Category Archives: social security disability

The Wounded Warrior Program Expedites Social Security Disability Claims For Veterans

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Veteran’s Day is a day that the American people have set aside to celebrate and honor all those who have served in the armed forces. Veteran’s Day – originally known as Armistice Day – has been celebrated in the United States since 1919. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, and has been known as Veteran’s Day since 1954. It is celebrated on November 11th to commemorate the armistice that ended the fighting in World War One.

The Social Security Administration recognizes the sacrifices that the members of our armed forces make every day. With the Wounded Warrior Program, the Administration ensures that military members who were injured on active duty have their cases processed in an expedited manner. While the standard of disability remains the same for all claimants, individuals injured on active duty can obtain a decision faster.

Even if you are still on active duty and receiving full pay, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security looks at the activities you are performing, not the pay you are receiving, to determine if you meet the standard of disability. These benefits are in addition to any benefits you may receive from the Veteran’s Administration – it is important for you to know that a separate application for each type of benefit is required.

If you have any questions about applying for Social Security disability benefits, even if you are still on active duty, please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

My Doctor Says I am Totally Disabled – Can I Get Social Security Diability?

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Many people think that they will easily get Social Security disability benefits because they got a letter from their doctor that states that they are “totally disabled” and cannot work. This is a great first step for obtaining benefits – but it is only a first step. If your doctor is willing to write you a letter that says you are totally disabled, that shows that he or she will support your claim for benefits.  The support of a treating physician is very important to your claim.

Equally important to your claim is how your doctor’s opinion is expressed. A brief statement that you are totally disabled and/or that you cannot work will not be given a lot of consideration by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In order to make sure that your doctor’s opinion is properly considered and given the proper weight, your doctor will need to provide SSA with a “function by function” assessment of your ability to work.  SSA wants your doctor to provide them with an opinion that lists specific restrictions, such as how long you can sit, stand, and walk, how much weight you can lift and carry, and any limitation in your ability to get along with co-workers, the public, or to concentrate and follow instructions. Your doctor must also support his opinion with evidence such as examination findings or the results of diagnostic tests (such as MRIs and CT scans). If your doctor’s opinion is not properly expressed, it may not be given the weight it deserves, making it more difficult for you to get the benefits you’re entitled to.

To make sure that our clients get the benefits that they deserve, we contact the treating physicians to gather all of the evidence we need – including opinion evidence in the format required by SSA. If your doctor has told you that you are totally disabled and/or unable to work, please contact us if you need assistance with your claim.

Social Security Disability: Get the evidence you need

Today’s post comes from guest author Roger Moore from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Social Security Disability applicants sometimes have trouble getting the evidence needed to demonstrate that they have a disability. PROBLEM 1: You haven’t had regular medical care because you don’t have health insurance. Without regular medical care, it’s difficult to develop a relationship with a doctor that is strong enough that the doctor can complete a report on your health. Even if your disability is very real, proving it in Court can still be a hard thing to do. However, without medical insurance, most doctors won’t see a patient. SOLUTION: In Nebraska there are some free clinics where you can be seen by a doctor even if you cannot afford to pay. To find a free clinic near you, contact your local health department. Anyone planning on applying for Social Security Disability should try to develop a relationship with a doctor by seeking regular medical care as often as possible. PROBLEM 2: Many applicants don’t have the right kinds of conversations with their doctors about their disabilities. Doctors are mainly concerned with your symptoms and how they can help you get well. They aren’t necessarily focused on the kinds of things they’ll need to know to help you with your Social Security Disability claim. To fill out a report for your claim, they’ll need to know exactly how much you can and cannot do. Continue reading

Social Security Disability Denied? Don't Give Up Hope. (Part 2)

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Last week we told you about the denial of John’s claim for Social Security Disability. This week we present the results of John’s appeal. 

Unfortunately, John’s run of bad luck with the Social Security Administration continued, and the Appeals Council affirmed the judge’s decision. The only good thing about this decision was that it came relatively quickly, allowing us to move on to the next step in the process. With the Appeals Council denial, there were two options.  John could file a new application and begin the process again, which would mean forfeiting all the retroactive benefits that he would otherwise have been entitled to, or we could file a lawsuit in Federal court. 

The only good thing about this decision was that it came relatively quickly, allowing us to move on to the next step in the process.

I selectively file these lawsuits because of the lengthy process and the standard of proof required. After discussing his options, John and I decided to move forward with the lawsuit. After a lawsuit is filed, the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) assigned to the case contacts me to work out a schedule for filing our briefs and for oral arguments in front of the judge.

When I heard from the AUSA this time, it wasn’t to set up a briefing schedule. She had reviewed the case file and realized that the judge’s decision was wrong and couldn’t be defended. She was the first person who I felt had really taken the time to review the case and realize that John was truly disabled. She prepared an order for the judge to sign sending the case back to Social Security for a new hearing and a new decision.

 The same judge who had issued John’s original unfavorable decision was again assigned to the case. I was concerned that John would be in for another denial, but the judge had clearly changed his mind about John. After a brief hearing, the judge stated on the record that he would be issuing a fully favorable decision. John received the decision granting him benefits two weeks later. John and his family were awarded all of the benefits that they were entitled to, because I believed in his case and didn’t give up.

Even if you get turned down the first time, or you get an unfavorable decision from a judge, don’t give up.

Even if you get turned down the first time, or you get an unfavorable decision from a judge, don’t give up. If John had decided to file a new application, he may have eventually been awarded some benefits, but he wouldn’t have received all the retroactive benefits to which he was entitled. Having an attorney who believes in you and will work hard to get you the benefits you deserve is very important to the success of your case.  If you would like our assistance with your claim, please contact us today.

Social Security Disability Denied? Don't Give Up Hope. (Part 1)

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

I’ve handled many Social Security disability cases over the course of my career, and helping people obtain the benefits they deserve is extremely gratifying. Today, I want to tell you about one of my clients who was eventually awarded Social Security disability benefits after a long fight.

This man – I’ll call him John – was injured at work. He was bringing a wheelbarrow loaded with materials up a flight of stairs when he slipped and fell down the stairs. He sustained significant back and shoulder injuries and was taken to the hospital that day. When I met with him, he had been out of work for several months and wanted to get back to work, but was unable to do so. I filed his application and waited for Social Security’s initial decision.

Because John was 48 years old when he was injured, I had to prove that he couldn’t do any type of work, not just the construction work he had done since he graduated from high school. John’s case was denied initially, as most cases are. I filed a request for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and started to develop John’s case.

In addition to his back and shoulder injuries, John was also depressed due to his chronic pain and inability to live his life the way he used to before his accident.

In addition to his back and shoulder injuries, John was also depressed due to his chronic pain and inability to live his life the way he used to before his accident. He started treatment with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. All conditions count in a Social Security disability benefits case, both physical and emotional. 

As his hearing date approached, I obtained updated medical records from all of John’s doctors and obtained supportive opinions from them as well.  Before the hearing, I prepared John for the questions he was likely to face.  Going into the hearing, I felt confident that John would get the benefits he deserved.  However, at the hearing, the ALJ did not seem to feel the case was as strong as I did. I told John to prepare for a denial from the judge.

While reviewing the decision, I noticed that the judge had made several significant errors…

Sure enough, the judge denied John’s claim. While reviewing the decision, I noticed that the judge had made several significant errors, from improperly evaluating the credibility of John’s statements, to giving improper weight to the opinions of his treating doctors. I met with John to review the decision and talk about our options.  Given the number of errors contained in the judge’s decision and the strength of John’s case, we decided to file an appeal with the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council, located in Falls Church, Virginia, is charged with reviewing appeals from individuals who disagree with the decision made by the judge at their hearing.

The Appeals Council review process can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, and only about 20 percent of appeals are successful.  Despite these odds, I felt good about John’s chances due to the support of his treating physicians and the multiple errors made by the judge. I prepared a comprehensive legal brief detailing all of the judge’s errors and sent it to the Appeals Council for review. When I sent the appeal, I felt that the Appeals Council would recognize that the judge had issued a flawed decision and vacate it.  When a judge’s decision is vacated, the case is sent back for a new hearing and a new decision. 

In next week’s post we’ll reveal the outcome of John’s case.

My Friend Got SSD Right Away. Why Is My Case Taking So Long?

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Many people currently applying for Social Security disability benefits know someone who has been through the process before and is currently receiving benefits.  In fact, many of our current clients were referred to us by former clients who were pleased with how we handled their case.  This means we often hear the question “Why is my case taking so long?  My friend was awarded disability right away and didn’t have to wait.”

The short answer to this question is that every case is different.  Each case is assigned to someone at the Social Security Administration to handle, and some people work faster than others, or have less cases to work on.  If the person handling your case at SSA get sick or goes on vacation, you may wait longer for a decision.  If you are treated by several doctors, it may take SSA longer to get your records, and the more records there are to review, the longer the case can take.  Make sure you tell your doctors that you have filed your application so that their office staff will be aware that SSA’s request for records will be forthcoming.  The faster your doctors respond to SSA’s requests, the sooner a decision can be made.

The SSA does the best they can, given the increase in claims and decrease in staff members, to make decisions in a timely manner.  The best way to get a quick decision is to make sure that you give SSA all the information they need to process your claim and get your records.  If SSA is not told about a doctor that you see until they have already started the process, it may take them longer to get those records, delaying your decision.  You should also make sure that you respond to letters and phone calls from SSA as soon as possible.  Make sure that you promptly report any changes in your medical condition or care, such as a new doctor, a new medication, or a hospital visit. 

If you want assistance with your Social Security disability claim, please contact our office and speak with a member of our staff.  We’ll be happy to set up a free consultation so that we can discuss your case, either in one of our offices or over the phone.

New Social Security Rules Make It Harder To Present Your Case

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

In December, 2010, the Social Security Administration (SSA) implemented a set of rules put in place to enable more effective case review. One of the major changes was that Applicants will no longer know who their Administrative Law Judge is prior to their scheduled hearing. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that these judges seem more concerned with the speed of case processing than on whether the applicants actually deserve benefits. WSJ also indicated that some judges were approving more than 85% of the cases they heard in what was allegedly an effort to have the cases resolved more quickly. Unfortunately, for applicants, this change in practice has made their cases much harder to litigate. Many Administrative Law Judges have different styles of practice in how their cases are heard. An attorney may present information in a different style depending on the judge. The importance of an applicant being represented by an attorney before the Social Security Administration has never been clearer. Since there is no way to know who the Administrative Law Judge is prior to the hearing, it is absolutely imperative that every case prepared in accordance to all rules governing how cases are tried before the court. If even the slightest detail is overlooked, it may prevent an applicant from being allowed to present evidence that could win his or her case.

Do I have to be on Social Security Disability Forever?

You aren’t prohibited from returning to work after being on Social Security Disability

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to over the years are under the impression that once you get Social Security Disability (SSD) you have to remain on benefits forever and can never go back to work. This is a common misconception, and one that prevents many people from receiving benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.

While you do not have to be on SSD forever, you do have to be out of work for at least twelve (12) consecutive months. However, once you’ve satisfied this durational requirement, you can return to work and receive SSD for a portion of the time that you were unable to work – Social Security doesn’t pay disability benefits for the first five (5) full months you’re out of work.

We have many clients who receive excellent medical care and have their medical condition improve and return to work. That’s great, and it’s something we love to see. SSD is there for you during the time that you’re unable to work.

…the Social Security Administration…even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Social Security also likes it when you return to work, and they have several different programs that help you get back to work, even if it’s a different sort of work than what you were doing before you became disabled. I’ll cover these programs in more detail in a later post, but for now, you should know that the Social Security Administration makes it possible for you to get vocational rehabilitation and retraining for free, and even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Once you know that you’ll be out of work for at least 12 months, contact our office to discuss filing a claim, even if you plan to return to work in the future. Because of the fact that you can lose benefits if you wait too long to apply (something I discussed here) you shouldn’t delay filing for benefits just because you plan to go back to work in the future.