Recent Blog Posts

Keeping in Touch with Your Social Security Disability Attorney - Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a long wait time for hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJ); keeping in touch with your lawyer can be very important to winning your claim.  As your hearing approaches, communication with your representative can be even more important to gather your updated medical records.  Keeping in contact with your lawyer may allow for any and all medical records to be obtained and ensures that an ALJ will be able to make a decision based on the most up to date information. Some common problems I have seen with my clients include their inability to have a working phone number or a consistent mailing address.  It is easy to understand that financial hardships due to the inability to work can make it extremely difficult to afford these things.  It can be very helpful to your Social Security Disability lawyer if you call, email, or notify him/her by standard mail, of any changes to your contact information.  Sometimes, a relative or friend can serve as a consistent point of contact for my office if you grant us permission to speak to them. So many things can change while waiting for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing.  For example, your condition may have gotten worse, your medical providers may have changed, you may have undergone additional medical procedures, you may have had changes in medication, you may have undergone new objective testing, or you may even have improved and gone back at work.  All these things can potentially have an impact on your case.  Additionally, going to a Social Security disability hearing “cold”, without talking to your Social Security disability attorney, can result in some surprises.  I attempt to prepare my clients before each hearing with a preparation session to … Continued
Neck Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits - When thinking of spinal pain, people typically think of the back or lumbar area.  However, the cervical spine can also create pain and limitations that prevent an individual from working.  The cervical region consists of seven vertebrae numbered C1 through C7.  Injuries or degeneration of this area can require therapy, injections, and even major surgeries to repair damaged areas or provide relieve from severe pain.  If your cervical spine is causing pain and keeping you from working, you should file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many of my clients are diagnosed with Cervical Spondylosis, Cervical Disc Degeneration, and Cervical Spinal Stenosis.  Appropriate objective testing such as MRI’s and x-rays can better show the degree of severity to this region.  My clients often complain of symptoms including, but not limited to: Severe pain Numbness and Tingling Difficulty Moving the Head in Different Directions Headaches Problems lifting and carrying amounts of weight It is important to have medical records to support this type of claim when you go to your Social Security disability hearing.  For example, physical therapy records can show how your injuries to the cervical spine affect your ability to perform a variety of movements or activities.  If you can show the Social Security Administration (SSA) or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you have exhausted all treatment options and that you are still disabled from a cervical impairment, you may find yourself with a favorable outcome and get the disability payments you deserve to support yourself and your family. It is important to remember to let the SSA know about all your impairments.  While you may have a severe cervical issue, other impairments like diabetes, asthma, depression, or any other severe impairment can also be considered in combination to find … Continued
Can I Receive Social Security Disability If I Had a Heart Attack? - If you or someone you know has had a heart attack and are considering filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there are some things you should consider.  First, if you have not worked or believe you cannot work for twelve (12) consecutive months, it might be in your best interest to file immediately.  Second, you should file for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to ensure you receive the benefits under the program you are entitled to.  This blog will discuss a few ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at cases involving cardiovascular issues. The SSA examines heart related impairments in its Listing of Impairments under Section 4.00.  These listings outline in specific detail what the SSA believes are disabling conditions concerning the cardiovascular system.  If you read these listings, you may find them complicated and difficult to understand.  Many terms in these listings can be understood by a qualified physician or a Medical Expert (ME), who sometimes appear at Social Security Disability Appeals hearings.  My office can generate a “Medical Source Statement” for you to take to your cardiologist to see if you meet or equal these criteria. It is important to note that not all Social Security disability cases are won by meeting or equaling one of these listings.  After a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem, your capacity to work may be so low that you simply cannot work a full-time job, and this may also qualify you for Social Security disability.  The SSA calls this your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  Your RFC could include limitations in sitting, standing, walking, and lifting.  It could also limit your ability to stay on task and to consistently attend work, which may result in termination from employment.  Medical Source Statements from your … Continued
What Are You Going to Say at Your Social Security Disability Hearing? - Your words matter at a Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income hearing.  The way you answer questions and the information you offer can impact the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  My staff and I try to prepare each one of my clients for their day in court.  Some of my clients listen to me carefully and some do not.  This blog contains some of my experiences representing clients in thousands of disability hearings and is not intended as legal advice. You have waited for what seems like forever to finally be heard in court.  Chances are you have a lot to say, and you cannot wait to give the ALJ an earful about your disabilities.  While this is common, you must remember the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the ALJ that hears your case has a very precise game plan for how they are going to analyze your case.  For a seasoned disability lawyer, the questions are usually very predictable.  If your attorney has experience with an ALJ, they can usually guide you through what is important and prepare you adequately. In my experience, there are four broad areas that you may be asked about, but all ALJs can differ: Background questions- these can be easy and include basic information such as your age, education, marital status, living arrangement, height, weight, dominant hand, financial situation, and other personal questions. Past employment- the SSA is required to go back 15 years and examine your old jobs to determine whether you can return to any past jobs with your current disabilities. Questions here can include job titles, duties, exertional requirements, and other job-related questions What are your disabling conditions? This is usually the longest set of questions and can include medical treatment you are receiving; procedures you have … Continued
Autism and Social Security Disability Benefits - As an Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney, I have noticed an increase in the number of children and young adults diagnosed with Autism.  My office takes great pride in helping these individuals get the benefits they deserve.  Preparing these claims for the Social Security Administration (SSA) usually takes a focused approach to show an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) the severity of this condition.  This blog will briefly outline some of the information I believe is important in proving a claim for an individual who experiences Autism. The good news is that the SSA does recognize Autism as a disabling condition.  In the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Autism is covered under Listing 112.10 for children and 12.10 for adults.  Using these guidelines, a Social Security disability lawyer can craft arguments to help show the person qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many times, a Medical Source Statement may be obtained by a treating source showing that the applicant meets these criteria. Through years of representing those with Autism, I have noticed many common symptoms that are considered severe by the SSA.  These can include, but are not limited to: Social impairments Communication impairments Heightened sensitivity to noise, food, clothing, etc. Repetitive behaviors Other medical conditions linked to Autism This brief list is not intended to be all inclusive because Autism is on a spectrum, and the symptoms may vary in severity and existence from individual to individual. The ability to function may also vary greatly from person to person so, as an attorney representing children or young adults with Autism, it is very important to identify which symptoms are the most severe. When preparing clients for a disability hearing, I try to ask as many questions concerning their disability to find out what aspects … Continued
When Does Your Eligibility For Social Security Disability Insurance End? - Many of my clients ask questions about their eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Like many other insurance programs, there is a date when your coverage expires, and you must prove to the provider (in this case, Social Security) that the claim occurred before the insurance has ended.  With SSDI, that date is based on your work history and can be in either the past or the future.  This is known as your Date Last Insured (DLI). Your DLI is established by working over a period of time. A general rule of thumb is that you must have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years (20 of the last 40 quarters) in order to have a DLI that has not yet expired.  You must be contributing to Social Security through FICA taxes during these quarters to be eligible.  The specific number of credits needed varies by your age.  If you would like to find out your DLI, you can contact Social Security directly. Many of my clients ask me why their DLI is important.  In my experience, cases are won or lost based on how much time has occurred since the DLI has expired.  A DLI in the past (known as a “remote” DLI) can make a claim difficult to win because the Social Security Administration (SSA) may only consider evidence of medical treatment prior to that date.  Even if your condition worsens after the DLI passes, Social Security may not find you disabled.  If you are diagnosed with a new condition after the DLI passes, Social Security will not consider it as part of your SSDI claim. Therefore, I recommend that anyone seeking Social Security Disability apply for benefits as soon as they believe they are unable to work due to medical conditions.  Too often, I’ve … Continued
Medical Records and Social Security Disability - The importance of medical records to a Social Security disability claim cannot be understated. These documents are the primary source of evidence on which the Social Security Administration (SSA) will base its decision. Your medical records provide objective evidence of your disabling conditions and diagnoses. This may include key information such as notes from important procedures, like surgeries, or your doctor’s interpretation of test results and magnetic imaging. For mental health claims, session notes from a therapist or psychiatrist can show the SSA that you are receiving consistent and ongoing mental health treatment and reflect the severity of your condition. Therefore, it is critical that all of this documentation is made available to Social Security to ensure that they have a complete record before them when they make a decision on your disability claim. At the initial application and reconsideration stages, Social Security will gather your medical records based on the information you have provided them. You will want to make sure that whoever is reviewing your claim at these levels is kept up to date regarding the medical providers you have seen and the dates of any future appointments. If you have an attorney helping you at these levels, their office can work with your reviewer to ensure that they have all of the information needed to obtain any outstanding medical records. A complete medical file is especially important when preparing for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The wait time to get to a hearing can be quite long, so it is essential to keep your attorney informed of any changes to your treatment, including any new procedures or diagnoses, which may occur during this time period. These updates allow your attorney to keep track of your treatment providers during the wait, which can help prevent … Continued
Are You Considering an Initial Application for Social Security Disability Benefits? - Starting an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits can be a daunting task.  First, you must determine which program or programs you may be eligible for.  Several different programs make up Social Security Disability.  The two main programs are Retirement Survivor Disability Insurance (RSDI or SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Both programs are Social Security disability benefits, but you become eligible in different ways.  For RSDI, you are required to have enough work credits to be eligible.  If you have worked at least five of the last ten years and paid taxes on those earnings, you probably have the necessary work credits.  Your monthly benefit amount is based off your past earnings.  To be eligible for SSI benefits, you must have limited household income and resources.  Less common Social Security Disability benefits may come from Disabled Widow(er)’s Benefits or Disabled Child Benefits.  While you may be eligible for more than one program, Social Security will only award monthly benefits for the program that pays the highest amount. Next, you will need to decide how you would like to apply.  You can apply online on Social Security’s website, call Social Security at 1(800) 772-1213 to set up a phone appointment, or visit your local Social Security field office.  For SSI claims, you will need to talk to someone at your local Social Security office, either in person or by phone, to make sure you meet the resource requirements needed to apply. When applying for disability benefits, you should gather together some information that Social Security asks for in every claim.  This information includes: Places you have received medical treatment- Including date ranges, reasons for treatment, and contact information for the providers Places you have worked in the last 15 years- Including dates of employment, how much you … Continued
Hip Pain and Social Security Disability - Hip degeneration or injuries can be very disabling. Over time, you may notice increased inflammation, swelling, or significant pain. If you are unable to work because of a hip impairment, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If hip impairments or other conditions prevent you from working, you may want to consult an attorney right away to discuss whether you should apply for disability benefits. Do your injuries cause you to use a cane, walker, or wheelchair to get around? If your medical provider has given you a prescription for one of these assistive devices, you should keep a copy. That prescription can prove to Social Security that your assistive device is medically necessary. The need for an assistive device can significantly reduce the number of jobs that can be performed in a work setting. Social Security also evaluates disability claims using its Listing of Impairments, which outlines certain criteria that Social Security can use to determine whether a person is disabled. Typically, Social Security evaluates hip or joint impairments under Listing 1.02- Major Dysfunction of a Joint(s). In order to prove the severity of your condition, objective testing such as MRIs, x-rays, or CT scans are crucial. Additionally, medical records from surgeries, physical therapy, or injections can show your current level of functioning. Social Security will consider limitations you have sitting, standing, or walking that are caused by your hip impairments. It is important to show Social Security that you are complying with your treatment plan, especially if your symptoms are not resolving. If your limitations prevent you from performing or keeping a job, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to help you through the Social Security disability process.  Hip degeneration is not the only  impairment that our … Continued
Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability Benefits - Is your Fibromyalgia so severe that you are unable to work?  If this is the case, it may be in your best interest to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits right away.  It is very possible that Fibromyalgia is not the only thing keeping you from working.  This condition combined with other physical or mental conditions may create an inability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to consider all of your conditions in combination to determine if you are disabled. While the cause of Fibromyalgia is yet to be determined, many of my clients complain of very similar symptoms.  These symptoms can include, but are not limited to: Muscle pain-This can be widespread and tender to the touch. Fatigue-Even with adequate sleep, many individuals feel tired. Focus, concentration, and memory problems-This is sometimes referred to as “Fibro Fog”. I have noticed many of my clients have other common symptoms.  These can include migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and depression. The SSA does recognize Fibromyalgia as a disabling condition, but it can be hard to prove without proper supporting medical evidence.  While many primary care providers diagnose Fibromyalgia and prescribe medications for its treatment, it may be in your best interest to see a rheumatologist to help support your case with the Social Security Administration.  A qualified rheumatologist can perform a “tender point” test to help show you meet the criteria for disability benefits.  Also, a medical source statement from a treating medical professional stating the diagnosis, duration, symptoms, and your inability to work can help persuade the SSA or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) you are deserving of disability benefits. With all Social Security disability cases, time is of the essence.  It is important to file your claim in … Continued