Disability Digest August 2010

Inside this Issue

Commercial Break

By- Dick Summer
Communications Director

Somebody sneaked a letter bomb into my mailbox. It wasn't a physical bomb. But it blew away all the "big important things" I had to do that day when it exploded. It was a simple statement that somebody made in our advertising survey last week.

It was a tough week last week. Reports to prepare, numbers to crunch, budgets to check...you've had that kind of week I'm sure. I was beginning to think, "There must be easier ways to make a living. I love the ocean, how about deep sea fishing. I'm a licensed pilot...how about flying for an airline. How about digging ditches." It was a really tough week.

One of the sections of our survey asks for any comments you might have on our commercials. I'm glad to say that most of your comments are positive. "Short and to the point," is your number one statement. Many of you say the commercials "give you hope," or "make you feel comfortable," or "make you confident of a successful outcome for your case." Obviously, I like to hear that.

Of course, there are a number of negative comments, which I don't like to hear, but they're important too. So I read them just as carefully as the positives...and then I send them all the way up the food chain to Harry and Charles Binder. Harry and Charles are always interested in how you really feel about our company and our commercials. That's why the Advertising Survey is anonymous. We don't want you to be afraid of hurting our feelings by telling us your honest reactions.

Most of the negative comments have to do with the fact that Charles wears a hat in some of the commercials. I like to point out that lots of people wear hats, walking around in New York City in late November, which is when that commercial was shot.

Some of you don't like our voice over announcer. (For the record, some of you do like him.) Some of you just don't like commercials, ours included. And some of you take the opportunity to tell us about your experiences with the Social Security Disability system. Others give us some background on what's going on in your lives, as you deal with being disabled.

If stones had hearts, many of the true stories of your life would crack them open in a minute.

"Please get me my benefits. I've been working since I was 13, and I can't work now. I'm about to lose my home. I've lived here for 30 years...brought up my kids here...." "People think I'm too lazy to work because I'm applying for disability. I was a corporate vice president. How can they honestly think that I want to swap a six figures a year job for Social Security benefits?" "I've lost it all. My home, my job, even my family. They can't support me any more." These are some of the stories just in today's Advertising Survey returns.

There were similar stories in the returns last week. But then, there was the bomb. I didn't expect it. There was no way to prepare for it. It was a busy week...reports to prepare, numbers to crunch, budgets to check...who needs all this? I can do any number of easier things to make a living.

But then...the bomb blew up...right in my face. And everything else I had to do last week was suddenly gone. It was just a small note at the bottom of the page in the Advertising Survey that someone...anonymously... had filled out. I get more than 500 of these surveys most weeks. But nothing could prepare me for this.

The note simply said: "I was about to end it, when I saw your commercial. Thank you."

I guess I'll get back to work now. I think this is what I'm supposed to do.

Social Security News

By Charles E. Binder

Charles E. Binder Managing Partner

More questions and answers from Charles Binder's soon to be published book


1. I am a veteran. Am I eligible for Social Security disability in addition to any veterans' benefits?

Yes and no. There are two types of veterans' disability benefits. One is service connected--the disability is in some way related to something that happened in the service. The other is non-service connected disability. Service-connected disabilities have various percentages ranging from zero to 100 percent, while non-service disability is similar to Social Security in that either you are disabled or you are not. Service disability has no "offset" provisions. You can receive the full amount of your Social Security and your service-connected disability. Non-service connected is similar to SSI--it is a financial need test. The more assets you have, the less money you can receive. If you have a 100 percent service-connected disability, you will find that you are not financially eligible for SSI. Your VA benefits are too high. On the other hand, if you met the earnings record, you could receive both 100 percent disability and be found disabled by Social Security and get your SS check.

Doing it the other way, if you are on Social Security disability, you can be awarded service connected benefits, even retroactive benefits. If you are on SSI, however, entitlement to either service connected or non-service connected disability will affect your eligibility for SSI. For example, if you are on SSI and you are subsequently awarded a non-service connected disability from the VA, your SSI would end and you would receive the non-service connected disability benefit, which typically pays a higher monthly amount than SSI.

If you are on SSI and you later get service-connected veterans' benefits, you are likely to have your SSI reduced by the value of your service-connected disability.

2. Which system is worse, the Veterans' Administration or Social Security Administration?

The veterans’ system, believe it or not, doesn’t allow for paid representation unless you have already applied and been denied by the VA. It is almost as if the VA is saying, “You can only hire a representative after we’ve messed up your case so badly that you need representation.” In that way, the veterans’ system is far worse than the Social Security system because in Social Security, you can, and should, hire a representative on Day One before you do anything to make sure that you don’t mess up your application or fill out forms wrong.

On the other hand, if you do get veterans' benefits, the amount of money is much higher, and is unrelated to how much you have contributed. It is related to how badly disabled you are.

SSI Questions

3. When should I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

You should apply for SSI benefits as soon as you become disabled. Unlike Social Security Disability Benefits, there is no retroactivity prior to your application and no waiting period so the sooner you file the safer you are.

4. I applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) but now I'm told I should have applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD). Is there any way to fix that?

Generally, a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application will be considered an application for any program you might be eligible for under that Social Security number. Therefore, if you apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and by mistake don't apply for Social Security Disability (SSD), the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will usually be considered as a request to also apply for SSD in that day. It is always safest to apply for both programs.

5. I applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) and now I'm told I did not meet the earnings requirements and should have applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Is there any way to fix that?

Generally, the government will accept an application for Social Security Disability (SSD) as a protective application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as well.

6. What are the requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

In order to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must either be over 65 and impoverished or be disabled and impoverished. Generally, if you are eligible for welfare, you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Like most state's welfare programs, you must either have no income or very little income so you are below the federal poverty line with little or no redeemable assets.

Advocates and Attorneys / Fees

7. When can I hire someone to represent me?

You can hire a representative at any stage of the proceeding.

8. How can I make the application process go faster?

You can help by providing the following documents immediately:

  • Social Security numbers and proof of age of each person applying for benefits including any children under 18 who might be eligible for benefits.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, clinics and institutions that treat you and dates of treatment even if you are no longer going there, as long as this information relates to your disability.
  • Names of all medications you are taking.
  • Medical reports you already have from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, or clinics.
  • A complete work history including who you worked for, what type of job you performed, and what were the physical and emotional demands of that job.

9. How is a representative paid in a Social Security case?

A fee for a lawyer or a person eligible to receive direct payment is usually 25% of the past-due benefits but most representatives only get paid if you are successful. In most cases, a fee is capped at $6000. This cap is set by the Commissioner and is always subject to change.

10. I don't want to hire anyone unless I have a better chance of winning. Do represented people do better than unrepresented people?

Almost always. The Social Security process is not easy nor uncomplicated. There are deadlines to meet and reports to be obtained. You have to know what sort of information to get from your doctors. At the hearings there are often doctors and vocational experts who testify, and it's almost impossible for a person untrained in these areas to effectively cross-examine either.

Our Denver Staff

Denver Staff

(left to right) Regional Manager Cassie Bell, Stephanie Booco, Carrie Tremblatt, Ted Maturo, Sarah Romero, Marty Billings, Senior Client Advocate Brandon Selinsky.

New Binder and Binder ® Regional Office Opens In Denver

Denver is a Major League city with the Nuggets, the Broncos, and now, the Binders. We're proud to tell you that our new Binder and Binder ® Regional Office is up and running at 1391 Speer Boulevard, and our Denver Area phone number is 888-320-4343.

Our clients deserve every bit of energy we can put into winning their benefits. And it's easy to feel energetic, living and working with the majestic Rockies in your back yard, and a sky full of sunshine 300 days a year.

Regional Manager Cassi Bell, and Senior Client Advocate Brandon Selinsky have assembled a championship team. And their goal is to super-serve one of our nation's most beautiful regions.

Brandon Selinsky, Denver Region Senior Client Advocate

Brandon Selinsky

Our Binder and Binder® Power Person this month is Denver Senior Client Advocate, Brandon Selinsky. Brandon is so good at really listening to people that he completely turned the tables on me when I interviewed him for the Disability Digest. That's because when you talk with Brandon, he gets so interested in you, that you find yourself telling him more about yourself, than you're finding out about him. He's very obviously, and very genuinely, interested in other people. Genuinely interested. How rare is that ?

Brandon moved from Michigan to Denver a few years ago because he says, "Denver is a nice place to live. We have 300 days of sunshine per year, the people are relaxed and friendly, and everybody takes care of the environment."

Brandon takes full advantage of Denver's famous snow. But he has traded his skis for a snowboard. He says, "The fun of snowboarding is worth the pain of learning how to do it." In the warmer months, Brandon likes to ride his motorcycle, "around the mountains." He's pretty good on foot too, since he competes regularly in 5 and 10 k races. But he was also a Lacrosse coach, and he gets pretty intense when he starts talking about his local professional team.

When I asked Brandon what he wants to do "when he grows up," he said, "This is going to sound really boring, but mostly, I want to build a house in the mountains, and enjoy having a family." His wife's name is Molly, and her job with a defense contractor involves keeping some of America's missiles safe and healthy.

Movies and TV don't do much for Brandon, but he's heavily into books. He says, "I read a lot, especially when I'm at airports, which is pretty frequently since we have clients all over the region." And his musical tastes range all the way from Classics to Classic Rock, and even "Punk Rock" biggies, Vampire Weekend.

As you might expect, Brandon is an up-beat and happy guy. But he says, "I'm getting very concerned about the growing division between the Right and Left political positions in our country. The patently partisan TV news channels are making it worse. And we need to learn to pull together again." Environmental issues also get his attention. "Water issues are important around here" he says.

But Brandon's biggest concern is for our clients. He says, "We know our clients need good medical records, and we know how expensive they can be." You can't miss the genuine concern in his voice, when he talks about how difficult life is for our clients.

And it's his completely honest and genuine concern for other people, and especially for our clients, that makes this month's Binder and Binder® Power Person, Denver's Brandon Selinsky, such a unique and special guy.

Binder and Binder® Fun Quiz

All answers are in this newsletter


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