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Scott Lewis

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January 8, 2010

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing Decision

Are you an Indiana resident that has appeared in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for your Social Security disability benefits hearing? Like most claimants, learning the terminology used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) can very confusing and difficult to understand. Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis always attempts to assists his clients with any confusion that they may have during the appeals process. Once you have had your hearing, the SSA will send you a notice with their decision. Claimants will receive a letter stating one of the following results: fully favorable; unfavorable; partially favorable; or dismissed. The claimant’s ultimate goal is to receive a fully favorable decision.  This means that you have won your claim and should receive the past due and monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits that you deserve.  The next best hearing result would be a partially favorable decision.  This decision means that the ALJ believes that you are disabled and unable to work but did not find you to be disabled on the date that you alleged that your disability began.  The reason for a different onset date can sometimes be attributed to the medical evidence not substantiating the date that you believe that you became disabled.  Lawyer Scott Lewis advises his clients to read this notice carefully because you may lose some of your past due benefits.  If the ALJ found the evidence of your disability to be strong enough to give you a favorable decision but decided that your disability onset date was different than what you alleged, the ALJ will determine the date of your disability and give past due payments based on that date.  If the ALJ decides that your onset date (the date you became disabled) is after your date of … Continued

Filed under: Hearings Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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January 6, 2010

Cardiovascular Impairments and Social Security Disability Benefits

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluate a disability claim based on cardiovascular impairments or heart disease?  Indiana claimants with heart disease or other cardiovascular impairments may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The SSA defines Cardiovascular Impairments in the Blue Book “Listing of Impairments,” Section 4.00 Cardiovascular System.  According to the SSA, Cardiovascular Impairments are any congenital or acquired disorder that affects the circulatory system or the proper functioning of the heart.  The circulatory system includes the veins, arteries, capillaries, or the lymphatic drainage.  Heart impairments result from one or more of four consequences of heart disease: Chronic heart failure, Pain or discomfort due to myocardial ischemia, Central cyanosis due to reduced oxygen in the arterial blood or pulmonary disease, or Syncope (or near syncope) due to lack of cerebral perfusion from any cardiac cause. When filing a Social Security disability claim for heart (cardiovascular) disorder, it is important to support your claim with sufficient documentation.  Supply the SSA with detailed history reports, physical examination records, laboratory testing results, and prescribed treatment or medication.  This medical documentation should allow the SSA to assess the severity and duration of your impairment.  The SSA has categorized Cardiovascular System impairments in the Listing of Impairments.  Some examples of cardiovascular impairments that are defined on the SSA’s website are: Chronic heart failure Ischemic heart disease Recurrent arrhythmias Symptomatic congenital heart disease Heart transplant Aneurysm of aorta or major branches Chronic venous insufficiency Peripheral arterial disease Many individuals attempting to get Social Security disability for heart impairment(s) consult Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis about problems that they experience.  Many claimants have had heart attacks and other cardiovascular events that have rendered them unable to work.   Individuals with medical records showing stent placement, pacemakers, and other medical devices used to … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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January 1, 2010

I am receiving Social Security Disability Benefits, are my children paid benefits also?

If I am trying to get or I already receive Social Security Disability Benefits, will my children receive benefits also? Many disability claimants residing in Indiana may ask this question. There are different factors that figure into this equation. It is important to not “put the cart before the horse” because the main issue when trying to receive disability benefits is to win your claim and convince the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you meet the criteria for disability. Once you have achieved that favorable result then tackle the issue of whether your children will receive benefits. So, if it is determined you meet the qualifications for Social Security disability benefits, also known as Title II benefits, your children may be entitled to dependent’s benefits. Dependent benefts can also known as auxiliary benefits. Generally, children under the age of eighteen, or if they are between eighteen and nineteen and are still a full time student in elementary or secondary education, are eligible for these dependent benefits. Other factors for eligibility of these children may include: if you are indeed the child of the insured, whether you are actually a dependent of the insured if the child is unmarried, and that you have actually applied for these benefits. There are also provisions for disabled children relating to the continuation of benefits. If all of the above applies to your situation and you are not receiving auxiliary benefits for your children, it is important that you contact the SSA to see if you qualify. Remember, when you are attempting to receive disability benefits for yourself or your children it may be helpful for you to be proactive instead of inactive. If you or your child are attempting to receive disability benefits and are interested in speaking with an Indiana Social Security Lawyer … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits
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December 30, 2009

Does Social Security recognize my chronic pain as a disability?

Many times Indiana residents suffering from chronic pain resulting from varying disabilities find themselves denied disability benefits.  They often state they simply cannot work because the pain they experience is so bad it affects concentration, the ability to stand, walk, or sit even for short periods of time. Chronic pain resulting in the inability to perform any type of Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) may result from many different disabling conditions such as back problems, fibromyalgia, and migraines, are only a short list of examples.  One of the problems with pain is that it is subjective, and only the claimant experiencing the pain can describe its disabling effects.  Often one person’s pain threshold may be very different from another person’s perception of chronic pain. It is important for Indiana disability claimants to describe their chronic pain in detail.  Let the Social Security Administration know its limiting effects on your ability to perform activities of daily living and your inability to secure gainful employment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does recognize pain as a disabling condition, but relies on two specific court cases to establish that the pain must be so severe by itself, or combined with other impairments that the Social Security disability claimant cannot perform any substantial gainful employment.  With that being said, the SSA can sometimes be quick to dismiss a Social Security claimant’s complaints of pain.  It seems that they can even make this denial with good medical source documents from qualified doctors who have adequately recorded the chronic pain the patient has experienced in the past and is now experiencing. So what can you do?  See your doctor and explain to him or her in detail the pain you are experiencing.  Also explain to the SSA and your lawyer the pain you experience and how it effects you in everyday life.  Remember, … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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December 30, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearing Backlog

Indiana Social Security disability claimants often experience frustration when attempting to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Claimants may feel aggitated by the repetitive paperwork that they are required to complete in order to file a claim, the lack of communication with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and finally, the painstaking waiting period. Because most disability claimants wait to file their claim until they are desperate for money, the waiting period to get a hearing may seem incredibly long.   The fact is that the waiting period to get a hearing is long!   Many Indiana residents can wait years before getting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after filing their claim. The Social Security Adminstration may claim the backlog is caused by lack of funds, lack of workers, increasing caseload, and difficult-to-prove disabilities such as depression and anxiety. Recent records indicated the number of disability recipients has more than doubled since 1990. As of October 2009, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) reports that hearing level processing times and the number of pending cases show improvement in the 2010 fiscal year.  The pending number of cases dropped for the past ten months having the lowest ODAR pending number since February 2008.  Currently, the average processing time is 441 days which is the lowest processing time since April 2005. The SSA’s goal is to reach a processing time of 270 days.  Indianapolis processing time averages 622 days ranking at 139 out of 143 hearings offices.  What is making the improvement in the processing time and pending cases?  The SSA has hired 8,600 new employees in the 2009 fiscal year.  This included 147 new ALJ’s and more than 1,000 ODAR support staff.  This increase in workforce allows faster processing times.  The SSA plans on hiring an additional 226 ALJ’s in the 2010 fiscal year.  By the … Continued

Filed under: Hearings Process
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December 23, 2009

Indiana Disability Determination Bureau (DDB)

What is the Indiana Disability Determination Bureau?  Indiana Social Security disability claimants are often confused by what the Disability Determination  Bureau (DDB) does for the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The DDB is also known as the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in some states.  DDB is a state-level agency is 100% federally funded whose duty is to determine disability eligibility among claimants.  The DDB’s determinations are made based on the SSA’s rules and regulations.  When a claimant has a question regarding the status of their claim, it is best for the claimant to contact the DDB because the DDB examiners evaluate and process the claims.  This should not be confused with the claims representative that works for the Social Security Administration.  Claims reps do not examine or evaluate the disability claims.  Many times, a claimant or the claimant’s attorney may be contacted by the DDB to answer some additional questions to assist in processing the claim.  Additional information may include: Activities of daily living such as how you perform yard work, prepare meals, shopping, and if you care for pets Personal hygiene Drug and/or alcohol use Additional physician information Where you live or who you live with Claimants usually have 10 days to respond to the DDB’s questions.  A claimant may ask the DDB for an extension to answer these questions.  The DDB is where all claims are reviewed and resolved in the initial claim level and the reconsideration level.  It’s typical that most of the claims reviewed by the DDB are denied at these levels.  If a claimant appeals the DDB’s decision, the claim will be heard in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The ALJ will decide whether the claimant qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Scott D. Lewis, who is a practicing Indianapolis lawyer, finds … Continued

Filed under: Evaluation Process
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December 21, 2009

Social Security Disability Benefits and Diabetes

Indiana residents that suffer from diabetes may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.   Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis has experience in representing claimants with diabetes.  As specified in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Listing of Impairments, Section 9.0, Endocrine System, a claimant may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for diabetes if the claimant meets SSA’s required criteria.  In order to meet the listing and qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits for diabetes, the claimant must prove a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus with the following: Neuropathy demonstrated by significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities; Acidosis occurring at least on the average of once every 2 months documented by blood chemical test;  or Diabetic retinopathy (significant loss of visual acuity or loss of peripheral vision). Even though diabetes is a serious medical condition, it is not uncommon to be denied Social Security disability benefits for this impairment alone.  Many times individuals seeking disability can receive a favorable ruling due to a combination of impairments if the diabetes alone does not arise to the listing level.  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Lawyer Scott Lewis often finds that his clients suffering from diabetes mellitus are also experience neuropathy.  Clients with neuropathy often complain of numbness & tingling in their feet creating difficulty standing for even short periods and numbness & tingling in their hands that can sometimes result in the inability to grasp and hold items.  Most occupations require the use of your hands for even unskilled labor, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may find that there is no gainful activity that can be performed.  The inability to stand for even a short period may limit the disability claimant to sedentary work.  Sedentary work may not be attainable by certain disability claimants based on their age, education level, and prior work experience.  If you find … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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December 16, 2009

Social Security Disability Benefit Payments

Are you an Indiana Social Security disability claimant that has recently been approved for disability benefits?  Like most claimants, you are wondering when you will receive that first payment from the Social Security Administration (SSA).  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are designed to replace a claimant’s income once they are no longer able to work due to their disability.  As with all claimants, these payments are usually desperately needed.  Since all benefits are not equal and every situation is unique, Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis states that it is very difficult to determine when you will receive your first disability payment.  Factors may include:   how soon the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made his decision, how soon the decision is written, and how soon the payment center is notified of a favorable ruling.  Also, it should be noted that many delays may be contributed to human error.  The above factors are not the only variables in receiving your first disability payment.  Other issues may arise creating substantial time delays in the process.  Today, millions of Americans are waiting even longer for their disability payments, unemployment checks, and food stamps.  Some sources state that the number of people waiting for their first disability checks has increased 38% in 2009 from 2008 due to the recession.  Many states have had to furlough payment processors causing substantial backlog in the processing centers.  When you receive your notice of award, there may be specific information regarding your disbursement of benefits. Regardless of how long you have to wait for the first payment, any past due payments that you are entitled to are usually being processed at the same time.  Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis finds achieving a favorable outcome at the hearing level should be your first priority and hopefully with the approval of … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
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December 10, 2009

Social Security Disability Claimants and Transferability of Skills

As a Social Security disability claimant reaches the final step of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) evaluation process, the SSA considers the claimant’s ability to perform other work which differs from past work. This is called transferability of skills. The SSA defines “transferable skills” as skills that can be used in other jobs when the skilled or semi-skilled work activities the claimant did in past work can be used to meet the requirements of skilled or semi-skilled work activities of other jobs or kinds of work. This greatly depends on the similarity of work activities among different jobs. Indiana disability claimants may wonder how the SSA determines this transferability of skills. It is likely that the SSA will determine a transferability of skills if the jobs have: The same (or less) degree of required skill, The same (or similar) equipment, machines, or tools are being used, and The same (or similar) material, process, products, services, etc. are involved. The SSA may not always determine a transferability of skills even though the above factors are met. Therefore, the SSA has different degrees of transferability that they consider. These degrees of transferability range from very close similarities to remote and incidental similarities among jobs. So, even though the three requirements may be met, when skills have been acquired in such an isolated vocational setting that they are not readily usable in other industries, jobs, and work settings or are so specialized, the SSA may consider these skills as not transferable. If you are a claimant that is 55 years old or older and you have a severe impairment(s) that limits you to light work or sedentary work, the SSA may find that you cannot make an adjustment to other work unless you have skills that you can transfer to other skilled or … Continued

Filed under: Evaluation Process
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December 4, 2009

Social Security Disability Benefits for Visually Impaired Claimants

Indiana residents may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if they are “legally blind”  According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “legally blind” is defined as if the claimant’s vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in their better eye, or if their visual field is 20 degrees or less in their better eye.  Some claimants may not meet the legal definition of blindness but may still qualify for disability benefits if their vision problems either alone or combined with other health issues prevents them from being employed.  In order to get SSDI benefits, the claimant must have worked long enough to accrue eligibility for these benefits.  On the other hand, a claimant may be entitled to SSI payments based on disability and blindness, even though they have not worked, but their income and resources are under certain dollar and/or resource limits. Even though you are blind, you may continue to work and receive Social Security disability benefits as long as your income remains under the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount set by the SSA.  Due to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) not being increased in 2010, the SGA amount for blind claimants cannot exceed $1,640 per month in 2010 as it was in 2009.  Information on current SGA amount appear in the Federal Register at 74fed.reg.55614 (October 28, 2009).  It is always important to remember that an individual with a visual impairment that does not  qualify in itself for disability benefits, may find that their visual impairment combined with any other severe physical and/or mental impairments may entitle them to Social Security disability benefits.  It is beneficial in your disability claim to attain visual acuity tests from qualified medical professionals to substantiate your Social Security benefits claim.  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis may be able … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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