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November 30, 2018

What You Can Do to Help Win Your Social Security Disability Case

We believe that the following simple steps may help enhance your claim:   File your paperwork in a timely manner. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to meet certain deadlines.  You have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Reconsideration after being denied on your initial application.  Failure to file this paperwork in a timely fashion may force you to start the process from the beginning unless you can prove you had good cause for your late filing.  If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you again have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Hearing.  Again, if you do not meet this deadline within the 60 days allowed, you may find yourself filing an initial application and starting the process from the beginning. Throughout the process, the SSA may ask you to complete a number of forms and reports that all have their own deadlines. Failure to do so can result in a denial.   See the appropriate types of physicians for your conditions and comply with treatment, if possible. Seeing the right kind of specialist specific to your disability can go a long way to prove to the SSA you are disabled.  The Social Security Administration follows specific rules regarding how to consider medical records or opinions, and your General Practitioner’s opinion alone may not provide enough weight to convince the SSA. More consideration is given to statements from a specialist such as statements relating to the severity of your condition, specific objective testing, and medical source statements as to your functional ability to work.  Our office welcomes all medical provider records that support your case. The more records we can get to support your claim, the stronger your claim becomes. We know that your medical insurance … 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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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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June 8, 2018

Autism and Social Security Disability Benefits

As an Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney, I have noticed an increase in the number of children and young adults diagnosed with Autism.  My office takes great pride in helping these individuals get the benefits they deserve.  Preparing these claims for the Social Security Administration (SSA) usually takes a focused approach to show an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) the severity of this condition.  This blog will briefly outline some of the information I believe is important in proving a claim for an individual who experiences Autism. The good news is that the SSA does recognize Autism as a disabling condition.  In the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Autism is covered under Listing 112.10 for children and 12.10 for adults.  Using these guidelines, a Social Security disability lawyer can craft arguments to help show the person qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many times, a Medical Source Statement may be obtained by a treating source showing that the applicant meets these criteria. Through years of representing those with Autism, I have noticed many common symptoms that are considered severe by the SSA.  These can include, but are not limited to: Social impairments Communication impairments Heightened sensitivity to noise, food, clothing, etc. Repetitive behaviors Other medical conditions linked to Autism This brief list is not intended to be all inclusive because Autism is on a spectrum, and the symptoms may vary in severity and existence from individual to individual. The ability to function may also vary greatly from person to person so, as an attorney representing children or young adults with Autism, it is very important to identify which symptoms are the most severe. When preparing clients for a disability hearing, I try to ask as many questions concerning their disability to find out what aspects … Continued

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April 19, 2018

Hip Pain and Social Security Disability

Hip degeneration or injuries can be very disabling. Over time, you may notice increased inflammation, swelling, or significant pain. If you are unable to work because of a hip impairment, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If hip impairments or other conditions prevent you from working, you may want to consult an attorney right away to discuss whether you should apply for disability benefits. Do your injuries cause you to use a cane, walker, or wheelchair to get around? If your medical provider has given you a prescription for one of these assistive devices, you should keep a copy. That prescription can prove to Social Security that your assistive device is medically necessary. The need for an assistive device can significantly reduce the number of jobs that can be performed in a work setting. Social Security also evaluates disability claims using its Listing of Impairments, which outlines certain criteria that Social Security can use to determine whether a person is disabled. Typically, Social Security evaluates hip or joint impairments under Listing 1.02- Major Dysfunction of a Joint(s). In order to prove the severity of your condition, objective testing such as MRIs, x-rays, or CT scans are crucial. Additionally, medical records from surgeries, physical therapy, or injections can show your current level of functioning. Social Security will consider limitations you have sitting, standing, or walking that are caused by your hip impairments. It is important to show Social Security that you are complying with your treatment plan, especially if your symptoms are not resolving. If your limitations prevent you from performing or keeping a job, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to help you through the Social Security disability process.  Hip degeneration is not the only  impairment that our … 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 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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