United states Court House in Los Angeles

© studiodr

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

 

Fotolia_103403386_XS-200x300

© highwaystarz

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 CasesContinue reading

5 Step Sequential Evaluation Process-SSA

© Cherries

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.

Continue reading

Fotolia_74141289_XS-300x200

© Petrik

In a blog post on February 7, 2015, “Will Money Run Out For the Social Security Disability Trust Fund?”, I wrote that the “consensus in the country is that unless Congress acts to rebalance the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, there will be a short fall starting in mid 2016.”  The consequence of that short fall was expected to result in the government paying about 80 percent of the monthly disability benefit to those who are entitled.

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.

Continue reading

food bank orange vintage seal isolated on white

© Aquir

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.

Memorial Day 2015

© Meilin

The Law Office of Ted Smith Attorney at Law honors the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

Our law office will be closed on Monday, May 25th in their honor.

Hidradenitis suppurativa is an absolutely terrible skin disease.  The cause of the disease is unknown.  It is a chronic condition, meaning that the disease lasts for a long time or recurs often instead of getting better.  This disease is a pus-like inflammation of the sweat glands.  The sweat glands involved are not all of the sweat glands on a person but just the “apocrine” sweat glands.  Those glands are located in the armpit area, the external genitalia and perianal area (to name a few).  The result of the blocked glands include: blackheads; bumps; lumps and sores.  The blackheads are the least of the problems which hidradenitis suppurativa causes.  The bumps can be painful and when enlarged can break open.  When the lumps break open, often they leak pus with an unpleasant oder.  The bumps may also be accompanied by itching, burning and sweating.  The lumps generally form under the skin and may become painful.  Sometime the lumps remain for years.  The sores are well, sores.  When active, the sores can ooze pus.

Hidradenitis suppurativa has no cure.  It is treated by conservative measures such as antibiotics along with other types of medications.  When all else fails, it can be treated with surgery during which the diseased tissue is removed and in its place healthy skin is grafted.

Hidradenitis suppurativa can interfere with a person’s ability to work.  This occurs mainly because of restrictions in the use of arms (caused by disease occurring under arms or in the folds of the breasts) and in the inability to sit for a long period of time (caused by the disease occurring in the external genitalia and perianal areas).  There is also a social isolation component of the disease caused by the appearance and oder of the bumps and sores.  The Social Security Administration acknowledges that hidradenitis suppurativa can be debilitating enough to serve as the basis for an award of federal disability.

"100% Expert" Cachet (bleu)

© Laz’e-Pete

The Social Security Administration’s HALLEX I-2-5-48 contains a bare bones description of a vocational expert:

VEs are vocational professionals who provide impartial expert opinion during the hearings process on claims under title II and title XVI of the Social Security Act or claims for Black Lung Benefits by either testifying at hearings or providing written responses to interrogatories.

The consensus in the country is that unless Congress acts to rebalance the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, there will be a short fall starting in mid 2016.  The belief is that this shortfall will cause the government to pay about  80 percent of the monthly disability benefit to those who are entitled.  Why is there a shortfall?  Experts say that is is largely due to changes in the American population and the retirement age.

image

© Petrik

Shortfalls, for various reasons, have occurred in the past.  Each time a short fall has arisen, Congress has stepped in to “reallocate” the various trust funds so that disabled Americans who have been declared qualified to receive disability benefits continue to receive those benefits.  This reallocation is “normal” for the federal government.  Basically, what is reallocated is the Social Security payroll tax income dealing with old-age benefits or the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.  Notability, the reallocations, of which there have been 11 since 1968, run in both directions.  That is sometimes the Disability Insurance Trust Fund has been reallocated to transfer money to the OASI and sometimes the OASI has been reallocated to transfer money to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.  The thought about this reallocation is that if allowed, both the OASI and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund would be stable until about 2033.  This time period would give Congress enough time to work out a sensible plan to continue funding both trust funds.

Indiana Trial Lawyers Association