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October 16, 2018

Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability

Whether you are a child or an adult, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes learning disabilities as a condition that can pay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  The severity of the condition and its impact on an individual’s functioning can be key factors in receiving benefits. In children’s Social Security disability claims, many aspects of the claim are examined.  These may include, but are not limited to: IQ testing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) 504 Plans School grades Teacher questionnaires Medical Source Statements from treating physicians Progress notes from treating sources The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the SSA that contains specific information related to learning disabilities among other impairments.  The SSA also examines children’s cases under six domains of functioning to determine if a child is functionally equivalent to a listing.  The SSA will look for limitations in the child’s ability to acquire and use information, attend and complete tasks, interact socially, move and manipulate objects, handle their own self-care, or health and physical well-being.  Understanding a child’s Social Security Disability claim can be confusing, as the standard for disability can be different than that of an adult. Adults can also receive Social Security Disability benefits for a learning disability.  The question of whether you can work with a learning disability can be a little tricky to prove to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If you have worked in the past with your learning disability, the ALJ may wonder how it would currently prevent you from working if your condition has not gotten worse.  Sometimes, employers make “accommodations” for this type of worker.  This might be special treatment that the employer is unwilling to give to other workers.  This may include a job coach, multiple reminders of job duties, leaving work … Continued

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October 8, 2018

Keeping in Touch with Your Social Security Disability Attorney

Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a long wait time for hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJ); keeping in touch with your lawyer can be very important to winning your claim.  As your hearing approaches, communication with your representative can be even more important to gather your updated medical records.  Keeping in contact with your lawyer may allow for any and all medical records to be obtained and ensures that an ALJ will be able to make a decision based on the most up to date information. Some common problems I have seen with my clients include their inability to have a working phone number or a consistent mailing address.  It is easy to understand that financial hardships due to the inability to work can make it extremely difficult to afford these things.  It can be very helpful to your Social Security Disability lawyer if you call, email, or notify him/her by standard mail, of any changes to your contact information.  Sometimes, a relative or friend can serve as a consistent point of contact for my office if you grant us permission to speak to them. So many things can change while waiting for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing.  For example, your condition may have gotten worse, your medical providers may have changed, you may have undergone additional medical procedures, you may have had changes in medication, you may have undergone new objective testing, or you may even have improved and gone back at work.  All these things can potentially have an impact on your case.  Additionally, going to a Social Security disability hearing “cold”, without talking to your Social Security disability attorney, can result in some surprises.  I attempt to prepare my clients before each hearing with a preparation session to … Continued

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September 6, 2018

Neck Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

When thinking of spinal pain, people typically think of the back or lumbar area.  However, the cervical spine can also create pain and limitations that prevent an individual from working.  The cervical region consists of seven vertebrae numbered C1 through C7.  Injuries or degeneration of this area can require therapy, injections, and even major surgeries to repair damaged areas or provide relieve from severe pain.  If your cervical spine is causing pain and keeping you from working, you should file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many of my clients are diagnosed with Cervical Spondylosis, Cervical Disc Degeneration, and Cervical Spinal Stenosis.  Appropriate objective testing such as MRI’s and x-rays can better show the degree of severity to this region.  My clients often complain of symptoms including, but not limited to: Severe pain Numbness and Tingling Difficulty Moving the Head in Different Directions Headaches Problems lifting and carrying amounts of weight It is important to have medical records to support this type of claim when you go to your Social Security disability hearing.  For example, physical therapy records can show how your injuries to the cervical spine affect your ability to perform a variety of movements or activities.  If you can show the Social Security Administration (SSA) or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you have exhausted all treatment options and that you are still disabled from a cervical impairment, you may find yourself with a favorable outcome and get the disability payments you deserve to support yourself and your family. It is important to remember to let the SSA know about all your impairments.  While you may have a severe cervical issue, other impairments like diabetes, asthma, depression, or any other severe impairment can also be considered in combination to find … Continued

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May 7, 2018

Medical Records and Social Security Disability

The importance of medical records to a Social Security disability claim cannot be understated. These documents are the primary source of evidence on which the Social Security Administration (SSA) will base its decision. Your medical records provide objective evidence of your disabling conditions and diagnoses. This may include key information such as notes from important procedures, like surgeries, or your doctor’s interpretation of test results and magnetic imaging. For mental health claims, session notes from a therapist or psychiatrist can show the SSA that you are receiving consistent and ongoing mental health treatment and reflect the severity of your condition. Therefore, it is critical that all of this documentation is made available to Social Security to ensure that they have a complete record before them when they make a decision on your disability claim. At the initial application and reconsideration stages, Social Security will gather your medical records based on the information you have provided them. You will want to make sure that whoever is reviewing your claim at these levels is kept up to date regarding the medical providers you have seen and the dates of any future appointments. If you have an attorney helping you at these levels, their office can work with your reviewer to ensure that they have all of the information needed to obtain any outstanding medical records. A complete medical file is especially important when preparing for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The wait time to get to a hearing can be quite long, so it is essential to keep your attorney informed of any changes to your treatment, including any new procedures or diagnoses, which may occur during this time period. These updates allow your attorney to keep track of your treatment providers during the wait, which can help prevent … Continued

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February 23, 2017

Terminal Illness or TERI cases and Social Security Disability

One of the unfortunate realities of my job is that some of my clients are diagnosed as terminal. While being diagnosed with a terminal illness may seem like an obvious favorable decision for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make, that may not always be the case. Even with this diagnosis the SSA may need more information and can be slow in making a determination.  Hopefully your medical provider, family, and Social Security attorney or representative can gather the information to make it easier for the SSA to make the right decision quickly.   The Social Security Administration avoids the words “terminal illness” and instead calls these cases TERI cases. The SSA defines a TERI case as “a medical condition that is untreatable and expected to result in death.”  Once this type of designation exists, the SSA attempts to expedite the case in the early and later stages of processing.  The SSA has guidelines for identifying these cases and processing them in a particular way.   Getting a medical source statement from your treating physician can be very important. Not only a statement saying the individual is terminal, but also supporting medical evidence establishing a clear diagnosis.  Objective testing and progress notes should be submitted to the SSA to show the severity of the condition.  Many physicians are hesitant to make such statements until all medical avenues have been exhausted.  If you find yourself in this situation it may be in your best interest to let your physician know you are dealing with the Social Security Administration.   If you or a family member finds themselves in this situation, I urge you to contact the SSA as soon as possible to start this process. Qualified Social Security disability attorneys and representatives can also provide guidance on filling out paperwork and … Continued

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January 31, 2017

Social Security Disability and the Durational Requirement

As a Social Security Disability Attorney, I see the Social Security Administration (SSA) turn people down for a variety of reasons. One of the common ways you may be turned down for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is because the SSA states you do not meet its Durational Requirement.  This is a fairly easy way for them to turn down your claim, but you can appeal this decision and many times find yourself with a favorable outcome in the long run.   What is the “Durational Requirement”? The language the SSA uses requires that you must have an impairment lasting or expected to last at least 12 months.  As you can tell, this can be a pretty subjective standard.  The SSA makes this determination on the current medical records they have on hand.  Unfortunately, your medical record may be incomplete when they make this determination.  You can appeal this decision and if you believe you are unable to work and will continue to be unable to work it is most likely in your best interest to file a Request for Reconsideration or Request for Hearing to move your case along.  You have approximately 60 days to file these appeals and it is very important to do so in a timely manner so you do not have to file another initial application.   It is also important to note your impairment must prevent you from performing Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for at least 12 months in a row. What this essentially means is that you cannot receive disability benefits when your wages are over SGA.  This is a monetary amount establishing a cap you cannot go over.  Many of my clients have difficulty grasping this concept when they are holding down a full time job while … Continued

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November 18, 2016

Do You Know Why You Are Disabled?

That seems like a strange question doesn’t it? My clients tell me they are disabled, but many have a hard time saying it in a way the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands. Many people have Social Security disability questions.  There can be many reasons why it is hard to explain your inability to work.  You may have a rare condition the SSA is not very familiar with; you may have a combination of impairments that, all added together, make you unable to work; you may have to argue you meet special rules the SSA recognizes; or you may just simply be unable to work a full time job.  Trust me, claiming you are disabled to the SSA can be confusing and difficult, or it can be as easy as they want to make it for you.  That’s why knowing what to tell them can possibly create a make or break situation.   In my experience, you need to be careful how you phrase things to the Social Security Administration. First of all, being disabled is not a joke.  Going to physical and mental examinations the SSA sends you to and taking it lightly may result in that particular examiner noting your attitude to the SSA.  All the way through the process, you need to express accurately to the SSA what you are experiencing.   Fill out the forms the SSA gives you truthfully and in their entirety. Some claims can be processed favorably without much human interaction by giving the SSA ALL of the information they request.  Be proactive in your claim, especially at the initial level, to ensure the SSA gets all pertinent information.  Unfortunately, after initial denials, while waiting for a hearing, your claim may not be looked at again until you find yourself in front of an Administrative Law … Continued

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August 3, 2016

What is a Contingent Fee Agreement?

If you have applied for Social Security disability benefits and have been denied, you may have been advised to hire an attorney to help you appeal your case.  However, you might be worried that you can’t afford an attorney – after all, aren’t lawyers famous for charging high hourly rates for every second they spend on each case?  Fortunately, if you hire an attorney or representative to help you with your disability appeal, your case will be handled with a “contingent fee agreement.” The Social Security Administration (SSA) has rules about how attorneys can charge clients for disability appeals.  Basically, if an attorney wants Social Security to approve his or her fee agreement, it must meet the following criteria: 1. You (the client) only have to pay the attorney if your claim is granted (if you “win” your appeal). 2. If you win, the attorney receives 25% of any back pay you receive. (“Back pay” is the money you receive from Social Security to cover the benefits you should have received while you were waiting for your claim to be processed and/or your appeal to go through.) 3. If your claim is granted at the initial application, request for reconsideration, or hearing level, the attorney can receive no more than $6,000, no matter how much back pay you receive. 4. If you lose at the hearing level and have to appeal your case to the Appeals Council or file a claim in federal court, most attorneys have a slightly different fee structure. Typically in those cases, the attorney receives 25% of your back pay without the $6,000 cap.  However, the attorney will likely have to submit a statement (called a “fee petition”) showing how much time he or she spent on your case in order for the fee to be approved. In … Continued

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April 11, 2016

What are ADLs, and why does Social Security care so much if I go on vacation or keep my house clean?

Many of my clients do not understand why the Social Security Administration (SSA) is so interested in their day-to-day activities.  It might help to think about it this way: since you are not able to work, Social Security can’t ask you how your current symptoms affect your work activities.  Therefore, they have to look instead at what you are actually able (or unable) to do in your daily life.  Social Security refers to these things as your “Activities of Daily Living,” or ADLs. During the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application process, Social Security sends each claimant a questionnaire called an Adult Function Report.  This form asks specific questions about how your impairments affect your ability to do what you need to do to get through a typical day.  Similarly, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing will ask questions about your ADLs, including your ability to: Clean your house (sweep, mop, dust, wash dishes, etc.) Shop for groceries Take care of your yard Drive a car Bathe, shower, and take care of your personal hygiene Dress yourself Do laundry Cook or prepare meals Care for children, other family members, or pets Participate in hobbies Spend time with friends Travel on vacations When you answer questions about your ADLs, it’s important to keep in mind why Social Security is asking them.  The ALJ is not trying to find out of you are a conscientious housekeeper or if you are an interesting person to hang out with.  It can be really hard – embarrassing, even – to admit that you aren’t able to take a shower or wash your dishes as often as you think you should.  It is painful for a lot of my clients to realize that it has been years since they … Continued

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July 17, 2015

If My Initial Application For Social Security Disability Benefits is Denied, Should I Reapply?

Should you appeal your initial application denial or reapply if you are denied disability benefits?  If the Social Security Administration (SSA) states your disability is not severe enough to receive benefits, appealing the decision is usually the right move.  Many individuals believe that by simply reapplying the SSA may approve their new application, but statistically this is not accurate.  In my experience, it is in your best interest to appeal the initial denial. After your initial application is denied you have sixty (60) days to file a Request for Reconsideration.  Many individuals refer to this as an appeal.  The Request for Reconsideration is basically saying to the SSA that they made a mistake and need to take another look at your claim.  When you file your reconsideration, the SSA should also gather any new evidence for your claim as well.  If you submit the appeal on your own, you should include the updated information when prompted.  If an attorney or representative completes your appeal for you, they should be in touch with you for updated information. Unfortunately, the majority of these requests are also denied.  Once again you will have sixty (60) days to file an appeal and request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Some statistics have shown you odds of winning your claim will increase at this stage. The majority of successful disability claims ultimately end up in front of an ALJ.  An administrative Law Judge is not bound by prior decisions by the SSA and is supposed to take a fresh look at your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. In my experience as a Social Security Disability attorney it is very important to appeal your denied claim within the time limits set forth by the SSA.  It is also … Continued

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