Disability Digest September 2013

Inside This Issue


What's New in Our World

by Rachel Farganis

My main role as a writer for Binder & Binder® doesn't often give me the chance to speak with clients one-on-one. Most of my time is spent behind the scenes. I've read my fair share of client's files, and I know more medical terminology than I ever thought possible; I feel like I'm incredibly proficient at summarizing medical evidence and building arguments on our clients' behalves...and this is a truly rewarding feeling.

But, I personally think that one of the great parts about this job is the times I get to talk to our clients. At Binder & Binder, we handle disability claims nationwide-so, when an opportunity for me to sit down and speak with a client in person presented itself... well, it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. Just recently, I had the privilege to meet with Kim, a client of ours who had, after a three-year battle, been awarded her disability benefits.

Kim's story isn't much different than you might expect. Much like many people who are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, Kim had been a hard worker all of her life. Part of her disability stemmed from injuries she sustained working day-to-day, year after year. She relied on her ability to type and her ability to sign (she often worked with deaf individuals and was fluent in American Sign Language)-so, when severe carpel tunnel took away her ability to type and sign, it took away her livelihood. She struggled to stay afloat.

Her journey through the disability process wasn't short-but it fell right in the average weight time estimated by the Social Security Administration. After two and a half years, and a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, Kim's disability claim was awarded.

Getting to that point...well, Kim would be the first to admit that it wasn't an easy journey. She had to make tough choices along the way-paying for electric bills or paying for her medical records to compile evidence in support of her claim. But through every rough moment, she never gave up. Kim had her discouraging moments-each time she received a denial letter, she felt the discouragement all over again. She credits Binder & Binder® with giving her much needed encouragement to stick to her claim.

I didn't work on Kim's case personally, but my coworkers did. I'm grateful for their ability to help our clients through such difficult times-and, it's obvious that our clients are grateful for it, too.

Kim was gracious enough to film a short testimonial for us; you'll be able to find it on our website with our other client testimonials. She's got a great story to tell-many of our clients do. Despite all of the trying and difficult times, Kim kept her head up. She relied upon us when she needed it most, and took every step possible to help her own claim. One of the best pieces of advice she shared for others who were in her shoes was this: "Be honest. Be you. Talk about your life and what you've been through."

I know Kim welcomed the opportunity to thank us for the roll we played in helping her receive her benefits....and I welcome the opportunity to thank her now. When she needed a strong advocate to fight for her because she couldn't fight for herself, she chose Binder & Binder®. Kim's journey through the disability process wasn't extraordinary-but the way she handled herself, and her ability to stay positive even when it would have been easier to give up? Well, that is extraordinary.

It's not always an easy job-in fact, some days it's difficult to be positive knowing so many of our clients are struggling. But sitting down and talking one-on-one with our clients, hearing their stories...well, it puts everything in perspective. We represent some truly amazing clients.

The Rise in Social Security Disability Beneficiaries:

Everyone has their own theory. And, quite frankly, they all seem like they could have, at the very least, a little bit of truth to them. Based on figures published by the Social Security Administration, the number of individuals receiving disability benefits has more than doubled in the past two decades. But why?

There are endless explanations and countless assumptions to explain the ever-growing numbers. Some of these theories are exhausting-fingers are pointed at government officials and agencies, some are pointed at so-called lazy citizens "choosing" disability over work. But perhaps there isn't just one single explanation.

Perhaps the explanation is actually many different theories rolled into one.

For starters, women didn't always populate the workforce, at least not in the way they do now. When women weren't a part of the workforce, they weren't paying into the disability fund, and they weren't eligible to collect Social Security Disability benefits. But, as the number of women joining the workforce grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women potentially eligible for disability benefits grew too.

But, the finger can't be pointed at the growing female workforce alone. After all, there's not one single cause to the rise in disability beneficiaries, but rather many-the combination of factors have resulted in the staggering increase we see today.

The Baby Boomers have had a large impact, too. The Post-World War II baby boom saw the largest spike in the number of babies born since the early 1900s-annual births increased by over 4,000,000 between 1946 and 1964. At some point, all of those baby boomers grew up and developed their fair share of health problems as they aged.

It's not just the women and the baby boomers, though. It couldn't possibly be that simple, could it?

Some of the most common theories used to explain the rise in disability beneficiaries ties into the current state of the economy-there seems to be some correlation between a rise in unemployment rates and a rise in disability claims. But, even that explanation is far more complex than it appears to be on the surface.

The most current figures published by the SSA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index, and the U.S. Census Bureau from the 2011 year, helped determine which states had the highest number of disability claims. It might not be surprising, given what was already mentioned, that the states with the highest number disability claims are also the states with the highest poverty rates. But, it's not just about poverty rates and unemployment rates...these states also happen to have the least-educated workforces and the fewest number of jobs offering a competitive wages.

The top five states with the highest number of individuals receiving disability benefits include Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, and-West Virginia. They all shared common similarities-the workforces in these states are among the least educated in the country, and education certainly plays a role in the job force.

There's no one single explanation for the rise is disability beneficiaries. In fact, the multiple factors that add up to provide an explanation are different from state to state. There are more citizens now. There are more women working. Jobs are becoming more advanced and requiring more education than before. And when you add all of this together, it becomes a little bit easier to understand why there has been a rise in disability claims.

Our job isn't always easy, but it's worth it.

Max Ortega wears many hats, one of them is as an advocate (read about the others in his Power Person article in this Newsletter). All of these hats? Well, it means Max has a lot on his plate-but he handles it so well. He recently shared an experience with the rest us and we'd like to share it with you.

Max was scheduled to represent a client who was preparing to go to his disability hearing. In order to prepare for the upcoming hearing, he grabbed the client's file to begin reviewing the case. As soon as he looked at the file, he was overwhelmed by the amount of medical records he had to review -at least a foot high, he recounted. Surprisingly, stacks of medical records with pages totaling up in the thousands...well, it's not uncommon around these parts. But, it is daunting. With so much information, we don't want to miss a thing. Max knew there was going to be a lot of time spent reviewing this client's file, and the feeling of being overwhelmed was only coupled by all of his other work waiting to be tackled.

When Max met this client before his hearing, he couldn't help but notice that he was barely able to walk without crying and grunted-clearly a result of the pain his was in. In their meeting before the hearing, Max's client explained in detail the excruciating pain he encountered every day. And, on top of that, his client informed him that he had run out of money and was homeless.

During the duration of the hearing, Max's client was in constant tears because of his pain. Plain and simple, Max stated, "It was not a façade; you could see the pain in his face." His feelings of being overwhelmed by the amount of the client's medical records that needed to be reviewed, on top of everything else on his plate...well, it couldn't compare to what his client was experiencing at that moment. "It was at that point that I felt extremely guilty for complaining to myself about the huge "file" I had to review while I sat, in the comfort of my home and with perfect health, doing something that I get paid to do... It is not just "files" that we deal with. These people are placing their livelihood on our hands!!" Max said.

Our jobs are like most other jobs-they are hard. And, at times, overwhelming. But, the momentary sense of being overwhelmed is quickly overshadowed by our clients and their needs. Max couldn't have said it better-our clients are placing their livelihoods in our hands, and that's what makes our jobs so important and worth it.

We Get Letters & Emails...

We love hearing from our clients-past, present, and future. And, we have some pretty amazing clients-we're grateful to read their kind words, and we want to share them with you. Disability claims can be difficult-most of our clients would probably be willing to say just that, but we do our best to make the journey as easy as possible. We like to shine the spotlight on them...after all, they went out of their way to say 'Thanks!'. Take a glance at what some our clients have to say.

Hi: I just wanted to send an email of thanks to Binder and Binder, specifically to Danielle W. for her representation of me before the Social Security Adjudication Bureau ... yesterday. She was as cool as a cucumber. Many Thanks.
N.F.L.-Email

I would recommend Binder & Binder to anyone they are very professional and will win your case. After a long battle and 2 denial letters from SS I turned to them and from day 1 I knew I was in good hands... if I would of been denied a 3rd x I don't know how I would of paid my bills.
D.M.-Facebook

Surprised to win! Happy to win! Oh so grateful! Thank you again! Thank you for "all" you have done for me!
K.R.-Card

Belated thanks for helping my wife successfully get her SS disability. You took her case when another attorney turned her down. You guys was all the help we needed. Thanks again.
D.H.-Facebook

Dear Mario,
I wish to thank you for all your help in winning my case. They have already sent my money. It has been a long two years, but I thank you.
Sincerely,
T.C.-Card

What a HUGE relief!!!! Thank you sooo much! This page and your company have made this nightmare of a process just a little easier which means more than words can express. Thank you sooo much for your reply and kindness!
S.R.-Facebook

"Dear Michael,
I am writing on behalf of my family to thank you for all the work you did, gathering information from myriad sources in order to put together a strong defense for our daughter who is requesting disability. Although it was Peter who represented her request and advocated for her during her recent hearing, it was all of the work that you did "behind the scenes" in order to put all of that information into Peter's hands to that he would be prepared. We are truly grateful for the time and effort that you expended on her behalf. We are again in a waiting mode while the judge renders her decision. We continue to hope and pray for a good outcome. Although we many never meet you, you played a significant role in our lives during this process.
Thank you and God bless you,

T.R."---(Card)

Thank you! For all your help it is greatly appreciated.
M.G.-Card

Thank you Binder & Binder for help me along this hard and lone road. Special Thank you to Charles Binder for working with me and Taking me to Federal level. i know with you in my corner. You will stand up for me. Thanks and waiting to hear news. God bless.
S.R.-Facebook

Dear Jessica,
I wish to thank you for all your assistance in my case. I truly appreciate all your work. I could not have done this on my own. As I said before looking at where I've been, where I am at, and where I'm heading is very depressing. I live one day at a time.
Thank you again,
T.C.-Card

Thank you, Binder & Binder for working so hard on my behalf and helping me to win my case. It was a long, hard road but the advocates you had working on my behalf went far beyond than they needed to for me. Thank you, again.
R.M.-Facebook

And I thank you, too, for doing such a wonderful job for me, and following up on the Medicare benefits. I recommend Binder & Binder to everyone I meet who is in need of assistance with SSDI.

With appreciation,
M.E.C-Email

Dear Binder & Binder: You guys rock in my eyes. Your LA office took my case in 6/12. I originally applied in 1/12 and was denied from SSA. Your office took my case and began with the appeal process. We ended up going to a hearing on 1/9/13 and we won the case. This was a HUGH surprise to both Rubina and I because there were some critical items missing. I am very excited to have used your services. Thank you and my wife proudly wears the polo shirt we got from your office.............
S.K.-Facebook

Dear Susan,
I called and left a message...anyways, I want to sincerely thank you all of your help on my disability case. You had a vital part in their decision. As I am unable to work this will be very helpful to pay some bills.
Thank you again,
D.R.-Card

Thank you for all you did for me. It was a long 3 years but you always kept me positive and on the right path, and after my stroke, you were all so caring. You have helped me win my claim, now I know I have a more secure future for myself.
Thank you,
P.T.-Card

Dear Binder and Binder I just wanted to thank u so very much for your help in getting my disability. You worked wonders and I am so lucky that u were in my corner and I am sure glad u advertise on TV or I probably wouldn't have known about u so once again thanks from the bottom of my heart.
Sincerely L.M.-Facebook

I am writing on behalf of my husband and myself to thank you for representing our daughter in her request for disability. She and we are grateful for your time and preparation prior to her hearing. It is my understanding that the judge was unspeakably rude to you as her representative. In spite of that, she felt that you advocated for her in the face of the judge's poor behavior. It could not have been eat to continue to present her case without the judge's cooperation, but our family appreciates your persistence and accuracy on her behalf. We have learned through this process just how difficult it is to argue for disability in Delaware. We now wait for the judge to return what we hope will be a favorable ruling. Thank you again for your time and expertise spent in helping our daughter try to obtain the benefits that will help her move forward.
Sincerely,
T.M.R---(Card)

Binder and Binder® Power Person(s)

powerperson

We'd like to take a moment and introduce you to Katie Duke-a moment is all it will take for you to figure out why she's been selected as the Power Person for this edition of the Newsletter!

Although Katie started out in our Long Island City, New York office, she moved to Seattle, Washington, at the end of 2012 to begin her new and current position as the Senior Advocate of our Seattle office.

Katie is a native-born Iowan who grew up in Georgia. She's no stranger to the outdoors-she solo-backpacked around Western Europe after her sophomore year in college, and enjoys hiking, urban cycling, and exploring the amazing state of Washington in her free time.

Like many Americans, the attacks on September 11, 2001, changed Katie's world. It was at that point she became inspired to be a lawyer. "I had just turned 21 years old and my foundation and vision of the world was altered after "terrorism" became a household word. I felt inspired by professions who were called upon for their specialized knowledge and who helped people in their time of crisis," Katie said.

Katie accepted the role as the Senior Advocate knowing that it would challenge her to grow in ways she hadn't before. Although she admits to difficult aspect of the job-time management, letting go...and preparing clients for realistic outcomes-she continues to get better and better at her job. In this profession, it can be hard to truly measure success; sometimes the evidence of a case speaks for itself one way or the other. But Katie takes pride in knowing that she knows the evidence for each client she represents, she has a working theory for each case, and she's explained the issues to the client and fully prepared them for their testimony.

What does the future hold for Katie? Well, when asked, she said "I hope I can continue to improve on my ability to get the work done in a timely manner and still have time to enjoy my gorgeous life in Seattle."

She takes her job, and all of its responsibilities, seriously. And it shows. Katie has continued to excel, making her an obvious choice for this edition of the Binder & Binder® Power Person!


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