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October 7, 2011

GAF Scores and Your Social Security Disability Claim

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits or are appealing a denied Social Security disability benefits claim in Indiana and you are confused by what’s going on, you may not be alone.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis talks to potential disability clients on a frequent basis about the complex issues that arise during a disability claim.  There may be words that are difficult to understand or abbreviations that are hard to figure out in the disability process.  If you are suffering from a mental disorder and your psychiatrist or therapist talks about a “GAF” score you may wonder exactly what they are referring to. A Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score is a number used to rate individuals social, occupational, and psychological functioning.  The numbers range from 0 to 100 and are generally classified in the following way: 91 -100 Superior range of functioning in a wide range of activities. 81 – 90  Absent of minimal symptoms. 71 – 80  If symptoms are present they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors. 61 -70  Some mild symptoms. 51-60  Moderate symptoms. 41-50  Serious symptoms. 31- 40  Some impairments in reality testing or communication. 21 – 30  Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations. 11 -20  Some danger of hurting self or others. 1 – 10  Persistent danger of hurting self or others. It is important to note that the above is only a general framework defining GAF scores, and more information can be obtained describing each category in more detail.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis urges his clients to seek the care of a qualified mental health professional to assess your mental impairments.  GAF scores can be used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in determining the severity of your mental condition. Mr. Lewis attends numerous Social … Continued

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September 24, 2011

Leukemia and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

Are you an individual suffering from chronic or acute leukemia and cannot work because of this disease?  Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects more than 40,000 people per year.  Currently, there is no cure for leukemia. Leukemia occurs when blood cells in the bone marrow grow out of control. Leukemia usually starts with some common symptoms such as: prolonged bleeding, bruising, weakness, weight loss, infections, or pain & swelling in your joints. The earlier leukemia is detected, the more likely it can be treated effectively.  This cancer is highly dangerous, but also highly treatable. Some treatments may include: chemotherapy; radiation therapy; other kinds of drug therapy; and stem cell transplants. Being diagnosed with leukemia can possibly mean a major lifestyle change. Although treatments of these cancers are highly effective and can allow those individuals diagnosed with this cancer to still enjoy a good quality of life, they do not cure the cancer and often leave many side effects that may significantly reduce the quality of life for those who suffer from the disease. If you have been diagnosed with leukemia and are unable to work because of it, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration’s “Listing of Impairments” outlines the criteria that qualifies an individual with leukemia for disability benefits. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you should provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) medical proof of your condition supported by doctor’s exams, imaging technology, blood tests, etc. In addition, if this information also includes statements from your physician(s) asserting that you are unable to work because of your leukemia, it may be beneficial in winning your claim. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis realizes that dealing with a diagnosis of cancer may be difficult enough, but dealing with financial problems because you can’t work due to this diagnosis … Continued

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September 21, 2011

Why Does It Take So Long To Receive A Decision After Your Social Security Disability Hearing?

Indiana disability claimants who have endured a lengthy wait for their disability hearing should not be surprised to find themselves staring at their mailbox waiting for a decision to arrive.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis receives many calls from his clients asking why it takes so long to find out whether or not they have won or lost their Social Security disability appeal.  Mr. Lewis understands it can be a frustrating wait when the bills are due and families are having a difficult time putting food on their tables. There is always a possibility there is still work to do on your Social Security disability claim after you leave the courtroom.  Perhaps the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is not through reviewing your case.  All Judges conduct hearings differently and some take testimony first and then look deeper into the medical documentation to make a decision.  If there were no experts at your hearing, the Judge may want to ask questions regarding employment to a vocational expert after the hearing has concluded. On the other hand, some Administrative Law Judges have made a decision during the hearing or as soon as you walked out the door. There can be other reasons for a lengthy wait. It may be a problem of too much workload put on Administrative Law Judges and their staff.  Considering the large number of claims that are backlogging the hearing offices, it would not be too far fetched to think they are having a difficult time keeping up.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis deals with numerous hearing offices and has noticed some offices are simply slower than others.  With that being said, there are certain judges that seem to work at break neck speed to get decisions out.  It is important to remember though that the … Continued

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September 20, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits for Claimants Diagnosed with Hepatitis

Some individuals diagnosed with chronic hepatitis are unable to work and find the need to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers Hepatitis under Section 5.00, Digestive System in the “Listing of Impairments.”  The specific listing for Hepatitis is found under Section 5.05 Chronic Liver Disease and to meet this listing for purposes of qualifying for disability benefits, your medical records must indicate one of the following: Esophageal, gastric, or ectopic varices with a documented history of massive hemorrhaging as a result; or Having had a shunt operation due to esophageal varices; or Pathologic fluid collection in the abdomen for three (3) months or more that has required removal of such fluid or hypoalbuminemia; or Hepatic Encephalopathy; or High levels (2.5 mg per 100 ml. or more) of bilirubin in the blood on repeat exams for at least three (3) months; or Confirmed diagnosis of chronic liver disease with ascites as mentioned in #3 above, or with serum bilirubin levels as mentioned in #5 above, or with inflammation of the liver or cellular death of tissue within the liver for at least three (3) months. This is demonstrated by a blood test showing abnormal prothrombin time (a measure of how long it takes blood to clot) as well as blood tests indicating abnormal levels of other liver enzymes. Disability claimants must also have a medical diagnosis of Hepatitis which is supported by a liver biopsy in addition to documenting the above requirements. Indiana individuals who are unable to meet this listing based on the above information, may still file for disability benefits in the form of a medical vocational allowance. You may be considered for this medical vocational allowance if your symptoms are severe enough that you are unable to function at work and your condition is … Continued

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September 16, 2011

Indianapolis Disability Lawyers Can Help In Appealing Your Social Security Disability Claim

At times, the Social Security disability claims process can be frustrating and confusing.  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis talks to many clients about their concerns regarding the disability process.  Going through the difficult time of dealing with a disabling condition combined with the paperwork involved in a Social Security disability claim, may possibly create a very stressful situation.  Mr. Lewis strives to alleviate some of his clients worries by assisting them in the claims process. The Social Security disability claims process has very distinct stages in obtaining an outcome for your claim.  These can include:   Filing the initial claim application   Filing a “Request for Reconsideration”   Requesting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge   Appealing the Judge’s decision to The Appeals Council Obviously the first step in any claim is getting started.  Filing an initial claim can be done by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website at www.ssa.gov or by calling their toll free number at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting a local SSA office.  Mr. Lewis often spends time with prospective clients during this initial stage addressing their concerns. If your initial application is denied, the next stage in appealing your claim is to ask for a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This is basically telling the Social Security Administration they have made a mistake in denying your claim and they need to take another look at it.  Unfortunately, the majority of these requests are denied again, but it is important not to give up at this point if you feel you have a valid claim.  Proceeding on in the next steps in appeals process may be in your best interest. The next step, in what can turn out to be a lengthy process, is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Statistically, studies … Continued

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September 14, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits and Your Education

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at various factors when deciding if you meet their definition of disability.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis often discusses with his Indiana neighbors just what these factors may include.  The Social Security Administration will consider a person’s age, education, and work experience when analyzing a claim. Why does the Social Security Administration care about your education?  Believe it or not, the Social Security Administration does recognize that individuals with a lower education have less jobs in the national economy available to them.  This does not mean individuals with a higher education cannot receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it just may be a little more difficult to win their claim.  The Social Security Administration may take into consideration not only the education level of the claimant, but also the age and prior work experience when making a determination. It is also important to note the Social Security Administration may also consider any vocational training or schooling an individual may have.  This is all in an attempt to evaluate the number of jobs that may exist for a claimant in the economy.  Remember the question is are you able to work and to determine that the whole picture must be viewed to come up with an answer. Many times at Indiana Social Security disability hearings, a vocational expert or “job expert” is present and has the duty of determining with your disabilities combined with your age, education, and prior work experience whether there are jobs that you can perform.  Their answers are generally based on statistical analysis and personal experience and observations in their occupation. Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis handles claims with a wide range of disabling conditions such as diabetes with neuropathy, cancer, depression, heart conditions, and epilepsy just … Continued

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September 1, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits for Tinnitus

Indiana residents that experience tinnitus often wonder if they qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Depending on the severity of tinnitus, some individuals may qualify to receive disability benefits.  People with tinnitus may experience hearing a sound within their ear or head when there is no external physical sound present. Some individuals describe the sound as the following: hissing, chirping, buzzing, roaring, or high-pitched ring. Tinnitus is a very common problem that affects 10-17% of the general population. Approximately 44 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree and is more prevalent in elderly people. Although some people find tinnitus is just a nuisance. Others may find it is a life-altering condition. My tinnitus is so severe that is causes me to be unable to work; do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?  Many individuals find their tinnitus so severe that it interferes with their ability to function daily activities including, but not limited to, work.  These individuals may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits if he/she is able to prove the severity of the condition and how it affects their daily life.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) does mention under  their “Listing of Impairment” Section 2.00 Special Senses and Speech that tinnitus is part of vestibular disorders. At the law office of Scott D. Lewis, Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has represented disability claimants with tinnitus.  In his experience, establishing and obtaining good medical records that support the claimant’s disability claim may be key to winning your disability claim.  Individuals with tinnitus may benefit by continuing to visit their treating physician and maintaining treatment as prescribed by their physician.  Tinnitus combined with other disabling conditions may be considered in your disability claim.  Attorney Scott D. Lewis offers a free consultation to individuals seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

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August 30, 2011

Weight-Bearing Joint Disability and Social Security Disability Benefits

Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott D. Lewis is an experienced disability attorney who represents Indiana individuals with their Social Security disability claims. Individuals who suffer from weight-bearing joint disabilities may find themselves unable to work due to this disabling condition.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes weight-bearing joint disorders in their “Listing of Impairments.”  The SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” is simply a list of impairments that the SSA uses to define and evaluate disability.  Under Section 1.00 Muscuskeletal System, you may find how the SSA evaluates weight-bearing joint conditions in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Weight-bearing joints, also known as “load-bearing” joints, are located in the knees, hands, hips, feet, and spine. An individual may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits if he/she experience major dysfunction of a joint and the individual has one or more major weight-bearing joint issues causing the individual to have limited ability to walk, independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities. Individuals suffering from a weight-bearing joint disability may experience insufficient lower extremity function preventing him/her to have independent ambulation without the use of a hand-held assistive device(s).  Individuals that use hand-held assistance, such as a walker, two crutches or two canes, may find that they are limited with both of their upper body extremities. Therefore, not only having limitations with their lower extremities, but also limiting the use of their upper body extremities. According to the SSA, an individual who is able to ambulate effectively must be capable of sustaining a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance to be able to carry out activities of daily living. They must have the ability to travel without companion assistance to and from a place of employment or school. Some examples given by the SSA of ineffective ambulation may include, but are not limited to, the following: the inability to walk without the … Continued

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August 19, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyers May Be Able to Give You A Good Idea Of What To Expect At Your Appeals Hearing

Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes one of the most important aspects of his job is to advise his clients as to what they can expect during a Social Security disability hearing.  While Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) may have varying formats in the way they run the hearings, a general theme usually guides their line of questioning. Disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds the questioning generally falls into three categories and these include: General questions Job related questions Medical questions General questions most likely the easiest questions for the claimant to answer.  Questions concerning your name, address, age, marital status, number of children you have,  height, weight, right or left handed, and even the type of home you live in.  Why does the Social Security Administration care about these things?  Remember, the facts always matter.  If you testify you are unable to take care of yourself, but also testify you have three young children you care for, the Judge may not put as much weight into the testimony that you are unable to care of yourself.  Sound fair? Maybe not, but it is important to remember there is usually a legitimate reason for every question you are being asked. As for job related questions, usually the Social Security Administrations is only concerned with jobs you performed over the last fifteen years that lasted over three months.  Okay, so now you’re thinking, “I have had so many jobs that it’s going to be hard to remember one I performed fifteen years ago.”  Well, the judge at your hearing may have a printout of your past occupations and through a line of questioning can usually help you remember your past relevant employment.  Also, at some hearings a vocational expert or “job expert” may be present and possibly has already examined … Continued

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August 16, 2011

Digestive Disorders and Social Security Disability Claims

Many individuals suffering from a digestive disorder find that this disorder can take them away from work indefinitely. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis assists individuals with digestive disorders with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Listing of Impairments” addresses the criteria for a variety of digestive system disorders in section 5.00 Digestive System.  Specifically, the following digestive orders can be found under this listing: 5.02 Gastroinntestinal hemorrhaging from any cause, requiring blood transfusion 5.05 Chronic Liver Disease 5.06 Imflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 5.07 Short Bowel Sydrome (SBS) 5.08 Weight Loss due to any digestive disorder 5.09 Liver transplant Meeting the Listings for digestive disorders may be very difficult. However, individuals may also be awarded SSDI or SSI benefits if they suffer from a combination of health problems while they do not meet the listing, in combination prevent them from being able to perform substantial gainful employment. The “Listings of Impairments” are designed to award Social Security disability benefits to disability claimants who are clearly severely ill.  The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at a hearing can determine that a person, while not meeting a specific disability listing, has health problems severe enough to award the claimant disability benefits. Individuals suffering from a digestive disorder may experience the following symptoms or side effects: Development of allergies due to compromised immunity Abdominal pain Indigetion Heartburn Difficulty swallowing Diarhhea or constipation Chest pain Fatigue Bladder or bowel changes Unexplained weight loss Bloating and painful gas Nausea and vomiting Weakened immune system As stated above, being approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a digestive disorder may be difficult. In order to successfully win your claim, it’s important to prove to the SSA what is wrong with you and how the digestive disorder negatively affects your daily life. In … Continued

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