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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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December 11, 2012

Depression and Your Indiana Social Security Disability Appeal

Depression seems to rear its head in the majority of the claims I handle in front of the Social Security Administration (SSA).  While some of my clients suffer from depression alone others may suffer from depression due to their physical disabilities.  I am sure I am not alone when it comes to a large portion of my clients suffering from depression, in fact I am sure the Administrative Law Judges who preside over the hearings I attend routinely examine medical records with a diagnosis of depression.  With this being a common thread I experience, just how do you win your disability claim when trying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? In my experience you need to take a long hard look at who you are getting psychological treatment from.  If you are receiving treatment from a general practitioner you may want to rethink your medical options.  The SSA usually wants you to be seeing someone who specializes in the disability you claim you have.  In other words, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a mental health therapist may be your best option when trying to prove you have symptoms of depression that are preventing you from working.  A well documented course of ongoing therapy with detailed progress notes can go a long way in convincing a Judge you are disabled.  Hospitalizations for mental illness can also show you are not getting better in spite of treatment and following prescribed medications.  Sometimes I will sit in a hearing and listen to my client testify and think they are certainly clinically depressed by their testimony, but realize at the same time that their medical records are minimal and they have not been seeing a doctor that the SSA is going to recognize.  The truth is you can be … Continued

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November 30, 2012

Getting Ready For Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

Are you nervous about your upcoming disability hearing?  When I talk to my clients before their hearings, one of the most common things they talk about is how anxious they are.  Many of them seem to be on the verge of an anxiety attack when they enter the hearing room.  I attempt to prepare my clients for this big day by letting them know what the atmosphere of the hearing will be like, the types of questions they will be asked, and what they should talk about (or not talk about) when they answer those questions.  I have seen some attorneys and representatives who do not prepare their clients for their hearings at all, or they do so in the waiting room right before the hearing.  It is my practice to speak with each of my clients a day or two before the hearing; we have plenty of time to prepare, but it’s close enough to the hearing that the client will remember everything we talked about.  I usually spend between 45 minutes and an hour letting them know exactly what to expect at the hearing.  Of course, no matter how well-prepared we are, hearings can take many unexpected turns and there can always be surprises.  However, I know from experience how the majority of hearings are conducted and what issues are likely to arise, and I am able to explain to my clients what they should expect. Fist, it is important to remember the hearing is supposed to be informal.  In other words, most of the Administrative Law Judges do not follow strict trial rules and procedures.  Does this mean you can talk out of turn and interrupt others at the hearing?  No; you still must wait your turn and be respectful.  Most judges give everyone an opportunity to … Continued

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June 12, 2012

Being Honest At Your Indiana Disability Hearing

Most of us have certain subjects that we are not comfortable talking about.  Sometimes at a Social Security disability hearing, you will be asked questions that make you uneasy.  Those questions can range from details of your personal life to symptoms of your medical condition, and everything else in between.  Indianapolis attorney Scott D. Lewis encourages each of his clients to be honest with the Judge during the hearing.  Your answers at your hearing may have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. Your credibility may impact the Judge’s decision about whether your conditions are disabling.  While you may have numerous medical tests diagnosing various severe conditions, tests in general cannot show the severity of the pain you experience.  To understand the severity of your pain, the Administrative Law Judge will often rely on your testimony about the type and degree of pain you feel.  Different people have varying levels of pain tolerance, and you are the only one who can explain to the Judge how your pain affects you. It is important for claimants to realize that their medical records contain more information than medical diagnoses and treatment histories. For instance, your doctor often records information about your daily activities, such as whether you have been on vacation, working in your garden, or riding a bicycle.  So imagine that you are in your hearing and the judge asks you a personal question, and you think that an honest answer will lead the judge to believe that you are not disabled.  You may think the best thing to do is to give a dishonest answer so as not to jeopardize your case.  You may not realize, however, that the Judge already knows the answer to the question he is asking you because he has read about it in … Continued

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December 24, 2011

Anemia and Indiana Social Security Disability Claims

If you or someone you know is suffering from anemia and is unable to work due to this disabling condition, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis has experience in representing individuals with disabilities throughout the state of Indiana. If you find that you have a physical or mental condition that is preventing you from working, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Individuals who suffer from anemia have a lower than normal red blood cell count. Anemia can be caused by a variety of things that include but are not limited to; poor diet, pregnancy, kidney failure and problems with bone marrow. While individuals may experience different symptoms from anemia, some common symptoms can include: fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, and problems concentrating. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does recognize anemia as a disabling condition. Anemia is addressed in Social Security’s Listing of Impairments under listing 7.00 hematological disorders. In Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience, good supportive medical evidence of a diagnosis of anemia may be the key to proving an individual equals or meets the listing for anemia. If you find you are struggling with your Social Security disability claim and are frustrated by the Social Security disability claims process, you can contact Indiana disability lawyer Scott Lewis for a free case evaluation. Mr. Lewis has experience with varying disabilities including but not limited to; mental retardation, emphysema, diabetes, and schizophrenia. If you would like a free case evaluation, call (317) 423-8888 today!

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December 22, 2011

At My Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing The Judge Said I Need A Representative Payee, What Does That Mean?

At times Indiana Social Security disability appeals claimants are instructed at their hearings that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is going to recommend a representative payee.  Individuals not accustomed to the terms commonly used at Social Security disability hearings may wonder what the ALJ is talking about and what effect it may have on them.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyers like Scott D. Lewis many times find themselves explaining to their clients what transpired in the court room and what the meanings of particular words are. If you were at your Social Security disability hearing and the ALJ recommended that you be assigned a representative payee there can be a few reasons why this has happened.  In disability attorney Scott Lewis’ experience the main reason a representative payee is recommended is that the ALJ believes you are unable to manage your own funds.  Many times this may be due to a mental condition that makes it difficult for the Social Security disability recipient to take care of their own money. While the individual receiving benefits may be able to designate someone as their representative payee, if the Social Security Administration does not approve of that individual, the SSA may appoint someone entirely different.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) usually looks to family and friends to be assigned as an individual’s representative payee.  If family and friends are not available the SSA may look to various organizations to help in this capacity. If you have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits you can contact Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free case evaluation.  Mr. Lewis has experience with Social Security disability appeals and understands what Indiana residents are going through.  Call (317) 423-8888 and talk to Mr Lewis and his staff and … Continued

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December 20, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott Lewis Comments on Possible New Hearing Policy

There have been some recent reports of a possible Office of Disability and Review (ODAR) policy regarding the non-disclosure of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presiding over your pending hearing until the date of the hearing.  Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes that this type of “blindfolding” attorneys and their clients can only make the disability process even more frustrating and slow. Why could this potentially be a problem?  Experienced Social Security disability attorneys like Scott Lewis represent individuals numerous times in front of the same Administrative Law Judge and become accustomed to exactly what that particular Judge is looking for at the hearing.  To help create and ensure judicial efficiency, Mr. Lewis attempts to prepare his cases in a manner for particular Judges that will cut right to the main issues that particular Judge may focus on.  While most of Mr. Lewis’ case files are prepared in a similar fashion, there are times that when Mr. Lewis knows a certain Judge has been assigned to a claim, Mr. Lewis focuses on certain documents he knows a Judge will closely analyze. Why is this happening?  The only reason put forth thus far is that attorneys are “shopping” Judges.  When a video hearing is scheduled, the representative or claimant has the ability to deny such a hearing and request to be in front of an Administrative Law Judge in person.  Without pointing fingers, one could argue while certain attorneys are shopping Judges, we must also consider why there is a particular item no one wants to buy.  It could be asserted that this is a two way street. In the end who gets hurt?  Mr. Lewis believes good prepared qualified attorneys and Judges and above all claimants will find this decision only muddies the waters on a long drawn out … Continued

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December 8, 2011

Breast Cancer and Your Indiana Social Security Disbility Claim

Scott D. Lewis is an experienced Indiana Social Security disability lawyer who represents individuals with a wide variety of disabling conditions and cancer is no exception.  If you or someone you know is struggling or cannot work with a disabling condition such as cancer it may be in their best interest to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Individuals with advanced breast cancer or individuals undergoing treatment for breast cancer may find it difficult to maintain employment.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes cancer in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 13.00 Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. Specifically Listing 13.10 outlines breast cancer and details what is needed for an individual to meet this listing.   It is important for individuals attempting to receive Social Security disability to not only get proper medical testing to support their claim, but also see qualified medical professionals to document the progression and prognosis of the cancer. When applying for Social Security disability it is important to remember there are not only medical qualifications that must be met, there are also financial and work related qualifications that may be crucial in a valid claim.  If you are frustrated by the disability process or simply have questions regarding the process you can contact Mr. Lewis for a free case evaluation.  Most questions can be answered over the phone and if you hire disability attorney Scott Lewis you pay nothing unless your claim is approved.  For your free consultation  contact Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis and his staff at (317) 423-8888,

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