We believe everyone who is capable of working for a living is better served financially, psychologically and therapeutically by doing so. However, when you are incapable of performing full-time work, a social security disability attorney at Gustad Law will help you in all aspects of your disability claim!
Washington Social Security Disability Lawyer
Our social security disability lawyers have represented more than 4,000 people with SSDI / SSI claims in Washington state. If you need help appealing a denial or applying for SSDI and SSI, contact our law firm right away.
Social Security Disability Attorney Serving Washington State
Gustad Law Group represents individuals with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Our core mission is obtaining federal disability benefits from the Social Security Administration for you. If you need help appealing a denial or applying for SSDI and SSI call us today at 206-533-2222!
Personalized Service with a Team Approach
Gustad Law Group provides personalized, effective, zealous legal representation in your claims for disability. We work directly with you from the initial application through administrative hearing and even into Federal District Court if need be. On our staff we have former employees of the Social Security Administration with familiarity of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income application process. Our staff has trained with and worked side by side with former employees of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). ODAR is where the administrative hearings are held to determine an individual’s eligibility for SSDI and SSI. We combine extraordinary experience and expertise and use all our staff’s skill, knowledge and ability to ensure you have the most effective representation possible for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income!
Areas of Practice in Washington State
Effective Social Security Disability Attorney Representation
John-Paul Gustad is the founder of Gustad Law Group and has personally represented more than 4,000 people in claims for SSDI and SSI. Personalized service is central to the mission of Gustad Law Group. Effective representation begins with an attorney who works with you from the initial intake through the award of benefits and the post-entitlement process. Your case is unique and personal and you deserve individualized attention from your attorney. You deserve to have your case handled by an experienced attorney who works with you from the outset to through the successful award of benefits. We work regionally with clients all over the Puget Sound, Eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho. We have established professional relationships with hundreds of medical professionals in the region and we will personally contact your physician or medical providers to obtain letters of support for a finding of disability. Having former SSA and ODAR staff ensures your answers accurately reflect your conditions and circumstances and don’t allow the Social Security Administration to fill in the blanks because we do not leave any. Wherever you are in the application process for SSDI and SSI, call us today for a free consultation.
We have three locations in Washington State. We are located in Seattle, WA, immediately next to the SSA Seattle North Office at 13510 Aurora Avenue North, Suite C-1. We are also located downstairs of the Tacoma Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) where the administrative hearings are held at 2413 Pacific Avenue, Suite 120. We also have an office in Spokane, Washington at 1312 N. Monroe Street, Suite 229. We accept walk-in clients and always provide a free consultation! Get in touch today.
Navigating the SSDI/SSI Process
- Determine Eligibility: Before applying, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for either SSDI or SSI, or both. SSDI requires a work history that provides you with sufficient work “credits” to qualify for coverage and having a qualifying disability or disabilities that prevent you from working on a full-time basis. SSI does not require the requisite work credits that SSDI requires but is based on financial need along with qualifying disabilities that prevent you from working. The medical determination for both programs is identical.
- Gather Documents: Collect relevant documents such as medical records, employment history, and financial information to support your application.
- Application Process: Apply online, by phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. Complete all required forms accurately and thoroughly. You have the best insight into these answers, you are the foremost expert on your own history and conditions!
- Medical Evaluation: Expect to undergo a medical evaluation to assess the severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work.
What to Expect
- Review Process: The Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your application then refer the application to Disability Determination Services (DDS) where it is assigned to an adjudicator (decision maker). The adjudicator will consider your medical records, and supporting documents to determine if you meet the disability criteria. While the adjudicator must consider supportive documentation from your doctors, DDS will NOT ask for these as part of the application process.
- Decision Notification: You will receive a decision letter outlining whether your application has been approved, denied, or if further information is needed.
- Appeals: If your initial application is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision which is called a Request for Reconsideration. If the Reconsideration is denied, you have the right to appeal this decision by filing a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If the ALJ denies your claim(s), you have the right to appeal this decision by filing a Request for Review of a Hearing Decision Order with the Appeals Council.
How Long Will It Take?
- Processing Times: The time it takes to receive a decision can vary. Initial application processing can take several months, while appeals may extend the process. While SSA is allotted 120 days to make a determination on an application, we have seen a significant backlog and delay in the processing times of applications.
- Disability Determination Services (DDS): SSA contracts with each state’s office of DDS to make the medical determination on a claimant’s applications for SSDI and SSI. At DDS, the claim is assigned to an adjudicator who is responsible for obtaining and organizing the claimant’s reports and medical evidence. The adjudicator relies on medical opinions by DDS’ own examining physicians as well as reviewing physicians who offer opinions based on a review of all medical evidence of the claimant’s medical evidence. Once the adjudicator makes a determination, the claim is often reviewed by the SSA Disability Quality Branch (DQB) to determine whether they agree with the adjudicator’s determination on the claim. If this process sounds bureaucratic, cumbersome and time consuming, that is because it is. It is impossible to know the exact duration of a determination on an SSDI/SSI claim but Gustad Law Group will ensure that the claim moves forward and follows up with adjudicators and SSA.
- Appeals Timeframes: If the initial application for SSDI/SSI is denied, most states use a Reconsideration appeal process, which must be filed with SSA within 60 days of the Notice of Disapproved Claim. The entire claim file is then assigned to a different adjudicator who makes a new and independent decision on the claim, with a similar time frame and process outlined above. If the Reconsideration is denied, a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) must be timely filed, again, within 60 days of the Notice of Reconsideration. Most Reconsiderations are also denied; however, the Reconsideration appeal must be filed as the claimant must follow the administrative appeals process. The wait for a hearing before an ALJ takes approximately 12 to 16 months to be scheduled from that date the hearing is requested. Gustad Law Group will ensure that your appeals are filed in a timely manner.
- Approved: If your application is approved, you will start receiving your SSDI or SSI benefits. These benefits provide financial assistance to help cover medical expenses, housing, and other essential needs.
- Denied: If your application is denied, don’t lose hope. Many initial applications are denied, but the appeals process provides further opportunities to present your case and additional documentation must be considered. If you are denied, presenting your case to an ALJ provides you with the greatest likelihood of success. The ALJ MUST provide you with the opportunity to have an attorney present at your administrative hearing. This right is not endless so if the ALJ grants a postponement to secure legal counsel, do so as soon as possible!
- Appeals Success: If your appeal is successful, you may receive retroactive benefits dating back to when you initially applied for SSI and with SSDI, the retroactive benefits MAY be payable up to one year prior to the date of the application.
The Administrative Hearing is where the claimant has the opportunity to present evidence including medical documentation as well as verbal testimony to the ALJ, explaining why the claimant has been unable to work and is entitled to SSDI/SSI. The burden of proof is on the claimant to prove disability to the ALJ using SSA’s 5-step Sequential Evaluation Process. The proceeding is run by the ALJ who may call a Medical Expert (ME) to testify about the claimant’s medical conditions and will certainly rely on a Vocational Expert (VE) to testify about the claimant’s work history. The ALJ also presents various hypothetical limitations to the VE to determine if the claimant would be able to perform competitive employment in the United States.
The hearing process is fraught with exacting rules, administrative details, highly specific policies, and little-known rulings that can impact the claimant’s entitlement to SSDI/SSI benefits. Gustad Law Group handles every aspect of your case, including obtaining updated medical records, supportive medical opinions and preparing your testimony for the hearing and cross-examining all witnesses called by the ALJ. Gustad Law Group has presented more than 5,000 cases at the hearing level before ALJs over the course of 22 years of legal practice.
Staying Active During The SSDI Application Process
Waiting for a decision on your SSDI/SSI application can be challenging, but there are several productive steps you can take:
- Maintain Medical Treatment: Continue attending medical appointments and following prescribed treatments. Consistent medical records can strengthen your case.
- Keep Records: Document any changes in your condition or circumstances. This information might be relevant during the appeals process if needed. Be sure to notify Gustad Law Group of these changes.
- Explore Support Services: Look into community resources, support groups, or vocational rehabilitation services that can assist you during this waiting period. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) wants to see that you, the claimant, is pursuing all available and necessary medical treatment in an effort to improve your health and conditions. Additionally, if you decline to pursue recommended medical treatment for your conditions, the ALJ can minimize the impact of these disabling conditions on your ability to work.
- Financial Planning: While waiting for a decision, evaluate your budget and consider adjustments based on your current financial situation. Explore local assistance programs that may be available to you.
- Stay Informed: Stay informed about the progress of your application by checking your online account (if you’ve created one) or reaching out to Gustad Law Group.
- Mental and Emotional Well-being: Waiting can be stressful, so it’s essential to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. Engage in activities you enjoy and seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals.
- Avoid Bad “Optics”: I strongly discourage you from travelling outside of your home state unless it is absolutely necessary. Rightly or wrongly, many ALJ view elective travel as proof that your conditions are not as severe as you allege. The standard for SSDI and SSI is high, and we usually have to prove that you are incapable of doing any jobs that exist in the national economy.
A two week stay in Hawaii or a trip to Paris will make the job of proving disability more difficult. Likewise, your reports to your medical providers become part of your record that is reviewed by the fact finder. Helping out your elderly parent with dementia or caring for the neighbor’s children while she goes to work, will require thorough explanation. The process for obtaining SSDI and SSI is difficult, and it is not administered by a compassionate administration that gives you the benefit of the doubt. SSA is looking for reasons to deny your claims for SSDI and SSI, regardless of how hard you have worked or how profound your impairments are. The adage “No good deed goes unpunished” was never truer than with this process.