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April 19, 2013

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Social Security Disability Benefits

In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, my clients who suffer from conditions that cause the loss or limited use of their upper extremities (i.e., their shoulders, arms, and/or hands) have great difficulty finding and maintaining employment.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) generally recognizes that a person with this type of disability finds greatly reduced numbers of jobs available to them in the national and local economy.  When I represent clients at Social Security disability hearings, Vocational Experts (VEs) often appear at the hearings to testify about the availability of jobs for people with specific limitations.  If a claimant is found to be unable to use his dominant hand to perform its full range of movements, the VE usually testifies that there are few, if any, jobs available that will accommodate such limitations. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) may cause numbness, tingling, or burning in the fingers, thumb, and hand; sometimes these sensations are also present in the wrist.  Some individuals with CTS experience pain when attempting to use their hands to perform even the simplest of tasks.  While the cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may not be known, it is believed that using or overusing one’s hands in work-related situations may be a dominant factor in causing the symptoms.  Many of my clients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome have spent significant time performing occupations in which they used their hands extensively working on assembly lines, performing data entry, or using tools. In my experience, some people get temporary relief from CTS with treatments including wearing splints and receiving injections, but they only seems to be short-term fixes.  Some people require surgery to help alleviate the pain and numbness.  This surgery, commonly known as a “carpal tunnel release,” does work for some individuals, but many others have symptoms that … Continued

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April 15, 2013

Depression and Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

I represent my Indiana neighbors in hundreds of disability hearings each year, and find the diagnosis of depression in the majority of them.  From my experience talking to these individuals, I understand how disabling depression can be and how it can prevent anyone from holding down a full-time job.  When the Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes your claim, it must consider all of the impairments you have, both physical and mental, alone and in combination.  It is important, therefore, when you apply for benefits to let the SSA know about all of the problems that you have that affect your ability to work. One of my biggest challenges representing people with depression comes when I have a client who is receiving all of her mental health diagnoses and treatment from her family physician.  While your family doctor can make a diagnosis of depression and prescribe medications for it, she is not a mental health specialist.  One factor an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) considers when determining whether your depression is severe enough to keep you from being able to work is whether you are getting treatment from a specialist.  If you have heart problems, most judges expect you to receive treatment from a cardiologist; if you have back problems they want to see records from an orthopedist.  In the same way, if you have depression or another mental health impairment, most ALJs think that you should be receiving treatment from a psychiatrist and attending counseling with a psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional.  Your chances of winning your claim may be greatly enhanced if you are seeing a psychiatrist and therapist on a regular basis. When I represent a client with depression, I try to obtain statements from his psychiatrist or therapist to submit to the ALJ.  A specialist … Continued

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April 10, 2013

Is it a Good Idea To Continue My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Sometimes it is necessary to think about continuing, or postponing, your disability hearing.  As a disability attorney, I generally do not like to continue hearings.  Because the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) have such crowded schedules, we have to wait a long time to get to a hearing, and rescheduling a hearing often means even more months of waiting before we finally get in front of the judge.  In my experience, most judges do not want to continue hearings either.  They want to keep things moving along quickly once a case gets to the hearing level. One reason an ALJ does not like to continue a Social Security disability hearing, especially on the day of the hearing, is because a lot of resources have been expended in preparing to hear the case.  Many hearings include vocational and medical experts paid by the Social Security Administration who have reviewed the case file and are ready to testify that day.  If the hearing is rescheduled, all of those experts will have to return to testify on another day. Why, then, would a judge consider rescheduling a hearing?  Oftentimes it is because the case file does not contain all of the claimant’s medical records.  Your medical records are a very important part of your case because they provide hard evidence of your diagnoses, symptoms, and prognosis.  Without all of your records, the ALJ will not be able to get a complete picture of your medical conditions.  If all of your records are not available in time for the hearing, though, the ALJ will often proceed with the hearing, taking your testimony and the testimony of any experts present.  The judge will then hold the record open for a specific amount of time so that the additional medical documents can be furnished at a later … Continued

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March 18, 2013

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis Is Back!

After a bit of a break I am back to blogging.  I enjoy sharing my experiences concerning the Social Security Administration (SSA) with prospective and current clients through my blog, but I must admit, going to hearings and preparing cases for hearings can be time consuming.  So what has been happening since my last blog entry?  The best news for disabled Indiana residents is that the waiting time for a hearing has been getting shorter.  I have seen a noticeable difference in waiting times recently and wonder how long this current trend will last. What does this mean for you?  Depending on your financial situation, getting to a hearing even a few months sooner may be the difference between keeping your home or facing foreclosure, between having continuous access to health care or spending months without health insurance, or between obtaining monthly disability payments or completely depleting your life savings.  On the other hand, you may be in such a desperate situation that having to wait any time at all for a Social Security disability decision is enough to bring you to financial ruin.  So what can you do?  I tell my clients to look for low or no-cost healthcare through local hospitals and clinics, seek help from their local government trustees, and ask their physicians to help them find programs that provide medications at cheaper rates, just to name a few. These days, when I have clients who complain about their waiting time for a hearing, I find myself thinking how fortunate they are to only have to wait about a year to get a hearing.  You heard me right – they are fortunate, compared to my clients from not long ago who typically had to wait nearly two years to get a hearing!  Not only do the shorter wait times help our disabled clients get their benefits sooner, they also save those clients some money.  The sooner a claimant receives benefits, the fewer months of … Continued

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November 11, 2012

Diabetes and Winning Your Social Security Disability Claim

Practicing Social Security Disability law in Indianapolis has opened my eyes to how many people suffer from diabetes.  Many of my clients suffer from several different disabling conditions at the same time, and more often than not, diabetes is on their list.  At your disability hearing in front of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),  the judge is required to consider all of your severe impairments when determining whether you are disabled.  Therefore, it is very important to let your attorney or representative know if diabetes contributes to your inability to work.  I talk to my clients extensively about how diabetes keeps them from working so I can better understand their limitations and present them to the judge. Diabetes mellitus (or simply diabetes) occurs when a person’s blood glucose level, commonly called “blood sugar,” is unacceptably high, usually due to poor insulin production in the body.  Diabetes is labelled as “type I” or “type II”.  The symptoms of diabetes can include: Frequent urination Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet Fatigue Blurred vision In my practice, the most common reason my diabetic clients find themselves unable to work is the tingling or burning known as neuropathy in their hands and feet.  They also suffer other symptoms that keep them from working when they are unable to control their diabetes with medication or insulin.  In my experience as a disability lawyer, the inability to stand and walk can greatly reduce the number and types of jobs a person can perform.  Many of my clients with neuropathy or swelling in their legs and feet cannot sit for very long without pain, and they are required to elevate their legs to relieve that pain.  These limitations reduce their “physical residual functional capacity” – the types of activities they are physically able to perform … Continued

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