Frequently Asked Questions
What do you want to know?
What do you mean by the phrase, “Truly Disabled”?
Just what it sounds like. We want to help the truly disabled. Not the “soon to be disabled, so I have filed early” or the “I would not be disabled if I just quit drugs/alcohol or simply followed my doctor’s orders” … you get the idea.
Does our background mean we know the disability system inside out? Yes, but we choose to use those skills and knowledge with a tight focus on the truly disabled.
If you won’t take my case, does that mean I am not disabled?
No. Disability is a legal decision made by Social Security. Just because PounceLaw does not take your case does not mean that Social Security will not find you disabled. If we don’t take your case, we may be able to help you find someone who is a better fit.
PounceLaw does not play the “numbers game” (see FAQ, “What Is The Numbers Game”) but gives personal help to every client we take. Many more disabled people need help than we can give. We can’t say yes to everyone right now, but help is on the way! Stay tuned for classes and events put on by our partner, Pounce Academy.
What is a Medical Source Opinion Letter? ( . . and why do I need one?)
A Medical Source Opinion Letter (MSOL) is:
- Written or typed
- By a doctor (or other medical provider) *
- Saying you cannot work full-time because of a medical problem
- For more than twelve months.
Your chances of obtaining Social Security disability benefits are much better if your medical provider is “on your side.” That is, they agree you are unable to work full-time because of your medical condition AND they agree to write down the reasons why.
How much an MSOL can help you in your Social Security disability case depends. Everyone’s case is different. But it ALWAYS helps if you are careful to follow the recommended treatment of your own provider and to keep your appointments. Not only is good medical care likely to help you get better, but a medical provider who sees you paying attention and following your treatment plans will want to help you.
What if my medical provider won’t write a Medical Source Opinion Letter for me?
If your provider is unwilling to provide you with a Medical Source Opinion Letter, carefully consider the reason they give.
- It may be too early: Maybe your condition may or is likely to improve with further or different treatment.
- The provider may believe (rightly or wrongly) that you are not disabled. Sometimes a provider may feel unqualified to render an opinion if some of your conditions are outside their area of practice (for example, you have both mental and physical ailments).
- It may be against their policy: Some providers just have a policy of not providing MSOLs. If that is the case, please consider contacting a representative in your area who can help you with your case.
Why should I care about your experience as a trial lawyer?
Because if Social Security doesn’t grant you disability benefits in either of its two lower levels, you can ask for a hearing. Hearings are, above all, uncertain, which is why courtroom skills matter.
A representative who has had courtroom experience learns to think on his or her feet, to adapt to new situations and take advantage of new opportunities when they arise. They know how to frame the story of their client- your story- in a way that best presents your point of view. They know how to show the ALJ that your story matches what the agency is looking for.
As a Social Security disability judge, I spent eight years watching and listening to representatives in the Social Security Disability field. I can tell you that poorly trained reps ask the same questions in hearing after hearing.
Because they ask the same questions, there is little to no impact. It’s like using a hammer to fasten a screw, a bolt, and a staple. Sometimes the rep finds a nail and the hammer finally succeeds. The other part of a rep’s job is to know the client’s medical record and be able to oppose the expert’s testimony. Many reps have no idea how to do that and have spent no time at all in the client’s file. And if their client gets into “trouble” with the ALJ or with the expert testimony, those reps have no idea how to fix the problem. This leaves you, the client, “swinging in the breeze,” your chances of success declining by the moment. This is NOT a good place to be. It is NOT the best time to find out that your rep doesn’t know what’s in your file, or that they can’t fix simple problems in presenting your evidence. No single client can see this. ALJs, however, can and do see this every day.
If you, or someone you love, is truly disabled, imagine them in the hands of a rep who cannot effectively cross-examine an expert witness because they have never done it in “real court.”
Most representatives are well-meaning, and many are also hard-working, but Social Security disability representatives generally don’t get paid very much. This means that they must take more cases than they may have time to prepare, just to pay their bills.
Even so, there are some effective representatives out there. Do your homework if you want to hire one. And come back to our site often because we have courses on how to hold your representative accountable. Then, even if they mess up, maybe you won’t have lost everything!
I’ve been told I have a “low paying ALJ” assigned to my case. What does that mean?
ALJs are rated by the number of cases in which they grant disability (not by the amount of money they award). So a “low paying ALJ” issues benefits less frequently than a “high paying ALJ”.
Why would you refuse my case?
Unfortunately, we cannot help every person who wants our skills and services. When I started PounceLaw, I gave up being an ALJ to focus only on bringing a fast solution to those who needed us most.
What that means is that even if someone is disabled under the rules, we may have to turn them away. But we will always give help. Please check our website – we are here for you!
I already have a rep. Can I hire you instead?
Yes, you can hire us. Assuming we both agree, we will help you end your current relationship with your representative and obtain a copy of your file.
If I want to follow PounceLaw’s Best Practices in my Medical Source Opinion Letter, what should I do?
First – congratulations on your desire and willingness to present your case in the most effective manner possible. It will take a bit of effort, but it is well worth it.
Here are the Best Practices:
- Choose to request a MSOL from a provider that treats you regularly.
- The value of a MSOL is based upon not just your statements about your symptoms but also objective evidence, like MRIs, x-rays, lab reports or exams of you. Therefore, remember to follow through on all recommendations for testing by your provider.
- The most persuasive MSOLs come from providers who specialize in treating the impairment that prevents you from working full time.
- If you are disabled because of a mental impairment: from a treating psychiatrist or psychologist.
- Back or other skeletal injury/condition: from your treating orthopedist.
- In all cases: your primary care provider is also helpful, because they usually participate in referrals and know about all your conditions.
What is the “numbers game”?
The numbers game is a statistical approach that many disability firms use to maximize their income. Unfortunately, this approach, while logical, can rob individual candidates for disability from careful and targeted case preparation. Because the model at its very core is based on statistics, the question of who is truly disabled is not important.
Here’s how it works: Assume the pay rate for a given hearing office is 50%. That means the office pays 50%, or half, of all the cases coming into the hearing office. Now this pay rate does not mean the ALJs are tossing coins. It is merely the statistical average after each case is independently decided.
Nonetheless, one can easily see that if a representative (or “rep”) has ten cases coming up for hearing in a month, that rep may logically assume that five of them will be paid, or 50%. Each paid case would authorize a representative fee based upon the back award. “Volume” firms are almost always based on this model.
Wait. Usually, you “get what you pay for.” Will it cost me more for Michael to represent me?
No. The Social Security Administration sets the fees across the board. They are generally capped at 25% of the back award or $6000, whichever is less. However, because of our unique processes, we will make every effort to get your decision as quickly as possible, thereby lowering the cost you may pay for our services.
My friend’s rep quit because a “low paying ALJ” was assigned to the case. What if I get a “low paying ALJ”? Should I give up?
No. ALJs are not your adversary. Many low paying ALJs have approved disability in cases after the representative quit their case solely because a low paying ALJ was assigned. Remember, a firm that uses the “numbers game” model believes that a low paying ALJ “gums up the works” and requires more effort for them to get the same outcome. It is more cost-effective for the rep to quit than to continue.
PounceLaw does not play the numbers game. We will not quit your case because an ALJ has a low pay rate. ALJs are incredibly hardworking, under-supported professionals. It is our job to get your case before these professionals as quickly as we can and with the right evidence to win the decisive moment- regardless of any arbitrary statistic associated with the judge.
Can you explain what you mean by “winning the decisive moment”? How does PounceLaw do that?
When we talk about winning the decisive moment, or moment of decision, we are talking about providing the ALJ with overwhelming evidence of your truly disabled status. We will not trickle in the evidence. We will not provide just enough to tip the scale. We are PounceLaw – we will fix the issues in your case and then show the judge every point that proves your case.
This not about winning at all costs. It is about putting all the facts on the table so that the ALJ “gets it.” Right then, right there. Contrary to what you may have heard, all ALJs feel very good inside when they can grant benefits to a truly deserving claimant.
At PounceLaw we take this realization on board as a solemn responsibility to provide the ALJ with everything she/he needs the first time. Not after the hearing is over. We don’t believe it is right, or professional, to ask the ALJ for more time to dig up records that we should have found the first time. You will be prepared for any question or concern the ALJ may have.
Winning the decisive moment. PounceLaw, it’s what we do.