Happy Birthday Delano! Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps Kern County city celebrate centennial anniversary

April 14, 2015 | 6:00 am


In 1873, Southern Pacific Railroad decided to build a post between Kern and Tulare counties. They named the area in honor of Columbus Delano, the U.S. Secretary of Interior at the time.

Forty-two years later — on April 13, 1915 — the City of Delano was officially incorporated. And 100 years later, today, Delano is celebrating 100 years.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor of Delano’s Centennial Celebration, culminating with a parade and festival on Saturday, April 18. The City of Delano held a birthday party celebration on April 13, the day the city was incorporated.

As the Delano100.com website explains, Delano has long been regarded as an “international community,” populated by people whose origins are from Mexico, Spain, China, France, Japan, Philippines, Russia and India, among others. Last year, for example, thousands congregated in Delano for a month’s worth of events designed to unite, celebrate and commemorate the Kern County city’s large Filipino population. It was the city’s 40th Philippine Weekend.

And the area has long been known for its agriculture and its farmers, who have the task of feeding the world. In the 1960s, for example, Delano became known as the headquarters of the United Farm Workers and its efforts to organize farm workers.

Today, the city hosts some of the best schools in Kern County, and is being continues to develop commercially and attract various large industries, according to Delano100.com. In fact, Delano is being revitalized with a new 160-acre commercial center and residential growth.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles and its attorneys are proud to support the celebrations honoring the City of Delano. In fact, workers’ compensation* lawyer James Yoro, who is Filipino, takes part each year in Philippine Weekend.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles often takes park in the Delano Chamber of Commerce‘s street fairs, which give CCS a chance to answer Delano resident’s legal questions, share tips and information, and give out CCS goodies to the families in Delano.

For Delano’s Centennial celebration, the city has been host to several events already.

  • Delano held a “Centennial Celebration Gala” on Jan. 31.
  • The “Delano Centennial Music Memorial” was held Feb. 26.
  • The “Centennial Music In Our Schools” program was held March 26.
  • The “Centennial City Walk and Earth Day Celebration” was held March 28.
  • The “Happy Birthday City of Delano” event was held April 13.
  • Finally, the “Centennial Parade and Festival” will be held Saturday, April 18, which will feature vendors, concessionaires and exhibitors. The parade begins at 10 a.m. in downtown Main Street after the Kiwanis Club Pancake Breakfast. The festival follows the parade at 12 p.m. at Cecil Park and will feature food, games and fireworks.

For more information on the Centennial celebration, visit the Delano100 website by clicking here.

10 things every employer should know about workers’ compensation

March 25, 2015 | 9:37 am


Note: The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Kern Business Journal, which you can view by clicking here. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of the The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

By James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo

Responsible employers and responsible employees want the same thing: to work in a safe and healthy environment. But despite the best efforts of all involved, accidents can and do happen, and a work injury is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved.

The workers’ compensation* system is based on a trade-off between employees and employers – employees are supposed to promptly receive the benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, the workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured employees against their employer.

An employer should respond quickly and appropriately to an employee’s work injury claim so as not to unnecessarily delay the provision of the needed benefits.

But the process can be more complicated than that. Here are five things employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries:

1) The employer has a duty investigate.

The law requires that when an employer has been made aware of any facts which would lead to a conclusion that an injury has occurred on the job, the employer must investigate the incident. Being made aware of the incident can be any reporting or complaint made to a supervisor, foreman, manager, administrator or any person of authority.

2) Provide a “claim form” to the employee.

Unless the injury resulted in first aid only, within one day of having knowledge of the injury, the employer must provide a “claim form” to the injured worker. Once an injured employee completes and returns the claim form to his or her employer, workers’ compensation benefits should start flowing quickly if the injury is industrial.

3)  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.

An injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment. The injured worker does not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the accident.

4) Workers’ compensation is a benefit delivery system.

There are five types of benefits to which the injured worker may be entitled: temporary disability, permanent disability, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, and death benefits.

5) There are two ways to settle a workers’ compensation case.

Once the case is ripe for settlement, the case may be settled by way of “Stipulation with Request for Award,” where the employee is paid a small weekly benefit ($230 to $270) for the percentage of permanent disability that a doctor has assigned to the injured worker, and is also entitled to any continuing reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, the medical treatment is still under the control of the employer’s insurance company. The other type of settlement is called a “Compromise and Release.” In this case, the employer through its insurance carrier negotiates to buy-out the insurance carrier’s obligation to the injured worker for benefits and future medical care for a lump sum settlement paid to the employee.

As a bonus, here are five more general tips employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries.

1) No employee wants to get hurt on the job.

If you have good employees then give them the benefit of the doubt when handling their claim.

2) Employees don’t plan on getting hurt on the job.

Just because there are no witnesses to the employees accident or injury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The vast majority of on-the-job injuries are not witnessed by anyone. In addition, most employees are reluctant to report injuries unless they are serious or until they become so.

Consider the following scenario:

A warehouse worker who is required to unload trucks has a particularly busy shift on a Friday when he suddenly tweaks his back lifting a load in the afternoon. Rather than stopping work and reporting it at that time, he decides to try and finish out his shift and see if he can rest it over the weekend in the hopes of alleviating his pain. However, despite resting his back over the weekend, it does not get better and when he reports for work on Monday morning, he is unable to do his regular duties and then reports his injury to his foreman.

Once again, if this person is a good employee, then give him or her the benefit of the doubt and process the claim.

3) Injured employees do not get rich off of workers’ compensation benefits.

If an injured worker is placed on temporary total disability by the company doctor, the benefit is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This benefit is only available for a total of 104 weeks. This means that if an employee has a serious injury that requires hospitalization or multiple surgeries, they may run out of benefits before they have had a chance to recover. Thereafter, the maximum benefit the employee would be entitled to receive is $230 to $270 per week for a limited period of time. In addition, all medical treatment that the injured worker receives is controlled by the insurance company. Injured workers are not entitled to receive any monetary benefit for pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings.

4) Do not discriminate against the injured worker.

Labor Code section 132a makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or in any manner discriminate against an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, or has made known his or her intention to file such a claim or has received a disability rating, award or settlement. Whenever possible, the employer should make good-faith efforts to determine whether or not the employee can be returned to work with reasonable accommodations.

5) Treat the injured worker the way you would want to be treated if you suffered an on-the-job injury.

Employers should try and follow the Golden Rule whenever an employee suffers an on-the-job injury.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

And if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Failing workers’ compensation system ‘adding inequality to injury’

March 10, 2015 | 10:25 am


Note: The following article was written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner James A. Yoro, who manages the Bakersfield-based law firm’s Workers’ Compensation* Department, for publication into The Bakersfield Californian’s “Community Voices” section. You can the full article in the Kern County Journal here

By James A. Yoro

One of the most important protections that employees have is a workers’ compensation system that is supposed to provide them with minimum necessary benefits when they suffer an injury on the job.

This system was predicated on a “Grand Bargain” that was initiated during the Industrial Revolution to deal with the rising tide of work-related injuries and death. The injured worker gave up the right to sue the employer for civil damages. In exchange, the employee would receive medical treatment and a sufficient amount of monetary benefits to help them get by during their recovery period. If their injuries caused some permanent limitation or restriction on their ability to function, additional benefits were paid to reflect their level of disability. If they were unable to return to their usual and customary job, they would be provided retraining to help them adjust to other more suitable employment within their limitations.

Workers’ compensation was a progressive idea that came to fruition at a time when we as a society recognized that it was not fair to treat injured workers as if they were nothing more than a piece of broken machinery – something to be discarded and replaced. Human capital is a valuable commodity that contributes to the success of our economy. Therefore, when workers get injured, they should be helped and cared for and not marginalized. Originally, this was the goal of the Workers’ Compensation system. At the beginning of the 20th century, all 50 states adopted such a system in accordance with this philosophy.

But in the last 15 years, things have gone horribly awry for the injured worker.

Within the last week, two investigative reports and several news articles – including by OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor, National Public Radio and The Washington Post – reveal how poorly injured workers are now being treated in the Workers’ Compensation system and the effect this cost shifting of the burden has affected our economy and our society.

The Department of Labor report titled, “Adding inequality to injury: The costs of failing to protect workers on the job,” summarized its findings as follows:

“The costs of workplace injuries are borne primarily by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net. Changes in state based workers’ compensation insurance programs have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits (including adequate wage replacement payments and coverage for medical expenses) to which they are entitled. Employers now provide only a small percentage (about 20 percent) of the overall financial cost of workplace injuries and illnesses through workers’ compensation. This cost-shift has forced injured workers, their families and taxpayers to subsidize the vast majority of the lost income and medical care costs generated by these conditions.”

The study concluded that the “failure of many employers to prevent millions of work injuries and illnesses each year, and the failure of the broken workers’ compensation system to ensure that workers do not bear the costs of their injuries and illnesses, are truly adding inequality to injury.”

I have represented injured workers for more than 25 years and I’ve seen firsthand this slow deterioration in the system and how it has affected those most vulnerable in our society – the injured, the handicapped and disabled – in their struggle to obtain the benefits they deserve and achieve some measure of dignity. At times, my level of frustration is overwhelming as I gaze into the eyes of my clients and see the look of quiet desperation in their eyes as they struggle to avoid near poverty, bankruptcy and sometimes divorce simply because they got injured on the job.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

If this is the measure for progress then the workers’ compensation system is in a period of regression. The “Grand Bargain” is no longer a bargain.

– James A. Yoro is a certified workers’ compensation attorney with nearly 40 years of legal experience, and partner at the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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Learn more about the recent reports on the workers’ compensation system:

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If you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

New attorney joins Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation department

February 3, 2015 | 9:13 am


The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has welcomed a new attorney to its team.

Beatriz Trejo has joined the firm’s workers compensation department as an associate, where she will represent injured Kern County workers alongside veteran attorney and Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner James Yoro.

“I’m very excited to join Chain | Cohn | Stiles in representing injured workers in Kern County,” Trejo said.

Trejo is joining a team of attorneys who, like her, grew up or have called Bakersfield home for decades. Trejo graduated from Highland High School in northeast Bakersfield, and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield. At CSUB, she was part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honor society.

She earned her master’s degree, also in political science, from Cal State Northridge, where she was vice president of the Pi Sigma Alpha chapter.

She earned her Juris Doctorate at University of Akron School of Law in Ohio in 2011. While she was there, she participated in the Trial Team Honor Society, and competed in several statewide and national trial competition. She was also vice president of the Akron Asian-Latino Law Student Association.

In Ohio, Trejo worked for Thomson Reuters, West, conducting legal research for Westlaw.com, and also worked as a law clerk for Akron-based law firm.

After earning her law degree, she returned to Bakersfield 2011, and worked for more than three years in the local office for a statewide workers’ compensation defense firm.

Outside of the office, Beatriz enjoys taking part in CrossFit, an intense fitness program. She’s also a fan of basketball, and cheers for the Los Angeles Lakers. Trejo is also fluent in Spanish.

If you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys, including Beatriz Trejo, at 661-323-4000. And visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here. See Trejo’s profile on Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ website by clicking here.

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Beatriz Trejo was featured in the Feb. 3, 2015 issue of The Bakersfield Californian in the “People in Business” section. Click here to see the article of Trejo about her addition to Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Work-related illnesses, Valley Fever, could result in workers’ compensation claim

January 20, 2015 | 10:22 am


Some people wouldn’t consider getting sick on the job as a workers’ compensation* injury issue.

“But you could be entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation system if you get ill on the job, and the illness is as a result of the job,” said James Yoro, workers’ compensation attorney and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Yoro recently spoke about this issue with radio deejay Sheri Ortiz on her show on The Groove 99.3. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here. Yoro and Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate attorney Beatriz Trejo also published an article recently in the Kern Business Journal focused on valley fever. To read that article, click here.

Specifically in the radio show, Yoro spoke about Valley Fever related to the workplace.

Under California law, Employers have responsibility to immediately report to Cal/OSHA any serious injury or illness, or death (including any due to Valley Fever) of an employee occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Employers also have responsibilities to control workers’ exposure to hazardous materials.

Valley Fever is caused by a microscopic fungus known as coccidiodes immitis, which lives in the top two to 12 inches of soil in many parts of California. When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving or high winds, fungal spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled by workers.

In Kern County, around 500 cases of Valley Fever are reported in a typical year. Of those cases, about 5 people die from Valley Fever., according to Kern County Public Health Services Department. Kern County is also a leader and resource for treating and taking care of those infected with this disease.

When fungal spores are present, any work activity that disturbs the soil, such as digging, grading or other earth moving operations, or vehicle operation on dirt roads, can cause the spores to become airborne, and therefore increase the risk of Valley Fever. All workers on sites where the fungus is present, and who are exposed to dusty conditions and wind-blown dusts are at increased risk of becoming infected, according to Cal/OSHA. Some of those workers include: construction workers and other workers on construction sites, including road-building and excavation crews; archeologists; geologists; wildland firefighters; military personnel; workers in mining, quarrying, gas and oil extraction jobs; and agricultural workers.

Because there is no vaccine to prevent Valley Fever, important steps must be taken to limit risk, especially for employers. Some of those steps are as follows:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

“It’s important that people are aware that if they work in dusty outside conditions and they acquire Valley Fever, there’s a strong possibility that it could be work related,” Yoro told Sheri Ortiz.

It’s important to note that half of all people with Valley Fever show no symptoms, or show symptoms similar to a cold. Another 40 to 50 percent develop an illness severe enough to prompt the person to go to a healthcare provider, which includes flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms typically develop between 7 and 20 days after the spores enter your body. And another 1 to 5 percent of Valley Fever cases have the fungus leave the main site (lungs) and spread to other parts of the body.

If you suspect you’ve gotten Valley Fever, or another illness, due to your job, first see a doctor to make sure diagnosis is correct, Yoro said. And if you believe you’ve contracted an illness or disease related to your profession, it’s important to retain an attorney as soon as possible.

James Yoro has been serving Kern County as an attorney for nearly 40 years. He specializes in workers* compensation cases with the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Call him at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. Viisit Yoro’s specialized workers* compensation website by clicking here.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles celebrates Delano’s 40th ‘Philippine Weekend’

July 24, 2014 | 8:48 am


Each year, thousands congregate in Delano for a month’s worth of events designed to unite, celebrate and commemorate the Kern County city’s large Filipino population.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to help the city celebrate its 40th Philippine Weekend, continuing this weekend.

Events and celebrations during the commemoration include a basketball tournament, a pub crawl, a parade, the Mr. and Mrs. Philippine Weekend Pageant, a dance contest, a variety of cultural and live musical performances, and the popular pork adobo cook-off.

“Philippine weekend began in 1975 as a way to unite American-born, Filipino-born and Mestizos — half Mexican, half Filipinos — and bring them all together, while showing the cultural history and the heritage of the Philippines,” co-organizer Jay Tamsi told The Bakersfield Californian.

On Thursday, attorneys for the Bakersfield personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm will attend the 40th Philippine Weekend Street Fair, organized by Delano Chamber of Commerce. They include workers’ compensation* lawyer and Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner James Yoro, who is Filipino, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate Neil Gehlawat, the son of a longtime and well-known Delano pediatrician, Dr. Dilbagh Gehlawat of Delano Pediatrics Group.

Earlier this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took park in the Delano Chamber of Commerce‘s “Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and Street Faire.” The street fairs give Chain | Cohn | Stiles a chance to answer local resident’s legal questions, share tips and information, and give out Chain | Cohn | Stiles goodies to the families in Delano.

This Thursday’s fair will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Main Street, between Cecil and 13th avenues. The fairs feature vendor and informational booths from Kern County service providers.

Attorney James Yoro will also be taking part in the adobo contest, judging who in Delano makes the best “unofficial national dish of the Philippines,” according to Tamsi.

“Not only do local families and restaurants compete, we now have people coming from throughout the state to participate in our cook-off, which is something that is very unique to our festival,” Tamsi told The Californian.

Besides the street fairs and during Philippine Weekend, you can also find Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ presence at several Delano restaurants and business — including Sylvia’s Clerical Solutions and Lupe’s Restaurant – where you’ll find our business cards.

UPDATE: Chain | Cohn | Stiles had a great time taking part in the Philippine Weekend festivities. Go HERE to see pictures from events.

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* NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Wondering if you’re eligible for Social Security Disability benefits? Find out here

April 21, 2014 | 2:07 pm


Have you stopped working because of a physical or mental health problem? Has the problem lasted for a year or more, or will it?

If you said “yes” to either question, Social Security Disability may be able to pay you and give you medical insurance.

So what is Social Security Disability? It’s a federal government program that provides assistance to people with disabilities. The process to apply can be long and confusing. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has developed a “fast facts” sheet to figure out if you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Slide through the pictures in this blog to read them and learn more.

The Bakersfield Social Security lawyers at CCS have also compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers related to Social Security Disability.

Q: Why should I apply for benefits? 

A: Entitlement to Social Security Disability allows you to receive monthly disability benefit checks for you and, in some cases, your family. In most cases, you will also receive a large lump sum payment for back benefits owed to you. 

You can become eligible for Medicare after two years of entitlement to disability benefits.

Even if you are getting Workers’ Compensation and/or long-term disability (LTD) benefits, your total present income may increase and you may be entitled to hundreds or thousands of dollars in back benefits.

Even though many group LTD policies offset other disability benefits, most policies do not offset Social Security’s annual cost of living increases. In addition, some policies only offset your individual benefits and not your family’s, and many policies have a minimum benefit payment that is not offset.

Your Social Security payments may be tax free depending on your other income, whereas LTD benefits are often taxable.

Q: Who is eligible for Social Security Benefits?

A: If you have worked long enough at a job where you pay Social Security taxes and have become disabled, you are probably eligible for disability benefits.

Even if you’ve never worked or haven’t earned very much money at your jobs, you may be eligible to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, that are for low-income people with disabilities.

Q: What does “Disabled” mean?

A “Disability” can be physical, emotional, mental, or a combination. The condition has to be serious enough to keep you from working and earning enough money for at least one year.

Q: I can’t do the job I used to do – am I disabled?

A: The test isn’t whether you can go back to a job you’ve lost. The test is whether you are physically and emotionally capable of doing a job that is generally available in the everyday work place.

Q: I am too old and no one will hire me – can I get disability?

A: Not necessarily.  The test isn’t whether you’ve been able to find a job recently or the chance that someone would hire you. There are some special rules called the Medical-vocational Guidelines that can help older people qualify for disability more easily. A knowledgeable attorney can help you make sense of those rules.

Q: I have a disabling condition but I’m not seeing a doctor – can I get disability?

A: You must have a doctor say that you are disabled “by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory findings.” Unfortunately, many genuinely disabled people can’t get benefits because they aren’t getting the right kind of medical treatment.

Q: I have a disabling condition and my doctor says I should be getting disability – why did I get denied benefits?

A: Unfortunately, many genuinely disabling conditions are difficult to diagnose or prove. In cases like that, it is up to your legal representative to present your doctor’s reports properly, and to convince the government that you deserve your benefits.

 

For several more Frequently Asked Questions and answers, go HERE, or visit our specialized web site dedicated to Social Security Disability.

And if you have any questions related to Social Security Disability, please call CCS. The attorneys at CCS — including Erica Scott and James Yoro — offer a free in-person consultation to discuss eligibility and there is no charge to speak to us on the phone.