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Chat Transcript: Jeff Rabin, Social Security Disability Attorney

  [ 1017 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ] • May 16, 2001

prohealth911: is proud to welcome Mr. Jeff Rabin, Attorney at Law. Mr. Rabin is an attorney from the Chicago, IL area whose law practice is concentrated in representing Social Security disability claimants. Mr. Rabin was recently appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Coordinating Committee and he also serves on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Association and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

prohealth911: Mr. Rabin will begin the chat with a short summary regarding disability Law.

JeffR: Good afternoon - I appreciate the chance to come here and talk to everyone about the Social Security disability programs and how we can help people with CFS and FMS. What I would like to do first is briefly talk about the law so that I know we are all on the same page. Then I will be happy to answer questions.

JeffR: Basically the Act requires that we prove that you suffer from medical problems so severe that they make it impossible for you to perform any type of work available in the national economy. FMS and CFS claims become difficult because of the problems of "proof" - there is no magic test or treatment that proves either the existence of the problems or the severity of the symptoms. Remember, what we are focusing on here is how these medical problems impact on your ability to "function" - how they affect your ability to sustain work activities in a job setting. This law is applied to both SSDI and SSI claims - the difference in these programs is on your work history - to qualify for SSDI, which is the more comprehensive of the programs you must have worked and paid FICA taxes for a sufficient period of time -- to qualify for SSI you must meet stringent asset and income requirements. OK , that's the basic law - let's do some questions.

prohealth911: The room is now open for questions and discussion.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

FROGGY: Mr.R- why do you have to wait so long to get disability?

JeffR: Hi Froggy - the length of time for processing claims is based on a number of factors. Remember, you are seeking the benefits so you have to prove entitlement. Proof is what your doctor's notes, test results and records show - so SSA has to accumulate all
that evidence and that takes time. Second, SSA is handling a lot of claims at all levels - they are understaffed and move slowly. SSA says that most of the delays are decreasing and we have seen some improvement - but it still takes too long to process.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

SADY58: First, my diagnosis is severe depression with anxiety, schizoid - I also have congestive heart failure and a blood clot in my heart. Yet I was turned down the first time for disability. Three different professional people have said I can't work, yet the first time I was turned down. I recently had a disability. What do I do if I get turned down again?

JRabin: Sadie - Hi, many people are denied disability benefits at the initial application level. Last time I checked the statistics only 35% of the initial level claims were being paid. The key is to appeal and to perservere. More than 50% of the people who receive initial denials abandon their claim. Many of these can [eventually] be approved. You should retain an experienced representative to assist you with your claim. It certainly sounds as though you should be entitled to benefits.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Demusique: How long is a sufficient amount of time to have worked for SSDI ?

JRabin: Demusique - The general rule is that to be eligible for SSDI you have to have worked and paid FICA taxes for 20 quarters of the 40 quarters prior to the date you became totally disabled. It is often easier to think of this as requiring that you worked and paid FICA taxes for 5 of the 10 years prior to the date you became totally disabled. That rule is slightly relaxed if you are under 28 years old.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

sukoshi: I'm a 51 yr old trying to get SS Disability on fibro,chronic fatigue,and arthritis. My lawyer says I've got to see a doctor a lot. I go to the VA Clinic, but they won't help me....they think everything is in my head. What do I do now? My hearing is coming up soon.

JRabin: Sukoshi - Hi, your lawyer is correct. Remember that all of these cases focus on the medical proof. While what a claimant says is important, everyone that comes to SS is basically saying the same thing -- they are too sick to work. The only way SS can sort out claims is by the medical proof.

JRabin: If your doctor is not supportive that will make it difficult to prove your entitlement. It is critical in these cases that you be seeing the doctors on a regular basis,. that in every single doctor visit, describe all of your symptoms, and that your doctor be willing to support you in this claim. SS guidelines put extra weight on the notes and findings of treating specialists. If you are not seeing doctors you will not have the proof you need when you claim.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Katie: Doesn't SS generally deny benefits the first couple of times you apply?

JRabin: Katie - hi, you are right, many claims do need to be appealed. At the initial application level, SS pays approx 35% of the claims. In most states, the second level of review is called reconsideration. SS awards benefits to these approx 17% of the time. The 3rd level of review is the hearing before a SS administrative law judge. This is the most important step in the process. The reason the LLJ hearing is so important is because it is the only time you get to go face to face with the decisionmaker. Everything before the hearing is done on paper. And only when we get to appear before the judge do we get to make that paper come alive, and become a real person.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

artemis: Hi! I'm a teacher from Texas,therefore for the past six years they haven't been taking out for SS - only for Teacher Retirement, so my time is a little under the requirements.

JRabin: Artemis - hi, Many state employees pay into state retirement and disability programs and not into SS. That becomes a problem when you become disabled. If you have not worked and paid FICA taxes for 5 out of the last 10 years, prior to the date you became totally disabled your only recourse will be the state disability program. Many people work second jobs to try to build up their SS credits.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

FROGGY: I would like to know why SSI goes by your income- if you are married your spouses income counts even though your income helps support the home. If your spouses income is too high you can't get SSI-that is discriminating against two family income homes. Wouldn't it be more fair if they counted your half of the income and not your spouses?

JRabin: froggy - hi, your question is not correct. Let me go back and explain the 2 programs. The 1st is SSDI, social security disability insurance. You are eligible for this if you have worked and paid FICA taxes as we discussed earlier and are totally disabled. Your spouses income and assets have nothing to do with your SSDI check.

JRabin: The other program is SSI. To be eligible for SSI you must be totally disabled and indigent. SSI eligibility - your spouses assets and income are considered to be yours and therefore if your wife is working you will not get SSI. The reason is that this program is only intended for people who are totally disabled and very, very poor.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Demusique: Is it best to acquire a lawyers help from the very beginning?

JRabin: demusique - that is a great question, and very timely. In fact, I have changed my answer to this question during the last year. I strongly urge people to hire a representative when they are filing their application. The reason is, there has been recent case law that has supported social security denying claims based on the answers people write on some of the very early forms. In my experience the most critical of these early forms is the 'activities of daily living questionnaire.'

JRabin: To avoid this problem, I prefer to be hired as soon as you're filing the appplication. In addition, the discussion we are having this afternoon, I have with every single new client, either in person or on the telephone. I have found the more educated my clients, the greater chance we will have of winning their case. This is especially true in CFS and FMS cases where the quality and depth of the doctors' noted from each office visit are critical.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Kimerella: My SSDI says that I am short 2-3 quarters to qualify for disability. I was home raising babies. Is there another way to apply?

JRabin: Kimerella - assuming that you are either married, or have other assets that make you ineligible for SSI, you fall between the gaps in these programs. Stay-at-home moms are left behind in social security disability programs. And it was only after giving talks on SS law for about 10 years that I realized I was doing the same thing to my wife, who is also a lawyer. She is now working part-time in my office, representing disabled verterans, trying to get benefits from the VA.

JRabin: When people are as close to qualifying to SSDI - as you are, we often recommend that they try to get a part time job to earn enough money to get the additional credits they need. Sometimes they are lucky enough to be able to find a family memeber with a business to allow them to work. Before you do this go to the SS district office nearest your home and make sure exactly how many credits you'll need and how much you have to earn to get those credits.

JRabin: I don't recall the amount of earnings for one quarter of coverage but it is not very high. You should check this out and see if you can get SSDI coverage.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

lje: Jeff, I was diagnosed with FM in '84, applied for SS. Then, the lawyer I had said she couldn't win the case so, she dropped it and said to go back to work. Yeah, right! I tried but it didn't work. Now SS says that I don't have enough credits anymore. There should be some way to appeal this.

JRabin: Lie - Hi, your best chance was to have persued that claim in 1984. You should contact an attorney and discuss whether you are still able to file a claim and your elibility going back to 1984.. There are some pretty technical rules that may make that impossible. You should talk to an attorney in your situation. It is too bad that your attorney at that time was not more aggressive in protecting your rights.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

fibrogal: If you lose the first time and appeal, and then file a new claim and win, can you get your appeal read and reversed sooner to get your back pay.

JRabin: Fibrogal - whether an earlier application can be repopened depends on the timing. If a new application is filed within one year of the date of the initial denial SSA usually agrees to reopen the earlier application. It becomes a little more difficult if the subsequent application was filed more than one year after the inital denial. If you had an attorney working with you on the second application you should ask her to look into that issue for you.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

catboss: I became disabled (in my viewpoint) in 1988, when I was 25. I applied for SSDI back in 1990 and never heard back from the SSA but I understand from another agency that I was denied. Can I apply again? And do I still use the date of 1988 for "beginning of disability"? I have not been able to work much in the past 13 years since I was fired from
my last full-time job.

JRabin: Catboss - That's a difficult one to answer. It is hard to convince Social Security to go back more than 12 years proving the onset of your disability. One of the reasons is that it's hard to get medical opinions from doctors who treated you more than a decade ago. Also, how much work you've done in the intervening years could be a factor. You really need to discuss all of the details with an experienced representative to make this decision.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Mgarcia: Do you work with LTD cases?

JRabin: Mgarcia - LTD cases are long term disability claims dealing with private insurers. I generally limit my representation to SS claims, in tag team with other attorneys for handling the LTD issues. One of the reasons for that is that LTD claims involve a whole other area of the law. If you go back to the chat area you'll see that there is an earlier chat with attorney Steven Krafchick. Steve is a good guy who works exclusively in this area and can help you. You should download the transcript of the chat session.

Mgarcia: If I work at a lower capacity with Fibromyalgia disability limitations, will it affect my chances of getting SSDI. My next process is going before the judge, but I need to generate some income.

JRabin: Mgarcia - Hi, the issue in a disability claim is whether you are totally disabled and the ability to perform any type of work. It does not matter whether the work you can do pays well or is a job that you like. If you can still work on a sustained basis, even at a lower level job, you are not totally disabled. Now in your situation sounds like you have returned to work. That is generally a good thing, as we always want people to work, instead of being on SS.

JRabin: If you had been off work for at least 12 months you can try to argue that you are disabled for that period of time and receive a check. We call this a close period claim.

Mgarcia: Are the chances of getting SSDI better if you are 56 years old?

JRabin: Mgarcia - the act does consider age. Anyone under 50 yrs old is considered to be a younger individual (I tell my teeenage sons I'm still younger - they never belive me). Between 50 and 55 you are considered to be "closely approaching advanced age" and the law is slightly relaxed, especially if you do not have a high school degree. Between 55-60 you are considered to be of advanced age and the law is relaxed a little more, especially if you've only been doing physcial work in the past. The standards are relaxed a little more between ages 60-64 when you are considered to be "closely approaching retirement age".

Mgarcia: I have not worked for 14 months, but SSDI feels I am educated and can do some type of work. I was doing Project Management work.

JRabin: Mgarcia - that is correct. SSDI benefits will be paid as of the later of your onset date, or 1 yr prior to the date you applied. That is why it is rarely helpful for people to wait a longtime before filing an application for this assistance.

JRabin: Mgarcia - if you take early retirement at age 62, you receive about 80% of your retirement benefit. If you also qualify for SSDI then your check will be increased to the full 100%. I think that answers your question.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

lindakay: This is my first time applying. I have filled out the necessary paperwork at the SSI office, and have heard from my case worker by phone. The latest papers I got in the mail was a questionnaire about my daily activites. They have all my medical records. What should i expect next?

JRabin: Lindakay - Now is the time to hire an attorney! That questionnaire is critical, and please do not answer it without first talking to someone experienced in this area of the law. Those answers will be scrutinised at all later levels of appeal. At the initial application level the adjudicator will be gathering medical evidence from your docotrs, therapists and hospitals and having that material reviewed at a State agencies in-house physicians. Those doctors will read all of the medical records and your forms and will render written opinions with the adjudicator about what they think you can do despite your medical problems. That is how cases are decided at the first two levels of review.

lindakay: Thank you, is there a time limit in which I have to have the paperwork returned? I have had it for 2 weeks now!

JRabin: Lindakay - the only time limit is the extent of your adjudicator's patience. Some of them understand that they are working with totally disabled individuals and give them more slack. Others push for a shorter turn around time. In your case it is more important that the form be answered correctly, than it be answered quickly. Now is the time to be reviewing your claim with experienced attorney.

lindakay: Thank you for your help.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

catboss: Regarding the amount of work over the past 13 years - I have the type of CFS that waxes and wanes. Sometimes I can work up to 10 hours a week, but I can't sustain any job. When I get sicker I am housebound for months. My income (from my own work) in recent years is under $2000 per year.

JRabin: catboss - it is not annual earnings that are important but how much you earned gross each month. In your case at this point, it is very difficult and almost impossible to answer on the Internet. This is one where you really do need to consult with an experienced attorney who focuses on this area of the law.

catboss: OK, Mr. Rabin, are you looking for a challenging case? Do you handle cases nationwide? I'm in California.

JRabin: catboss - I do represent people nationwide, and have been doing so for many years. I am always willing to talk to everyone about their claims and there is no fee for a telephone call. You can contact me toll free at 1-888-529-0600 or you can email me at I do a lot of work via telephone and email.

Question directed to Mr. Rabin:

Vickie: As I said, I was fired to prevent them having to provide accomodation.

JRabin: Vickie - it's time for you to talk to your local attorney who focuses on employment law. This is not an area where someone can easily represent people nationwide as it often involves state court litigation. you should find an attorney in your area who focuses on this area of the law.

JRabin: I would find another attorney. I know I did some research on the Internet, before the January meeting of the Dept. of Health and Human Services CFS Coordinating Committee in Seattle, WA. We had a speaker who dealt specifically with CFS and ADAA issues and I did some research so I would be prepared. It is possible that there is some case law in your area that is not favorable but I am certain that there have been decisions stating that CFS is an impairment covered by the ADA.

Vickie: Another local disability attorney told me I would never find someone in my town to touch my case, that I would have to go to Dallas or Houston for representation.

JRabin: Vickie - a lot of attorneys are willing to take tough cases. I would continue making phone calls to try to find someone to help you. If you run out of luck please call me at 1-888-529-0600 and I'd be happy to talk to you.

prohealth911: ProHealth and would like to thank both Mr. Jeffrey Rabin for his time and expertise, as well as you, members of our community, for your valuable questions and discussion. Please refer to to view transcripts of this chat.

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Disabilty payments
Posted by: Harliesaunt
Jun 16, 2008
I filed for disability in Feb. I have not been able to work full time for several years but worked a part time job a few hours a week.I have been getting my social security retirement pay since I turned 62. I was told I was approved for disabilty but will get a very Reduced amount due to fact I have been getting social security for 3 years. Now that I am completely disabled shouln't I recieve the FULL amount of disabilty. Seems I am being penalized for struggling and trying to work the past 3 years.No one from social secuity that I talk to gives me a straight answer.I need advice
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