago. And so all that information is missing.
Noell Black: As represents in your claim, we develop your case all along. Every time we have a follow up with you, we are downloading your exhibits or we are checking your file to make sure that what we’ve gathered is in there. Because even as representatives, we come across files all the time that we’ve submitted something and it just didn’t get put in the file, or it got put in the wrong file, or it’s missing pages. And they’re just different little things that people don’t know to look at. And plus, if you don’t have an attorney or representative, you don’t have access to that electronic file that time. So having an attorney representative is a huge resource in helping in making sure that your file remains prepared along the way.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, well, I think a huge resource, that’s exactly right. I mean, really, as you’re talking about it, one thing you pointed out early on that I didn’t really think about is we’re talking about people that have serious disabilities here. So that just complicates the whole process and it’s certainly a big factor as to why someone should really get an attorney on board.
Noell Black: Yeah. And I mean, your average person may look at this and say, “Well, I know how to get my medical records.” But imagine that you’re sick in the bed or you’re in the hospital for months. You’re not able to do that.
Cindy Speaker: Right. Right.
Noell Black: It makes a big difference.
Cindy Speaker: You talked about some of the common issues. How about some of the less common issues, maybe more serious issues that you see arise?
Noell Black: Well, we have some serious issues that come in. And unfortunately they’re not always all that common. We have cases, people come in with remands from other agencies within the Social Security Administration and they have no clue what to do. We have clients that come in and they have simply filed for the wrong benefits. We have people that come in and file only for their disability case and they’re eligible for our supplemental security income. Or we have widows or widowers come in that file for disability under their own record, but they didn’t know that they were eligible for widow’s claims. So we have to sometimes send them down there to file those claims. We make sure that they’re having the right benefits. We also have people that come in with denials for things like they didn’t appeal it on time, they didn’t return paperwork on time, they didn’t go to a consultative examination that Social Security scheduled. And those are just unnecessary denials. Those are little things that having a representative can help and make a big difference, and look over your claim, and can make a difference in winning and losing really.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. So if someone doesn’t have an attorney and they’re trying to go this alone, what advice would you give them?
Noell Black: I would say call us right now. That one little call can make a huge difference in your case. It could be the difference in your future. If you’re frustrated, if you’re tired, if you’re sick, if you don’t really want to deal with it anymore. Even if you are trying to deal with it and you think you’re doing a good job, a lot of times unbeknownst to yourself, you’re not. So call us at 343-1111 or 1-800-332-1529. Also you can look us up online at www.gardberglaw.com and we would love to look over your case, and help you, and see if we can make the difference in you [inaudible] benefits.
Cindy Speaker: Noell, let me just ask you one more thing. What does it cost to get an attorney involved. Because I know a lot of people, that’s a big concern.
Noell Black: Well, Social Security sets our fees. So there is no cost unless we win. And that is 25% or 6000 as of your back benefits. So we’re not taking it from your monthly check from here on out. It’s just the back pay that you were to file for. So I use these numbers a lot because they’re easy to figure in your head. But if you were to get $1 million back pay, which no one does, then we would get $6000. If you were to get $100 in back pay, we get $25. It’s whichever is the lesser of the two numbers.
Cindy Speaker: Oh wow. Yeah.
Noell Black: And Social Security pays that to us directly out of your back pay. But when you come in, we go over all that. But again, those fee agreements are set forth by the Social Security Administration. So any attorney or representative should really be charging the same amount.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. That is great information. Honestly, there really is just … I think that really helps because there are no hurdles here that should keep you from getting an attorney. It’s just almost a no brainer.
Noell Black: Exactly. Exactly.
Cindy Speaker: It really is.
Noell Black: There’s just a lot that we can help you figure out and just make sure, it may be a cut and dry case, but it may be something little like you didn’t get the letter about your exam and they deny you because you didn’t go. And we get those letters. Then we remind you about those appointments. And there’s just a lot of little things that can make a big difference in getting your benefits approved.
Cindy Speaker: Right, right. What is your number and website again? I want to make sure people get that.
Noell Black: Yeah. It’s 251-343-1111. And it’s www.GardbergLaw.com.
Cindy Speaker: Very good. Noell, thanks for being with us today. It’s great information.
Noell Black: Thank you, Cindy. Have a good day.
Cindy Speaker: You too. And to those of you that are watching either live or by replay, if you have questions or comments, call the firm. Or you can also just something right in the comments on this page and we’ll make sure somebody gets back to you. Thanks, everybody. Bye.