October 14, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Hearings Office

Social Security disability applicants that have been denied disability benefits have the right to appeal that decision made by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  As an individual goes through the stages of appeals, he/she may eventually find him/herself in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Indiana hearings are heard at one of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) locations. Most states have more than one ODAR location.  According to the SSA, there are currently 10 regional offices, 169 hearing offices (including 7 satellite offices), 5 national hearing centers, and 1 national case assistance center. There are approximately 1,300 administrative law judges and 7,000 support staff in the field organization. Additionally, administrative law judges may travel to other sites such as local Social Security offices to conduct hearings if needed or appear by video at your location. In addition to the stated above, the SSA may use other facilities throughout the state to conduct the hearing. Don’t be surprised if you are scheduled for a hearing at the Social Security Administration office, a conference room at another facility or in a hotel or bank. Regardless of the location, the ALJ that presides over the case will still review the evidence, listen to the comments made by your disability attorney, and hear testimony from medical or vocational experts. The ODAR Chicago Region services residents in the six state area comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Indiana residents will find their hearing scheduled at the location closest to their home.  Indiana Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis finds himself traveling throughout the state of Indiana to represent disabled individuals with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  If you have been denied disability benefits or if you cannot work due to a disabling condition, contact Indiana … Continued

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October 7, 2011

GAF Scores and Your Social Security Disability Claim

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits or are appealing a denied Social Security disability benefits claim in Indiana and you are confused by what’s going on, you may not be alone.  Indianapolis disability lawyer Scott Lewis talks to potential disability clients on a frequent basis about the complex issues that arise during a disability claim.  There may be words that are difficult to understand or abbreviations that are hard to figure out in the disability process.  If you are suffering from a mental disorder and your psychiatrist or therapist talks about a “GAF” score you may wonder exactly what they are referring to. A Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score is a number used to rate individuals social, occupational, and psychological functioning.  The numbers range from 0 to 100 and are generally classified in the following way: 91 -100 Superior range of functioning in a wide range of activities. 81 – 90  Absent of minimal symptoms. 71 – 80  If symptoms are present they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors. 61 -70  Some mild symptoms. 51-60  Moderate symptoms. 41-50  Serious symptoms. 31- 40  Some impairments in reality testing or communication. 21 – 30  Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations. 11 -20  Some danger of hurting self or others. 1 – 10  Persistent danger of hurting self or others. It is important to note that the above is only a general framework defining GAF scores, and more information can be obtained describing each category in more detail.  Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott Lewis urges his clients to seek the care of a qualified mental health professional to assess your mental impairments.  GAF scores can be used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in determining the severity of your mental condition. Mr. Lewis attends numerous Social … Continued

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October 5, 2011

Social Security Disability Lawyers in Indianapolis Can Represent You For Many Different Disabling Conditions

Did you know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can look at all of your disabling conditions combined when making a disability determination?  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis tries to get his clients to disclose to him all of their conditions that have an impact on their ability to work.  After questioning his clients, many times Mr. Lewis finds that there are several conditions that when combined create a total picture showing his client is in fact disabled. For instance, you may have had back surgery and are experiencing pain and/or discomfort that may be preventing you from working so; you have filed a Social Security disability claim.  Upon further review of your medical records, Mr. Lewis notices you are also suffering from depression, diabetes, and asthma.  If these other conditions are severe enough, it may be wise to include these conditions in an argument as to why you are unable to work.  While your back may keep you from being able to sit, stand, or walk for any length of time, your depression may make it difficult to concentrate on work related tasks, your diabetes may involve neuropathy causing numbness and tingling in your extremities, and your asthma may cause shortness of breath in certain circumstances.  So, by considering a combination of all of these impairments, it may be clear you are unable to maintain substantial gainful activity. Just stating that you have additional problems is probably not going to be good enough to win your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  Medical records from qualified treating medical professionals specializing in the area where your disability exists is usually the best supporting documentation to help prove your disability claim.  At times, general medical practitioners may work to help support your disability claim, but many times an Administrative Law … Continued

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September 27, 2011

How Long is the Wait for a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing?

In the past couple of years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had high hopes to improve the wait time for disabled individuals to get a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Because there was such a large number of backlogged disability appeals waiting to get a hearing date, the SSA’s proposed goal was to improve the Social Security appeals system by hiring more ALJ’s to hear cases, add more hearing centers, and implement technologies that would make it easier to process more hearings across the nation. With these intended plans, the SSA did not foresee the significant budget cuts that would later disrupt these proposed plans. Unfortunately, the backlog of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals has not decreased; as a matter of fact, it appears that the number of disability appeals has grown since this initial plan. In 2011, a study shows that a lack of resources, combined with an increased number of SSDI and SSI claims filed, may be having an impact on the wait time for a hearing. Statistically, the study showed that the number of appeals nationally still pending in the current year was 735,660.  In the 2010 fiscal year, the number of individuals waiting for a hearing was 705,367.  As you can see, there is a significant increase in applicants waiting for a hearing from last year. Although there is an increase in the number of backlogged cases, the average wait period for an individual to get in front of an ALJ has decreased from 514 days in 2008 to 369 days in 2010. So regardless, the SSA has been able to improve the wait period from 2008 to 2010. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a disabled individual to get a hearing scheduled faster than other disabled individuals.  Although, there may be measures that a disability claimant can take in order to increase their chances of being approved for benefits … Continued

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September 16, 2011

Indianapolis Disability Lawyers Can Help In Appealing Your Social Security Disability Claim

At times, the Social Security disability claims process can be frustrating and confusing.  Indiana disability attorney Scott Lewis talks to many clients about their concerns regarding the disability process.  Going through the difficult time of dealing with a disabling condition combined with the paperwork involved in a Social Security disability claim, may possibly create a very stressful situation.  Mr. Lewis strives to alleviate some of his clients worries by assisting them in the claims process. The Social Security disability claims process has very distinct stages in obtaining an outcome for your claim.  These can include:   Filing the initial claim application   Filing a “Request for Reconsideration”   Requesting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge   Appealing the Judge’s decision to The Appeals Council Obviously the first step in any claim is getting started.  Filing an initial claim can be done by visiting the Social Security Administration’s website at or by calling their toll free number at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting a local SSA office.  Mr. Lewis often spends time with prospective clients during this initial stage addressing their concerns. If your initial application is denied, the next stage in appealing your claim is to ask for a “Request for Reconsideration”.  This is basically telling the Social Security Administration they have made a mistake in denying your claim and they need to take another look at it.  Unfortunately, the majority of these requests are denied again, but it is important not to give up at this point if you feel you have a valid claim.  Proceeding on in the next steps in appeals process may be in your best interest. The next step, in what can turn out to be a lengthy process, is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  Statistically, studies … Continued

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September 14, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits and Your Education

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at various factors when deciding if you meet their definition of disability.  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott Lewis often discusses with his Indiana neighbors just what these factors may include.  The Social Security Administration will consider a person’s age, education, and work experience when analyzing a claim. Why does the Social Security Administration care about your education?  Believe it or not, the Social Security Administration does recognize that individuals with a lower education have less jobs in the national economy available to them.  This does not mean individuals with a higher education cannot receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it just may be a little more difficult to win their claim.  The Social Security Administration may take into consideration not only the education level of the claimant, but also the age and prior work experience when making a determination. It is also important to note the Social Security Administration may also consider any vocational training or schooling an individual may have.  This is all in an attempt to evaluate the number of jobs that may exist for a claimant in the economy.  Remember the question is are you able to work and to determine that the whole picture must be viewed to come up with an answer. Many times at Indiana Social Security disability hearings, a vocational expert or “job expert” is present and has the duty of determining with your disabilities combined with your age, education, and prior work experience whether there are jobs that you can perform.  Their answers are generally based on statistical analysis and personal experience and observations in their occupation. Indianapolis disability attorney Scott Lewis handles claims with a wide range of disabling conditions such as diabetes with neuropathy, cancer, depression, heart conditions, and epilepsy just … Continued

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September 1, 2011

Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits for Tinnitus

Indiana residents that experience tinnitus often wonder if they qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Depending on the severity of tinnitus, some individuals may qualify to receive disability benefits.  People with tinnitus may experience hearing a sound within their ear or head when there is no external physical sound present. Some individuals describe the sound as the following: hissing, chirping, buzzing, roaring, or high-pitched ring. Tinnitus is a very common problem that affects 10-17% of the general population. Approximately 44 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree and is more prevalent in elderly people. Although some people find tinnitus is just a nuisance. Others may find it is a life-altering condition. My tinnitus is so severe that is causes me to be unable to work; do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?  Many individuals find their tinnitus so severe that it interferes with their ability to function daily activities including, but not limited to, work.  These individuals may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits if he/she is able to prove the severity of the condition and how it affects their daily life.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) does mention under  their “Listing of Impairment” Section 2.00 Special Senses and Speech that tinnitus is part of vestibular disorders. At the law office of Scott D. Lewis, Indianapolis Social Security lawyer Scott Lewis has represented disability claimants with tinnitus.  In his experience, establishing and obtaining good medical records that support the claimant’s disability claim may be key to winning your disability claim.  Individuals with tinnitus may benefit by continuing to visit their treating physician and maintaining treatment as prescribed by their physician.  Tinnitus combined with other disabling conditions may be considered in your disability claim.  Attorney Scott D. Lewis offers a free consultation to individuals seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

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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 19, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyers May Be Able to Give You A Good Idea Of What To Expect At Your Appeals Hearing

Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis believes one of the most important aspects of his job is to advise his clients as to what they can expect during a Social Security disability hearing.  While Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) may have varying formats in the way they run the hearings, a general theme usually guides their line of questioning. Disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds the questioning generally falls into three categories and these include: General questions Job related questions Medical questions General questions most likely the easiest questions for the claimant to answer.  Questions concerning your name, address, age, marital status, number of children you have,  height, weight, right or left handed, and even the type of home you live in.  Why does the Social Security Administration care about these things?  Remember, the facts always matter.  If you testify you are unable to take care of yourself, but also testify you have three young children you care for, the Judge may not put as much weight into the testimony that you are unable to care of yourself.  Sound fair? Maybe not, but it is important to remember there is usually a legitimate reason for every question you are being asked. As for job related questions, usually the Social Security Administrations is only concerned with jobs you performed over the last fifteen years that lasted over three months.  Okay, so now you’re thinking, “I have had so many jobs that it’s going to be hard to remember one I performed fifteen years ago.”  Well, the judge at your hearing may have a printout of your past occupations and through a line of questioning can usually help you remember your past relevant employment.  Also, at some hearings a vocational expert or “job expert” may be present and possibly has already examined … Continued

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August 16, 2011

Digestive Disorders and Social Security Disability Claims

Many individuals suffering from a digestive disorder find that this disorder can take them away from work indefinitely. Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney Scott D. Lewis assists individuals with digestive disorders with their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Listing of Impairments” addresses the criteria for a variety of digestive system disorders in section 5.00 Digestive System.  Specifically, the following digestive orders can be found under this listing: 5.02 Gastroinntestinal hemorrhaging from any cause, requiring blood transfusion 5.05 Chronic Liver Disease 5.06 Imflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) 5.07 Short Bowel Sydrome (SBS) 5.08 Weight Loss due to any digestive disorder 5.09 Liver transplant Meeting the Listings for digestive disorders may be very difficult. However, individuals may also be awarded SSDI or SSI benefits if they suffer from a combination of health problems while they do not meet the listing, in combination prevent them from being able to perform substantial gainful employment. The “Listings of Impairments” are designed to award Social Security disability benefits to disability claimants who are clearly severely ill.  The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at a hearing can determine that a person, while not meeting a specific disability listing, has health problems severe enough to award the claimant disability benefits. Individuals suffering from a digestive disorder may experience the following symptoms or side effects: Development of allergies due to compromised immunity Abdominal pain Indigetion Heartburn Difficulty swallowing Diarhhea or constipation Chest pain Fatigue Bladder or bowel changes Unexplained weight loss Bloating and painful gas Nausea and vomiting Weakened immune system As stated above, being approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a digestive disorder may be difficult. In order to successfully win your claim, it’s important to prove to the SSA what is wrong with you and how the digestive disorder negatively affects your daily life. In … Continued

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