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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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May 22, 2018

When Does Your Eligibility For Social Security Disability Insurance End?

Many of my clients ask questions about their eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Like many other insurance programs, there is a date when your coverage expires, and you must prove to the provider (in this case, Social Security) that the claim occurred before the insurance has ended.  With SSDI, that date is based on your work history and can be in either the past or the future.  This is known as your Date Last Insured (DLI). Your DLI is established by working over a period of time. A general rule of thumb is that you must have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years (20 of the last 40 quarters) in order to have a DLI that has not yet expired.  You must be contributing to Social Security through FICA taxes during these quarters to be eligible.  The specific number of credits needed varies by your age.  If you would like to find out your DLI, you can contact Social Security directly. Many of my clients ask me why their DLI is important.  In my experience, cases are won or lost based on how much time has occurred since the DLI has expired.  A DLI in the past (known as a “remote” DLI) can make a claim difficult to win because the Social Security Administration (SSA) may only consider evidence of medical treatment prior to that date.  Even if your condition worsens after the DLI passes, Social Security may not find you disabled.  If you are diagnosed with a new condition after the DLI passes, Social Security will not consider it as part of your SSDI claim. Therefore, I recommend that anyone seeking Social Security Disability apply for benefits as soon as they believe they are unable to work due to medical conditions.  Too often, I’ve … Continued

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April 24, 2018

Are You Considering an Initial Application for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Starting an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits can be a daunting task.  First, you must determine which program or programs you may be eligible for.  Several different programs make up Social Security Disability.  The two main programs are Retirement Survivor Disability Insurance (RSDI or SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Both programs are Social Security disability benefits, but you become eligible in different ways.  For RSDI, you are required to have enough work credits to be eligible.  If you have worked at least five of the last ten years and paid taxes on those earnings, you probably have the necessary work credits.  Your monthly benefit amount is based off your past earnings.  To be eligible for SSI benefits, you must have limited household income and resources.  Less common Social Security Disability benefits may come from Disabled Widow(er)’s Benefits or Disabled Child Benefits.  While you may be eligible for more than one program, Social Security will only award monthly benefits for the program that pays the highest amount. Next, you will need to decide how you would like to apply.  You can apply online on Social Security’s website, call Social Security at 1(800) 772-1213 to set up a phone appointment, or visit your local Social Security field office.  For SSI claims, you will need to talk to someone at your local Social Security office, either in person or by phone, to make sure you meet the resource requirements needed to apply. When applying for disability benefits, you should gather together some information that Social Security asks for in every claim.  This information includes: Places you have received medical treatment- Including date ranges, reasons for treatment, and contact information for the providers Places you have worked in the last 15 years- Including dates of employment, how much you … Continued

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January 29, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts About Social Security Disability

I represent hundreds of clients every year in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims and there are things that I take for granted people know.  However, since they don’t do this every day, they simply do not.  In this blog I’ll share some things that I believe should be mentioned. Apply right away. What are you waiting for?  File an application the first day you are unable to work full time.  Sure, there may be technical and medical reasons why you do not qualify, but the application is free.  If you do not have an attorney to explain these medical and technical reasons to you, let the Social Security Administration (SSA) explain them.  I have seen clients wait too long to file an application and find themselves having a harder time because their disability insurance had expired.  Also, it is important to note that SSI payments can only be paid retroactively from your date of application. File your appeals timely! Most appeals only allow for 60 days plus a short grace period for mailing time.  You do not want to have to start over from the beginning, so get the Request for Reconsideration or Request for Hearing completed quickly. If you can afford it, see your doctors. Most Social Security disability cases are won through medical records.  Objective tests, progress notes, and physician statements can be crucial in proving you qualify for the benefits you need to support you and your family. When you go to your hearing, strive to ensure your medical record is up to date. If you do not have an attorney, do not count on the SSA to get your medical records.  Why would you?  Up to this point, they have continually denied your claim.  There is no one that has … Continued

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December 29, 2017

How Long Do I Have to Be Disabled to Get Social Security Disability Payments?

Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a “short term” disability provision, you must meet certain durational requirements to qualify for disability payments.  The SSA requires that your severe impairment has lasted or is expected to last at least twelve months.  While this may seem pretty straight forward, it is a common reason for denying claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. It can be very difficult to determine if you are going to recover from your physical or mental impairments.  If the SSA denies your claim because they think you will get better within twelve months, they are making an educated guess based on the type, severity, and medical treatment you are receiving.  Many of my clients that have been denied for this reason on the initial application find themselves with a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) later down the road. So, do you have to wait twelve months before you apply for disability benefits?  I believe you should apply for benefits the day you are unable to work.  For disability cases, the alleged onset date and application date are important for determining how much backpay you may be entitled to receive.  There are restrictions on how far back the SSA can go from your application date for benefits, so I encourage my clients to file their claim as soon as they stop earning Substantial Gainful Activity (GAS) amounts.  For SSI applicants, the SSA can only pay benefits from the date of application, so it is very important to file the application as soon as possible to ensure full benefit amounts for backpay purposes. I don’t believe I’ve had a claimant that did not want to get better.  Just because the SSA says they believe your condition will … Continued

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November 6, 2017

Indiana Social Security Disability Appeals

Have you filed a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim and been denied?  Being timely when filing your appeal can be very important in getting your disability claim resolved.  During free initial client consultations, I see that many claimants have simply filed initial application after initial application without ever filing an appeal.  The Social Security Administration has steps you must initiate in order to follow through with your claim if you have been denied.  In my experience, starting over each time with an initial application is usually not in your best interest.   If you are denied on an Initial Application, you have sixty days to file what is called a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This is basically telling the SSA you believe they have made a mistake and are asking them another look at your claim.   They will assign a reviewer to your claim and usually make a decision within 60-90 days.  If you are again denied, you must request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Again, time is of the essence and you only have sixty days to file the correct paperwork.  There are exceptions that the SSA will look at on a case-by-case basis if you turn in your paperwork late.  In my experience, relying on the SSA to accept an untimely filing is probably not your best bet.  One of the reasons many people hire an attorney is to have a trained professional in this area to help ensure deadlines are met.   The Social Security Administration has various rules and regulations that are used to process disability claims.  Considering the numerous claims they receive, providing them with all of the information they need in a timely and complete fashion can only enhance your chances of winning your disability claim.  … Continued

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