Patrick Hartwig was invited unto the E-Heroes Podcast (with host Rob Anspach) to share his thoughts on Social Security and how an entrepreneur could qualify if no longer able to continue running or owning a business due to a disability.

Rob Anspach:

Hey, this is Rob Anspach and I’ve got a great interview for you today. We’re heading to Plymouth, Massachusetts, and speaking with social security disability attorney Patrick Hartwig, Patrick, thanks for being on the show. As you know, this is not a typical entrepreneur interview, the reason I brought you on the show is because you’re more of an advocate and when entrepreneurs like myself, or even individuals out there working a job hurt themselves, they need someone like you to help them.

Patrick Hartwig:

Well, thank you for having me, Rob, I’m really excited to participate.

Rob Anspach:

You know, I think there’s a lot of misconceptions in the whole social security disability insurance realm, people don’t know that they can apply for it if they get hurt.

Patrick Hartwig:

It’s true. You know, every week that we, any one of us out there gets a paycheck, we are paying social security taxes. And part of that social security trust fund goes into a separate category for folks who become disabled, it’s called social security disability insurance. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s insurance in case you become disabled or are unable to work at any point before you reach retirement age. And so that is something that a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s a protection that they actually have. And so I encounter that every day. And part of what I do is telling folks what they might be eligible for.

Rob Anspach:

So how do people get started? I mean, because they might see a website or they might hear something on YouTube, or maybe they saw some of your videos because you got a lot of them and they’re great, but what’s the first step.

Patrick Hartwig:

The first step I believe is either a phone call to someone like me, someone who does social security disability law every day, all day, or to go directly to social security itself. Now going to social security itself can always sound intimidating. Oftentimes there’s a long line or a long time to wait on the telephone and you may not get the best customer service. I think we’ve all experienced something like that. And so the best thing I think to do is instead of trying to do a lot of research on your own is to look for people like me online or give someone like me a call and what we all do. And a big chunk of my every day is talking to folks who simply have questions about this whole process and whether or not they’re eligible. I spend a good portion of every morning talking to potential clients just letting them know what they’re in store for what they might be eligible for, and oftentimes why they’re not eligible. That’s just the reality of the system.

Rob Anspach:

Now what’s the timeframe. So if I would get hurt and I needed to apply, what is the timeframe from start to finish that I would end up getting some type of monetary payout, how does that work?

Patrick Hartwig:

Well, the first thing to realize right off the bat is the social security administration is a federal program. It’s an enormous system. And there are millions of people around the country each year, applying for social security disability benefits. And so nothing that happens through this process is what you would call quick. And so typically speaking, a social security case can go up through three different administrative stages. And that first thing is what they call the initial stage of review. And that’s where it usually takes four to six months for social security to gather your information, gather your medical records and determine whether or not you fit into their rules. And statistically speaking only about 25% of all applications across the country are approved at that first stage. And therefore most people have to appeal. And that second stage is called reconsideration. And it’s essentially another look at all the similar pieces of information by a new set of eyes. It takes another four to six months, statistically only about 15% of people at reconsideration get approved. And if you get denied at that stage, then you file a request for a hearing where you ask for a scheduled date in front of a social security judge. And oftentimes people wait up to a year just for that hearing. And so the process can be anywhere from four months to two years. In reality, it’s a long process and there’s lots of different places where you can slip up or abandoned the claim out of despair. And that’s part of what I do is as I help people continue to fight,

Rob Anspach:

Sounds like a lot of hoop jumping. And so how do you make it easier for the injured or those applying to get this process to move faster? 

Patrick Hartwig:

The first thing I do is I tell every new client, and potential client is no matter what your question is, or no matter what you get in the mail from social security or a phone call from social security, the first thing you do is, is give us a call right away, ask us the question. We’re going to know the answer. We’re going to be able to ease your mind and let you know exactly what, if anything you have to do. Oftentimes there’s nothing for you to do at that moment. The language in the letters that social security often sends can be very convoluted. It’s not necessarily direct. And so we see these letters every day. This is all that I do. And so we can tell you exactly what each letter means, what if anything you need to do. And we can make sure that anything that has to get done gets done immediately. So that even though this is a long process, and there’s very few things we can actually do to shorten the process, we can do everything as efficiently as possible with as little effort and as little worry from our clients. And that’s what we aim to do every day. And that alone can help folks get through what is already a very challenging time because they’re not working. They can’t pay their bills, they’re injured or disabled in some way. So they’re in pain, they’re in some type of discomfort. Life is already extraordinarily difficult. Last thing they need to do is worry about a lot of red tape. And, and that’s what I do. We try to take the pressure off as much as we can throughout this whole process.

Rob Anspach:

It’s amazing because I look at some of your videos and you have great testimonials from people (carpenters, bus drivers, factory workers)  but how does an entrepreneur like me, who’s spent most of his life not working for companies do if I hurt myself? I mean, do I have the same protections as someone who’s worked for someone else?

Patrick Hartwig:

Well, Rob, as long as you’re paying social security taxes, you’re going to be just fine. And so an entrepreneur, a self-employed person, as long as they’re filing taxes each year and paying FICA taxes for themselves, then that person will be insured for disability insurance. You basically need to pay taxes enough in five, out of the most recent ten years to remain eligible for this insurance policy. That’s part of social security.

Rob Anspach:

Now, I guess that differentiates those that have never worked, but have might chronic illnesses such as diabetes or maybe they’re on dialysis how can they apply?

Patrick Hartwig:

That is what social security calls, supplemental security income. It has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve paid enough in social security taxes. It’s not an insurance policy. It’s simply a form of federal welfare for folks who are disabled, cannot work and are, or very limited in their income or assets. And so it’s a program based on disability and income and asset limits, if you’re disabled and you’ve never been able to work because of that disability, social security, when they created the system, created the separate fund for folks in that exact category. It’s another layer of protection for us as an entire society for folks who, for a lot of different reasons, I see every day have never been able to work full time.

Join Rob and Patrick in Part 2 of “Can Entrepreneurs Qualify For Disability If Injured”