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November 26, 2014

What Is The Timeline For My Social Security Disability Claim?

Many claimants wonder what the timeline looks like for a Social Security disability claim from start to finish.  The waiting time for a claim can depend on many factors and can vary greatly from case to case. Step 1: Initial Application In my experience, the average waiting time for a decision on the initial application is about 4 months, but this is only an estimate. This wait time can depend on multiple things.  One factor is how quickly your medical providers respond to the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s requests for medical records.  The SSA will request any relevant medical records from the medical providers you listed on your initial application.  In my experience, the turnaround time for medical records can range from one week to a few months.  Another factor that impacts the waiting time at this stage is how long it takes the SSA to obtain additional information it needs about your disabling conditions.  This additional information can come in the form of consultative exams (one-time assessments by doctors who examine you on the SSA’s behalf) or questionnaires about your work history and your activities of daily living.  Finally, the wait time can be longer or shorter based on the SSA’s current workload. Step 2: Request for Reconsideration In my experience, claimants wait approximately 3 months for a decision on a request for reconsideration, but this is only an estimate. The waiting time at this step has the greatest variation among my clients.  Some clients receive a decision within a few weeks, especially if they have not received any additional medical treatment since they completed their initial application.  Others wait months as their adjudicators work to obtain additional information, especially if the claimants have experienced big changes in their disabling conditions since completing the initial application.  Usually this step simply entails a medical records update and … Continued

Filed under: Appeals Process, Claims Process, Evaluation Process, Hearings Process, Social Security Disability Benefits Claims Process, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) || Tagged under:
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November 24, 2014

The Social Security Administration’s Five Step Process

Curious as to how the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes their decision on whether a claimant is disabled or not?  The SSA uses a five-step process, called the “sequential evaluation process,” to evaluate whether claimants’ disabilities are severe enough to prevent them from working.  The steps of the process are as follows: Are you working? Yes: If you are working at the time you apply and your earnings are above “substantial gainful activity,” the SSA will find you not disabled. “Substantial gainful activity” means that your gross earnings average more than $1070 a month (or $1800 per month if you are blind), Social Security generally will not consider you disabled.  The amount per month changes from year to year. Note that Social Security is looking only at your earnings, not at your total income.  If you receive money for something other than work activity, like insurance benefits or investment income, Social Security does not consider it at this step. No: If you are not working, or if your gross earnings average less than $1070 per month (or $1800 per month if you are blind), the evaluation proceeds to step two. Is your medical condition “severe?” Yes: Your medical condition is “severe” under Social Security’s rules if: It is a “medically determinable impairment.”  Typically, you must have a diagnosis from a doctor with medical evidence supporting that diagnosis; an explanation from you of the symptoms you experience is not enough. It meets the duration requirement.  Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least twelve consecutive months, or it must be expected to end in death. It significantly limits your physical or mental abilities to do basic work activities. No: If your condition has no more than a minimal effect on your ability to basic work activities, the SSA will find you not disabled. Does your … Continued

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November 20, 2014

Appealing Your Indiana Social Security Disability Claim for Cirrhosis of the Liver

Many people find that their initial application for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, even though they have a medical condition, such as cirrhosis of the liver, that may be very severe.  Statistically, you are more likely to be turned down for disability benefits on your initial application than you are to be approved.  Therefore, it is important to follow through with an appeal of  the denial of your claim to improve your chances of obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) identifies cirrhosis of the liver as a disabling condition that may entitle you to disability payments.  The SSA addresses this condition in its Listing of Impairments at Listing 5.05: Chronic Liver Disease.  This Listing spells out the criteria that allow a patient with cirrhosis of the liver to be found disabled.  If your medical records show that you have certain complications stemming from your diagnosis of cirrhosis, and if medical imaging and testing have severe enough results, you could meet Social Security’s criteria based on your medical records alone.  For more specific details of Listing 5.05, see this blog post. Even if your medical records do not show the specific conditions and test results required to meet the Listing, you may still be disabled under Social Security’s rules if you show that your cirrhosis of the liver symptoms and treatments prevent you from maintaining full time employment.  These symptoms can include, but are not limited to: Fatigue Jaundice or yellowing of the skin Weight loss Nausea Obviously, symptoms may vary from individual to individual, but the effects of these symptoms can powerfully affect your ability to work.  Further, if you have additional medical conditions that cause additional symptoms, the combined effects of all of your medical conditions may prevent you from being able to … Continued

Filed under: Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments || Tagged under:
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October 30, 2014

Indiana SSDI Benefits and Your Date Last Insured

The Social Security Administration’s eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be confusing.  If you have applied for SSDI benefits, you may have been told about your Date Last Insured (DLI).  Your DLI is one of the first things Social Security checks when determining whether you are eligible for disability benefits. Most workers either have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks or pay them when they file their tax returns on self-employment income.  For each quarter (three-month period) that you earn enough money, Social Security awards you a credit for that quarter.  You must accumulate enough work credits to be eligible for Social Security’s different programs. For Social Security Disability Insurance, not only must you have enough work credits, but you must have enough of them in the last ten years in order to qualify.  Social Security’s formula for calculating the required number of credits is complicated; the number of credits you need varies depending on your age.  However, if you are over the age of thirty you generally need to have worked and earned credits for five of the last ten years.  (If you are younger than age thirty, you generally need to have work credits for about half the time since you turned twenty-one.) Therefore, as time passes after you stop working and earning credits, the fewer of your work credits count toward your eligibility for disability.  Eventually you will reach the point at which you no longer have enough work credits to qualify for disability.  This point is your Date Last Insured.  If it has been several years since you have worked, your DLI may be in the past.  If this is the case, you may still be eligible for SSDI, but you will have to show that you became disabled before your DLI.  If you stopped … Continued

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October 14, 2014

Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I have problems using my hands?

In my Indiana Social Security disability law practice, I see a very wide variety of disabling conditions.  Many of my clients have conditions that affect  their overall physical ability to work; that is, those clients are unable to sit, stand, and walk long enough in combination to complete an eight-hour work day.  Others, though, have impairments that affect specific areas of functioning.  For example, some of my clients have impairments that limit their ability to use their hands.   Even if you can sit or stand for an entire work day without difficulty, the inability to use your hands to pick things up, handle small parts, or manipulate objects might seriously limit the kinds of work you can perform.  In my experience almost all work requires at least the occasional use of  the worker’s hands.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes this limitation, and many times my clients who are significantly limited in the use of their hands are found disabled based on that limitation. Many types of medical problems may cause a person to lose full use of his hands, including arthritis, neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, or amputation, to name a few.  If you have problems with your hands, Social Security evaluates your ability to work based on your ability to perform the following types of movements: Reaching: extending your hands and arms in any direction Handling: seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise performing movements that require you to use your whole hand Fingering: picking, pinching, or otherwise performing movements with your fingers If you have difficulties writing, typing, buttoning, zipping, or keeping your grip on things you are holding in your hands, you would likely have difficulty performing work activities that require you to reach, handle, and finger.  These limitations are usually magnified if you have to use your hands for any … 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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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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September 9, 2011

Social Security Disability Attorney in Indianapolis and Disability Benefits for Affective Disorders

Indiana Social Security disability lawyer Scott D. Lewis is an experienced attorney who represents individuals with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. In his disability claims experience, he has represented individuals with a variety of disabling conditions.  Whether you suffer from a mental disorder or a physical disability, if you are unable to work due to this disabling condition or a combination of disabling conditions, you may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. Attorney Scott D. Lewis often finds himself representing a disability claimant who suffers from an affective disorder.  An affective disorder is a disabling condition which is characterized by a disturbance of mood.  Mood is an emotion that generally involves depression or elation. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits for an affective disorder, an individual is required to suffer from an affective disorder considered severe.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) outlines the qualifying criteria in the “Listing of Impairments,” Section 12.04 Affective Disorder. In this listing, it states that a disability claimant must meet the criteria by proving that one of the following conditions is persistent (either continuous or intermittent): Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four (4) of the following:   a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or c. Sleep disturbance; or d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or e. Decreased energy; or f. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or g. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or h. Thoughts of suicide; or i. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or 2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following: a. Hyperactivity; or b. Pressure of speech; or c. Flight of ideas; or d. Inflated self-esteem; or e. Decreased need for sleep; or f. Easy distractibility; or g. Involvement in activities that have a high probability … Continued

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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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August 23, 2011

Neuropathy and Social Security Disability Benefits

Indiana Social Security disability claimants suffering from neuropathy may find themselves denied disability benefits in the early stages of the disability claims process. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis has represented numerous of his Indiana neighbors who are unable to work due to neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy stems from changes to the peripheral nervous system.  Damage to the peripheral nervous system can result in interruption of  important communications needed in the body. In Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis’ experience, the majority of his disability clients complain of numbness and/or tingling in their feet and/or hands.  Many individuals also report the inability to feel hot and cold sensations.  These are some more common symptoms and in severe cases the symptoms may become even more extreme. There are numerous causes of neuropathy.  Some identifiable causes of neuropathy can include diabetes, auto immune diseases, and alcoholism, to name a few.  If you are experiencing neuropathy type symptoms you should consult a qualified physician to ensure you receive proper medical treatment.  It is reported even physicians may have a difficult time pinpointing the origin of neuropathy symptoms. If you find yourself unable to work due to peripheral neuropathy because you are unable to sit, stand, or walk for lengths of time you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.  You can contact Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis and his staff for a free consultation.

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