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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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August 16, 2018

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

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July 6, 2018

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

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March 20, 2018

Children’s Social Security Disability and the Right Lawyer

Not all Social Security Disability lawyers take children’s social security disability cases.  There may be many reasons for this, but one thing is for sure- claims for children are unlike adult disability cases.  Selecting a lawyer with experience handling children’s claims for benefits can make the process smoother for you and your child.  While the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates claims for both children and adults, the underlying question is very different.  For adults, that question is “can you work”?  We do not expect children to work, so how does the SSA evaluate them?  This blog will briefly examine how the SSA analyzes children’s benefits claims. The SSA publishes disability guidelines called the Listing of Impairments.  These guidelines set forth specific criteria for evaluating certain impairments to determine if they meet their definition of disability.  Many children do not meet or equal these requirements to receive Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) benefits.  However, this does not mean that the claim is denied.  The Social Security Administration will then look at six domains to determine if your child is disabled: Acquiring and Using Information Attending and Completing Tasks Interacting and Relating with Others Moving About and Manipulating Objects Caring for Yourself Health and Physical Well-Being A child’s limitations must be considered “marked” in two of these domains or considered “extreme” in one domain to be disabled.  These domains can be a bit tricky, as you can see by their somewhat vague titles.  Some of the domains relate to mental impairments while others relate more to physical impairments.  One part of my job as a Social Security disability attorney is to help the SSA understand how your child’s limitations fit into a domain. A consistent, ongoing, and well-documented treatment record is needed to prove the persistence and severity of your child’s symptoms.  Additionally, … Continued

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February 19, 2018

Knee Pain and Social Security Disability

Can I receive Social Security Disability for knee pain?  Have you suffered an injury to your knees or experienced gradual deterioration in your knees that limits your ability to work? Knee pain can be so severe that an individual is not only unable to stand for long, but it can also limit his/her ability to tolerate prolonged sitting.  When it comes to weight bearing joints like the knees, daily exertion can lead to worsening symptoms.  Common problems include pain, swelling, and instability.  If you are unable to work due to knee problems, I suggest you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income immediately. The inability to stand, walk, or ambulate effectively can limit the performance of most jobs above the sedentary level.  Many vocational experts (VEs) state that most jobs performed while standing up require the ability to stand or walk at least six hours out of an eight-hour day.  If a cane or other assistive device is required, it may prevent the performance of any competitive employment.  In my experience, the number of jobs can greatly decrease if a claimant has been prescribed a cane or walker.  Limiting the number of jobs a claimant can perform, known as eroding the job base, can be the key to a favorable Social Security determination. Many of my clients with chronic knee problems report swelling and pain, even while sitting.  Sometimes, they report that elevation of their legs can reduce that swelling and pain.  Many VEs will testify in disability hearings that elevation of the legs over a certain height can preclude work at the sedentary exertional level.  A statement from a qualified medical source supporting the need to elevate the legs, the height of the elevation, and the duration of the elevation can be crucial to establishing … Continued

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February 16, 2018

You’ve Paid for it; Social Security Disability Benefits are Not a Gift

In addition to having medical conditions that prevent you from working, a wage earner first must have worked long enough to have earned work credits to become eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.  These credits are earned by contributing to the Social Security system through your FICA taxes.  This is not some type of federal government handout, it is a benefit program, you as a worker, have paid into.  If you receive these monthly benefits, then contributions have been paid throughout the years to make sure you were eligible for benefits. Like most other insurance programs, your insured status can expire if “premiums” are not paid.  The date a claimant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits expires is known as a Date Last Insured (DLI).  Typically, a person who has earned enough credits through FICA taxes to the federal government has a DLI that expires approximately five years after they stop working.  A person seeking SSDI benefits must be found to be disabled prior to this date.  If you wait too long to apply for SSDI benefits, this date may actually be in the past.  When this situation occurs (which is known as a remote DLI), it can be increasingly difficult to convince the SSA you were disabled further and further in the past.  The SSA may only consider medical records from on or before your date last insured and give little or no weight to your current medical condition.  As an attorney, these remote DLI issues can be difficult to argue.  I believe it is in your best interest to apply for disability as soon as you feel you cannot work full time to ensure that you have the best chance of winning your claim. As the title of this blog implies, Social Security Disability Insurance is something you … 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 29, 2017

How Long Do I Have to Be Disabled to Get Social Security Disability Payments?

Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a “short term” disability provision, you must meet certain durational requirements to qualify for disability payments.  The SSA requires that your severe impairment has lasted or is expected to last at least twelve months.  While this may seem pretty straight forward, it is a common reason for denying claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. It can be very difficult to determine if you are going to recover from your physical or mental impairments.  If the SSA denies your claim because they think you will get better within twelve months, they are making an educated guess based on the type, severity, and medical treatment you are receiving.  Many of my clients that have been denied for this reason on the initial application find themselves with a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) later down the road. So, do you have to wait twelve months before you apply for disability benefits?  I believe you should apply for benefits the day you are unable to work.  For disability cases, the alleged onset date and application date are important for determining how much backpay you may be entitled to receive.  There are restrictions on how far back the SSA can go from your application date for benefits, so I encourage my clients to file their claim as soon as they stop earning Substantial Gainful Activity (GAS) amounts.  For SSI applicants, the SSA can only pay benefits from the date of application, so it is very important to file the application as soon as possible to ensure full benefit amounts for backpay purposes. I don’t believe I’ve had a claimant that did not want to get better.  Just because the SSA says they believe your condition will … Continued

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