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August 20, 2019

Am I Expected to Talk at My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Am I expected to talk at my Social Security disability hearing?  At your Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked to answer questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The amount of time you speak and the content of your testimony will depend on your ALJ, your representative, and several other factors.  In some hearings, I have clients that wish to say as little as possible and other clients that want to say too much. When I prepare my clients for their hearings, we discuss which topics are important and which topics are irrelevant in determining whether a person is able to work. This prehearing preparation session is helpful to show my clients what type of information the ALJ is looking for. Your answers to these questions can greatly impact your chance of a favorable outcome. If your medical record is complete prior to your hearing, the most important evidence missing is your testimony.  You are the best person to describe the pain you experience from a physical condition or the impact of your mental health on your daily life. Many ALJs will ask what type of doctors you see, the procedures you have underwent, and what your prognosis is.  ALJs will ask you questions about how long you can sit, stand, walk, and lift; they will also ask you about how you are able to perform daily activities around your home. I think it is important to take a moment to discuss your daily activities, known as your “Activities of Daily Living.”  Many of my clients are confused as to how these questions impact their ability to work.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is trying to see if you are doing work-like activities.  They often ask questions about your ability to clean the house, shop, drive, do yard … Continued

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August 12, 2019

Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time

Filing Your Social Security Disability Appeal on Time.  Before discussing time limits on filing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, let me address a common question I receive from clients.  I often get asked whether an individual should appeal their current claim or file a new application.  There are very few reasons why you should file a new claim if you still have the ability to appeal a recent denial.  If you are filing a new claim just to see if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find you disabled with a new application, I advise my clients that appealing an initial denial is likely the best course of action.  Most initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied.  My experience is that your chances of winning your claim increase by appealing your claim and pursuing a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  I have seen clients with numerous initial application denials in the past win their claim for benefits by going through the appeals process. The first step in the appeal process is called a “Request for Reconsideration.”  This is asking the Social Security Administration to take another look at your disability claim because you believe they have made an error.  The filing deadline is 60 days from the date on the denial letter plus an additional 5 days for mailing.  There are various reasons why an initial application for benefits can be denied.  These can include the following: exceeding allowable resource amounts, working and earning income above the levels the SSA allows, the SSA believes your disability is not severe enough, or other reasons.  After you determine the reason you were denied, you can decide if you believe you have a valid reason to ask the SSA to look at it … Continued

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August 5, 2019

Cancer and Social Security Disability

Cancer and Social Security Disability.  There are so many types of cancer with varying degrees of severity that it can be difficult to know what qualifies you for Social Security disability.  Just a diagnosis of cancer itself usually is not going to get you disability benefits.  Medical documentation is needed to prove the type and the severity of your condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes cancer under Listing 13.00 (Malignant Neoplastic Disease).  If you take the time to read through this Listing, you can see there are very specific criteria needed to find a person disabled.  Sometimes a person does not have exactly what this Listing calls for, but the SSA may agree that they functionally equal the Listing instead. While a listing may be difficult to meet or equal, many times the SSA believes your capacity to work is so diminished by residual limitations that you simply cannot work a full-time job.  Many of my clients complain of residual effects including neuropathy, cognitive issues, decreased energy, or muscle weakness, among others. In severe cases when cancer is considered terminal, the SSA can grant disability benefits through a process called Compassionate Allowance.  If the SSA can quickly identify your condition as being this severe, it can expedite your claim.  This can eliminate the long process of appeals and hearings to get the benefits you are entitled to.  Your Social Security Disability lawyer can better explain the specific information necessary to be granted a Compassionate Allowance. With the varying types of cancer, each case is distinctly different.  Solid medical testing and documentation can greatly enhance your chances of winning your Social Security Disability claim.   Medical source statements from a treating physician can improve your chances of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  It is … Continued

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June 26, 2019

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition?

Will an Administrative Law Judge understand my rare medical condition? I represent claimants with a wide variety of physical and mental conditions.  I regularly talk to claimants with a rare or unique diagnosis that are concerned that their diagnosis will not be properly understood by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  These individuals want to make sure that they have a legal team that will advocate for them to the SSA regarding their unique struggles.  My law office understands that the disability appeal process can be complicated on its own, and even more so if you don’t feel that anyone understands what your medical conditions put you through.  I try to make sure my clients know that I have a plan for each claim, no matter how common or rare their medical conditions may be.   If you look at SSA’s website for information regarding medical conditions, you may come across their Listing of Impairments. SSA has special rules regarding how a person with some common medical conditions should be evaluated for disability.  If a person with a medical condition discussed in the corresponding Listing meets the criteria established, SSA should find that person is disabled.  If you have a rare medical condition, you may not find that the SSA has a Listing for your condition. This does not mean that you can’t be found disabled, but that the SSA must determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  SSA will look at how your conditions and symptoms affect your ability to do work-like tasks and then determine if you can do any jobs with the limitations that you have.   So how do you prove your limitations? The first place the SSA will evaluate will be your medical records.  Therefore, it is important for you to follow up with your doctors as … Continued

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June 10, 2019

Are You Angry and Frustrated About Your Social Security Disability Claim?

Are you angry and frustrated about your Social Security disability claim?  I find many of my clients express  anger and frustration about their Social Security disability claim.  There may be a variety of reasons that they feel this way.  It’s easy to understand how you might be frustrated when you are unable to work and provide for yourself and/or your family while facing physical and/or mental disabilities.  This blog will cover some of the things I frequently discuss with my clients. Why did they deny me when other people are receiving Social Security disability when they don’t deserve it?  It is important to remember that every case is different.  Sometimes a person’s disability can be something you cannot see.  What you consider an undeserving neighbor may be someone suffering from severe mental conditions.  Also, there are specific rules that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has that can make it easier to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The SSA can consider a person’s age, education, and prior work experience to meet certain vocational guidelines that could make it easier to receive benefits. With such a large disability program covering so many people, there may be undeserving individuals that fall through the cracks, but overall, we are lucky to live in a country where our disabled are taken care of. Why is it taking so long?  Many of my clients find themselves unable to pay for food, rent, and essential needs during this lengthy process.  Unfortunately, the SSA is way behind in processing claims.  This is probably the most common question I receive, and I can make no excuses for the process.  The lack of available staff to process claims and Administrative Law Judges to hold hearings on those claims is frustrating to claimants and … Continued

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January 18, 2019

Does Having a Cane, Walker, or Wheelchair Help Me in My Social Security Disability Case?

If you need a cane, walker, or wheelchair to ambulate effectively, it can have a significant impact on your claim for disability benefits.  Many jobs that require a person to stand or walk during the work day can be hard to perform when the employee needs an assistive device.  For example, if you are holding on to a cane with one hand, you may not be able to use that hand for work tasks.  It also matters why you need the device and how often you use it.  These devices may be used for standing, walking, balancing, or all the above.  You may need an assistive device any time you stand or only for prolonged activity.  There can be many factors to consider when determining how someone can work when they need an assistive device. A common question I find Administrative Law Judges consider at your disability hearing is whether your assistive device is “medically necessary”.  In other words, does your medical record support that you need a cane or walker as you claim.  In my experience, one of the best ways to address this question is to have a prescription from your treating physician for your cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Your physician can either write a prescription or make a statement in the form of a medical source statement that you can provide to your disability attorney or the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once the SSA believes you medically need your assistive device, the SSA will then decide how the use of your device impacts your ability to work.  At your hearing, a Vocational Expert (VE) will testify to the impact of an assistive device on certain types of jobs.  In my experience, this can be where a well-trained attorney may be able to reduce or eliminate the number … 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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November 30, 2018

What You Can Do to Help Win Your Social Security Disability Case

We believe that the following simple steps may help enhance your claim:   File your paperwork in a timely manner. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to meet certain deadlines.  You have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Reconsideration after being denied on your initial application.  Failure to file this paperwork in a timely fashion may force you to start the process from the beginning unless you can prove you had good cause for your late filing.  If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you again have 60 days (plus 5 days for mailing) to file a Request for Hearing.  Again, if you do not meet this deadline within the 60 days allowed, you may find yourself filing an initial application and starting the process from the beginning. Throughout the process, the SSA may ask you to complete a number of forms and reports that all have their own deadlines. Failure to do so can result in a denial.   See the appropriate types of physicians for your conditions and comply with treatment, if possible. Seeing the right kind of specialist specific to your disability can go a long way to prove to the SSA you are disabled.  The Social Security Administration follows specific rules regarding how to consider medical records or opinions, and your General Practitioner’s opinion alone may not provide enough weight to convince the SSA. More consideration is given to statements from a specialist such as statements relating to the severity of your condition, specific objective testing, and medical source statements as to your functional ability to work.  Our office welcomes all medical provider records that support your case. The more records we can get to support your claim, the stronger your claim becomes. We know that your medical insurance … Continued

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October 16, 2018

Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability

Whether you are a child or an adult, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes learning disabilities as a condition that can pay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  The severity of the condition and its impact on an individual’s functioning can be key factors in receiving benefits. In children’s Social Security disability claims, many aspects of the claim are examined.  These may include, but are not limited to: IQ testing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) 504 Plans School grades Teacher questionnaires Medical Source Statements from treating physicians Progress notes from treating sources The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the SSA that contains specific information related to learning disabilities among other impairments.  The SSA also examines children’s cases under six domains of functioning to determine if a child is functionally equivalent to a listing.  The SSA will look for limitations in the child’s ability to acquire and use information, attend and complete tasks, interact socially, move and manipulate objects, handle their own self-care, or health and physical well-being.  Understanding a child’s Social Security Disability claim can be confusing, as the standard for disability can be different than that of an adult. Adults can also receive Social Security Disability benefits for a learning disability.  The question of whether you can work with a learning disability can be a little tricky to prove to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If you have worked in the past with your learning disability, the ALJ may wonder how it would currently prevent you from working if your condition has not gotten worse.  Sometimes, employers make “accommodations” for this type of worker.  This might be special treatment that the employer is unwilling to give to other workers.  This may include a job coach, multiple reminders of job duties, leaving work … Continued

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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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