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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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October 22, 2013

The Social Security Administration scheduled me for a consultative exam. What is it, and do I have to go?

If you are an Indiana resident who has filed a claim for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may schedule you for a consultative exam.   As a disability attorney in Indianapolis, I get many calls from my clients asking about the consultative exam. The consultative examination is a physical or mental exam performed by a medical source at the SSA’s request and expense.  As the SSA reviews your claim, they want as much information as possible about your medical conditions in order to make a decision.The medical evidence may be insufficient to determine if you are disabled.  In some cases, claimant’s physicians do not furnish the required medical records. The SSA will send you a letter with information such as date, time and location of the exam.  It is very important that the SSA has your correct mailing address so that you get this information as soon as possible. The exam itself will likely be performed by a medical professional you have never seen before.  You can expect the exam to take between 20 and 60 minutes.   I have heard people complain that their consultative examinations were very short, or the doctor did not address all of their impairments, or the doctor was rude and did not seem to take them seriously.  The consultative doctors are supposed to evaluate your physical or mental abilities; they are not entering into a treatment relationship with you.  While the doctors are paid by the SSA for their time, they are supposed to give an unbiased opinion.  Therefore, when you go to your appointment, make sure you bring up all of your impairments to the doctor.  Answer all of the doctor’s questions truthfully and completely.  Remember, too, that the doctor is not just listening to your answers to those questions; he or she is also observing your behavior, speech, and movement and will include those observations in the … Continued

Filed under: Evaluation Process, Social Security Disability Attorney || Tagged under:
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October 8, 2013

Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for a Skin Disorder?

As a disability lawyer, I get many calls from my Indiana neighbors asking if their impairment will qualify them for Social Security Disability benefits. If you have a skin disorder and you are unable to work, you may qualify for benefits. Skin disorders that result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathological processes are identified in Section 8.00 of the SSA listing of impairments.  The following Skin Disorders are included in this category and may meet the SSA disability guidelines: Ichthyosis Bullous Disease Chronic infections of the skin or mucous membranes Dermatitis Hidradenitis Suppurativa Genetic photosensitivity disorders Burns The Social Security Administration will need medical documentation from “acceptable medical sources” to evaluate the presence and severity of your disorder.  Information commonly needed for a skin disorder disability claim is; the onset date, duration and prognosis, frequency of flare-ups, location, size and appearance.  To confirm a diagnosis the SSA may need laboratory findings such as biopsy and blood tests results.   Your symptoms (including pain) will be assessed to determine how they impact your daily life and your ability to work.  The effects of any treatment you receive to include medication, therapy and surgery will be assessed.  This information is useful in determining the severity of your impairment.  Your skin disorder may respond well to treatment, however the side effects can result in limitations. Any adverse effects of the treatment will be assessed.  Do not be discouraged if your condition does not meet the SSA listing.  If you continue the claims process, your claim will still be evaluated by the SSA.  Your limitations and symptoms may affect your ability to work without specifically meeting the listing. The SSA wants to determine if you can perform your past relevant job(s), or if there are other jobs you have the ability to perform.  Many of my Indiana clients with a skin disorder complain that they are unable to work because they have lesions that are painful and require extensive treatment.  … Continued

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September 16, 2013

Spinal Stenosis and Social Security Benefits

Many Indiana residents suffer from severe back problems that make it difficult if not impossible to work.  While back problems can vary, many individuals complain of back pain.  Back pain can result in an inability to stand, walk, and sit for certain periods of time.  If you have been denied disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and believe you are unable to work it may be wise to appeal that decision.  It is important to remember the majority of disability claims are denied by the SSA, and disabling conditions from your back are no exception. People suffering from Spinal Stenosis may experience pain so severe any chance of working an eight hour day would be very difficult.   In your spine there are spaces that may become narrow causing pressure on your spinal cord.  This can occur in any area of the spine. This may result in : Numbness Pain Difficulties in standing, walking, and sitting Weakness The need for the use of a cane or walker In my experience as an Indianapolis Social Security Disability Lawyer, I find it very important that my clients have appropriate objective medical testing to substantiate their claim for benefits.  A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test may be the key to meeting or equaling the standards needed to win your claim.  I have found that comprehensive medical documentation from a qualified treating specialist can enhance your odds of proving you are unable to work.  Statements from your treating physicians may also be given weight that is necessary to prove your claim. For many people frustration may set in when going through this process. It is important, in my opinion, that you pursue your appeal if you believe you are unable to work.  Always remember there are time limits when filing a request for … Continued

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April 22, 2013

Pain and Your Social Security Disability Hearing

I have found through many years of practicing disability law that each person’s experience of pain is unique.  I have noticed that some of my clients who have similar diagnoses and test results describe the nature and intensity of their pain very differently, and their pain affects each one’s ability to complete daily activities to a different degree.  I believe it is important when testifying at your Indiana disability hearing to be realistic about how your pain feels and how severe your pain is. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing has access to your medical records and is aware of your diagnoses and test results; he will listen to your descriptions of your pain and try to decide if they are consistent with the information in your records. Many times at hearings, the ALJ or your representative will give you a “pain scale” to rate the severity of the pain you experience. A typical pain scale will describe “0” as no pain at all and a “10” as pain so bad you have to go to the hospital.  The ALJ will then ask you to assess your pain on a typical day after you have taken your prescribed medications.  Even when my clients deal with severe pain every day, I tell them to think hard before telling the judge that they experience pain at a “10” on an average day, unless they really do go to the emergency room several times a week.  If the ALJ thinks you are exaggerating your pain symptoms at your hearing, he might not believe other parts of your testimony, either.  In my opinion, it is important to tell the truth at your hearing.  These judges have presided over numerous hearings and have a lot of experience deciding whether people are being honest … Continued

Filed under: Evaluation Process, Hearings Process, Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments || Tagged under:
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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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May 4, 2011

Can My Kids Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

You may be surprised how often Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis gets asked the above question.  The truth is, there are specific guidelines set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA) just for children.  The Social Security Administration does provide payments through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for disabled children. On many occasions, Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis finds himself discussing the “ins and outs” of the SSI program as it pertains to children with his potential and current clients.  One of the first hurdles many families may encounter when trying to obtain Indiana Social security disability benefits for their child is the question of income and resources.  If the child or a certain family member’s income and resources are above the limit set forth by the SSA, it may not matter how disabled the child is.  The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is what may be termed a “needs” based program.  In other words, if the SSA determines you don’t need it, you don’t get it.  So what happens if your child and family income and resources are below the limit?  At that point, the Social Security Administration will determine if your child has a qualifying disabling condition. When it comes to a child, what does the Social Security Administration consider a disabling condition?  Indiana residents may want to take a look at Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments.”  This is a guideline assembled to outline certain disabling conditions.  It should be noted there is a section that is focused solely on child disabilities.  If your child does not precisely meet one of these listings there are still other ways to win your Indiana Social Security disability appeal. In cases involving children, the Social Security Administration will look at several domains in determining if a child is disabled … Continued

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March 29, 2011

I Can’t Stand For Very Long, Can I Get Social Security Disability?

Indianapolis disability appeals attorney Scott Lewis talks to many individuals who are experiencing pain when performing jobs that require them to stand for either short or long periods of time.  There can be a variety of reasons contributing to the inability to stand, but the common theme is usually that the pain is so unbearable that the individual is forced to either sit down or lay down to alleviate it. How does the Social Security Administration look at your inability to stand when you are attempting to receive Indiana Social Security disability benefits?  Although there are many scenarios in which standing is an issue such as light, medium, and heavy work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may decide your inability to stand leaves you with what is termed “sedentary” occupations.  In other words a “sit down” job.  Many individuals who have found themselves reduced to sedentary jobs have no previous work experience with sedentary employment.  For example, a construction worker who suffers from a severe impairment creating the inability to stand for any length of time is usually shocked when he/she finds the Social Security Administration believes they can perform a desk job or other employment he/she has never done before.  Believe it or not, vocational experts (job experts) may testify at an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing that sedentary jobs can include packers, assemblers, surveillance system monitors and various other occupations. Does that mean you will lose your Social Security disability claim if you cannot stand to perform work?  Not always.  Various other factors come into play that may help you in winning your claim.  What if the pain you experience while standing also continues when you are sitting?  Continuous severe pain while sitting and standing may be enough to win your Indiana Social Security disability claim.  Your age, … Continued

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December 13, 2010

Does The Social Security Administration Offers A “Short Term” Disability Benefit

You may be surprised how often this question gets asked to Indiana Disability Attorney Scott Lewis.  At times, Indiana residents find themselves unable to work due to a disabling condition, but anticipate returning to the workforce.  These short term disabling conditions may be due to the result of an auto accident, a surgery, or any other condition where you find yourself unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment.  Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis even receives telephone calls asking if a normal pregnancy can be a disabling condition.  To answer the question of whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a short term disability program, one must determine how short is short? The Social Security Administration has a condition that must be met that is called the “durational requirement.”  With this requirement, your disabling condition (either physical or mental) must have actually lasted for twelve (12) months or be expected to last for twelve (12) months.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds one way the Social Security Administration can turn down many claims is by stating your mental or physical disabling condition is not expected to last twelve (12) months.  Due to the fact that many medical conditions can be very difficult to determine how long they will last, it may be in your best interest to appeal an unfavorable decision if denied for this reason. Let’s say you are denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because the Social Security Administration states you do not meet the durational requirement and you decide not to appeal that decision. Now you find your disabling condition does not improve and you are still unable to work.  In this scenario, you may be past the time limit to appeal your claim. Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis usually advises his … Continued

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July 13, 2010

Why Does The Social Security Administration Care About My Past Employment?

A common question that many Indiana disability applicants have may be: why does the Social Security Administration care about my work history? Sometimes at an Administrative Law Judge hearing in order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the judge and the job expert must find that you cannot return to any past work along with meeting other standards. It is important that in describing your past work history that you are very thorough. The more information that you give to your attorney, the judge, and the court in general, may increase your chances at winning your social security disability claim. When the court uses the phrase “past work” they are talking about any job that you have held for at least three months in the past 15 years. Any job older than the 15 year period is irrelevant because the person is likely to have lost the skill for the job or the technology they used is now outdated. After looking at your current abilities and disabilities the court will determine a RFC (residual functional capacity). This is a rating on how much work and what kind of work you can do. You may not be able to work construction, but a retail job may not be out of the question. This is why it is important to give an accurate past work history. The more details you give, the better the court can compare your prior skills to your current RFC. Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis often finds Indiana disability claimants have a difficult time remembering past work details. It may be helpful if Indiana Social Security Disability claimants make notes prior to the hearing in an Indiana courtroom to help them adequately describe prior employment.

Filed under: Evaluation Process
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