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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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October 19, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearings & The Quality of Your Testimony

Indiana residents filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits may find themselves answering many questions when they finally appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The quality and credibility of your testimony may have a big impact on the outcome of the hearing.While there is no one answer on how to give testimony at a Social Security disability hearing, there have been few things that I have experienced as Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney that clients should be aware of when addressing the ALJ.  I advise my clients to always be honest when testifying.  Many Administrative Law Judges have done hundreds if not thousands of Social Security disability claims hearings and can typically detect when a claimant is not being truthful.  Some judges may try to catch a disability claimant that is trying to tell a lie by asking questions that often lead the client into contradicting their previous testimony.  So, it is my belief that honesty is always the best policy. Stay focused.  If you are being questioned about your “back” impairment, try to stay on that subject.  The other impairments you experience will hopefully be covered through more questioning.  It is important to elaborate on your disability, letting the judge know how it interferes with your life, the severity of the pain you experience, and the side effects the medications may have on you, among other things.  It’s critical that you get this information across to the judge.   Inform the judge of the things that you cannot do. Many people do not want to admit they have a disability that hinders their ability to do daily activities.  When attempting to obtain disability benefits, at times you will need to swallow your pride.  If you need help with daily activities such as grooming, laundry, cooking, etc. it is important to inform the judge of these difficulties.  This is no time to pretend you are a superhero when … Continued

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July 16, 2009

Do Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE) Always Testify at an Administrative Law Judge Hearing?

Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants often ask if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will always have experts testify at their Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  In simple terms, the answer is “no, not always.”  There are multiple reasons why an expert may not testify at the disability hearing.  Some ALJ’s simply do not use a Medical Experts (ME) or Vocational Experts (VE).  Other ALJ’s may use one expert but may not use the other expert.  Although the reasons vary, some reasons could include the availability of these experts and whether or not the ALJ has already looked at your case and may decide you are getting a favorable decision before you have even walked through the door.  Many experienced Administrative Law Judges feel that they can make a fair decision based on the claimant’s testimony and the medical records.  Hopefully, they have looked thoroughly at the claimant’s medical records and will come to a fact based decision as to what the limitations are regarding the claimant’s disability.  Once the ALJ has established the limitations, they consider whether the claimant can perform their past employment, or with the restrictions determined, whether they can perform other employment. Are your chances of winning your disability claim better if there are no experts?  In Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis’s opinion, probably not.  While expert testimony can help lay out the framework for a decision, most Administrative Law Judge’s are going to go through the same process without the aid of expert testimony.  An attorney representing you in your disability claim should be ready for the presence of experts and have an appropriate line of questions ready if needed. If you have questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim, contact Attorney Scott Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.

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July 6, 2009

Social Security Video Hearing – What is it and why am I having one?

Finally, your Social Security Disability claim has been scheduled for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you have been told it is a “video hearing”.  Most Indianapolis Social Security Disability claimants may wonder what a video hearing is and why are they scheduled to have one?  Video hearings are hearings where the judge is at a different location from the claimant and will appear on a large colored television screen at your location.  The judge is able to speak, hear, or see anyone at the hearings office location.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that your privacy is protected and the hearing transmission is done in a secure manner.  A video hearing consists of the same elements as hearing in person.  The video hearing is not video taped but the SSA does make an audio recording.  At the local hearings room, there will be the claimant, a court reporter, and if the claimant desires representation, a Social Security Disabiltiy Attorney or representative.  Sometimes a medical expert and/or a vocational (job) expert may testify at the hearing.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) believes that using video technology may be a faster way to get a hearing, may be more convenient, and also may be more efficient.  The Indianapolis Social Security Hearing’s Office is currently one of the most backlogged hearings offices in the country.  Many video hearings take place in Indianapolis due to the tremendous backlog.   While it might be true that video hearings may be a way to expedite your social security disability case heard by a judge, there may also be some drawbacks.  A hearing held in front of a judge rather than by video may be more personal.  This may give the judge the opportunity to actually look at the claimant in close proximity enabling the judge to assess the claimant’s physical or even mental disability by being able to directly observe the claimant … Continued

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May 15, 2009

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

What should a disability claimant expect when going to a Social Security disability hearing?   Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis often tells his client’s, “Do not expect it to be something you have seen on a television show.”  Outlined below is a brief example of what Scott Lewis experiences when he is representing his Indiana claimants at the hearing level.  Typically, the hearings office is a rather informal office and the hearing usually takes place in a small room.  As you arrive at the hearings office, you must check-in with the office and then you will take a seat until it is your turn.  If you have an attorney representing you, when he arrives the attorney will review the claimant’s file located at the Social Security office to ensure all of the exhibits he has submitted to the court have been properly placed in the file.  Once you are called into the hearing room, you may see several other people in the room.  This may include a medical expert, a vocational expert, a court reporter, and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The people present at the Administrative Hearing depends on the ALJ and the availability of the experts.  Occasionally, the ALJ will appear on video from another location rather than physically being in the hearing office.  After court formalities, you are sometimes questioned by the ALJ about your personal information and medical information concerning your disability(s).  After the judge is finished questioning the claimant, he typically turns to your lawyer and asks if there are any further questions.  The attorney will ask the client questions that may support his case.  Once the attorney has completed questioning the client, the judge may ask the Medical Expert for his opinion of your medical records. If the Medical Expert testifies that … Continued

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