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Scott Lewis

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September 23, 2010

If I Try to Work, Will My Social Security Disability Benefits Stop?

Many hard working Indiana residents struggle to accept the fact they are no longer able to work to support their families due to a disabling condition. Depending on your disability working part time or eventually returning to the work force full time may not be out of the question. There are a few things to consider, such as how much money you can make and what programs the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers to get you back in the workforce. The first thing a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient may want to consider is how much money they can make working without jeopardizing their Social Security disability benefits.  This is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Amount.  This is a monthly amount an individual cannot exceed after subtracting impairment related work expenses.  SGA is a higher limit for statutorily blind individuals.  In 2010, the monthly dollar amount is $1,640 for statutorily blind individuals and $1,000 for other disabled individuals. A program of interest for Social Security disability recipients wanting to re-enter the workforce is the Trial Work Period.  In this scenario, a person may try to re-enter the workforce and still have earnings and continue to collect Social Security disability benefits. There are rules covering the Trial Work Period in the link provided above.  Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis receives calls on a weekly basis asking what the provisions are for earning money while collecting Social Security disability benefits and routinely steers these questions for more specific information to the Social Security Administration’s website.

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September 22, 2010

When Should I File For Social Security Disability?

Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis often gets telephone calls from Indiana residents asking when they should file their initial Social Security disability claim.  Many disability claimants make the mistake of waiting because they believe they must be disabled for a period of one year before they can file a Social Security disability claim.  There are a number of things to consider when deciding to file a Social Security disability claim: 1.  Has your disability or combination of disabilities prevented you from making enough money to take care of yourself and/or your family?  The amount of money the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers to meet this level is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount.  In 2010 the SGA amount for non-blind individuals is 1,000.00. 2.  Will you meet the “durational requirement”?  Your disability must actually last for 12 months or be expected to last for 12 months.  Many times Lawyer Scott Lewis tells his clients if there is a question as to whether the disability will last for 12 months, do not give up on the claim.  If the disability is preventing you from performing SGA, as stated above, it may be in your best interest to appeal your disability claim if you are unsure as to whether you may recover from your disabling condition.  Also, due to the lengthy hearings process in your Social Security disability appeal you may have very well met the durational requirement before you find yourself before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). 3.  Don’t jeopardize your “date last insured”.  Based on your work history and paying into the Social Security system you will establish a dale last insured.  A Social Security disability claimant must prove they became disabled before the date last insured in Title II also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. 4.  Also in Title II or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims … Continued

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September 15, 2010

My Initial Social Security Disability Claim Was Denied, Now What?

You just received a letter stating your Social Security disability claim was denied and you are wondering what to do next?  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis receives calls asking this very question every day. Indiana residents receiving a notice of disapproved claim need to know they have certain rights and can appeal a denial of their Social Security disability claim. There can be a few reasons you find yourself denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  When Attorney Scott Lewis hears that your Social Security claim was denied because the Social Security Administration did not feel that your disability was severe enough to prevent you from working, he realizes you may have grounds to appeal the decision. Why did you get denied?  One reason you may have been denied your Social Security disability benefits is because your medical record was incomplete.  In your initial application you may have unintentionally omitted important medical sources.  Another reason could be the SSA was unable to get important medical documentation that you told them about.  There could have been an oversight by the SSA or an oversight by the medical source you provided to them.  In any case, by the time you reach an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing it is very important that your Social Security claim file is up-to-date and complete.  While the above may be one reason you are denied, there can be many other reasons for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) denial. What to do next?  A “Request for Reconsideration”, sometimes referred to as an appeal by Social Security disability claimants is usually the next step when receiving an initial denial.  Basically, what you are saying to the Social Security Administration is “hey, you made a mistake take another look at my disability claim”.  You have 60 days plus some mailing time from the date of … Continued

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September 8, 2010

Describing The Pain You Are Experiencing At Your Social Security Disability Hearing

Indianapolis Attorney Scott Lewis often finds himself talking to his clients in depth about the pain they are experiencing.  Describing your pain in detail may help a Social Security disability client win their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  Other than your medical records and possibly a medical expert, the only other information an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your disability appeal may be able to rely on is your testimony.  With that in mind, disability lawyer Scott Lewis believes it is very important to describe the pain you feel as accurately as you possibly can. Different Social Security disability claimants experience and tolerate pain at varying levels.  Due to the subjective nature of pain, it may be difficult to explain to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and make them understand how painful your condition is.  Many physical conditions can cause pain including back problems, fibromyalgia, diabetes, migraine headaches, COPD, heart problems, and other conditions.  A Social Security disability claimant may experience pain from not one physical condition, but a combination of physical conditions. Many times at a Social Security disability hearing, Indiana Attorney Scott Lewis will ask his disability clients questions to help them better explain the pain they experience.  For example: Where do you feel the pain?  If you experience pain in your back and it radiates down your legs, you should let the SSA know the exact location of your pain. What does the pain feel like?  If it is a sharp, dull, or burning sensation, you should describe it in as much detail as possible. Many times, Attorney Scott Lewis may ask his Indiana disability clients to describe the pain they experience on a zero to ten scale.  Zero being no pain and ten being pain so severe they must go to the hospital. How often do you feel the pain?  Is it hourly, daily, weekly, … Continued

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September 2, 2010

Hearing Loss and Your Indiana Social Security Disability Claim

Many Indiana residents experience some degree of hearing loss. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has some programs that provide disability benefits to people with permanent impairments such as hearing loss. Indianapolis Social Security disability claimant’s with hearing loss may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if they meet the criteria required by the SSA in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments”.  To determine whether you qualify for such benefits, the SSA’s criteria for hearing loss can be found in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments,” Section 2.0, Special Senses and Speech. There are two different listings for hearing loss on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments.  In Section 2.10, criteria is defined for people who have hearing loss and do not have a cochlear implant.  In Section 2.11, criteria is defined for disability applicants who have had a cochlear implant. What evidence should a disability claimant provide the SSA to help win their disability claim? The SSA will need evidence showing that you have a medically determinable impairment that causes your hearing loss and audiometric measurements of the severity of your hearing loss.   Generally, the SSA requires both a complete otologic examination and audiometric testing to establish that the claimant has a medically determinable impairment that causes the hearing loss. Once the SSA has evidence that the claimant has a medically determinable impairment, the SSA can use the results of audiometric testing to assess the severity of the hearing loss without another complete otologic examination. Test scores together with any other relevant information about your hearing may help support your disability claim. It’s important to know the SSA’s requirements in order to successfully submit medical evidence in support of your claim.  The SSA requires that the complete otologic examination must be performed by a licensed physician (either medical or osteopathic doctor). This exam must include the following: medical history, description of how the … Continued

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September 2, 2010

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings

Social Security disability claimants entering an Indiana hearings office for their disability appeal may wonder what to expect. For many Indiana residents, the idea of appearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may be intimidating. Attorney Scott D. Lewis tries to explain to his Social Security disability clients what to expect at the hearing and attempts to explain to the client what the strong and weak points of their disability claim are. As far as what to expect at your hearing for your appeal, here are a few items clients wonder about: What should I do when I arrive at the hearing office? The Social Security hearings office usually request the clients to arrive at theoffice 30 minutes before their scheduled disability hearing. The Social Security Administration request the claimant to bring a picture I.D. and many Social Security hearing offices will have security that may require you to go through a metal detector.  After passing through security, the disability claimant should check in with personnel at the Social Security hearings office to let them know you have arrived and then the disability claimant can take a seat. What does the hearing room look like? In the Indianapolis Social Security hearings office, disability clients are usually surprised to find a rather informal hearing room.  The rooms are small with desks and chairs for the disability client, the representative, experts, and a court reporter to sit at.  The ALJ is usually at another desk that is more elevated.  The hearing rooms are not “grand” court rooms you may have seen on television, but a more informal environment. How long will my Social Security hearing last? The length of the hearing varies for from judge to judge, but in Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, most disability appeal hearings are scheduled for 45 minutes.  Some Administrative Law Judges conduct appeal hearings that … Continued

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August 31, 2010

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

Many Indiana residents wonder if they can receive Social Security Disability benefits for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is listed on the Social Security Administration’s website under the Listing of Impairments. Section 13.05 outlines the necessary conditions that need to be met to possibly receive Social Security Disability benefits. Section 13.05 states that a person can have either aggressive (fast-moving) or indolent (slow-moving) Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in a person’s lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is the disease fighting part of your body; this may cause tumors to develop from your white blood cells. Symptoms may include: Swollen Lymph Nodes Abdominal/Chest Pains Fatigue Fever Night Sweats Weight Loss There is no clear cause of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but there are some risk factors. These may include: old age, certain infections, chemicals, and medications that suppress the immune system. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is far more prevalent than Hodgkin’s disease. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the sixth most common type of cancer in men and fifth most common in women in the United States. There are many different kinds of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They can all be divided into two categories: fast-moving and slow-moving. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is formed by B-cells or T-cells. Indiana residents who suffer from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may not be able to carry out simple tasks for a job. Chest and/or abdominal pain and fatigue may prevent a person from keeping a steady job. If you are an Indiana resident attempting to get Social Security Disability because you are unable to preform work-like activities, you may want to contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer or representative to discuss your options.

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August 31, 2010

Questions you may be asked at your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

You are finally getting prepared for your Social Security disability hearing in front of an Indiana Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After a long wait to get a hearing, you may be wondering what is going to happen at your disability hearing. Disability attorney Scott Lewis attempts to let his Social Security disability clients know what to expect in the hearing room. Although, in his experience most of the Judges have their own agenda and conduct the hearing a little differently, their is generally a common framework they all seem to follow. Whether you are trying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits the questions usually revolve around three main areas.  These areas include the following: Personal information The Judge often asks very general personal questions. These questions may include information about your age, your education, where you live, who you live with, do you have children, are you right or left handed, how tall you are and how much you weigh, among several other questions. What past work have you performed? In this area the Judge may ask questions such as: did your previous jobs have a title, how long did you work at the job, how did you perform your previous jobs, how much did you lift, carry, stand, walk, and/or sit during those jobs. What is your medical condition(s) that prevents you from working? The Judge will generally ask you to explain your disabling condition(s). What medical providers you are seeing, what limitations you experience from your disabling condition(s), and what medications you are taking. The general theme here is usually about how your disabling condition keep you from working. Attorney Scott Lewis likes to meet with his Social Security disability clients before the Social Security hearing to let them know what they can expect. It is important to … Continued

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August 30, 2010

Multiple Sclerosis and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

Indiana Social Security disability claimants diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects around 300,000 people in the United States. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths on the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged. MS most commonly occurs in young adults and is typically more common in females than males. Multiple sclerosis has many forms and can have new symptoms with every attack. Symptoms may include: Weak or numb limbs Loss of vision (usually one eye at a time) Pain during eye movement Shock sensations with head movement Loss of coordination Problems with speech Fatigue Symptoms caused by MS usually happen in attacks or relapses where neurological function is significantly less in an acute period of time. Although studies continue to be performed to identify the causes of Multiple Sclerosis, It is thought there are three main causes that are most likely why an individual has Multiple Sclerosis. The first cause is genetics. It appears there is a greater chance that someone will have multiple sclerosis if it is in the family. The recurrence rate is about 20% in parents to children. The second cause is environmental factors. MS is more common in people who live farther from the equator along with a decreased sunlight exposure. The third cause is infections. Many microbes have been suggested as triggers to MS but none have been proven. Multiple Sclerosis is in Section 11.09 under the Neurological conditions on the Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments.” There are three conditions a claimant must meet to qualify for Social Security disability benefits under this listing. Refer to section 11.09 on the Listing of Impairments on the Social Security Administration’s website … Continued

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August 30, 2010

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and Indiana Social Security Benefits

Indiana disability claimants suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)often experience severe pain that prevents them from holding down a full time job. Often caused by trauma, the pain individuals experience can be chronic and severe in nature and may go to other areas of the body. This condition may also be referred to as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. If you or someone you know is struggling with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome they might be eligible to receive Social Security disability. While currently the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a listing in the Listing of Impairments for RSD or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, this does not mean you cannot win your Social Security disability claim. Many Indiana residents may find due to this disability they cannot sit, stand, walk, or lift objects necessary to maintain employment. Some Indiana residents may find they cannot be at work the required number of days to stay employed because of their disability. Other Social Security disability claimants may find the chronic pain they experience makes them unable to stay on task in their job. Many times, disabled people simply cannot do the required work an employer expects them to do. In these cases, the SSA may agree that you cannot do your old job or any other jobs in the economy. Because of the nature of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome it is usually very important for Indiana residents to seek appropriate medical treatment and maintain a good medical record to prove this disabling condition. If your treating physician can describe your functional limitations in his/her progress notes it may enhance your chances of winning your Social Security disability claim.

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