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December 12, 2014

Consultative Exams: What Are They And Should You Go?

Many disability claimants are caught off guard when they receive a notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a scheduled doctor’s appointment.   These doctor appointments are called consultative examinations (CE’s).  The SSA will sometimes send SSDI and/or SSI claimants to these examinations if they feel like more information is needed to determine a disabling condition.  It is important that the claimants attend these CE’s.  Failure to appear at a CE may result in the SSA denying the claim. Who are the doctors? The doctors that perform the CE’s are not employed directly by Social Security, but are private doctors that are contracted out by the SSA.  In my experience, this can be good and bad.  The good part is that since the doctors are independent physicians, they should be evaluating the claimant’s condition objectively.  The flip side of this is that since these physicians only see the claimants for a single short visit, (usually around 15 minutes) a thorough evaluation may not be performed. What is the purpose of these exams? The most likely purpose that a claimant is sent to a consultative examination is because of a lack of medical records.  If a claimant is claiming a disability, but there are not any or enough medical records to back it up, or the records are from a long time ago, the claimant’s case reviewer will most likely send the claimant out for a CE.  Hopefully the SSA will attempt to give the claimant a fair shot despite the lack of medical records, but it is usually best not to rely on a consultative examination to prove your disability.  Another scenario that my office sees is when the case reviewer or the judge wants a specific test done that they think could prove or disprove the claimant’s case. … Continued

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November 26, 2014

What Is The Timeline For My Social Security Disability Claim?

Many claimants wonder what the timeline looks like for a Social Security disability claim from start to finish.  The waiting time for a claim can depend on many factors and can vary greatly from case to case. Step 1: Initial Application In my experience, the average waiting time for a decision on the initial application is about 4 months, but this is only an estimate. This wait time can depend on multiple things.  One factor is how quickly your medical providers respond to the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s requests for medical records.  The SSA will request any relevant medical records from the medical providers you listed on your initial application.  In my experience, the turnaround time for medical records can range from one week to a few months.  Another factor that impacts the waiting time at this stage is how long it takes the SSA to obtain additional information it needs about your disabling conditions.  This additional information can come in the form of consultative exams (one-time assessments by doctors who examine you on the SSA’s behalf) or questionnaires about your work history and your activities of daily living.  Finally, the wait time can be longer or shorter based on the SSA’s current workload. Step 2: Request for Reconsideration In my experience, claimants wait approximately 3 months for a decision on a request for reconsideration, but this is only an estimate. The waiting time at this step has the greatest variation among my clients.  Some clients receive a decision within a few weeks, especially if they have not received any additional medical treatment since they completed their initial application.  Others wait months as their adjudicators work to obtain additional information, especially if the claimants have experienced big changes in their disabling conditions since completing the initial application.  Usually this step simply entails a medical records update and … Continued

Filed under: Appeals Process, Claims Process, Evaluation Process, Hearings Process, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) || Tagged under:
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July 10, 2014

How Do Drugs And Alcohol Use Affect My Disability Claim?

Your social security disability claim may be denied due to alcohol or drug use.  The way this information usually gets to the Social Security Administration (SSA) is through the medical records.  Most doctors offices ask questions concerning drugs and alcohol when patients go in for a check up.  Some hospitals will conduct drug tests while patients are in for a procedure. Below is a paraphrased version of what the SSA’s Federal Regulation 416.935 says concerning drugs and alcohol: If the SSA finds that you are disabled, they must determine if your drug or alcohol addiction is a contributing factor to your disability.  This does not apply to claimants when applying because of blindness. If you stopped using drugs or alcohol, would the SSA still find you disabled? Would your current physical or mental limitations remain if you stopped using drugs or alcohol? If the SSA determines that your remaining limitations (after removing the drug or alcohol use) would not be disabling, you may not receive benefits. If the SSA determines that your remaining limitations (after removing the drug or alcohol use) are still disabling, you may be found favorable for benefits. How the SSA looks at drug and alcohol use varies from case to case.  In cases where the claimant is claiming mental health issues, the SSA will look and determine, in their opinion, if the claimant stopped using drugs or alcohol, would the condition still exist?  This can be a gray area with mental health cases because far too often I see drugs or alcohol become a coping mechanism for mental issues. If you have drug or alcohol issues, your case may be harder to win, but this does not mean that it is impossible.  We must prove to the SSA that the drug or alcohol issues are independent … Continued

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September 27, 2011

How Long is the Wait for a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing?

In the past couple of years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had high hopes to improve the wait time for disabled individuals to get a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Because there was such a large number of backlogged disability appeals waiting to get a hearing date, the SSA’s proposed goal was to improve the Social Security appeals system by hiring more ALJ’s to hear cases, add more hearing centers, and implement technologies that would make it easier to process more hearings across the nation. With these intended plans, the SSA did not foresee the significant budget cuts that would later disrupt these proposed plans. Unfortunately, the backlog of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals has not decreased; as a matter of fact, it appears that the number of disability appeals has grown since this initial plan. In 2011, a study shows that a lack of resources, combined with an increased number of SSDI and SSI claims filed, may be having an impact on the wait time for a hearing. Statistically, the study showed that the number of appeals nationally still pending in the current year was 735,660.  In the 2010 fiscal year, the number of individuals waiting for a hearing was 705,367.  As you can see, there is a significant increase in applicants waiting for a hearing from last year. Although there is an increase in the number of backlogged cases, the average wait period for an individual to get in front of an ALJ has decreased from 514 days in 2008 to 369 days in 2010. So regardless, the SSA has been able to improve the wait period from 2008 to 2010. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a disabled individual to get a hearing scheduled faster than other disabled individuals.  Although, there may be measures that a disability claimant can take in order to increase their chances of being approved for benefits … Continued

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August 19, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyers May Be Able to Give You A Good Idea Of What To Expect At Your Appeals Hearing

Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes one of the most important aspects of his job is to advise his clients as to what they can expect during a Social Security disability hearing.  While Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) may have varying formats in the way they run the hearings, a general theme usually guides their line of questioning. Disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds the questioning generally falls into three categories and these include: General questions Job related questions Medical questions General questions most likely the easiest questions for the claimant to answer.  Questions concerning your name, address, age, marital status, number of children you have,  height, weight, right or left handed, and even the type of home you live in.  Why does the Social Security Administration care about these things?  Remember, the facts always matter.  If you testify you are unable to take care of yourself, but also testify you have three young children you care for, the Judge may not put as much weight into the testimony that you are unable to care of yourself.  Sound fair? Maybe not, but it is important to remember there is usually a legitimate reason for every question you are being asked. As for job related questions, usually the Social Security Administrations is only concerned with jobs you performed over the last fifteen years that lasted over three months.  Okay, so now you’re thinking, “I have had so many jobs that it’s going to be hard to remember one I performed fifteen years ago.”  Well, the judge at your hearing may have a printout of your past occupations and through a line of questioning can usually help you remember your past relevant employment.  Also, at some hearings a vocational expert or “job expert” may be present and possibly has already examined … Continued

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July 8, 2011

If I Win My Indiana Social Security Disability Appeal, What Happens Next?

Scott D. Lewis is an Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney and has experience with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims from start to finish.  When a Social Security disability claim is found favorable it generally sets into motion a chain of events that hopefully will result in a payment to the disabled individual.  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis advises his clients on what to expect in the event of winning their claim, but usually cautions them to not get ahead of themselves and concentrate on winning the disability claim first. So what happens after you receive a notice in the mail that you have won your disability claim?  If it is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim you can probably expect a phone call from the Social Security Administration to determine what resources you have among other factors to determine how much your monthly benefit will be.  The SSI program is basically a “needs” based program and how much the Social Security Administration determines you need through a formula that is used will determine how much you will receive. Once that is determined an award letter is generated detailing how much your payments will be, when they will start, and how much of a back payment is due if any. If you are entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits you will probably not be contacted by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The formula used for computing your payments is based on your work history.  This can usually be computed by the Social Security Administration without your assistance.  Resources are generally not an issue for computation purposes.  Once again, an award letter is generated telling you how much your payments ill be, when they start, and how much of a back payment is due if … Continued

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May 24, 2011

Missed The Deadline For Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal?

You have received a denial from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for your Indiana Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and you had sixty (60) days to appeal this decision. In Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, this is an all too familiar scenario.  As some Indiana disability claimants experience, sixty (60) days may not seem like a whole lot of time and passes by before you know it causing you to miss the deadline set forth by the SSA to file an appeal. All SSDI or SSI claimants’ that have been denied disability benefits have the right to appeal that denial decision. As stated above, disability claimants have sixty (60) days from the date of the denial letter to file an appeal. Although, the SSA takes into account that the appeal period begins with the date of the denial notice, so they allow five additional days for the mailing time of the denial notice. Basically, this means that any disability applicant who receives a disability denial has five (5) extra days, for a total of sixty-five (65) days, to get their appeal to Social Security. In order for an appeal to be timely it must be in the Social Security office of jurisdiction on the sixty-fifth day from the date of the notice of denial. Disability claimants that want to file an appeal have a few ways to file the appeal. Appeals can be filed the following ways: Online at the Social Security Administration’s website at www.ssa.gov, Mail in paper appeal forms, or You can go to your local SSA office and file your appeal in person. It really does not matter which method you choose, just make sure to complete all necessary forms and return any requested forms by the deadline date. Disability claimants that are represented by a disability attorney … Continued

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February 11, 2011

Your Indiana Social Security Disability Appeal and Your Ability To Concentrate

Scott D. Lewis is an Indianapolis disability lawyer who fields many calls from Indiana disability claimants stating that they have a very hard time maintaining concentration due to a mental condition.  Many of these conditions can make it impossible for a person to maintain employment because they are simply unable to stay on task and maintain attention in a work setting.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to consider your ability to maintain concentration, persistence, and pace in making a disability determination. The Social Security Administration usually makes an appointment for those individuals claiming a mental disability to see a physician to establish the limitations experienced by the mental disorder.  A form is completed called a Mental Functional Residual Capacity Assessment.  This form contains various headings including the ability to sustain concentration and persistence.  The individual completing the form is to check the appropriate box indicating the severity of the condition.  In Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis’ experience the physician completing this form usually underestimates the severity of the mental condition concerning concentration, persistence, and pace more than any other limitation contained on the form.  So, now you have left the examination and the reviewer believes your limitations are not significantly limited or only moderately limited, what happens next? Don’t give up!  If you believe your Indiana Social Security disability claim is denied because of this and you believe you have a valid claim, you should appeal that decision.  Many times, Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis finds an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after hearing your testimony finds that you are indeed unable to stay on task for the required amount of time to maintain employment.  Indiana residents that finally reach their day in an Indianapolis Social Security disability appeals courtroom may find not only the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), … Continued

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January 28, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis Speaks About The Appeals Council

Indiana Social Security appeals lawyer Scott Lewis at times receives telephone calls from Indiana residents after their claim has been denied by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) asking what can they do next. Mr. Lewis advises his clients after they find themselves with an unfavorable decision from an ALJ they can appeal that decision to the appeals council. Again, like previous appeals in the process an individual has 60 days plus some mailing time to appeal the unfavorable decision in writing. When you send your appeal to the appeals council what can happen next?  There are essentially three different paths your appeal can take: The Appeals Council can deny your request.  This type of denial is usually because the Appeals Council believes the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) made a correct decision. The Appeals Council can decide the case itself.  In Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis’ opinion, this usually happens when the evidence is very clear you are disabled and entitled to Social Security disability benefits. The Appeals Council can remand or return the case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for further action.  Upon remand the ALJ can do a number of things including, but not limited to,  asking for additional medical documentation to support your claim or decide your case favorable without any further action. If you are denied once again at The Appeals Council level there may be further relief available.  You may appeal the decision to a federal district court. Indianapolis residents can find the claims process frustrating and confusing.  Many Indiana Social Security disability claimants do not know they have a right to representation when appealing a denied Social Security disability claim.  Many times, these same Indiana residents are surprised to find out that Mr. Lewis’ fee agreement is contingent, meaning there is no fee unless they … Continued

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January 17, 2011

I Have Been Denied My Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits, Should I Reapply?

Indiana disability lawyers like Scott D. Lewis often get asked this question.  While the Social Security Administration (SSA) does require an individual to reapply for disability benefits in certain circumstances, it may not always be in the best interest of an Indiana disability claimant to reapply for their disability claim.  The below information may help you in determining what steps you should take next. Have you been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and don’t know what to do next?  Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis strives to help individuals answer that question.  During one of Mr. Lewis’s free consultations, he will typically ask the disability claimant if they have already applied for disability benefits and if they have been denied.  It’s important for him to know where the claimant is in the application process.  If the claimant has been denied at the initial application level, Attorney Lewis’ advice will depend on how long ago the claimant received their denial.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers the claimant an opportunity to appeal the denial within 60 days of receiving their denial letter and also allows for mailing time.  If the claimant’s 60 day period has expired, Mr. Lewis will attempt to explain to the claimant that he/she has missed their opportunity to appeal that decision and must start over by filing another initial application.  This may be the only time Mr. Lewis advises the claimant to reapply.  Be aware that there are also provisions for untimely filings if the SSA accepts your reason for being late.  Generally, if the claimant has been denied at the initial application level and is within that 60 day period, disability attorney Scott Lewis will inform the claimant to appeal the disability denial rather than starting a new disability claim.  … Continued

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