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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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December 27, 2018

How Does the Social Security Administration Know I Have a Disability Attorney on my Case?

When you hire a disability attorney to work on your Social Security Disability  Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case, your lawyer will file a Form 1696 Appointment of Representative with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  This is the document needed for SSA to acknowledge that you now have representation.  The SSA will not allow an attorney to discuss or act on your claim without this form being signed and dated by you. With this form, the SSA acknowledges the representative can speak on your behalf with your approval.  Once received, all correspondence is sent directly to your representative.  Your representative will act as the primary contact point for the SSA to discuss your claim, but you will still receive copies of correspondence.  This can include filing of appropriate paperwork to appeal your claim, help in obtaining medical records to supplement your claim, help in arranging contact with the client, scheduling your disability hearing, and other things to help further your claim. Some of my clients change residences and telephone numbers, which can make it difficult for the SSA to contact them.  Our office can provide a stable place to provide updated information to all parties involved regarding your disability claim.  We can also explain how these updates affect your claim.  Social Security disability is the focus of our law firm, and what may seem confusing to disability claimants can be explained by a qualified attorney or representative.

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October 8, 2018

Keeping in Touch with Your Social Security Disability Attorney

Currently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a long wait time for hearings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJ); keeping in touch with your lawyer can be very important to winning your claim.  As your hearing approaches, communication with your representative can be even more important to gather your updated medical records.  Keeping in contact with your lawyer may allow for any and all medical records to be obtained and ensures that an ALJ will be able to make a decision based on the most up to date information. Some common problems I have seen with my clients include their inability to have a working phone number or a consistent mailing address.  It is easy to understand that financial hardships due to the inability to work can make it extremely difficult to afford these things.  It can be very helpful to your Social Security Disability lawyer if you call, email, or notify him/her by standard mail, of any changes to your contact information.  Sometimes, a relative or friend can serve as a consistent point of contact for my office if you grant us permission to speak to them. So many things can change while waiting for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing.  For example, your condition may have gotten worse, your medical providers may have changed, you may have undergone additional medical procedures, you may have had changes in medication, you may have undergone new objective testing, or you may even have improved and gone back at work.  All these things can potentially have an impact on your case.  Additionally, going to a Social Security disability hearing “cold”, without talking to your Social Security disability attorney, can result in some surprises.  I attempt to prepare my clients before each hearing with a preparation session to … Continued

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September 6, 2018

Neck Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

When thinking of spinal pain, people typically think of the back or lumbar area.  However, the cervical spine can also create pain and limitations that prevent an individual from working.  The cervical region consists of seven vertebrae numbered C1 through C7.  Injuries or degeneration of this area can require therapy, injections, and even major surgeries to repair damaged areas or provide relieve from severe pain.  If your cervical spine is causing pain and keeping you from working, you should file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many of my clients are diagnosed with Cervical Spondylosis, Cervical Disc Degeneration, and Cervical Spinal Stenosis.  Appropriate objective testing such as MRI’s and x-rays can better show the degree of severity to this region.  My clients often complain of symptoms including, but not limited to: Severe pain Numbness and Tingling Difficulty Moving the Head in Different Directions Headaches Problems lifting and carrying amounts of weight It is important to have medical records to support this type of claim when you go to your Social Security disability hearing.  For example, physical therapy records can show how your injuries to the cervical spine affect your ability to perform a variety of movements or activities.  If you can show the Social Security Administration (SSA) or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that you have exhausted all treatment options and that you are still disabled from a cervical impairment, you may find yourself with a favorable outcome and get the disability payments you deserve to support yourself and your family. It is important to remember to let the SSA know about all your impairments.  While you may have a severe cervical issue, other impairments like diabetes, asthma, depression, or any other severe impairment can also be considered in combination to find … Continued

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August 16, 2018

Can I Receive Social Security Disability If I Had a Heart Attack?

If you or someone you know has had a heart attack and are considering filing a claim for Social Security Disability, there are some things you should consider.  First, if you have not worked or believe you cannot work for twelve (12) consecutive months, it might be in your best interest to file immediately.  Second, you should file for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to ensure you receive the benefits under the program you are entitled to.  This blog will discuss a few ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at cases involving cardiovascular issues. The SSA examines heart related impairments in its Listing of Impairments under Section 4.00.  These listings outline in specific detail what the SSA believes are disabling conditions concerning the cardiovascular system.  If you read these listings, you may find them complicated and difficult to understand.  Many terms in these listings can be understood by a qualified physician or a Medical Expert (ME), who sometimes appear at Social Security Disability Appeals hearings.  My office can generate a “Medical Source Statement” for you to take to your cardiologist to see if you meet or equal these criteria. It is important to note that not all Social Security disability cases are won by meeting or equaling one of these listings.  After a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem, your capacity to work may be so low that you simply cannot work a full-time job, and this may also qualify you for Social Security disability.  The SSA calls this your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  Your RFC could include limitations in sitting, standing, walking, and lifting.  It could also limit your ability to stay on task and to consistently attend work, which may result in termination from employment.  Medical Source Statements from your … Continued

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July 6, 2018

What Are You Going to Say at Your Social Security Disability Hearing?

Your words matter at a Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income hearing.  The way you answer questions and the information you offer can impact the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  My staff and I try to prepare each one of my clients for their day in court.  Some of my clients listen to me carefully and some do not.  This blog contains some of my experiences representing clients in thousands of disability hearings and is not intended as legal advice. You have waited for what seems like forever to finally be heard in court.  Chances are you have a lot to say, and you cannot wait to give the ALJ an earful about your disabilities.  While this is common, you must remember the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the ALJ that hears your case has a very precise game plan for how they are going to analyze your case.  For a seasoned disability lawyer, the questions are usually very predictable.  If your attorney has experience with an ALJ, they can usually guide you through what is important and prepare you adequately. In my experience, there are four broad areas that you may be asked about, but all ALJs can differ: Background questions- these can be easy and include basic information such as your age, education, marital status, living arrangement, height, weight, dominant hand, financial situation, and other personal questions. Past employment- the SSA is required to go back 15 years and examine your old jobs to determine whether you can return to any past jobs with your current disabilities. Questions here can include job titles, duties, exertional requirements, and other job-related questions What are your disabling conditions? This is usually the longest set of questions and can include medical treatment you are receiving; procedures you have … Continued

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June 8, 2018

Autism and Social Security Disability Benefits

As an Indiana Social Security Disability Attorney, I have noticed an increase in the number of children and young adults diagnosed with Autism.  My office takes great pride in helping these individuals get the benefits they deserve.  Preparing these claims for the Social Security Administration (SSA) usually takes a focused approach to show an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) the severity of this condition.  This blog will briefly outline some of the information I believe is important in proving a claim for an individual who experiences Autism. The good news is that the SSA does recognize Autism as a disabling condition.  In the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Autism is covered under Listing 112.10 for children and 12.10 for adults.  Using these guidelines, a Social Security disability lawyer can craft arguments to help show the person qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Many times, a Medical Source Statement may be obtained by a treating source showing that the applicant meets these criteria. Through years of representing those with Autism, I have noticed many common symptoms that are considered severe by the SSA.  These can include, but are not limited to: Social impairments Communication impairments Heightened sensitivity to noise, food, clothing, etc. Repetitive behaviors Other medical conditions linked to Autism This brief list is not intended to be all inclusive because Autism is on a spectrum, and the symptoms may vary in severity and existence from individual to individual. The ability to function may also vary greatly from person to person so, as an attorney representing children or young adults with Autism, it is very important to identify which symptoms are the most severe. When preparing clients for a disability hearing, I try to ask as many questions concerning their disability to find out what aspects … Continued

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