December 30, 2009
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
October 19, 2009
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
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.
July 6, 2009
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
May 15, 2009
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