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May 22, 2014

Is My Initial Consultation Really Free?

Your initial consultation with our office is free, and there are many reasons why.  When you call our office to initially discuss your claim, you will probably have many questions.  So will we.  We will need to talk to you to get an idea of whether you qualify for one of Social Security’s disability programs.  Also, during this first interaction with you we can get pertinent information that will give us a better “feel” for how we can help you.  Some of the questions we will probably ask you include, but are not limited to:  Are you still working?  It is possible to qualify for Social Security disability benefits even if you are working, but there are limits on the number of hours you can work and the amount of monthly gross income you can earn. When is the last time you worked?  What is your household income?  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two disability programs: eligibility for Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) is based on the number of work credits you have earned in the past ten years; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on your household income and financial resources. What medical conditions do you have that keep you from being able to work?  These conditions can be mental, physical, or a combination of both; Social Security typically requires medical evidence showing that you have been diagnosed with these conditions and are receiving treatment for them. There are many other factors involved in a Social Security disability claim, including your age, education, and prior work experience.  You may wonder why these things are important.  The SSA determines your ability to work based on many things.  In some cases, Social Security takes into account the fact that there are fewer job opportunities in the economy for people over the age of fifty. … Continued

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May 20, 2014

Heart Disease According to the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes many cardiovascular impairments as disabling conditions.  Many people use the term heart disease interchangeably with cardiovascular impairments.  The SSA defines a cardiovascular impairment as  “any disorder that affects the proper functioning of the heart or the circulatory system (that is, arteries, veins, capillaries, and the lymphatic drainage).  The disorder can be congenital or acquired.”  The SSA lists cardiovascular impairments under Section 4.00 in the Listing of Impairments.  The Listings define certain diagnoses, clinical findings, and symptoms that the SSA considers disabling.  If you can provide appropriate medical evidence showing that your impairment meets the definitions set out in the Listings, you might be found disabled without having to demonstrate how your impairment keeps you from being able to work. Below are a few cardiovascular impairments that the Social Security Administration addresses in its Listing of Impairments. Chronic Heart Failure Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.  Some signs and symptoms of heat failure may include: increased rate of breathing, increased difficulty for normal breathing, pulmonary edema, cardiac asthma (wheezing), and/or apex beat or gallop rhythm.  Heart failure stems from the myocardium muscle losing efficiency, which is usually caused by damage or or overloading of the muscle.  The leading cause of chronic heart failure is coronary artery disease.  The SSA recognizes chronic heart failure in Section 4.02 of the Listing of Impairments.  To meet this listing you must be able to show certain levels of systolic or diastolic failure, severe symptoms as a result of your heart failure, or multiple episodes of acute congestive heart failure. Ischemic Heart Disease  Ischemic heart disease is more commonly known as coronary artery disease.  This condition happens when blockages in the arteries reduce blood flow.  Ischemia is defined as “reduced blood supply.”  The leading cause of ischemic heart disease … Continued

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May 7, 2014

Social Security Disability Benefits for Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach.  It is part of the endocrine and nervous systems.  The pancreas produces many important hormones that circulate in the blood.  It also produces digestive enzymes that help break down food.  Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed.  Damage to the pancreas can occur when pancreatic enzymes activate before they are secreted.   There are two main types of pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis happens over a very short period of time.  This type of pancreatitis is usually caused by gallstones or heavy drinking.  Symptoms may include: Fever Nausea/vomiting Upper abdominal pain/swollen or tender abdomen Increased heart rate Chronic pancreatitis usually results after a case of acute pancreatitis.  Chronic pancreatitis can ultimately stem from gallstones, hereditary disorders, cystic fibrosis, certain medicine, or heavy alcohol use.  Symptoms may include: Any symptoms of acute pancreatitis Weight loss Diabetes In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a disability that has lasted at least twelve months, is expected to last at least twelve months, or is expected to end in death.  If you have chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you can show that your condition is disabling according to Social Security’s rules. One of the first things you must do in a Social Security disability claim is to show that you have a “medically determinable impairment.”  In other words, your condition must be diagnosed using acceptable medical clinical or laboratory techniques.  It is important to see a specialized physician such as a gastroenterologist or endocrinologist if you are diagnosed with pancreatitis.  Not only will a specialist be most likely to accurately diagnose and treat your condition, medical records from a specialized physician are likely to be given more weight by Social Security’s disability evaluators … Continued

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April 24, 2014

Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a fairly common digestive disease.  The severity and the longevity of the disease can vary greatly, though.  For some patients, a treatment of conservative therapy with bowel rest may be sufficient; others may require more aggressive antibiotics or even surgery. The exact cause of diverticulitis is unknown.  It was previously thought that a high fiber diet may help alleviate the pressure in the colon, thereby lowering the chances of diverticulitis forming.  However, in a study designed to test this theory exactly, it was shown that patients with a high fiber diet actually had an increased frequency of developing diverticulitis. Most cases of diverticulitis are diagnosed by use of a CT scan.  CT scans are cited to be very accurate (98% effective) in diagnosing diverticulitis.  Symptoms of diverticulitis may include one or more of the following: abdominal pain nausea vomiting fever cramping constipation While the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a listing that directly addresses diverticulitis in its Listing of Impairments, your diverticulitis may be disabling enough that you meet Social Security’s definition of disability in a different way.  In order to receive Social Security disability benefits for diverticulitis, you must prove one of  two things: the symptoms you experience are at least equal in severity to the symptoms of  another condition in Social Security’s Listings, or the symptoms you experience prevent you from performing all of the demands of a full-time job on a regular and continuing basis. One possible way a claimant might qualify for Social Security disability benefits for diverticulitis is to equal the listing for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  IBD is listed under Section 5.06 of the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, and it has many of the same symptoms as diverticulitis.  To meet the listing for IBD you must show one of the following: two … Continued

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April 14, 2014

Kidney Failure and Social Security Disability Benefits in Indiana

If you suffer from kidney failure, also known as renal failure, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.  Kidney failure is recognized by the Social Security Administration in its Listing of Impairments under section 6.00 – Genitourinary Impairments. Kidney failure is a medical condition in which the kidneys fail to filter the waste products from the blood.  There are two main types of kidney failure: acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.  In acute kidney injury, the condition will develop over a short period of time – it can be as little as a few days in some cases.  Chronic kidney disease may take much longer to show signs and symptoms, as it takes much more time to develop.  In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a condition that is expected to last at least twelve months or to end in death. Signs and symptoms of kidney disease may include the following: High levels of urea in the blood, which may result in: Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea Weight loss Blood in urine/nocturnal uniration/unusual amounts of urine Buildup of phosphates in the blood, which may cause: Itching Bone damage Muscle cramps Buildup of potassium, which may result in: Muscle paralysis Abnormal heart rhythms Fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys, causing pain in the patient’s back or side Low amounts of hemoglobin in the blood, which my result in: Tiredness/weakness Memory problems/difficulty concentrating There are two listings for kidney failure in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments.  These listings are summarized below; visit Social Security’s website here for the full text of these listings. Section 6.02 – Impairment of renal function, due to any chronic renal disease that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.  To meet this listing, a claimant must … Continued

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April 8, 2014

Initial Application Process for Social Security Disability Benefits

In my Indiana Social Security disability law practice, I receive many phone calls each day from people who want to know what they need to do to apply for Social Security disability benefits.  Many of them have worked their whole lives, and they are uncertain and afraid because they can no longer provide income for their families.  They need help figuring out whether they qualify for Social Security benefits and what they need to do to start the application process. My staff and I are happy not only to advise people about the application process; we also provide representation for people who are not sure they want to proceed with the initial application on their own.  Some people feel confident enough to go to Social Security’s website to complete the application on their own, or they are willing to wait a few weeks to get an appointment with their local Social Security office to start an application.  However, for those who want professional assistance from the very first step, an attorney or qualified representative can make sure that the application is completed quickly and completely. The majority of people who apply for Social Security disability receive a denial of their initial application.  However, the information you provide in your initial application is the foundation for your entire disability case, so it is important to be as thorough as possible.  Here is a list of a some of the important information you will need to provide in your initial application: Information about past and present marriages, including when you were married or divorced, and identifying information about your spouse(s) The names and addresses of your employers for the past two years How much you earned in wages for the past two years For each of your jobs in the past fifteen … Continued

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January 7, 2014

Is the Social Security Administration Helping Me With My Disability Claim?

If you have applied for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) I think it is a good idea to ask yourself whether you are receiving enough help from the Social Security Administration as your claim progresses.  There can be many frustrating and confusing areas of Social Security disability law that the Social Security Administration (SSA) may or may not help you with.  Many claimants in Indiana and nationwide do not realize they can hire an attorney or representative to answer many of their questions, help them with paperwork, and provide legal representation at their hearings on a contingency basis.  What are some ways an attorney can help to make the Social Security disability appeals process easier for you? Filing paperwork on a timely basis – There are certain deadlines in Social Security disability cases, and while the SSA may notify you about these time constraints, they are probably not going to help you make sure that you meet them.  An attorney or representative can help identify your limited time to appeal your claim and help you make sure you provide all the information the SSA has requested by the filing deadlines. Providing timely responses to your questions – Unfortunately for disability claimants SSA staff members are very busy.  Social Security’s reduced hours and limited staff make it difficult for many claimants to receive a timely response to their questions or to even get a chance to speak to a field office worker.  Have you ever sat on hold with a Social Security office for a very long time just to ask a very simple question?  My staff and I strive to respond to our clients in a timely manner in order to answer questions they may have regarding their claim.  We also follow up regularly with the … Continued

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December 11, 2012

Depression and Your Indiana Social Security Disability Appeal

Depression seems to rear its head in the majority of the claims I handle in front of the Social Security Administration (SSA).  While some of my clients suffer from depression alone others may suffer from depression due to their physical disabilities.  I am sure I am not alone when it comes to a large portion of my clients suffering from depression, in fact I am sure the Administrative Law Judges who preside over the hearings I attend routinely examine medical records with a diagnosis of depression.  With this being a common thread I experience, just how do you win your disability claim when trying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? In my experience you need to take a long hard look at who you are getting psychological treatment from.  If you are receiving treatment from a general practitioner you may want to rethink your medical options.  The SSA usually wants you to be seeing someone who specializes in the disability you claim you have.  In other words, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a mental health therapist may be your best option when trying to prove you have symptoms of depression that are preventing you from working.  A well documented course of ongoing therapy with detailed progress notes can go a long way in convincing a Judge you are disabled.  Hospitalizations for mental illness can also show you are not getting better in spite of treatment and following prescribed medications.  Sometimes I will sit in a hearing and listen to my client testify and think they are certainly clinically depressed by their testimony, but realize at the same time that their medical records are minimal and they have not been seeing a doctor that the SSA is going to recognize.  The truth is you can be … 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 29, 2012

Social Security Disability Benefits For Back Pain

As an Indiana Social Security attorney, the majority of my clients suffer from back pain. I personally have occasionally experienced back pain that makes it hard to move around, and I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if the pain was present all of the time. I believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to work a full time job if this was happening to me on a constant basis. I can sympathize with my clients when they describe their pain to me, but I also realize sympathy is not what they want. They want to be able to provide for themselves and their families when they are unable to work due to back problems. It is important for Social Security disability claimants to know there is a very specific way the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at impairments involving the spine. One of the first things the SSA looks at when examining claims involving the spine is whether or not the individual meets or equals a “Listing”. The SSA publishes a set of guidelines that details what the SSA considers to be disabling conditions. Listing 1.00 covers the musculoskeletal system.  Listing 1.04 specifically covers disorders of the spine, and in order to meet it you must have objective evidence (e.g., medical tests or imaging) of your impairment. MRIs can be of great importance when attempting to show you meet or equal this listing. You usually cannot depend on the SSA to send you for the appropriate testing and imaging; instead your own physician must conduct testing or refer you for testing that proves you have the required criteria. When I am trying to prove that a client meets or equals this listing, I send questionnaires to the treating physicians requesting they provide relevant details about the … Continued

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