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November 30, 2010

Indianapolis Social Security Lawyer Scott Lewis and his Thoughts Concerning Video Hearings

The Indianapolis Office of Disability Adjudication and Review has a tremendous backlog of Social Security disability appeals waiting to be heard by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ).  This is no big secret to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and in an attempt to help alleviate the huge caseload they have turned to video hearings.  Does this mean an Indiana Social Security disability claimant will have a video hearing?  No, there is still a possibility you will appear at an “in person” hearing with the ALJ sitting right in front of you.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis has noticed recently that Indiana disability claimants need to expect the unexpected when dealing with Administrative Law Judges from other locations. It is not uncommon for Indiana Social Security disability attorneys to see the same Administrative Law Judges over and over at “in person” hearings at the Indianapolis Social Security hearings office.  Familiarity with the Judges can often help an Indiana Social Security disability lawyer know what to expect at the court proceeding and be well prepared for the type of questions that will be asked by the Judge.  Also, this type of familiarity will usually help the Social Security disability attorney know what particular things a certain judge is looking for to achieve a favorable outcome. Now, lets mix in an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) sitting in a courtroom peering through a small television monitor hundreds of miles away who may have never stepped foot in the state of Indiana.  You may enter the courtroom in a wheelchair, the ALJ may not see, and you may grimace in pain that he may not see, and then he speaks to you in a voice that seems to echo from the audio equipment. You look at your Indianapolis Social Security Attorney for guidance and he displays calm character … Continued

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November 18, 2010

Security Issues At Social Security Disability Hearing Offices

Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis travels to many Social Security hearing offices around the state of Indiana.  There has been much news recently about the safety and security of these Social Security hearing offices.  Due to the large amount of pending Indiana Social Security disability claims, some hearings take place in atmospheres that may surprise Indiana Social Security disability claimants.  With that in mind, it may not be a surprise that the level of security varies from one hearing location to another. The majority of the time an Indiana Social Security disability claimant will have a hearing at the Office of Disability, Adjudication and Review (ODAR).  At the majority of ODAR locations Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis visits, the security is very similar.  Indiana Social Security disability claimants will enter the hearing office and be asked for photo identification, asked some basic questions, and then usually purses and belongings are checked over and a metal detector is used.  If everything checks out, you let the staff know you have arrived and take a seat.  Recently, due to a large amount of pending claims, hearings are being held in what Indiana Social Security disability claimants may think is a strange atmosphere for a hearing.  Some of these locations may even include hotels.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis sometimes finds himself and his client in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in a hotel room.  Yes that is correct, a hotel room.  Will your end result be different from a hearing in a hotel room?  Probably not, but it does seem rather odd.  The only thing Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis has noticed at these “make shift” hearings location is that there is minimal security.  At times the Indiana disability client does not even check in.  They simply … Continued

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October 13, 2010

Testifying At Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

Indiana Social Security Disability Lawyer Scott D. Lewis often finds his Indiana Social Security Appeals clients are very nervous about giving testimony at Social Security disability hearings.  The fact is many of his disability clients find the hearing to be much more informal than they had originally thought.  The hearing rooms in the Indianapolis Social Security disability office are not a grand courtroom as many disability clients are expecting.  Instead, hearing rooms are typically small, carpeted, wallpapered rooms with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) usually sitting at an elevated desk.  So, now that you have an idea what the hearing room looks like where an Indiana disability client will give testimony, what type of questions will you be asked? Almost all Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) follow a different routine when questioning Social Security disability appeals claimants.  With that being said, Indiana Social Security disability clients should realize the underlying question is “how does your disability keep you from working?”  Indianapolis Social Security disability Attorney Scott Lewis usually finds that most Administrative Law Judges will ask a series of questions and then let the Attorney or representative follow up with their own line of questioning.  The questions usually fall into four main groups: General background questions.  These can include how old you are, your height and weight, your marital status, who you live with, whether you are right or left handed, and many other similar questions. Past jobs you have performed.  Here the Social Security Administration (SSA) is usually concerned with how much you lifted, how much standing and sitting you did, and what your duties where at your previous job(s).  Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis tells his clients to be prepared to discuss jobs over the last fifteen (15) years that lasted more than three (3) months. Discussion of your medical problems either physical or mental that prevent you from working.  It is important … Continued

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September 8, 2010

Describing The Pain You Are Experiencing At Your Social Security Disability Hearing

Indianapolis Attorney Scott Lewis often finds himself talking to his clients in depth about the pain they are experiencing.  Describing your pain in detail may help a Social Security disability client win their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  Other than your medical records and possibly a medical expert, the only other information an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your disability appeal may be able to rely on is your testimony.  With that in mind, disability lawyer Scott Lewis believes it is very important to describe the pain you feel as accurately as you possibly can. Different Social Security disability claimants experience and tolerate pain at varying levels.  Due to the subjective nature of pain, it may be difficult to explain to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and make them understand how painful your condition is.  Many physical conditions can cause pain including back problems, fibromyalgia, diabetes, migraine headaches, COPD, heart problems, and other conditions.  A Social Security disability claimant may experience pain from not one physical condition, but a combination of physical conditions. Many times at a Social Security disability hearing, Indiana Attorney Scott Lewis will ask his disability clients questions to help them better explain the pain they experience.  For example: Where do you feel the pain?  If you experience pain in your back and it radiates down your legs, you should let the SSA know the exact location of your pain. What does the pain feel like?  If it is a sharp, dull, or burning sensation, you should describe it in as much detail as possible. Many times, Attorney Scott Lewis may ask his Indiana disability clients to describe the pain they experience on a zero to ten scale.  Zero being no pain and ten being pain so severe they must go to the hospital. How often do you feel the pain?  Is it hourly, daily, weekly, … Continued

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September 2, 2010

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings

Social Security disability claimants entering an Indiana hearings office for their disability appeal may wonder what to expect. For many Indiana residents, the idea of appearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may be intimidating. Attorney Scott D. Lewis tries to explain to his Social Security disability clients what to expect at the hearing and attempts to explain to the client what the strong and weak points of their disability claim are. As far as what to expect at your hearing for your appeal, here are a few items clients wonder about: What should I do when I arrive at the hearing office? The Social Security hearings office usually request the clients to arrive at theoffice 30 minutes before their scheduled disability hearing. The Social Security Administration request the claimant to bring a picture I.D. and many Social Security hearing offices will have security that may require you to go through a metal detector.  After passing through security, the disability claimant should check in with personnel at the Social Security hearings office to let them know you have arrived and then the disability claimant can take a seat. What does the hearing room look like? In the Indianapolis Social Security hearings office, disability clients are usually surprised to find a rather informal hearing room.  The rooms are small with desks and chairs for the disability client, the representative, experts, and a court reporter to sit at.  The ALJ is usually at another desk that is more elevated.  The hearing rooms are not “grand” court rooms you may have seen on television, but a more informal environment. How long will my Social Security hearing last? The length of the hearing varies for from judge to judge, but in Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, most disability appeal hearings are scheduled for 45 minutes.  Some Administrative Law Judges conduct appeal hearings that … Continued

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August 31, 2010

Questions you may be asked at your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

You are finally getting prepared for your Social Security disability hearing in front of an Indiana Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After a long wait to get a hearing, you may be wondering what is going to happen at your disability hearing. Disability attorney Scott Lewis attempts to let his Social Security disability clients know what to expect in the hearing room. Although, in his experience most of the Judges have their own agenda and conduct the hearing a little differently, their is generally a common framework they all seem to follow. Whether you are trying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits the questions usually revolve around three main areas.  These areas include the following: Personal information The Judge often asks very general personal questions. These questions may include information about your age, your education, where you live, who you live with, do you have children, are you right or left handed, how tall you are and how much you weigh, among several other questions. What past work have you performed? In this area the Judge may ask questions such as: did your previous jobs have a title, how long did you work at the job, how did you perform your previous jobs, how much did you lift, carry, stand, walk, and/or sit during those jobs. What is your medical condition(s) that prevents you from working? The Judge will generally ask you to explain your disabling condition(s). What medical providers you are seeing, what limitations you experience from your disabling condition(s), and what medications you are taking. The general theme here is usually about how your disabling condition keep you from working. Attorney Scott Lewis likes to meet with his Social Security disability clients before the Social Security hearing to let them know what they can expect. It is important to … Continued

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April 28, 2010

Can I Get My Social Security Disability Hearing Date Expedited?

It may be a painful reality that the Indiana Social Security disability claims process is a long drawn out process. In some cases, disability claimants are faced with some unfortunate situations while they are waiting the 18-24 months to be in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Indianapolis Social Security Disabilty Lawyer Scott D. Lewis often gets asked by his Social Security disability clients how they will be able to get their hearing date expedited. Mr. Lewis understands the client’s frustration with the waiting process, but getting a hearing date faster than anyone else is not as easy as he’d like. As most Social Security disability attorneys would share with their clients, getting a hearing date expedited may be difficult but not impossible. In some circumstances, a disability claimant may be able to prove a “dire need” to expedite the hearing. As most claimants experience, living without a paycheck, with existing ongoing medical bills, needing a place to sleep, and needing to eat can cause a lot of difficulty when it comes to survival. Attorney Scott Lewis often recommends to his clients to find a good support system during this difficult time. So, how does someone tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they are in a dire need to expedite the date of their disability hearing? First of all, the claimant and/or their disability lawyer must submit a “dire need” letter to the SSA explaining their extreme financial hardship. A “Dire Need” situation exists when a person has insufficient income or resources to meet an immediate threat to health or safety, such as lack of food, clothing, shelter or medical care.  The claim must allege specific immediate circumstances.  In Attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, the preceding factors may be looked at, but the three main factors the Indiana Social Security Administration will focus … Continued

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January 17, 2010

Indiana Social Security Disability Lawyer

As an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, Scott D. Lewis often find himself explaining to his clients what his role is in their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits claim. It may be the clients best interest to understand what his/her Social Security disability lawyer does for them. Seeking an attorney to represent you can be an easier task if you understand what the role of your attorney actually is.  When a claimant gets denied Social Security disability benefits, the claimant has the right to appeal that unfavorable decision. A claimant may choose not to seek the advice of a Social Security disability attorney or representative until the claimant receives their initial denial. Those seeking disability often times retain the services of a lawyer after their initial denial and when asking for a “request for reconsideration” or when requesting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Although some claimants may choose to go to their hearing without representation, many statistics show having a much higher success rate when a claimant has representation. A Social Security disability lawyer’s basic job is to figure out what has gone wrong with the client’s claim and attempt to resolve those problems. An experienced attoney will review the inital claim, along with medical and non-medical evidence collected by the SSA, to determine why the claim was denied. The lawyer will also attempt to work with your doctors to get additional medical records that may support your disability claim. It is important to ensure that your Social Security file is complete with up-to-date medical records to help achieve a favorable outcome. Attorney Scott Lewis and his staff always attempt to work closely with their clients throughout the appeals process. Scott offers a free consultation to qualified claimants that contact his office to discuss their claim. Scott Lewis strives to stay in contact with … Continued

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January 8, 2010

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing Decision

Are you an Indiana resident that has appeared in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for your Social Security disability benefits hearing? Like most claimants, learning the terminology used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) can very confusing and difficult to understand. Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis always attempts to assists his clients with any confusion that they may have during the appeals process. Once you have had your hearing, the SSA will send you a notice with their decision. Claimants will receive a letter stating one of the following results: fully favorable; unfavorable; partially favorable; or dismissed. The claimant’s ultimate goal is to receive a fully favorable decision.  This means that you have won your claim and should receive the past due and monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits that you deserve.  The next best hearing result would be a partially favorable decision.  This decision means that the ALJ believes that you are disabled and unable to work but did not find you to be disabled on the date that you alleged that your disability began.  The reason for a different onset date can sometimes be attributed to the medical evidence not substantiating the date that you believe that you became disabled.  Lawyer Scott Lewis advises his clients to read this notice carefully because you may lose some of your past due benefits.  If the ALJ found the evidence of your disability to be strong enough to give you a favorable decision but decided that your disability onset date was different than what you alleged, the ALJ will determine the date of your disability and give past due payments based on that date.  If the ALJ decides that your onset date (the date you became disabled) is after your date of … Continued

Filed under: Hearings Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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December 30, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearing Backlog

Indiana Social Security disability claimants often experience frustration when attempting to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Claimants may feel aggitated by the repetitive paperwork that they are required to complete in order to file a claim, the lack of communication with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and finally, the painstaking waiting period. Because most disability claimants wait to file their claim until they are desperate for money, the waiting period to get a hearing may seem incredibly long.   The fact is that the waiting period to get a hearing is long!   Many Indiana residents can wait years before getting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after filing their claim. The Social Security Adminstration may claim the backlog is caused by lack of funds, lack of workers, increasing caseload, and difficult-to-prove disabilities such as depression and anxiety. Recent records indicated the number of disability recipients has more than doubled since 1990. As of October 2009, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) reports that hearing level processing times and the number of pending cases show improvement in the 2010 fiscal year.  The pending number of cases dropped for the past ten months having the lowest ODAR pending number since February 2008.  Currently, the average processing time is 441 days which is the lowest processing time since April 2005. The SSA’s goal is to reach a processing time of 270 days.  Indianapolis processing time averages 622 days ranking at 139 out of 143 hearings offices.  What is making the improvement in the processing time and pending cases?  The SSA has hired 8,600 new employees in the 2009 fiscal year.  This included 147 new ALJ’s and more than 1,000 ODAR support staff.  This increase in workforce allows faster processing times.  The SSA plans on hiring an additional 226 ALJ’s in the 2010 fiscal year.  By the … Continued

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