Social Security Disability benefits are a lifeline for many persons with mental and physical disabilities. For those with cognitive disabilities and other mental healthcare needs, Social Security Disability benefits paired and coordinated with a power of attorney for finances, an advance healthcare directive, and in some cases a conservatorship can mean the difference between a cognitively impaired person leading a comfortable life or living on the fringes of poverty. Within a coordinated special needs legal care plan, an agent or conservator/fiduciary is required to act for and in the best interests of the cognitively impaired individual. This can mean that the agent has authority to manage money, receive assets, expend money for groceries and medical care, and ensure that the cognitively impaired person attends regular medical appointments.
Nevertheless, an agent can be powerless to act when Social Security terminates disability benefits without legal cause. Many are surprised to learn that this happens often. In the context of Social Security Disability benefits, Social Security may require continuing review of disability benefits every two years, denying continuing benefits based on a single examination by a Social Security linked doctor with an obvious incentive to deny benefits. More extreme yet, an agent working with a person with a mental disability to qualify them for disability benefits, or the claimant themselves, may apply for benefits and be initially denied by the local claims office. Social Security’s regulatory processes and processing of initial applications for disability benefits are transferred to third-party state disability examiners, who determine whether a person is entitled to benefits.
Often these examiners have little experience reviewing medical records and evidence, and even less experience matching the facts of an individual case to the standards for legal disability under federal law. The result is often that first time claimants for disability benefits are denied based on legally dubious cause and must submit an appeal for reconsideration with Social Security. This appeal is usually denied, and the process thereafter to request a hearing before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge can take years, with the claim backlog at hearing offices causing claims to be heard by a judge in many cases more than three years after they are initially filed.
As a Social Security claimant with a mental or cognitive disability, it is your right to receive benefits under the law if you are disabled under federal law. Furthermore, if you are a conservator or agent of a person with a disability, it may be your obligation to speak with an attorney regarding the right to Social Security Disability benefits of the person whose support and care you manage. You usually have 60 days to file an appeal of a denial decision with Social Security, but you will need legal counsel to file the appeal.
If an appeal is filed without an adequate reason with a basis in law such as the failure of Social Security personnel to review complete medical records, correctly determine the mental or physical limitations caused by an impairment, or to apply the medical or mental disability evidence standards or otherwise resolve a case on the Social Security physical impairment grid, then Social Security may deny the appeal. This outcome can cause years of delay and significant monetary expense, paid by the claimant, while the claimant still does not receive their hard-earned disability benefits for years.
Government agencies like the Social Security Administration often overwhelm claimants in mountains of paperwork, records, and legal challenges, sticking to their initially held position even when the merits are very much in dispute. Sometimes the very government agency responsible for ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to benefits becomes the enemy in a bureaucratic legal struggle to overcome the delay and denials of Social Security. No one should go through this difficult process alone.
At Knutson Law Offices, we have won dozens of Social Security Disability hearing cases at the Administrative Law Judge, Appeals Council, and Federal District Court level, resulting in nearly 5 million dollars in back and lifetime benefits. We are well equipped to represent you in your fight for what you have earned under the law, whether you are a person with a mental disability, or an agent or conservator acting on behalf of such a person. Contact us today for your free initial consultation.