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Scott Lewis

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June 3, 2009

How does the Social Security Administration Determine if you are Disabled?

Indiana residents may wonder how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if they are disabled.  In order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the SSA must find you disabled.  There are many factors that go into answering this question.  Outlined below is the five-step process that the SSA uses to decide if you are disabled. Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis suggest that you keep the following in mind when you decide to file a claim.  Are you working?  If you are employed and your monthly earnings average more than a certain amount designated by the SSA, the SSA generally will not consider you disabled. The amount changes each year. For the current figure, visit the SSA website.  If you are not working, or your monthly earnings average the current amount or less, then they will look at your medical condition.  Many times, Social Security claimants are unclear of what earnings count.  If you have questions, contact Attorney Scott Lewis.  Is your medical condition “severe”?  For the SSA to decide that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, and remembering, for at least one year. If your medical condition is not that considered severe, you will not be considered disabled. If your condition is severe, the SSA goes on to the next step. Is your medical condition on the SSA’s List of Impairments?  The SSA has a List of Impairments that describes medical conditions that are considered so severe that you automatically qualify as being disabled. If your condition (or combination of medical conditions) is not on this list, they will look to see if your condition is as severe as a condition that is on the list. If the severity of your medical condition meets or equals that of a … Continued

Filed under: Indiana Social Security Disability Client
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May 21, 2009

Selecting a Social Security Disability Lawyer that is Right for You!

Much like Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis, many attorneys advertise their services on television, on the internet, or simply in the yellow pages.  However, finding the “right” representative to handle your Social Security Disability claim is a different matter.  You may ask yourself what qualities you should look for when selecting an attorney to represent you. Although there are no clear cut answers to this question, here are some helpful tips. You may want to ask the attorney if he focuses on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cases and Social Security Income (SSI) cases. If he only does SSDI or SSI cases occasionally on top of other types of law, he may not be what you are looking for.  Sometimes, it’s best to select a lawyer who  focuses specifically on disability claims, giving him more experience and capability than a lawyer who simply dabbles in SSDI or SSI cases. Ultimately, who you should choose simply boils down to who you feel comfortable with and who you trust to handle winning your SSDI and SSI benefits. Although it would be difficult to immediately trust someone you barely know, you may want to gauge your initial trust level based on the following factors: Was the attorney accessible by phone and willing to return your phone calls? Did the attorney seem knowledgeable regarding the Social Security disability system? Did the lawyer answer questions to your satisfaction?  Does the attorney a helpful and courteous staff?  If your chosen Social Security Disability Lawyer and his staff can be reached by phone, returns your calls, knows how the Social Security system works, and is willing to ease your concerns by explaining the process to you, it’s likely you are receiving proper representation. Scott Lewis is an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer who is pleased to assist clients throughout the state of Indiana. Scott practices focuses in social security disability claims, including SSDI and … Continued

Filed under: Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney
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May 18, 2009

Social Security Disability Clients

Often, Indiana Social Security Disability Claimants wonder how they can effectively work with their attorney in order to help their case.  In my experience as an Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney, I have found just a few things that my clients can do to enhance the chances of winning their Social Security claim and also help maintain a good working relationship with my office. Continue to see your medical professionals.  As your attorney, I can argue until I am blue in the face to the Social Security Administration (SSA) about how disabled you are, but if we don’t have good supporting medical records the SSA usually doesn’t hear us.  If financially affordable, continue to see your physicians and accumulate medical documentation to support your case. Meet deadlines.  If you receive materials that are time sensitive, make sure you meet those deadlines.  Before hiring an attorney, you may be responsible for filing your appeal.  Failing to meet these deadlines may result in starting the Social Security process from the beginning again.  Once you hire an attorney to represent you, they strive to meet these deadlines, but can still use your input. Communication.  If your disability worsens or you go back to work, contact your lawyer.  There are certain times when a worsening condition may need to be addressed with the SSA in order to expedite the process.  Also, if you have returned to the workforce and no longer are seeking Social Security benefits, you should alert your attorney so he can assess the situation and possibly facilitate in withdrawing your Social Security claim. Be patient.  We understand the stress your disability and the lack of funds can put on a claimant’s life. Unfortunately, the Social Security Claims process in Indiana can be very long.  We, like our clients, get frustrated with the long waiting period.  It is important to realize that this process is more like a marathon than a sprint, and … Continued

Filed under: Indiana Social Security Disability Client
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May 15, 2009

Indiana Residents Filing a Request for Reconsideration

If your initial application for Social Security Disability Benefits has been denied and you disagree with this decision, you must file the following forms to keep the claims process moving forward: Request for Reconsideration (SSA-561-U2); Reconsideration Disability Report (SSA-3441-F6); and Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (SSA-827). This is the first level of appeal after your initial denial. In simple terms, by filing these forms you are saying to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they have made a mistake by not granting you Social Security disability benefits and they need to take another look at your claim. It is important to note that the SSA states that you have 60 days from the date of the initial claim denial to file a Request for Reconsideration, although it’s assumed that you received the letter five days after it was dated so actually you have 65 days.  If an Indiana claimant is untimely in filing the Request for Reconsideration within that allotted time, chances are he will be forced to start at the initial claim stage over again.  There are exceptions to this 60 day requirement.  If you can show good cause as to why you have filed late, you must supply the SSA with a reasonable explanation as to why the Request for Reconsideration is being filed late. Filling the required forms is not difficult.  Once filed, a Disability Examiner evaluates the claim.  Social Security claimants should remember that the majority of these Requests for Reconsideration claims are denied and result at the hearing level in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Remember, Social Security’s denial of your claim is not a personal attack on you.  The people who make these decisions do not know you or your case and most likely do not have all of the evidence they need to make a favorable decision.  It … Continued

Filed under: Claims Process, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process
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May 15, 2009

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

What should a disability claimant expect when going to a Social Security disability hearing?   Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis often tells his client’s, “Do not expect it to be something you have seen on a television show.”  Outlined below is a brief example of what Scott Lewis experiences when he is representing his Indiana claimants at the hearing level.  Typically, the hearings office is a rather informal office and the hearing usually takes place in a small room.  As you arrive at the hearings office, you must check-in with the office and then you will take a seat until it is your turn.  If you have an attorney representing you, when he arrives the attorney will review the claimant’s file located at the Social Security office to ensure all of the exhibits he has submitted to the court have been properly placed in the file.  Once you are called into the hearing room, you may see several other people in the room.  This may include a medical expert, a vocational expert, a court reporter, and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The people present at the Administrative Hearing depends on the ALJ and the availability of the experts.  Occasionally, the ALJ will appear on video from another location rather than physically being in the hearing office.  After court formalities, you are sometimes questioned by the ALJ about your personal information and medical information concerning your disability(s).  After the judge is finished questioning the claimant, he typically turns to your lawyer and asks if there are any further questions.  The attorney will ask the client questions that may support his case.  Once the attorney has completed questioning the client, the judge may ask the Medical Expert for his opinion of your medical records. If the Medical Expert testifies that … Continued

Filed under: Hearings Process
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May 12, 2009

How does Social Security Assess your Physical and Mental Limitations?

Indiana Social Security Administrative Law Judges are not alone when it comes to looking at a claimant’s limitations because of their disability.  Your impairment or disability, and any related symptoms, may cause physical and mental limitations that affect what you can do in a work setting. These limitations are called Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).   An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is supposed to look at your limitations due to your disability. To assess your RFC, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at all available medical evidence to determine what they believe your restrictions might be. The ALJ and the SSA will also consider statements and observations of your limitations by you, your family, neighbors, and friends. The SSA will consider things such as, but not limited to: How long you can sit, stand, and walk; Your inability to lift or carry objects over a certain weight; Your inability to use your hands and/or limbs for grasping, holding objects and other repetitive motions; How long you can concentrate, and/or keep up with a task; Whether you can remember and/or understand instructions; Your inability to interact with others, or work under supervision; and Various other work related restrictions. When you hire Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis, he understands how important a completed Residual Functional Capacity Assessment can be at the Administrative Law Judge Level. When this type of assessment is completed by your health care provider, Scott Lewis will strive to make sure it is brought to the Social Security Administration’s attention and he will argue why your restrictions prevent you from being a productive employee in the work force.

Filed under: Residual Functional Capacity
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May 7, 2009

Medication Side Effects in Social Security Disability Cases

Many people wonder if they can be found disabled because of side effects to their prescribed medications.  Some people have even given up on their Social Security cases because they thought that they could not be found disabled based solely on side effects to medications.  If you doubt that you can be found disabled because of side effects, do not give up!  Side effects can be disabling. You may be familiar with the warning labels on the side of your medication bottles.  These warnings are very important because the side effects of some medications can cause problems in the work force.  It’s not uncommon for Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis to ask his clients about their medications, the side effects of their medications, warnings and limitations caused by their medication. The clients’ disabling conditions, coupled with the medications’ side effects, can often lead to a “fully favorable” decision from the Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Often times, medications may cause drowsiness, inability to drive, nausea, or other side effects and may last for an extended period of time.  This alone may not necessarily be enough to get you disability but the side effects to your medication may be helpful in getting your disability claim approved.  Side effects to medications can always be considered in a Social Security disability benefit case.  In one particular case, a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified that the side effects of the medications caused the claimant to doze off two or three times daily for 10-30 minutes each time which would be enough to preclude any substantial employment. One of the clearest examples of medication side effects is chemotherapy in cases of cancer.  This treatment saps your strength and can make you physically sick.  This is clearly debilitating and even disabling.  Is this enough to make you disabled?  That decision is up to a Social … Continued

Filed under: Medications
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April 23, 2009

Waiting Period for Social Security Disability Claims Can Cause Frustration

Are you discouraged with the waiting period for your Social Security disability claim?  You are not alone.  Thousands of Americans filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits are facing an extensive waiting period.  This poses quite a dilemma because, assuming, anyone filing for benefits is disabled and financially in need.  The average waiting period for a hearing is 24 months, during which a claimant in not working due to their disability or is employed but is not earning over $980 per month in 2009.  At the Indiana law office of Scott D. Lewis, Attorney at Law, LLC, Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis understands that two years is a very long time to have little to no income with the burden of outstanding medical bills. Don’t give up!  There are actions by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that are being taken to attempt to fix the problem.  On March 24, 2009, a congressional hearing was held at which SSA Commissioner Michael J. Astrue addressed the frustration of the current state of the Social Security disability backlog.  Commissioner Astrue outlined the following goals of the SSA: Open 10 new hearing offices Establish 3 new National Hearing Center sites Hire 157 additional Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) Hire an additional 840 hearing office support staff Hire 135 new administrative appeals judges & support staff These targeted goals are in hopes that the average processing time at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) will decrease to 270 days.  The Indianapolis hearings office is currently ranked with one of the longest waiting periods for hearings with a wait time exceeding 730 days.  The SSA reaching their proposed goals will be helpful to the Indiana area.  Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up.  Call Attorney Scott D. Lewis of the Law Office of Scott D. Lewis, Attorney at Law, LLC, to get more information on the appeals process.  He focuses in Social Security disability claims … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process
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April 22, 2009

Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits while Working

Are you currently employed but are considering filing for Social Security Disability Benefits because you are disabled?  Are you wondering if you make too much money at your job in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs?  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a multi-step questioning process in deciding whether or not you are disabled.  The first step in this process is to determine if the claimant is unable to engage in “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA).  SGA is defined as any activity that can be done for profit for a specified period of time.  This profit is the money earned from performing this activity and is limited by the SSA.  Do not misinterpret this definition as being “work related” activity but understand that this is any activity that qualifies and is based on the amount of money you have made, or could have made, from the activity.  The SSA has a specific earnings guideline to determine if you are engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity.  The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability (blind vs. non-blind individuals).  In 2009, the SGA amount for non-blind individuals is an average of $980 per month and for blind individuals it is an average of $1,640 per month.  If you earn more than these amounts, it’s unlikely you will be considered disabled.  Every year, these amounts increase as there are increases in the National Average Wage Index.  When calculating your monthly earnings, you may be able to deduct certain Impairment Related Work Expenses that allow you to be able to work.  For the expenses to be considered an Impairment Related Work Expense, the expense must not be reimbursed, must be related to your disability, and needed in order for you to be able to work. Contact Indiana … Continued

Filed under: Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
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April 15, 2009

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in Indiana

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to qualifying disabled people or to their family members of those that have a qualifying work history and have paid Social Security taxes.  The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children that have limited resources and income.  SSI benefits are also available to adults over the age of 65 without disabilities who meet the financial limits established by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  Indiana residents that become disabled should file an application for Social Security Disability Benefits with the SSA immediately.  An application for SSDI and SSI can be filed online at SSA’s website, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to set up an appointment, or visit your local Social Security Office to apply in person.  It may take several weeks before a decision is made regarding your applications.   If approved, congratulations!  On the other hand, if you receive a “Notice of Disapproved Claim” from the SSA, don’t become discouraged.  Statistics show that the majority of all claims are denied at the initial application.  Within 60 days from your denial, you must submit a request for reconsideration to the Social Security Administration.  If your request for reconsideration is denied, you have 60 days from that denial to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  It is important for you to stay within these deadlines or the SSA may force you to start the initial application process over again.   If you have questions regarding this process, contact Indianapolis Attorney Scott D. Lewis for more details.  Scott focuses on representing Indiana area clients with their Social Security Disability claims after they have been denied.  He will continue the appeals process with you and represent you at your scheduled hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  Scott will fight for what you and your family deserve. 

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