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. 

This is Part 2 of the Interview…Part 1 can be found <here

Rob Anspach:

How did you get involved with all this? I mean, granted, there are other lawyers out there, some specialize in personal injury, some specialize in trademarks,

Patrick Hartwig:

But why social security? Well, when I was in law school, I had just by happenstance got an internship with a nonprofit legal services outfit in Boston, and it was in their health and disability unit. And it opened my eyes because, you know, it sounds cheesy, but the reason I went to law school in the first place was I really wanted to help people and help people who were oftentimes overwhelmed or marginalized in some way to try to get what they deserve in situations where it just moves right past them because they can’t quite handle everything that’s coming at them at once. And I was immediately drawn to this exact niche. And when I got out of law school, although there were no jobs available in that exact small niche, I started working in real estate and it was truly dreadful. Everybody was very contentious. The clients were very difficult to help. Nobody seemed to appreciate it, and I didn’t feel like I was helping anymore. And I mean in the most important sense, helping improve someone’s life. And as I searched and searched that first year or so after law school for an opening in the disability world. And I, when I found it, I jumped on it and I went all in. And I’ve been doing exclusively social security disability law now for over 10 years. And I love it. It’s what I love to do. I really feel strongly about the people that I help and I feel good when I go to bed at night. And that’s very, very important to me. And it’s something that I like to be able to share and show my own children that that is something very important in life. And that they see that as they grow up

Rob Anspach:

Now, do you just service people in Massachusetts or do you service other areas?

Patrick Hartwig:

 I can go and do social security cases in any state in the country. And, and because I only practice this small area of la w, that’s very specialized. I accept clients just about anywhere. I primarily advertise throughout the New England States, but I’ve accepted clients all over the country. And, and it’s because I know the system, no matter which state you’re in, it’s the same system. And because this is all I do, oftentimes I feel the person would be better off having me as their attorney than someone local, who doesn’t necessarily specialize in this kind of work on a day to day basis.

Rob Anspach:

So if I get hurt and I can’t work, what do you require? Do you do check my medical records? Do you talk to my doctors? How does that work?

Patrick Hartwig:

It may sound simple, but I usually have a 30 minute conversation or so with and I have a whole list of questions that I would ask you where I try to gather information about your basic demographics, your age, your location some information about your work history over the last 15 years. Part of what I’m looking for is number one, to see if you’ve worked enough and paid enough into social security to be eligible for their SSD program. But also I’d like to know what kind of work you have done, because part of social security’s definition of disability is determining whether or not you can go back to your old job. And some jobs are easier than others from a physical standpoint, or even from a mental standpoint. And so that’s important in every case. And then I ask you typical questions about your medical issues and the timeline, and some very basics about what your conditions are, what kind of treatment have you had? What kind of medications do you take? Where do things stand right now? And what are your doctors telling you about your future? And then I’ll ask you a few different questions about your assets and your kind of your financial situation to see if you might be eligible for social security SSI program, the supplemental security income, and then I kind of weigh it all out and I’ll be able to tell you whether or not I think you’re eligible. And if so, what I recommend you do next and I can point you in the right direction, no matter what.

Rob Anspach:

Now you touched on a keyword there where you said that they can’t do their existing job. They can’t do their existing job, but sometimes, I’ve heard people say, well, social security says I can still work. But, with their physical pain they can’t do much of anything, unfortunately  Social Security Administration  wants them to prove they cannot do anything.

Patrick Hartwig:

Exactly. And you hit the nail on the head right there, Rob, it illustrates just how challenging the system really is. You know, folks believe some people have a misconception that it’s easy to get approved for social security disability benefits. It’s simply not true. If you look at the actual numbers instead of anecdotal examples, it’s very challenging. The roles, the sequential evaluation process is very challenging. And secondly, social security has tightened the belt over the last 10 years. And so from us, the typical case standpoint, some cases that were awarded 10 years ago, the decision makers simply are not awarding. Now that’s the reality in what people always have some confusion with is I can’t do my job as a carpenter anymore. That’s all I’ve ever done in my life. From the time I was 18 years old, I’ve been a carpenter. I can’t do that. It’s obvious that I can’t do that. How am I getting denied? Well, social security’s definition of disability in most situations centers around your ability to do some type of full time work anywhere in the United States, not just in your local area, but anywhere. And that can be a very challenging hurdle in many cases.

Rob Anspach:

Yeah. it sounds like it’s tougher than people make it out to be. If I’m injured, I’m just going to go file. And they don’t understand the waiting period. They don’t understand the rules. They try to do it themselves. They fail. And then they look at the paperwork and they’re like, there’s no way.

Patrick Hartwig:

Yeah. And I’ll tell you another thing that makes it very challenging. And it surprises a lot of folks when I first tell them, is that in order to be found disabled, you need to have a medical impairment that is so severe, that it will keep you from working on a full time basis for at least 12 months in a row, not six months, not nine months, many folks who have an injury or an illness can recover thankfully in three months, six months, nine months. And they’re not able to work during that time. And life is very, very challenging. Everything’s coming at them very fast. The bills are coming in, but the income isn’t and the people are often upset when I have to tell them, if you were only out of work for six months or nine months, unfortunately you don’t have a social security disability case, right? We need to show that either you have already been out of work 12 months, or you’re expected to be out of work for 12 months,

Rob Anspach:

And if your spouse makes too much money? Your claim could be denied, correct?

Patrick Hartwig:

It’s  an extraordinarily low amount of money as well. If your spouse makes roughly speaking over a thousand dollars a month, chances are, you’re not eligible for SSI benefits. That’s only $12,000 a year, and you most individuals couldn’t live off of that low amount of money, let alone a family. And that’s another part of the puzzle that makes this so challenging.

Rob Anspach:

I sometimes I think there’s a disparity too, because single women who are raising their kids, the child has some type of illness, or some mental issue. They can qualify really quickly, but a person with a physical ailment, that worked a majority of their life, they’re waiting months or even years. And they’re like, wait a minute, this is not fair. What’s going on? So it’s a good thing we have advocates like you who are trying to help people jump through all these hoops.

Patrick Hartwig:

I appreciate that. And you know, I think it does count when folks see that you’re passionate about what you do, not only do you know what you’re talking about, but you’re in it for the right reasons. And there’s a lot of disappointment along the way in these social security cases, and folks are getting disappointing news in other spheres of their life. They’re getting foreclosed on, they’re getting evicted. They got bad news from the doctor. Their electricity got shut off. Everything in their life is being turned upside down. And often times my clients get denied at the first stage of review and the second stage of review and to have to talk to them each time they’re denied after they’ve just been through the ringer is very challenging. But I think what people realize over time is that if they feel like you’re committed, you’re competent and you’re compassionate, then that will help them get through, you know, through it another day in a group, agree with you to keep fighting. And that’s what I strive for every day. And everyone who works here with me has to have that mentality. And if they don’t, they don’t stick around.

Rob Anspach:

Yeah. Well, I know that you have an excellent team. And you’re a great compassionate person out to help people and that’s why you put out those videos because every single video answers a different question and people can watch those at two o’clock in the morning they can watch them anytime. They can go to your website, they can learn more about how to apply, why they need you, why they can trust you. They can learn a little bit about the system in general and how it requires patience.

Patrick Hartwig:

It does. Yup.

Rob Anspach:

How can people find you?

Patrick Hartwig:

Well, there’s lots of ways to find me like you’ve mentioned, I have a lot of videos online and some of those videos are testimonials from my clients. Some of those videos are simply answers to frequently asked questions. I have a website I’m on Facebook. My website is www.HartwigLawFirm.com We have a Facebook page. You can always call my office. We invite folks to call. It is a big part of our typical day is talking to our clients and potential clients on the phone. It’s what we love to do. My phone number is (508) 732-8989.

Rob Anspach:

That’s fabulous. I hope that anybody that’s out there, that’s reading, if you or a loved one has experienced injury and can’t work, and you think that you might qualify for SSDI or even SSI pick up the phone and call, Patrick, he’s going to be a hero that you can turn to. He’s going to help you. He’s going to answer all your questions. Call Patrick today.