How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

How Does Social Security Define Incapacitated?

To receive Social Security benefits, you must have worked jobs that are covered by Social Security as well as have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of “incapacitated.”

Social Security has a strict method to define incapacitated. Unlike other programs, to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must typically be incapacitated (disabled) and have done insignificant (non-substantial) work for the past 12 months.

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) define incapacitated? In order, to be considered incapacitated, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that you be unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).

More On Substantial Gainful Activity

According to the SSA, substantial work activity means you are doing significant physical or mental activities even if it is part-time or your income is less than when you became incapacitated.

Gainful activity is something that you get paid to do or could get paid to do, even if you are not getting paid to do those activities. We are talking about volunteering, home business, babysitting (potentially) and similar.

Moreover, there is also a wage component to SGA. You might be able to do minimal work but not earn a basic minimum wage in doing so, due to your disabling conditions or incapacity. For 2017, that amount is $1,170 for non-blind applicants and $1,950 for blind applicants. If you are making over this amount per month from your job, then the SSA believes that you are not disabled and can engage in competitive employment.

Finances Do Factor into Some Disability Discussions, But Not All

The SSA does not take into consideration any money you bring in from outside sources such as interest, investment, or gifts when looking at SGA for SSDI. However, low earnings do not necessarily constitute low SGA. For example, if you are working as a substitute teacher, you can still be found as doing SGA though you are not likely getting paid very much, or very regularly.

In that example, your low-income rate is not due to being disabled, but rather due to the on-call nature of your job. In this same vein, volunteer activities could also be considered SGA if they are something that could be considered a paying job, even if irregular, or non-paying. The fact that others earn a living doing the work could leave the impression that you are not incapacitated from doing the same.

On the other side of the coin, high earnings do not necessarily mean you were doing SGA either. For instance, if you are working under certain special circumstances, your wage might not have any correlation with your incapacity. Here are some examples:

  • You required assistance for co-workers to complete your tasks
  • You were able to take a frequent rest break or able to work irregular hours
  • Special equipment was provided to assist you in your tasks
  • Work was assigned specifically to you based on your disability
  • You relied on other people to transport you to and from work
  • A lower standard of productivity or efficiency was allowed due to your disability

Incapacity and SGA

You can probably see at this point how the SSA looks at SGA to define “incapacitated” and apply it to your situation or to state that you are not incapacitated. If the SSA sees that you are making SGA, your claim will be likely be denied barring special circumstances (as listed above). This is the point where you want to reach out for help if you have not done so already.

So what if you recently quit working but are not sure you cannot work elsewhere or perform SGA? If you apply for benefits and then stop working due to your disability, you can keep looking for opportunities to earn work. In fact, if you are successful in becoming gainfully employed, that is great! If however, you are unsuccessful, those can be considered unsuccessful work attempts and with the help of a good advocate, they will help to make your SSDI case stronger with the SSA.

SGA Helps to Define Incapacitated!

Substantial gainful activity plays a considerable part in the Social Security Administrations approach to define incapacitated; though there are many grey areas involved. In fact, we covered just a few above. There are most certainly more. If you have questions about how to define incapacitated as it relates to your specific situation, please reach out to us today, and we will give you a clear assessment of your situation.

How to Help Your Disability Lawyer Win Your Social Security Claim & Appeal

How to Help Your Disability Lawyer Win Your Social Security Claim & Appeal

When filing for disability through the Social Security Administration, here is a list of eight things you can do to help your disability lawyer win your claim.

Keep this list handy, in case anything on it changes. And if you are just now reaching out to a disability lawyer, here are some of the things you can expect you will need to provide

Provide Basic Demographic Information

  • Information about you
  • Birthdate, place of birth, and social security number
  • Your current and any former spouse’s name, birthdate, age, social security number, marriage date and dates of divorce or death
  • Dates of birth and names of minor children
  • Account number and routing number of your financial intuition if you want direct deposit of your benefits
  • Information about your medical condition
  • Contact information for someone who knows about your medical conditions and can help with your application, such as a family member
  • Information about your illness, injury, or condition such as detailed information about all doctors, clinics, or hospitals who have treated you (name, address, phone number, patient ID, and dates of treatment)
  • List of prescription medications and the prescribing doctor
  • List of what medical tests you have had done including names and dates and who requested them
  • Information about your work
  • Gross pay for last year and the current year
  • Contact information for current employer (last year as well)
  • A copy of your social security statement
  • Information about all jobs help the past 15 years
  • Information for any other benefits you may be applying for such as Worker’s compensation, disability from the military, etc.

Get Your Documentation In Order

  • Proof of birth such as a birth certificate
  • Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status
  • US military discharge papers (if before 1968)
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
  • Medical evidence
  • Proof of any temporary or permanent worker’s compensation type benefits you receive

Sign Releases of Information

Sign a medical privacy release allowing your attorney to request any medical information you did not provide or any information your attorney needs to help your case. Your disability lawyer will also use this to request supportive statements from your doctors.

Prepare For Your Hearing With Your Disability Lawyer

Your lawyer will go over questions that could be asked of you during your hearing. Answer these as truthfully as possible even if you feel embarrassed. Your disability lawyer is not there to judge you; just to get as much information to help you win your case as possible.

Expect to be able to answer:

Questions related to your mood.

“How are you feeling?”
“Are you anxious?”
“Are you depressed?”
“Do your medications make you feel different?”
“Are there things you do not enjoy anymore?”
“How do you get along with people?”

Questions about treatment:

“Do you see a doctor for your disabilities?”
“How long have you been injured or sick?”
“Have you tried any treatment?”
“Do you take medications?”
“Do your medications have any side-effects?”
“Do you take any medication?”
“Do you take the prescribed dosage of all medications?”
“Do you have health insurance?”

Questions about employability:

“How did you know you were too sick to work?”
“When did you become unable to work?”
“Are you able to work now?”

Lifestyle Questions:

“Do you use alcohol or other recreational drugs?”
“Do you abuse any substances?”
“Are you seeking substance abuse help or assistance?”
“Have you been incarcerated?”
“What were you incarcerated for?”
“Do you take care of yourself?”
“Can you cook, clean, drive, and shop on your own?”
“Are there things you cannot do that you used to enjoy?”
“What is your average day?”
“Can you lift (common objects)?”
“How far can you walk?”
“Do you use stairs at home, in public?”
“Can you read?”
“Can you write?”
“What is your education?”
“What are your symptoms?”

Reach Out to Your Medical Providers

Ask your current physician to support your disability case and have him/her fill out a detailed statement or an RFC (residual functional capacity) form.

Pay Attention to Timelines

Respond as soon as possible to letters and notices and attend any medical exams scheduled by disability determination services (DDS).

Stay in Contact With Us

Check the status of your disability case on a regular basis.  Call into the office, let us know you are still around 🙂

Have Patience, Even When It Is Challenging

Always be courteous, patient, and kind to all the people working on your case including your local social security rep, DDS, and your disability lawyer – if possible.

Here’s another article you might find helpful after having read this one!

 How to win Your SSI Appeal Step-by-Step

Can You File a Social Security Disability Claim for Pseudoclaudication?

Can You File a Social Security Disability Claim for Pseudoclaudication

Do you suffer from excruciating back pain?  Is it making it difficult for you to work?

You may be wondering if you can file for social security disability if you suffer from Pseudocladication. 

Let’s look at the qualifications of social security disability. 

What Is Pseudoclaudication?

The term pseudoclaudication is used to describe a condition known as lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), which causes inflammation of the nerves emanating from a person’s spinal cord. This condition occurs when your spinal canal narrows in the lower part of your back. Bone spurs, bulging disks, or a thickening of the ligaments in the back of the spinal canal may all be to blame. The most common symptoms of pseudoclaudication include tingling or cramping in the lower back, the hips, legs, or the buttocks. You may also feel heaviness or weakness in your legs.

The roots of the nerves that control the movement of your legs pass through narrow areas in the spinal canal. If those passages become too narrow, it may put pressure on the roots of those nerves, causing pain. The pain could intensify while standing or walking and can often be relieved by sitting or lying down.

How to Qualify for a Disability with a Spinal Disorder Including Pseudoclaudication

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits related to pseudoclaudication, you first must be diagnosed by a physician with one of the following disorders:

Nerve Root Compression

Nerve Root Compression is usually caused by a herniated disc or a pinched nerve in the back. This condition can result in limited motion in their spine, muscle weakness, or reflex loss; all of which play into the discussion of how the symptoms might prevent you from earning a wage.

Spinal Arachnoiditis

This disorder results from inflammation of the arachnoid – one of the several membranes that protect the nerves of the spinal cord. One of the keys to seeking Social Security Disability when you have this condition is to ensure that you have a confirmed diagnosis by a physician performing; either a tissue biopsy or an MRI scan.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

This condition may be caused by degenerative arthritis. To qualify for SSDI benefits with a diagnosis of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis you usually must have limited motor control, muscle weakness accompanied by pseudoclaudication, or spinal stenosis. This condition must typically be documented by a T scan, an MRI scan, or an x-ray.

Lumbar stenosis may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications. However, some doctors may suggest surgical treatment for these types of conditions if other non-surgical treatments have failed to work for the patient.

What Medical Evidence is Required For Pseudoclaudication?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will request/need your medical records from the doctor that is currently treating you for pseudoclaudication or related conditions. These records should include an imaging test that confirms the diagnosis of spinal stenosis.

The records should reflect that a doctor has done a complete and detailed physical exam; including, testing your reflexes, muscle strength, range of motion, and your ability to walk, bend, squat and rise.

Medical records should also show whether nerve root compression is causing pain, muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, or limited range of motion.

Other Considerations for SSDI Claims for Pseudoclaudication

When filling out an application for disability benefits, you need to include descriptions of how your back pain and impairment affects your ability to work. You also need to describe how it impacts your overall daily life. Do not forget how back considerations may cause you to be experiencing behavioral health conditions, such as depression or anxiety due to chronic pain. Be sure to list all of your symptoms that you are currently experiencing.  For help, here is a step by step discussion about disability claims and appeals.

Clearly, there are many hoops to jump through when back conditions are the basis for a Social Security Disability claim (or appeal). Reading blogs like this can be helpful in gaining a better understanding. We hope it is at least. However, reaching out to a good disability attorney is also something you might want to consider. If you have any of these conditions, pseudoclaudication – etc., send us a message. We will help you figure out how to approach a Social Security Disability claim or appeal.

Disability Hearing: Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Disability Hearing Tips From a Disability Lawyer

Are you ready for your disability hearing? You are going to be side by side with your attorney, in front of an administrative law judge. Experts will be commenting on your desire and ability to work. And, you will have many things on your mind.

What if they think I am faking my injury?
How will they make a decision?
When will I be able to move past this appeal!?
Is this Social Security nightmare almost over?

This period before your hearing is an uncomfortable time for most people. You are not alone in wondering how everything is going to proceed when you finally get your day in front of the ALJ. Here are a couple of tips to help you get yourself in a mindset that will reduce, though not likely eliminate, your anxiety.

Review Your Challenges & Barriers

At this point, you are bar-none the expert on knowing what your challenges are. How they impact you on a daily basis, and how you are unable to establish and maintain employment because of them. However, you should not be complacent and feel that you can “wing it” when asked.

Even before meeting with your disability attorney for your pre-hearing discussion, you should go over all the issues at least one more time by yourself. Take an hour or so and write down, exactly what challenges you face every day.

Start your review with thinking about how you get up in the morning, make breakfast, your daily routine, evening routine, leisure, chores, nightly routine, and sleep/rest.

This tip sounds simple, almost to the point of unnecessary, but often, we get so busy doing things that we forget the challenges we have to overcome to accomplish them. Taking a couple of minutes to review your day, and write things down, often results in a better personal understanding of your challenges, and puts you in a better frame of mind to recall them for others.

If you have been keeping a disability journal – you have 90% of this covered already.  You just have to simply review it.

Review Your Disability Claim

Now that you have considered your daily barriers, you should examine your disability claim. Make sure to look at things like, when you filed your disability claim. Who helped you file your disability claim? Also, what has the experience been like since you filed your claim?

Try to get a basic timeline put together of your current disability application status. Include application dates, appeals, doctors’ appointments, and even disability lawyer visits if that applies. All of these items are no-doubt already facts of the case, and readily available for both your disability lawyer and the judge, but you should strive to have an accurate and easily recallable understanding of how your disability claim has ended up at the hearing level too.

At worst, going through this exercise will be a bit of time out of your day. However, it might help you to be more effective in telling your story in context during the upcoming hearing, or in conversation with your disability lawyer before the hearing.

Show Up Early to Your Disability Hearing

If there was/is ever a time to be early for something this is it. It is very possible, your disability lawyer set up a prehearing conference with you, just to avoid this. However, regardless of why you should plan to be early, make it happen.

Plan for traffic to be the worst traffic in history. Plan for your vehicle to break down in your driveway. Realize that the bus will miss your stop. Understand that your alarm will break in the middle of the night while you are fast asleep. In the worst of all possible scenarios, how will you make it to your hearing?

Talk to Your Disability Lawyer

This last tip should be obvious, assuming you have a good disability lawyer. However, it is not uncommon to hear stories about claimants who meet their disability lawyer for the first time just prior to their hearing.

If you have a disability lawyer that has given you very little information or even ideas on how to prepare for your hearing, now is the time to be proactive. It may already be very difficult to change horses so far downstream, but that does not mean you have to be completely passive in regards to your disability claim.

Ask your disability lawyer, or their assistant, how you can best prepare. Ask them what info you should bring, whether you are going to be meeting with them, and what to expect. A great disability lawyer will not throw you to the wolves, they will prepare you for your hearing, and will help you so that you do not get blindsided during it.

If you are only now retaining a disability lawyer, keep in mind how well they communicate. We have talked about this before, and the particular threat of going to a disability hearing unprepared is a poignant example of why communication and working with a great disability lawyer matters.

Talk To A Lilac City Law Disability Lawyer Today!
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The Real Cost of Hiring A Social Security Disability Lawyer

The Real Cost of Hiring A Social Security Disability Lawyer

 

Sometimes the idea of hiring a lawyer creates a barrier to action. We all know that when the stuff gets sideways, turning to a lawyer to fix it can be the best bet.

However, we also know that lawyers cost money. There’s no pretense that their services are free.

What most do not realize, though, is that the cost of hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer is defined very precisely by federal law, and it is this way to enable you to be able to afford it.

 

The Cost of Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer

Here’s the breakdown. The Federal government has limited the fee a Social Security disability lawyer can collect to 25% of past-due awards, with a maximum of $6,000. This fee breakdown means that all reputable Social Security disability lawyers work on contingency. If they do not help you win your appeal, they will not get paid.

In that sense the upfront cost is nothing. There’s no reason for you to delay communicating with one just to get a second look at your claim, and advice on your denial, if you have been denied.  That much, at the very least, is free.

Some Social Security disability attorneys may ask for an upfront fee, usually <$200 to pay for medical records and other costs associated with gathering evidence on your behalf. This fee arrangement is among other reasons, why it is both wise and prudent to consider with whom you want to work. Not every disability lawyer is necessarily of equal quality, accessibility, or cost.

As you consider the next couple of examples, you may want to brush up on the process of a disability claim appeal.

 

 

Cost Example #1: SSDI Appeal @ 30 months

Joan Smith has a Social Security Disability Claim (SSDI). Her claim was initially filed 30 months ago. It has been in an appeal for the last 24 months. After her ALJ hearing her claim was awarded because she hired a firm like Lilac City Law. 🙂 It was determined that her monthly compensation should have been $1000 per month for the last 24 months.

Total Award: $30,000 (30 months x $1000)
25% of $30,000 = $7,500

Since Social Security Lawyers may only collect a maximum of $6000 on the award, the amount directed to the law firm would be $6,000. Moreover, the fee would be paid directly from Social Security. So, Joan would not have to write a check to the firm. She would instead receive a check for $24k in back pay ($30k award minus attorneys fees).

 

Cost Example #2: SSI Appeal @ 18 months

Marvin Jackson has a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Claim. His claim was initially filed 18 months ago. It has been in an appeal for the last 24 months. After his ALJ hearing, the claim was awarded. It was determined that his monthly compensation should have been ~$735 per month for the last 18 months.

(The actual monthly rate would be variable per respective year and match the standards described here. In 2016, Marvin’s monthly rate would have been less than in 2017. However, for the sake of simplicity, we are assuming all months at one rate)

Total Award: $13,320 (18 months x $735)
25% of $13,320 = $3330

Since Social Security Lawyers may only collect a maximum of 25% up to $6000 on the award, the amount directed to the law firm would be $3,330.

The fee would be paid directly from Social Security. So, Marvin would not have to write a check to the firm. He would instead receive a check for $9,990 in back pay ($13,320 award minus attorneys fees).

 

The Cost of NOT Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer

Sometimes claimants pursue an appeal on their own. Also, sometimes they are successful. However, that is the exception, not the norm. Though, going-it-alone is something we firmly advise against. You can look at the dozens of articles we have written on the various quirks of Social Security claims to get an idea of how easily things can get goofy.

However, a fantastic article that gives a high-level perspective on the claims and appeals process in their totality is this one laying out how you can win an SSI or SSDI claim step-by-step.

 

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3 Big Mistakes You Can Make After an SSI Claim Denial

3 Big Mistakes You Can Make After an SSI Claim Denial

 

Well, you got it, your denial for your SSI claim! Argh!! What should you do next? Here is a list of the three biggest mistakes people make after receiving an SSI claim denial.

File a New Claim

There is a myth that says you have to file a claim at least three times before your SSI claim will be accepted. It is easy to see why and how this myth caught hold. Social Security is notorious for not approving appropriate claims the first time around. However, you would be doing yourself a disservice by filing a new SSSI claim as your first response to a denial of benefits.

The main reason you would want to avoid this course of action is that your chances of success do not go up in filing a new claim vs. filing an appeal. All things being equal, this might not matter much. However, all things are not equal. Namely, the back-pay you would ultimately receive if and when your appeal is successful.

When you file a new SSI claim your date of application changes to the new filing date. Whereas, when you appeal a denial, your date-of-claim remains the same, and your future awards will be back-dated to that claim-date.

 

Miss The Deadline to Appeal

We would not be listing this if it did not happen entirely too often. Missing the deadline for an appeal is an avoidable gaffe. However, there could be many reasons someone might miss it. From simply accidentally trashing the notice in the junk mail, to outright avoiding the notice due to the dread of what it might contain.

Most often the deadline is missed because claimants have an underlying uneasiness in appealing a decision made by the Social Security Administration. That makes sense, from a young age we are taught to accept authority, and what’s more authoritative than a massive government agency? Here’s the truth though, Social Security gets these initial claims decisions wrong, often. Like very often!

You can fight them, and you can win. In fact, you do not even have to be the one doing 99% of the fighting. Reach out for help; appeals are what we are here to help you overcome.

 

Accept the SSI Claim Determination and Quit Trying

As we discussed briefly above, you do not have to agree and take the SSI determination as truth. Their denial may be uninformed, or under-informed for many reasons. They may have denied you due to a mix-up in the US-Mail, an ambiguous doctor’s note, a mistake on an application, and so on. The reasons for the denial are much longer than the reasons for approval, sadly.

When you work with an experienced SSI law firm, you benefit from the vast number of cases and ways in which they have helped applicants just like you to overcome SSI’s denials. There’s an adage that says there’s no replacement for experience. In the world of Social Security, that is true! Experience gives a firm like Lilac City Law the knowledge of how many ways Social Security can screw-up an initial determination, and it provides us with the insight necessary to fight them and win.

 

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4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

4 Items in Your Disability Journal That Will Help You Win Your SSDI Appeal

 

Social Security Disability appeals can be arduous.  They often take an incredibly long time to process.

The questions asked by medical experts and judges can leave you confused, and to top it all off, you’re expected to remember minute details about a condition that has been plaguing you for years (by the time you actually get to talk to a judge). 

A very simple thing you can do today that can really make a big difference in your claim or appeal is to start keeping a disability Journal. 

Here are 4 easy steps you can follow to create a disability journal today.

 

Recording Everything About Your Illness or Injury

You may think your illness/injury is pretty straight forward and that it doesn’t need further explanation; however, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone should or does understand your condition(s).  Your best bet is to do your best to capture the actual impacts your injuries or illnesses manifest in your life and let that description tell your story.  In this way, you can add more than a diagnostic description to your condition, you can tell a story in your own words of how you’re affected every single day.

To start off, your disability journal should include the date, time and duration of any barriers or challenges.  For instance, an episode of pain or seizures, etc.  It should also include the level of severity for pain, seizures, or other barriers and include the time of the day and/or how frequent you experienced it.

Make sure to note down what, if any, triggers may have caused pain, anxiety, or other issues.  Specific foods, times of day, proximity to people, activities, sounds, and stress are all common triggers, but many others exist and this is not even close to an exhaustive list.

Some illnesses or injury can be hard to explain so don’t worry about getting things perfect, just try to give it your best shot to describe your situation as you live it, and the true impact of your injuries or illnesses will become apparent to any non-biased reader of your journal.

 

Including Your Medication in Descriptions of Your Barriers

Many, maybe most, medical condition involve medication at some point.  Certain medications can cause side effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea, disorientation, hallucination, etc. These side effects can prove to be positive or negative with respect to their impact on your life.  Regardless, include it in your disability journal.  If you can’t drive due to drowsiness, put it down.  How does that make you feel, sad?  Write about it.  One of the things many people miss discussing in claims for Social Security disability is the issue of side-effects due to the medication they’re taking to cope with their injury or illness.  It’s all related, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not sharing the entire impact of your condition if you don’t talk about this.

Sometimes medications can be confusing or hard to differentiate in describing them to others.  One trick might be to tape a copy of your medication label in your disability journal.  By doing this, you’ll have a record of what was prescribed, and when you took it.  That could come in handy at a later date when someone asks about medications you took in the past.  You’ll also be able to look at how they affected you, how often those medications had an impact, and what – if anything- you were able to do to cope with the barriers they (the medication) presented.

 

Being Honest in Your Disability Journal

It may seem awkward at times to keep such a detailed disability journal of your condition(s).  One of the biggest surprises people find is that things they didn’t think happened a lot, actually, pop up on a daily basis.  And other things: aches and other pains aren’t as common as they seem.  This can be a really tempting time to elaborate, exaggerate, and stretch the truth a little.  Be careful you don’t fall into that temptation.  We promise you if you keep a record of your challenges it’s going to tell a far more compelling story if it’s accurate to your situation than it will if it contains false information.

You don’t have to exaggerate your condition.  You’re not able to work because of it, your condition! That’s the barrier.  This journal will help you to describe it, detail it, and record it.  But if you’re not honest in using the journal, you’ll never be able to use it as an effective tool if someone takes a critical look at it.

Stay true to yourself and you don’t have to worry about telling different stories to different people.

 

Keeping Your Disability Journal Up to Date

For something like a disability journal to be helpful, it’s got to be updated on a regular basis.  You can get to the point that it’s a habit to do the journal – it only takes a month or so to reach that point.  It’s certainly plausible that even this idea might take some effort – if your conditions include injuries to your hands, for instance.  Or from being able to move across the room to access your notes.  If these are the cases, you can do videos on your cell phone or even audio recordings.

No matter how you record your day-to-day, if you keep adding your life impacts of your injuries or illnesses, your final case will be much stronger.  Help yourself to help yourself.  If you do have barriers, reach out to a great Social Security law firm, and ask if they can help you with any ideas.

 

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5 Tips For a New SSI & SSDI Social Security Claim

5 Tips For a New SSI & SSDI Social Security Claim

 

If you’re filing an SSI or SSDI claim, you want to do your best to avoid ending up in an appeal process that could delay your benefits by up to 2 years! 

Here are five tips to help you get ahead of the curve and give you a better chance of successfully getting your claim approved the first time you apply for SSI or SSDI benefits. 

 

Get All Your Medical Records Together and Copied

Your medical records are primary sources of evidence in your Social Security Claim.  And if you end up in appeal, these records will be some of the items your social security attorney will be relying on to make your case as strong as possible.  For this reason, one of the very best things you can do up-front in in your social security claim is to both request whatever records you are able to, and to make copies.

Even better than this is to either obtain a digital copy, by request – or take your records to an office supply store and ask that they create .PDF copies for you.  In this manner you can print off as many as you need, if ever asked!

 

Talk To Your Doctor About Your Social Security Claim

Getting your symptoms into your medical record can truly help your Social Security claim.  The easiest and best way to do this is to talk to your doctor openly and honestly about any of your challenges.  For instance, you may be unable to work because of hand injuries, however if you leave it at just that – a lot of speculation could arise about your ability to perform other tasks.  If though, you have hand injuries and significant associated pain, the total impact of your disability changes.

This means, don’t clam-up in discussing all the symptoms and physical/mental health barriers you’re experiencing when your doctor asks how you’re doing.  Ask them to make a note of your response too, if you feel like you’re not being heard.  You don’t want someone to say at a later date that you created a set of symptoms when in reality you’ve been experiencing them the whole time.

 

Be Honest About Your Symptoms

After the last point, this one bears discussion.  It’s tremendously important that you get your symptoms noted in your medical records.  However, you have to make sure you’re being completely honest about them too.  Don’t overstate your symptoms, the last thing you want to pop-up in your claim is a fraudulent statement about your personal barriers.  On that note though, don’t understate your symptoms.  This is a classic situation that hinders many excellent claims.  If someone asks how you’re doing, answer truthfully and fully.  If you’re having a bad day, say so.  If your stomach is upset say so.  If you didn’t’ get any sleep, say so.  And so on.

It’s not always easy to be honest with someone about physical or mental heath barriers.  But with your doctor, employer, and lawyer, you should lay it all out.   Especially with a Social Security claim in discussion.

 

Seek A Statement From Your Doctor

A doctor’s statement will have an very significant impact on your claim.  Or rather, it could have a significant impact if they frame it in the right context.

In reality a doctor, or several doctors will already be giving input on the severity of your disabling conditions.  And by their very nature, doctors will often shy away from judging how it will impact your life, in lieu of just describing the limitations imposed.  If you are able to discuss it with your doctor, having them draft a statement that covers both what is wrong and exactly how it impacts your ability to work, will be very helpful.

To understand why, you have to get into the mind of a Social Security decision maker for a minute.  They are tasked with understanding your claim, looking at the evidence, and trying to understand how the two are related – all within a small amount of time.  Without an expert’s opinion, they have to formulate an opinion based on what they have.  However, if you do have an expert’s opinion, your doctor, it eliminates the subjective basis of the adjudicator’s determination.  For them to counter the doctor’s opinion they need another doctor’s opinion or a more significant understanding of the facts of your claim.  Make their job easy and provide a medical opinion in your favor up-front.

 

Record and Provide Detailed Records of Your Work History, If You Have One

The basis for this tip is different depending on whether you’re filing for an SSI claim or an SSDI claim.  However, the fundamental value is the same.

If you’re filing for SSI because of a disability, you want to show any work history you may have had, even if it’s 15 years ago.  If you were able to work successfully prior to your condition, then you can demonstrate there’s a difference between the you that is claiming, and the you that was able to work successfully in the past.  With the difference being your disabling condition, presumably.

Likewise, if you’re filing for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, detailing your recent work history will demonstrate exactly how your disabling condition has been affecting your ability to maintain employment.  Or how it stops you from being able to do what you’ve been doing.

It’s tempting to try to discount employment or to play it down, but if viewed in the right manner, a full and detailed employment history often plays favorably into a claim for SSI or SSDI benefits.

 


If you want to talk more about this, or any of these other tips, you should contact a Social Security disability attorney for a free consultation.


 

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7 Ways to Enjoy the Summer While You Wait for Your Disability Appeal to Process

7 Ways to Enjoy the Summer While You Wait for Your Disability Appeal to Process

A disability appeal might take upwards of two years from the time you filed your appeal to the time you sit with your disability attorney in front of a judge. 

As we spring into the Summer season, perhaps it makes sense to take a step back, ease up a little and consider some of these things you might be able to do to pass the time while waiting for your disability appeal to process.

Re-kindle a Passion for Reading

As you’ve probably heard before, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” so why not keep yourself busy and stay away from potential negative thoughts about the frustrating process that is a disability appeal?

Reading is a perfect way to occupy your mind and escape from time to time.  In addition to this, reading has immense health benefits.  It stimulates the mind and even helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.   Reading also reduces stress and helps your mind to relax; it also serves as a great tool to prevent memory loss.

If you want to read about disability issues, you can read our blog.  Of course, picking up a good best seller might have more relaxation appeal than our articles on disability.

Try Meditation

Depending on your physical or mental condition, and on the severity of your disability, meditation may be an excellent option for you.

One of the great allures of meditation is that it can be accomplished while standing, sitting or even lying down.  It is accessible in some form to nearly everyone.

In mediation, you learn to focus on relaxing your mind and listening to your body.

One popular and effective way to meditate is Yoga. Yoga has numerous positions including many beginner’s level ones that you can even do sitting in a chair.  YouTube has a number of channels for free Yoga.

If Yoga is not your cup-o-tea then Spotify, youTube, and other sources also have tons of free channels for meditation music.   Listening to relaxing music with a pair of headphones will relax you.  If you focus on breathing and thinking inward, you’ll slip into a meditative state in no time at all.  In fact, you will be amazed at how fast time flies by and how effective the results of your meditation will be.

Day Trips to Local Parks 

Leaving the house to get some fresh air is always a good idea.  If you have a park nearby, try to take an hour of your day and make it a habit to wander through it.   Fresh O2, a change in the environment, and a sense of exploration can be great time-killers.  As a bonus, you might also have a chance to meet new friends while you are out and about!

Check-in to the Library for Local Affinity Groups

Affinity groups can be something to look forward to and plan your schedule around.  If you join a club, a board, or social group, you might find out that your whole calendar ends up starting to coordinate around the daily, weekly, or monthly meeting.  This is certainly not a bad thing!

Create an Annual Calendar with All Your Medical & Legal Appointments

Another great way to pass some time while you wait for your disability appeal to process is taking out all of your documents, and organizing them.

If you’re the type of person that hates order and organization this idea may not be for you.  Then again, this may be exactly what you need to gain a sense of control over the multiple variables in your disability claim, and other concerns.

Organizing your life and documents helps you to get a feel for what and when things are coming up.  A secondary benefit is that you can use that advanced planning to get ahead of things that might have otherwise held you back before.

Sometimes the best way to de-stress is to get everything in order.  Your house, your checkbook, and maybe even your Social Security notes.  Doing this could also help your claim!

Talk to Your Family

Family time can be a relaxing time and a time to reconnect.  This is, of course, notwithstanding the dynamics that can accompany some family gatherings!

Merely when you’re in the presence of people who know you, get you, and understand you can provide psychological benefits that you cannot get elsewhere.  Family time can be therapeutic and can provide you with ideas and options for new directions, and activities, to pursue while you wait for your disability appeal to process.

Work With an Attorney to Establish an Estate Plan

While the wait may seem forever, there are other tasks you can cross off while waiting for your disability appeal to be processed.

For example, if you haven’t already made an Estate Plan, you should take a look at some of our other articles and learn why you’ll want to talk to an estate planning attorney.  You’re already filing for a disability appeal, so there is some pressing medical condition that is having a large impact on your life.  In light of those healthcare challenges, right now might be the perfect time to start thinking about who can access your medical and financial documents, why they would need to, and in which circumstances (you becoming further disabled) this would all be a great idea to have squared away!

If you want to start with the basics, here’s a brief on four of the most important estate planning documents, and why you should set them up.

And, feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Contact Us to Establish Your Estate Plan Today!

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