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November 17, 2014

Will My Doctor Be At My Social Security Disability Appeals Hearing?

It is highly unlikely  that your treating physician will attend your Social Security disability hearing.  Unless your doctor is a personal friend you can convince to attend your hearing, your doctor in almost all cases will not be there. First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require your doctor to attend.  Although some judges do call physicians to testify at hearings, those physicians are Medical Experts (MEs) paid by the SSA to examine your medical records and evaluate whether your condition is disabling under Social Security’s rules.  Will the ME at your hearing ever have examined you?  No.  Will this ME ever have even met you?  No.  The ME is supposed to give an impartial opinion regardless of the fact the SSA is paying him/her a fee to review the case and testify.  In my experience, there are good MEs and bad MEs, just like there are people who do a good job and people who do a bad job in any other profession.  In a perfect world, your doctor would be able to sit down with the judge and explain your impairments and how they affect you, but that’s most likely not going to happen. Second, your doctor is busy.  Even if you have a doctor who is kind and helpful, it is unrealistic to expect him or her to take time away from practicing medicine to attend your hearing. So what can you do to ensure the judge has good information from your treating physicians? Get the medical treatment you need.  Your explaining to the SSA that you have a bad back is not enough to show that you are disabled under its rules.  Social Security expects to see objective testing like x-rays or MRIs, progress notes from doctor visits, and records of medications you are taking. Make sure the SSA … Continued

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August 26, 2014

What Should I Say At My Social Security Disability Hearing?

When I prepare my Indiana neighbors for their day in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the majority of the conversation revolves around what type of questions the ALJ will ask them.  I have represented clients in front of many different judges, and I have found that each ALJ has a unique style of asking questions – some ask a lot of questions; others prefer to have the representative take most of the client’s testimony.  Therefore, I try to tailor each of my clients’ preparation to be ready for the particular judge who will be hearing the case.  In spite of their differences, though, in my experience most judges cover the same general topics in their hearings. Many, but not all, judges are going to check your credibility.  While objective test results can prove that you have a certain medical diagnosis, the severity of the pain or other symptoms you experience due to that diagnosis can only be explained by you.  Therefore, the judge will likely ask you to explain your symptoms, rate your pain, or describe the ways your pain or other symptoms limit your ability to perform certain tasks.  If a judge believes you are exaggerating or lying about these things, you may find yourself with an unfavorable outcome.  I try to always tell my clients to be truthful yet realistic about what they can or cannot do.  In my experience, credibility is especially important for my clients whose disabilities cannot be diagnosed with objective testing, like mental illness, fibromyalgia, or migraines. Most judges will ask you about your activities of daily living.  These can include but are not limited to cleaning your home, doing dishes, laundry, yard work, bathing or showering, dressing yourself, taking care of children, shopping, using the computer, hobbies, and going out with friends and … Continued

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March 28, 2014

Expedited Social Security Disability Hearings for Veterans

“Starting March 17, 2014, veterans who have a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits.” This is a direct quote from the Social Security Administration’s website. This is great news for 100% disabled veterans.  In my Indiana law office, we have already seen the results of this rule.  Social Security has called us to schedule expedited hearings for several of my clients who are disabled veterans, in some cases cutting months off of their expected waiting time for their hearings. Unfortunately, I have had to explain to my clients that just because the VA has assigned them a disability rating of 100% permanent and total, it does not mean that Social Security is required to find them disabled as well.  The Veteran’s Administration and Social Security have different rules and different definitions of disability, so they do not always reach the same conclusion after evaluating the same person.  While your VA disability rating letter is important evidence in your Social Security disability claim, it does not guarantee you will be found disabled.  The only advantage this rule gives to veterans with a 100% VA rating is a faster processing time for their claims. There are a few ways to apply for Social Security Disability benefits: Complete your application online. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778 for deaf or hard of hearing). Call or visit your local Social Security Administration office. If you want to apply in person, it is best to call beforehand to schedule an appointment. To receive the expedited hearing: Identify yourself as a “veteran rated 100% P&T” If you apply in person or over the phone, inform the Social Security representative that you have a veteran rating of 100% P&T. If … Continued

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November 30, 2012

Getting Ready For Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

Are you nervous about your upcoming disability hearing?  When I talk to my clients before their hearings, one of the most common things they talk about is how anxious they are.  Many of them seem to be on the verge of an anxiety attack when they enter the hearing room.  I attempt to prepare my clients for this big day by letting them know what the atmosphere of the hearing will be like, the types of questions they will be asked, and what they should talk about (or not talk about) when they answer those questions.  I have seen some attorneys and representatives who do not prepare their clients for their hearings at all, or they do so in the waiting room right before the hearing.  It is my practice to speak with each of my clients a day or two before the hearing; we have plenty of time to prepare, but it’s close enough to the hearing that the client will remember everything we talked about.  I usually spend between 45 minutes and an hour letting them know exactly what to expect at the hearing.  Of course, no matter how well-prepared we are, hearings can take many unexpected turns and there can always be surprises.  However, I know from experience how the majority of hearings are conducted and what issues are likely to arise, and I am able to explain to my clients what they should expect. Fist, it is important to remember the hearing is supposed to be informal.  In other words, most of the Administrative Law Judges do not follow strict trial rules and procedures.  Does this mean you can talk out of turn and interrupt others at the hearing?  No; you still must wait your turn and be respectful.  Most judges give everyone an opportunity to … Continued

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November 9, 2011

Social Security Disability Attorneys In Indianapolis May Be Able To Give You A Good Idea Of Whether Or Not You Won Your Claim

When you leave your Social Security disability appeal hearing you may scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis, at times, can give his clients a pretty good idea of what just transpired in the hearing room.  Mr. Lewis represents hundreds of Indiana Social Security disability claimants each year and has found there can be some signs during a Social Security disability hearing that may indicate an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is leaning one way or another regarding the decision in your appeal.  There are a few factors that may help determine what the outcome will be. Who was your Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)?  Administrative Law Judge approval percentages on Social Security disability claims can be all over the board.  Some Judges may approve a very small number of claims, while other Judges may approve a large percentage of the claims they preside over.  Indiana Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has represented his Indiana neighbors in front of all of the current Administrative Law Judges in the Indianapolis ODAR office and usually has a pretty good idea how often they find individuals disabled.  Also, there are statistics put out by the Social Security Administration (SSA) showing the approval rates for Administrative Law Judges. What did the Medical Expert (ME) testify to at your hearing?  Medical experts are sometimes used at Social Security disability hearings.  These experts are supposed to analyze the medical records in your Social Security disability file to determine what your medical condition is, whether or not you meet one of Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, and what your limitations may be related to your mental or physical condition.  Some Administrative Law Judges do not use medical experts, but if they do, at times they can rely heavily on their testimony.  It … 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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July 26, 2011

Why Did I Get Denied My Social Security Disability Benefits When the Guy Down the Street Got Them Right Away?

If you only knew how many times Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyers like Scott Lewis have heard this very question. There are many different aspects to a Social Security disability claim and no one case is exactly like another one. While there may not be a clear cut answer to why some Indiana residents find a Social Security disability check in their hands before another person, in Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, there may be a few reasons this can happen and it can include, but is not limited to: Good medical records.  Comprehensive medical records outlining and detailing a disabling medical condition may be the key to a quick favorable outcome in a Social Security disability claim. Prior work experience, age, and education.  In the Social Security Administration’s approval process they determine your ability to work with your disabling condition while looking at age, education, and prior work experience. All disabilities are different and can create different barriers to employment.  While some disabilities may be visually evident, other disabilities like mental disorders may not be visible to the naked eye. The guy down the street may be luckier than you.  That’s right, he may have been evaluated by someone in the Social Security Administration that was more lenient on granting disability claims.  Believe it or not, actual people look at your claim and make a determination. The above are the thoughts and experiences of Scott D. Lewis, and other Social Security disability attorneys or representatives may have different experiences with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  If you have been denied your Indiana Social Security disability benefits and believe it was an unfair decision, contact attorney Scott Lewis for a free case evaluation.

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April 25, 2011

Will The Judge Tell Me If I Won Or Lost At The End Of My Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing?

So you have waited quite a long time for your upcoming Social Security disability hearing and think you will finally get an answer to your appeal.  Well the truth is, you probably have another waiting period to endure before you receive a decision in the mail.  Indianapolis Social Security attorney Scott D. Lewis often gets asked by his clients when will they find out if they have won or lost their Indiana Social Security disability appeal.  There are a few different scenarios that can take place at the conclusion of your Social Security disability hearing. If you are one of the lucky few, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may make a bench decision.  After a  judge hears testimony, if he/she believes the claimant is disabled, he/she can make a fully favorable bench decision.  In Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience a bench decision can speed up the time it takes in processing a disability claim.  The Administrative Law Judge usually reads into the record his/her reasons for granting the disability claim.  Some judges make bench decisions on a routine basis when granting claims, while other judges rarely, if ever, use bench decisions.  So what happens if you are not a lucky recipient of a bench decision?  You shouldn’t think you have lost your disability claim because there are other ways judges decide disability claims. Many judges do not make the decision on your disability claim the day you are in court.  Although almost all Social Security disability hearings have a similar theme, many judges decide claims using a different process.  Some Administrative Law Judges will have already looked over your file before the hearing.  These judges then get testimony from the claimant and then make a decision.  Other judges may not have looked at your record at all before the … Continued

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April 18, 2011

Will I Have To Talk At My Indiana Social Security Disbility Hearing?

Indiana residents waiting on a Social Security disability hearing may find themselves anxious  and worried about what will happen when they enter the courtroom.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis is often asked by his clients whether or not they will have to speak at the hearing.  Mr. Lewis advises his clients that they probably will have to speak at the hearing, but at the same time they should expect to be prepared for what kind of questions they will be asked. As an Indiana Social Security lawyer, Mr. Lewis believes it is a very important part of his job to prepare his clients for the hearing.  Although no Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is exactly the same, there is usually a general framework of questions that are asked of each client.  Indianapolis attorney Scott D. Lewis lets his disability clients know they are usually asked personal questions, job related questions, and medical questions.  Mr. Lewis believes your answers are sometimes judged as to whether you are credible.  In other words, are you believable, are you telling the truth, and are you exaggerating how much pain you are in. Indiana Administrative Law Judges conduct numerous hearings every year and some can be pretty slick in the way they question you and may even try to trick you into making contradicting statements.  It is important to tell the truth and do not overstate the problems you are experiencing.  If you are honest and realistic about the problems you are experiencing then you will not have to worry about the credibility of the statements you make.  The pain you experience is usually not something a test can measure, so your own opinion of your pain is all an Administrative Law Judge can count on. Indianapolis Social Security attorney Scott Lewis believes a good attorney … Continued

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April 11, 2011

How Long Will I Have To Wait For My Social Security Disability Hearing?

There is still a tremendous backlog of individuals waiting for an Indiana Social Security disability hearing. Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis spends much of his day explaining to current and future Social Security disability clients that they are in a long line waiting for their day in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Statistically your chances of winning your claim go up when you finally enter a courtroom to present evidence in front of an ALJ, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not going to pay your bills during this long wait. So exactly how long does it take to get your disability hearing in Indiana?  It depends on a variety of factors.  The Indianapolis Office or Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) is currently one of the more lengthy waits if your hearing is in Indiana.  There are other hearing offices throughout the state of Indiana that are quicker to get you your day in court.  Can you pick where you have your hearing?  No, it is assigned a location depending on where you reside. Is there any good news on the horizon?  Things MAY be looking up. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis has noticed a decrease in the wait time in some cases.  In the recent past,  Mr. Lewis would tell his disability appeals clients the wait was generally running 18 – 24 months from the date they requested a hearing until they would actually see a judge.  Lately, Mr. Lewis has seen individuals receive a Social Security disability hearing in 12 months after requesting a hearing. Does this mean your hearing will be within 12 months of the day you requested it?  Probably not.  Many factors determine your hearing date including what Administrative Law Judge you are assigned, whether you have an in person … Continued

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