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Scott Lewis

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October 24, 2011

Are There Trial Rules at Social Security Disability Hearings?

When getting ready for your Indiana Social Security disability hearing, you may be wondering  just what the atmosphere will be like and how the questioning will go.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis attempts to prepare all of his clients for what they may expect during the course of their Social Security disability appeal hearing.  Although all Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) may be different, the general framework of the questions usually remains the same. You may be familiar with courtroom television shows and perhaps are expecting a very rigid line of questioning following strict court rules, you may be surprised to find a more informal setting at your disability hearing.  At times these hearings often resemble more of a conversation than a strict guideline of rules and procedures that make it difficult for you to follow.  Many times, the judge will simply ask you questions and then when he/she is finished, they will let your attorney or representative cover any issues they feel are important or have been overlooked. Because most judges do not follow strict trial rules, many times an attorney can ask questions that may appear leading in order to expedite the hearing process.  Most hearings are scheduled for one hour or less.  If an attorney was required to lay a foundation for every question being asked, a hearing could last for a very long time and with the huge backlog of Indiana Social Security disability claims this could have a large impact on wait times for others seeking their day in court.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis believes this type of judicial inefficiency is not advantageous to the Social Security disability process and can only muddy the water when attempting to get important testimony out in a timely fashion. Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes Administrative Law Judges … Continued

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October 20, 2011

Consultative Examinations and Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Scott Lewis is an Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer who is experienced in helping individuals in obtaining the Social Security disability benefits they deserve.  Mr. Lewis has also read the results and talked to his Indiana disability clients about consultative examinations.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses consultative examinations when they determine there is either not enough supportive information from your treating physician(s) or you simply do not have a physician to provide information to support your disability claim. A consultative examination (CE) is an examination covering psychiatric, psychological, or physical impairments.  The consultative examination is conducted by medical professionals contracted by the government to provide information regarding the severity of the disabling condition the claimant has asserted as a mental or physical impairment. Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis fields many questions from his clients about these consultative examinations.  Many individuals ask Mr. Lewis if it is mandatory that they attend the examinations.  Mr. Lewis often tells his clients that not attending a consultative examination could result in denial of the disability claim.  Active participation in the disability process when you are asked to help move the process along may help you receive a favorable outcome.  If you cannot attend your consultative examination, let the Social Security Administration know so it can be rescheduled at a time more convenient for you. There can be drawbacks to relying on a consultative examination for an approval of your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  These examinations are usually very brief.  In Mr. Lewis’ experience, they are not a good substitute for a long standing relationship with a treating physician.  You also must remember a consultative examination is usually a single appointment by a physician who has never seen you before.  Obviously this is probably not a good … Continued

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October 14, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings Office

Social Security disability applicants that have been denied disability benefits have the right to appeal that decision made by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  As an individual goes through the stages of appeals, he/she may eventually find him/herself in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Indiana hearings are heard at one of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) locations. Most states have more than one ODAR location.  According to the SSA, there are currently 10 regional offices, 169 hearing offices (including 7 satellite offices), 5 national hearing centers, and 1 national case assistance center. There are approximately 1,300 administrative law judges and 7,000 support staff in the field organization. Additionally, administrative law judges may travel to other sites such as local Social Security offices to conduct hearings if needed or appear by video at your location. In addition to the stated above, the SSA may use other facilities throughout the state to conduct the hearing. Don’t be surprised if you are scheduled for a hearing at the Social Security Administration office, a conference room at another facility or in a hotel or bank. Regardless of the location, the ALJ that presides over the case will still review the evidence, listen to the comments made by your disability attorney, and hear testimony from medical or vocational experts. The ODAR Chicago Region services residents in the six state area comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Indiana residents will find their hearing scheduled at the location closest to their home.  Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis finds himself traveling throughout the state of Indiana to represent disabled individuals with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  If you have been denied disability benefits or if you cannot work due to a disabling condition, contact Indiana … Continued

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October 13, 2011

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Do you really need a disability lawyer when applying for Social Security disability benefits?  Indiana disability claimants may become overwhelmed by the Social Security disability application process. According to Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis, this isn’t very surprising when considering how frustrating the process may be.  Although everyone’s disability case is unique, some common frustrations may develop from claimants having a legitimate claim denied, individuals waiting years for their benefits to be approved, or possibly feeling as though they are treated unfairly during the appeal process.  Many individuals wonder whether or not they should hire a disability lawyer to help with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application process.  There are some factors that you may want to consider when deciding whether or not you need to retain an attorney for your disability claim. Majority of disability applicants are denied at the initial application stage. Those individuals who have been denied may become completely overwhelmed by the Social Security disability application process.  As a result, they find it necessary to hire a disability lawyer or representative so they do not have to face the appeals process alone. Once an individual has been denied SSDI or SSI benefits, the need for representation might be considered. It may be beneficial to hire a Social Security attorney to represent you through the appeals process.  Some statistics show that disability claimants who have legal representation at the appeals stage are often more successful in being approved for benefits than those who decide to go on without representation.  Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes that you are entitled to a fair hearing and strives to ask all of the questions you should be asked during this process. Mr. Lewis attempts to be aware of the Social Security disability regulations that may be beneficial in your claim being approved. If you are an individual that decides to hire a Social Security disability lawyer, you may worry about the … Continued

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October 7, 2011

GAF Scores and Your Social Security Disability Claim

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits or are appealing a denied Social Security disability benefits claim in Indiana and you are confused by what’s going on, you may not be alone.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis talks to potential disability clients on a frequent basis about the complex issues that arise during a disability claim.  There may be words that are difficult to understand or abbreviations that are hard to figure out in the disability process.  If you are suffering from a mental disorder and your psychiatrist or therapist talks about a “GAF” score you may wonder exactly what they are referring to. A Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score is a number used to rate individuals social, occupational, and psychological functioning.  The numbers range from 0 to 100 and are generally classified in the following way: 91 -100 Superior range of functioning in a wide range of activities. 81 – 90  Absent of minimal symptoms. 71 – 80  If symptoms are present they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors. 61 -70  Some mild symptoms. 51-60  Moderate symptoms. 41-50  Serious symptoms. 31- 40  Some impairments in reality testing or communication. 21 – 30  Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations. 11 -20  Some danger of hurting self or others. 1 – 10  Persistent danger of hurting self or others. It is important to note that the above is only a general framework defining GAF scores, and more information can be obtained describing each category in more detail.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis urges his clients to seek the care of a qualified mental health professional to assess your mental impairments.  GAF scores can be used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in determining the severity of your mental condition. Mr. Lewis attends numerous Social … Continued

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October 5, 2011

Social Security Disability Lawyers in Indianapolis Can Represent You For Many Different Disabling Conditions

Did you know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can look at all of your disabling conditions combined when making a disability determination?  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis tries to get his clients to disclose to him all of their conditions that have an impact on their ability to work.  After questioning his clients, many times Mr. Lewis finds that there are several conditions that when combined create a total picture showing his client is in fact disabled. For instance, you may have had back surgery and are experiencing pain and/or discomfort that may be preventing you from working so; you have filed a Social Security disability claim.  Upon further review of your medical records, Mr. Lewis notices you are also suffering from depression, diabetes, and asthma.  If these other conditions are severe enough, it may be wise to include these conditions in an argument as to why you are unable to work.  While your back may keep you from being able to sit, stand, or walk for any length of time, your depression may make it difficult to concentrate on work related tasks, your diabetes may involve neuropathy causing numbness and tingling in your extremities, and your asthma may cause shortness of breath in certain circumstances.  So, by considering a combination of all of these impairments, it may be clear you are unable to maintain substantial gainful activity. Just stating that you have additional problems is probably not going to be good enough to win your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  Medical records from qualified treating medical professionals specializing in the area where your disability exists is usually the best supporting documentation to help prove your disability claim.  At times, general medical practitioners may work to help support your disability claim, but many times an Administrative Law … Continued

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September 27, 2011

How Long is the Wait for a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing?

In the past couple of years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had high hopes to improve the wait time for disabled individuals to get a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Because there was such a large number of backlogged disability appeals waiting to get a hearing date, the SSA’s proposed goal was to improve the Social Security appeals system by hiring more ALJ’s to hear cases, add more hearing centers, and implement technologies that would make it easier to process more hearings across the nation. With these intended plans, the SSA did not foresee the significant budget cuts that would later disrupt these proposed plans. Unfortunately, the backlog of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals has not decreased; as a matter of fact, it appears that the number of disability appeals has grown since this initial plan. In 2011, a study shows that a lack of resources, combined with an increased number of SSDI and SSI claims filed, may be having an impact on the wait time for a hearing. Statistically, the study showed that the number of appeals nationally still pending in the current year was 735,660.  In the 2010 fiscal year, the number of individuals waiting for a hearing was 705,367.  As you can see, there is a significant increase in applicants waiting for a hearing from last year. Although there is an increase in the number of backlogged cases, the average wait period for an individual to get in front of an ALJ has decreased from 514 days in 2008 to 369 days in 2010. So regardless, the SSA has been able to improve the wait period from 2008 to 2010. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a disabled individual to get a hearing scheduled faster than other disabled individuals.  Although, there may be measures that a disability claimant can take in order to increase their chances of being approved for benefits … Continued

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September 24, 2011

Leukemia and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

Are you an individual suffering from chronic or acute leukemia and cannot work because of this disease?  Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects more than 40,000 people per year.  Currently, there is no cure for leukemia. Leukemia occurs when blood cells in the bone marrow grow out of control. Leukemia usually starts with some common symptoms such as: prolonged bleeding, bruising, weakness, weight loss, infections, or pain & swelling in your joints. The earlier leukemia is detected, the more likely it can be treated effectively.  This cancer is highly dangerous, but also highly treatable. Some treatments may include: chemotherapy; radiation therapy; other kinds of drug therapy; and stem cell transplants. Being diagnosed with leukemia can possibly mean a major lifestyle change. Although treatments of these cancers are highly effective and can allow those individuals diagnosed with this cancer to still enjoy a good quality of life, they do not cure the cancer and often leave many side effects that may significantly reduce the quality of life for those who suffer from the disease. If you have been diagnosed with leukemia and are unable to work because of it, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration’s “Listing of Impairments” outlines the criteria that qualifies an individual with leukemia for disability benefits. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you should provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) medical proof of your condition supported by doctor’s exams, imaging technology, blood tests, etc. In addition, if this information also includes statements from your physician(s) asserting that you are unable to work because of your leukemia, it may be beneficial in winning your claim. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis realizes that dealing with a diagnosis of cancer may be difficult enough, but dealing with financial problems because you can’t work due to this diagnosis … Continued

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September 21, 2011

Why Does It Take So Long To Receive A Decision After Your Social Security Disability Hearing?

Indiana disability claimants who have endured a lengthy wait for their disability hearing should not be surprised to find themselves staring at their mailbox waiting for a decision to arrive.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis receives many calls from his clients asking why it takes so long to find out whether or not they have won or lost their Social Security disability appeal.  Mr. Lewis understands it can be a frustrating wait when the bills are due and families are having a difficult time putting food on their tables. There is always a possibility there is still work to do on your Social Security disability claim after you leave the courtroom.  Perhaps the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is not through reviewing your case.  All Judges conduct hearings differently and some take testimony first and then look deeper into the medical documentation to make a decision.  If there were no experts at your hearing, the Judge may want to ask questions regarding employment to a vocational expert after the hearing has concluded. On the other hand, some Administrative Law Judges have made a decision during the hearing or as soon as you walked out the door. There can be other reasons for a lengthy wait. It may be a problem of too much workload put on Administrative Law Judges and their staff.  Considering the large number of claims that are backlogging the hearing offices, it would not be too far fetched to think they are having a difficult time keeping up.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis deals with numerous hearing offices and has noticed some offices are simply slower than others.  With that being said, there are certain judges that seem to work at break neck speed to get decisions out.  It is important to remember though that the … Continued

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September 20, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits for Claimants Diagnosed with Hepatitis

Some individuals diagnosed with chronic hepatitis are unable to work and find the need to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers Hepatitis under Section 5.00, Digestive System in the “Listing of Impairments.”  The specific listing for Hepatitis is found under Section 5.05 Chronic Liver Disease and to meet this listing for purposes of qualifying for disability benefits, your medical records must indicate one of the following: Esophageal, gastric, or ectopic varices with a documented history of massive hemorrhaging as a result; or Having had a shunt operation due to esophageal varices; or Pathologic fluid collection in the abdomen for three (3) months or more that has required removal of such fluid or hypoalbuminemia; or Hepatic Encephalopathy; or High levels (2.5 mg per 100 ml. or more) of bilirubin in the blood on repeat exams for at least three (3) months; or Confirmed diagnosis of chronic liver disease with ascites as mentioned in #3 above, or with serum bilirubin levels as mentioned in #5 above, or with inflammation of the liver or cellular death of tissue within the liver for at least three (3) months. This is demonstrated by a blood test showing abnormal prothrombin time (a measure of how long it takes blood to clot) as well as blood tests indicating abnormal levels of other liver enzymes. Disability claimants must also have a medical diagnosis of Hepatitis which is supported by a liver biopsy in addition to documenting the above requirements. Indiana individuals who are unable to meet this listing based on the above information, may still file for disability benefits in the form of a medical vocational allowance. You may be considered for this medical vocational allowance if your symptoms are severe enough that you are unable to function at work and your condition is … Continued

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