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May 15, 2019

Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Past Jobs?

Many of my clients applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) wonder why I ask them about jobs they have performed in the past.  In claims for disability benefits, Social Security evaluates whether they believe you can return to jobs you held in the past. They look at the last 15 years of your employment history. As you can imagine, it may be easier to return to work at a call center as opposed to a heavy construction job.  In this blog, I will briefly explain how this process works. During the Social Security claims process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will examine your past work to see if you can return to that work with the medical impairments you are experiencing.  At the initial stages, a disability examiner will look at your job titles along with the physical and mental demand levels of your past employment.  If the disability examiner determines you can do your past work, your claim will be denied.  If you cannot perform your past relevant work, the SSA will also determine whether you acquired transferable skills to perform a job with lower exertional requirements.  If they determine there are jobs you can perform with your transferable skills, your claim will also be denied.  Many of my clients are denied for these reasons. This is something you can appeal, and it is usually in your best interest to do so.  After appealing a disability denial, you may find yourself at an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  There will be a Vocational Expert (VE) at the hearing to testify about the demands of your previous employment and occupations in the labor force that can be performed with certain physical and/or mental restrictions.  This is where your attorney or representative can help the … Continued

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April 18, 2019

Sciatica and Social Security Disability

Sciatica and Social Security Disability. Sciatica can generally be described as radiation of pain from your lower back into your hip, buttocks, and/or lower extremities.  This can result from the sciatic nerve being pinched or compressed.  It is often caused by the degeneration of an intervertebral disc.  The pain from sciatica can vary greatly from a minor pain to a burning sensation or the feeling of an electrical shock. If you experience sciatica, testing such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s can demonstrate the cause of your sciatic pain.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) relies on these types of objective tests to establish a disabling condition.  Most medical providers can order objective testing to help determine the cause of your symptoms.  An abundance of medical treatment is needed to prove to the SSA how severe your disabling condition is.  Common treatment types can include pain management, injections, or physical therapy.  Without these types of medical documentation, it can be hard to support your allegations of pain; relying on the SSA to send you to one of their exams is usually not enough.  It is important for you to tell your medical providers how you experience sciatic pain and the limitations it causes you. Many of my clients with back impairments experience negative effects on their daily lives.  They describe pain with standing, walking, and sitting. These limitations can impact a person’s ability to do many job tasks.  In addition to preventing a worker’s postural movements like reaching or bending, pain can make it hard to concentrate or complete your duties.  Some of my clients even require an assistive device like a cane or walker in order to relieve their pain while they stand or walk.  This can cause difficulty in jobs that require an employee to stand and walk around … Continued

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March 14, 2019

Social Security Disability and Your Date Last Insured

I have found the concept of a Date Last Insured (DLI) can be difficult for my clients to understand.  In my practice as an Indiana Social Security Disability lawyer, I may need to explain this concept to my clients several times to for them to fully grasp what it means.  I understand the difficulty in accepting that your eligibility for disability insurance benefits has expired when you are struggling with a severe disability and find you cannot take care of yourself or your family.  In this blog, I will attempt to explain why your DLI is important and how it is established. Your Date last Insured, or DLI, is established by acquiring work credits.  You establish work credits by working and paying into the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, also known as FICA taxes, to the United States Government.  When you receive your paycheck stub, you can see the amount of FICA taxes being deducted.  By paying this tax, you are essentially paying premiums to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits should you become disabled.  Although many factors can come into play, your DLI generally expires around five years after you stop working.  Another general rule is that to establish a DLI, you must have worked full time for at least 5 out of the last 10 years.  If you have recently stopped working due to a disabling condition, your DLI is usually in the future. However, if you stopped working many years ago, your DLI may have already passed, which is sometimes referred to as a “remote DLI.”  So, why is your DLI so important?  Your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits is determined by your DLI.   You must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you became disabled before your disability insurance … Continued

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March 4, 2019

If I Have Crohn’s Disease Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

In my experience, Crohn’s disease can be a very disabling condition and may qualify you for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The symptoms from Crohn’s disease can be painful, uncomfortable, and can consume most of the person’s day just trying to complete simple tasks.  Very few employers will tolerate an employee that spends much of the day off task and consistently in the nearest restroom.  The Social Security Administration recognizes this, and many times these exact issues are addressed at an Administrative Law Judge hearing. My clients generally describe the similar symptoms, and these can include, but are not limited to: Diarrhea Abdominal Pain Fatigue Fever Vomiting Weight Loss In these cases, it is crucial to obtain objective testing to prove your symptoms are a result of your diagnosis.  In my experience, in cases of individuals with severe Crohn’s disease, many of these tests have been performed before I even talk to my client.  A comprehensive medical file can be key to you receiving your disability benefits.  The SSA usually wants to see that you have exhausted all avenues for treatment in an attempt to resolve your condition.  The Social Security Administration examines Crohn’s disease in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 5.00 Digestive System.  These listings define qualifying criteria for disabilities and the objective testing used to prove the severity of the condition.  Listings can be difficult to interpret without the aid of a trained physician or qualified attorney.  Many times, I will ask a treating physician to complete a questionnaire to show the client meets those criteria.  Another way to win your Social Security disability claim is to show the SSA and an Administrative Law Judge that your condition is so severe you cannot sustain full-time employment.  This can be done … Continued

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February 20, 2019

Will I Get the Chance to Talk to An Actual Attorney When I Call Your Office?

A common complaint I hear from perspective clients is that when they hire a lawyer, they seldom get the chance to speak directly to the lawyer.  The majority of my staff are attorneys who focus on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.  The attorneys in my practice make the decision to accept potential clients, not the administrative staff.  We believe this initial attorney/client contact is crucial in beginning our case.  The initial contact with an attorney can help you decide if the relationship is a good fit for you, in addition to helping you understand the disability process.  The lawyers in my office strive to explain not only the process, but what can be done to enhance your chances of winning your disability claim.  This initial contact can give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding the appeals process, the importance of your medical providers, and your chances of being successful in your disability claim.  With my office, the attorney client contact does not stop after the initial conversation.  Our attorneys answer questions from current clients on a daily basis. The wait to have your case heard in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can be lengthy.  Many things can change during the long wait and chances are, you will have additional questions along the way.  They can range from status updates and updating your medical providers and diagnoses, to questions regarding your ability to go back to work and what ramifications that will have on your claim.  Our office is busy, and I believe you should want it that way.  We are working with medical providers to get your medical records, filing appeals, corresponding with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and preparing cases for upcoming court dates.  Our administrative staff works closely with … Continued

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November 30, 2018

What You Can Do to Help Win Your Social Security Disability Case

We believe that the following simple steps may help enhance your claim:   File your paperwork in a timely manner. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to meet certain deadlines.  You have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Reconsideration after being denied on your initial application.  Failure to file this paperwork in a timely fashion may force you to start the process from the beginning unless you can prove you had good cause for your late filing.  If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you again have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Hearing.  Again, if you do not meet this deadline within the 60 days allowed, you may find yourself filing an initial application and starting the process from the beginning. Throughout the process, the SSA may ask you to complete a number of forms and reports that all have their own deadlines. Failure to do so can result in a denial.   See the appropriate types of physicians for your conditions and comply with treatment, if possible. Seeing the right kind of specialist specific to your disability can go a long way to prove to the SSA you are disabled.  The Social Security Administration follows specific rules regarding how to consider medical records or opinions, and your General Practitioner’s opinion alone may not provide enough weight to convince the SSA. More consideration is given to statements from a specialist such as statements relating to the severity of your condition, specific objective testing, and medical source statements as to your functional ability to work.  Our office welcomes all medical provider records that support your case. The more records we can get to support your claim, the stronger your claim becomes. We know that your medical insurance … Continued

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January 31, 2017

Social Security Disability and the Durational Requirement

As a Social Security Disability Attorney, I see the Social Security Administration (SSA) turn people down for a variety of reasons. One of the common ways you may be turned down for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is because the SSA states you do not meet its Durational Requirement.  This is a fairly easy way for them to turn down your claim, but you can appeal this decision and many times find yourself with a favorable outcome in the long run.   What is the “Durational Requirement”? The language the SSA uses requires that you must have an impairment lasting or expected to last at least 12 months.  As you can tell, this can be a pretty subjective standard.  The SSA makes this determination on the current medical records they have on hand.  Unfortunately, your medical record may be incomplete when they make this determination.  You can appeal this decision and if you believe you are unable to work and will continue to be unable to work it is most likely in your best interest to file a Request for Reconsideration or Request for Hearing to move your case along.  You have approximately 60 days to file these appeals and it is very important to do so in a timely manner so you do not have to file another initial application.   It is also important to note your impairment must prevent you from performing Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for at least 12 months in a row. What this essentially means is that you cannot receive disability benefits when your wages are over SGA.  This is a monetary amount establishing a cap you cannot go over.  Many of my clients have difficulty grasping this concept when they are holding down a full time job while … Continued

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December 5, 2016

Should I Be Nervous About My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Clients often tell me they are very nervous and anxious about their upcoming Social security Disability Insurance/Supplemental Security Income hearing. It is pretty easy to understand why.  Some people have never been to a hearing and others are so worried about the outcome they cannot even sleep the night before the hearing date.  Hopefully, this blog will shed a little light on what the atmosphere is at a Social Security disability hearing.   These hearings are considered informal. What that means is there are usually not any strict trial rules and the atmosphere is not that of a criminal or civil trial.  Many Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) will let you know that at the very beginning of the hearing.  Although I say it is informal, interrupting others may not be in your best interest and waiting your turn to answer questions may be advisable.  Most hearings have a predictable pattern and if you have an attorney or representative they can usually tell you what that pattern is.  I try to prepare my clients for each individual ALJ that will hear their case.  Different Judges think different things are important.  I believe it is helpful to make things easy for your Judge by being prepared and sticking to what they are interested in.  It would be a rare occasion that making a Judge angry would benefit you in any way.  Don’t get me wrong, all of your information needs to be presented, but as I said it should be done in a manner the court will respect and listen to.  In my experience, most hearings last around forty-five minutes to one hour.  Of course this can vary depending on the complexity of the case and each individual Judge.   Being nervous is normal and should be expected when the stakes are … Continued

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