Frequently Asked Questions
I have a rare disease. Have you guys ever handled this type of case?
It would be an extremely rare disease for us not to have seen it before but no matter what the disease, the process is the same. In some cases having a rare disease is harder to win since the Social Security judge assigned to the case may not be familiar with it. But on the other side, specialists usually handle rare diseases. These specialists are uniquely qualified to discuss the implications of the disorder. The more specialized your doctor, the more weight his opinion will be given so in that sense rare diseases sometimes are easier to win than a common disorder.
My doctor tells me to apply but then he wants to charge me for helping.
Doctor time is valuable. Doctors may spend a good deal of time charging for a medical report because it takes them time to compose a thorough report. We try to help by asking doctors to answer our questionnaires that we have designed that ask the questions Social Security needs to know. Less time for the doctor, less fees to the patient.
Can I win if I see a nurse practitioner?
You can but it is harder. With managed care all of us see Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants or Social Workers where we used to see only MDs or DOs. In many cases a nurse practitioner or other non-doctor professionals will work with a medical doctor. Under the law if the medical doctor who sees you occasionally will cosign a report prepared by the nurse practitioner who sees you more often, it will count as if he had written it. And doctors always count more than people who do not go to medical school. But in rural parts of the country the only affordable medical care might come from a well trained nurse practitioner and if that is your treating source, we will have to rely upon it.
I have a lot of different things wrong with me. Does it matter which one is the most disabling?
People are not so easily pigeon holed. There are many diseases that manifest themselves in various parts of your body or affect different organs. If your doctor explains why these diseases or illnesses make you disabled, it does not matter which one is the most disabling. Disability is somewhat holistic—the doctor looks at you as a person not as a particular disease. If a combination of disorders makes you disabled, so be it. The treatment of a primary disease often causes unwanted side effects—even medications or treatments can add to your disabilities. Everyone is unique and it is common to have more than one symptom of disability.
Why doesn't my chiropractor count?
I cannot give an intelligent answer. Social Security simply refuses to consider the opinions of chiropractors.
Is my doctor's chart enough?
Almost never. A doctor’s chart may list your symptoms that day or in many cases only those symptoms that are different than your normal examination. If a doctor knows his patient, it is common not to put too much down. If the condition has not changed, there will be a few quick notes but not the extensive notes he may have made when he first met you. And doctors do not address non-medical issues in their chart such as the legal definitions of disability. It is very important to have your doctor explain how your back pain will affect you in a work environment but there is no reason why a doctor would routinely put that in your medical file. He may simply say he does not want you to work without explanation—he knows why and it is obvious to him based on his findings so he does not need to spell it out. But to prove disability we need him to spell out why the disorder or disease or the symptoms make you unable to work at a full time job. This is almost never found in a chart.
My accident lawyer says he will help me? Should I use a company that handles these cases like you instead?
The Social Security rules and regulations are complicated. A tort lawyer—someone who handles accident cases—is likely to have a working knowledge of medicine but is very unlikely to know the definition of disability or what has to be proved or what the rules and regulations are. Social Security is a federal administrative agency and that is very different that a state trial courthouse. Very few tort lawyers do more than a few social security cases since they quickly learn how much they have to know in order to do the job well. Far better for them to refer it to us. And quite a few do.
Have you really been doing these cases for 40 years?
Harry Binder did his first Social Security case in 1975. Charles Binder started handling cases in 1979.
I'm getting VA benefits. Can I get SSD as well?
Yes and you should apply. SSD is not an offset of Service Connected Veterans benefits though any income is an offset of non-service connected benefits. If you have been found disabled by the VA system the SSA must consider this decision. Any Vet getting a high rating of disability should be applying for SSD as well. And any Binder & Binder successful client who is a Vet should be considering veteran’s benefits particularly if the injury was service connected. Binder & Binder does not handle veterans cases but a sister company does—let us know and we will be glad to recommend you.
I'm getting Workers' Comp. Can I get SSD as well?
Absolutely. But you cannot get more than 80% of what you were earning from a combination of worker’s comp and social security. Neither the federal government nor your state government wants you to get more tax free than you were making before you got hurt. But in most cases you can apply and receive both. Worker’s compensation has to occur on the job but the Social Security Administration does not care where you got hurt but only that you are unable to work. There are partial awards in worker’s compensation in most states but in Social Security disability, you are either disabled or you are not.
I was attacked in the service and don't want anyone to know. Can I get SSD without telling anyone?
Yes. The Federal Privacy laws cover the entire Social Security proceeding so everything is confidential and cannot be disclosed without a court order. Everything you tell us at Binder & Binder is a privileged communication. So you need not fear that someone will learn about your case.
I'm working part time. Can I get SSD?
It depends on how much you earn and how many hours you work. Each year the SSA announces a legal presumption of how much you can earn in a month and still not be considered working. But it is a presumption only. Even after you win your benefits you are allowed to work a little without jeopardizing your benefits as long as you earn below that number. The numbers change each year but earning under $1000 is usually OK though the less you earn the easier it is to win as judges may wonder if you could work more but choose not to do so just to protect your application. I would rather applicants for benefits not work at all but many of my clients have to or they will lose their homes or not be able to pay for the medications. I understand their needs but jeopardizing their cases is always a risk.
I'm working off the books. Can I get SSD?
Working off the books is illegal. There are civil and criminal penalties for applying for disability when working. So the short answer is NO.
My doctor told me I have a condition listed in the book. What does that mean?
Doctors used to get a blue book from Social Security with many diseases or illnesses listed in it. Social Security will find you automatically disabled if you have such a “listed” impairment and all the necessary medical proofs that go with it. But it is not the condition itself that makes you disabled but all the clinical findings that go with it. So it is not enough to have congestive heart failure to give one example—you must have all the testing that goes with it, all the laboratory results. To be find disabled because of a Listed Impairment is pretty rare—these conditions are felt to be so severe that there is no need to even think about your case since it is so obviously disabling but “listed” cases are very rare. The only one that requires nothing but the diagnosis is Lou Gehrig’s disease—every other listing requires extensive medical documentation and testing, some of which you may not have or your doctor may have felt was unnecessary. So having a condition “listed” in the book is helpful but not as helpful as a doctor may think. And quite often the fact that your doctor says you have a condition with everything documented is still not enough—Social Security may still deny you or say they don’t agree with your doctor’s opinion.
If you have such a condition, come talk to us. We can make sure your doctor supplies everything you need to win but it is never enough for him to say “you have a condition in the blue book.” We need to prove you have every requirement.
How long have you been wearing the hats?
I have been wearing the hats since college and my brother Harry since he graduated from law school. Mine are largely from Australia and Harry usually wears a Stetson.
Is the guy with the hat a lawyer?
Both Harry and Charles Binder are lawyers.