JOHN MERCURE: I’m John Mercure, this is the Sunday Sip, and I’m excited to be joined by Attorney Lauren Zwirlein from Tabak Law.
Good to see you, Lauren, thank you so much for being here.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Thanks for having me.
JOHN MERCURE: Today we’re talking about a couple different things. Let’s start with Social Security Disability. People have heard the term but don’t maybe know what it is. What is Social Security Disability?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, usually when people hear about Social Security in general, they think of retirement, but Social Security actually pays many different kinds of benefits; obviously, disability is what you’re talking about here.
JOHN MERCURE: Yeah.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: So the two main programs that our office focuses on is SSI and SSDI. So SSI is Supplemental Security Income and SSDI is Social Security Disability Insurance.
JOHN MERCURE: So those are both paid out by the Social Security Administration. What is the basic difference between SSDI and SSI?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, that’s a great question, I get that one all the time. So they have the same medical criteria. So I always tell everyone you don’t need to be more or less disabled to get one as compared to the other, they’re identical in that respect.
So the difference comes in that SSI is a needs-based program and SSDI is a work-based benefit, so when you pay your taxes, that goes to the government and that funds that benefit.
JOHN MERCURE: How do people know when they should consider filing a claim for Social Security Disability? What are kind of the guidelines? What should they think about?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, I always tell people that when your doctor is saying things to you like, “Hey, there’s nothing else that we can do. This is permanent,” you know, “This is kind of the best it’s going to get,” and you don’t feel like you can work when the doctor is telling you that, you know, that’s when you are looking at Social Security. These are programs for people with long-term health problems.
So if you have a shorter-term illness or break your arm, for example, you’re going to be better hopefully in three or six months, but if you’re going to be, you know, out of commission for 12 months or longer, that’s when you might want to consider going the disability route.
JOHN MERCURE: Now, I know you guys aren’t doctors, but you’re highly trained lawyers in this very specialized area of the law. Can you give people good guidance based on their medical situation? Can you help them know what questions to ask the doctor? Can you help be the liaison on the medical part of it?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, and that’s really, really important. It can be difficult to get these benefits, so having your doctor on your side is critical. And the most important thing that I see when I’m making arguments to the government is I need specific limitations. You know, generally, the government isn’t disputing that you have serious health problems. That’s not where the issue lies. It comes in when they say, “Well, we think your limitations aren’t as bad you’re saying they are.” And, you know, the fight goes from there. So if your doctor can really articulate, “No, these are the specific limitations you have,” and why, that makes for a really strong case and a strong argument.
JOHN MERCURE: You know, and a lot of doctors, they’re trained in being doctors; they’re not trained in this part of it either. So that’s why it’s critical that you get in touch with somebody like Lauren at Tabak.
Because this is your area of expertise, you can really help people navigate and have an educated discussion with their healthcare provider so that you get what you need to help them get what they need, right?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, absolutely. You know, communication is a really big part of what we do. You know, sometimes people can go months and not really hear anything from the government and that can be really discouraging. You think, “Well, gee,” I mean, “did they just forget about me?” You know, “What’s happening with my case?” You know, and that’s where we come in to make sure that all of the parties are staying in contact in communication and understanding, you know, what’s happening and what we need to do next.
JOHN MERCURE: Tabak Law’s Attorney Lauren Zwirlein is with us on the Sunday Sip.
Let’s get through a couple logistics. How do people file an application?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, so there’s really two main ways that you can file your application. You can go online to file that SSDI application, and if you want to file for SSI, that’s an actual paper application that needs to be submitted to Social Security, but in either case, our office can assist with that application process. You know, that can be kind of the hardest first step.
JOHN MERCURE: Yeah.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: It’s just like, hey, I need some help here, you know.
JOHN MERCURE: Can be intimidating.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Absolutely it is intimidating. And there’s a lot a little details with these applications, and if you forget something inadvertently or just miss something, you know, that can delay processing your application and obviously add many months to your wait, you know, in an already long process.
JOHN MERCURE: Yeah. How long can the process take? I know it’s hard to generalize, but can you give us a ball park how it works?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, it does depend on where you live. You know, Social Security is a federal program, so every jurisdiction is a little bit different. But, generally, when you file your initial application, you’re looking at a six-month wait time on the front end, and there are additional appeals from there.
You know, the important thing for people to understand is they need to be prepared for possibly years of waiting. And that’s one of the things we always talk about with clients on the front end is they need to have a game plan, because, you know, you’re going to need to eat here in the meantime, you know, what are you going to do. You know, our goal is always to get people approved as quickly as we possibly can, but in the event that there’s a fight, you know, we have to be ready for that.
JOHN MERCURE: Yeah, it’s a process. And, you know, when I hire somebody, I want to know that they have experience and they have expertise.
And Tabak Law has expertise, extensive expertise in this area.
How long has the firm been handling these sort of claims, these sort of issues?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, so our firm has been doing claims for about ten years now. So we’ve handled thousands and thousands and thousands of cases, and we do thousands and thousands of hearings every year. So we’ve got a lot of experience dealing with the government and we definitely know the ins and the outs.
JOHN MERCURE: And this is a big deal. I mean, hire an attorney, get in touch with the folks at Tabak because you’re the best in the business. And you need somebody to really help you navigate this, and you’re experts in this area.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yes, you know, this is our primary practice area. This is, you know, where we really want to help people and where we really see a great need to assist our clients. You know, this is, like we’ve already talked about, a difficult and lengthy process, and, you know, we’re there to help people through.
JOHN MERCURE: What does it cost to retain an attorney? Can you give us a ball park?
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, so to talk to us, there is zero cost, and even to hire us there is actually no cost upfront.
JOHN MERCURE: Wow, that’s great.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: Yeah, we only get paid if somebody actually wins their case. So in the event that, you know, there is not a successful outcome, you know, that’s obviously the unlikely event, there is no cost for our services. It’s only if we actually win the case, and that comes out of their backpay, so Social Security actually pays it to us directly.
JOHN MERCURE: They are the best in the business. Contact Tabak for the payback, it’s really easy. It’s tabakattorneys.com. tabakattorneys.com. Free consultations. They’ll get you hooked up. They’ll get you started down the right path to becoming whole.
Lauren Zwirlein at Tabak, thank you so much for being with us on the Sunday Sip.
LAUREN ZWIRLEIN: I appreciate it, thank you.
Transcribed by Karen Renee of eCourt Reporters www.ecourtreporters.com