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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 www.ssa.gov 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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August 8, 2011

Heart Problems and Indiana Social Security Disability Benefits

Are you an Indiana disability claimant unable to work due to heart problems?  Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer Scott D. Lewis represents those individuals with disabling conditions such as heart disease in their disability benefits claim.  Indianapolis disability claimants who suffer from heart conditions may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if he/she meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Listing of Impairments.  In Listing 4.00 Cardiovascular System, the SSA outlines the requirements in order for an individual suffering from a heart condition to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, describes a large spectrum of disorders that affect the heart muscle and/or blood vessels. The primary cause of death, in men and women worldwide, is problems with the heart and blood vessels. Coronary artery disease (or atherosclerosis) is the result of plaque building up in the arteries.  This condition can lead to a heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, angina, and/or stroke. Congenital heart disease, heart infection, heart valve disease, and cardiomyopathy are examples of heart problems not related to arterial build-up. Strokes and heart attacks can cause serious physical limitations and are one of the most common causes of disability today. Damage to the heart or blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body can cause any number of debilitating symptoms, including: Arrhythmia Chest Pain and Pressure Muscle Weakness Stomach Pain Fatigue Nausea and Vomiting Lightheadedness/Fainting Dizziness Anxiety Blood Clots Shortness of Breath Upper Body Pain Sweating Heart Palpitations/Rapid Heart Rate Heart and blood vessel problems result from damage done to the cardiovascular system, either through congenital defects or lifestyle and environmental factors. Pressure build-up in the arteries due to the presence of plaque restricts the blood flow to bodily organs and tissues. Plaque build-up … Continued

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August 4, 2011

Social Security Disability Benefits for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Indianapolis disability attorney Scott D. Lewis represents individuals with a variety of mental and/or physical disabling conditions.  Included in these impairments is those suffering with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Indiana residents with OCD may find themselves qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  OCD is a disabling condition that may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits under the Social Security Administrations “Listing of Impairments,” Section 12.00 Mental Disorder.  OCD is specifically identified under section 12.06 Anxiety-related disorders.  Refer to the SSA’s website for criteria requirements.  What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?  OCD is a mental disorder when an individual worries, doubts or superstitious beliefs become excessive.  OCD is a condition in which the brain cannot let go of a certain thought, and therefore, it makes the patient overly anxious or worried about even the most menial aspects of daily life.  OCD sufferers have difficulty in controlling his or her worries, anxieties, or urges. Many times patients with OCD do not recognize the severity of their condition until it is either too late to treat, deal with the condition as a minor inconvenience, and in many case simply don’t realize what is happening. Unfortunately, OCD may impair a person’s ability to concentrate or communicate with others. As a result, OCD may prevent an individual from being able to work at a reasonable level. Some examples of OCD behavior may include, but is not limited to the following: washing your hands for hours at a time to make sure they remove all germs driving around the block over and over again to make sure an accident didn’t happen turning on and off lights for long periods of time to ensure the lights are turned off Since patients with OCD may either be obsessive and/or compulsive, it is imperative to understand difference. An ‘obsessive’ individual may think about germs too often, or … Continued

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August 1, 2011

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Benefits Due to Amputation

Indiana disability claimants with an amputation filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits may be surprised to learn that winning your disability claim based on amputation may not always be easy.  Amputation is defined as the complete severance of an individual’s extremety such as a hand, foot, arm or leg.  Amputation can be due to a medical removal, an injury, or some other form of trauma. Symptoms associated with having an amputated limb vary depending on which body part(s) has been amputated. Amputations of the feet or legs typically affect a person’s ability to walk, bend, climb stairs, and ability to move around. Amputations involving hands and arms typically affect a person’s ability to push, pull, or perform fine motor functions. Although activities for an amputee may be impossible or very difficult, many individuals experience pain around the area of the amputated limb.  Some common medical reasons for amputation may include: Diabetes Gangrene Severe Frostbite Hardened or Embolism of the arteries Raynaud’s disease Buerger’s disease How does an amputee qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits?  As stated above, just being an amputee does not automatically qualify an individual for disability benefits.  As all qualifying disabilities or conditions, in order to qualify for disability benefits for an amputated limb or extremity, an Indiana disability claimant must show that the amputation causes the person to be unable to perform functions that are important in the work place such as lifting, bending, walking, grasping, pushing, and pulling. The difficulty in showing this varies depending on which limbs have been amputated and the type of work (heavy, moderate, light, sedentary) that you have done before or could be expected to perform based on your age, education level and experience. Specifically, the Social Security Administration (SSA) defines the criteria for an individual to qualify for disability benefits because of an amputation in their “Listing of Impairments.”  … Continued

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