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Scott Lewis

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March 12, 2010

Social Security Disability Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis

Indiana Social Security disability claimants living with multiple sclerosis (MS) who are unable to work due to their MS related disability and/or other conditions, may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes MS as a chronic illness or “impairment” that can cause disability severe enough to prevent an individual from working. Disability claimants applying for Social Security disability benefits on the basis of multiple sclerosis can be approved for benefits in one of two ways: By means of a medical vocational allowance; or By meeting the SSA’s Listing of Impairment, Section 11.09 Mutlitple Sclerosis In order to be approved for disability benefits by means of a medical vocational allowance, a claimant’s medical records must show that their condition is severe and has lasted, or can be expected to last, for a period of not less than twelve months. During this actual or estimated twelve month period, the claimant’s condition must also prevent them from working at a job they have done in the past, and prevent them from engaging in other work. The SSA’s Listing of Impairment, Multiple Sclerosis, specifically identifies the criteria required to meet this listing. In summary, the listing provides for three types of criteria that a claimant should meet in order to be awarded disability benefits.  A claimant must meet only one of the following three categories in order to qualify: Motor function impairment Visual impairments Mental impairments If you have any of the following symptoms, or any combination of these or other symptoms, that prevent you from working, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits: Experience difficulty with walking, standing, and other motor skills Experience difficulty with seeing Speech impairment Find it difficult to concentrate or complete simple tasks Experience difficulty with remembering Have extreme fatigue  … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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March 4, 2010

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefit Programs

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis often finds his clients are confused by the difference between the two disability programs offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). These two programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI and SSI programs are administered by the SSA, both programs will pay a monthly benefit to qualifying disabled persons, and both programs follow the same procedures when determining if someone is disabled. Although SSDI and SSI have some similarities, they are quite different programs. It is important to understand the difference in these two programs when applying for disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or also commonly known as Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is the disability program that is funded by the Social Security taxes that are paid by employers, workers and people who are self-employed. This program requires the claimant to have earned the appropriate credits which is based on the taxable work of the disability claimant. This means that the claimant must have paid into this program through payroll taxes from previous work. This program was designed to assist those individual workers that paid into the program that become disabled and are unable to work until retirement age so they basically receive those benefits early. Financial eligibility for SSDI is based solely on the F.I.C.A. Social Security (F.I.C.A.) payroll taxes the claimant paid through employment. This program is not based on your current wealth situation. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have paid F.I.C.A. taxes in 20 out of the last 40 calendar quarters (essentially five out of the last ten years). If you are under age 31, that number is reduced. If you are over age 42, the minimum number of quarters increases approximately one quarter for each year over age 42. So, as … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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March 2, 2010

Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

Indiana Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits claimants often experience pain from their disability, but find it difficult to explain the level of pain to the Social Security Administration (SSA). It may be likely that pain interferes with the claimant’s ability to work. So, how does a SSDI or SSI claimant prove to the SSA that the pain they experience limits their ability to working? Indianapolis Social Security Disability Lawyer, Scott D. Lewis, has represented claimants that experience pain causing them to be unable to work.  In these cases, it is important to effectively prove to the SSA that this pain prevents the claimant from performing their job and any other job.  Since pain is subjective, it may be hard to describe.  Pain is not a visible condition which makes it even harder to prove.  It is essential to identify the physical location of the pain.  Attorney Scott Lewis may ask his clients to rate their level of pain on a scale from one to ten, one being minimal pain such as a mild headache and ten being excruciating pain so severe that the individual must go to the hospital.  It is important not to exaggerate your pain because it may destroy your credibility in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  When alleging pain, it is important to be credible.  Claimants should be specific about the level of pain during certain times.  For example, if you have constant pain at a level 5 but the level increases when you vacuum the house to a level 10, then the claimant should describe this change when performing certain activities.  If there is something that specifically triggers your pain, this triggering activity should be described.  For example, if you experience pain in your back from walking or if you experience migraine headache pain … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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February 24, 2010

Cancer and Social Security Disability Benefits

Indiana Social Security disability claimants diagnosed with cancer, often find themselves being denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. As most cancer patients know, the typical reaction once diagnosed with cancer is the fear of dying. Many cancer patients undergo extensive treatment for their cancer. This treatment can include chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This treatment often causes side effects causing the patient pain and other unpleasant symptoms . As though this is not enough for a cancer patient to experience, it may not be a disabling condition that is guaranteed to receive disability benefits in the eyes of the Social Security Administration (SSA). You may wonder what it would take for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to award a cancer patient disability benefits. To qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits, any disability must last or be expected to last for at least twelve consecutive months or the disability must expect to result in death. This includes claimants with cancer. Fortunately, some disability claimants respond to treatment and may not necessarily need the assistance of an experienced Social Security disability attorney.  To obtain Social Security disability benefits from the SSA, it is imperative to understand what the SSA will consider in determining your disability. The SSA will consider to what extent the cancer is involved, frequency, duration and how responsive the disability claimant is to treatment.  In addition, the SSA will consider where the malignancy began (origin) and what effects post-therapeutic residuals have on the cancer patient. Social Security disability claimants filing an appeal might find it beneficial to consider the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” to determine if the cancer they experience is acknowledged by the SSA.  In the Listing of Impairments, Section 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases, you will find: Lung Cancer Leukemia Breast Cancer Cancer of the Head and Neck Sarcoma … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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February 15, 2010

Arthritis and your Social Security Disability Appeal

Are you a Social Security disability claimant suffering from arthritis and have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits? Is your disabling condition preventing you from working but you’ve received an unfavorable decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding your disability claim?  Indiana disability claimants with arthritis often ask how they can win their disability claim after they have been denied. It’s important to understand how to get approved for Social Security disability benefits.  In all Social Security disability claims, the SSA will review the claimant’s claim by using their 5 step sequential process.  In summary, these five steps include: Is the claimant working? Is the disability severe? Is the claimants disability or condition in the SSA’s listing of qualifying impairments? Is the claimant able to do work that they previously performed? Is the claimant able to perform any other type of work? If you are a claimant with severe arthritis who is unable to work, you may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits.  Arthritis is one of the leading disabilities for benefits.  Arthritis is included in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Section 1.00, Musculoskeletal Disorder.  Some categories of this section include Inflammatory Arthritiis and Degenerative Arthritis.  A claimant with Inflammatory Arthriits (such as Rheumatoid Arthritis) should experience persistent swelling, pain and limitations to the joints to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.  The limitations to the joints may include limitations to: hips; shoulders; knees; elbows; ankles; wrists; or hands. A claimant with Degenerative Arthritis (such as Osteoarthritis) should safisfy the SSA’s requirement if they are experiencing limitations with their arms and hands or if they have significant issues with walking or standing.  Individuals with neck or back problems due to their Degenerative Arthritis must have persistent sensory, motor & reflex loss in order to qualify for disability benefits. It … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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February 10, 2010

What does the Social Security Administration (SSA) Mean by “A Combination of Impairments” When Deciding if I am Disabled?

It is important when trying to obtain your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to let the Social Security Administration (SSA) know all of your impairments or disabling conditions. Indianapolis lawyer Scott D. Lewis finds when interviewing his clients they often leave out some of their disabilities when attempting to receive Social Security disability benefits. You should not leave it up to the SSA to inquire what your disabling conditions might be. It may be beneficial to make a list of the severe and non-severe conditions that you experience. It is important to remember the Social Security Administration may also consider non-severe conditions in combination with severe conditions when deciding whether you will receive Social Security disability benefits. Indiana claimants should always remember the question at hand is whether you can perform your past relevant job(s) or other jobs that exist in the national economy. So, while you may consider the fact you have asthma as a minor problem, it may keep you from performing jobs around dust or fumes. Another example could be an individual suffering from anxiety cannot perform jobs requiring the individual to interact with the general public. While you may consider your back impairment the primary reason you cannot work, it is important that you let your Social Security disability attorney know that you have other medical issues that have an effect on your activities of daily living and your ability to hold down a job. Other conditions many individuals may not consider can include but are not limited to: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) Depression Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Diabetes Hepatitis Arthritis Learning Disorders Visual Impairments Hearing Loss Remember, just saying you have asthma is probably not enough. Seeing a medical professional on a regular basis and seeking treatment for your condition(s) … Continued

Filed under: Evaluation Process
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February 8, 2010

Social Security Disability and Amended Onset Dates

After a long wait for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing, Indiana residents may find themselves negotiating with an ALJ as to the onset date of their disability. What can this mean to you?  It sometimes means that it may be less money paid to you in past due benefits. The past due disability benefit payment, commonly paid in a lump sum for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claimants may be reduced substantially by agreeing to an amended onset date. Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis sometimes finds that an ALJ is willing to find a favorable ruling for his client, but at times a judge may ask the disability claimant to amend the onset date. The reasoning for agreeing to an amended onset date can vary, but many times it is because the judge believes the medical records do not establish the claimant’s disability until after the date the claimant alleges the disability began. There can be other reasons for amending the disability onset date that can also include the disability claimant reaching a particular age. It seems that some judges want to amend onset dates much more often than others in disability claims. Many times when the above scenario happens at a hearing, the judge may be open to an argument from an attorney, representative, or the client as to why an earlier date should be established. Some judges may be swayed if a certain medical record can be cited as to a firm diagnosis or other facts in the record to substantiate an earlier date. Indiana residents finding themselves with an option of taking an amended onset date and receiving a favorable ruling often concede in order to start receiving their much needed disability benefits. The fact remains that if a claimant does not take the judge’s offer, an unfavorable ruling still can … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process
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February 8, 2010

Degenerative Disc Disease and Social Security Disability Benefits

The quality of life Indiana residents experience can be greatly diminished by Degenerative Disc Disease. Due to chronic pain in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, hips, and legs may make it difficult to be gainfully employed. Disability claimants sometimes find themselves having extreme difficulty walking, standing, and even sitting for short periods of time. Other symptoms can include the inability to lift even light objects, experiencing pain when bending and twisting, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. Does any of the above sound like things you experience on a daily basis?  If so, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Degenerative Disc Disease and other back impairments can be severe enough to limit your activities of daily living in such a way that you are simply unable to function in a way that you can be gainfully employed. So if you find yourself in this situation, you may ask what to do. If you are financially able, it may be beneficial to see a physician, preferably a physician that specializes in this type of disorder. Get appropriate testing such as an MRI, and remember the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers whether you follow your physician’s advice concerning treatment. Some treatments can include: physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, spinal injections, and  surgery. Disabling back conditions and Degenerative Disc Disease are no secret to the SSA.  Many disability claimants’ experience severe chronic back pain.  If your back impairment does not rise to the above stated levels, but you experience other phyical and mental impairments, the SSA may consider you disabled due to a combination of impairments.  The above is not intended as medical advice, just a brief summary as to what an experienced Social Security Disability Appeals Attorney has come into contact with. If … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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January 29, 2010

Back Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

How does the Social Security Administration evaluate back pain?  In order for an Indiana Social Security disability claimant to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the claimant may receive disability benefits by meeting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria defined in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Section 1.00 Musculoskeletal Disorders. Back pain may be due to injury, aging, accident or even may be the result of a medical disorder or condition such as scoliosis.  Regardless of the cause of the claimant’s back pain, the pain may prevent the claimant from working.  If that is the case, the claimant may find it beneficial to meet the SSA’s criteria in Section 1.04 Disorders of the Spine to be awarded SSDI or SSI benefits.    Disorders of the spine include the following impairments: Degenerative disc disease Osteoarthritis Herniated nucleus pulposus Spinal stenosis Spinal arachnoiditis In Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis‘s experience, he finds that most claimants have difficulty obtaining SSDI or SSI benefits for chronic back pain at the initial stages of the claim.  Scott advises that if you have been denied disability benefits at the initial level or reconsideration level, to continue to pursue your claim.  Often, the claimant will have a higher chance of being awarded disability benefits when they appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at a disability hearing.  Because back pain is so common among claimants, it is extremely important to have supportive medical documentation regarding your disorder. It’s even more important to prove that your back pain is causing more than the mild to moderate discomfort that is common among everyone at some point.  The claimant should prove that their condition is severe and it prevents the claimant from performing simple jobs that require sitting.  Some ALJ’s may look for the following when reviewing your claim: MRI reports showing evidence of problems in your back … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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January 28, 2010

Social Security’s 5-Month Waiting Period for Disability Benefits

After Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis wins his client’s disability claim, he often finds himself explaining to the claimant why their benefits will not start immediately from their onset date. Although he’s not certain why the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a waiting period, he attempts to explain to his clients when they can expect their benefits to begin. Social Security claimants that are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefts, must wait five (5) consecutive full calendar months from the determined onset date of their disability. After the 5 month waiting period, the SSA will begin disability payments with the earliest full calendar month but not more than seventeen (17) months before the claimant filed their disability claim. For example, if the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decided that the claimant became disabled on April 15, 2009, after the five month waiting period, benefits would begin on October 1, 2009. Another example, if the claimant filed for disability on January 1, 2009, but alleged to be disabled since May of 2007, if the ALJ finds that the alleged onset date is correct, he is only allowed to grant an onset date 17 months prior to the filing date. So in this case, the actual onset date would be August 1, 2007. After the five month waiting period, this particular claimant would begin benefits on January 1, 2008. There are a few exceptions to this waiting period. Claimants that were previously entitled to disability beneftis and their disability benefits ended, but then they became disabled again within 5 years of their benefits ending, they would not need to exercise the waiting period. There is no waiting period for claimants that filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or for claimants that are entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits. If … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process
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