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Scott Lewis

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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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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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