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April 10, 2013

Is it a Good Idea To Continue My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Sometimes it is necessary to think about continuing, or postponing, your disability hearing.  As a disability attorney, I generally do not like to continue hearings.  Because the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) have such crowded schedules, we have to wait a long time to get to a hearing, and rescheduling a hearing often means even more months of waiting before we finally get in front of the judge.  In my experience, most judges do not want to continue hearings either.  They want to keep things moving along quickly once a case gets to the hearing level. One reason an ALJ does not like to continue a Social Security disability hearing, especially on the day of the hearing, is because a lot of resources have been expended in preparing to hear the case.  Many hearings include vocational and medical experts paid by the Social Security Administration who have reviewed the case file and are ready to testify that day.  If the hearing is rescheduled, all of those experts will have to return to testify on another day. Why, then, would a judge consider rescheduling a hearing?  Oftentimes it is because the case file does not contain all of the claimant’s medical records.  Your medical records are a very important part of your case because they provide hard evidence of your diagnoses, symptoms, and prognosis.  Without all of your records, the ALJ will not be able to get a complete picture of your medical conditions.  If all of your records are not available in time for the hearing, though, the ALJ will often proceed with the hearing, taking your testimony and the testimony of any experts present.  The judge will then hold the record open for a specific amount of time so that the additional medical documents can be furnished at a later … Continued

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November 30, 2012

Getting Ready For Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

Are you nervous about your upcoming disability hearing?  When I talk to my clients before their hearings, one of the most common things they talk about is how anxious they are.  Many of them seem to be on the verge of an anxiety attack when they enter the hearing room.  I attempt to prepare my clients for this big day by letting them know what the atmosphere of the hearing will be like, the types of questions they will be asked, and what they should talk about (or not talk about) when they answer those questions.  I have seen some attorneys and representatives who do not prepare their clients for their hearings at all, or they do so in the waiting room right before the hearing.  It is my practice to speak with each of my clients a day or two before the hearing; we have plenty of time to prepare, but it’s close enough to the hearing that the client will remember everything we talked about.  I usually spend between 45 minutes and an hour letting them know exactly what to expect at the hearing.  Of course, no matter how well-prepared we are, hearings can take many unexpected turns and there can always be surprises.  However, I know from experience how the majority of hearings are conducted and what issues are likely to arise, and I am able to explain to my clients what they should expect. Fist, it is important to remember the hearing is supposed to be informal.  In other words, most of the Administrative Law Judges do not follow strict trial rules and procedures.  Does this mean you can talk out of turn and interrupt others at the hearing?  No; you still must wait your turn and be respectful.  Most judges give everyone an opportunity to … Continued

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September 10, 2012

Does The Social Security Administration Consider How Much Pain I Experience?

Yes, the Social Security Administration is supposed to consider your pain when deciding if you are disabled.  The pain you experience from standing, walking, pushing, pulling, lifting, and sitting may make it difficult, if not impossible, to perform substantial gainful activity.  Many of my clients are not able to focus or concentrate long enough to work because the pain is so severe.  If you do experience pain, it is important to regularly report the frequency and intensity of your pain to your physician.  The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may be skeptical about your complaints of pain if your medical records do not show that you have talked to your doctors about them. Some of my clients suffering from physical disabilities tell me the pain they experience is simply too much to bear. They often enter an Indiana Social Security disability hearing prepared to let the ALJ know exactly what the pain is like on a day to day basis. As an attorney, I give my clients guidelines to help them explain their pain to the judge, and I urge them to be as truthful and straightforward as possible. Most of my clients listen to my advice, but sometimes, clients go into the courtroom and exaggerate their pain symptoms to an unbelievable degree. Being honest about everything at your disability appeal hearing is very important, from explaining what you are physically able to do to describing the pain you experience. In most hearings, the judge or I ask the claimant to rate his pain on a scale from zero to ten, where a rating of zero is no pain, and a rating of ten is pain so severe that you have to go to the hospital. To my surprise, some individuals testify that their pain is at level ten on a … Continued

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June 12, 2012

Being Honest At Your Indiana Disability Hearing

Most of us have certain subjects that we are not comfortable talking about.  Sometimes at a Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked questions that make you uneasy.  Those questions can range from details of your personal life to symptoms of your medical condition, and everything else in between.  Indianapolis attorney Scott D. Lewis encourages each of his clients to be honest with the Judge during the hearing.  Your answers at your hearing may have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Your credibility may impact the Judge’s decision about whether your conditions are disabling.  While you may have numerous medical tests diagnosing various severe conditions, tests in general cannot show the severity of the pain you experience.  To understand the severity of your pain, the Administrative Law Judge will often rely on your testimony about the type and degree of pain you feel.  Different people have varying levels of pain tolerance, and you are the only one who can explain to the Judge how your pain affects you. It is important for claimants to realize that their medical records contain more information than medical diagnoses and treatment histories. For instance, your doctor often records information about your daily activities, such as whether you have been on vacation, working in your garden, or riding a bicycle.  So imagine that you are in your hearing and the judge asks you a personal question, and you think that an honest answer will lead the judge to believe that you are not disabled.  You may think the best thing to do is to give a dishonest answer so as not to jeopardize your case.  You may not realize, however, that the Judge already knows the answer to the question he is asking you because he has read about it in … Continued

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December 22, 2011

At My Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing The Judge Said I Need A Representative Payee, What Does That Mean?

At times Indiana Social Security disability appeals claimants are instructed at their hearings that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is going to recommend a representative payee.  Individuals not accustomed to the terms commonly used at Social Security disability hearings may wonder what the ALJ is talking about and what effect it may have on them.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyers like Scott D. Lewis many times find themselves explaining to their clients what transpired in the court room and what the meanings of particular words are. If you were at your Social Security disability hearing and the ALJ recommended that you be assigned a representative payee there can be a few reasons why this has happened.  In disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience the main reason a representative payee is recommended is that the ALJ believes you are unable to manage your own funds.  Many times this may be due to a mental condition that makes it difficult for the Social Security disability recipient to take care of their own money. While the individual receiving benefits may be able to designate someone as their representative payee, if the Social Security Administration does not approve of that individual, the SSA may appoint someone entirely different.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) usually looks to family and friends to be assigned as an individual’s representative payee.  If family and friends are not available the SSA may look to various organizations to help in this capacity. If you have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits you can contact Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free case evaluation.  Mr. Lewis has experience with Social Security disability appeals and understands what Indiana residents are going through.  Call (317) 423-8888 and talk to Mr Lewis and his staff and … Continued

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December 20, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis Comments on Possible New Hearing Policy

There have been some recent reports of a possible Office of Disability and Review (ODAR) policy regarding the non-disclosure of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presiding over your pending hearing until the date of the hearing.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes that this type of “blindfolding” attorneys and their clients can only make the disability process even more frustrating and slow. Why could this potentially be a problem?  Experienced Social Security disability attorneys like Scott Lewis represent individuals numerous times in front of the same Administrative Law Judge and become accustomed to exactly what that particular Judge is looking for at the hearing.  To help create and ensure judicial efficiency, Mr. Lewis attempts to prepare his cases in a manner for particular Judges that will cut right to the main issues that particular Judge may focus on.  While most of Mr. Lewis’ case files are prepared in a similar fashion, there are times that when Mr. Lewis knows a certain Judge has been assigned to a claim, Mr. Lewis focuses on certain documents he knows a Judge will closely analyze. Why is this happening?  The only reason put forth thus far is that attorneys are “shopping” Judges.  When a video hearing is scheduled, the representative or claimant has the ability to deny such a hearing and request to be in front of an Administrative Law Judge in person.  Without pointing fingers, one could argue while certain attorneys are shopping Judges, we must also consider why there is a particular item no one wants to buy.  It could be asserted that this is a two way street. In the end who gets hurt?  Mr. Lewis believes good prepared qualified attorneys and Judges and above all claimants will find this decision only muddies the waters on a long drawn out … Continued

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November 9, 2011

Social Security Disability Attorneys In Indianapolis May Be Able To Give You A Good Idea Of Whether Or Not You Won Your Claim

When you leave your Social Security disability appeal hearing you may scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis, at times, can give his clients a pretty good idea of what just transpired in the hearing room.  Mr. Lewis represents hundreds of Indiana Social Security disability claimants each year and has found there can be some signs during a Social Security disability hearing that may indicate an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is leaning one way or another regarding the decision in your appeal.  There are a few factors that may help determine what the outcome will be. Who was your Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)?  Administrative Law Judge approval percentages on Social Security disability claims can be all over the board.  Some Judges may approve a very small number of claims, while other Judges may approve a large percentage of the claims they preside over.  Indiana Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has represented his Indiana neighbors in front of all of the current Administrative Law Judges in the Indianapolis ODAR office and usually has a pretty good idea how often they find individuals disabled.  Also, there are statistics put out by the Social Security Administration (SSA) showing the approval rates for Administrative Law Judges. What did the Medical Expert (ME) testify to at your hearing?  Medical experts are sometimes used at Social Security disability hearings.  These experts are supposed to analyze the medical records in your Social Security disability file to determine what your medical condition is, whether or not you meet one of Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, and what your limitations may be related to your mental or physical condition.  Some Administrative Law Judges do not use medical experts, but if they do, at times they can rely heavily on their testimony.  It … Continued

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October 24, 2011

Are There Trial Rules at Social Security Disability Hearings?

When getting ready for your Indiana Social Security disability hearing, you may be wondering  just what the atmosphere will be like and how the questioning will go.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis attempts to prepare all of his clients for what they may expect during the course of their Social Security disability appeal hearing.  Although all Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) may be different, the general framework of the questions usually remains the same. You may be familiar with courtroom television shows and perhaps are expecting a very rigid line of questioning following strict court rules, you may be surprised to find a more informal setting at your disability hearing.  At times these hearings often resemble more of a conversation than a strict guideline of rules and procedures that make it difficult for you to follow.  Many times, the judge will simply ask you questions and then when he/she is finished, they will let your attorney or representative cover any issues they feel are important or have been overlooked. Because most judges do not follow strict trial rules, many times an attorney can ask questions that may appear leading in order to expedite the hearing process.  Most hearings are scheduled for one hour or less.  If an attorney was required to lay a foundation for every question being asked, a hearing could last for a very long time and with the huge backlog of Indiana Social Security disability claims this could have a large impact on wait times for others seeking their day in court.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis believes this type of judicial inefficiency is not advantageous to the Social Security disability process and can only muddy the water when attempting to get important testimony out in a timely fashion. Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes Administrative Law Judges … Continued

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October 14, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings Office

Social Security disability applicants that have been denied disability benefits have the right to appeal that decision made by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  As an individual goes through the stages of appeals, he/she may eventually find him/herself in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Indiana hearings are heard at one of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) locations. Most states have more than one ODAR location.  According to the SSA, there are currently 10 regional offices, 169 hearing offices (including 7 satellite offices), 5 national hearing centers, and 1 national case assistance center. There are approximately 1,300 administrative law judges and 7,000 support staff in the field organization. Additionally, administrative law judges may travel to other sites such as local Social Security offices to conduct hearings if needed or appear by video at your location. In addition to the stated above, the SSA may use other facilities throughout the state to conduct the hearing. Don’t be surprised if you are scheduled for a hearing at the Social Security Administration office, a conference room at another facility or in a hotel or bank. Regardless of the location, the ALJ that presides over the case will still review the evidence, listen to the comments made by your disability attorney, and hear testimony from medical or vocational experts. The ODAR Chicago Region services residents in the six state area comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Indiana residents will find their hearing scheduled at the location closest to their home.  Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis finds himself traveling throughout the state of Indiana to represent disabled individuals with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  If you have been denied disability benefits or if you cannot work due to a disabling condition, contact Indiana … 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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