October 13, 2011

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Do you really need a disability lawyer when applying for Social Security disability benefits?  Indiana disability claimants may become overwhelmed by the Social Security disability application process. According to Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis, this isn’t very surprising when considering how frustrating the process may be.  Although everyone’s disability case is unique, some common frustrations may develop from claimants having a legitimate claim denied, individuals waiting years for their benefits to be approved, or possibly feeling as though they are treated unfairly during the appeal process.  Many individuals wonder whether or not they should hire a disability lawyer to help with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application process.  There are some factors that you may want to consider when deciding whether or not you need to retain an attorney for your disability claim. Majority of disability applicants are denied at the initial application stage. Those individuals who have been denied may become completely overwhelmed by the Social Security disability application process.  As a result, they find it necessary to hire a disability lawyer or representative so they do not have to face the appeals process alone. Once an individual has been denied SSDI or SSI benefits, the need for representation might be considered. It may be beneficial to hire a Social Security attorney to represent you through the appeals process.  Some statistics show that disability claimants who have legal representation at the appeals stage are often more successful in being approved for benefits than those who decide to go on without representation.  Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis believes that you are entitled to a fair hearing and strives to ask all of the questions you should be asked during this process. Mr. Lewis attempts to be aware of the Social Security disability regulations that may be beneficial in your claim being approved. If you are an individual that decides to hire a Social Security disability lawyer, you may worry about the … Continued

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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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October 5, 2011

Social Security Disability Lawyers in Indianapolis Can Represent You For Many Different Disabling Conditions

Did you know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can look at all of your disabling conditions combined when making a disability determination?  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis tries to get his clients to disclose to him all of their conditions that have an impact on their ability to work.  After questioning his clients, many times Mr. Lewis finds that there are several conditions that when combined create a total picture showing his client is in fact disabled. For instance, you may have had back surgery and are experiencing pain and/or discomfort that may be preventing you from working so; you have filed a Social Security disability claim.  Upon further review of your medical records, Mr. Lewis notices you are also suffering from depression, diabetes, and asthma.  If these other conditions are severe enough, it may be wise to include these conditions in an argument as to why you are unable to work.  While your back may keep you from being able to sit, stand, or walk for any length of time, your depression may make it difficult to concentrate on work related tasks, your diabetes may involve neuropathy causing numbness and tingling in your extremities, and your asthma may cause shortness of breath in certain circumstances.  So, by considering a combination of all of these impairments, it may be clear you are unable to maintain substantial gainful activity. Just stating that you have additional problems is probably not going to be good enough to win your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  Medical records from qualified treating medical professionals specializing in the area where your disability exists is usually the best supporting documentation to help prove your disability claim.  At times, general medical practitioners may work to help support your disability claim, but many times an Administrative Law … Continued

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September 27, 2011

How Long is the Wait for a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing?

In the past couple of years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had high hopes to improve the wait time for disabled individuals to get a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Because there was such a large number of backlogged disability appeals waiting to get a hearing date, the SSA’s proposed goal was to improve the Social Security appeals system by hiring more ALJ’s to hear cases, add more hearing centers, and implement technologies that would make it easier to process more hearings across the nation. With these intended plans, the SSA did not foresee the significant budget cuts that would later disrupt these proposed plans. Unfortunately, the backlog of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals has not decreased; as a matter of fact, it appears that the number of disability appeals has grown since this initial plan. In 2011, a study shows that a lack of resources, combined with an increased number of SSDI and SSI claims filed, may be having an impact on the wait time for a hearing. Statistically, the study showed that the number of appeals nationally still pending in the current year was 735,660.  In the 2010 fiscal year, the number of individuals waiting for a hearing was 705,367.  As you can see, there is a significant increase in applicants waiting for a hearing from last year. Although there is an increase in the number of backlogged cases, the average wait period for an individual to get in front of an ALJ has decreased from 514 days in 2008 to 369 days in 2010. So regardless, the SSA has been able to improve the wait period from 2008 to 2010. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a disabled individual to get a hearing scheduled faster than other disabled individuals.  Although, there may be measures that a disability claimant can take in order to increase their chances of being approved for benefits … 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 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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