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March 16, 2020

Can I Receive Social Security Disability If I Have Panic Attacks?

Can I receive Social Security Disability if I have panic attacks?  Many of my clients diagnosed with an Anxiety-Related Disorder have panic attacks.  Due to the severity, frequency, and unexpected onset of a panic attack, it may be difficult or even impossible to secure and maintain a full-time job.  If you find that you still endure disabling panic attacks even after therapy and medications, it may be in your best interest to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes panic attacks and similar disorders under Listing 12.06 Anxiety Disorders.  There is specific language and criteria that the SSA is looking for when granting disability for panic attacks.  I try to get my clients to take a medical source statement to their mental health provider to help substantiate the symptoms they experience to prove to the SSA their panic attacks fit these standards.  A continuing therapist-patient relationship with comprehensive progress notes can substantially enhance your chances of winning your claim.  Taking psychiatric medications prescribed by your psychiatrist and complying with their orders can show the SSA that you still have panic attacks despite adherence to prescribed treatment. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks can be, but are not limited to: Racing heartbeat Chest pain Shortness of breath Sweating Fear of impending doom Racing thoughts Inability to concentrate Some of my clients express a fear of leaving their home (Agoraphobia).  Many jobs require interactions with co-workers, supervisors, or the general public, so any limitations in the ability to get along with others can affect your ability to work.  Additionally, if your conditions and symptoms would cause you to miss days of work or be off task, the SSA may agree that you would be unable to keep employment.  If … Continued

Filed under: Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney || Tagged under:
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January 22, 2020

What Happens To My Disability Claim If I Pass Away?

What happens to my disability claim if I pass away?  A sad reality of many disability claims is that a person applying for disability benefits may pass away before their claim is resolved. A disability claim can sometimes take two years or more to resolve.  For claimants with severe medical conditions, they may not survive the wait. If your medical condition is documented as terminal, or you are expected to pass away soon, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may expedite your claim.  Sadly, not all of these claims are expedited.  Many of my clients ask me about what could happen to their claim if they pass away.  Some of my clients have passed away from an unexpected cause and not from the conditions they assert are disabling.  Different cases have different facts and must be pursued in a way that have the best chance of getting these past due benefits.  In claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, your family may be entitled to benefits if they file a Substitution of Party claim. A Substitution of Party allows for one person in a priority list of family members to pursue past due benefits on behalf of the deceased. The following groups of people may become a Substituted Party: The spouse of the deceased Surviving children Surviving parents, or The legal representative of the estate of the deceased In order to become a Substituted Party, the SSA will need several tasks completed. A Form HA-539 must be completed and a copy of the claimant’s death certificate must be submitted to the SSA. Additionally, an attorney assisting the Substituted Party may need other documents to be signed to properly represent the claim. If a claimant has passed away while waiting for a hearing, the Substituted Party may be asked to appear … Continued

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January 15, 2020

What You Do in Your Spare Time Matters When Trying to Get Social Security Disability

What you do in your spare time matters when trying to get Social Security disability.  The big question when trying to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is whether you can work a full-time job.  So why does the Social Security Administration (SSA) care what you do in your spare time?  My clients seem to have a hard time understanding how these two things can be related.  If you take a moment and think about your daily activities and relate those to job duties, you may find some of them are not so different.  Many activities you do every day require you to stand, walk, sit, bend, crouch, use your hands and arms, concentrate, and many other physical and mental activities. When assessing your claim, the Social Security Administration will ask many questions concerning are known as “Activities of Daily Living” or ADL’s.  These can include, but are not limited to: Cleaning your home Doing laundry Doing dishes Yard work Driving Grocery shopping Bathing or showering Dressing yourself Volunteering Hobbies Going out with friends and family Using the Internet These are just a few examples you may be questioned about.  In preparation for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), I attempt to question my clients on whether or not they do these activities and advise them to make sure they answer these questions completely.  For instance, if you are asked if you drive and you simply answer yes without explaining that you can only drive short distances and do not like to drive at all, you may be jeopardizing your claim for disability.   A simple blanket answer of “yes” to every question without stating the limitations you experience can make it sound like you have no restrictions in your activities.  … Continued

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December 23, 2019

Will My Doctor Testify at My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Will my doctor testify at my Social Security disability hearing?  It is very rare that a treating physician will take the time to appear at your hearing.  Unless you have a personal relationship with your physician, you will probably find it very difficult to convince your doctor to attend a hearing.  I have found that some mental health professionals are more willing to come and discuss your impairments in a hearing.  I generally welcome any treating medical professional to attend the hearing in support of your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  In preparation for your hearing, I like to discuss with medical professionals the kind of questions they will be asked.  The hearings usually last less than one hour, so it is important to get testimony the Social Security Administrations (SSA) recognizes as pertinent to your claim. What can you do if your physician will not go to court with you?  You should try to get your physician to complete a Medical Source Statement.  A statement containing your diagnosis, physical limitations, mental limitations, compliance with treatment, and prognosis can help an Administrative Law Judge better understand how your disabling condition is affecting you.  You may find your physician is unwilling to complete a Medical Source Statement.  This does not mean you will lose your case.  The strength of your medical records alone can be enough for a favorable outcome.  Therefore, it is important to keep appointments, get appropriate testing, comply with treatment, and exhaust all avenues in trying to resolve your medical condition. I represent hundreds of Indiana residents every year at Social Security disability hearings and many do not have medical source statements, but still win their claims.  My office supplies our clients with forms to take to their doctors to … Continued

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December 18, 2019

Torn Rotator Cuffs and Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Torn rotator cuffs and your Social Security disability benefits.  A torn rotator cuff can not only be painful, but can limit your ability to lift, push, pull, and reach.  Your capacity to work can be greatly diminished, especially when the arm affected is your dominant upper extremity.  It is hard to imagine there are many jobs where you would not be required to use your arms in some capacity to perform work tasks.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the limitations caused by a torn rotator cuff or other impairments that cause limitations to your upper extremities. If you have experienced a torn rotator cuff, you don’t need any reminders that there is usually pain involved.  Many of my clients complain of a dull aching pain when not using their arm, and a sharp, intense pain when in use.  Once you have tried more conservative treatments, such as medications, injections, and physical therapy, a qualified physician may recommend surgical procedures to alleviate the symptoms you experience.  These can include an open repair or arthroscopic repair.  Unfortunately, not all procedures are successful for all patients, and you may find that your symptoms still exist. I find many of my disability cases hinge on a client’s remaining Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  An RFC is the maximum ability to perform functions (such as standing, sitting, or lifting) that someone can do when all their limitations are considered.  If you cannot perform your past work due to these limitations, the SSA will try to determine whether you can perform other jobs in the economy that require less exertional effort.  If it is determined there are not a substantial number of jobs available that you can perform, you may be found disabled and be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.  Other factors such as your age, … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments, Residual Functional Capacity || Tagged under:
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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

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments || Tagged under:
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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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September 11, 2019

Amputation and Social Security Disability Benefits

Amputation and Social Security disability benefits.  If you have an amputation, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if your limitations prevent you from working.  Having a finger or toe amputated causes different limitations than having a foot, hand, leg, or arm amputated. Therefore, Social Security does not automatically find a person disabled if they have had any amputation, but some criteria must be met. Under Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, amputations are evaluated at Listing 1.05.  To meet this listing, a claimant must have either amputation of: Both hands; or One or both lower extremities at or above the tarsal region, with stump complications resulting in medical inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate effectively, which has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months If your condition does not fall under either of these scenarios, then Social Security will evaluate your disability claim based on the limitations your conditions cause you in a work setting. Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) may be so diminished that you are unable to do your past work, or even any other work.  For instance, if you have had fingers on your dominant hand amputated, you may be unable to perform fine or gross manipulation that is necessary to perform the tasks required of most jobs in the economy.  In the case of a foot or toe amputation, you may find it difficult to stand for long enough to perform jobs that are not sedentary in nature.  There can be many reasons why an amputation can eliminate jobs in the national economy.  At your Social Security disability hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) may testify as to what, if any, jobs exist for a person with such a limited Residual Functional Capacity.  In my experience, the limited use … Continued

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August 28, 2019

Where Do I Go for My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Where do I go for my Social Security disability hearing?  The answer to this question largely depends on where you live.  Social Security disability hearings can be held in a variety of places from a local hearing office to a local field office.  As your hearing approaches, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will mail you and your representative a Notice of Hearing.  This notice will indicate the time and place where and when the hearing will be held.  It will also contain other important information regarding details surrounding the hearing.   In the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, most Social Security disability hearings are held at 151 North Delaware Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204.  This office is referred to as the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO).  The fourth floor of this building is generally used for hearings held in person, while a portion of the fifth floor is used for video teleconference hearings.  It is important to remember when entering these areas that they are considered government facilities, and the use of metal detection and security officers are present.  You will need valid picture identification to be allowed to enter these areas.   You should arrive at your hearing at least 30 minutes prior to its scheduled start time.  At times, Administrative Law Judges will start hearings early as openings become available.  Arriving early can also give you time to consult with your attorney, or if you do not have one, to look over the medical evidence the SSA currently has for you.   If you are outside of the Indianapolis area, there are other OHO offices where you may be asked to go.  In Indiana, these are located in Fort Wayne, Valparaiso, and Evansville.  As stated earlier, some hearings are also held in field offices.  These are usually by video teleconference … 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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