What’s the most important consideration in choosing your SSDI or SSI attorney? The ability to win.
These 14 cases are a small sample of the successful results New York attorney Stephen Jackel has obtained in representing clients. Notice the broad scope of disability circumstances in which he has won significant benefit awards.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Cases
A client in his late 30s suffered a debilitating back injury and was unable to work. Social Security refused to give him any compensation. The man was eventually able to return to his job, but was due back benefits of $26,000 for the period he was out of work. Stephen appealed the case. By making a compelling presentation with MRIs, X-rays and other medical evidence, he won the full amount of compensation the client was owed.
A disabled man in his mid-40s was clearly entitled to receive SSDI benefits because he suffered from serious depression and severe diabetes requiring daily insulin injections. Yet he was denied because a judge found his treatment inconsistent and the medical records insufficient. The client had an employment history as a trombone player and warehouse worker, but due to alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness, lost his home and was living in a shelter. Stephen scheduled another hearing, giving his client time to get a new primary care physician and enter a regular treatment program. By presenting new medical evidence at the second hearing, Stephen then won an award of over $25,000 in back benefits and continuing monthly financial support for his client.
In one difficult SSDI case, the client suffered from diabetes and serious emotional illness. Stephen contacted Social Security staff attorneys to request an immediate decision, which was warranted by the circumstances. His presentation of the facts was so persuasive that benefits were granted without the client even having to wait for a regular hearing!
Time is of the essence when obtaining benefits for serious illness. One client was a victim of myasthenia gravis, an extremely debilitating condition with symptoms of fatigue, vision problems, difficulty swallowing and general weakness. Stephen made a convincing case before the administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration. He won almost $16,000 in back benefits for the grateful client, along with the ongoing financial support she desperately needed as the disease progressed.
Stephen represented a man who developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He’d worked as a clerk for a law firm. During the World Trade Center crisis, he helped as a volunteer by hauling debris to the Staten Island landfill. His exposure to the trauma of viewing body parts triggered mental illness. He’d also developed breathing difficulties from his work at the WTC site. Even with all these problems, he was still denied benefits. Yet when Stephen took the case, he was able to obtain over $20,000 in Social Security Disability back benefits for him, as well as future monthly benefits.
One client, a 55-year-old Vietnam vet who worked most of his life as a mover, developed severe depression and began having panic attacks if exposed to noise or stress. Although physically healthy, he was unable to work and became homeless. He eventually wound up on public assistance, but was denied benefits by the Social Security Administration, which believed him still capable of working. After hearing the claimant’s testimony at a hearing and reviewing the reports and records obtained by Stephen from his client’s treating psychiatrist and therapist, the judge issued a fully favorable decision. The claimant received about $25,000 in back benefits, as well as ongoing monthly payments.
Sometimes clients are embarrassed by their conditions, particularly if emotional illness is involved. Yet if they have the courage to seek benefits, they can gain the compensation they deserve. Stephen handled a case for a woman in her 40s who suffered from bulimia and anorexia. These illnesses are known for symptoms of secrecy. Because the client bravely came forward, Stephen was able to get benefits for her. Although her award was diminished because she returned to full-time work, she still got $5,000 in SSDI benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Cases
The firm represented a woman in her early 20s who, sadly, had an extensive history of physical and emotional abuse. As a child, she was shuttled between foster homes. The impact of this emotional trauma was that she suffered from panic attacks, anxiety and depression. In addition, she was a “cutter,” inflicting mutilating injuries on herself. She had also attempted suicide. When Stephen took the case, she was attending college part time and on public assistance. The stress of juggling college and a job were too much for her, and she couldn’t work. Her claim was initially denied. Stephen engaged the help of supportive doctors and won back benefits totaling over $10,000, along with ongoing monthly SSI benefits. With these funds, she was able to continue school part time, affording her the possibility of building a better life.
The firm helped a man in his 30s in an unusual case, which clearly demonstrates that even the most well-intentioned judges can at times lose sight of the unique nature of emotional illness. The client was afflicted with AIDS and mental illness. AIDS used to be a routine favorable decision in New York, but that’s no longer the case because with effective medication, people with the disease often can still work. Stephen presented conclusive medical proof of disability from a treating psychiatrist, but the judge insisted on seeing “objective” medical evidence — even though the claimant was an on-and-off homeless person, a former drug abuser and quite obviously in need of help. Stephen argued that objective tests like MRIs or CAT scans cannot document an emotional malady, reminding the judge that in these cases, psychiatric testimony is often the only available evidence. He won over $23,000 and an award of ongoing Supplemental Security Income benefits for his client.
Stephen represented an autistic adult client who experienced increasing difficulty at work after her father’s death a year earlier. She had a long history of employment at fast-food jobs, but needed employment monitoring and assistance by social workers. Stephen secured SSI benefits for her totaling over $17,500, allowing her to continue receiving group and individual therapy, along with caretaker visits four evenings a week. With this financial support, she was able to move into supportive housing and retain her independence.
Stephen’s client was a young man with a criminal background. He was in prison from the time he was 19 to age 26. His medical history included severe mental illness and drug abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse cases can be difficult to win, since Social Security regulations preclude benefits when the disability is due to illegal narcotics or alcohol. Using both prison and medical records, Stephen argued that the client’s emotional illness was a separate and distinct condition from his substance abuse problem. He won the case, gaining an award of monthly SSI benefits for the man and back benefits of approximately $20,000.
A woman was afflicted with adrenal insufficiency, resulting in her having masculine features. The illness led to additional symptoms of nervousness, depression and inability to concentrate. Stephen proved she was unable to work and won SSI disability benefits of $18,000 for her, in addition to ongoing financial support.
The firm represented a young man with mental illness so severe that he was picked up by the police while he attempted to direct traffic in the nude and was then hospitalized. After a denial at the first hearing, Stephen was successful in getting the judge’s decision reversed by the Appeals Council, which granted a second hearing. He won benefits the client clearly deserved at that hearing.
Stephen assisted the parents of a 12-year-old child with “oppositional behavior.” The boy rebelled against authority figures and was violent. In addition to these serious emotional problems, he had a mild learning disability. Because he was so disruptive at school, he also required medication. Stephen established a rapport with the assistant principal and got extensive reports from the school, which were essential in making a powerful presentation. By combining the school reports with the medical records, Stephen constructed a solid case. The successful result: The boy’s parents were awarded $8,000 in retroactive SSI benefits and continuing monthly payments for their son.