Applying for Benefits

Capable Portland Lawyer Helping Individuals Decide if They Should Apply for BenefitsAre you Disabled?

You are disabled if you have an impairment or combination of impairments - physical or mental, that are documented by medical signs and findings and stop you from working at any job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Although it is often clear that you can no longer work your current job, it is often less clear whether you can perform jobs you have held in the past or jobs you have never performed but that are less complex or strenuous than your current job. The answer depends on your age, education, vocational skills and the medically identified functional limitations of all impairments. This question is often very difficult to answer without the advice of an experienced attorney.

I am Sara L. Gabin, a Social Security Disability attorney who has been representing residents of the Portland metropolitan area over 30 years. I can help you understand whether applying for benefits is the right path for you to follow.

The Opinion that Matters – Medical Opinion

Know that your opinion is not the opinion that matters. Know that my opinion is not the opinion that matters. The opinion that matters is well-explained medical opinion from a medical professional who knows you and is qualified to treat your condition. The opinions the Social Security Administration is most likely to accept are those from an MD, DO, DPM, PH.D. or Psy.D. Opinions by a Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Licensed Professional Counselor can also be excellent evidence of disability, but usually require a co-signature of a team member having an MD, DO, PH.D. or Psy.D credential.

Next to good medical opinion, the opinion that matters is the opinion from employers and coworkers who have observed first-hand your difficulty performing your job well enough to keep it.

Your Burden of Proof

Keep in mind that you must prove you are disabled. It is not the government’s job to do this. The government these days seems to look for evidence to say a claimant is not disabled.

To prove disability, a claimant must present good medical opinion – the opinion that matters. Your case will be even stronger even if you can also supply good observations form employers and co-workers. Without good evidence, it is unlikely you will be able to prove that you are disabled.

How to Request Medical Opinion When you have not Hired a Lawyer

If you have not yet hired a lawyer, when you ask your doctor what he thinks about your being on disability, request only a simple VERBAL answer: “yes” or “no.”

Obtaining good WRITTEN medical opinion usually requires the expertise of a lawyer who likely will not become involved in your claim until after an initial application has been denied. How to communicate with a medical provider is as important as the opinion a provider writes. I have seen good claims ruined because the claimant tried too hard to educate the doctor, guided the doctor on what to write, or simply wrote too much to the doctor. When this has happened, the doctor’s opinion, no matter how well written, is often viewed as having been pressured or orchestrated by claimant and is given no value.

Written medical opinion also must consider the elements of proof required to establish disability. These factors are very technical and outside the knowledge base of most citizens.

For these reasons, requesting WRITTEN medical opinion is an area best left to a trained legal professional.


  • Do not ask your doctor for a written statement.
  • Do not educate your doctor with articles or other materials you have found.
  • Do not send emails or letters to your doctor describing your symptoms and the turmoil in your life; give all symptom reports verbally during the examination or by phone to the call nurse.
  • Do not write a letter for your doctor to sign.
  • Do not rewrite for your doctor any note or letter he has written.
How to Apply

If you think you are disabled, if you have stopped working because your symptoms have stopped you from doing your job, and if you have good VERBAL medical support from your doctor that you cannot work at ANY job, you should apply for benefits. You may do this by

  • Going online at
  • Calling the toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, or by
  • Going in person to your branch office.
  • Hiring a lawyer to start the process.

I represent disabled people on initial application if I think they are unable to navigate the system by themselves or if they insist on hiring a lawyer when they apply. However, I think that most individuals are able to handle the application process without a lawyer. Having a lawyer becomes necessary later if the application is denied

If you choose to apply online, be sure that you are going only to and not to another website. These are the only words you will see in the government URL. The appears only as without any other words such as “disability” or “application.” Sites showing up with Google with words such as “advocate,” “application,” “representatives,” or “help,” are not the government but are the sites of private entities. Claimants have been confused, thinking they were at the government site when in fact they fell into a private site.

If you choose to apply in person, these branch offices serve clients in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Yamhill counties:

SW, NE, N, NW and central SE Portland

Social Security Administration
Portland Field Office
1538 SW Yamhill St.
Portland, OR 97205

East County

Social Security Administration
East County Field Office
17925 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97236

Clackamas County

Social Security Administration
Clackamas County Field Office
194 Beverly Drive
Oregon City, OR 97045

Washington County

Social Security Administration
Beaverton Field Office
11975 SW Second St.
Beaverton, OR 97005

Marion and Yamhill Counties

Social Security Administration
Salem Field Office
Suite 110
1750 McGilchrist St, SE
Salem, OR 97302

Get Advice about whether to apply and how to apply.

As a Social Security Disability lawyer in practice since 1981, I have represented disabled persons in Portland and elsewhere in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Yamhill Counties from initial application through federal district court review and I give will give only candid and no-nonsense advice on the best course of action for you. Contact Sara L. Gabin at (503) 620-3171 or online to decide on your best option. Free Consultation.