Recent Blog Posts

Does Having a Cane, Walker, or Wheelchair Help Me in My Social Security Disability Case? - If you need a cane, walker, or wheelchair to ambulate effectively, it can have a significant impact on your claim for disability benefits.  Many jobs that require a person to stand or walk during the work day can be hard to perform when the employee needs an assistive device.  For example, if you are holding on to a cane with one hand, you may not be able to use that hand for work tasks.  It also matters why you need the device and how often you use it.  These devices may be used for standing, walking, balancing, or all the above.  You may need an assistive device any time you stand or only for prolonged activity.  There can be many factors to consider when determining how someone can work when they need an assistive device. A common question I find Administrative Law Judges consider at your disability hearing is whether your assistive device is “medically necessary”.  In other words, does your medical record support that you need a cane or walker as you claim.  In my experience, one of the best ways to address this question is to have a prescription from your treating physician for your cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Your physician can either write a prescription or make a statement in the form of a medical source statement that you can provide to your disability attorney or the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the SSA believes you medically need your assistive device, the SSA will then decide how the use of your device impacts your ability to work.  At your hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) will testify to the impact of an assistive device on certain types of jobs.  In my experience, this can be where a well-trained attorney may be able to reduce or eliminate the number … Continued
How Does the Social Security Administration Know I Have a Disability Attorney on my Case? - When you hire a disability attorney to work on your Social Security Disability  Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case, your lawyer will file a Form 1696 Appointment of Representative with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  This is the document needed for SSA to acknowledge that you now have representation.  The SSA will not allow an attorney to discuss or act on your claim without this form being signed and dated by you. With this form, the SSA acknowledges the representative can speak on your behalf with your approval.  Once received, all correspondence is sent directly to your representative.  Your representative will act as the primary contact point for the SSA to discuss your claim, but you will still receive copies of correspondence.  This can include filing of appropriate paperwork to appeal your claim, help in obtaining medical records to supplement your claim, help in arranging contact with the client, scheduling your disability hearing, and other things to help further your claim. Some of my clients change residences and telephone numbers, which can make it difficult for the SSA to contact them.  Our office can provide a stable place to provide updated information to all parties involved regarding your disability claim.  We can also explain how these updates affect your claim.  Social Security disability is the focus of our law firm, and what may seem confusing to disability claimants can be explained by a qualified attorney or representative.
What You Can Do to Help Win Your Social Security Disability Case - We believe that the following simple steps may help enhance your claim:   File your paperwork in a timely manner. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to meet certain deadlines.  You have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Reconsideration after being denied on your initial application.  Failure to file this paperwork in a timely fashion may force you to start the process from the beginning unless you can prove you had good cause for your late filing.  If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you again have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Hearing.  Again, if you do not meet this deadline within the 60 days allowed, you may find yourself filing an initial application and starting the process from the beginning. Throughout the process, the SSA may ask you to complete a number of forms and reports that all have their own deadlines. Failure to do so can result in a denial.   See the appropriate types of physicians for your conditions and comply with treatment, if possible. Seeing the right kind of specialist specific to your disability can go a long way to prove to the SSA you are disabled.  The Social Security Administration follows specific rules regarding how to consider medical records or opinions, and your General Practitioner’s opinion alone may not provide enough weight to convince the SSA. More consideration is given to statements from a specialist such as statements relating to the severity of your condition, specific objective testing, and medical source statements as to your functional ability to work.  Our office welcomes all medical provider records that support your case. The more records we can get to support your claim, the stronger your claim becomes. We know that your medical insurance … Continued
Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability - Whether you are a child or an adult, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes learning disabilities as a condition that can pay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  The severity of the condition and its impact on an individual’s functioning can be key factors in receiving benefits. In children’s Social Security disability claims, many aspects of the claim are examined.  These may include, but are not limited to: IQ testing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) 504 Plans School grades Teacher questionnaires Medical Source Statements from treating physicians Progress notes from treating sources The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the SSA that contains specific information related to learning disabilities among other impairments.  The SSA also examines children’s cases under six domains of functioning to determine if a child is functionally equivalent to a listing.  The SSA will look for limitations in the child’s ability to acquire and use information, attend and complete tasks, interact socially, move and manipulate objects, handle their own self-care, or health and physical well-being.  Understanding a child’s Social Security Disability claim can be confusing, as the standard for disability can be different than that of an adult. Adults can also receive Social Security Disability benefits for a learning disability.  The question of whether you can work with a learning disability can be a little tricky to prove to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If you have worked in the past with your learning disability, the ALJ may wonder how it would currently prevent you from working if your condition has not gotten worse.  Sometimes, employers make “accommodations” for this type of worker.  This might be special treatment that the employer is unwilling to give to other workers.  This may include a job coach, multiple reminders of job duties, leaving work … Continued
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