Steven Chabre is an attorney with 18 years experience helping claimants obtain disability benefits. His area of expertise is in long-term disability insurance, ERISA, pension, and Social Security disability claims. Mr. Chabre obtained his law degree at Hastings College of the Law in 1994. He received his bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1990.
Mr. Chabre handles all types of disability benefit claims on a contingency basis, including long-term disability and ERISA claims at the administrative level. This means that if we accept a case, the client does not have to pay a retainer and only pays legal fees if he or she recovers on the claim.
The Law Office of Steven M. Chabre
1335 Park Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 749-0466 – fax
ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) is a complicated federal statute that governs employee benefits such as pensions, health insurance, and long-term disability insurance. Just about any benefit obtained by an employee from a private, non-church employer is covered by ERISA. Several aspects of ERISA, as interpreted by the courts, favor insurers and employers over employees. For example, most benefit plans confer discretionary authority on the insurer or employer. This means that if the insurer or employer denies the claim, a court can only overturn that decision if the employee proves the decision-maker abused its discretion. In essence, the employee must prove that the insurer's decision was unreasonable. Secondly, the courts usually review only that evidence, which was before the insurance company or employer at the time it rendered its final decision on the claim. The record at trial cannot be supplemented and discovery is severely truncated. For this reason it is essential that claimants do a very thorough job in demonstrating that they qualify for benefits while the claim is being processed. It is Mr. Chabre's opinion that most claimants should have have help from a lawyer during the administrative appeal process.
Social Security administers two disability benefit programs. The first is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Employees pay for this program when they pay their Social Security taxes. Employees are entitled to obtain their Social Security benefits before retirement, if they can prove that they are unable to work due to a physical or mental condition. The level of benefits depends on how much money the employee has paid into the system through payroll taxes. With the exception of very young workers, a claimant must have at least five years of employment in the ten years before becoming disabled.
The other program that Social Security administers is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Again, a claimant must prove that he or she is unable to work due to a physical or mental condition. SSI is for those claimants who have paid little or no payroll taxes. However, to qualify for this benefit an applicant must have almost no income or resources.
Many valid claims are denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of the Social Security application process. Particularly for those cases where a claimant's credibility is important (cases based on pain, fatigue, or mental illness) Social Security is apt to deny a valid claim. Many of these claims do eventually get paid, but only after Social Security has conducted a hearing on the application. It is Mr. Chabre's opinion that most claimants should have legal representation at the administrative hearing.