Do I Need an Attorney to Apply for STRS Disability?

Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: December 24th, 2016 |

You can benefit from consulting and collaborating with a Columbus Ohio employment attorney while filing for disability through the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). You do not need a lawyer, but having a legal expert and advocate in you corner can help you successfully navigate a difficult, frustrating system.

Here are four reasons to consider enlisting the assistance of an employment attorney when seeking STRS disability.

Merely Determining Eligibility Is Complicated

STRS is just one of several retirement and eligibility programs people may pay into over the course of their working lives. An individual who has made more contributions to Social Security, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), or another government-supported program will not be eligible to receive disability benefits through STRS.

Beyond that basic bit of accounting, meeting eligibility requirements for STRS disability involves certifying that your physical or mental condition cannot be accommodated under American with Disability Act guidelines. Once you start receiving benefits, you can be dropped from the program for doing any paid or voluntary teaching. Figuring out what counts as a reasonable accommodation and defining “teaching activities” are jobs a knowledgeable employment attorney is uniquely qualified to do.

Collecting and Submitting Sufficient Medical Evidence Requires Serious Work

Physical and mental disabilities are covered by STRS, but only if they make teaching at all impossible for 12 months or longer. A diagnosis and prognosis to this effect must be submitted to the STRS review board.

Medical records, a treatment plan, and numerous other official forms must be completed and submitted in full before an applicant’s claim will be considered. Making sure every bit of paperwork arrives on the right person’s desk is something an employment attorney who has helped many other STRS disability applicants will excel at doing.

Many First-Time Claims Get Rejected and Appeals Demand More Medical Evidence

The findings of the applicant’s own physician must be confirmed by a doctor named by STRS. This second opinion derails many disability claims, triggering an appeal. Succeeding with a resubmitted claim requires understanding exactly what types of medical evidence is required, which is something a disability lawyer will be able to do.

Another STRS rule that at least delays many disability claims is an option to withhold a final decision until the applicant completes a course of treatment and rehabilitation that lasts six months. During that time, the applicant may need to seek alternatives to paid leave. An employment attorney can help with securing additional medical evidence and enforcing Family & Medical Leave Act rights.

Rules Must Be Followed While Receiving Benefits

In addition to staying out of any classroom, a STRS disability benefits recipient must have his or her disabled status recertified each year. Some return to nonteaching work is permitted under certain circumstances, but STRS benefits will be canceled if a doctor determines that a full return to the workforce is possible. Failing to send in the required medical forms is treated like a return to health.

Making sure a client has access to health care professionals who can satisfy the disability program’s need for annual medical reports is a final service an employment attorney can provide.

To ask about getting help with your own STRS disability application and case, contact the Columbus, Ohio, offices of the Jones Law Group by calling (614) 545-9998. You can also request a consultation online.

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