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Social Security Disability Benefits

Our Philosophy

  1. We only take cases that we believe have merit, and we fight hard for your benefits.
  2. We treat our clients with respect.
  3. Our clients deserve the best representation possible. That means that we speak with your doctor, obtain written opinions from your medical providers, and write briefs to the judge to help tell your story.
  4. Our goal is to win your case as early as possible in the process, but when that isn’t possible, we will work together to develop a record of your disability that will be persuasive – even if we have to fight all the way to federal court.

Cheryl Coon and Melissa Haggerty of Social Security

Attorneys Cheryl F. Coon and Melissa Haggerty






What is the Social Security Disability Program?

The Social Security Program is the most important financial protection plan and social safety net in the United States. The original Social Security Act (1935) and the current version of the Act include several social welfare and social insurance programs. The larger and better known programs are:

Any time that a person’s income is affected by significant events such as retirement, disability or death, Social Security may pay benefits.

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The disability section of Social Security:

The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

1. Title II, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD). This program is for people who have a consistent work history, and works like a long-term disability insurance plan. The disabled worker receives benefits because he or she has paid contributions in the form of Social Security taxes on wages earned. This money comes from the FICA deduction taken from your paycheck.

2. Title XVI, Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program is for people without a consistent work history or for those who have not paid enough Social Security taxes to get Social Security Disability Insurance. You can receive SSI if you are disabled or over 65 and you have very little income or property.

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Social Security’s definition of disability:

You are disabled under the Social Security law if:

  1. You cannot do “substantial gainful activity” (which means you cannot work);
  2. Your disability is because of a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment”; AND
  3. Your impairment has lasted or can be expected to last for 12 months or is expected to cause your death.

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Our office, Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton, takes calls from claimants at any stage and answers questions they may have concerning the process, whether we represent them or not.

Twenty Tips to Help You Win Your Case for Social Security Disability Benefits

Get the PDF (English)

Veinte consejos que te ayudaran a ganar tu caso de beneficios por discapacidadcon el seguro social (AHORA EN ESPANOL)


  1. Apply in person at your local office of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and get assistance from SSA staff when you fill out your application. The online application process can be tricky.
  2. Bring a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of treatment for all the healthcare providers, hospitals, and clinics you’ve seen for your injury or illness.
  3. Bring a list of all your medications, including current dosages.
  4. Bring a list of all the jobs you’ve held for the last 15 years.
  5. List all of your medical conditions in your application, not just the worst one. Sometimes it’s a combination of problems that will win you benefits.
  6. When filling out the forms about your prior work, don’t exaggerate! Be honest about your past work and how you performed it.
  7. Fill out the application and all other forms completely. This is not the time to be hasty or incomplete.
  8. Make copies for yourself of all documents and forms that you provide to Social Security.

While you wait for a decision:

  1. If, after you submit your Social Security application, you’re asked for more information or paperwork, respond promptly.
  2. SSA will send you a Function Report that requests information about how you are limited in your day-to-day functioning. Fill it out completely. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t under-report your symptoms either.

If you don’t get approved:

  1. Pay close attention to appeal deadlines and be sure to appeal in time.
  2. Keep a detailed journal of your medical problems and how they limit you. Include all the things you cannot do. If you have seizures or headaches, include the time and how long they last. If you know what triggered episodes, be sure to note that too. If you are taking medication and it has side effects, note that too.
  3. Ask a spouse, partner or family member to help you with your journal; they may notice things that you miss.
  4. See your doctor regularly and follow your doctor’s recommendations. If you want to change medications do so through your doctor, not on your own. This is not the time to change healthcare providers unless your current provider is not supportive of your application.
  5. If you have a mental health issue, see a counselor (if possible, with the credentials of M.D. or PhD as Social Security considers only these people to be acceptable for purposes of a disability application).
  6. If you use alcohol or illegal drugs, keep in mind that this is a basis for denial of your disability application.
  7. Do not give up just because you get a denial. Your case may be one that won’t be won until a hearing or even a federal court appeal. If you give up and later file a new application, you will lose your past benefits.
  8. If you’re thinking about working while you wait, be sure to consult with your lawyer on how best to do that without harming your case.
  9. Find a good local lawyer to represent you. It costs you nothing (that’s the law) unless you win your case. Make sure your lawyer is able to represent you at all stages, from administrative appeals through federal court appeals.
  10. Keep your lawyer up-to-date on all changes in your life, from healthcare providers to medications to addresses.

Get the PDF (English)

Veinte consejos que te ayudaran a ganar tu caso de beneficios por discapacidadcon el seguro social (AHORA EN ESPANOL)

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Our office, Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton, takes calls from claimants at any stage and answers questions they may have concerning the process, whether we represent them or not.

Social Security Disability Brochure

For a print version, download our Social Security Disability Brochure.

Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton, in partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) has produced informational brochures about Social Security disability benefits in the following languages:

English Brochure

Copyright © 2016 Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton

820 SW 2nd Ave, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97204

Tel: 503-228-5222