Recent Blog Posts

Am I Expected to Talk at My Social Security Disability Hearing?- Am I expected to talk at my Social Security disability hearing?  At your Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked to answer questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The amount of time you speak and the content of your testimony will depend on your ALJ, your representative, and several other factors.  In some hearings, I have clients that wish to say as little as possible and other clients that want to say too much. When I prepare my clients for their hearings, we discuss which topics are important and which topics are irrelevant in determining whether a person is able to work. This prehearing preparation session is helpful to show my clients what type of information the ALJ is looking for. Your answers to these questions can greatly impact your chance of a favorable outcome. If your medical record is complete prior to your hearing, the most important evidence missing is your testimony.  You are the best person to describe the pain you experience from a physical condition or the impact of your mental health on your daily life. Many ALJs will ask what type of doctors you see, the procedures you have underwent, and what your prognosis is.  ALJs will ask you questions about how long you can sit, stand, walk, and lift; they will also ask you about how you are able to perform daily activities around your home. I think it is important to take a moment to discuss your daily activities, known as your “Activities of Daily Living.”  Many of my clients are confused as to how these questions impact their ability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is trying to see if you are doing work-like activities.  They often ask questions about your ability to clean the house, shop, drive, do yard … Continued
Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time- Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time.  Before discussing time limits on filing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, let me address a common question I receive from clients.  I often get asked whether an individual should appeal their current claim or file a new application.  There are very few reasons why you should file a new claim if you still have the ability to appeal a recent denial.  If you are filing a new claim just to see if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find you disabled with a new application, I advise my clients that appealing an initial denial is likely the best course of action.  Most initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied.  My experience is that your chances of winning your claim increase by appealing your claim and pursuing a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  I have seen clients with numerous initial application denials in the past win their claim for benefits by going through the appeals process. The first step in the appeal process is called a “Request for Reconsideration.”  This is asking the Social Security Administration to take another look at your disability claim because you believe they have made an error.  The filing deadline is 60 days from the date on the denial letter plus an additional 5 days for mailing.  There are various reasons why an initial application for benefits can be denied.  These can include the following: exceeding allowable resource amounts, working and earning income above the levels the SSA allows, the SSA believes your disability is not severe enough, or other reasons.  After you determine the reason you were denied, you can decide if you believe you have a valid reason to ask the SSA to look at it … Continued
Cancer and Social Security Disability- Cancer and Social Security Disability.  There are so many types of cancer with varying degrees of severity that it can be difficult to know what qualifies you for Social Security disability.  Just a diagnosis of cancer itself usually is not going to get you disability benefits.  Medical documentation is needed to prove the type and the severity of your condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes cancer under Listing 13.00 (Malignant Neoplastic Disease).  If you take the time to read through this Listing, you can see there are very specific criteria needed to find a person disabled.  Sometimes a person does not have exactly what this Listing calls for, but the SSA may agree that they functionally equal the Listing instead. While a listing may be difficult to meet or equal, many times the SSA believes your capacity to work is so diminished by residual limitations that you simply cannot work a full-time job.  Many of my clients complain of residual effects including neuropathy, cognitive issues, decreased energy, or muscle weakness, among others. In severe cases when cancer is considered terminal, the SSA can grant disability benefits through a process called Compassionate Allowance.  If the SSA can quickly identify your condition as being this severe, it can expedite your claim.  This can eliminate the long process of appeals and hearings to get the benefits you are entitled to.  Your Social Security Disability lawyer can better explain the specific information necessary to be granted a Compassionate Allowance. With the varying types of cancer, each case is distinctly different.  Solid medical testing and documentation can greatly enhance your chances of winning your Social Security Disability claim.   Medical source statements from a treating physician can improve your chances of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  It is … Continued
Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition?- Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition? I represent claimants with a wide variety of physical and mental conditions.  I regularly talk to claimants with a rare or unique diagnosis that are concerned that their diagnosis will not be properly understood by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  These individuals want to make sure that they have a legal team that will advocate for them to the SSA regarding their unique struggles.  My law office understands that the disability appeal process can be complicated on its own, and even more so if you don’t feel that anyone understands what your medical conditions put you through.  I try to make sure my clients know that I have a plan for each claim, no matter how common or rare their medical conditions may be.   If you look at SSA’s website for information regarding medical conditions, you may come across their Listing of Impairments. SSA has special rules regarding how a person with some common medical conditions should be evaluated for disability.  If a person with a medical condition discussed in the corresponding Listing meets the criteria established, SSA should find that person is disabled.  If you have a rare medical condition, you may not find that the SSA has a Listing for your condition. This does not mean that you can’t be found disabled, but that the SSA must determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  SSA will look at how your conditions and symptoms affect your ability to do work-like tasks and then determine if you can do any jobs with the limitations that you have.   So how do you prove your limitations? The first place the SSA will evaluate will be your medical records.  Therefore, it is important for you to follow up with your doctors as … Continued
Are You Angry and Frustrated About Your Social Security Disability Claim?- Are you angry and frustrated about your Social Security disability claim?  I find many of my clients express  anger and frustration about their Social Security disability claim.  There may be a variety of reasons that they feel this way.  It’s easy to understand how you might be frustrated when you are unable to work and provide for yourself and/or your family while facing physical and/or mental disabilities.  This blog will cover some of the things I frequently discuss with my clients. Why did they deny me when other people are receiving Social Security disability when they don’t deserve it?  It is important to remember that every case is different.  Sometimes a person’s disability can be something you cannot see.  What you consider an undeserving neighbor may be someone suffering from severe mental conditions.  Also, there are specific rules that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has that can make it easier to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The SSA can consider a person’s age, education, and prior work experience to meet certain vocational guidelines that could make it easier to receive benefits. With such a large disability program covering so many people, there may be undeserving individuals that fall through the cracks, but overall, we are lucky to live in a country where our disabled are taken care of. Why is it taking so long?  Many of my clients find themselves unable to pay for food, rent, and essential needs during this lengthy process.  Unfortunately, the SSA is way behind in processing claims.  This is probably the most common question I receive, and I can make no excuses for the process.  The lack of available staff to process claims and Administrative Law Judges to hold hearings on those claims is frustrating to claimants and … Continued
Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Past Jobs?- Many of my clients applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) wonder why I ask them about jobs they have performed in the past.  In claims for disability benefits, Social Security evaluates whether they believe you can return to jobs you held in the past. They look at the last 15 years of your employment history. As you can imagine, it may be easier to return to work at a call center as opposed to a heavy construction job.  In this blog, I will briefly explain how this process works. During the Social Security claims process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will examine your past work to see if you can return to that work with the medical impairments you are experiencing.  At the initial stages, a disability examiner will look at your job titles along with the physical and mental demand levels of your past employment.  If the disability examiner determines you can do your past work, your claim will be denied.  If you cannot perform your past relevant work, the SSA will also determine whether you acquired transferable skills to perform a job with lower exertional requirements.  If they determine there are jobs you can perform with your transferable skills, your claim will also be denied.  Many of my clients are denied for these reasons. This is something you can appeal, and it is usually in your best interest to do so.  After appealing a disability denial, you may find yourself at an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  There will be a Vocational Expert (VE) at the hearing to testify about the demands of your previous employment and occupations in the labor force that can be performed with certain physical and/or mental restrictions.  This is where your attorney or representative can help the … Continued
Sciatica and Social Security Disability- Sciatica and Social Security Disability. Sciatica can generally be described as radiation of pain from your lower back into your hip, buttocks, and/or lower extremities.  This can result from the sciatic nerve being pinched or compressed.  It is often caused by the degeneration of an intervertebral disc.  The pain from sciatica can vary greatly from a minor pain to a burning sensation or the feeling of an electrical shock. If you experience sciatica, testing such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s can demonstrate the cause of your sciatic pain.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) relies on these types of objective tests to establish a disabling condition.  Most medical providers can order objective testing to help determine the cause of your symptoms.  An abundance of medical treatment is needed to prove to the SSA how severe your disabling condition is.  Common treatment types can include pain management, injections, or physical therapy.  Without these types of medical documentation, it can be hard to support your allegations of pain; relying on the SSA to send you to one of their exams is usually not enough.  It is important for you to tell your medical providers how you experience sciatic pain and the limitations it causes you. Many of my clients with back impairments experience negative effects on their daily lives.  They describe pain with standing, walking, and sitting. These limitations can impact a person’s ability to do many job tasks.  In addition to preventing a worker’s postural movements like reaching or bending, pain can make it hard to concentrate or complete your duties.  Some of my clients even require an assistive device like a cane or walker in order to relieve their pain while they stand or walk.  This can cause difficulty in jobs that require an employee to stand and walk around … Continued
Social Security Disability and Your Date Last Insured- I have found the concept of a Date Last Insured (DLI) can be difficult for my clients to understand.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Disability lawyer, I may need to explain this concept to my clients several times to for them to fully grasp what it means.  I understand the difficulty in accepting that your eligibility for disability insurance benefits has expired when you are struggling with a severe disability and find you cannot take care of yourself or your family.  In this blog, I will attempt to explain why your DLI is important and how it is established. Your Date last Insured, or DLI, is established by acquiring work credits.  You establish work credits by working and paying into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, also known as FICA taxes, to the United States Government.  When you receive your paycheck stub, you can see the amount of FICA taxes being deducted.  By paying this tax, you are essentially paying premiums to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits should you become disabled.  Although many factors can come into play, your DLI generally expires around five years after you stop working.  Another general rule is that to establish a DLI, you must have worked full time for at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  If you have recently stopped working due to a disabling condition, your DLI is usually in the future. However, if you stopped working many years ago, your DLI may have already passed, which is sometimes referred to as a “remote DLI.”  So, why is your DLI so important?  Your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits is determined by your DLI.   You must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you became disabled before your disability insurance … Continued
If I Have Crohn’s Disease Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits?- In my experience, Crohn’s disease can be a very disabling condition and may qualify you for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The symptoms from Crohn’s disease can be painful, uncomfortable, and can consume most of the person’s day just trying to complete simple tasks.  Very few employers will tolerate an employee that spends much of the day off task and consistently in the nearest restroom.  The Social Security Administration recognizes this, and many times these exact issues are addressed at an Administrative Law Judge hearing. My clients generally describe the similar symptoms, and these can include, but are not limited to: Diarrhea Abdominal Pain Fatigue Fever Vomiting Weight Loss In these cases, it is crucial to obtain objective testing to prove your symptoms are a result of your diagnosis.  In my experience, in cases of individuals with severe Crohn’s disease, many of these tests have been performed before I even talk to my client.  A comprehensive medical file can be key to you receiving your disability benefits.  The SSA usually wants to see that you have exhausted all avenues for treatment in an attempt to resolve your condition.  The Social Security Administration examines Crohn’s disease in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 5.00 Digestive System.  These listings define qualifying criteria for disabilities and the objective testing used to prove the severity of the condition.  Listings can be difficult to interpret without the aid of a trained physician or qualified attorney.  Many times, I will ask a treating physician to complete a questionnaire to show the client meets those criteria.  Another way to win your Social Security disability claim is to show the SSA and an Administrative Law Judge that your condition is so severe you cannot sustain full-time employment.  This can be done … Continued
Will I Get the Chance to Talk to An Actual Attorney When I Call Your Office?- A common complaint I hear from perspective clients is that when they hire a lawyer, they seldom get the chance to speak directly to the lawyer.  The majority of my staff are attorneys who focus on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.  The attorneys in my practice make the decision to accept potential clients, not the administrative staff.  We believe this initial attorney/client contact is crucial in beginning our case.  The initial contact with an attorney can help you decide if the relationship is a good fit for you, in addition to helping you understand the disability process.  The lawyers in my office strive to explain not only the process, but what can be done to enhance your chances of winning your disability claim.  This initial contact can give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding the appeals process, the importance of your medical providers, and your chances of being successful in your disability claim.  With my office, the attorney client contact does not stop after the initial conversation.  Our attorneys answer questions from current clients on a daily basis. The wait to have your case heard in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can be lengthy.  Many things can change during the long wait and chances are, you will have additional questions along the way.  They can range from status updates and updating your medical providers and diagnoses, to questions regarding your ability to go back to work and what ramifications that will have on your claim.  Our office is busy, and I believe you should want it that way.  We are working with medical providers to get your medical records, filing appeals, corresponding with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and preparing cases for upcoming court dates.  Our administrative staff works closely with … Continued