KATHLEEN A. MELEZ
ATTORNEY AT LAW
Q. How can MelezLaw help you?
A. As a board certified physician and a practicing attorney, Dr. Melez specializes in legal issues where medical knowledge is essential. Dr. Melez can help your lawyer to represent you in court by evaluating a medical injury, providing explanation to support a case and by providing expert medical testimony both in settlement negotiations and in court. MelezLaw also represents disabled applicants in Social Security Disability proceedings and hearings.
Q. What is Social Security Disability?
A. Social Security administers two disability programs called SSDI and SSI. SSDI is an insurance program based on the amount of money you paid into the system (for example, early retirement if you are disabled). SSI is a needs-based program for disabled people on very limited incomes. Disability is evaluated by the same rules in both programs.
Q. What is the legal definition of disability for Social Security?
A. You must not be able to engage in any “substantial gainful activity (SGA)” because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that is either expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or expected to result in death. SGA defined in 2021 as earning $1310 a month ($2190 for blind people). You do not have to be bedridden or totally disabled and may qualify even when working if your income is under the SGA level.
Q. How is disability evaluated under Social Security rules?
A. Social Security has a compendium called the “Listings”, a detailed description of the signs and symptoms of illnesses listed by the major organ systems. These are considered to be the hallmark of severe disability preventing gainful employment and qualify the applicants for disability benefits. See at ssa.gov Listing of Impairments.
Q. How are medical conditions evaluated that does not satisfy the Listing requirements.
A. If your condition does not “meet or equal” a listing (as is the case with most disabilities), Social Security will evaluate your disability using your records to establish your RFC (Residual Functional Capacity). “What jobs you still can do, in spite all of your disabilities.” If your application is rejected, you have a right to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). MelezLaw can guide you through this process and represent you at the hearing, where an experienced lawyer’s help is often the deciding factor in winning the case. MelezLaw also represent clients in Federal District Court in a proceeding against the Social Security Administration when an Administrative Judge did not follow the applicable rules and procedures.
Q. What medical conditions qualify me for disability payments?
A. Any medically determinable physical and mental disability, even if it is not on the Listing, as long as the severity of the disease prevents you from gainful employment. This includes disabilities caused by the Covid-19 infection such as the so called “Long Haul Covid.”
Q. How is my attorney paid?
A. Most cases are paid on a contingency basis, regulated by Social Security. The attorney is paid 25% of the back pay due, up to a maximum of $6000. All other payment agreements must be approved by a Social Security Judge. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.