It is not uncommon in Social Security disability cases that people claim, as part of their disability, intractable knee pain. Their pain becomes worse after sitting for short periods of time and after waling short distances. Standing is out of the question. But what happens if the treatment prescribed is known or recognized in the medical literature as being just as effective as another type of treatment? Continue reading
As of June 2016, there were about 10 million disabled people receiving monthly Social Security disability benefits. Stressing the importance of the national disability program, the Social Security Administration wrote in one of its publications that a 20 year old worker has a high chance (about 1 in 4) of becoming disabled before that person reaches his or her retirement age. A logical question is what causes a worker to become disabled? Continue reading
Many people journal nowadays. 20 years ago it was called keeping a diary. (Remember those small books with a lock on it?). Today there are numerous apps which facilitate creating and maintaining a journal. People journal for different reason: some journal to obtain a cathartic effect; others journal to keep a running history of the days, weeks and months. Still others journal to become introspective. Some believe that the mere act of writing creates an emotive reaction that allow you to be in touch with your emotions, feelings and thoughts. Typically journals are not meant to be to be read by others (especially that prying brother or sister).
Journaling for a Social Security disability case, while employing some of the same techniques of “private” journaling, is very different in purpose and form. The purpose of journaling for a Social Security disability case is to document an event. The form is brief and historical.
The End of the Administrative Process. Claimants who have been denied Social Security Disability benefits at the initial, then the reconsideration level, then at the administrative hearing and finally at the Appeals Council level have competed the administrative process. The decision of the Appeals Council is the last administrative decision. Even though the Appeals Council denial is the final step in the administrative process, it is not the end of the appeals process. The federal court system is the next appeal stage.
Filing in Federal Court. The law permits a person who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to file for court review. It is a little odd that the law provides that what a person is appealing is actually the decision of the administrative law judge rather than the decision of the Appeals Council. However, Social Security statutes and regulations view the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, except in a few rare instances, as the last word on the case. Continue reading
The speed at which the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (SSA hearing office) adjudicates cases has not improved much. The fastest SSA hearing office in the United States is located in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There, it takes an average of 346 days from the date of filing a request for hearing, to preparing the case for hearing, to hearing the case, writing the decision and mailing it. That time is a little more than a year. The slowest SSA hearing office in the country is located in Brooklyn, NY. At the Brooklyn SSA hearing office, it takes an average of 736 days or just a little over 2 years to get a decision after having filed a request for hearing. (See, Hearing Office Average Processing Time Ranking Report FY 2016)
Thankfully, the Social Security Administration has created a procedure by which certain Social Security disability claimants’ hearing requests can move more quickly through the system. This procedure is set out in the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) Manual I-2-1-40 called Critical Cases. Continue reading
Very often, I meet with people who are too sick or too injured to work at their old job. As a consequence, they believe that they should qualify for federal Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, for many of those people, the inability to perform past work is just one step on the path to obtain Social Security disability. There is another step which must be successfully managed in order to obtain the benefits. This “other step” is the regulatory requirement that there not exist a substantial number of jobs in several regions throughout the United States which they can perform on an 8 hours a day 40 hour a week.
On November 2, 2015, the President signed into law H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. In part, this Act reallocated funds from the Old-Age Survivors Insurance Trust Fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund. Because of this reallocation, payment of full disability benefits into 2022 is guaranteed. Thus, the February 2015 concern of reduced Social Security disability payments has been postponed until 2022.
In 2009, the US Congress waived the work requirements as part of the stimulus package passed under the law known as the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus package, and its waiver, expired in 2015. As a consequence, non-disabled, childless Hoosiers, from age 18 to 49 have been receiving letters from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration informing them that their food stamp benefits are now limited to 3 months in a 36 month period. This is a huge change for the folks who have been receiving food stamps since Indiana suspended the work requirement in 2009.
What happens to those Hoosiers, from age 18 to 49 who have applied for Social Security Disability, have been turned down, and are waiting for an appeal hearing? The Welfare Reform law is meant to limit the availability of food stamps for young “abled bodied” adults. Congress wrote into the Welfare Reform law that a disabled young adult is not an able bodied person and therefore not subject to the food stamp limitation of 3 months in a 36 month period. However, to be a disabled young adult is to be actually receiving federal disability benefits. A disabled young adult does not mean a person who is disabled and in the process of fighting for benefits.
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Our law office will be closed on Monday, May 25th in their honor.