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July 31, 2017

Can I Receive Social Security Disability for Bipolar Disorder?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Bipolar Disorder as a disabling condition that can result in disability payments.  My clients often tell me Bipolar Disorder prevents them from getting and keeping a job.  While the symptoms may vary from person to person, I see many of my clients simply not having the ability to concentrate or focus long enough to maintain employment. The SSA acknowledges Bipolar Disorder in its Listing of Impairments under listing 12.04 Depressive, Bipolar, and Other Related Disorders.  If you meet or equal this listing, you may be eligible for benefits.  However, there also may be technical criteria that must be met.  Since there is no objective testing that can show the presence of Bipolar Disorder; hospitalizations, ongoing therapy records, and medication compliance may be the key to receiving benefits. In my Social Security Disability practice, one of the challenges to these cases can be consistent and ongoing therapy records, as the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is not going to be enough.  The SSA generally wants to see a client-patient relationship documenting the ongoing mental illness and compliance with medications prescribed.  If the symptoms still exist after pursuing consistent treatment, then your claim may be given greater weight. A medical source statement from a treating mental health specialist can help the Social Security Administration and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determine your condition is severe enough to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Some health care professionals are unwilling to produce these types of documents, but it may be in your best interest to ask if they will take the time to do so.  In my experience, these statements should contain a clear diagnosis, how long the condition has lasted and is expected to last, the symptoms, and an opinion on … Continued

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June 20, 2017

Why should you have a brief for your Social Security disability hearing?

At the Law Office of Scott D. Lewis, we submit representative briefs to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) prior to our clients’ disability hearing.  In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, I find this to be helpful for a variety of reasons.   A well-structured brief can give the ALJ a concise framework for highlighting the important and relevant aspects in regards to a claim for disability. To begin, the brief can outline the procedural aspects or issues with a claim, and show the ALJ what steps or actions have been taken in anticipation of the hearing.  A good brief will show the theory for disability of the case, such as whether the claim meets any Listing of Impairments or whether any of Social Security’s vocational guidelines.  It should cite to a claimant’s medical records to demonstrate the severity of symptoms, point out any objective medical testing, and highlight any medical source statements from treating sources.  A brief should also show how a claimant’s residual functional capacity is so diminished that no full-time jobs could be performed.   In my practice as a Social Security Disability attorney, I find that a brief serves two strong purposes.  First, it allows the ALJ to know what arguments I am asserting for my clients and provides the evidence to support it.  Medical records can contain hundreds of pages of documents, so giving the ALJ the locations of important documents all in one location can prevent some key piece of evidence from being overlooked. Second, I find that it helps me prepare for the hearing. After assembling the brief, I have a stronger understanding of the client, the medical record, and the strategy I plan to use to win the case. Does every ALJ read every brief submitted? Probably not, however … Continued

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June 9, 2016

Anatomy of a Social Security Disability Hearing Part III: The Decision

When the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) makes a determination about your disability claim, he or she does not simply send you a letter that says “Congratulations! You have been found disabled!” or “Sorry, but you do not qualify for disability.”  The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires the ALJ to provide you with a thorough explanation of the decision.  When you get your hearing decision letter, the first part will briefly tell you whether you won or lost.  Attached to that letter will be the actual decision, which is typically about five to fifteen pages long.  The overall document is a little overwhelming, so here is a breakdown of the different parts: Jurisdiction and Procedural History This part of the decision summarizes the technical details about the case, including: The type of benefits for which you applied (Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income) The dates of your application, denials, and appeals requests The names of the attorney and any experts who appeared at the hearing A summary of anything that happened after the hearing (e.g., additional evidence added to the record) Any other procedural issues Issues This part of the decision recites the definition of disability according to Social Security’s rules.  If you have a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim, it will also discuss your Date Last Insured (DLI).  The final sentence of this section is a statement of whether the judge did or did not find that you are disabled under Social Security’s rules. Applicable Law This part of the decision is complete “boilerplate” – that is, it is a generic description that doesn’t contain any details unique to your case.  Every decision from every ALJ contains this language.  This section describes the five-step sequential evaluation that the judge must follow in making a decision.  It also … Continued

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May 17, 2016

The Indianapolis Office of Disability Adjudication and Review

Most people who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) end up having to go to a hearing if they pursue their claim after the initial denial.  If you live in central Indiana and have a hearing, you will likely end up at the Indianapolis hearings office. The address of the Indianapolis Office of Disability, Adjudication, and Review (ODAR) office is 151 N. Delaware Street, Room 400, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46204.  The hearing office is in Market Square Center, but most people call it the “Gold Building” due to the gold glass windows on the outside of the building.  There is metered street parking and a parking garage east of the building.   You should plan to bring money to pay for parking; Social Security does not validate parking for you.  Once inside the building, take the elevators to the fourth floor. When exiting the elevators, look to your left and you will see a security officer. It is important to remember that the hearing office is a federal facility, so certain rules apply.  The security officer will ask to see valid photo identification, such as a drivers’ license or state ID card.  Make sure your license or ID card is not expired!  If it is, the judge may postpone your hearing until you obtain valid identification.  The security officer will also scan everyone entering the office with a metal detection wand.  It is important that you do not attempt to bring in guns, knives, or other sharp objects that could be used as weapons.  Once you are cleared by security you should check in at the window and have a seat in the waiting area. The Social Security Administration (SSA) employs Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to preside over the hearings.  The judges are men and women … Continued

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June 12, 2012

Being Honest At Your Indiana Disability Hearing

Most of us have certain subjects that we are not comfortable talking about.  Sometimes at a Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked questions that make you uneasy.  Those questions can range from details of your personal life to symptoms of your medical condition, and everything else in between.  Indianapolis attorney Scott D. Lewis encourages each of his clients to be honest with the Judge during the hearing.  Your answers at your hearing may have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Your credibility may impact the Judge’s decision about whether your conditions are disabling.  While you may have numerous medical tests diagnosing various severe conditions, tests in general cannot show the severity of the pain you experience.  To understand the severity of your pain, the Administrative Law Judge will often rely on your testimony about the type and degree of pain you feel.  Different people have varying levels of pain tolerance, and you are the only one who can explain to the Judge how your pain affects you. It is important for claimants to realize that their medical records contain more information than medical diagnoses and treatment histories. For instance, your doctor often records information about your daily activities, such as whether you have been on vacation, working in your garden, or riding a bicycle.  So imagine that you are in your hearing and the judge asks you a personal question, and you think that an honest answer will lead the judge to believe that you are not disabled.  You may think the best thing to do is to give a dishonest answer so as not to jeopardize your case.  You may not realize, however, that the Judge already knows the answer to the question he is asking you because he has read about it in … Continued

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July 15, 2011

Are Indianapolis Social Security Disability Hearing Wait Times Shrinking?

Indiana Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has noticed a few changes concerning the waiting period for getting your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing.  Have the wait times for Social Security disability hearings been reduced?  Mr. Lewis is not so sure there is a clear cut answer to this question. The Indianapolis Indiana Social Security disability hearing office has been attempting to get the number of days you have to wait for your hearing down to a manageable number.  The use of video hearings with Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) from other states presiding over the hearings held at the local Indianapolis office has seemed to make a dent in this huge backlog at times.  Although it is surprising to find an Indiana Social Security disability claimant to be at a video hearing within 12 months of their date of application, while in the next video hearing room an individual has waited for 30 months, there seems to be little explanation for why this discrepancy exists.  This can make it very difficult for Mr. Lewis to give his clients a good idea of when they might find themselves at the hearing office. There have been reports that while the Social Security Administration is taking measures to reduce the backlog, it is actually growing.  If this is indeed the case, the Social Security Administration may need to hire even more Administrative Law Judges and open more hearing offices.  Perhaps more concentration on finding individuals disabled in the earlier stages of the application process could be an answer.  Mr. Lewis knows one thing for sure: the individuals suffering the most from a hearing backlog are those disabled claimants who are unable to provide for themselves and their families. If you have questions concerning your Social Security disability claim … Continued

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