Scott Lewis

July 28, 2009

Obtaining Disability Benefits with a Completed Residual Functual Capacity Assessment

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

Filed under: Residual Functional Capacity
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July 27, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

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.       

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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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.

Filed under: Hearings Process
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July 8, 2009

Alcoholism or Substance Abuse May Effect Your Social Security Disability Claim

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.   

Filed under: Indiana Social Security Disability Client
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July 6, 2009

Social Security Video Hearing – What is it and why am I having one?

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

Filed under: Hearings Process
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July 2, 2009

Can My Social Security Disability Benefits Run Out?

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.

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
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July 1, 2009

Will My Social Security Disability Payments Change If My Disability Gets Worse?

Frequently, Indiana Social Security Disability benefits recipients wonder if their disability worsens, will their disability payments incease? If you are currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits, your payments will not change if your condition worsens or if you have an additional severe impairment. Upon the original disability determination made by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSA takes into account various factors when deciding the amount of your disability payment. Once these factors have been determined, your payment amount is established and your payments will not change due to a worsening condition or an additional impairment. Unlike other disability programs that base your disability on percentages, such as the Veterans Administration, Social Security disability payments are pretty much an all or nothing proposition. With this in mind, it is important to let the Social Security Administration know about all of your impairments, and also the severity of each impairment when filing your initial claim and throughout the entire claims process. On the other hand, it is possible that your payment may increase. If you notice an increase in your payments, it’s likely an automatic annual cost of living adjustment. Since 1975, the SSA established “Cost of Living Adjustments” (COLA) in order to keep pace with inflation. These increases will automatically be given to you in December of each year. For more information concerning Social Security Disability benefits, contact Indianapolis Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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June 22, 2009

Onset Date for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefts

When it comes to your disability claim, your onset date can be very important. The onset date can affect how much of your past due benefits you will be paid and/or if you are eligible for benefits at all. As defined in the Social Security Act and/or regulations, the onset date of disability is the first day a person is disabled. When determining your onset date, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at work history, medical findings, and the claimant’s allegations. The aforementioned are usually looked at as a whole to determine the onset date. It should be noted, the date the claimant stopped working or the claimant’s allegations are important in deciding onset only if it falls in line with how severe the medical condition is as evidence by the medical records. In Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims, the earlier the onset date can be established, the longer the period of disability and it usually helps to maximize the amount of past due benefits that can be received. It is important to remember that a person attempting to receive SSDI must also meet the requirement of insured status. Insured status must be met at the time when a disability preventing an individual from performing substantial gainful activity is determined. While this is just a brief framework of how the Social Security Administration may look at your disability and your onset date, it should not be relied on for legal advice. For more information concerning onset dates and Social Security Disability benefits, contact the SSA or Indianapolis Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
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June 11, 2009

2008 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients Statistics by State & County

In May 2009, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released the 2008 statistics on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients by state and county.  Indianapolis area residents may be interested in knowing how their county rates compared to surrounding counties when it comes to the distribution of SSI funds.  The complete list can be found on the SSA’s website.   Below is a sample of the 2008 statistics of the state of Indiana and Indianapolis and its surrounding counties: State or County Total Category Age SSIrecipientsalsoreceivingOASDI Aged Blind anddisabled Under 18 18-64 65 orolder Indiana 108,148 5,617 102,531 23,621 71,977 12,550 34,221 Boone County 363 34 329 74 235 54 121 Hamilton County 1,161 141 1,020 241 713 207 322 Hancock County 457 30 427 98 300 59 142 Hendricks County 693 53 640 171 435 87 211 Johnson County 1,061 69 992 258 674 129 331 Marion County 20,453 1,160 19,293 5,321 12,659 2,473 5,937 Morgan County 806 35 771 148 574 84 273 Shelby County 601 37 564 133 400 68 196 If you have questions regarding Indiana Supplemental Security Income benefits, contact Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888

Filed under: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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June 5, 2009

Social Security Disability Benefits and Social Security Retirement Benefits

 Many Indiana Social Security Disability Benefit recipients wonder when their disability benefits will change to Social Security retirement benefits.  Retirement benefits and disability benefits are both Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are paid out of two trust funds: the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund. If you are a person who is receiving disability benefits, when you reach your full retirement age, the Social Security Administration (SSA) stops paying them from the DI trust fund and changes payment to come from the OASI trust fund. Your monthly earnings will not change.  Although, because you’ll then be getting full retirement benefits based on age rather than disability benefits based on your medical condition, your disability will no longer be the basis for your entitlement. This means no more periodic re-evaluations by the SSA to see if you still meet the definition of disability and no restrictions on earnings should you return to work. According to the SSA, depending on the year you were born, full retirement age is the following: 1937 or Earlier – Retirement age is 65 1938 – Retirement age is 65 and 2 months  1939 – Retirement age is 65 and 4 months 1940 – Retirement age is 65 and 6 months 1941 – Retirement age is 65 and 8 months 1942 – Retirement age is 65 and 10 months 1943-1954 – Retirement age is 66  1955 – Retirement age is 66 and 2 months 1956 – Retirement age is 66 and 4 months  1957 – Retirement age is 66 and 6 months  1958 – Retirement age is 66 and 8 months  1959 – Retirement age is 66 and 10 months  1960 and later – Retirement age is 67 In summary, when you reach full retirement age, nothing will change, except for Social Security purposes, your benefits will be … Continued

Filed under: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
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