Attorney specializes in Social Security disability claims
By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Business name: Law Office of Sara G. Kilkenny
Address: P.O. Box 724, Stow, MA 01775
Owner: Sara G. Kilkenny
Contact Information: 978-897-1993
What is your legal specialty?
“I practice Social Security disability law, a specialized area. I also do private disability law, representing plaintiffs who are trying to get short-term or long-term benefits from a private disability insurer,” said Sara Kilkenny, who has a law practice based in Stow and serving the Metrowest and greater Worcester area.
“I worked with the Social Security Administration in the Office of General Counsel for almost seven years. I took a break when I had my children, then started my own practice about 11 years ago.”
How do people know they need a disability lawyer?
“A lot of times people don's know. Social Security disability benefits replace income when people most need it, if they are disabled prior to retirement. The definition of disability for Social Security is the inability to do any type of work for at least 12 months.
“If someone is unable to work and it looks like the problem is not going to resolve within a 12-month period??”for a lot of different reasons, whether they are in therapy or need to be retrained, they should consider Social Security disability benefits.”
How soon should a person begin the process?
“The two most common times people see an attorney are the beginning of the claim process because they don's want to handle the paperwork, or when they'se getting ready to go in front of a judge. It's often easier if an attorney has been handling a case from the start.
“It's worth calling an attorney early. Calling a Social Security attorney is always free. We don's get paid unless we win benefits. An attorney is paid a percentage of the earned benefits from Social Security, capped at $6,000 in fees,” Kilkenny explained.
Should people have private disability insurance?
“I tell people all the time to think about buying disability insurance if they are self-employed or do not have disability insurance through an employer. Think about a short-term disability policy that at least covers the five-month waiting period for Social Security, which does not pay benefits for the first five months that a person is disabled.”
What is the process for filing a Social Security disability claim?
“You have to be prepared for the long haul. File your claim, with me or by yourself, in the local Social Security office, by phone or online. It takes about four months to get the first decision. A very small percentage of people are approved at that first level, no more than 20 percent. You then appeal and that takes another four months. There's a little higher approval rate on appeal. People who are approved at these two levels usually meet very stringent medical requirements.
“The majority of people, if they are actually going to get benefits, need to have an administrative law judge hearing. It generally takes about two years to get to the hearing stage, but a much higher percentage of people are approved at a hearing. If you have a reasonable case, you have a reasonable shot.
“I prepare my clients and go with them to those hearings. The hearings are private and low-key, not open to the public. My job is to get all the medical records, and to discuss with the client and medical providers what that client is capable of doing.”