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Beware National Firms and Websites

     If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability, you should consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income.  There are three ways to do this.  One way is to contact your local social security office either by phone or in person.  They are required to help you fill out the necessary paperwork.  However, the people who work at these offices are not attorneys, and cannot represent you.  They may even give you misleading or wrong information.  This certainly is not intentional, but we see it happen all the time.

     A second way a person can apply is by calling a national firm they see advertised on TV, the internet or local newspapers or yellow page ads.  These companies may be run by lawyers, but you probably will never actually talk with a lawyer, let alone sit down in person with one.  If you do an internet search for social security disability, websites can be very confusing or misleading.  Some people think they are dealing with the government, when in fact they are using a commercial, private site.

       Before you sign up with a national company, consider some important questions.  Where are these people actually located?  If you live in Missouri or Illinois, do you want to be dealing with a firm in Georgia, Texas or California?  They clearly are never going to set up an in‐person appointment.  While a lot of things can be done over the phone or internet, what happens if you get turned down on application and you need to go to a hearing?  Will these people continue to represent you?  Or will they tell you to find someone else at the last minute?  If they will represent you at a hearing, will they send someone in person, or will you be represented by someone over a video screen?

     What happens if you are represented over a video screen, and get turned down by the Administrative Law Judge?  You have the right to appeal this decision, but will this national firm continue to represent you?  If you live in Missouri, you are in the 8th Judicial Circuit.  If you live in Illinois, you are in the 7th Judicial Circuit.  Is the attorney from Georgia, Texas or California even licensed to practice in your Judicial Circuit? Or will they tell you to find someone else when you are facing a 60 day deadline?

     The third way to consider applying for disability benefits is to use a local law firm like Dempsey, Dempsey & Moellring.  You will meet with one of our attorneys in person and they can explain to you the rules that govern your case.  It is different depending on your age, education, and work history.  We are licensed to practice in both Illinois and Missouri and can take your case through every step of the appeal process, if necessary.

     Our firm has been dealing with the local social security offices, judges and health providers for over 24 years.  We can explain the kind of medical treatment you should be seeking in order to best document your disability.  If your disability arises in some part because of a work‐related accident in Illinois or Missouri, we can also potentially represent you in a worker’s compensation case, and make sure it coordinates in your best interest with your social security case.  If your lack of employment is causing you financial problems, our firm also handles bankruptcies, and can explain your rights under that area of the law.  We also handle Veterans Disability cases, and we can explain how they interact with Social Security Disability.

     Obviously, the decision to hire a lawyer is a very important one, and should not be based solely on an advertisement, website, or even this article!  Be sure you understand what you are signing before you hire anyone to represent you in a Social Security case.  Under the law, fees are limited to no more than 25% of your past due benefits, and as of January 2012, there is a cap of $6000 for total fees.  If you have a national firm represent you at the initial application process, but they won’t help you at the hearing stage, or further appeals, we would be unable to step in at a late date if that company is not willing to withdraw as your representative and waive their fee agreement.  We have seen over the years, many of these companies will not do this, and the client is left hanging.

     We are happy to give you a free initial consultation.  We only get paid if we get you benefits.  If  we meet with you and decide you are not ready to apply for benefits, there will be no charge for that appointment.  Call us in Hannibal or Quincy today!

Nation Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
The Missoui Bar
NOSSCR
Illinois State Bar Association