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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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August 20, 2019

Am I Expected to Talk at My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Am I expected to talk at my Social Security disability hearing?  At your Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked to answer questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The amount of time you speak and the content of your testimony will depend on your ALJ, your representative, and several other factors.  In some hearings, I have clients that wish to say as little as possible and other clients that want to say too much. When I prepare my clients for their hearings, we discuss which topics are important and which topics are irrelevant in determining whether a person is able to work. This prehearing preparation session is helpful to show my clients what type of information the ALJ is looking for. Your answers to these questions can greatly impact your chance of a favorable outcome. If your medical record is complete prior to your hearing, the most important evidence missing is your testimony.  You are the best person to describe the pain you experience from a physical condition or the impact of your mental health on your daily life. Many ALJs will ask what type of doctors you see, the procedures you have underwent, and what your prognosis is.  ALJs will ask you questions about how long you can sit, stand, walk, and lift; they will also ask you about how you are able to perform daily activities around your home. I think it is important to take a moment to discuss your daily activities, known as your “Activities of Daily Living.”  Many of my clients are confused as to how these questions impact their ability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is trying to see if you are doing work-like activities.  They often ask questions about your ability to clean the house, shop, drive, do yard … 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 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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March 14, 2019

Social Security Disability and Your Date Last Insured

I have found the concept of a Date Last Insured (DLI) can be difficult for my clients to understand.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Disability lawyer, I may need to explain this concept to my clients several times to for them to fully grasp what it means.  I understand the difficulty in accepting that your eligibility for disability insurance benefits has expired when you are struggling with a severe disability and find you cannot take care of yourself or your family.  In this blog, I will attempt to explain why your DLI is important and how it is established. Your Date last Insured, or DLI, is established by acquiring work credits.  You establish work credits by working and paying into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, also known as FICA taxes, to the United States Government.  When you receive your paycheck stub, you can see the amount of FICA taxes being deducted.  By paying this tax, you are essentially paying premiums to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits should you become disabled.  Although many factors can come into play, your DLI generally expires around five years after you stop working.  Another general rule is that to establish a DLI, you must have worked full time for at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  If you have recently stopped working due to a disabling condition, your DLI is usually in the future. However, if you stopped working many years ago, your DLI may have already passed, which is sometimes referred to as a “remote DLI.”  So, why is your DLI so important?  Your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits is determined by your DLI.   You must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you became disabled before your disability insurance … Continued

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March 4, 2019

If I Have Crohn’s Disease Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

In my experience, Crohn’s disease can be a very disabling condition and may qualify you for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The symptoms from Crohn’s disease can be painful, uncomfortable, and can consume most of the person’s day just trying to complete simple tasks.  Very few employers will tolerate an employee that spends much of the day off task and consistently in the nearest restroom.  The Social Security Administration recognizes this, and many times these exact issues are addressed at an Administrative Law Judge hearing. My clients generally describe the similar symptoms, and these can include, but are not limited to: Diarrhea Abdominal Pain Fatigue Fever Vomiting Weight Loss In these cases, it is crucial to obtain objective testing to prove your symptoms are a result of your diagnosis.  In my experience, in cases of individuals with severe Crohn’s disease, many of these tests have been performed before I even talk to my client.  A comprehensive medical file can be key to you receiving your disability benefits.  The SSA usually wants to see that you have exhausted all avenues for treatment in an attempt to resolve your condition.  The Social Security Administration examines Crohn’s disease in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 5.00 Digestive System.  These listings define qualifying criteria for disabilities and the objective testing used to prove the severity of the condition.  Listings can be difficult to interpret without the aid of a trained physician or qualified attorney.  Many times, I will ask a treating physician to complete a questionnaire to show the client meets those criteria.  Another way to win your Social Security disability claim is to show the SSA and an Administrative Law Judge that your condition is so severe you cannot sustain full-time employment.  This can be done … Continued

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February 20, 2019

Will I Get the Chance to Talk to An Actual Attorney When I Call Your Office?

A common complaint I hear from perspective clients is that when they hire a lawyer, they seldom get the chance to speak directly to the lawyer.  The majority of my staff are attorneys who focus on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.  The attorneys in my practice make the decision to accept potential clients, not the administrative staff.  We believe this initial attorney/client contact is crucial in beginning our case.  The initial contact with an attorney can help you decide if the relationship is a good fit for you, in addition to helping you understand the disability process.  The lawyers in my office strive to explain not only the process, but what can be done to enhance your chances of winning your disability claim.  This initial contact can give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding the appeals process, the importance of your medical providers, and your chances of being successful in your disability claim.  With my office, the attorney client contact does not stop after the initial conversation.  Our attorneys answer questions from current clients on a daily basis. The wait to have your case heard in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can be lengthy.  Many things can change during the long wait and chances are, you will have additional questions along the way.  They can range from status updates and updating your medical providers and diagnoses, to questions regarding your ability to go back to work and what ramifications that will have on your claim.  Our office is busy, and I believe you should want it that way.  We are working with medical providers to get your medical records, filing appeals, corresponding with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and preparing cases for upcoming court dates.  Our administrative staff works closely with … Continued

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January 18, 2019

Does Having a Cane, Walker, or Wheelchair Help Me in My Social Security Disability Case?

If you need a cane, walker, or wheelchair to ambulate effectively, it can have a significant impact on your claim for disability benefits.  Many jobs that require a person to stand or walk during the work day can be hard to perform when the employee needs an assistive device.  For example, if you are holding on to a cane with one hand, you may not be able to use that hand for work tasks.  It also matters why you need the device and how often you use it.  These devices may be used for standing, walking, balancing, or all the above.  You may need an assistive device any time you stand or only for prolonged activity.  There can be many factors to consider when determining how someone can work when they need an assistive device. A common question I find Administrative Law Judges consider at your disability hearing is whether your assistive device is “medically necessary”.  In other words, does your medical record support that you need a cane or walker as you claim.  In my experience, one of the best ways to address this question is to have a prescription from your treating physician for your cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Your physician can either write a prescription or make a statement in the form of a medical source statement that you can provide to your disability attorney or the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the SSA believes you medically need your assistive device, the SSA will then decide how the use of your device impacts your ability to work.  At your hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) will testify to the impact of an assistive device on certain types of jobs.  In my experience, this can be where a well-trained attorney may be able to reduce or eliminate the number … Continued

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