December 14, 2010

2011 Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) for Social Security Disability Benefits Recipients

As with all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit recipients, Indiana disability benefits recipients are not going to see an increase in their monthly disability payment in 2011. On October 15th, 2010, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that there would be no Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) for 2011. This is the second year in a row that there was not an increase to SSDI, SSI or Social Security retirement benefit payments.  Over 50 million Americans receive some form of Social Security benefit. What are Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA)? COLA is an automatic adjustment to the SSDI or SSI recipient’s monthly benefits that may occur each year. The COLA increase is based on the percentage increase from year to year of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Worker (CPI-W) during the third quarter of the year.  This percentage increase of COLA is strictly based on the CPI-W increase so, when there is not an increase in the CPI-W then there is no increase in COLA.  CPI-W increases are determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor.  The purpose of the COLA increase is so the purchasing power of SSDI or SSI benefits keep in pace with consumer prices and that benefits are not eroded by inflation. Why isn’t there a COLA increase in 2011?  As in 2010, because there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year. Therefore, SSDI and SSI payments will remain the same in 2011.  In the last two years, overall inflation has been low, largely because of the economic downturn.  It has been predicted by the Congressional Budget Office that inflation will remain low for the next several years.  As a result, this may mean that Social Security recipients may not see a COLA increase for … Continued

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December 13, 2010

Does The Social Security Administration Offers A “Short Term” Disability Benefit

You may be surprised how often this question gets asked to Indiana Disability Attorney Scott Lewis.  At times, Indiana residents find themselves unable to work due to a disabling condition, but anticipate returning to the workforce.  These short term disabling conditions may be due to the result of an auto accident, a surgery, or any other condition where you find yourself unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment.  Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis even receives telephone calls asking if a normal pregnancy can be a disabling condition.  To answer the question of whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a short term disability program, one must determine how short is short? The Social Security Administration has a condition that must be met that is called the “durational requirement.”  With this requirement, your disabling condition (either physical or mental) must have actually lasted for twelve (12) months or be expected to last for twelve (12) months.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds one way the Social Security Administration can turn down many claims is by stating your mental or physical disabling condition is not expected to last twelve (12) months.  Due to the fact that many medical conditions can be very difficult to determine how long they will last, it may be in your best interest to appeal an unfavorable decision if denied for this reason. Let’s say you are denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because the Social Security Administration states you do not meet the durational requirement and you decide not to appeal that decision. Now you find your disabling condition does not improve and you are still unable to work.  In this scenario, you may be past the time limit to appeal your claim. Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis usually advises his … Continued

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December 12, 2010

Indiana Social Security Lawyer Scott Lewis Answers Questions About Returning To Work During The Claims Process

Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis fields occasional telephone calls from his Indiana disability clients asking what the ramifications will be if they try to reenter the workforce.  As fundamental as it may sound, the facts of a particular case always matter.  Many Indiana residents are finding they are having a difficult time putting food on the table for themselves and their families during a very lengthy application and appeals process.  A few topics Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis may encounter may include: Are you considering a full time or part time job?  If your disabling condition(s) do not permit you to work full time, but you think you may be able to work part time, you may be interested in a term call “Substantial Gainful Activity” or “SGA”.  This is an amount the Social Security Administration determines as earnings you can make on a monthly basis and still be entitled to disability benefits.  SGA for 2010 is $1,640.00/month for statutorily blind individuals and $1,000.00/month for non-blind individuals.  There are different criteria for those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) concerning blind individuals. It appears these amounts will also be valid for 2011, but more information concerning SGA can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website. Should you withdraw your claim for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as soon as you start back to work?  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott D. Lewis usually advises his clients to wait and see if they are actually able to perform a full-time job or a job that creates more than the SGA for a number of months before withdrawing their claim. Many times, individuals believe they can work but find their condition prevents them from performing substantial gainful activity. If you have been waiting for an Indiana Social Security … Continued

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December 6, 2010

Why The Social Security Administration Cares If You Can Make Your Bed

As silly as that may sound, when the Social Security Administration (SSA) is trying to determine if you are disabled they may want to know if you can make your bed, bathe & dress yourself, sweep & mop your floor, and take out the trash, among other things. These are called “Activities of Daily Living” or ADL’s. Activities of Daily Living are the things a person usually does on a routine basis to maintain their household and take care of themselves. Why does the Social Security Administration (SSA) or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) care about activities of daily living?  In Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis’ experience, the SSA is trying to determine how much the Indiana disability claimant is restricted by examining what the disability claimant can or cannot do.  At times, Indiana disability claimants applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits may be asked to fill out a form concerning their activities of daily living.  While it is important to be honest when completing these forms, it is also important to FULLY explain what you can or cannot do.  If it is necessary to take breaks due to pain, or other disabling conditions (either mental or physical), it is important to document these restrictions accurately.  Sometimes the Social Security Administration (SSA) may ask a third party to comment on your activities of daily living.  This may be a friend or neighbor.  It is important you let these third parties know what your restrictions and symptoms are.  Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis often finds these third party evaluations are not completely accurate regarding the claimants disabling condition(s). This line of questioning regarding your activities of daily living usually gets addressed when you find yourself in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  … Continued

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December 3, 2010

Can I Win My Indiana Social Security Disability Appeal If I Am Not Seeing Doctors?

Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis talks to many Indiana residents every week asking if they can win their Social Security disability claim when they are not seeing doctors.  He usually tells them it is going to be very difficult to get a favorable outcome without good medical records to prove they are disabled.  Without medical records the Social Security Administration (SSA) has nothing to base a decision on that will result in you being granted disability benefits. Indiana Social Security claimants often ask if the consultative examination the Social Security Administration (SSA) administered will suffice since they don’t have their own personal physician(s).  In Indianapolis Disability Lawyer Scott Lewis’ experience, the disability claimant usually cannot rely on a consultative examination for a favorable result.  Anyone who has been to one of these consultative examinations probably has had a similar experience.  Most Indiana Social Security appeals claimants complain the examinations are very short and many times do not even cover the disabling condition(s) the disabled individual wants to be addressed.  In general, it is very difficult to find a substitute for a physician that has seen you for an extended period of time and is familiar with you and your disabling condition. What should you do if you do not have healthcare and you believe you are disabled and unable to work?  While you may receive different advice from different sources, Indiana Disability Attorney Scott Lewis often tells his clients to apply for any government sponsored healthcare program that is appropriate for you, go to your local hospital and find out if they offer a low cost health care program, and search for free clinics that can render health care assistance.  These are just a few options to try and by no means will they always turn up a positive result. … Continued

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November 29, 2010

Indiana Disabililty Lawyer Scott Lewis Thoughts on Social Security Administration’s New Website

Many Indiana residents applying for Social Security disability benefits online may find the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) new website a bit easier to navigate compared to the older website.  While it may be more pleasing to the eye, the revamped website appears to be very similar to the old website.  Actually, it is not too difficult to apply for disability benefits online by just following the simple prompts provided by the website. By typing in you can enter the new Social Security website.  At the top of the SSA website home page you will see a tab for “disability”.  By clicking on this tab you will see directions for following four steps to get the process started.  This page not only gets you started on applying for disability benefits, but you may also check your disability application status and also appeal a denied medical decision about your claim.  There are a number of other things you can do online with the Social Security Administration’s website, you may want to take a moment to see if any other areas of the website are of interest. While you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits online, it is still Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott Lewis’ understanding you cannot apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on the website.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis advises his clients to call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis advises his clients to apply for both programs in the event you are not eligible for one program then the other program may be appropriate for your circumstances.

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November 22, 2010

Indianapolis Social Security Lawyer Scott Lewis Comments on What Amount Your Disability Benefits Might Be

Indiana Social Security disability payments can vary from one person to another.  Indianapolis Social Security attorney Scott Lewis is often asked what a person can expect from the first monthly disability payment his client may receive in the mail.  Depending on what program you qualify for, the amounts can vary and the reason you get that particular amount can also vary.  The criteria to establish the dollar amount for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits versus Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are very different. There are a few things you may want to consider when examining why you receive a particular dollar amount from these two different programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):  With this program Social Security disability payments are based on an average of the earnings over the years that you worked.  This program is funded through tax revenue you are paying as you work.  Because individuals incomes can vary greatly, the calculated amount of a disability benefit check can vary greatly also.  This calculation can be complex and to get an accurate amount it is recommended you contact your local Indiana Social Security office. Supplemental Security Income (SSI):  This program does not require a person to pay through payroll taxes in order to qualify for benefits.  It is more of a “need” based program.  Your SSI payments are usually lower the more income you receive.   The Social Security Administration (SSA) may consider income as earned income, unearned income, in-kind income, and deemed income.  Again, this program may seem complicated and relies on different formulas and it may be in your best interest to contact your local Social Security Administration office to receive accurate information. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis recommends his clients to apply for both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the … Continued

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November 18, 2010

Security Issues At Social Security Disability Hearing Offices

Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis travels to many Social Security hearing offices around the state of Indiana.  There has been much news recently about the safety and security of these Social Security hearing offices.  Due to the large amount of pending Indiana Social Security disability claims, some hearings take place in atmospheres that may surprise Indiana Social Security disability claimants.  With that in mind, it may not be a surprise that the level of security varies from one hearing location to another. The majority of the time an Indiana Social Security disability claimant will have a hearing at the Office of Disability, Adjudication and Review (ODAR).  At the majority of ODAR locations Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis visits, the security is very similar.  Indiana Social Security disability claimants will enter the hearing office and be asked for photo identification, asked some basic questions, and then usually purses and belongings are checked over and a metal detector is used.  If everything checks out, you let the staff know you have arrived and take a seat.  Recently, due to a large amount of pending claims, hearings are being held in what Indiana Social Security disability claimants may think is a strange atmosphere for a hearing.  Some of these locations may even include hotels.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis sometimes finds himself and his client in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in a hotel room.  Yes that is correct, a hotel room.  Will your end result be different from a hearing in a hotel room?  Probably not, but it does seem rather odd.  The only thing Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis has noticed at these “make shift” hearings location is that there is minimal security.  At times the Indiana disability client does not even check in.  They simply … Continued

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November 16, 2010

Indianapolis Social Security Attorney Scott D. Lewis and Your Free Consultation

It shouldn’t be surprising Indiana disability claimants are usually struggling to make ends meet. Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis understands the financial problems a disabling condition can cause and provides a free consultation to evaluate your Social Security disability benefits claim. Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis receives numerous calls per week from Indiana residents who are confused by the Social Security process and are happy to hear they can receive a free evaluation of their case. What happens in a free Social Security disability case evaluation? Generally, Mr. Lewis finds these calls fall into two categories: Individuals who have not filed for their Indiana Social Security disability benefits.  These individuals usually have questions as to how disabled they must be, if a particular disabling condition qualifies them for benefits, how long they must be off of work, and finally and perhaps most important how do they file their initial claim.  It is not uncommon for these individuals to have numerous questions as the Indiana Social Security disability process can be confusing.  Indiana residents who have not applied for their Social Security disability benefits need to know the majority of Social Security disability claims are denied at the initial stage.  During this initial free evaluation Indiana Social Security clients should ask disability attorney Scott Lewis as many questions as possible to help clear up any confusion regarding their disability claim or about the Social Security disability claims process.  After all, it’s a free consultation so disability claimants should use it to their advantage. Individuals that have been denied their Indiana Social Security disability benefits.  Most of these Indiana residents call disability lawyer Scott Lewis sounding disgruntled and upset that Social Security is disapproving their claim when they know they are unable to work and support themselves and their family.  Questions … Continued

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November 13, 2010

I am Receiving VA Disability Compensation, Can I Also Receive Social Security Disability?

Many Indiana disabled veterans talk to Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis about receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits when they are receiving disability compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA). At the present, there are many Indiana disabled veterans coming home from active duty with various disabling conditions; one prominent condition is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are several factors to take into consideration when talking about these two very separate programs. 1.  If I qualify for Veterans benefits, do I automatically qualify for Social Security benefits? No. These are two different government programs. An Indiana Social Security disability claimant with a VA rating of 70 percent or more may have a better chance that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will take into consideration the Veterans Administration has found you disabled at such a high rating, but there is no guarantee. 2.  Does the Social Security Administration (SSA) work on percentages like the Veterans Administration?  No, with the Social Security Administration it is all or nothing. They either find you 100% disabled or they don’t. 3.  When should I apply? As soon as you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you are unable to work because of your disabling condition, you should apply for Indiana Social Security disability benefits immediately. One of the problems Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis runs into is that his disabled veteran clients wait too long to apply. Many Indiana veterans leave active duty in a disabled condition and start receiving VA compensation not knowing they are eligible for Indiana Social Security disability benefits. The problem here is that the clock starts ticking and these Indiana veterans don’t know they have a limited time to prove they are disabled before their date last … Continued

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