Saturday, October 30, 2010

50 years old or older and Social Security Disability

Many of you have heard that it is difficult to get SSDI or SSI if you are young. This can be true for many cases, and it is also true that if you are 50 years or older you may have a better chance of winning your Social Security disability claim. However, the advantage of being 50 years or older really only comes in to play when the work you have performed in the past 15 years was light or heavier. It also for the most part only helps people in this category if your disabilities are mostly physical in nature. To understand when age is important and why you can visit my page on the grid rules. For those who have claims due to psychiatric conditions, age although it may be considered by some at Social Security, it does not play as much of a factor as it does for someone claiming mostly physical disabilities. Many people with psychiatric disabilities read the five step process for disability and don't really understand how their condition is evaluated at steps four and five since the grid rules only reference physical limitations. If you are trying to get disability based on psychiatric limitations it is important that you know that even if you don't meet or equal a listed impairments at step three of the process you can still be found disabled if you can show the limitations from your psychiatric condition would prevent first your past work then a significant number of any other work. I am writing this post because I received many e-mails from people who read the five step process and understandably don't understand how it applies to someone with a psychiatric condition. Steps four and five can also be confusing if you suffer from both physical and mental conditions, but again if you can show your limitations from these conditions prevent you from being able to perform your prior work or a significant number of any other work you can be found disabled at these steps. I hope this post clears up some questions many of you might have about how age is a much more significant factor for those with physical disabilities then it is for those with mental disabilities. To be very general, if you are under 50 years old, or over 50 years old but had work in the past 15 years that was sedentary, then if you do not meet or equal a listed impairment at step three you will then have to show that your limitations from your conditions would prevent you from even being able to do unskilled sedentary work. If you are 50 years old or older then chances are if your prior work was light or heavier than you would only have to show you are limited to sedentary work to be found disabled. If you have psychiatric medical conditions such as depression and you do not meet or equal the medical listings at step three you will then have to show that the limitations from your psychiatric conditions would prevent almost any type of work in significant numbers. If you suffer from physical and psychiatric impairments and you do not meet or equal listed impairment Social Security will look at all your limitations combined to determine if there is a significant number of jobs you could perform. I try to be very general and not get too technical so that you would have some idea of how an SSDI or SSI claim is decided and how age plays a factor for some in the decision. You should also follow the links in this article which will go into more detail on specific aspects of this article.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Social Security Disability Hearing

For many people, a Social Security disability hearing is the most stressful part of the SSDI or SSI process. I am here to tell you that this should not be the case, since if you have taken all the steps to make sure your case is ready for hearing this is possibly your best chance to win. If you are extremely nervous about your disability hearing and you have not hired a lawyer you should consider doing so, not just because they have experience with hearings, but also it will give you the confidence that you have someone on your side listening to what you have to say and following up with questions in case you say something that may have hurt your claim. A lawyer will also be able to lay out the reason you are disabled under Social Security disability rules so that you do not have to consider this and focus on answering the questions at the hearing. A good Social Security disability lawyer will also go over with you the types of questions that will be asked at the hearing so that you will not be surprised by the questions and wondering how to answer them. If you do not have a lawyer, and do not wish to have one I strongly suggest you read my page on Social Security disability hearings as it will explain the types of questions asked, who will be there, and what you can expect. One of the biggest mistakes people make at the hearing stage is that they tend to want to tell their whole story as soon as the first question is asked at the the hearing. Try and focus on the question that is asked of you by the administrative law judge (ALJ) or lawyer and only answer that question. It is also important that you do not try and give them the answer you think they want to hear since this will leed to your testimony appearing to be unnatural and possibly even worse it could be considered exaggerating. I don't want to seem like I am promoting the fact that you need to have a lawyer at your hearing, but you should consider it because they are trained to listen to what you have to say and follow up with questions to make sure you do not go off topic or let anything you say be misinterpreted in a way that could hurt your claim. The one thing you have no control over at your hearing is what ALJ is assigned to your case. Some have very high approval ratings and others have very low approval ratings. There are ways to find out your ALJ's approval ratings on the web, but I think this is a better tool for lawyers than it is for claimants going to a hearing on their own. I say this because if a claimant sees that there ALJ has a very low approval rating they may approach how the answer their questions differently than if they have an ALJ who has a higher approval rating. Most ALJs fall somewhere in the middle and approve about 60% of the cases. What these statistics will not show you is what a particular ALJ finds to be important to them when deciding if someone is disabled. One example, is that some Administrative Law Judges value a strong work record and will deny many SSI cases or SSDI cases where a claimant has a poor work record. If you have a strong work record and you happen to have this type of ALJ assigned to your case and you only look at his approval rating you may go into the hearing thinking you have no chance of winning. The fact is, his approval rating for your type of case may be quite high, but you will not be able to find any statistics on the types of cases they tend to approve. A good Social Security disability lawyer who sees that an ALJ has a low approval rating may know the judge or will research by asking other lawyers who have had the judge what types of cases that ALJ tends to approve, and what information that particular ALJ finds to be important when he makes his decision. The lawyer can then structure his questions and arguments based on his knowledge of what is important to that particular administrative law judge. I know it sounds like I am promoting lawyers for your hearing in this post, and I guess I am, but with good reason. You have already lost your case once or twice if you are at this level. Also experienced SSDI or SSI lawyers have handled hundreds if not thousands of disability hearings and this is probably your first experience with a disability hearing. Lastly, because of this experience a lawyer has presented cases before every type of ALJ imaginable and will know how to tailor your questioning and present your arguments as to why you are disabled at your Social Security disability hearing. If you have a hearing comming up I wish you luck and if you have any questions feel free to call me or e-mail me your questions.