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December 23, 2019

Will My Doctor Testify at My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Will my doctor testify at my Social Security disability hearing?  It is very rare that a treating physician will take the time to appear at your hearing.  Unless you have a personal relationship with your physician, you will probably find it very difficult to convince your doctor to attend a hearing.  I have found that some mental health professionals are more willing to come and discuss your impairments in a hearing.  I generally welcome any treating medical professional to attend the hearing in support of your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  In preparation for your hearing, I like to discuss with medical professionals the kind of questions they will be asked.  The hearings usually last less than one hour, so it is important to get testimony the Social Security Administrations (SSA) recognizes as pertinent to your claim. What can you do if your physician will not go to court with you?  You should try to get your physician to complete a Medical Source Statement.  A statement containing your diagnosis, physical limitations, mental limitations, compliance with treatment, and prognosis can help an Administrative Law Judge better understand how your disabling condition is affecting you.  You may find your physician is unwilling to complete a Medical Source Statement.  This does not mean you will lose your case.  The strength of your medical records alone can be enough for a favorable outcome.  Therefore, it is important to keep appointments, get appropriate testing, comply with treatment, and exhaust all avenues in trying to resolve your medical condition. I represent hundreds of Indiana residents every year at Social Security disability hearings and many do not have medical source statements, but still win their claims.  My office supplies our clients with forms to take to their doctors to … Continued

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December 18, 2019

Torn Rotator Cuffs and Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Torn rotator cuffs and your Social Security disability benefits.  A torn rotator cuff can not only be painful, but can limit your ability to lift, push, pull, and reach.  Your capacity to work can be greatly diminished, especially when the arm affected is your dominant upper extremity.  It is hard to imagine there are many jobs where you would not be required to use your arms in some capacity to perform work tasks.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the limitations caused by a torn rotator cuff or other impairments that cause limitations to your upper extremities. If you have experienced a torn rotator cuff, you don’t need any reminders that there is usually pain involved.  Many of my clients complain of a dull aching pain when not using their arm, and a sharp, intense pain when in use.  Once you have tried more conservative treatments, such as medications, injections, and physical therapy, a qualified physician may recommend surgical procedures to alleviate the symptoms you experience.  These can include an open repair or arthroscopic repair.  Unfortunately, not all procedures are successful for all patients, and you may find that your symptoms still exist. I find many of my disability cases hinge on a client’s remaining Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  An RFC is the maximum ability to perform functions (such as standing, sitting, or lifting) that someone can do when all their limitations are considered.  If you cannot perform your past work due to these limitations, the SSA will try to determine whether you can perform other jobs in the economy that require less exertional effort.  If it is determined there are not a substantial number of jobs available that you can perform, you may be found disabled and be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.  Other factors such as your age, … Continued

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November 20, 2019

How Much Will My Social Security Disability Payments Be?

How much will my Social Security disability payments be?  This is a question I hear very often.  It is an important question, but not one that is easily answered until you win your claim.  There are many factors that go into calculating your disability payments from the Social Security Administration.  It is important to remember there are two distinct programs that can pay disability payments: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security Disability Insurance payments are based on your average earnings over a period of years.  Your contribution to the Social Security trust comes from FICA tax withholdings taken from your earnings.  In other words, any money that you receive and do not pay taxes on is generally not providing for SSDI benefits.  Further, the severity of your disability does not impact the amount of money you will receive.  Rather, the more you pay into the system, the more your payments will be.  Periodically, the Social Security Administration will mail out benefit estimates that may give you an idea of what your monthly disability benefit could be. Your actual monthly payment amount will be determined by the SSA after winning your claim, and you should receive an award letter detailing these payments. Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are paid out on a financial need basis.  What this means is the Social Security Administration will determine your monthly payments by considering other monies and resources that you may have available to you.  Resources such as money you earn through working, your living arrangement, and other money you receive from additional sources are among just a few of the factors that are taken into consideration.  If you win your SSI claim, the Social Security Administration will conduct a resource interview with you to determine your monthly payments.  The … Continued

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November 1, 2019

Social Security Disability Benefits Because You Have Difficulties Concentrating and Focusing

Are you able to Social Security disability benefits because you have difficulties concentrating and focusing?  Problems with concentration and focus can have a huge impact on keeping a job.  While employers do have some tolerance for a worker to be off task, there is a limit to what they will allow. Excessive time off task can lead to the worker being terminated.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes this and can find you disabled because of it.  There may be various reasons for this problem, and if you can successfully show the SSA and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that this is preventing you from maintaining employment, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. When talking to my clients, I find one of the major reasons they cannot work is due to pain.  Every person is different, and their tolerance for pain can vary.  At some point, the pain can be so severe that it will prevent someone from staying focused on their job tasks.  If pain is severe enough, many individuals find they are unable to concentrate long enough to complete even the simplest of job tasks.  Another common cause of difficulty with concentration or focus can be a severe mental condition.  Individuals with severe mental diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD may result in racing thoughts, disinterest in any activity, and a diminished cognitive ability to perform work on a continuing basis. I have noticed the SSA has difficulty recognizing these types of symptoms in the early stages of the claims process.  With so many initial applications, the SSA tends to evaluate claims largely on an objective basis rather than giving much credit to subjective complaints that can be caused by a severe diagnosis.  Fortunately, if you … Continued

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October 7, 2019

Your Heart Condition and Social Security Disability

Your heart condition and Social Security disability.  Just the thought of suffering a severe heart condition can be alarming and cause anxiety.  After all, a severe heart condition can cause many disabling symptoms or even death.  If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a heart condition, it is probably in their best interest to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. There are many heart conditions a person can endure, and these can include, but are not limited to: Congenital Heart Disease Angina Heart Failure Arrhythmia Valve Disease High Blood Pressure Many of these conditions have symptoms that are severe enough to prevent an individual from performing substantial gainful activity.  Examples of these symptoms are: Chest Pain Shortness of Breath Weakness and Fatigue Dizziness Swelling in Extremities Irregular Heartbeat The Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledges heart conditions in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 4.00 Cardiovascular System.  This publication by the SSA establishes guidelines to evaluate the severity of a heart condition to determine disability.  At times, these criteria can be difficult to meet or equal. If you do not meet these criteria, the SSA will look at how your symptoms cause you limitations in determining you Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  For example, a claimant who experiences shortness of breath with prolonged exertion may be limited in standing or walking during a typical workday.  There can be various ways to prove that your heart condition is severe enough for you to be found disabled. In order to be successful in a disability claim for heart conditions, objective cardiovascular testing or procedure notes are important to demonstrate to the SSA how severe your condition really is. Examples of helpful testing include: Blood Tests Tilt Tests Angiograms Chest X-rays Echocardiograms Electrocardiograms … Continued

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September 11, 2019

Amputation and Social Security Disability Benefits

Amputation and Social Security disability benefits.  If you have an amputation, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if your limitations prevent you from working.  Having a finger or toe amputated causes different limitations than having a foot, hand, leg, or arm amputated. Therefore, Social Security does not automatically find a person disabled if they have had any amputation, but some criteria must be met. Under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, amputations are evaluated at Listing 1.05.  To meet this listing, a claimant must have either amputation of: Both hands; or One or both lower extremities at or above the tarsal region, with stump complications resulting in medical inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate effectively, which has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months If your condition does not fall under either of these scenarios, then Social Security will evaluate your disability claim based on the limitations your conditions cause you in a work setting. Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) may be so diminished that you are unable to do your past work, or even any other work.  For instance, if you have had fingers on your dominant hand amputated, you may be unable to perform fine or gross manipulation that is necessary to perform the tasks required of most jobs in the economy.  In the case of a foot or toe amputation, you may find it difficult to stand for long enough to perform jobs that are not sedentary in nature.  There can be many reasons why an amputation can eliminate jobs in the national economy.  At your Social Security disability hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) may testify as to what, if any, jobs exist for a person with such a limited Residual Functional Capacity.  In my experience, the limited use … Continued

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August 12, 2019

Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time

Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time.  Before discussing time limits on filing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, let me address a common question I receive from clients.  I often get asked whether an individual should appeal their current claim or file a new application.  There are very few reasons why you should file a new claim if you still have the ability to appeal a recent denial.  If you are filing a new claim just to see if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find you disabled with a new application, I advise my clients that appealing an initial denial is likely the best course of action.  Most initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied.  My experience is that your chances of winning your claim increase by appealing your claim and pursuing a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  I have seen clients with numerous initial application denials in the past win their claim for benefits by going through the appeals process. The first step in the appeal process is called a “Request for Reconsideration.”  This is asking the Social Security Administration to take another look at your disability claim because you believe they have made an error.  The filing deadline is 60 days from the date on the denial letter plus an additional 5 days for mailing.  There are various reasons why an initial application for benefits can be denied.  These can include the following: exceeding allowable resource amounts, working and earning income above the levels the SSA allows, the SSA believes your disability is not severe enough, or other reasons.  After you determine the reason you were denied, you can decide if you believe you have a valid reason to ask the SSA to look at it … Continued

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August 5, 2019

Cancer and Social Security Disability

Cancer and Social Security Disability.  There are so many types of cancer with varying degrees of severity that it can be difficult to know what qualifies you for Social Security disability.  Just a diagnosis of cancer itself usually is not going to get you disability benefits.  Medical documentation is needed to prove the type and the severity of your condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes cancer under Listing 13.00 (Malignant Neoplastic Disease).  If you take the time to read through this Listing, you can see there are very specific criteria needed to find a person disabled.  Sometimes a person does not have exactly what this Listing calls for, but the SSA may agree that they functionally equal the Listing instead. While a listing may be difficult to meet or equal, many times the SSA believes your capacity to work is so diminished by residual limitations that you simply cannot work a full-time job.  Many of my clients complain of residual effects including neuropathy, cognitive issues, decreased energy, or muscle weakness, among others. In severe cases when cancer is considered terminal, the SSA can grant disability benefits through a process called Compassionate Allowance.  If the SSA can quickly identify your condition as being this severe, it can expedite your claim.  This can eliminate the long process of appeals and hearings to get the benefits you are entitled to.  Your Social Security Disability lawyer can better explain the specific information necessary to be granted a Compassionate Allowance. With the varying types of cancer, each case is distinctly different.  Solid medical testing and documentation can greatly enhance your chances of winning your Social Security Disability claim.   Medical source statements from a treating physician can improve your chances of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  It is … Continued

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June 26, 2019

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition?

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition? I represent claimants with a wide variety of physical and mental conditions.  I regularly talk to claimants with a rare or unique diagnosis that are concerned that their diagnosis will not be properly understood by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  These individuals want to make sure that they have a legal team that will advocate for them to the SSA regarding their unique struggles.  My law office understands that the disability appeal process can be complicated on its own, and even more so if you don’t feel that anyone understands what your medical conditions put you through.  I try to make sure my clients know that I have a plan for each claim, no matter how common or rare their medical conditions may be.   If you look at SSA’s website for information regarding medical conditions, you may come across their Listing of Impairments. SSA has special rules regarding how a person with some common medical conditions should be evaluated for disability.  If a person with a medical condition discussed in the corresponding Listing meets the criteria established, SSA should find that person is disabled.  If you have a rare medical condition, you may not find that the SSA has a Listing for your condition. This does not mean that you can’t be found disabled, but that the SSA must determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  SSA will look at how your conditions and symptoms affect your ability to do work-like tasks and then determine if you can do any jobs with the limitations that you have.   So how do you prove your limitations? The first place the SSA will evaluate will be your medical records.  Therefore, it is important for you to follow up with your doctors as … Continued

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June 10, 2019

Are You Angry and Frustrated About Your Social Security Disability Claim?

Are you angry and frustrated about your Social Security disability claim?  I find many of my clients express  anger and frustration about their Social Security disability claim.  There may be a variety of reasons that they feel this way.  It’s easy to understand how you might be frustrated when you are unable to work and provide for yourself and/or your family while facing physical and/or mental disabilities.  This blog will cover some of the things I frequently discuss with my clients. Why did they deny me when other people are receiving Social Security disability when they don’t deserve it?  It is important to remember that every case is different.  Sometimes a person’s disability can be something you cannot see.  What you consider an undeserving neighbor may be someone suffering from severe mental conditions.  Also, there are specific rules that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has that can make it easier to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The SSA can consider a person’s age, education, and prior work experience to meet certain vocational guidelines that could make it easier to receive benefits. With such a large disability program covering so many people, there may be undeserving individuals that fall through the cracks, but overall, we are lucky to live in a country where our disabled are taken care of. Why is it taking so long?  Many of my clients find themselves unable to pay for food, rent, and essential needs during this lengthy process.  Unfortunately, the SSA is way behind in processing claims.  This is probably the most common question I receive, and I can make no excuses for the process.  The lack of available staff to process claims and Administrative Law Judges to hold hearings on those claims is frustrating to claimants and … Continued

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