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Scott Lewis

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May 22, 2014

Is My Initial Consultation Really Free?

Your initial consultation with our office is free, and there are many reasons why.  When you call our office to initially discuss your claim, you will probably have many questions.  So will we.  We will need to talk to you to get an idea of whether you qualify for one of Social Security’s disability programs.  Also, during this first interaction with you we can get pertinent information that will give us a better “feel” for how we can help you.  Some of the questions we will probably ask you include, but are not limited to:  Are you still working?  It is possible to qualify for Social Security disability benefits even if you are working, but there are limits on the number of hours you can work and the amount of monthly gross income you can earn. When is the last time you worked?  What is your household income?  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two disability programs: eligibility for Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) is based on the number of work credits you have earned in the past ten years; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on your household income and financial resources. What medical conditions do you have that keep you from being able to work?  These conditions can be mental, physical, or a combination of both; Social Security typically requires medical evidence showing that you have been diagnosed with these conditions and are receiving treatment for them. There are many other factors involved in a Social Security disability claim, including your age, education, and prior work experience.  You may wonder why these things are important.  The SSA determines your ability to work based on many things.  In some cases, Social Security takes into account the fact that there are fewer job opportunities in the economy for people over the age of fifty. … Continued

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May 20, 2014

Heart Disease According to the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes many cardiovascular impairments as disabling conditions.  Many people use the term heart disease interchangeably with cardiovascular impairments.  The SSA defines a cardiovascular impairment as  “any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system (that is, arteries, veins, capillaries, and the lymphatic drainage).  The disorder can be congenital or acquired.”  The SSA lists cardiovascular impairments under Section 4.00 in the Listing of Impairments.  The Listings define certain diagnoses, clinical findings, and symptoms that the SSA considers disabling.  If you can provide appropriate medical evidence showing that your impairment meets the definitions set out in the Listings, you might be found disabled without having to demonstrate how your impairment keeps you from being able to work. Below are a few cardiovascular impairments that the Social Security Administration addresses in its Listing of Impairments. Chronic Heart Failure Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.  Some signs and symptoms of heat failure may include: increased rate of breathing, increased difficulty for normal breathing, pulmonary edema, cardiac asthma (wheezing), and/or apex beat or gallop rhythm.  Heart failure stems from the myocardium muscle losing efficiency, which is usually caused by damage or or overloading of the muscle.  The leading cause of chronic heart failure is coronary artery disease.  The SSA recognizes chronic heart failure in Section 4.02 of the Listing of Impairments.  To meet this listing you must be able to show certain levels of systolic or diastolic failure, severe symptoms as a result of your heart failure, or multiple episodes of acute congestive heart failure. Ischemic Heart Disease  Ischemic heart disease is more commonly known as coronary artery disease.  This condition happens when blockages in the arteries reduce blood flow.  Ischemia is defined as “reduced blood supply.”  The leading cause of ischemic heart disease … Continued

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May 7, 2014

Social Security Disability Benefits for Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach.  It is part of the endocrine and nervous systems.  The pancreas produces many important hormones that circulate in the blood.  It also produces digestive enzymes that help break down food.  Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed.  Damage to the pancreas can occur when pancreatic enzymes activate before they are secreted.   There are two main types of pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis happens over a very short period of time.  This type of pancreatitis is usually caused by gallstones or heavy drinking.  Symptoms may include: Fever Nausea/vomiting Upper abdominal pain/swollen or tender abdomen Increased heart rate Chronic pancreatitis usually results after a case of acute pancreatitis.  Chronic pancreatitis can ultimately stem from gallstones, hereditary disorders, cystic fibrosis, certain medicine, or heavy alcohol use.  Symptoms may include: Any symptoms of acute pancreatitis Weight loss Diabetes In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a disability that has lasted at least twelve months, is expected to last at least twelve months, or is expected to end in death.  If you have chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can show that your condition is disabling according to Social Security’s rules. One of the first things you must do in a Social Security disability claim is to show that you have a “medically determinable impairment.”  In other words, your condition must be diagnosed using acceptable medical clinical or laboratory techniques.  It is important to see a specialized physician such as a gastroenterologist or endocrinologist if you are diagnosed with pancreatitis.  Not only will a specialist be most likely to accurately diagnose and treat your condition, medical records from a specialized physician are likely to be given more weight by Social Security’s disability evaluators … Continued

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April 24, 2014

Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a fairly common digestive disease.  The severity and the longevity of the disease can vary greatly, though.  For some patients, a treatment of conservative therapy with bowel rest may be sufficient; others may require more aggressive antibiotics or even surgery. The exact cause of diverticulitis is unknown.  It was previously thought that a high fiber diet may help alleviate the pressure in the colon, thereby lowering the chances of diverticulitis forming.  However, in a study designed to test this theory exactly, it was shown that patients with a high fiber diet actually had an increased frequency of developing diverticulitis. Most cases of diverticulitis are diagnosed by use of a CT scan.  CT scans are cited to be very accurate (98% effective) in diagnosing diverticulitis.  Symptoms of diverticulitis may include one or more of the following: abdominal pain nausea vomiting fever cramping constipation While the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a listing that directly addresses diverticulitis in its Listing of Impairments, your diverticulitis may be disabling enough that you meet Social Security’s definition of disability in a different way.  In order to receive Social Security disability benefits for diverticulitis, you must prove one of  two things: the symptoms you experience are at least equal in severity to the symptoms of  another condition in Social Security’s Listings, or the symptoms you experience prevent you from performing all of the demands of a full-time job on a regular and continuing basis. One possible way a claimant might qualify for Social Security disability benefits for diverticulitis is to equal the listing for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  IBD is listed under Section 5.06 of the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, and it has many of the same symptoms as diverticulitis.  To meet the listing for IBD you must show one of the following: two … Continued

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April 14, 2014

Kidney Failure and Social Security Disability Benefits in Indiana

If you suffer from kidney failure, also known as renal failure, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.  Kidney failure is recognized by the Social Security Administration in its Listing of Impairments under section 6.00 – Genitourinary Impairments. Kidney failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to filter the waste products from the blood.  There are two main types of kidney failure: acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.  In acute kidney injury, the condition will develop over a short period of time – it can be as little as a few days in some cases.  Chronic kidney disease may take much longer to show signs and symptoms, as it takes much more time to develop.  In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a condition that is expected to last at least twelve months or to end in death. Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include the following: High levels of urea in the blood, which may result in: Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea Weight loss Blood in urine/nocturnal uniration/unusual amounts of urine Buildup of phosphates in the blood, which may cause: Itching Bone damage Muscle cramps Buildup of potassium, which may result in: Muscle paralysis Abnormal heart rhythms Fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys, causing pain in the patient’s back or side Low amounts of hemoglobin in the blood, which my result in: Tiredness/weakness Memory problems/difficulty concentrating There are two listings for kidney failure in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments.  These listings are summarized below; visit Social Security’s website here for the full text of these listings. Section 6.02 – Impairment of renal function, due to any chronic renal disease that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.  To meet this listing, a claimant must … Continued

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April 8, 2014

Initial Application Process for Social Security Disability Benefits

In my Indiana Social Security disability law practice, I receive many phone calls each day from people who want to know what they need to do to apply for Social Security disability benefits.  Many of them have worked their whole lives, and they are uncertain and afraid because they can no longer provide income for their families.  They need help figuring out whether they qualify for Social Security benefits and what they need to do to start the application process. My staff and I are happy not only to advise people about the application process; we also provide representation for people who are not sure they want to proceed with the initial application on their own.  Some people feel confident enough to go to Social Security’s website to complete the application on their own, or they are willing to wait a few weeks to get an appointment with their local Social Security office to start an application.  However, for those who want professional assistance from the very first step, an attorney or qualified representative can make sure that the application is completed quickly and completely. The majority of people who apply for Social Security disability receive a denial of their initial application.  However, the information you provide in your initial application is the foundation for your entire disability case, so it is important to be as thorough as possible.  Here is a list of a some of the important information you will need to provide in your initial application: Information about past and present marriages, including when you were married or divorced, and identifying information about your spouse(s) The names and addresses of your employers for the past two years How much you earned in wages for the past two years For each of your jobs in the past fifteen … Continued

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March 28, 2014

Expedited Social Security Disability Hearings for Veterans

“Starting March 17, 2014, veterans who have a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits.” This is a direct quote from the Social Security Administration’s website. This is great news for 100% disabled veterans.  In my Indiana law office, we have already seen the results of this rule.  Social Security has called us to schedule expedited hearings for several of my clients who are disabled veterans, in some cases cutting months off of their expected waiting time for their hearings. Unfortunately, I have had to explain to my clients that just because the VA has assigned them a disability rating of 100% permanent and total, it does not mean that Social Security is required to find them disabled as well.  The Veteran’s Administration and Social Security have different rules and different definitions of disability, so they do not always reach the same conclusion after evaluating the same person.  While your VA disability rating letter is important evidence in your Social Security disability claim, it does not guarantee you will be found disabled.  The only advantage this rule gives to veterans with a 100% VA rating is a faster processing time for their claims. There are a few ways to apply for Social Security Disability benefits: Complete your application online. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778 for deaf or hard of hearing). Call or visit your local Social Security Administration office. If you want to apply in person, it is best to call beforehand to schedule an appointment. To receive the expedited hearing: Identify yourself as a “veteran rated 100% P&T” If you apply in person or over the phone, inform the Social Security representative that you have a veteran rating of 100% P&T. If … Continued

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March 13, 2014

Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability Benefits

Bipolar disorder is a type of mental disorder.  It is usually distinguished by periods of depression that alternate with periods of “mania.”  Sometimes these episodes can be so severe that they impact a person’s ability to live a normal life.  There are five levels of moods associated with bipolar disorder: Severe Mania Hypomania Normal Mood Mild/Moderate Depression Severe Depression Some common signs that go along with these changing moods: Feeling more “high” than normal or very irritable Holding unreasonable beliefs about one’s own abilities Not sleeping much, but having a large amount of energy Talking so quickly that no one else can understand and experiencing racing thoughts Being very distracted or not being able to concentrate Acting very impulsively or recklessly In severe cases, experiencing delusions or hallucinations Bipolar disorder is not curable, but it can be manageable.  Management options may include psychotherapy or medication. The Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies bipolar disorder as an “affective disorder.”  According to the SSA, an affective disorder is “characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.”  Bipolar disorder is listed under Section 12.04 of the Listing of Impairments. When evaluating your Social Security disability case, Social Security will try to determine your “residual functional capacity” (RFC).  Your RFC is defined as your ability to do work-like activities in a work-like setting on a “regular and continuing” basis.  In other words, the SSA is trying to determine your ability to work a normal eight hour a day job. Even though bipolar disorder may not affect your ability to accomplish physical activities, such as standing, carrying, or using your hands, it does affect your ability to work in other ways.  For example, Social … Continued

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March 4, 2014

Social Security Disability Benefits for Claimants with Diabetes

Diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) has two main types.  Type 1 DM (diabetes mellitus) comes from the body’s inability to produce insulin.  People with this condition typically have to inject themselves with insulin or wear an insulin pump.  Type 2 DM stems from the body’s resistance to insulin – that is, the body’s cells cannot properly use insulin.  Type 2 DM is also known as adult-onset diabetes. Some symptoms of diabetes may include: weight loss frequent urination increased thirst increased hunger skin rashes blurred vision These symptoms may onset in a matter of weeks after triggered (usually by certain infections from the environment) for type 1 patients as opposed to slowly or not at all for type 2 diabetes patients.  Type 1 diabetes is usually inherited, with certain infections bringing it out.  Type 2 diabetes is typically caused by lifestyle habits and genetics.  There is no known cure for diabetes. Diabetes can often be controlled with medicine and/or lifestyle changes.  Sometimes, though, in spite of the patient’s best efforts, symptoms persist.  For example, some medical conditions might prevent the patient from being able to tolerate necessary medication or endure an exercise program.  Consistent access to treatment and medication is another hurdle many patients face due to lack of insurance and financial resources. Diabetes can be a very debilitating condition, and it is possible to receive Social Security Disability benefits because of it.  There is not a specific listing for diabetes in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, but diabetes is addressed  in Section 9.00 – Endocrine Disorders.  Simply having a diagnosis of diabetes is not enough to meet Social Security’s definition of disability.  Your diabetes must cause functional limitations that prevent you from performing work-like activities on a regular and continuing basis. Diabetes may cause some symptoms that … Continued

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January 23, 2014

Back Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

In my Indianapolis Social Security disability practice, most of my clients include back pain as an impairment that keeps them from working.  If you have ever suffered from back pain, you may understand why these individuals claim they are simply in too much pain to perform even the most simple tasks.  You can receive disability benefits for back pain, but it will take more than simply claiming that your back hurts.  In my experience, you are going to need medical records that support your claim.  In this blog I will describe what I find helpful in proving your case. Objective testing – Tests such as MRIs and x-rays can show the severity of your condition.  In my experience these tests, especially MRIs, can make a big difference in proving that your pain is caused by a severe medical impairment.  Some findings that indicate severe impairments include nerve root impingement and severe stenosis. Medical procedures –  What are you doing to try to resolve the problem?  If you are not receiving treatment for your back pain, or if you are resisting the treatment options presented by your doctor, Social Security may conclude that your pain does not bother you that much.  Some of the procedures doctors recommend for back pain include surgery, injections, and physical therapy. Medical source statements –  Sometimes winning your disability claim requires an extra push and some support from your medical provider.  My office strives to get our client’s treating physicians to complete medical source statements.  These statements include Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessments and questionnaires regarding whether you meet or equal Social Security’s Listing of Impairments as described below. One of the ways Social Security can find you disabled is if you meet or equal its Listing of Impairments.  Listing 1.04 details how an individual can … Continued

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