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October 16, 2018

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

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October 8, 2018

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

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September 6, 2018

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

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January 29, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts About Social Security Disability

I represent hundreds of clients every year in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims and there are things that I take for granted people know.  However, since they don’t do this every day, they simply do not.  In this blog I’ll share some things that I believe should be mentioned. Apply right away. What are you waiting for?  File an application the first day you are unable to work full time.  Sure, there may be technical and medical reasons why you do not qualify, but the application is free.  If you do not have an attorney to explain these medical and technical reasons to you, let the Social Security Administration (SSA) explain them.  I have seen clients wait too long to file an application and find themselves having a harder time because their disability insurance had expired.  Also, it is important to note that SSI payments can only be paid retroactively from your date of application. File your appeals timely! Most appeals only allow for 60 days plus a short grace period for mailing time.  You do not want to have to start over from the beginning, so get the Request for Reconsideration or Request for Hearing completed quickly. If you can afford it, see your doctors. Most Social Security disability cases are won through medical records.  Objective tests, progress notes, and physician statements can be crucial in proving you qualify for the benefits you need to support you and your family. When you go to your hearing, strive to ensure your medical record is up to date. If you do not have an attorney, do not count on the SSA to get your medical records.  Why would you?  Up to this point, they have continually denied your claim.  There is no one that has … Continued

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December 4, 2017

Testifying at Your Social Security Disability Hearing About Your Pain

Pain is probably the most common complaint my clients have concerning their inability to work.  Physical pain can manifest itself in about any area of your body, and describing it to someone else is not always easy. Chances are when you find yourself at a Social Security disability hearing, you are going to need to explain your pain to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  This blog describes some of the more common questions I find that Judges ask about pain. Where is the pain located?  During this portion of testimony, I find many of my clients want to point to where they are affected by pain with hand gestures.  It is important to remember your hearing is being recorded, and you will need to describe in more detail with words exactly where you feel pain.  For example, if you have back pain, you would need to say “it is in my lower back and radiates down my right leg” if that is the case. What does the pain feel like?  Descriptive terms like dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, burning can usually give a Judge a good idea of what you are experiencing.  These are not the only words that can describe your pain, but it is important for you to be able to describe what you feel as you are the only one that knows exactly what you feel. How often do you have the pain?  It is fine to say you experience pain all the time if that is the case, but if it is only when you perform certain activities, you should explain it in more detail to the Judge.  This is where you may want to describe difficulties standing, walking, sitting, lifting, and performing daily activities. Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 … Continued

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November 28, 2017

Why is There a Job Expert at my Social Security Disability Hearing?

When attending a Social Security disability hearing, you most likely will see or hear testimony from a Vocational Expert (VE), also known as a Job Expert.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) employs Vocational Experts to testify about the classification of work you have performed in the past and to answer hypothetical questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as to what occupations can be performed with various physical or mental restrictions.  A VE can testify by telephone or in person. Their background usually consists of placing individuals in the job market through various means, such as vocational rehabilitation.  Usually at the end of your Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing, the ALJ will pose hypotheticals or examples to the VE.  The ALJ will usually ask the VE what jobs are available to an individual based on their age, education, and past work experience with certain workplace restrictions the ALJ thinks may be applicable to each individual claimant.  Many ALJs will ask numerous hypotheticals.  This gives the ALJ the opportunity to later decide which hypothetical he or she will use for each individual claimant’s decision.  Your attorney/representative will have the opportunity to cross-examine the VE after the ALJ is done. The Vocational Expert will advise the ALJ as to the description and number of jobs in the local and/or national economies. I have found many of my clients have difficulty understanding the role of the VE.  It is important to note that when an ALJ asks examples where there are jobs in the economy that can be performed, it does not always mean you have lost your case.  I tell my clients that they should continue to listen because many ALJs work their way through various hypotheticals until no jobs are available for the claimant.  This is … Continued

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November 6, 2017

Indiana Social Security Disability Appeals

Have you filed a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim and been denied?  Being timely when filing your appeal can be very important in getting your disability claim resolved.  During free initial client consultations, I see that many claimants have simply filed initial application after initial application without ever filing an appeal.  The Social Security Administration has steps you must initiate in order to follow through with your claim if you have been denied.  In my experience, starting over each time with an initial application is usually not in your best interest.   If you are denied on an Initial Application, you have sixty days to file what is called a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This is basically telling the SSA you believe they have made a mistake and are asking them another look at your claim.   They will assign a reviewer to your claim and usually make a decision within 60-90 days.  If you are again denied, you must request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Again, time is of the essence and you only have sixty days to file the correct paperwork.  There are exceptions that the SSA will look at on a case-by-case basis if you turn in your paperwork late.  In my experience, relying on the SSA to accept an untimely filing is probably not your best bet.  One of the reasons many people hire an attorney is to have a trained professional in this area to help ensure deadlines are met.   The Social Security Administration has various rules and regulations that are used to process disability claims.  Considering the numerous claims they receive, providing them with all of the information they need in a timely and complete fashion can only enhance your chances of winning your disability claim.  … Continued

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August 31, 2017

Do I Need To Appear At My Social Security Disability Appeals Hearing?

From time to time I am asked “do I need to be at my hearing?”  Always, I let my clients know that they should make every effort to appear in person.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Attorney, it is almost always in your best interest to attend your hearing.  My thoughts are, if you have waited this long for the big day to finally arrive and have your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim be resolved, why wouldn’t you show up?  Unless, of course, you were physically or mentally unable to be there. There are circumstances when an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will use his/her discretion to allow the claimant to appear by telephone.  Events such as hospitalization, car trouble, or incarceration may warrant such an appearance.  If you can let your attorney know well in advance, you may have a better chance of having a telephonic appearance granted by the Judge. In my experience, if you are physically and mentally able to attend your hearing in person, it may help your case.  One reason I do not prefer video hearings is that the ALJ may not be able to observe all of your problems the way they do in person.  A telephone hearing makes matters even worse.  I want the Judge to be able to see your physical or mental conditions in person.  Your inability to walk steadily, inability to sit uninterrupted during the hearing, and facial expressions could support the underlying medical records.  If the Social Security Administration (SSA) was going to make a determination on your medical records alone, that probably would have already happened.  A hearing is your chance to present your case in person and you do not want to pass on that opportunity, if at all … Continued

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June 20, 2017

Why should you have a brief for your Social Security disability hearing?

At the Law Office of Scott D. Lewis, we submit representative briefs to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) prior to our clients’ disability hearing.  In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, I find this to be helpful for a variety of reasons.   A well-structured brief can give the ALJ a concise framework for highlighting the important and relevant aspects in regards to a claim for disability. To begin, the brief can outline the procedural aspects or issues with a claim, and show the ALJ what steps or actions have been taken in anticipation of the hearing.  A good brief will show the theory for disability of the case, such as whether the claim meets any Listing of Impairments or whether any of Social Security’s vocational guidelines.  It should cite to a claimant’s medical records to demonstrate the severity of symptoms, point out any objective medical testing, and highlight any medical source statements from treating sources.  A brief should also show how a claimant’s residual functional capacity is so diminished that no full-time jobs could be performed.   In my practice as a Social Security Disability attorney, I find that a brief serves two strong purposes.  First, it allows the ALJ to know what arguments I am asserting for my clients and provides the evidence to support it.  Medical records can contain hundreds of pages of documents, so giving the ALJ the locations of important documents all in one location can prevent some key piece of evidence from being overlooked. Second, I find that it helps me prepare for the hearing. After assembling the brief, I have a stronger understanding of the client, the medical record, and the strategy I plan to use to win the case. Does every ALJ read every brief submitted? Probably not, however … Continued

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June 9, 2016

Anatomy of a Social Security Disability Hearing Part III: The Decision

When the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) makes a determination about your disability claim, he or she does not simply send you a letter that says “Congratulations! You have been found disabled!” or “Sorry, but you do not qualify for disability.”  The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires the ALJ to provide you with a thorough explanation of the decision.  When you get your hearing decision letter, the first part will briefly tell you whether you won or lost.  Attached to that letter will be the actual decision, which is typically about five to fifteen pages long.  The overall document is a little overwhelming, so here is a breakdown of the different parts: Jurisdiction and Procedural History This part of the decision summarizes the technical details about the case, including: The type of benefits for which you applied (Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income) The dates of your application, denials, and appeals requests The names of the attorney and any experts who appeared at the hearing A summary of anything that happened after the hearing (e.g., additional evidence added to the record) Any other procedural issues Issues This part of the decision recites the definition of disability according to Social Security’s rules.  If you have a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim, it will also discuss your Date Last Insured (DLI).  The final sentence of this section is a statement of whether the judge did or did not find that you are disabled under Social Security’s rules. Applicable Law This part of the decision is complete “boilerplate” – that is, it is a generic description that doesn’t contain any details unique to your case.  Every decision from every ALJ contains this language.  This section describes the five-step sequential evaluation that the judge must follow in making a decision.  It also … Continued

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