Ward Harper, Attorney at Law

Ward Harper, Attorney at Law (Phone: 801-272-7900 or 1-800-765-2141) (website: www.wardharper.com )

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Long Term Disability Insurance Benefits

These are benefits you may have obtained through your employer.  It is basically a contract between you and the insurance company.  You (or your employer) pay premiums, and you are entitled to benefits if you become "disabled" (the standards may not be the same as Social Security).  If you want to know your rights, you need to go to the contract.  It's provisions will almost always be included in an employee manual.  The law regarding these benefits is governmed by a federal statute called ERISA.  You need an experienced attorney to deal with these matters.  We can give you a referral to such an attorney and assist him in providing information about your Social Security case. DO NOT believe that the insurance case worker is most concerned about you, and DO NOT accept a referral to one of their advocates for your Social Security case.  The advocate may be more concerned about his relationship to the insurance company than about you.

Workers Compensation Benefits

If you have previously been entitled to workers compensation benefits, we may be able to obtain further benefits once your Social Security case is won.  However, disability must be "caused" by your injury.  (What is a cause is legally complicated.)  The injury may have been 20 years ago, if you reported it to the Labor Commission.  DO NOT sign a settlement agreement with the insurance company without legal counsel.  You may be signing away all your future rights and benefits.

Why hire a local attorney?

We have seen a proliferation of national firms taking Social Security cases.  Are they better than a local attorney?  The answer is no.  An attorney who practices locally knows the judges with whom he is dealing.  All judges have different ideas about the law and about different kinds of evidence.  Second, if your local attorney has done a good job in the past, he has a good reputation with the judges.  It is a sad fact that all the national firms have terrible reputations with judges.  They will typically send a junior attorney or paralegal out the day of your case, who will meet with you for the first time at the hearing.  I have heard of many cases where they did not even have the medical file.  When you call their offices, you will never talk to the same person twice.  They typically hire a bunch of low-wage unskilled employees to answer their phones.  It is a racket.  And they charge the same fees.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is the disability trust fund solvent?

We have been seeing news reports that claim that the disability fund will be insolvent by 2017, while the general fund will be insolvent by 2027.  This is highly misleading.  First, the amount allocated to disability is corrected regularly.  The last time they allocated, they underestimated the amount of disability that would be currently paid.  But second, the fund is not a piggy bank.  "Insolvent" means that at that point the money coming in from FICA taxes will no longer exceed the amount being paid out.  If that happens, the government can run another deficit, or the problem can be easily fixed by raising the retirement age, raising taxes, limiting benefits in other ways like means-testing, etc.  We face far bigger problems with Medicare costs.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2010 Results

In 2010, up through the administrative law judge hearing, I won 110 cases and lost only 2.  Those two cases are on appeal to the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration.

You should have hired an atttorney be the time you have a hearing.  I would suggest hiring one much earlier.  It should be obvious that the attorney needs to have experience with Social Security law and with the Utah judges.  The attorney should practice regularly before the judges who will hear your case.  All the judges are different.  If your attorney does not know how the judge thinks, he cannot do as good as job as one who does.  Because of this fact, you should not hire a national firm.  There are various firms that advertise on tv or have misleading websites that pretend to be government sites.  Many of them do not even have attorneys representing their clients because it is cheaper to hire someone else.  Hire the best.  It won't cost you any more money because any reputable attorney charges a standard fee of 25% of past-due benefits or $6000, whichever is less.