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March 6, 2015

Common Questions Concerning Children’s SSI Claims

In my Social Security disability practice, I meet many parents of children with special needs.  They have heard that Social Security has a program for children with disabilities, but they do not know how to find out more about it.  Here are some answers to some of the most common questions I hear from parents of disabled children. How do I know if my child meets the requirements for SSI? Qualifying for SSI is a two-step process.  SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is a needs-based program; therefore, your household must fall below a certain amount of income and resources to qualify at the first step.  Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast number that I can say, “If you make XX amount of money, you are over the limit” because Social Security’s formula is more complex than that – it depends on the size of your household, your expenses, and the like.  Similarly, there is a limit (currently $2,000 for a single person; $3,000 for a couple) on household resources (the value of the things you own), but there are exemptions for some things like your home and sometimes your vehicle.  Really, the only way you can definitely determine whether you meet the income and resources limits is to talk directly to Social Security. Once you qualify financially, Social Security determines whether your child meets the medical requirements.  This determination is much less black-and-white than the resources test.  They look at your child’s medical records and determine how her impairments limit her ability to function in six different “domains”: Acquiring and Using Information, Attending and Completing Tasks, Interacting and Relating with Others, Moving About and Manipulating Objects, Caring for Yourself, and Health and Physical Well-Being. Is it best to work with a lawyer in the process? In theory, Social Security’s process is … Continued

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December 24, 2014

Time Constraints on Appealing Your Indiana Social Security Disability Case

All too often, people call me for help in appealing their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, only to find out they have waited too long.  If Social Security denies your claim for Social Security disability benefits, you have sixty days to appeal that decision.  (Actually, Social Security allows five extra days for mailing time, so you have a total of sixty-five days from the date of your denial letter.)  If you have not submitted the appropriate forms before the deadline, Social Security will very likely dismiss your claim.  If that happens, you will probably have to start all over with another initial application. There can be times when the Social Security Administration (SSA) will accept an appeal filed after the deadline, but they will only do so if there is “good cause” for the late filing.  If you forgot the deadline, lost the paperwork, or just didn’t get the forms filled out on time, Social Security probably will not find that you have good cause.  On the other hand, if you were hospitalized, had a death in your immediate family, or never received the denial letter because Social Security sent it to the wrong address, there is a good chance that the SSA will accept your late filing.  Social Security makes a decision about good cause on a case-by-case basis.  The best thing to do is to file the appeal as soon as possible after you receive the denial. How can you make sure you don’t miss Social Security’s filing deadlines?  Here are some tips: Keep your Social Security office informed about changes in your address and/or telephone number. Follow up with Social Security regarding your claim.  In my office, we follow up about once a month during the initial application and reconsideration stages … Continued

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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

Filed under: Appeals Process, Claims Process, Evaluation Process, Hearings Process, Medical Treatment, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process || Tagged under:
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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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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

Filed under: Claims Process, Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney, Indiana Social Security Disability Client || Tagged under:
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April 25, 2013

Filing Your Initial Social Security Disability Application

I receive numerous telephone calls from my Indiana neighbors asking how to file an initial Social Security disability application. I typically recommend that they start the application process on their own, because most of the initial application involves providing information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that only the claimant will know.  It is usually easier to provide that information directly to the SSA rather than to go through an intermediary. There are essentially three ways to file an initial claim: Visit your local Social Security office.  If you want to talk face to face with someone when you file your claim, this is your best option.  One advantage to applying in person is that you can get answers to any questions you may have, and having a Social Security employee assist you with your application should help to ensure you are providing all of the information the SSA wants.  On the other hand, if you go to the office without an appointment you may have to take a number and wait for a long time before finally being able to talk to a Social Security employee. Call the toll free number.  By calling 1-800-772-1213, you can talk to a Social Security employee who can answer your questions.  Most likely, the employee will make an appointment for you to either visit your local office or complete a telephone interview to start the application process. Visit the Social Security’s website at www.ssa.gov.  If you are comfortable using a computer, this is by far the most convenient option.  At Social Security’s website, you can complete your application online without having to make an appointment or spend time waiting at the local office.  The website takes you step by step through the application form and the Adult Disability Report.  Once you have completed all the steps, the website will instruct you to print some pages and mail them to … Continued

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November 21, 2011

Mental Disorders and Your Treating Physicians

Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis talks to numerous clients about their mental condition(s) and finds that some of his clients may not be receiving the type of medical care they need in order to win their Social security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.  Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not put as much weight in all of the physicians you may be seeing because your medical professional may not specialize in a particular area. Mr. Lewis attempts to let all of his clients suffering from a mental condition that is preventing them from working to attempt to get appropriate medical treatment and that may be from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist.  In Mr. Lewis’ experience a professional in the mental health field is usually more qualified to render a diagnosis that the Social Security Administration will recognize as legitimate when you are trying to get your benefits approved.  While your general practitioner may have a long history with you and may be very knowledgeable about your personal history, he/she may not possess the credentials needed to diagnose you with a mental disorder in the eyes of the Social Security Administration. It may be as simple as asking for a referral from your treating physician to get to a treating source the Social Security Administration will put stock in.  In Mr. Lewis’ experience many Administrative Law Judges like to see an ongoing therapist patient relationship documenting the progression of the mental illness.  There is usually no substitute for good medical records when stepping into the court room to address your Social Security disability appeal. Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis represents his Indiana neighbors with a wide variety of disabling conditions including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.  If you or someone you know … Continued

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September 16, 2011

Indianapolis Disability Lawyers Can Help In Appealing Your Social Security Disability Claim

At times, the Social Security disability claims process can be frustrating and confusing.  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis talks to many clients about their concerns regarding the disability process.  Going through the difficult time of dealing with a disabling condition combined with the paperwork involved in a Social Security disability claim, may possibly create a very stressful situation.  Mr. Lewis strives to alleviate some of his clients worries by assisting them in the claims process. The Social Security disability claims process has very distinct stages in obtaining an outcome for your claim.  These can include:   Filing the initial claim application   Filing a “Request for Reconsideration”   Requesting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge   Appealing the Judge’s decision to The Appeals Council Obviously the first step in any claim is getting started.  Filing an initial claim can be done by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website at www.ssa.gov or by calling their toll free number at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting a local SSA office.  Mr. Lewis often spends time with prospective clients during this initial stage addressing their concerns. If your initial application is denied, the next stage in appealing your claim is to ask for a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This is basically telling the Social Security Administration they have made a mistake in denying your claim and they need to take another look at it.  Unfortunately, the majority of these requests are denied again, but it is important not to give up at this point if you feel you have a valid claim.  Proceeding on in the next steps in appeals process may be in your best interest. The next step, in what can turn out to be a lengthy process, is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Statistically, studies … Continued

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September 14, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits and Your Education

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at various factors when deciding if you meet their definition of disability.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis often discusses with his Indiana neighbors just what these factors may include.  The Social Security Administration will consider a person’s age, education, and work experience when analyzing a claim. Why does the Social Security Administration care about your education?  Believe it or not, the Social Security Administration does recognize that individuals with a lower education have less jobs in the national economy available to them.  This does not mean individuals with a higher education cannot receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it just may be a little more difficult to win their claim.  The Social Security Administration may take into consideration not only the education level of the claimant, but also the age and prior work experience when making a determination. It is also important to note the Social Security Administration may also consider any vocational training or schooling an individual may have.  This is all in an attempt to evaluate the number of jobs that may exist for a claimant in the economy.  Remember the question is are you able to work and to determine that the whole picture must be viewed to come up with an answer. Many times at Indiana Social Security disability hearings, a vocational expert or “job expert” is present and has the duty of determining with your disabilities combined with your age, education, and prior work experience whether there are jobs that you can perform.  Their answers are generally based on statistical analysis and personal experience and observations in their occupation. Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis handles claims with a wide range of disabling conditions such as diabetes with neuropathy, cancer, depression, heart conditions, and epilepsy just … Continued

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July 26, 2011

Why Did I Get Denied My Social Security Disability Benefits When the Guy Down the Street Got Them Right Away?

If you only knew how many times Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyers like Scott Lewis have heard this very question. There are many different aspects to a Social Security disability claim and no one case is exactly like another one. While there may not be a clear cut answer to why some Indiana residents find a Social Security disability check in their hands before another person, in Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, there may be a few reasons this can happen and it can include, but is not limited to: Good medical records.  Comprehensive medical records outlining and detailing a disabling medical condition may be the key to a quick favorable outcome in a Social Security disability claim. Prior work experience, age, and education.  In the Social Security Administration’s approval process they determine your ability to work with your disabling condition while looking at age, education, and prior work experience. All disabilities are different and can create different barriers to employment.  While some disabilities may be visually evident, other disabilities like mental disorders may not be visible to the naked eye. The guy down the street may be luckier than you.  That’s right, he may have been evaluated by someone in the Social Security Administration that was more lenient on granting disability claims.  Believe it or not, actual people look at your claim and make a determination. The above are the thoughts and experiences of Scott D. Lewis, and other Social Security disability attorneys or representatives may have different experiences with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  If you have been denied your Indiana Social Security disability benefits and believe it was an unfair decision, contact attorney Scott Lewis for a free case evaluation.

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