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May 15, 2019

Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Past Jobs?

Many of my clients applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) wonder why I ask them about jobs they have performed in the past.  In claims for disability benefits, Social Security evaluates whether they believe you can return to jobs you held in the past. They look at the last 15 years of your employment history. As you can imagine, it may be easier to return to work at a call center as opposed to a heavy construction job.  In this blog, I will briefly explain how this process works. During the Social Security claims process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will examine your past work to see if you can return to that work with the medical impairments you are experiencing.  At the initial stages, a disability examiner will look at your job titles along with the physical and mental demand levels of your past employment.  If the disability examiner determines you can do your past work, your claim will be denied.  If you cannot perform your past relevant work, the SSA will also determine whether you acquired transferable skills to perform a job with lower exertional requirements.  If they determine there are jobs you can perform with your transferable skills, your claim will also be denied.  Many of my clients are denied for these reasons. This is something you can appeal, and it is usually in your best interest to do so.  After appealing a disability denial, you may find yourself at an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  There will be a Vocational Expert (VE) at the hearing to testify about the demands of your previous employment and occupations in the labor force that can be performed with certain physical and/or mental restrictions.  This is where your attorney or representative can help the … Continued

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March 14, 2019

Social Security Disability and Your Date Last Insured

I have found the concept of a Date Last Insured (DLI) can be difficult for my clients to understand.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Disability lawyer, I may need to explain this concept to my clients several times to for them to fully grasp what it means.  I understand the difficulty in accepting that your eligibility for disability insurance benefits has expired when you are struggling with a severe disability and find you cannot take care of yourself or your family.  In this blog, I will attempt to explain why your DLI is important and how it is established. Your Date last Insured, or DLI, is established by acquiring work credits.  You establish work credits by working and paying into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, also known as FICA taxes, to the United States Government.  When you receive your paycheck stub, you can see the amount of FICA taxes being deducted.  By paying this tax, you are essentially paying premiums to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits should you become disabled.  Although many factors can come into play, your DLI generally expires around five years after you stop working.  Another general rule is that to establish a DLI, you must have worked full time for at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  If you have recently stopped working due to a disabling condition, your DLI is usually in the future. However, if you stopped working many years ago, your DLI may have already passed, which is sometimes referred to as a “remote DLI.”  So, why is your DLI so important?  Your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits is determined by your DLI.   You must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you became disabled before your disability insurance … Continued

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January 18, 2019

Does Having a Cane, Walker, or Wheelchair Help Me in My Social Security Disability Case?

If you need a cane, walker, or wheelchair to ambulate effectively, it can have a significant impact on your claim for disability benefits.  Many jobs that require a person to stand or walk during the work day can be hard to perform when the employee needs an assistive device.  For example, if you are holding on to a cane with one hand, you may not be able to use that hand for work tasks.  It also matters why you need the device and how often you use it.  These devices may be used for standing, walking, balancing, or all the above.  You may need an assistive device any time you stand or only for prolonged activity.  There can be many factors to consider when determining how someone can work when they need an assistive device. A common question I find Administrative Law Judges consider at your disability hearing is whether your assistive device is “medically necessary”.  In other words, does your medical record support that you need a cane or walker as you claim.  In my experience, one of the best ways to address this question is to have a prescription from your treating physician for your cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Your physician can either write a prescription or make a statement in the form of a medical source statement that you can provide to your disability attorney or the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the SSA believes you medically need your assistive device, the SSA will then decide how the use of your device impacts your ability to work.  At your hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) will testify to the impact of an assistive device on certain types of jobs.  In my experience, this can be where a well-trained attorney may be able to reduce or eliminate the number … Continued

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August 16, 2018

Can I Receive Social Security Disability If I Had a Heart Attack?

If you or someone you know has had a heart attack and are considering filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there are some things you should consider.  First, if you have not worked or believe you cannot work for twelve (12) consecutive months, it might be in your best interest to file immediately.  Second, you should file for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to ensure you receive the benefits under the program you are entitled to.  This blog will discuss a few ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at cases involving cardiovascular issues. The SSA examines heart related impairments in its Listing of Impairments under Section 4.00.  These listings outline in specific detail what the SSA believes are disabling conditions concerning the cardiovascular system.  If you read these listings, you may find them complicated and difficult to understand.  Many terms in these listings can be understood by a qualified physician or a Medical Expert (ME), who sometimes appear at Social Security Disability Appeals hearings.  My office can generate a “Medical Source Statement” for you to take to your cardiologist to see if you meet or equal these criteria. It is important to note that not all Social Security disability cases are won by meeting or equaling one of these listings.  After a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem, your capacity to work may be so low that you simply cannot work a full-time job, and this may also qualify you for Social Security disability.  The SSA calls this your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  Your RFC could include limitations in sitting, standing, walking, and lifting.  It could also limit your ability to stay on task and to consistently attend work, which may result in termination from employment.  Medical Source Statements from your … Continued

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December 29, 2017

How Long Do I Have to Be Disabled to Get Social Security Disability Payments?

Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a “short term” disability provision, you must meet certain durational requirements to qualify for disability payments.  The SSA requires that your severe impairment has lasted or is expected to last at least twelve months.  While this may seem pretty straight forward, it is a common reason for denying claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. It can be very difficult to determine if you are going to recover from your physical or mental impairments.  If the SSA denies your claim because they think you will get better within twelve months, they are making an educated guess based on the type, severity, and medical treatment you are receiving.  Many of my clients that have been denied for this reason on the initial application find themselves with a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) later down the road. So, do you have to wait twelve months before you apply for disability benefits?  I believe you should apply for benefits the day you are unable to work.  For disability cases, the alleged onset date and application date are important for determining how much backpay you may be entitled to receive.  There are restrictions on how far back the SSA can go from your application date for benefits, so I encourage my clients to file their claim as soon as they stop earning Substantial Gainful Activity (GAS) amounts.  For SSI applicants, the SSA can only pay benefits from the date of application, so it is very important to file the application as soon as possible to ensure full benefit amounts for backpay purposes. I don’t believe I’ve had a claimant that did not want to get better.  Just because the SSA says they believe your condition will … Continued

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December 20, 2016

Digestive Problems and Social Security Disability

The impact of digestive problems can be very disabling. I have seen a large increase in the amount of these cases in my practice.  Whether it is due to better detection by physicians or an ever increasing amount of individuals suffering from these disorders, it is obvious these conditions can make a huge impact on a person’s life. While it may seem to you that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not understand the difficulties you are experiencing, they do acknowledge these disorders in its Listing of Impairments. Listing 5.00 Digestive System-Adult may address a condition you are experiencing.  The Listing of Impairments is a guideline the SSA uses to establish criteria they acknowledge as disabling.  The SSA will usually not only send you to a consultative examination, but obtain and review your medical records from treating physicians to determine if you meet these guidelines.  Unfortunately, in my experience, many individuals are not found disabled on initial application and find themselves appealing their Social Security Disability (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. The SSA should determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your RFC is basically what your limitations are after your impairments are taken into account. I find many of my clients have symptoms such as, but not limited to: Diarrhea Constipation Abdominal pain Nausea Vomiting Bloating Bleeding Obviously, these are only a representative sample of symptoms. The severity of these symptoms vary greatly among my clients.   The SSA may find you disabled because of the severity of these symptoms. Your symptoms could cause you to be off task too often to compete in a work environment.  You may also have too many absences due to your health to maintain employment.  Digestive issues can create a number of problems that make you unable to work.   I represent … Continued

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November 25, 2016

Should I Bring a Cane To My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Many of my clients need an assistive device to get around more easily. The need for a cane, crutches, walker, or wheelchair may be necessary to walk even the shortest of distances.  Asking if you need to bring one of these items to your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing should not even be a question.  You either need this type of assistance or you do not.  The inability to ambulate effectively is necessary to fulfill a wide variety of jobs above the sedentary (Sitting) exertional level.  The need for such an item can erode the job base and can enhance your chances of winning your claim. Is it good enough just to go pick up a cane at the local pharmacy without a prescription or maybe borrow one from a relative? Many Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) will require you to have a prescription for an assistive device from your treating physician in order to recognize it as being medically necessary.  Many judges will not acknowledge the need for a cane without a physician stating it is necessary even though you may have been using it for years.  Documentation from treating sources can be key in a successful Social Security disability claim. Any medical source statements showing your inability to stand or walk for any extended duration may also convince the SSA that you are unable to perform certain types of occupations. As you age, and at the same time, have never engaged in or acquired transferable skills to a sitting occupation the SSA may find you disabled pertaining to medical vocational guidelines they use to make a finding of disability.  In Social Security’s world you inability to walk and stand can be a major factor in a finding of disability. In summary, this blog … Continued

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September 9, 2016

“Off task” at work – does it matter at my Social Security disability hearing?

Social Security disability hearings can be confusing – the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), your attorney, and the experts use a lot of jargon that may make it sound like they are speaking a completely new language.  The basic issue that all of these people are discussing is whether you can perform the duties of a full-time job.  However, Social Security’s rules require that the ALJ provide a detailed explanation of why he or she thinks you can or cannot work.  The ALJ must determine your “residual functional capacity” (RFC), which is a description of what kinds of work-like activities, if any, you are able to perform in spite of your impairments.  The judge must specifically address all the different physical and mental limitations you have. The elements of your physical residual functional capacity – your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, reach, stoop, etc. – are pretty self-explanatory.  The judge must assess how much of an eight-hour work day you are able to do each of these things.  However, as you probably know well, your medical conditions cause problems in many more areas than just your ability to do physical activities.  If you have pain, mental health diagnoses, or medication side effects, you likely have difficulty with mental tasks as well.  Your skills in concentrating, solving problems, and interacting with others are just as vital to your ability to keep a job as your physical capabilities are. Unfortunately, though, it can be difficult to describe how mental limitations affect your ability to work.  Here are some ways you may notice that your mental limitations affect your daily life: You have difficulty sitting through an entire TV show or reading a whole magazine article because your back pain bothers you so much. You start lots of projects, but you never finish … Continued

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March 11, 2016

Your Residual Functional Capacity and Your Social Security Disability Claim

If you have a Social Security disability claim, you have probably heard or read about your “residual functional capacity” or, for short, your “RFC.”  In short, your RFC is an assessment of your physical and mental abilities to work.  Social Security evaluates your ability to perform specific functions that are required in all types of work, such as: Sitting Standing Walking Lifting, pushing, and pulling Climbing Kneeling, stooping, and crouching Reaching Handling Fingering Tolerating exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, noise, or workplace hazards Understanding and remembering work instructions Completing tasks Interacting with other people Maintaining good attendance at work and staying on task during work time Adjusting to changes in the workplace Why does the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluate your RFC?  To find you disabled, Social Security has to find that you are unable to work.  Jobs in the economy are classified based upon exertional level, skill level, and required education level.  They are further categorized according to the different physical and mental capabilities required to perform them.  Different types of limitations have differing levels of effect on your ability to work in a wide range of jobs.  For example, if you have difficulties using your hands and are found to only occasionally be able to handle or finger, you are likely prevented from doing most jobs because almost all jobs require you to use your hands fairly often.  Conversely, even if you are completely unable to climb ladders, kneel, or tolerate temperature extremes, Social Security will likely find a broad range of jobs that you would be able to perform in spite of those limitations. Probably the most prominent factor in an RFC is your exertional level – how much weight you can lift and how often, and how long you can stand and walk.  Jobs can be … Continued

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February 24, 2016

Social Security Disability for Breast Cancer

While many people fully recover and are able to return to work after being diagnosed with breast cancer, some do not.  Unfortunately, for some people, the treatments and procedures do not work, or they not work well enough to allow the patient to return to her previous level of functioning.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes breast cancer and other types of cancers as disabling conditions. Even though a breast cancer diagnosis can be scary and life-altering, in my Indianapolis Social Security Disability practice I see many of these types of claims denied.  Here are a few common reasons Social Security gives for denying breast cancer claims: Your condition has not lasted, or is not expected to last, twelve months or longer.  Often, the Social Security reviewers will review your diagnosis and medical records, see that you are receiving treatment, and conclude that you will improve enough to return to work within twelve months from the date you were diagnosed.  If that turns out to be the case, then you will not be eligible for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits, no matter how severely you were disabled during the months you were receiving treatment.  However, for many people, treatment extends beyond twelve months or leaves them with residual symptoms that do not improve, even if the cancer goes into remission.  For example, some of my clients acquire neuropathy in their arms from the effects of chemotherapy, and others have painful scarring that prevents them from being able to use their arms the way they used to.  Therefore, even if Social Security denies your claim because you are expected to get better, it is a good idea to appeal that denial to keep your claim going in case your recovery does not go as well as expected. Your … Continued

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