Saturday, November 27, 2010
Chances are if you are reading this you already realize the importance of learning as much as you can about Social Security disability, and how they will answer the question "are you disabled". Some of you may hire a lawyer so you do not have to try and learn something as complex as Social Security disability law. This is understandable for some of you who have disabilities that prevent them from being able to take on such a task. However, for those of you who are able even if you have a lawyer you should read and become as knowledgeable as you can on SSDI or SSI. How deep your research goes will depend on your ability to retain the information, and be able to apply that information to your particular case. You might be asking: isn't that why I hire a lawyer? Yes, but I will give you a couple of reasons why you should still do your best to know as much as you can about Social Security disability law. First, many Social Security disability lawyers are extremely good at what they do, but even the best lawyers can not know exactly what you are going through and how your particular medical condition is affecting you as an individual. Lawyers know how certain medical conditions affect people and they know how to use that information to present your case. However, just because two people suffer from the same medical diagnosis does not mean they have the same limitations and symptoms as each other. In other words, no one knows your condition as well as you do. If you know even the basics of how your claim will be handled by your lawyer you will be able to help the attorney present your case in a way that gives you the best chance to win. I will give you an example from my case I had not too long ago in front of a particularly difficult judge. My claimant had a rare visual medical condition that did not fit neatly into the Social Security disability guidelines to be found disabled. The claimant did not meet or equal the listing from any of her visual tests, so we had to show that this person could not even perform the simplest of work. The claimant had read a piece I had written on the Internet about keeping a diary and the importance of being able to explain exactly how your medical condition limits you in day to day activities. After going through all of my clients medical records and speaking to my client for over an hour the claimant handed me a notebook where my client would write down a sentence or two each day about the difficulties of my client's vision from day-to-day. I noticed almost every day it was noted this person had double vision lasting hours. I confirmed with the treating doctor that this was one of the side effects of her condition. The doctor then wrote up a report explaining it was his opinion that the patient experienced double vision at least six hours a day and that this was very common for people with this medical condition. On the day of the hearing, the ALJ asked the typical questions about visual acuity and peripheral vision. The ALJ then presented a hypothetical to the vocational expert with the limitations that the eye test showed. As I expected, the vocational expert came up with quite a few jobs my claimant could do. It was now my turn to present my hypothetical to the vocational expert. I asked the vocational expert and the judge to cross their eyes. I then asked the vocational expert if this was an individuals vision for six hours a day would there be any work this person could do. The answer was no and the ALJ, with the treating doctors report as part of the file, had no choice but to find the claimant disabled. As you can see in this example, because the claimant read my article on the Internet that told people to keep a diary and the claimant did it, I had the information I needed to come up with a creative way to present my claimant's case to the ALJ which in turn led to a favorable decision. Another reason it is important to be as knowledgeable about SSD and SSI as you can is so that you will know whether the lawyer you are considering hiring is the one that gives you the best chance to win. You will have the confidence to ask questions and ask how he or she plans to pursue your case. Lastly, if you know what you have to prove, and what evidence you need to do so, you can get that information if you don't have a lawyer or help the lawyer get the information that is needed to win your claim, without having to wait for instructions from the attorney who probably has many clients. It is important to remember that if you have a lawyer never send anything into Social Security without your lawyer seeing it first, because no matter how much you have researched if you have an experienced Social Security disability lawyer they will still know the law better than you. I hope all of you who have claims pending have a favorable outcome in the near future.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
In this post, I will talk about some things you should keep in mind when you have a Social Security disability claim. First, sometimes good claims get denied and bad claims win. This is true at every stage of the process and the decisions made at each stage. We sometimes forget that the Social Security Administration is made up of people. Like in all walks of life and jobs there are hard-working employees, lazy employees, and everywhere in between. Your SSDI or SSI claim can be affected adversely and positively depending on the employees that are working on your particular case and their individual opinions of disability. This is one reason you can see differing approval and denial rates in different states and even different local offices or hearing offices in the same state. Believe it or not, besides making sure you have all your medical records and doctors opinions and even a lawyer the second most important thing for winning your Social Security disability claim is to not give up if you can't work. It is my experience, that if you have a good claim and you truly can't work because of your medical conditions, in most cases, you will ultimately win if you continue to appeal your denials. As time goes on, if you and your lawyer are working hard on your case then time is your friend, because it enables you to keep improving your claim. This is not the only reason, another reason is every time you appeal a denial a different decision-maker will make a decision on your claim. So looking at it mathematically with each new person that looks at your claim to make a decision, there is a chance that the next person who looks at your claim might be more sympathetic to your claim then the last. Of course, this is not always the case, but if you keep appealing and you have a good claim chances are you will eventually get a decision-maker at Social Security who will look favorably upon your case and find you disabled. You should also know despite what you may have heard that not every case loses the first decision. For most of you who cannot work because of you disabilities, but do not meet or equal listing, or have a clear-cut case under the rules your best chance of winning will probably be at the hearing stage when your case is heard by an Administrative Law Judge at a SSDI or SSI hearing. Second, as you go through the stages of the Social Security disability process you should always be trying to improve your claim. For some of you, this may mean getting additional evidence that was not in your claim first time you were denied. Another way to improve your case is to hire an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. Whether you decide to get a lawyer or not, it is extremely important that you continue to learn as much as you can about what you have to prove for your particular case to win under the Social Security rules. You should know the five step test Social Security uses to determine if someone is disabled. You should also know how Social Security will handle your particular medical condition or conditions. If you have multiple conditions you should know how Social Security evaluates you combining all of these conditions to determine if you can work. I do understand that if you're trying to get Social Security disability benefits and you can't work that the idea of learning all of this information can be a bit overwhelming. I don't want to sound like I am promoting lawyers but for some of you having an attorney who already knows exactly how to handle your particular type of case can be extremely helpful in making sure you are giving yourself the best chance to win. The last thing you should know is that getting SSDI and SSI benefits can be a long and drawn out process and you must be prepared financially and mentally for the time it takes until you ultimately are able to succeed at winning your disability case. There is no way around it unless you are one of the lucky ones who win at application you must prepare yourself for the stress and frustration of the Social Security disability process.