Information and Answers

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys and friendly staff will be happy to answer all of your questions. When you come to our office, you will meet with an attorney.

Click on a Practice Area for answers to common questions. This information is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact us.

Social Security Disability
Personal Injury
Worker’s Compensation

 

Beacon Medical Group Southeast Neighborhood Health Center
1708 High St., South Bend, IN 46613
Phone: 574-647-1400  

 

Centennial Clinic
621 Memorial Drive, South Bend, IN 46601
Phone: 574-647-2500  

 

Indiana Health Center - Project Homecoming
701 South Main St., South Bend, IN 46601
Phone: 574-235-7990

 

Sister Maura Brannick, CSC, Health Center
326 Chapin St., South Bend, IN 46601
Phone: 574-335-8222

 

E. Blair Warner Family Medicine Center
714 N. Michigan St., South Bend, IN 46601
Phone: 574-647-7477

 

Heart City Health Center
236 Simpson Ave, Elkhart, IN 46516
Phone: 574-293-0052

 

Healthlinc - Mishawaka
420 W 4th St, Mishawaka, IN 46544
Phone: 574-307-7673

Social Security Adult Disability Report (Form 3368)

  • Use this form to plan your online disability application or to organize yourself for a meeting with your attorney. Be sure to provide as much detail about your doctors as possible.

Social Security Work History Report (Form 3369)

  • Use this form to outline in detail the work you have done over the last 15 years and to organize yourself for a meeting with your attorney.

Indiana Worker’s Compensation Application for Adjustment of Claim (State Form 29109)

  • Use this form to file a claim with the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board.

Social Security Application for Disability Insurance Benefits (Form 16)

  • Use this form, along with the Adult Disability Report, Form 3368, to prepare your application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or to organize yourself for a meeting with your attorney.

Social Security Request for Reconsideration (Form 561)

  • If you are in Indiana, use this form to appeal the first denial of your disability claim. This form does not apply to you if you are in Michigan.

Social Security Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (Form 501)

  • Use this form to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge:
  • If you are in Indiana, after your Request for Reconsideration has been denied.
  • If you are in Michigan, after your initial application for disability benefits has been denied.

Social Security Disability Report – Appeal (Form 3441)

  • Use this form to plan your disability appeal or to organize for a meeting with your attorney. Be sure to provide as much detail about your doctors as possible.

Social Security Consent For Release Of Information (Form 3288)

  • Use this form to give a lawyer who is not yet representing you permission to look at your Social Security disability file.

Social Security Information​

www.ssa.gov

  • Official website of the Social Security Information, linked to their Disability webpage.

www.nosscr.org

  • The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) is committed to providing the highest quality representation and advocacy on behalf of persons who are seeking Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. This site also provides useful links for individuals seeking information about Social Security disability.

www.medicare.gov

  • The official site for Medicare provides answers to Medicare questions.

Worker's Compensation Information​

www.in.gov/workcomp

  • Indiana Worker’s Compensation website, providing general information to employees about Indiana Worker’s Compensation Law and links to forms for filing claims.

Indiana Courts Self-Help

http://www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice/2333.htm

  • Website provides numerous self-help forms, including petition to modify child support.

Services for the Poor and Needy

www.in.gov/fssa/

  • Information about Indiana Medicaid, Cash Assistance (TANF), and Food Assistance/Stamps (SNAP).

Indiana Legal Aid

www.indianalegalservices.org

  • Civil legal assistance to eligible low-income people throughout the state of Indiana.

www.cfh.net

  • South Bend Center For The Homeless website.

Social Security Disability

Social Security expects disability claimants to seek help from doctors.

Congress requires that your inability to work be caused by a “medically determinable impairment.” That means that you must have medical evidence showing you have a problem that negatively affects your ability to work.

Medical evidence most often exists when you seek help from your doctors and you continue to seek help to resolve your pain or other difficulties. Medical evidence also exists when your doctors support your claim for disability benefits and write a report in your favor.

At any stage of your disability application, an attorney can be helpful by (1) making sure Social Security has all the medical evidence available that proves you have a medical problem that prevents you from working and (2) talking with your doctors about your problems and getting reports from them that translate your problems into Social Security’s understanding.

Imagine if you were sitting on a jury in a car accident case. If the person asking you to award her money has not been to a doctor, would you feel OK about awarding her money? It is a simple but sometimes unfortunate fact that if a person does not see a doctor, the outside world can only believe that person is not sick.

Therefore, we always encourage our clients to seek help from a doctor. Even if you have no money or insurance, you should seek help from a free clinic. A list of clinics around South Bend is available by clicking on this link. You could also seek help from the Volunteer Physician’s Network. You can ask a doctor at the clinic about this network. This network may be able to provide you with free tests and surgical procedures.  

Creditors cannot garnish your Social Security benefits. However, if you mix your Social Security benefits with other money in a bank account, then creditors may find a way to get ahold of your Social Security money. It is often wise to have your Social Security benefits deposited into a separate bank account in which only Social Security money is placed.

However, if you owe child support, then some of your Social Security Disability benefits may be garnished to pay for the child support you still owe. If you think you are disabled, you should seek a modification of your child support obligation. Indiana has a helpful website here. If Social Security decides you are disabled, it is often wise to let the local prosecutor’s office and the court handling your child support obligations know about your new situation.

If you are only awarded Supplemental Security Income benefits because you are not insured for Social Security Disability benefits, then the state cannot take any of your benefits for child support.

 

The legal definition of disability is the same for anyone over 18 years old. However, one of the questions Social Security asks is whether you can adjust to other work that exists in the economy. If you cannot perform the kind of work you did in the 15 years before you apply for disability benefits, and if you cannot adjust to other work in the economy, then you are disabled.

Social Security has different expectations about your ability to adjust to other work in the economy depending on your age and skills you have developed from your past work.

  • If you are 49 years old or younger, you are generally expected to re-train and adjust to any other work in the economy, unless you have an intellectual disability.

  • If you are more than 50 years old and you can no longer do the kind of work you used to do, then special rules apply that make it less difficult to get disability benefits because Social Security has diminished expectations about your ability to re-train and adjust to other work.

  • Getting disabiliy becomes even less difficult if you are over 55 years old.

  • Here are some examples showing how these age categories work:

    • Jeff is 39 years old. He has been a cashier at a grocery store since graduating from high school. Jeff has developed multiple sclerosis and can work, but can only work if he can sit down eight hours a day and does not have to use his hands too much for typing. Jeff is most likely not disabled because he can probably adjust to simple sit-down work not requiring too much typing.

    • Sally is 52 years old. She has also been a cashier at a grocery store since graduating from high school. Sally has also developed multiple sclerosis and can work, but can only work if she can sit down eight hours a day and does not have to use her hands too much for typing. Sally will probably be found to be disabled because she cannot perform the type of work she used to do and does not have any skills that would allow her to adjust to sit-down work.

    • Joe is 57 years old, has been a machinist for the last 19 years, and had to stand eight hours a day and lift and carry up to 50 pounds at work. Now, Joe has a permanent shoulder problem that limits his lifting to under 10 pounds, but he can still stand eight hours a day. Joe will probably be found to be disabled because he cannot do the type of work he used to do and, even though he has special skills, those skills will not help him do new types of work with his 10-pound lifting limitation.

Social Security income is taxable income. Whether you will owe taxes on that income depends on your total income for the year.

You are more likely to owe taxes if you have other sources of income in addition to your monthly Social Security benefit.

You are also more likely to owe taxes if you receive a large lump-sum backpay award from Social Security. In that case, you may want to figure your taxes by parceling the lump-sum payment according to the years in which the money was originally owed to you and then amending your taxes for those previous years.

IRS publication 915 ​explains how to calculate taxes on your Social Security disability income. You should seek​ the advice of an attorney or a tax professional when deciding how to handle your taxes because figuring taxes when you receive Social Security benefits can sometimes be complicated.

You can and should apply for benefits immediately if you believe your medical condition will prevent you from working for at least 12 months.

If you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, then your retirement benefits will be “frozen.” This is good because when you earn little or no income in a given year then your retirement benefit amount is negatively affected. If you are disabled and your retirement benefits are “frozen,” then instead of having zero or very little income being added to your retirement benefit calculation, Social Security will ignore the years in which you are disabled so that your inability to work does not negatively affect your retirement benefit amount.

Retiring early will diminish your retirement benefit amount, and that is a decision that may cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the rest of your life. If you are faced with a choice of applying for Social Security Disability or retiring early, you should talk to a lawyer about your options because if you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, then you will effectively retire early but with your full-retirement benefit amount.  

There is a five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability benefits from the date your disability began. This means there is no money for the first five full months of your disability. Here is an example:

  • Social Security decides on December 2, 2014 that you are disabled.

  • They say your disability began on January 15, 2014.

  • Your waiting period is five full months: February, March, April, May and June 2014. The first check owed to you is for July 2014.

  • You will receive a backpay award that covers money owed to you for July, August, September, October and November 2014.

  • You will receive monthly benefit checks going forward beginning in early January 2015, which is the check for December 2014.

Medicare benefits are available to Social Security Disability recipients (but not to SSI recipients) beginning with the 25th month of Social Security benefits. Here is an example, similar to the one above:

  • Social Security decides on December 2, 2014 that you are disabled.

  • They say your disability began on January 15, 2014.

  • As noted above, your first check is for July 2014. Your 25th check will be for July 2016. Therefore, Medicare begins for you in July 2016.     

We believe we have unparalleled knowledge, experience and education.

Attorney Steven Parkman worked for Social Security, where he met claimants, gathered facts, explained the Social Security program, and made non-medical claims decisions. Mr. Parkman has been handling Social Security cases as an attorney for more than 30 years.

Attorney Peter Ladwein graduated with highest honors from the University of Notre Dame Law School and clerked for the Honorable Robert L. Miller, Jr., a federal district court judge in South Bend.

Susan Parkman, our Social Security Expert, worked for Social Security for 19 years processing claims and supervising operations.

For more information, we encourage you to visit the website of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) at www.nosscr.org. Their website addresses many specific questions about Social Security Disability. We are members of NOSSCR.

The medical decision of whether you are disabled is the same for the two programs. If you are disabled for one, then you are disabled for the other. However, there are different non-medical eligibility requirements:

  • Social Security Disability: If you are disabled and you have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough, then you will be entitled to Social Security disability. Two and a half (2.5) years from the determined onset date of your disability, you will be eligible for Medicare. Your assets and resources are generally not considered in whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability. However, if you are receiving worker’s compensation benefits, your Social Security Disability payment may be reduced.

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): If you have not worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability, you may still be eligible for SSI. You can be awarded SSI benefits if you are disabled and you have very limited assets and resources. You can receive both Social Security Disability benefits and SSI benefits if your Disability benefits are low enough. If you already qualify for SSI benefits, it is likely that you will qualify for Medicaid benefits in the state of Indiana, and if you already qualify for Medicaid benefits, then it is likely that you will qualify for SSI benefits.

Yes. When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, be sure to apply for SSI benefits as well. You may receive SSI benefits during the five-month waiting period for disability benefits if you meet certain income and resource requirements. Also, if you hire a lawyer, you may receive additional SSI benefits that can help pay for your attorney’s fees.

Indiana Medicaid’s standard for disability is similar to Social Security’s standard. If you are approved for Medicaid disability, that is evidence that you are disabled. However, Social Security will make an independent decision about whether you are disabled and sometimes, Social Security’s decision is different than Indiana Medicaid’s decision.

However, if you are approved for Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits, Indiana Medicaid will generally approve you for Medicaid benefits.  

First, you should appeal. As many as 70 percent of all claims are denied at the initial claim. You must appeal within 60 days of the denial date. You should contact your local Social Security office, call the national toll free number, 1-800-772-1213, or visit www.ssa.gov and request the appropriate forms for the appeal. If you think you need an attorney to help you, feel free to contact us. The appeals process varies by state, but in Indiana the process is:

  • Reconsideration: This is the first level of appeal after your initial claim is denied. The request for reconsideration must be filed within 60 days of the date on the letter you receive stating you were denied (the “denial notice”). The state of Michigan skips this step.

  • Hearing: This is the second level of appeal in which you request to have an Administrative Law Judge review your claim in a somewhat formal courtroom setting. The request for hearing (your second appeal) must be filed within 60 days of the date on the letter you receive stating you were denied (the “denial notice”).

  • Appeals Council Review: If an Administrative Law Judge denies your claim, then you may ask the Appeals Council to review the decision. The request for review must be filed within 60 days of the date of the hearings denial notice.

  • Federal court: If the Appeals Council denies your claim or simply decides not to review your claim, you may file a lawsuit in federal court. Your attorney can explain this process to you or you can call the clerk’s office of your nearest federal court and ask them about the process. The website for the clerk's office for the federal court in Northern Indiana (South Bend Division) is found at this link. The attorneys in our office are fully capable of handling your appeal in federal court.     

No. You can go through all of the steps of your claim, and all of the appeals, on your own if you want.

But, statistically, people who have a lawyer to represent them, have their claims approved more often than those who do not have a lawyer’s help. Social Security’s standard of disability is difficult to prove, and it is your responsibility—not Social Security’s responsibility—to prove you are disabled. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney will know what evidence is needed to prove your disability.

Social Security attorneys can be helpful at any stage in the claims process. Usually, your local Social Security office will help you file your initial claim, so you do not need an attorney at this step. However, sometimes an attorney can be helpful even in this early stage because an attorney’s special skills may be needed to gather the evidence needed to prove you are disabled. Social Security will gather your medical records, but sometimes a lawyer can do more to make sure all the evidence is truly complete in your file.

An attorney can also be helpful if you are denied and need to appeal. An attorney is most helpful if you have to appeal your claim to an Administrative Law Judge. The attorney can assemble the medical evidence and talk about your claim with the Administrative Law Judge in a language the judge understands.

Social Security defines “disability” as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

This means that you are disabled if your medical conditions prevent you from doing the type of work you did in the 15 years before your disability began. You also may be required to show that your condition prevents you from adjusting to other work in the economy. Generally, if your medical conditions prevent you from earning roughly $1,000 per month for 12 consecutive months, then you are disabled.

If you earn more than $1,070 per month in the year 2014, you are not disabled, no matter how bad your medical conditions may be. For example, Stevie Wonder was blind, but he was not disabled for Social Security purposes because he could earn more than $1,070 per month by playing music.

If your medical problems prevent working for less than 12 months, you are not disabled for Social Security’s purposes (although you may be entitled to disability payments from other sources, such as a private Long Term Disability insurance plan). For example, if back surgery prevents you from working for only six months, you are not disabled.

At the Law Offices of Steven T. Parkman, you do not pay any fees unless your benefits are awarded. Attorney fees are paid from back pay that Social Security owes you and are generally not allowed to exceed 25 percent of your retroactive money or $6,000—whichever is less. The Social Security Administration approves all fees before the lawyer can be paid.

If you are in need, our firm can advance expenses and costs (such as the cost of obtaining medical records or a doctor's report), which you will pay back after you receive your retroactive money from Social Security.

Personal Injury

  • Take notes about the details of the accident, including the names and addresses of witnesses.

  • Get the police report and make sure it is accurate.

  • Get prompt and appropriate medical treatment, if necessary, and follow the doctors’ directions.

  • Photograph or videotape the vehicle(s) and any visible injuries.

  • Report the accident to your insurance company, even if you do not feel the accident was your fault. Ask your insurance company if they provide benefits such as medical insurance or collision coverage that may help you. Generally, you should cooperate with your insurance company.

  • Avoid discussing the circumstances of the accident and your health history with the other driver’s insurance company. They usually will not pay your medical bills until you are ready to settle or get a jury verdict.

  • If you are unsure of what else to do, feel free to contact us. Almost all attorneys who handle these cases will be happy to talk to you for free.

If you were seriously hurt when you fell, you may want to talk with an attorney about the compensation owed to you. It also may be wise to avoid talking with the insurance companies until you have received advice from an attorney.

Places of business must take reasonable actions to be sure customers are safe. Owners and employees must watch for dangerous conditions and warn customers about any dangers. A business may be liable for your injuries if they fail to take these reasonable actions. 

Landlords may owe you compensation if you are injured in the common area of a building or on the sidewalk. Homeowners may owe you compensation if you are injured by an unreasonably unsafe condition on their property.

Contact us if you would like to speak with an attorney about your injuries.

The most common types of compensation, also called "damages," include:

  • Bills for reasonable and necessary medical treatment.

  • Lost wages/earnings.

  • Pain and suffering.

  • Scarring or other disfigurement.

  • Inability to function the way you did before the accident.

You should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. There is a time limit on when you can bring a lawsuit. In Indiana, the time limit is generally two years from the date of the injury. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on January 1, 2010, then January 1, 2012 was the last day you could file a lawsuit. However, it is usually better to file a lawsuit within 1.5 years of your accident because if another party contributed to the cause of the accident, you want to have time to find out who that is and include them in the suit within the two year deadline.

There are exceptions to the two year time limit, and if you think one of these exceptions applies to you, you should call an attorney right away:

  • In certain types of accidents involving the state, county or local government units, including schools, the law requires that you take action within 180 days of the accident;

  • Injuries that are not discovered right away, injuries to minors, and injuries to incompetent persons (for example, persons who have mental handicaps) are also potentially different. In these cases, the law may allow you to file a lawsuit more than two years after the date of injury.

  • If you have doubts about your situation, feel free to contact us for help.

In most personal injury cases, attorney’s fees are paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay no money up front to hire the lawyer and the attorney’s fees are deducted from your settlement or verdict. No fees are due unless we recover money for you. Our firm charges the same contingency for verdicts after trial as we do if we settle your case before trial.    

If your injuries are minor and you are sure that you have healed or will heal, you may not need an attorney.

However, if your injuries are serious or if you do not know whether you will heal or get worse after an accident, you may want to talk with a lawyer. It probably will not surprise you to learn that insurance companies will sometimes try to pay you as little as possible. An attorney can evaluate your situation and advise you about your rights to just compensation for your injuries.

 

Worker's Compensation

If you have been injured while on the job, you will likely be covered by Indiana Worker’s Compensation. You will not be covered by Worker’s Compensation if your injury occurred while doing personal errands during the workday, or if you hurt yourself while goofing around at work.  

You should immediately report any injury that occurs during the workday to your employer. If your employer will not take your report of your injury, you should call the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board at 317-232-3809. You can visit the Worker’s Compensation Board online at www.in.gov/workcomp. You may also contact us about your situation

  • Weekly Payments: The employer must pay two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage up to a set limit for the time you are unable to work. This is called Temporary Total Disability (TTD). You will only get paid for the first week if you are off work for at least 21 days. These weekly checks will usually stop when the doctor says you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (meaning, you have medically healed as much as you are going to heal, not that you are back to 100% of your former health).

  • Medical Treatment: The employer must provide medical treatment for your work-related injury. Your employer has the right to decide who will treat you for this injury. If you prefer to choose your own doctor, your employer may not be required to pay for these services unless it is an emergency or other special circumstances apply.

  • Permanent Impairment: If you do not fully heal from your work-related injury then you will likely be due additional money. The amount of money depends on the degree of impairment and what is impaired. A physician will assign a Permanent Partial Impairment (PPI) rating. This rating is expressed as a percentage. The PPI formula can be confusing. An attorney will be able to explain the fomula as it relates to your specific situation and in terms that you can understand. 

  • Total Permanent Disability: If you are totally and permanent disabled because of your injury, you may be due two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage for the rest of your life and sometimes compensation for your longterm medical care.

No. Under Indiana Worker’s Compensation law, you cannot be fired just because you filed a claim for Worker’s Compensation. However, Indiana is an employment at-will state. You could be terminated for other reasons not related to your Worker’s Compensation claim.

You should talk with an attorney if you think your employment was terminated because of your Worker’s Compensation claim.

The law protects your Worker’s Compensation benefits from being collected by creditors, so creditors cannot touch your benefits.

However, if you owe child support, up to 50% of your Worker’s Compensation award can be taken from you to pay for the child support you still owe.

It depends, but usually no. The employer generally will continue to owe you Worker’s Compensation benefits even after you are fired. However, if you were fired because you violated company policy, such as being intoxicated on the job or not following posted safety policies, your employer can challenge your Worker's Compensation claim.

Each case is different and may require that you consult with a lawyer.

Your weekly benefits should continue. A more difficult question exists if you think your employer is not following your doctor’s instructions. If that happens, you may want to speak with an attorney.

Probably not. Worker’s Compensation is usually the only remedy when your injury is caused by your employer or co-worker. You may be able to receive Worker’s Compensation and sue someone else who is not your co-worker if they caused your injury. For example, if you are in a car accident while making a delivery for work, you could receive Worker's Compensation and you could sue the other driver. However, if you get both Worker’s Compensation and money from the other driver, you may have to pay back some or all of the Worker’s Compensation money.

In many situations, you can handle your Worker's Compensation claim by yourself with your employer.

However, there are many other situations in which you may want to speak with an attorney, including:

  • You think your employer is not respecting your rights;

  • You have been offered a settlement but you are not sure it is a fair offer;

  • You think you are permanently disabled and your employer does not agree.

Contact us if you think you need to speak with an attorney.