January 6, 2016

Finding an Indiana Social Security Disability Lawyer for your Child

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If you have had a difficult time finding an attorney to represent you in your child’s claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you may not be alone.  When I speak to new clients in my Indianapolis Social Security disability law practice, they often tell me that many of the Social Security disability attorneys they had consulted simply do not take children’s cases.  Some Administrative Law Judges have told me that children’s SSI cases can be more difficult to win than adult cases.  In my experience, the chances of winning a child’s case are affected by the same factors that affect adults’ cases – we need good treatment records, statements from a treating physician supporting the claimant’s descriptions of his or her symptoms, and good preparation for the hearing.   I take great pride in helping the families of disabled children, and I believe my experience with these cases helps to ensure that my clients have the best chance possible at a favorable outcome.

One of the reasons some attorneys may be reluctant to accept children’s cases is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses different criteria in evaluating a child’s disability that it does when it evaluates an adult’s impairments.  For example, Social Security has a separate Listing of Impairments for adults and children.  Further, the SSA evaluates children’s and adults’ functional limitations using different frameworks.  The main issue in an adult’s case is whether his or her disability is severe enough to prevent full-time work.  Obviously, since children do not work, Social Security cannot analyze a child’s functional limitations in this manner.  Instead, the SSA determines whether a child has “marked” limitations in at least two (or “extreme” limitations in at least one) of six areas of functioning Social Security calls “domains”:

  • Acquiring and using information:  the child’s ability to learn information and to think about and use that information
  • Attending and completing tasks: the child’s ability to focus and maintain attention; to begin, carry through, and finish activities; to perform tasks at an appropriate pace; to avoid impulsive actions; and to organize her belongings and manage her time
  • Interacting and relating with others: the child’s ability to initiate and respond to interactions with other people, to form and maintain relationships with others, to show respect for other people, and to communicate effectively
  • Moving about and manipulating objects: the child’s physical ability to move his body from one place to another and to move or manipulate objects
  • Caring for yourself: the child’s ability to maintain a healthy emotional and physical state, including ensuring her own needs are met, coping with stress and change, and take care of her own health
  • Health and physical well-being: the cumulative physical effects of the child’s physical and/or mental impairments, including the frequency of recurrent illnesses, side effects of medications, and the need for ongoing treatment

As you can see, the criteria for a finding of disability can vary greatly from a child to an adult.  For answers to other common questions concerning children’s SSI claims, see my earlier blog post.    And of course, as with any Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, appropriate and consistent medical treatment is usually the key to a favorable outcome.

If your child suffers from what you consider to be a severe disability and you meet the income and resource requirements for SSI eligibility, it may be in your best interest to file a claim for your child.  Contacting an experienced attorney to guide you through what can be a confusing and long process may help ease your mind, and in the end help you get the benefits your family needs.

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