Archives for June 2012

Social Security Disability Process Can Be Daunting

The purpose of Social Security Disability benefits is to provide aid to those people who are unable to work due to a medical condition.  Unfortunately, many disabled people who meet the requirements are often turned down the first time they apply.  In fact, 65% of all initial claims for disability benefits are denied.

While there is an appeals process, it is very time-consuming, sometimes taking years to resolve.  Enlisting the assistance of an attorney at the beginning of the process can cut down on the amount of time spent waiting for a decision.

Even if an attorney is not retained during the initial phase,  seeking legal counsel during the appeals process  may decrease the overall amount of time it will take to obtain a decision and start receiving benefits.  In addition to the use of a lawyer, a basic knowledge of the disability determination process may also help shorten the wait.

Disability Process

An applicant’s file is reviewed by the Disability Determination Service in the applicant’s state. This group is composed of doctors and disability specialists who evaluate the application and then contact the applicant’s doctors to determine:

–        Status of the applicant’s medical condition

–        Date of onset of medical condition

–        Limitations resulting from medical condition

–        Results of medical tests

–        Treatment received

This group will review several other factors, including the severity of the medical condition, whether the applicant is currently working, and whether the applicant can perform any other type of employment.

In order to manage the system’s backlog, Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are granted for some terminal diseases that qualify from a list of 165 medical conditions (includes many types of cancer).   This system is meant to promptly provide a determination for benefits to obviously disabled applicants; however, even these applicants have been known to wait up to six months for benefits.

After the Social Security Administration has reviewed the application, they will issue a letter explaining whether an applicant has been found eligible for benefits or not. If benefits are denied, the decision can be appealed but it must be requested in writing within 60 days after the initial letter is received.

There are three levels of appeal for denied disability claims:

1.      Hearing by an administrative law judge

2.      Review by Appeals Council

3.      Federal court review

An applicant must begin with the hearing before moving to the next stages. If a hearing is granted, the applicant is allowed to attend, review the file used to make the decision and provide additional information. The administrative law judge may question the applicant and any witnesses the applicant chooses to bring along. After the hearing, the applicant will receive a letter and copy of the judge’s decision.

If another denial is issued, the applicant can appeal by requesting a review by the Social Security’s Appeals Council.  The council will review the information, but may deny the appeal without a hearing if it agrees with the administrative law judge’s determination.

The last step requires the applicant to file a lawsuit in federal district court.

In 2009, the initial determination took an average of four months. If appeals were required, they could take several years. Having the counsel of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney as early in the process as possible greatly increases the chance of receiving an accurate, timely decision, by helping to create an effective initial application and gathering the evidence needed for a successful appeal if needed.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to a competent attorney who specifically handles Social Security Disability claims and appeals.  Call 603-229-0002 or request and online referral.



NH Housing Mortgages Not Just for First Time Buyers

PRESS RELEASE – Bedford, NH  (June 19, 2012)

For the first time in its 35 years of mortgage lending, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority will offer affordable mortgage loans and downpayment assistance to all income qualified homebuyers throughout the state – not just first-time buyers.

Since 1976, New Hampshire Housing has provided nearly 39,000 mortgage loans to low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Approximately 90 percent of those loans have been to first-time buyers who were able to take advantage of the many benefits of the agency’s programs, such as homebuyer education, cash assistance for downpayment and closing costs, and low downpayment requirements.

Now, with the launch of the agency’s newly revamped loan programs, those same benefits are available to current homeowners who wish to purchase a new home. The revised program structures will also benefit New Hampshire Housing’s lending partners and real estate professionals through more streamlined application, underwriting and closing processes.

Read entire press release at

Purchasing a home? The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association  can help with a referral to a qualified real estate attorney to review your Purchase and Sales agreement and any other assistance you may need throughout the process.  Having an attorney to guide you can prevent issues that might crop up years later.  Call LRS at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.


Many Landlords Don’t Understand the Legal System

Under New Hampshire law, landlords must have “good cause” to evict a tenant.  The expiration of the lease does not meet that standard according to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  A bill to change that was tabled in the Senate last month.

Debbie Fuente, president of New Hampshire Property Owners Association, contends there should be an easier way to end the relationship between a landlord and tenant. She supported House Bill 1263, which would have added the expiration of a lease to the list of legal reasons property owners could terminate a tenancy.

Passed in 1985, RSA 540:2 sets out those legal grounds, including failure to pay rent, substantial damage, behavior that adversely affects health or safety and failure to comply with a “material term of the lease.” Someone also can be evicted if he or she refuses to pay higher rent or for “other good cause,” including “any legitimate business or economic reason.”

Otherwise, when a lease ends, the tenant can stay on under existing law.

Fuente said changing the law makes “common sense.” She blames a 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court for making it too difficult for landlords.

Read the entire story by Shawne K. Wickham for the Union Leader.

As pointed out in this article, many landlords don’t understand the legal process well enough to succeed in an eviction.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who specifically represents landlords.  Don’t let your case get tossed because of a technical error.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Is Your Dog a Blacklisted Breed?

A pet owner is responsible for his/her dog’s behavior, regardless of whether or not the animal was provoked.  That’s usually where home owner’s or renter’s insurance comes in to play.  These policies typically cover the liability of the pet owner in the event of a dog bite or attack on the owner’s premises.

These standard policies cover most dogs. However, your pooch’s breed may be blacklisted by some home insurers. Many insurers classify Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Presa Canarios, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies as potentially dangerous.

Each year, almost 5 million Americans are bitten or attacked by dogs. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid in 2010, totaling $412 million; the average claim was $26,166. Dog bites are the No. 5 reason for visits to the emergency room, and more than half of these bites occur on the dog owner’s property.

Given those statistics, it should come as no surprise that homeowner’s and renter’s insurance companies are as vigilant about dog bite claims as a watchdog that’s guarding a house.

To find out what you can do if your dog doesn’t qualify under your home owner’s or renter’s insurance, read the rest of the story by Michele C. Hollow at

If your pet is accused of biting or attacking someone, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney experienced with dog bite defense cases.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.




How to Prevent Property Fraud

According to the FBI, property fraud is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes, and anyone who owns property is at risk.

Unfortunately, it’s not difficult for a criminal to record a fraudulent deed for your property, making it appear as if they now own your home.  Once this is  done, they can use your home as collateral on a loan or even attempt to sell your home to an unsuspecting buyer.  You are the one left to sort out the mess once the criminals  have skipped town with the money.

To prevent this from happening to you, register for the Property Fraud Alert System at  This service will alert you anytime someone records anything with your information on it with your county.  There is no charge for this service.  Most NH County Registries of Deeds offer the service directly from their websites, or you may call 1-800-728-3858 to register.

If you do become a victim of property fraud or any other type of identity theft, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who is trained to handle this type of legal matter.  Call LRS at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.