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November 24, 2014

The Social Security Administration’s Five Step Process

Curious as to how the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes their decision on whether a claimant is disabled or not?  The SSA uses a five-step process, called the “sequential evaluation process,” to evaluate whether claimants’ disabilities are severe enough to prevent them from working.  The steps of the process are as follows: Are you working? Yes: If you are working at the time you apply and your earnings are above “substantial gainful activity,” the SSA will find you not disabled. “Substantial gainful activity” means that your gross earnings average more than $1070 a month (or $1800 per month if you are blind), Social Security generally will not consider you disabled.  The amount per month changes from year to year. Note that Social Security is looking only at your earnings, not at your total income.  If you receive money for something other than work activity, like insurance benefits or investment income, Social Security does not consider it at this step. No: If you are not working, or if your gross earnings average less than $1070 per month (or $1800 per month if you are blind), the evaluation proceeds to step two. Is your medical condition “severe?” Yes: Your medical condition is “severe” under Social Security’s rules if: It is a “medically determinable impairment.”  Typically, you must have a diagnosis from a doctor with medical evidence supporting that diagnosis; an explanation from you of the symptoms you experience is not enough. It meets the duration requirement.  Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least twelve consecutive months, or it must be expected to end in death. It significantly limits your physical or mental abilities to do basic work activities. No: If your condition has no more than a minimal effect on your ability to basic work activities, the SSA will find you not disabled. Does your … Continued

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November 17, 2014

Will My Doctor Be At My Social Security Disability Appeals Hearing?

It is highly unlikely  that your treating physician will attend your Social Security disability hearing.  Unless your doctor is a personal friend you can convince to attend your hearing, your doctor in almost all cases will not be there. First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require your doctor to attend.  Although some judges do call physicians to testify at hearings, those physicians are Medical Experts (MEs) paid by the SSA to examine your medical records and evaluate whether your condition is disabling under Social Security’s rules.  Will the ME at your hearing ever have examined you?  No.  Will this ME ever have even met you?  No.  The ME is supposed to give an impartial opinion regardless of the fact the SSA is paying him/her a fee to review the case and testify.  In my experience, there are good MEs and bad MEs, just like there are people who do a good job and people who do a bad job in any other profession.  In a perfect world, your doctor would be able to sit down with the judge and explain your impairments and how they affect you, but that’s most likely not going to happen. Second, your doctor is busy.  Even if you have a doctor who is kind and helpful, it is unrealistic to expect him or her to take time away from practicing medicine to attend your hearing. So what can you do to ensure the judge has good information from your treating physicians? Get the medical treatment you need.  Your explaining to the SSA that you have a bad back is not enough to show that you are disabled under its rules.  Social Security expects to see objective testing like x-rays or MRIs, progress notes from doctor visits, and records of medications you are taking. Make sure the SSA … Continued

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June 10, 2011

What Factors Can Impact Me Winning My Social Security Disability Claim?

While there are many factors that may have an influence on your chances of receiving a favorable outcome in your Indiana Social Security disability claim, Indianapolis disability Lawyer Scott D. Lewis finds a few factors always seem to stand out.  By no means are these the only areas you should be concerned with, but in Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience they usually play an important role in your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. The Social Security disability claimant’s medical records.  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis strives to emphasize to his clients that the majority of successful Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims have a well documented medical record history.  If you believe the Social Security Administration (SSA) is going to just take your word on your disabling condition, you may be in for a big surprise when you receive your decision in the mail. How credible the disability claimant is.  In other words, are you telling the truth?  You can probably guess that the Social Security Administration has seen its share of individuals stretching the truth when it comes to how disabling their condition really is.  Indiana disability benefits attorney Scott Lewis attempts to tell all of his clients it is important to be truthful.  In Mr. Lewis’ experience, in general, if the SSA or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) believes you are not being truthful about one thing, chances are they may not believe you on other aspects of your disability claim. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that is assigned to the disability claim.  This is a big one!  The amount of claims each individual judge approves varies and each ALJ’s approval rating is all over the board.  Some statistics state the average approval rating at the hearing level is … Continued

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