Monthly Archives: December 2011

The 5 Most Common Disability Mistakes Made by Social Security Disability Claimants

Claimants have many questions about how to expedite their Social Security Administration disability benefits but what they need to ask is what common disability mistakes they are making which are delaying or jeopardizing their disability application.

Today we are going to talk about the 5 most common disability mistakes made by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claimants which make it difficult or impossible to win disability benefits.

 1.    Expecting the Social Security Administration to do all of the work.

On our disability forum we get many questions from disability claimants asking the following questions:

  • When will the Social Security Administration send me disability forms?
  • When will the Social Security Administration call me?
  • When will the Social Security Administration send me to a disability evaluation?

Unfortunately, one of the most common disability mistakes made by disability claimants is expecting the SSA to do all of the work. If you need disability forms, visit the online SSA website and either complete the application online or download your own disability forms. If you have not seen the doctor, got to the doctor and get medical evidence that you are disabled. If you need information about your claim, contact the Social Security Administration.

One way to guarantee that your claim will take a long time to process is to sit and wait for the SSA to do all of the work. Over 2 million claimants applied for disability last year. The SSA is overwhelmed with disability applications, and they are not looking out for your best interest.

 2.    Working too much and making too much money.

Another one of the most common disability mistakes is applying for disability benefits while working and performing substantial gainful activity. If you are performing substantial gainful activity you will be denied benefits regardless of the severity of your health condition. Before you apply for benefits, make sure you understand the disability rules.

Substantial gainful employment does not have to be for pay or profit and can include other substantial activities such as attending school, self-employment (even if you are not making money) and illegal activities.

3.    Failing to get proper medical care.

Another one of the most common disability mistakes made by disability claimants is failing to have medical evidence to support your disability claim. To win disability benefits you will need information proving that your condition is severe, long-term (expected to last for at least 12 continuous months) and so debilitating that you cannot work.

Does the SSA send claimants to an examination? Yes, if they do not have sufficient evidence to prove their claim. This sounds like good news right? Not for most claimants. This evaluation is called a consultative examination and for most claimants it is a very short examination which is generally NOT helpful to claimants.

4.    Applying for benefits over and over and not appealing a denial.

The second most common disability mistake is simply caused by a lack of knowledge about the process. Many claimants do not realize that if they are denied benefits they have the right to file an appeal of the denial decision within 60 days from the date of the denial. Claimants, instead, choose to file their application over and over again without adding additional information to their claim or doing research to clearly understand why they have been denied.

5.    Refusing to consult with a disability lawyer

 The last disability mistake is failing to talk to a disability lawyer. Do you have to hire a disability lawyer to get benefits? No, but disability lawyers understand the disability process, they process hundreds of claims a year and there is no charge for their help unless they win your SSDI or SSI claim.



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5 steps to expedite your Social Security Administration disability application

Disability claimants have heard a variety of different rumors: everyone is denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income the first time they apply, it takes two years to win SSI and SSDI disability benefits or you have to be old to win benefits. There is a lot of misinformation and confusion about how to win Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits fast.

Today we will talk about five easy steps that EVERY claimant should follow to make sure their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is processed as quickly as possible.

Give the Social Security Administration accurate information.

Surprisingly, SSI and SSDI claimants complete disability applications and submit it to the Social Security Administration with missing or inaccurate information. Medical evidence is used to make your disability determination so if the doctor’s name, address or phone number is inaccurate or missing, this will delay your disability application

Get good medical care to document the severity of your condition.

Given the current state of medicine in America this is difficult for many disability claimants but absolutely necessary. We get a lot of questions on our forum about whether or not it is possible to win Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits without seeing doctor, and it may be possible, but it is VERY improbable.

Understand the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income disability process.

Do you know what the SSA considers a disability? Do you know how long you must be disabled? Do you know what the SSA Listing of Impairments is and whether not your disability is on this list? Surprisingly, many disability claimants do little to no research before applying for SSI or SSDI benefits. Take one hour and review our website or the SSA website for the answers to your disability questions.

Talk to a disability lawyer.

Do you have to have a disability lawyer to win disability benefits? No, many claimants win SSI and SSDI benefits without legal help, but disability lawyers help thousands of claimants each year and will expedite your disability case at every step of the disability process.

Follow-up with the Social Security Administration.

I hear from claimants every day who filed an application six months or a year ago (maybe 2 years ago) and have heard nothing about their claim. There claim may have been denied months ago but they have no idea of the status of their disability application. It will take the SSA 90 to 100 days to process a disability claim, but if you have not heard from the Social Security Administration within 100 days, call them and find out what YOU can do to help move the process along. Do not hassle the Social Security Administration but DO be proactive when it comes to getting your SSI or SSDI claim approved.

Although some SSI or SSDI claimants do have to wait up to 2 years to win Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, most claimants who understand the process, who provide great medical documentation, who talk to a disability lawyer and who proactively work WITH and not AGAINST the SSA, will eventually have their disability benefits approved

If you have a severe health condition which does not allow you to work and you meet the requirements of SSDI or SSI, it is time to talk to a disability lawyer. Fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability lawyer’s office will contact you for a free disability consultation and discuss how to speed up your disability application.

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Chronic Pain and SSA Disability Benefits

Chronic pain is real and very debilitating for many workers. Some workers experience chronic pain which is so severe that it makes it impossible for them to work eight hours per day, forty-hours per week. So whether your chronic pain is so severe that strong pain relievers cannot alleviate it or it exists but the medical community has failed to find an origin or diagnosis, if you cannot work you should be able to qualify for either Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

It sounds simple, but it is not.

Winning disability benefits for chronic pain from the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards benefits for disability claimants in two ways: meeting a listing on the SSA listing of impairments or through a medical vocational allowance. Unfortunately, pain does not have a specific listing in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Listing of Impairments so “meeting a listing” is not possible.

How can you win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security income (SSI) benefits for chronic pain? You will have to prove through credible medical evidence (doctor’s notes, laboratory results, MRIs, X-rays) that your acute pain is so severe that you cannot work. Unfortunately, if you have no medical evidence to support your claim of chronic pain you will be denied disability benefits.

Obviously, due to the subjectivity of chronic pain this may be difficult. Some claimants may be able to work through severe chronic pain while other claimants will seek out various levels of treatment. First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will want to know what efforts you have made to alleviate your acute pain.

Information and medical treatments for pain

Claimants who suffer from severe acute pain will have to have records clearly documenting where the acute pain is located, the type of acute pain, what parts of the body pain affects and its severity.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will also need information about what medical treatments have been used to either limit or stop the pain. Some claimants will also take large amounts of prescription medications or seek alternative pain treatments such as acupuncture or a TENS unit. Unfortunately, claimants who “work through” the pain and refuse treatment may genuinely suffer from extreme levels of pain, but the SSA may be less likely to believe the pain is severe if the claimant has not sought treatment.

Winning disability through a Medical Vocational Allowance

Up to 70% of disability applications are denied at the application level. If your disability is not on the Social Security Administration (SSA) listing of Impairments it will be very difficult to win benefits. So will you win SSI or SSDI for pain at the initial application level? Honestly, probably not. If you have other conditions which may severely limit your ability to work, your chances will improve, but most likely you will have to appeal your denial and request a reconsideration (the first step in the SSA appeals process).

All your medical evidence including testimonies, subjective statements from friends, family, co-workers, and doctors, records of the types and amounts of pain medications and your own testimony should clearly indicate that you do not have the residual functional capacity to work or perform work-related activities. What types of activities does this include?

  1. Lifting and carrying
  2. Sitting, standing and walking
  3. Pushing and pulling
  4. Handling, fingering and feeling
  5. Operation of foot controls
  6. Reaching overhead
  7. Balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crawling
  8. Climbing ladders, stairs and ramps
  9. Environmental limitations (cold, dust, heat, vibrations, humidity)

Additional information about your ability to work may be deduced from your ability to perform your daily activities including:

  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Ambulating with assistance
  • Walking on uneven surfaces
  • Ability to use public transportation
  • Feeding yourself
  • Preparing meals
  • Showering and dressing

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Claimants who can prove that they do not have the ability to either perform a number of work-related tasks or their daily activities due to severe chronic pain may be able to win disability benefits. Contact a disability lawyer for more information.

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Obesity and Disability Benefits

Obesity is caused by an excessive accumulation of body fat. According to leading health experts, obesity occurs if the BMI or body mass index of an individual is over 30. Morbid obesity occurs if an individual is 100 pounds more than “normal weight” and their BMI is greater than 40.

Obesity is caused by a variety of factors including behavior, genetics and environment. Prior to 1999, the Social Security Administration had a specific listing for disability but deleted the listing in 1999, claiming that obese claimants now have the ability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).

What does this mean for the obese claimant? Obesity alone will not be enough to prove that the claimant is disabled and unable to work. The Social Security Administration does, however, recognize that morbid obesity can impair a claimant and will consider the impact of obesity as an aggravating factor for other medical listings. Some listings in the SSA Listing of Impairments for example, have explanations outlining how obesity can exacerbate the condition.

The Social Security Administration also recognizes that if a claimant has a condition such as musculoskeletal disorders, lack of pulmonary function, diabetes or arthritis if the claimant is also disabled this will reduce their residual functional capacity to work.

SSR 02-01p states “individuals with obesity may have problems with the ability to sustain a function over time” further “[i]n cases involving obesity, fatigue may affect the individual’s physical and mental ability to sustain work activity.”

Claimants who are morbidly obese and can prove that they have difficulty maintaining their normal daily activities such as bathing, walking, and/or driving a car may also be able to prove that they have little capacity to maintain full-time employment.

Winning disability benefits for Morbid Obesity

The Social Security Administration has two methods they use to determine whether a claimant qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Claimants can either “meet a listing” or they can prove through the medical vocational allowance process that they cannot work. As mentioned above, because morbid obesity is not considered a listed condition, claimants will not be able to “meet a listing.”

Winning disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance

When a claimant applies for disability, the Social Security Administration evaluates the disability case using a very detailed set of rules referred to as medical-vocational guidelines. These rules are designed to help Social Security employees, no matter where they are located, evaluate every disability case “objectively” using the same set of standards.

The SSA will evaluate a claimant’s current job and past jobs, along with the claimant’s residual capacity to work to determine if a claimant can perform sedentary work (sitting for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, and lift up to 10 pounds), light work (standing and walking for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, frequently lifting 10 pounds and lifting 20 pounds occasionally) or medium work (standing and walking for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, lifting 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally).

After the disability examiner determines the residual capacity of the claimant they will also factor in their age, education and previous work experience. Based on these factors and the GRID rules, the SSA makes their determination. Keep in mind, the older the claimant the greater chance they will be found disabled.

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Wounded Warriors disability claim expedited

Speeding up the Disability Process under the Wounded Warrior Initiatives

The Social Security Administration has introduced a new disability process for Wounded Warriors to expedite or speed up disability claims of disabled veterans. The Wounded Warriors Initiative provides expedited Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for disabled veterans who became disabled while they were on active military duty on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of whether the injury or condition occurred while they were serving in the United States or out of the country.

Disability Benefits offered through Wounded Warrior Initiatives

The SSA provides SSDI and SSI benefits to wounded warriors who meet the qualifications of one of the programs. SSDI is provided to disabled veterans who have a severe health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and which does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity. SSDI is only provided to wounded veterans who have worked and paid enough in payroll taxes to be considered insured by the Social Security Administration.

Disabled veterans who are not insured and have not worked enough to have sufficient work credits for SSDI benefit may instead be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. SSI is for wounded warriors with limited income and resources, but is also provided to disabled veterans who cannot work for at least 12 continuous months.

Can a wounded veteran’s family get disability benefits under the Wounded Warrior Initiative?

Wounded veterans who receive SSDI benefits may, under certain conditions, qualify to receive family benefits (auxiliary benefits). Auxiliary benefits may be paid to an injured veteran’s spouse and children. Supplemental Security Income does not pay auxiliary benefits to wounded warrior’s family.

Spousal benefits are paid to the wounded warrior’s spouse if she is 62 years or older or caring for a child who is less than 16 years of age or who is disabled. Children may receive benefits if they are not married, younger than 18 years of age or 19 if they are attending school full-time. Children who are disabled prior to 22 years of age may continue to receive benefits indefinitely.

How does work activity affect the wounded veteran’s disability?

Although working and making too much money can disqualify a wounded warrior from receiving SSDI and SSI, the Social Security Administration recommends that all wounded warriors apply for disability benefits and allow the SSA to determine how their active duty status or their military salary affects their disability benefits. For example, many wounded warriors who are receiving medical treatment, who are participating in a rehabilitation treatment program or who are performing limited duty may be eligible for either SSI or SSDI benefits.

How can the Wounded Warrior speed up their disability process?

The Social Security Administration has instituted special procedures to expedite the disability evaluation for wounded warriors, but there are steps that the disabled veteran can take to ensure that their disability claim is evaluated as soon as possible. According to the SSA the wounded warrior should:

• Notify the SSA that their application is for a wounded warrior and that their disability occurred while they were on active duty.
• Provide accurate information to the SSA about medical records and what military facilities provided medical service.
• Provide the SSA with updated contact information as soon as possible.
• The wounded veteran should also contact the SSA if they change doctors.

The Wounded Warrior Initiative allows for the wounded veteran’s disability application to be expedited through every step of the disability evaluation process from the initial application review, the DDS evaluation and, if needed, the Administrative Hearing. Although the disability process is not perfect, efforts like the Wounded Warrior Initiative will ensure and our wounded veterans, who have valiantly defended our country, will be protected.

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