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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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May 7, 2018

Medical Records and Social Security Disability

The importance of medical records to a Social Security disability claim cannot be understated. These documents are the primary source of evidence on which the Social Security Administration (SSA) will base its decision. Your medical records provide objective evidence of your disabling conditions and diagnoses. This may include key information such as notes from important procedures, like surgeries, or your doctor’s interpretation of test results and magnetic imaging. For mental health claims, session notes from a therapist or psychiatrist can show the SSA that you are receiving consistent and ongoing mental health treatment and reflect the severity of your condition. Therefore, it is critical that all of this documentation is made available to Social Security to ensure that they have a complete record before them when they make a decision on your disability claim. At the initial application and reconsideration stages, Social Security will gather your medical records based on the information you have provided them. You will want to make sure that whoever is reviewing your claim at these levels is kept up to date regarding the medical providers you have seen and the dates of any future appointments. If you have an attorney helping you at these levels, their office can work with your reviewer to ensure that they have all of the information needed to obtain any outstanding medical records. A complete medical file is especially important when preparing for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The wait time to get to a hearing can be quite long, so it is essential to keep your attorney informed of any changes to your treatment, including any new procedures or diagnoses, which may occur during this time period. These updates allow your attorney to keep track of your treatment providers during the wait, which can help prevent … 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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April 19, 2018

Hip Pain and Social Security Disability

Hip degeneration or injuries can be very disabling. Over time, you may notice increased inflammation, swelling, or significant pain. If you are unable to work because of a hip impairment, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If hip impairments or other conditions prevent you from working, you may want to consult an attorney right away to discuss whether you should apply for disability benefits. Do your injuries cause you to use a cane, walker, or wheelchair to get around? If your medical provider has given you a prescription for one of these assistive devices, you should keep a copy. That prescription can prove to Social Security that your assistive device is medically necessary. The need for an assistive device can significantly reduce the number of jobs that can be performed in a work setting. Social Security also evaluates disability claims using its Listing of Impairments, which outlines certain criteria that Social Security can use to determine whether a person is disabled. Typically, Social Security evaluates hip or joint impairments under Listing 1.02- Major Dysfunction of a Joint(s). In order to prove the severity of your condition, objective testing such as MRIs, x-rays, or CT scans are crucial. Additionally, medical records from surgeries, physical therapy, or injections can show your current level of functioning. Social Security will consider limitations you have sitting, standing, or walking that are caused by your hip impairments. It is important to show Social Security that you are complying with your treatment plan, especially if your symptoms are not resolving. If your limitations prevent you from performing or keeping a job, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to help you through the Social Security disability process.  Hip degeneration is not the only  impairment that our … Continued

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April 12, 2018

Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability Benefits

Is your Fibromyalgia so severe that you are unable to work?  If this is the case, it may be in your best interest to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits right away.  It is very possible that Fibromyalgia is not the only thing keeping you from working.  This condition combined with other physical or mental conditions may create an inability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to consider all of your conditions in combination to determine if you are disabled. While the cause of Fibromyalgia is yet to be determined, many of my clients complain of very similar symptoms.  These symptoms can include, but are not limited to: Muscle pain-This can be widespread and tender to the touch. Fatigue-Even with adequate sleep, many individuals feel tired. Focus, concentration, and memory problems-This is sometimes referred to as “Fibro Fog”. I have noticed many of my clients have other common symptoms.  These can include migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and depression. The SSA does recognize Fibromyalgia as a disabling condition, but it can be hard to prove without proper supporting medical evidence.  While many primary care providers diagnose Fibromyalgia and prescribe medications for its treatment, it may be in your best interest to see a rheumatologist to help support your case with the Social Security Administration.  A qualified rheumatologist can perform a “tender point” test to help show you meet the criteria for disability benefits.  Also, a medical source statement from a treating medical professional stating the diagnosis, duration, symptoms, and your inability to work can help persuade the SSA or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) you are deserving of disability benefits. With all Social Security disability cases, time is of the essence.  It is important to file your claim in … Continued

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February 16, 2018

You’ve Paid for it; Social Security Disability Benefits are Not a Gift

In addition to having medical conditions that prevent you from working, a wage earner first must have worked long enough to have earned work credits to become eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.  These credits are earned by contributing to the Social Security system through your FICA taxes.  This is not some type of federal government handout, it is a benefit program, you as a worker, have paid into.  If you receive these monthly benefits, then contributions have been paid throughout the years to make sure you were eligible for benefits. Like most other insurance programs, your insured status can expire if “premiums” are not paid.  The date a claimant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits expires is known as a Date Last Insured (DLI).  Typically, a person who has earned enough credits through FICA taxes to the federal government has a DLI that expires approximately five years after they stop working.  A person seeking SSDI benefits must be found to be disabled prior to this date.  If you wait too long to apply for SSDI benefits, this date may actually be in the past.  When this situation occurs (which is known as a remote DLI), it can be increasingly difficult to convince the SSA you were disabled further and further in the past.  The SSA may only consider medical records from on or before your date last insured and give little or no weight to your current medical condition.  As an attorney, these remote DLI issues can be difficult to argue.  I believe it is in your best interest to apply for disability as soon as you feel you cannot work full time to ensure that you have the best chance of winning your claim. As the title of this blog implies, Social Security Disability Insurance is something 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 4, 2017

Testifying at Your Social Security Disability Hearing About Your Pain

Pain is probably the most common complaint my clients have concerning their inability to work.  Physical pain can manifest itself in about any area of your body, and describing it to someone else is not always easy. Chances are when you find yourself at a Social Security disability hearing, you are going to need to explain your pain to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  This blog describes some of the more common questions I find that Judges ask about pain. Where is the pain located?  During this portion of testimony, I find many of my clients want to point to where they are affected by pain with hand gestures.  It is important to remember your hearing is being recorded, and you will need to describe in more detail with words exactly where you feel pain.  For example, if you have back pain, you would need to say “it is in my lower back and radiates down my right leg” if that is the case. What does the pain feel like?  Descriptive terms like dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, burning can usually give a Judge a good idea of what you are experiencing.  These are not the only words that can describe your pain, but it is important for you to be able to describe what you feel as you are the only one that knows exactly what you feel. How often do you have the pain?  It is fine to say you experience pain all the time if that is the case, but if it is only when you perform certain activities, you should explain it in more detail to the Judge.  This is where you may want to describe difficulties standing, walking, sitting, lifting, and performing daily activities. Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 … Continued

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November 28, 2017

Why is There a Job Expert at my Social Security Disability Hearing?

When attending a Social Security disability hearing, you most likely will see or hear testimony from a Vocational Expert (VE), also known as a Job Expert.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) employs Vocational Experts to testify about the classification of work you have performed in the past and to answer hypothetical questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as to what occupations can be performed with various physical or mental restrictions.  A VE can testify by telephone or in person. Their background usually consists of placing individuals in the job market through various means, such as vocational rehabilitation.  Usually at the end of your Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing, the ALJ will pose hypotheticals or examples to the VE.  The ALJ will usually ask the VE what jobs are available to an individual based on their age, education, and past work experience with certain workplace restrictions the ALJ thinks may be applicable to each individual claimant.  Many ALJs will ask numerous hypotheticals.  This gives the ALJ the opportunity to later decide which hypothetical he or she will use for each individual claimant’s decision.  Your attorney/representative will have the opportunity to cross-examine the VE after the ALJ is done. The Vocational Expert will advise the ALJ as to the description and number of jobs in the local and/or national economies. I have found many of my clients have difficulty understanding the role of the VE.  It is important to note that when an ALJ asks examples where there are jobs in the economy that can be performed, it does not always mean you have lost your case.  I tell my clients that they should continue to listen because many ALJs work their way through various hypotheticals until no jobs are available for the claimant.  This is … Continued

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