Crowe & Shanahan is located at 500 N. Broadway, Suite 1500.
We validate our clients' parking tickets in the St. Louis City garage at the northwest corner of Pine and 7 th Streets. The garage entrance is on the north side of Pine, just west of 7 th.
What to Expect at Your Initial Appointment
- Please arrive on time for your appointment.
- You may spend one hour or more with the attorney.
- You will not be asked to make any type of payment at the initial meeting. You do not need to bring any money.
- You will be asked to sign a fee agreement in which you promise to pay a fee at the end of the case in the event you are successful on your claim.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
- Everything you have ever received from Social Security, including application forms, benefit statements and especially all denial letters. This includes paperwork from any previous claims.
- Prior to your appointment you will receive our Disability Checklist, a form which must be completed before your arrive. We need a complete list of all medical treatment sources including name, address, and phone numbers of doctors and clinics (we know where all the hospitals are). It is most helpful to have approximate dates of treatment and reason for treatment noted. If you have business or appointment cards from your doctors, bring those along.
- We also need information on the jobs you have performed over last 15 years, approximate dates, job titles and the type of work. This can be done on the disability checklist form.
- We need the name, social security number and date of birth for all of your children under age 19. They may be entitled to benefits.
- If you have a claim for workers' compensation, we need information about that including your claim number, your attorney's name and address and information on weekly payments amounts and settlements. If your case has been settled, please bring the settlement agreement.
- If you have ever been to vocational rehabilitation, we would like to know the name and address of your counselor.
- If you have any of your own medical records, please bring them to the appointment.
- If you left work due to taking family medical leave, please bring any paperwork showing your approval, especially notes, letters or forms from your physicians regarding your leave.
- If you receive disability payments from your employer or an insurance company, please bring along information on those payments.
How Long Will This Take?
Each case is different. At your initial appointment, your attorney will give you a general idea of how long your case is expected to take. Social Security is not required to make decisions under any time limit.
Soon after the initial appointment, we will file your appeal if you have not done it yourself. There two Social Security hearing offices in the St. Louis area, downtown and Creve Coeur. The waiting time for a hearing is different at each office. Generally speaking:
- You will receive approximately 30-90 days advance notice for that date.
- The judge will not give you a decision at the end of the hearing. Decisions from Social Security administrative law judges are issued in writing. The length of time it takes to get your decision varies greatly from one judge to another.
- Once you receive a favorable decision, processing payments takes additional time. You should expect 30-60 days before you receive any payments, and 90-120 days before all payments have been made, including your dependents. There are a number of issues that could delay payments further.
Dire Financial and Medical Needs
In some situations, processing times can be speeded up if you experience a drastic change in your medical or financial circumstances. This include terminal illnesses. It may also include dire financial circumstances in which you are threatened with eviction, foreclosure, or the loss of basic utilities. With proof, your attorney can request your case be expedited based on dire needs. However, Social Security may or may not agree to speed up your case.
Where is the Hearing Office Located?
Downtown St. Louis -
How to get to the St. Louis area Social Security hearings offices (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review):
The downtown Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is located at 200 N. Broadway, Suite 900. It is a large, modern, red brick building with black glass windows. You may park at Kiener Plaza East Garage. The entrance is on the south side of Pine Street between Broadway and 6th St. There is also a garage in the 200 N. Broadway building (entrance on the north side of Pine Street between 4th Street and Broadway - look for the ramp up into the building) but it is a little expensive. Metrolink stops at 8th & Pine or Convention Center, both several blocks walk.
Creve Coeur -
The Creve Coeur Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is located at 1285 Fern Ridge Parkway.
What Happens at the Hearing?
You will need a photo ID when you arrive at the hearing office. Do not bring knives, pepper spray or anything that looks like a weapon. You will go through a security check.
The hearing is the most important part of your disability claim. You will have an opportunity to meet face to face with a United States Administrative Law Judge who will decide your claim. The hearing is not in a courtroom or courthouse. Present at the hearing will be you, your attorney, the judge and a clerk who assists the judge. Often there are additional expert witnesses at the hearing at Social Security's request, to testify regarding your work experience and medical problems. Your attorney will talk to you before the hearing to explain in detail what to expect and let you who will be at your hearing. He or she will be with you throughout the entire process. The judge and your lawyer will ask you questions at the hearing. Each judge has a different style of questioning. Sometimes hearings are as short as 15-20 minutes and other times they can last 60-90 minutes.
Generally, you will be asked questions in the following areas:
- your age, education, marital status and living arrangements,
- your work history covering the last 15 years, noting the dates for each job, the physical requirements for each job, the technical or skill requirements of each job and why the job ended,
- your medical problems, each one individually, with questions regarding how long you have had the problem, a description of your symptoms from that problem, a summary of your treatment for the problem, what doctors your have seen for the problem, and how the problem affects your day to day functioning as well as your ability to perform work related activities such as walking, standing, sitting, bending, climbing, crawling, lifting and carrying and using your arms and hands
- For mental problems you will be asked similar questions and asked to describe how the mental condition affects your ability to deal with people, deal with work-related stress, remember and follow directions, and keep your mind focused on work duties.
- You will not receive a decision at the hearing. Decisions are always in writing and take weeks or months to receive. The wait to get your hearing decision can vary greatly from one judge to another.
- The attorney will not know anything about the decision any sooner than you do. When a decision is made, a copy is mailed to both you and the attorney on the same day.
The Importance of Ongoing Medical Care
- It is important that you stay under regular medical care at all times for all medical conditions. Social Security cannot pay benefits without ongoing medical proof of disability.
- It is also important that you keep your attorney up to date with anything new in your health care. We want to know about your doctors visits. We want you to report changes in treatment, medications or doctors. Tell us about any hospital visits. Let us know when therapy begins or ends. Keep us informed about all medical testing.
- Be sure your doctor knows what your medical problems are and that they know you are not working. Tell your doctor about everything that is bothering you. If the problem is not in your medical records, the Social Security judge will probably not consider it.
Work During Your Claim
Generally speaking, any work activity you do during the period you are alleging total disability will complicate your case. You should discuss any possibility of working with your attorney, before you start working. We can explain how the particular work activity could affect your specific case.
- If you earn, on average, gross wages or net self-employment income of $1,000 per month in 2010, you are considered to be performing substantial gainful activity and would probably not be found disabled.
- If you try to work and the work ends after a short time due to medical reasons, Social Security may consider it to be an unsuccessful work attempt. It may not affect whether you are eligible for benefits.
- Never work for cash off the books, for any reason, when you are trying to get Social Security disability. The government may consider this fraud and it could result in federal criminal charges.
Congratulations, Your Case Was Approved! What Happens Next?
There is still work to be done. If your case is approved by the administrative law judge in a written decision, a copy will be sent to both you and the attorney. Crowe & Shanahan will send you a letter with detailed information. Your attorney will want to speak with you about this favorable decision. The attorney will normally be able to give you information on your payment rates, how far back benefits will go, Medicare and Medicaid issues, and the time it takes to process payments.
Social Security Disability Insurance Payments (SSDI)
- In most cases, you will be entitled to a lump sum of back pay. Your lawyer will explain to you when your back pay starts and why.
- You are not entitled Social Security payments for the first five full calendar months of disability. That is called the waiting period.
- There is no minimum payment rate. The maximum Social Security disability rate is over $2,000 per month. Your rate is determined by how long and how steadily you worked, and by how much you paid in Social Security tax.
- Your dependent children may also receive payments if your Social Security rate is high enough.
- You will receive Medicare benefits if you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance. Medicare begins 24 months after your first month of benefits, usually the start of your back pay. People who only get SSI disability benefits do not qualify for Medicare.
- Social Security will take Medicare premiums out of your check, unless you tell them you do not want Medicare.
SSI disability payments, (SSI)
- SSI back pay cannot start earlier in the month after you filed your application, no matter how long you have been disabled.
- Monthly SSI payments come on the first of the month.
- The maximum individual SSI payment is $674 for 2010.
- Your eligibility for SSI payments depends not only on your medical condition, but also your income, your financial resources and your living arrangements.
- If you or your spouse have income or other resources, your payment can be reduced and even eliminated for some or all months.
- Dependant children do not receive additional benefits from SSI.
- With SSI you will normally be eligible for Medicaid health coverage from the state.
- SSI back pay may be paid in up to 3 installments at six-month intervals.
- The first and second installments are equal to three regular monthly payments each. Any remaining back pay is sent to you about one year after the first installment.
Important Payment Issues
Workmen's Compensation - Workers compensation benefits can reduce and in some cases eliminate Social Security and SSI payments. If you have a workers compensation claim make sure your attorney knows. If there has been any change in your payments if your case has been settled, be sure to tell your attorney right away. With the right information, your attorney can tell you whether your particular worker's compensation payments will affect your Social Security payments.
Tax Issues - Social Security benefits are sometimes tax-free and sometimes partly taxable, depending on other income in your household. You may be required to make estimated quarterly income tax payments. It is a good idea to talk to a tax professional when you get your Social Security payment letter. For a general explanation of taxes on Social Security benefits, click here. SSI benefits are never taxable.
SSI Loan vs Gift Questions - Social Security reduces SSI benefits if a person has almost any income. If you are like most people, while you were fighting for SSI benefits you had little or no income of your own. You may have lived with friends or relatives and were not able to cover your own expenses. The government considers that support to be like a gift to you. They count the value of gifts as a kind of income that can reduce SSI benefits. Since no one keeps records that show exactly how much this support is worth, Social Security reduces SSI benefits by one-third for any month you are living with and being supported by someone else. The only exception is if you can prove you had to pay back the value of this support, whether or not you were approved for SSI. The government considers that a loan and does not count it as income to you. However, you may have to show Social Security that you and the person you lived with had this agreement before you filed your SSI application.
Social Security staff does not always apply these rules the same way for every one. Your lawyer can give you information about their policy after your benefits are approved.
You can have your SSI benefit increase to the maximum rate if you start paying your fair share of the household expenses from your benefits. For instance, if you lived with three people, you would be responsible for one-quarter of the household expenses. If your SSI monthly rate was reduced and you are now paying your share of the expenses, be sure to notify your local Social Security office.
Request to Increase the First SSI Installment - As noted above, SSI back benefits are paid in installments at six-month intervals. However, if you have incurred debts for food, clothing, housing and medical expenses, and you can document those debts, you can request that Social Security increase your first installment to allow you to repay those who helped you.
Attorney fee and expenses - Social Security will withhold our fee from your back benefits and pay us directly. We will send you a statement for our expenses to get the medical records and doctors reports we needed to win your case. In our fee agreement, the yellow form we both signed when you hired us, you promised to pay us back for those costs. You are responsible for paying the expense amount directly to Crowe & Shanahan. Social Security does not pay for the costs of obtaining medical evidence. We do not expect to receive the expenses until your benefits have been paid.