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Scott Lewis

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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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November 12, 2009

What does the Social Security Administration (SSA) mean when they refer to a “Durational Requirement?”

Many Indiana residents attempting to receiveSocial Security disability benefits are confused about what the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls a “durational requirement“.  A durational requirement refers to a time qualification that must be met in order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  A claimant’s disability must be expected to result in death or be expected to last twelve consecutive months or longer to qualify for benefits.  Indiana residents should not confuse the durational requirement with how long they must wait in order to file a Social Security Disability claim. You should file a claim immediately when you become disabled.   Some people are concerned that they will need to wait 12 months before the SSA will find them disabled.  On the contrary, you may be found disabled if your condition is expected to last for 12 months or longer.  If there is a question of duration, it might be advisable for a claimant to get a medical statement that their condition is disabling and that it is expected to last at least 12 months and furnish this information to the SSA. So remember, while you may presently be disabled, the SSA concentrated on this durational requirement as one of the factors to determine your ability to receive Social Security disability benefits.  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis can assist your with your claim.  For a free consultation, call Scott at (317) 423-8888 immediately.

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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November 10, 2009

Social Security Disability and Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

When Indiana residents are attempting to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, they may find themselves questioned about their Activities of Daily Living or otherwise known as ADL. ADL are the things most people perform in the course of a regular day.  This may include personal hygiene, making meals, grocery shopping, and household chores such as doing the dishes, cleaning your home, and doing laundry. Why does Social Security care about your Activities of Daily Living?  Social Security typically will ask claimants, or third parties, questions about the claimant’s ability to perform ADL to determine whether or not they can perform work like activities and therefore be employed.  For instance, if you tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you are able to vacuum your house, clean your bathrooms, and do your laundry; the SSA might not find it too difficult to believe that you can do other work activities. At the hearing level, Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) are interested in your Activities of Daily Living.  During the claims process, questionnaires are usually completed by claimants or third parties regarding the claimant’s ADL.  Who is a third party?  These are names of individuals that the claimant has provided to the Social Security Administration of people who know of their personal situation. It is important for claimant’s to only provide the names of people who really know and understand what is going on in the claimant’s life.  These third parties are often contacted and asked questions regarding the claimant’s ADL, and it is important that they can provide correct and current information regarding the claimant’s ADL. In summary, it is important that Social Security claimants and third parties provide accurate information as to what a claimant can or cannot do. So keep your friends, neighbors, and relatives you have listed as third … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process
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November 3, 2009

Acceptable Medical Sources for Social Security Disability

Are you an Indiana resident filing a claim for Social Security disability?  Are you seeing a medical doctor regarding your disability?  Is your treating physician a nurse practitioner?  It’s not uncommon for claimants to schedule their medical appointments with the medical office nurse practitioner rather than the doctor.  This may affect whether or not you will receive a favorable ruling on your disability claim.   When the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates a claim, they will review the medical evidence submitted by your medical sources.  Treatment notes, medical documentation or records must be submitted by “acceptable medical sources.”  The SSA has two categories of medical sources.  There are “acceptable medical sources” and other health care providers that are not “acceptable medical sources.”  It is important to submit medical evidence that was reported by “acceptable medical sources.” “Acceptable medical sources” may include: Licensed physicians Licensed or certified psychologists Licensed podiatrists Licensed optometrists Qualified speech-language pathologists Unfortunately, the SSA does not categorize nurse practitioners or chiropractors as being an “acceptable medical source.”  This means that the medical evidence from a chiropractor or nurse practitioner cannot establish your medical impairment.  Although, information from other sources can be used to support your claim. These other sources may include non-medical sources such as social workers and employers; and public and private social welfare agencies; and other medical practitioners, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, naturopaths, and chiropractors. Does this mean that your claim will be denied because you are not seeing an “acceptable medical source?”  Not always, the ultimate decision is in an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) hands.  It is important for Indiana residents to keep in mind the medical sources that the SSA prefers may enhance your ability to receive a favorable ruling.  If you would like a free consultation with Attorney Scott D. Lewis to discuss your Social Security disability claim, call (317) 423-8888.

Filed under: Medical Treatment, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process
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October 23, 2009

Compassionate Allowances for Social Security Disability Benefits

Many Indiana Social Security disability claimants endure a long drawn out process while trying to obtain beneftis.  The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) backlog of claims may cause hardship to many families.  In 2007,  Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue announced the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance initiative.  Compassionate allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the SSA’s Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information. Compassionate allowances permit the SSA to quickly identify the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that the SSA can obtain quickly.  The SSA has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that their conditions obviously meet disability standards.   This initiative speeds up the application process for Social Security disability applicants with any of 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers whose medical conditions are very severe. These 50 conditions were selected for the initiative’s rollout. This list may expand over time. Commissioner Astrue has held four Compassionate Allowance public outreach hearings since 2007. The purpose of these hearings were to obtain the public’s views about how to implement Compassionate Allowances for children and adults with rare diseases.  These previous public outreach hearings were on: rare diseases cancers traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke,  early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias The Commissioner is scheduled to hold the fifth public outreach hearing on schizophrenia in November 2009. Additional information about how compassionate allowances are processed may be found on the Social Security Administrations website.  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis believes that the SSA’s compassionate allowances initiative may greatly benefit people with certain rare diseases. If you are a claimant with a rare disease and believe that you may qualify for the compassionate allowance or believe that you qualify for another impairment, contact Attorney Scott Lewis … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits
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October 21, 2009

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Social Security Benefits

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be recognized as a severe disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Indiana residents experiencing a severe lung impairment can attempt to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits by filing an initial claim.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is listed under the Social Security Administration’s medical Listing of Impairments known as Respiratory System (Listing 3.02). Impairments caused by COPD disorders generally produce irreversible loss of pulmonary function due to:  gas exchange abnormalities, ventilatory impairments, or a combination of both. The most common symptoms include: coughing wheezing sputum production (phlegm) dyspnea on exertion (shortness of breath) hemoptysis (coughing up blood) chest pain Because the above symptoms are common symptoms among other diseases, it will be necessary to have a thorough medical examination, medical history and chest x-rays or other imaging tests in order to establish COPD .  It may even be required for more sophisticated pulmonary function testing to determine if gas exchange abnormalities contribute to the severity of a respiratory impairment. The severity of the impairment may be determined by further evaluation.  Additional testing might include measurement of diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide or resting arterial blood gases. If you find yourself unable to work due to a breathing impairment, it is important to seek medical attention, take appropriate medications, and keep detailed records when attempting to obtain Social Security disability benefits.  If you have any questions regarding obtaining Social Security disability benefits for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or any other impairment, contact Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis at (317) 423-8888 for a free consultation.     

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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October 19, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearings & The Quality of Your Testimony

Indiana residents filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits may find themselves answering many questions when they finally appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The quality and credibility of your testimony may have a big impact on the outcome of the hearing.While there is no one answer on how to give testimony at a Social Security disability hearing, there have been few things that I have experienced as Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney that clients should be aware of when addressing the ALJ.  I advise my clients to always be honest when testifying.  Many Administrative Law Judges have done hundreds if not thousands of Social Security disability claims hearings and can typically detect when a claimant is not being truthful.  Some judges may try to catch a disability claimant that is trying to tell a lie by asking questions that often lead the client into contradicting their previous testimony.  So, it is my belief that honesty is always the best policy. Stay focused.  If you are being questioned about your “back” impairment, try to stay on that subject.  The other impairments you experience will hopefully be covered through more questioning.  It is important to elaborate on your disability, letting the judge know how it interferes with your life, the severity of the pain you experience, and the side effects the medications may have on you, among other things.  It’s critical that you get this information across to the judge.   Inform the judge of the things that you cannot do. Many people do not want to admit they have a disability that hinders their ability to do daily activities.  When attempting to obtain disability benefits, at times you will need to swallow your pride.  If you need help with daily activities such as grooming, laundry, cooking, etc. it is important to inform the judge of these difficulties.  This is no time to pretend you are a superhero when … Continued

Filed under: Hearings Process
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October 16, 2009

Are My Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

Indiana Social Security disability benefit recipients often ask if their benefit is taxable.  If you are approved for Social Security disability benefits, your benefits may be taxable. You may have tax obligations if you have other sources of income besides your disability payment, or if your spouse earns a substantial income, and there also may be other factors that may affect your tax situation.  Taxable Social Security benefits may include monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Although, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are not considered taxable income. If you have income in addition to your benefits, you may have to file a return even if none of your benefits are taxable.  Each personal financial situation with regard to Social Security disability benefits can be unique. It is always important when working with income taxes to either consult a tax professional or do your own extensive research when preparing your taxes.  The IRS website can be helpful when determining whether your benefits are taxable or not.  The above information concerning taxes and social security benefits should not be construed as tax advice, but rather a brief summary of information gathered from various sources. If you would like a free consultation regarding Social Security disability benefits, please contact Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis at (317) 423-888 for a free consultation.

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits
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October 1, 2009

Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Website

Applying for Social Security disability benefits is not the only thing you can do on the Social Security Administration’s website. Do you get frustrated with the long wait while visiting the Social Security Administration (SSA) or get annoyed by being placed on hold before a real person answers your call?  In our fast paced technology rich world in many cases you do not have to stand in a long line at a social security office or be placed on hold trying to contact the SSA through a toll free number.  For those that have internet access, you can simply go to www.ssa.gov and see if what you need is at your fingertips. You may be surprised by some of your options available at SSA’s website.   Some items available to you are: you can find out if you qualify for benefits; you can apply for benefits; or see what your benefits might be in the future If you are already receiving benefits, you can: file a change of address or phone number ask for a letter proving your income If you have misplaced your Medicare card, you can get a replacement just by applying online.  You can even get information of on requesting a Social Security card.  The SSA’s website is very informative and many resources are available such as forms and publications.  You may find the easiest way to locate your local Social Security Administration office is by visiting the SSA’s website.   These are just some of the topics that may be of value to Indiana residents who need to interact with SSA or perhaps apply for Social Security disability benefits.  If you didn’t know, there is even a tutorial video about the website. So if you do not want to waste any more of your valuable time by waiting in lines or have your phone glued to your ear, … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits
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September 17, 2009

Initial Evaluation of Your Social Security Disability Claim

Indiana Social Security disability claimants are often unaware of how their claim is evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis often explains the evaluation process to his clients.  Scott recommends that once you become disabled, you file your  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim immediately with the SSA.  Once your claim has been submitted to the SSA, an employee of the SSA will determine if you meet the basic requirements for disability benefits.  The SSA will look at the following basic requirements: work history (evaluating whether you have worked long and recently enough to be insured for SSDI), age, who you are applying for (evaluating whether you are applying for yourself or as a family member of another who is disabled), and current monthly income (a maximum exists on how much you can earn each month and still qualify for disability benefits). If you meet the basic requirements, your claim is forwarded to the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) office for review. The DDS office makes the initial determination regarding your disability claim. The DDS team may consist of the following: a physician a psychologist, and other disability specialists. Before making a decision an examiner will request any missing health documents from your health care provider and will determine if the DDS has all the information and documents needed to make a determination of your claim.  The DDS may also request other information they believe is necessary to properly evaluate your disability claim. It is very important you provide current contact information and that you provide as many documents as you can to speed up the evaluation of your disability claim.  Sometimes, the DDS determines that the claim can not be properly evaluated based on the available information and documents.  The DDS may ask you to attend a … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process
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