Possible Phishing Schemes

The Social Security Administration’s Acting Inspector General, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about a nationwide telephone “imposter phishing” scheme. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have received several reports from citizens across the country about persons receiving phone calls from individuals posing as OIG investigators. The caller indicates an issue exists pertaining to the person’s Social Security account or Social Security number (SSN) and directs the person call a non-SSA telephone number to address the issue.

The reports indicate the calls include a recording from a caller stating she is “Nancy Jones,” an “officer with the Inspector General of Social Security.” The recording goes on to say the person’s Social Security account, SSN, and/or benefits are suspended, and that he or she should call 806-680-2373 to resolve the issue. Citizens should be aware that the scheme’s details may vary; however, citizens should avoid calling the number provided, as the unknown caller might attempt to acquire personal information.

OIG investigators occasionally contact citizens by telephone for investigative purposes, but they will not request sensitive personal information from a citizen over the phone. If a person receives a similar suspicious call from someone alleging to be from the OIG, citizens may report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

Acting Inspector General Stone said, “This phishing scheme is targeting unsuspecting persons for the purpose of Social Security benefit theft or identity theft.” She warns citizens to be cautious, and to avoid providing personal information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it. “You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party, and that your information will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.

If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)

For more information, please contact Andrew Cannarsa, OIG’s Communications Director for the Social Security Administration, at (410) 965-2671. Also, feel free to call my office at (251)478-5297.

Please be safe and smart with your confidential information.

This information is shared with you to protect you by Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., a Mobile and southwest Alabama social security disability lawyer.


If you are seeking Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, one of the most important parts of your case is the medical evidence. One of the tips we give our clients is to THINK when you visit your doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc. The people providing you with care take notes of what you say. The things you say can help your case quite a lot. Examples are discussions about pain, medication side effects, etc. That is, when you testify at your hearing about pain or medication side effects, it strengthens your case to have those same problems documented in the records of your medical provider.

We frequently see examples of things people tell their physicians that do not help. When a physician asks how a patient is doing, and the patient says “fine, how are you”, the physician’s notes generally reflect that. While the patient may just be making conversation, thinking “I wouldn’t be here unless I really needed help”, the treatment note that the judge reads frequently says “patient had no complaints”. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that the medical provider’s notes will reflect what you say.

Other unhelpful examples we have seen in medical records may concern references to hunting, fishing, 4-wheeling, vacations, gardening, etc. When you testify at the hearing, you will probably be asked about your daily activities, and how your disabilities affect your life. If your testimony in court is that you are very limited in your activities and interests, but the medical records describe someone with an active life, the judge is more likely to believe what you told your medical provider.

Your medical evidence should be the strength of your case, not the weakness in your case. So, be sure to THINK. Your medical records should detail how your disability affects your daily activities, and thus your ability to work. If you have pain, medication side effects, limitations affecting your standing, sitting, lifting, bending, or your ability to stay awake or concentrate, your medical records need to reflect your symptoms.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., we work closely with our clients, to develop the medical evidence proving disability.   If you are interested in speaking to someone in our firm, we have a NO FEE/ FREE consultation. Please call us Toll Free at 1-800-544-3568, or in our Mobile, Alabama office at (251) 478-5297, or our Pensacola, Florida number, (850) 479-3552.

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Tips To Help You With Your Claim

If you are seeking Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, one of the most important parts of your case is the medical evidence.  It is important to your success to provide the Administrative Law Judge with all relevant evidence, including hospital reports, ER visits, and records of all physicians, psychologists, or therapists you have seen since your disability began.  However, the most important medical records are the treatment records of your treating physician, because many times this physician has seen you over a long enough period of time to have good insight into how your combination of conditions affects you.  Obtaining these documents is a time-consuming task, but having up-to-date medical records is a critical part of proving you are disabled.

Additionally, it is important to understand that almost all Social Security Disability files at the hearing office are electronic files.  There is no paper file folder.  It is not very helpful to show up the day of the hearing with a lot of paper medical records.  The medical records need to be submitted to the judge electronically.   If our office receives paper medical records, they are scanned, converted to a digital format, and electronically filed via Internet.  It is also important that the medical records be obtained and submitted well in advance of the hearing.  The more the judge knows about your conditions, the better the judge is able to prepare for the hearing.

Communicating with your attorney facilitates getting and submitting the medical evidence in a timely manner and is one of the ways that your representative can help you win your case.  It is very important to let your representative know about all of your medical treatment, so that these records can be ordered and submitted to the judge well in advance of any hearing.

Be sure to get the medical attention that you need.  Going without medical care can indicate that you do not have a medical problem or that your medical condition is not so severe that you need treatment.  When you get medical treatment, one tip we always give our clients, and one you should consider, is to COMMUNICATE with your attorney or representative about your medical care and treatment so that the evidence in your case can be developed.

At Byron A. Lassiter & Associates, P.C., we work closely with our clients, to develop the medical evidence proving disability.   If you are interested in speaking to someone in our firm, we have a NO FEE/ FREE consultation.  Please call us Toll Free at 1-800-544-3568, or in our Mobile, Alabama office at (251) 478-5297, or our Pensacola, Florida number, (850) 479-3552.

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National my Social Security Week

April 4th – April 13th is National my Social Security week!

We encourage you to sign up for a my Social Security account on the Social Security Administration website. A my Social Security account gives you access to personal information, tools and resources to meet your changing needs and lifestyles. With my Social Security, you are able request a replacement Social Security card, check your earnings record and find out about your benefit and payment information.

Start planning for retirement today with the help of a my Social Security account. Sign up at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/

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Medical Records and Your Disability Claim

claim help

You have an obligation to tell the Social Security Administration about your medical providers.  We help our clients obtain their medical records by requesting them from the treating sources, and then submitting them electronically, so that our client’s medical conditions can be reviewed by the Administrative Law Judge.

The medical records tell us, and the judge the following about you:

  • Your Medical history: Your doctor’s records will most likely describe your symptoms and indicate when they began.
  • Your Treatment: Your medical records will most likely provide a medical diagnosis suggested by your symptoms. The records also describe treatments recommended, provide details of any diagnostic testing, and indicate what medications, if any, are prescribed.
  • The Impact on your Life: Your medical records will, hopefully, describe how your disability affects your life. This is important information that you will need to provide to your doctor, as it gives the Administrative Law Judge an indication of how severe your medical conditions are, and provide important indications regarding whether you have the ability to work on a full time basis.

Remember: Your medical evidence needs to be the strength of your case, not its weakness.

Our law firm can help you with the development of your Social Security Disability and/or SSI claim.  We have helped hundreds of people establish their eligibility.  If you are interested in discussing your claim with us, please contact us for a free initial consultation.  We only charge a fee if we win your case!  Our phone numbers are as follows:

Mobile: (251) 478-5297

Pensacola: (850)479-3552

Toll Free: (800) 544-3568

Social Security Disability for Disabled Veterans

Did you know that if you are a disabled veteran the Social Security Administration (SSA) will expedite your claim when filing for disability benefits?

Veterans who have a 100% Permanent and Total (P&T) disability compensation rating from the Veterans Administration (VA), and are also pursuing claims for Social Security Disability benefits, will receive expedited processing of their claims by the Social Security Administration. Disabled veterans  should notify either their representatives, or SSA, immediately, to receive the expedited scheduling.  SSA will then verify the 100% P&T rating status with the VA. No additional proof will be required to receive the expedited processing by SSA.

The VA 100% P&T rating does not necessarily mean that the disabled veteran will receive approval on the claim for Social Security Disability benefits, as the regulations and definitions for eligibility under the two programs are different.  The disabled veteran will still have to prove, through acceptable medical and non-medical evidence, that all of the requirements for Social Security Disability will be met.  The good news for these veterans, though, is that their claims will receive preferential treatment as far as getting a hearing scheduled and decision made on their claims.

The SSA notes that this expedited policy does not apply to veterans with a 100% disability pension rating.  That is, it only applies to individuals with a 100% disability COMPENSATION rating.

Anyone with questions regarding this policy may, of course, call our office at 1-800-544-3568.  This policy should prove very helpful to our veterans who have served our country so well and deserve our gratitude so much.

Disability and Property Tax Exemptions for Alabama Residents

alabama-tax-exemptionsThe State of Alabama has enacted laws to help the disabled by providing a property tax exemption. Specifically, homeowners who are permanently and totally disabled enjoy the same homestead exemption as those who are over the age of 65, under certain circumstances.

In order to qualify, certain requirements must be met. First, it is up to the individual to request the exemption. That is, the person seeking the exemption has the burden of proving eligibility. The Revenue Commissioner does not have an obligation to prove someone qualifies for the exemption.

Under prior law, the exemption was only available to individuals having a net annual taxable income, for both the person seeking the exemption and his spouse, of $12,000 per year or less. Under the current law, as amended in 2013, there is NO INCOME LIMIT. While the 2013 law kept the income limit for individuals aged 65 or older, the income limit for disabled persons was removed.

There must be proof of total disability. This proof is not required to be in any specific form, but the law provides an easy way to establish total disability. The law provides that a written certification of total disability by any two physicians licensed to practice in the State of Alabama will be sufficient, providing at least one of the physicians is actively providing treatment related to the permanent and total disability. The Alabama Department of Revenue has helpfully provided a downloadable form, which is form PT-PA-1.

Alabama law provides an exemption from the affidavit for certain individuals, and the exemption covers most of the individuals who will receive the exemption. No affidavit is required for any person drawing any pension or annuity from the armed services, or a company, or a governmental agency, including the Social Security Administration, because he or she is permanently and totally disabled. The Department shall AUTOMATICALLY grant such individuals a certificate of permanent and total disability.

The exemption from property taxes is for the principal residence of the person seeking the exemption. Therefore, a vacation home would not qualify. The exemption is only for single-family residences. The exemption covers the principal residence and up to 160 acres of adjoining property. This property tax exemption is documented at Code of Alabama (1975) § 40-9-21. A person who qualifies for the exemption is not required to renew the request for exemption after the initial qualification, but can simply verify the continuing disability by mailing in a form provided from the Tax Assessor/Revenue Commissioner.

What should I do if my claim for Social Security Disability benefits gets denied?

I am frequently asked the question “What should I do if my claim for Social Security Disability benefits gets denied?”. The answer, however, depends on the specific facts of the person’s situation. In general, though, there are at least five (5) things you should do if your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied.

  1. You must file an appeal within sixty (60) days of the date of the denial letter. Depending on the state in which you live, that may be either a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Hearing. In Alabama, it is a Request for Hearing, but in Florida it is a Request for Reconsideration. If you miss the deadline, you may be excused for filing late, if you can establish “good cause”, but this is generally difficult to establish, so it is best to get the appeal filed on time.
  2. If you are denied after reconsideration (if, for example, you live in Florida) you have sixty days to request a hearing with an administrative law judge.
  3. If your claim is denied by an Administrative Law Judge, you should request a review of the decision by the Appeals Council.
  4. If you are denied by the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit in federal court.
  5. Before you do any of these things, you should seek the advice get help from a seasoned Mobile or Pensacola Social Security Disability attorney. There are a lot of factors that come into play in establishing eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. If you would like additional information or would like to set-up an appointment for a free initial social security disability evaluation, please contact us via our contact form or call us at 251.478.5297 in Mobile or at 850.479.3552 in Pensacola.

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How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability?

I am frequently asked how does one apply for Social Security disability benefits and what do I need to have. The Social Security Disability application is rather detailed. Applications can be made either online, or by going to the local Social Security office. If you are going to go to the Social Security office, you should call to arrange an appointment first. If you are going to apply online, you will still need to get organized before beginning.

The Social Security Administration has provided a checklist of the information you need to complete the application. Here is a link to the site: https://www.socialsecurity.gov/hlp/radr/10/ovw001-checklist.pdf

The purpose behind the Social Security disability application is to provide the Social Security Administration with the information that is needed to determine whether you are disabled, and to whom benefits may be payable. That is, if you are disabled, there may be additional benefits payable to your dependent children. But before any benefits are payable, a lot of information must be obtained. The process is complicated, and it is important to be able to prove you meet all the criteria for the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled”, and each element requires the appropriate documentation. The lack of appropriate documentation is the main reason people who are genuinely disabled are often turned down.

At our law firm with offices in Mobile and Pensacola, we only handle Social Security Disability and SSI claims. As a result of that disability law specialization, we have gained a great deal of expertise in the area of Social Security Disability law. If you have questions about Social Security or SSI benefits, give us a call at 251.478.5297, or contact us online.

How does the Social Security Administration determine if someone is disabled?

The Social Security Administration social security benefitshas several thousand regulations regarding the proper way to determine whether a person is disabled.  A lot of factors go in to making that determination, but some of the main factors are a person’s age, education and work experience, as well as the extent of documentation that can be obtained regarding a person’s physical and mental condition.  Sometimes, but not always, the Social Security Administration will arrange for physical and/or mental evaluations to get more information about how a person is functioning, mentally or physically.

The Social Security Administration’s definition of disability is somewhat different from the way the term is used in general conversation or in other government or private programs.  The Social Security Administration only pays for total disability.  There are no benefits for partial disability, and no benefits for short term disability.  One either qualifies for benefits based upon total, long term disability, of one does not qualify for any Social Security Disability benefits.

To be meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, the person must be unable to do the work that was done in the past.  The regulations, in general, look back at the work a person has done within the last fifteen years.  Jobs further back in time than that, as a general rule, do not count, because over time, the requirements of a job change, and frequently change quite a bit.      

The regulations also consider whether an individual has the ability to do other work.  This is a part that many people don’t understand when they come to see me.  Even if you can’t do the work you have done in the past, a person does not meet the definition of disability if there are other, full time jobs that the person can still do.  Many private policies of disability insurance pay benefits if a person can no longer do their most recent job.  SSA does not look at it that way, though.  If there are other full time jobs a person can perform, the person does not meet the definition of disability.

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Additionally, the person’s disability must either have lasted, or be expected to last, at least twelve consecutive months, or be expected to result in death.   One can file for disability without waiting for that 12 month period to end, and I generally encourage people to file if their disability is expected to keep them from working full time for at least twelve months.

There are many other provisions relating to SSA’s definition of disability, so each person’s case is unique.  I enjoy figuring out which regulations can help our clients, and getting the information together that proves a person meets the program’s complicated requirements.  My goal is to find a way to help our clients who are genuinely unable to work on a full time basis, by using the various regulations applicable to the specific circumstances of each client’s case.  I would like to speak with you and find out the specifics of your disability and how the disability law regulations can apply in your case. If you would like to set up a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case, please contact me.

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