Saturday, December 01, 2007
One of the most common medical conditions listed in a SSDI or SSI claim is some sort of back impairment. The more common conditions of the back and neck are herniated discs, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, and vertebral fracture. How a claim for benefits is won for these conditions depends on many factors. I will try and simplify the way the majority of these cases are won. In general if you are over 50 years old and your prior work is considered light or heavier you will probably only have to show your back condition limits you to sedentary work to be found disabled. If you are younger than 50 years old or prior work was sedentary the case usually requires that you be found capable of less than sedentary work and there would not be a significant number of jobs you could perform. There are some exceptions to this see my web page GRID Rules to understand the whole picture. So if you are under 50 or over 50 but your prior work was sedentary how do you show you can't even do a significant number of sedentary jobs with a back impairment. There are several ways you can do this I will discuss a couple here. Your inability to sit for long periods of time is important but what is more important is why you can't sit for long. It is because of pain. Your documentation and testimony of pain is important because it can show an inability to concentrate in a work setting. The medication you take particularly narcotic pain medication can further decrease your ability to concentrate. It is also very common for those who suffer from a long history of back pain to develop depression. The symptoms of depression can have serious impacts on ones ability to do sedentary work. To see how depression can affect a disability claim see my page on depression and SSDI. If your back impairment is in your cervical spine it can often lead to pain and loss of sensation in your arms and hands and often times leads to headaches. All these limitations also interfere with ones ability to do sedentary work. For more details on back impairments and Social Security disability.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
There has been proposed regulation changes that will in my opinion make it even more difficult to get a fair decision in a Social Security Disability claim. SSA is proposing new rules allegedly to speed up processing times but will ultimately lead to an unfair process to the claimant and in my opinion more denials. One of these changes would restrict the submission of evidence at the hearing stage. Evidence would have to be submitted 5 days prior to the hearing date. There are exceptions to this rule but it appears as if the discretion is left up to the ALJ. I know from experience in dealing with SSDI cases for many years that it is not always possible to get all the medical evidence in 5 days before the hearing. Lawyers and claimants are often pleading with doctors who treat the claimants to get the records in a reasonable time. There is a provision to address this but it sounds like the discretion is left to the ALJ. This would be fine if I did not know from experience that some ALJs will take this new procedure to deny almost all medical records submitted after the 5 days prior to hearing. Evidence submitted after the hearing would be even more restricted. I will cover this topic again when the final rulings are released.