The Times West Virginian

October 14, 2012

Expert Disability: Navigating ‘scary process’

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Kelle Jones is guiding clients through the “scary process” to receive their disability benefits.

After getting all the required licenses and certificates lined up, Jones recently started Expert Disability Consultants of West Virginia. She is the owner and lead consultant of the business, which she primarily operates from an office inside her Fairmont home.

People who have filed for disability benefits and been denied at the initial level or the appeal level can contact Jones. She’ll begin by sending a packet to gather information, and the individual must sign an authorization form for her to look into the case that is pending with the Social Security Administration.

After reviewing the case on her own, Jones will set up a meeting with the person if she feels she can help. She offers free case evaluations.

“I will do a claim evaluation at any level,” Jones said. “We don’t get paid unless they get their benefits.”

Having a representative is very important when the claimant is ready for the hearing, where he or she will be questioned, she said. The Social Security Disability Program is such a complicated system that someone could easily forget or leave out important paperwork or medical records, which could be the difference between getting benefits or not.

Jones will explain the hearing process and do everything she can to assist her client in getting prepared, including making sure the case is documented properly and all the medical records are in order.

“I can help ease those fears a little bit,” she said.

The judges try their best to award people their benefits, but claimants have a better chance when a representative actually works for them, provides the information needed and makes a really solid case, Jones said.

She knows all of this because of her years of experience related to disability services. She said this work is challenging and constantly changing.

Jones, who is originally from outside of Monongah, graduated from Fairmont State University with a bachelor of science degree in psychology and a minor in sociology. After college, she took the civil service test for different positions within the state and got called for an interview with Disability Determination Services in Clarksburg.

During her eight years with Disability Determination Services, Jones worked as a senior case examiner, single decision maker and unit supervisor of case examiners. Then two years ago, she moved up to the federal level to a job with the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, which is a hearing office, in Morgantown.

Jones decided she wanted to be a part of the services on the other side and help people pursue their claims and get ready for their hearings.

Jones had seen every level of the disability program in action, and some of her coworkers encouraged her to represent people because of her knowledge.

“It is so complicated, and I’ve spent so much time training and learning and studying the program,” Jones said.

The idea of starting her own business as a disability consultant had been in the back of her mind for the past year. She wanted to do something that allowed her to spend more time with her two young sons while also staying active in disability services.

“I just felt like this was what I was kind of being led to do,” Jones said.

 She finally decided the timing was right in August, and she resigned from her job and began working to open Expert Disability Consultants of West Virginia.

She has been involved in small business operations for nearly 13 years, as she and her husband Bill own the Derby by East-West Stadium in Fairmont.

Jones plans to help clients throughout the area that the Morgantown hearing office serves, including Marion, Harrison and Monongalia counties and Uniontown, Pa.

She likes the fact that she can spend a lot of time on one case preparing for a hearing. She said it’s all about quality work, and she’s hoping to find some people whom she can really help and focus on building their cases.

“I love being able to personally interact with the claimants,” Jones said. “It does make you feel good to be able to help people.”

In the future, she hopes to expand and add more consultants to Expert Disability Consultants of West Virginia.

For more information, call 304-777-9426 or go online to expertdisabilityconsultantsofwv.com.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.