August 21, 2009
Indiana Social Security Claimants attempting to get disability benefits for mental impairments should be aware of the criteria the Social Security Administration (SSA) may look at when evaluating their claim. The SSA evaluation of a disability on the basis of a mental disorder is based on the following: Documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s); Degree of limitation that the impairment(s) may have on the claimant’s ability to work; and The determination of whether these limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. The following categories of mental disorders are described more in depth on the SSA’s website: Organic mental disorders: described as psychological or behavioral abnormalities associated with a dysfunction of the brain Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders Affective disorders: characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome Bipolar disorder Depression Mental retardation Anxiety-related disorders Somatoform disorders: defined as physical symptoms for which there are no demonstrable organic findings or known physiological mechanisms; Personality disorders Substance addiction disorders Autistic disorder Other pervasive developmental disorders Contact Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis for questions regarding Social Security Disability and Mental Impairments. For a free consultation, call 317-423-8888.
August 20, 2009
Can a child with a disability qualify for Social Security benefits? A child under age 18 can qualify if he or she meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability for children, and if his or her income and resources fall within the eligibility limits. The requirements for children can differ from adults. Since children do not have a work history, the funds for children with disabilities are paid through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. There are a few things to keep in mind when attempting to receive SSI benefits for your disabled child: 1. The child must financially qualify. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will take a look at the amount of income and resources that the child and the family members living in the household have access to. If the child’s income and resources, or the income and resources of family members living in the child’s household, are more than the amount allowed by the SSA, the child’s application for SSI payments will be denied. Also, if the child lives in a medical facility where health insurance pays for his or her care, the SSA will limit the monthly SSI payment to $30 per month. 2. The child must have a condition or combination of conditions that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or expected to result in death. These physical or mental conditions must result in “marked and severe functional limitations.” Marked and severe limitations means that the child’s activities are very seriously limited, it can cause the child to be in a grade level inappropriate for his or her age, it can cause your child to be constantly hospitalized, etc. While some attorneys are hesitant to take children’s Social Security claims cases, Indiana Attorney Scott Lewis believes many of these cases can be won at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) level. It is important to secure good physician’s treatment … Continued
August 12, 2009
Indiana residents who suffer with Bipolar Disorder often find themselves in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) when attempting to get their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the existence of Bipolar Disorder in their “Listing of Impairments” under listing 12.04 Affective Disorders. Individuals suffering from Bipolar Disorder that are attempting to get disability benefits, may find it easier to win their case when they have a good long standing relationship with their health care professional. It has been the experience of Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis, that many ALJ’s and medical experts that may testify at the hearing level, will put greater emphasis on medical records from a treating physician with a long relationship with that particular patient. There are certain aspects of Bipolar Disorder the SSA will focus on for depressive syndrome: loss of interest in activities appetite disturbance with loss or gain in weight sleep disturbance psychomotor agitation or retardation decreased energy feelings of guilt or worthlessness difficulty concentrating thoughts of suicide hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thing There are other aspects of Bipolar Disorder the SSA will focus on for manic syndrome: hyperactivity pressure of speech flight of ideas increased self esteem decreased need for sleep increased distractability involvement in activities with a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized The above factors may cause restrictions in activities of daily living, difficulties in maintaining social functioning, difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace, and episodes of decompensation each of extended duration. The aforementioned are just some of the areas a Social Security ALJ may consider when deciding whether you have a disability that affects your ability to perform substantial gainful activity. This information is not intended to be legal advice and Attorney Scott D. Lewis recommends you consult a qualified attorney or representative … Continued
July 29, 2009
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a degenerative condition where the median nerve in the wrist area is compressed causing inflamation or swelling of the tissue. This can result in the nerve being pinched and symptoms can include: pain weakness in the hand and forearm wrist and hand numbness a burning sensation decreased ability to grasp with one’s fingers Indianapolis Social Security disability claimant’s ask how does the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Currently, CTS is not a listing in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” Although, the SSA does recognize the disabling effects of this impairment. If hand manipulation were a key element in a claimant’s past relevant work, and the CTS is severe enough, it may be found that the individual is unable to return to their past work. The SSA will then determine if there is other work in the National Economy that the claimant may be able to perform. In my experience as a Social Security Disability Attorney, it should be noted that many jobs in the economy require fine hand manipulation. Medial tests and medical records documenting the severity of the claimant’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are often the key to a successful disability claim. Share with your physician how severe your symptoms are and how your life is being affected by these symptoms. If you have any questions regarding your Social Security disability claim, call Attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.
July 28, 2009
A Social Security disability claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is the most that he/she may do despite their limitations. The RFC Assessment is a form completed by a health care provider that states a claimant’s limitations caused by the impairment(s) that affect the claimant in a work setting. This form can be very beneficial in obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. When a claimant submits their initial disability application, the claim is reviewed by a Social Security Administration’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) Examiner. Before the examiner can make the final decision, the examiner must submit the claim to the Social Security Administration’s medical or psychological physicians to complete the RFC form. The doctors will review the claimant’s medical records and rate the claimant’s RFC physical and mental RFC based on these records. Often times, RFC forms completed by the SSA’s doctors are rarely of any benefit to claimant because typically they are used to support denials more often than approvals. While the SSA may have one of their health care providers complete a RFC, it is important that individuals attempting to get disability benefits have their own medical professional complete a RFC. Your own treating physician usually has more insight to the patient’s medical history, diagnosis, and limitations. Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis finds a completed Residual Functional Capacity Assessment can be very helpful when appearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Appearing in front of an ALJ can allows time for the claimant to get a completed RFC assessment from a doctor that has personally treated the claimant. The treating physician has a relationship history with the claimant and has provided medical care for the claimant which allows the treating doctor to have the knowledge of a claimant’s medical condition. As long as the treating physician’s opinions are consistent with the medical records and are documented properly, the SSA should consider the treating physician’s opinion in determining … Continued
July 27, 2009
Indianapolis Social Security disability claimants may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD may be caused by a traumatic event that an individual experiences either once or on a continuous basis. This disorder may be very severe and may cause long term psychological problems. Often individuals with PTSD will experience the following: The individual may relive the traumatic event sometimes as nightmares or flashbacks; The person may become hyper aroused; May avoid any contact with stimuli that reminds the person of the traumatic event; or The person may feel numb emotionally. These are only a few examples of symptoms an individual with PTSD may experience and the individual may experience other symptoms that result in a disabling condition. Recently, many veterans have returned from active duty with a diagnosis of PTSD. While the Veterans Administration (VA) may find a veteran disabled due to PTSD, it does not mean the Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically find that same person disabled due to PTSD. Although, medical findings by the VA should be taken into consideration by the SSA when determining disability. The SSA does recognize PTSD as a disabling condition and disability benefits may be obtained with thorough medical documentation by your health care provider. The SSA generally looks at post traumatic stress disorder as an anxiety disorder. If the PTSD claimant meets the SSA’s criteria for mental disorders, he/she may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis has experience in representing claimants with mental disorders. Other disabiling conditions that Attorney Scott Lewis has experience are bipolar disorder, depression, and other anxiety related disorders. If you would like a free consultation with Scott Lewis, please call (317) 423-8888.
July 16, 2009
Do Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE) Always Testify at an Administrative Law Judge Hearing?
Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants often ask if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will always have experts testify at their Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing. In simple terms, the answer is “no, not always.” There are multiple reasons why an expert may not testify at the disability hearing. Some ALJ’s simply do not use a Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE). Other ALJ’s may use one expert but may not use the other expert. Although the reasons vary, some reasons could include the availability of these experts and whether or not the ALJ has already looked at your case and may decide you are getting a favorable decision before you have even walked through the door. Many experienced Administrative Law Judges feel that they can make a fair decision based on the claimant’s testimony and the medical records. Hopefully, they have looked thoroughly at the claimant’s medical records and will come to a fact based decision as to what the limitations are regarding the claimant’s disability. Once the ALJ has established the limitations, they consider whether the claimant can perform their past employment, or with the restrictions determined, whether they can perform other employment. Are your chances of winning your disability claim better if there are no experts? In Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis’s opinion, probably not. While expert testimony can help lay out the framework for a decision, most Administrative Law Judge’s are going to go through the same process without the aid of expert testimony. An attorney representing you in your disability claim should be ready for the presence of experts and have an appropriate line of questions ready if needed. If you have questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim, contact Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.
July 8, 2009
It may be a surprise to know that not long ago Social Security disability claimants could have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for having alcoholism and substance abuse problems. Presently, alcoholism and substance abuse problems may be a huge barrier to obtaining these same benefits. In 1996, Congress passed an act that prevented claimants that suffer from alcoholism and/or substance abuse to receive SSDI benefits. Claimants that suffer from substance abuse addictions or alcoholism may find themselves receiving an unfavorable decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Before taking a look at the effects of the substance abuse or alcoholism, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will focus on the physical or mental impairment of the Social Security claimant. If the SSA determines there is a disabling condition, the SSA will then consider the medical evidence showing a history of alcoholism or substance abuse. At that point, the SSA will decide if the alcoholism or drug abuse is a contributing factor to that person’s disability. The key question is whether the alcoholism or drug abuse “materially” contributes to the disabling condition. Social Security may ask that if the addiction was not there, would the claimant still be disabled. It is important in these types of claims for the social security claimant to seek treatment and be in a treatment program. Not all Administrative Law Judges are sympathetic to the plight of an addiction. So if you are attempting to seek social security disability it is important to keep the above in mind when assessing your eligibility for Social Security benefits. Indiana Attorney Scott D. Lewis is an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer that can help you with your claim. Contact Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.
July 6, 2009
Finally, your Social Security Disability claim has been scheduled for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you have been told it is a “video hearing”. Most Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants may wonder what a video hearing is and why are they scheduled to have one? Video hearings are hearings where the judge is at a different location from the claimant and will appear on a large colored television screen at your location. The judge is able to speak, hear, or see anyone at the hearings office location. The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that your privacy is protected and the hearing transmission is done in a secure manner. A video hearing consists of the same elements as hearing in person. The video hearing is not video taped but the SSA does make an audio recording. At the local hearings room, there will be the claimant, a court reporter, and if the claimant desires representation, a Social Security Disabiltiy Attorney or representative. Sometimes a medical expert and/or a vocational (job) expert may testify at the hearing. The Social Security Administration (SSA) believes that using video technology may be a faster way to get a hearing, may be more convenient, and also may be more efficient. The Indianapolis Social Security Hearing’s Office is currently one of the most backlogged hearings offices in the country. Many video hearings take place in Indianapolis due to the tremendous backlog. While it might be true that video hearings may be a way to expedite your social security disability case heard by a judge, there may also be some drawbacks. A hearing held in front of a judge rather than by video may be more personal. This may give the judge the opportunity to actually look at the claimant in close proximity enabling the judge to assess the claimant’s physical or even mental disability by being able to directly observe the claimant … Continued
July 2, 2009
As an Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney, many of my clients ask if their Social Security Disability benefits will run out or only last for a short period of time. The answer to this particular question is “no”, but there are specific reasons that it may stop. For example, if your disabling condition gets better and/or you have reached recovery, then your payments will stop. Additionally, if you return to work and earn over a certain amount of money per month, again, your payments will stop. The Social Security Administration (SSA) refers to this as “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). In 2009, the SGA is $980/month for non-blind recipients. The SSA periodically reviews Social Security recipient’s files to determine whether or not their disability continues to be severe enough to prevent them from working. Once you reach retirement age, your Social Security disability benefits will automatically turn into Social Security retirement benefits. The year that you were born will determine at what age Social Security will recognize as your eligible retirement age. If you have any further questions regarding the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, please call my law firm and ask for Attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free consultation.