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Scarcely a month goes by without my hearing the following sad mantra from a social security disability applicant regarding their appeal to the Appeals Council or the Federal Court after denial of a claim:

“I saw/heard a very professional looking/sounding ad on TV/Radio/Internet, called them and signed up. They seemed to be very concerned about my case.  I met my lawyer for the first time a year later, just before the hearing (or, he appeared at the hearing by phone because they were out of State). He* didn’t say much to the Judge. I don’t think he knew anything about my case. I was denied benefits. When I called the lawyer to find out what he could do to help me, I was advised that they don’t do appeals and to find another lawyer.”

The consequences of losing at the hearing level can be catastrophic. You may no longer be  insured if you have to reapply. At very least, benefits will be delayed for several years.

When looking for a Social Security Disability attorney, apply the following safeguards:


  1. Go to the advertiser’s website. If you see the following at the bottom of the home page, think twice before signing up.

          “Talk to an attorney right now!”


          “Not RealName.org is not a lawyer or law firm.”      

 These are not law firms. They are advertising services paid for by the lawyers and advocates  whose names are forwarded in response to user requests.  The lawyer you will be referred to is probably selected because he pays for the referral, not necessarily because he is competent.

  1. Never hire a lawyer until you first meet him, face to face. If it doesn’t feel right at the meeting, it probably isn’t.
  2. Hire a local attorney. He will be familiar with the Judge’s idiosyncrasies and will act accordingly. Additionally, you can schedule in person appointments without boarding a plane.
  3. Hire an attorney who is member of NOSSCR. NOSSCR is the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. The organization is committed to keeping members current on the law and changes to it and is committed to supporting a membership that provides high quality representation for claimants.
  4. Check the content on the prospective attorney’s website. If it is informative and helpful, it is worth a call and an office visit.

The delays once you file an initial application or an appeal are challenging enough so make sure the attorney you hire is by your side along the way.

*he means he or she.

[Read more…]

Four Important Reasons Why You Need a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

You are driving your SUV on Fleming Street in Key West, Florida when a sedan being operated by a texting teenager smashes into your vehicle. The distracted teen was speeding, so the impact was quite severe, resulting in extensive damage to you and your vehicle. In fact, you had to be transported to the hospital with injuries to your neck, back, and knees. In this scenario, hiring a Florida personal injury lawyer is extremely important. Below are four reasons why.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Lemmon via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by Matt Lemmon via flickr

Focus on Recovery

Do you really want to spend your days haggling with an insurance company to get the money you deserve? Instead, you should focus on your recovery and getting back to 100% health. Focus on your physical therapy visits and picking up the pieces of your life. Let your Florida car accident attorney haggle with the insurance company.

Knowledge of Personal Injury Law

Do you know the applicable statute of limitations for a personal injury case? Do you know where to find all of the applicable sources of insurance coverage for your claim? If you do not, that is totally understandable. Most non-lawyers do not. A personal injury lawyer is experienced in this area of law and that knowledge and experience can be put to use to help you get the compensation you deserve.

The Insurance Company Has a Team of Lawyers

When you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the claim is initially handled by a claims adjuster, but the insurance company also has a team of experienced defense lawyers ready to litigate personal injury claims with a goal of denying you from getting any money. Remember, insurance companies focus on making a profit. Your injury claim hurts their bottom line, so they want to pay you as little as possible and would prefer to pay you absolutely nothing. You will hear reason after reason why you should not get any money from the claims adjuster and/or the insurance defense lawyer.

Level the playing field. Your Florida personal injury attorney will be your advocate. He or she will fight to get you the money you rightfully deserve. He or she will go to bat for you with a laser focus on protecting your interests rather than the interests of the insurance company. If you want to get the highest amount of restitution available, you need a personal injury lawyer.

Insurance Companies Treat Non-Represented Claimants Differently

It is an unfortunate truth that insurance companies treat claimants who do not have an attorney differently. They drag their feet in the hopes that you will let the statute of limitations expire. They will not offer you the most money they have available for settlement because they are not worried about you taking the case to trial and representing yourself to get a big judgment or verdict. Having a Florida personal injury attorney on your side changes that completely. They know that an experienced, aggressive injury lawyer can get a big verdict that will cost them even more money.

Contact the Experienced Injury Lawyers at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti Today

At the Law Offices of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A., you will be represented by a Florida personal injury law firm with over 30 years of experience representing people harmed in automobile accidents and other serious accidents. Review our past results here and learn what our clients have to say about our representation. Contact our firm today at 305-653-5555 to set up a no-cost, no-pressure consultation.

Vocational Experts at Social Security Hearings

It is unusual to have a social security hearing without a vocational expert present to offer testimony. Very often, the vocational expert makes or breaks your social security claim.

The vocational expert, hired by Social Security, assists the Administrative Law Judge by analyzing your residual functional capacity (advising the Judge what activities you are able to do despite your disabilities and limitations) and determines whether jobs exist in the national economy that you can still perform given your limitations.

The Judge will ask the vocational expert a hypothetical question incorporating your physical and mental limitations and ask the vocational expert whether and how many jobs exist that you can still perform. If the vocational expert can identify jobs within your residual functional capacity, most often you will be found to be “not disabled” because there is work available, even if you can’t find it.

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by truthrevealed via flickr

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by truthrevealed via flickr

In order to give valid opinions, vocational experts must have training and experience in vocational counseling or placement, an up-to-date knowledge of job requirements, occupational characteristics and working conditions, and a familiarity with the personal attributes and skills necessary to function in various jobs. If the vocational expert testifies that there are jobs in the economy that you (the hypothetical person in the Judge’s question) can perform, it is your lawyer’s job to show the Judge through cross-examination that the expert is not qualified, or that the expert’s opinion as to the existence of or the number of jobs you can perform is not accurate or reliable, that the opinion is not supported by the limitations reflected in the record, and/or to add additional limitations or restrictions to the hypothetical that the Judge presented that were omitted and may result in a different opinion.

For example, the Judge may have neglected to include your difficulties in concentration due to mental impairments in the hypothetical question.  While an extreme example, if the vocational expert has thus testified that you can work as an air traffic controller, an experienced social security attorney will be able to exploit this omission to get you disability benefits. As another example, if the vocational expert testifies you can be a cashier when the hypothetical question failed to include the fact that you have diabetic neuropathy and resulting numbness in your fingers, a lawyer will be able to demonstrate to the Judge that this is not a job his or her client can actually perform.

In my practice, we ordinarily send questionnaires to the treating doctors to disclose the claimant’s (applicant’s) limitations in sitting, standing, stooping, reaching, fingering, walking, concentrating, maintaining pace, memory etc. These additional limitations usually will appear in the medical record portion of your file as well. When cross-examining the vocational expert, we will add these limitations to the hypothetical question asked by the Judge and often will elicit an opinion that with the additional limitations presented, the claimant is not employable.

Successful cross-examination of the vocational expert is often the key to winning your case.  As such, it is important to hire an experienced social security attorney like myself, Martin Hoffman of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. to get you a favorable result at hearing.  Call us today to get a free, no obligation consultation.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Are You Disabled? How A Judge Decides Your Social Security Disability Claim

When your claim comes up for hearing, the Social Security Judge will go through a 5 step “sequential evaluation process” to decide whether you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.

Step 1

  • Whether you are working and, if so,
  • Whether the work the claimant is doing constitutes substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial Gainful Activity is generally work that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month. In 2013, that amount is $1,040 for non-blind disabled applicants, and $1,740 for blind applicants.

If you are working, your claim will be denied. If you are not working (SGA), the Judge will go to Step 2. [Read more…]

Social Security Disability Appeals

You have the right to appeal any decision Social Security makes as to your entitlement to Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

The first step in the appeals process is called a reconsideration determination. You will receive a new decision by someone who had no part in the first decision. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a letter explaining how they made the decision. It is very difficult to get SSA to change their minds in a reconsideration request unless there is substantial medical information that was not received or considered during the initial determination.

If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you have the right to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). [Read more…]