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Are There Social Security Benefits for Children?

By English Blogs

Are There Social Security Benefits for Children?

social security benefits for childrenIf you are caring for a child with special needs or are an adult who became disabled before the age of 22, Social Security benefits for children may be available under one of two different disability programs. Which program applies to you or your child depends upon the age of the applicant.

How to Know If Your Child Qualifies

If your child is under the age of 18 and disabled, he or she may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits under the supplemental security income program or SSI. If you or your disabled child are 18 or older, you or the child are considered adults and may be entitled to social security disability benefits based on a parent’s social security earnings record.

Social Security Benefits for Children Under 18

Let’s look first at a child who is under the age of 18. In this case, any disability benefit will be payable under the SSI program. Under this program, the child must be determined to be disabled under the definition of disabled that the social security administration applies to children. The Social Security Administration considers a child disabled if:

  1. The child has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments); and
  2. The impairments result in marked and severe functional limitations; and
  3. The impairments have lasted (or is expected to last) for at least one year or to result in death.

Basically, what this means is that the child’s doctors will be relied upon to provide a medical diagnosis or description of the child’s impairment or condition. Teachers, counselors, and other people in the child’s life will need to provide evidence that, as a result of the condition or conditions, the child’s ability to function normally is seriously limited. This can be done by providing information regarding the child’s ability to learn new things, complete a task, interact with others, move from one place to another, use or play with objects, or take care of him or herself. Descriptions of the child’s Interaction with family members, fellow students, and other children in the neighborhood are all factors that can be considered.

Eligibility Is Not Dependent on Having Paid Into Social Security

Eligibility for SSI benefit is based on need and is not dependent upon the child or the child’s parents having participated in or paid into the Social Security retirement fund. Because the benefit is needs based, a child who is determined to be disabled must also pass the financial needs test in order to qualify for benefits. This test requires that the SSA determine what financial resources are available to the child. To be eligible for the benefit, the child’s own income and resources as well as income and resources available from parents and other members of the child’s household must not exceed the specified financial limits.

If you are a single parent or are out of work and are worried about being able to care for your disabled child you should not hesitate to apply for disability benefits on behalf of your child. SSI benefits for a disabled child are provided to help make it possible to provide necessary care. This is a benefit to your family and the community as a whole.

Social Security Benefits for Adult Children Over 18

Now let’s look at disability benefits that may be available for an adult child. When your child turns 18 he or she is considered an adult and the determination of disability will be reviewed and measured according to the definition of disability that is applied to adult applicants. A disabled child who did not qualify for SSI because he or she did not meet the financial limits, may still be entitled to a “child’s” Social Security disability insurance benefits as an adult if their disability began before the age of 22. This Social Security benefit is referred to as a “child’s” benefit because qualification is based upon a parent’s social security earnings record.

Eligibility Depends on Whether or Not Parents Have Received Social Security Disability Benefits

In order for an adult child to qualify for disability benefits based on a parent’s earnings, one of his or her parents must be receiving Social Security benefits based on disability or retirement or must have died after having contributed to the Social Security fund for enough quarters to qualify for benefits. An adult child who qualifies for this benefit need not have ever worked or paid into the Social Security fund and the benefit will continue as long as he or she remains disabled.

Contact Us Today to Learn More About Social Security Benefits for Children

An application for Social Security benefits for children can be confusing and complicated. A successful application can be life changing. Don’t try to go through this without first talking to an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Palma Law Offices, P.C. have helped many families successfully complete the application process. They can help you take this important step.

Hearing Loss Disability Benefits

By English Blogs

hearing loss disabilityHearing Loss Disability Benefits

You may qualify for Social Security benefits for hearing loss disability. In order to qualify, you must provide evidence to establish a “medically determinable impairment” that is the cause of your hearing loss, based on an otologic examination. You will also need to provide audiometric measurements that establish the extent of your hearing loss.

The Otologic Examination

To determine whether you have any abnormality associated with your hearing, your doctor will perform an ostoscopic examination of your ears. An otoscopic examination is designed to ensure that there are no conditions that would impact otherwise valid audiometric testing. Examples of this could include an ear infection, an obstruction of the ear canal, or fluid in the ear.

An otologic examination must be done by a licensed medical doctor or a licensed osteopathic doctor. The doctor is required to review your medical history. He or she will also ask you to describe your hearing loss, and how it impacts your everyday life. The physician will also be expected to provide an evaluation of the tympanic membranes, an assessment of abnormalities of the middle ear, if any, and a description of the pinnae and external ear canals. To succeed in obtaining Social Security benefits for hearing loss disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires your osteopathic in his or her reporting anything he or she believes may affect the interpretation of all test results, including whether you are cooperative or not.

The Audiometric Testing

Similarly, audiometric testing must be performed by a qualified professional. This could be an otolaryngologist or one who is under the direct supervision of an otolaryngologist. A qualified audiologist may also perform the tests. For purposes of this evaluation, SSA defines “qualified audiologist” as someone who is fully and currently registered or licensed by the United States territory or the state in which the audiologist practices. If there is no registration or licensure available in the audiologist’s place of residence, a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-A) or certification by the American Board of Audiology will suffice.

Hearing Loss Not Treated With Cochlear Implantation

There are several tests that can be performed to determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to your hearing loss not treated with a cochlear implant. One test involves word recognition. The other test is a test involving tone, called an air conduction hearing test.

The Word Recognition Test

During a word recognition test, you wear a set of headphones. Words are read into a microphone, which transmits the words to the headphones. You then repeats the word that was said. During this test, there is no background noise present. The words that are used are monosyllabic and phonetically balanced. If you recognize and accurately repeat only 40 percent or fewer of the words in your “better ear,” hearing loss is established.

Additionally, word recognition can include “spondee words.” Spondee words are words that are two syllables in length. Spondee words also have equal stress on both syllables.

The Air Conduction Hearing Test and Bone Conduction Test

Air conduction tests are also performed with earphones — either placed over the ear, or inserted into the ear canal. Tones are played into the headphones at various thresholds. Both pitch and volume variations are used. The test seeks to determine the softest sounds you can hear.

Bone conduction tests involve the use of a bone conduction vibrator. This is placed on the mastoid bone, which is located directly behind the ear. Sound is transmitted to the inner ear. This method bypasses the middle and outer ear.

Overall Testing

The word recognition, bone and air conduction tests are executed on each ear separately, not together. This is to determine the level of hearing loss in the “best ear.” This testing is required to be performed in a room or booth that has been sound treated. Additionally, the testing must be performed in accordance with the standards most recently published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

During the testing, you will not be wearing your hearing aids. The otoscopic examination must be performed before the audiometric testing.

The results of the spondee word recognition test result is compared to the air tone test results. If the results are not within a predefined range, there must be a medical basis for the discrepancy. This basis must be documented in your medical records. If SSA cannot find a medical basis, they will disregard the results of these tests in determining whether you qualify for hearing loss disability benefits.

Hearing Loss Treated With Cochlear Implantation

In cases where a cochlear implant has been installed, hearing loss can be considered for disability qualification after one year. Alternatively, if more than one year has passed after initial implantation, a word recognition score of 60% or less, using a version of the Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) qualifies for disability. HINT measures your ability to hear speech both when it is quiet, like the word recognition test, as well as your ability to hear in a noisy environment. In this test, you repeat entire sentences, with varying degrees of background noise.

While people who do not have cochlear implants do not wear their hearing aids during testing, those with cochlear implants have their testing done with the implant functioning. The implant must be adjusted to the normal settings and functioning properly during the testing.

Evaluation for Persons Not Fluent in English

Because the tests require listening and repeating back words, it is critical that you have a complete understanding of the language. As such, if you are not fluent in English, English should not be used for the testing. Rather, the appropriate word list should be taken from the language in which you are fluent. Additionally, the person conducting the test must be fluent in the language used for the word testing.

Since the person administering the test must be licensed or certified as detailed above, occasionally a qualified test administrator may not be found. In this case, SSA will consider other factors, such as how you communicate with interpreters, family, or other people who speak the language you feel most comfortable with.

To Learn More About Obtaining Hearing Loss Disability Benefits

To prove that your hearing loss disability qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits, you must undergo a series of tests. Speak to an attorney today by calling Palma Law Offices, P.C. at 888-295-4955.

Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits After 50

By English Blogs

For a variety of reasons, it is becoming harder for an unemployed older worker to find gainful employment, but workers will find it easier to qualify for Social Security disability benefits after 50 years or older.  And, because of the aging process and common health problems specific to the U.S., many people over 50 years old have a health problem such as arthritis, heart disease, obesity, depression, or back pain.

Most people suffering from arthritis, for example, would not ordinarily consider themselves to be disabled.  If they could find work, or could have kept their former employment, they probably would have made it through the workweek, despite symptoms of pain, stiffness, and fatigue.  Most people like to work.

 

Unemployment and Pain Not Enough

However, simply having a diagnosis or two, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, does not mean a person is likely to be awarded Social Security or SSI disability benefits.  Analyzing whether you qualify is complicated.

The Social Security regulations and rulings do give an advantage to workers Social Security disability benefits after 50.  How big an advantage is granted depends on a number of factors.  One is the amount of education the claimant has.  The higher an individual’s education level, the less likely it is that their disability claim can be approved.  The judge will often find that this person, while they may not be able to perform any of their past relevant work, because of their education, they can still do something easier physically or mentally.

 

Transferable Skills

Another factor the Social Security Administration will review is how skilled a claimant’s past relevant work was, and if that work was skilled or semi-skilled, does the person have skills that would easily transfer to an easier occupation.  The older the worker, the lower the amount of vocational adjustment will be expected.  So, to be considered a transferable skill for a 55 or 60-year old worker, the skills must match up closely.

And, if an older worker has performed a fairly skilled job that had little lifting, standing or walking, that worker will have a harder time being approved.  For a person to be found to be disabled, they generally have to show that they cannot handle any of the jobs they performed in the 15 years prior to the inception of their disability.

It is important that the claimant consider and accurately describe to his or her lawyer and the Social Security Administration exactly what tasks their jobs entailed.  Often a person will overlook certain parts of their job.  One example is the job of security monitor in loss prevention at a retail establishment.  On the face of it, it seems like a sedentary job, one that requires very little in the way of lifting, standing, or walking.  But, if asked, the claimant who performed this job may say that all people in loss prevention were expected to do all tasks within that department.  So, if the person working on the floor were on break, someone from the monitor room would have to cover for the floor walk.  And, in that capacity, they might even be expected to confront or apprehend a suspected shoplifter.  So, that is quite a different job from simply monitoring a camera screen.

 

Physical and Mental Limitations

 

All claimants should consider and describe to their attorney and the Social Security Administration all of their limitations.  Sometimes people forget about things they think are the “small stuff.”  But, problems sleeping or side effects from medications might cause the claimant to have daytime drowsiness or to require a daily afternoon nap.  That would be significant because all vocational experts will testify that outside of the normal lunch break, a nap, during work hours, would not be tolerated by any employer.  Similarly, a person with Chronic Fatigue, M.S., Fibromyalgia, or Depression may miss more than a day of work per month, due to it being the nature of these illnesses for there to be periodic flare-ups.

It is important for the claimant to discuss any learning disability, a history of special education, or illiteracy.  Since the older worker has lived with these attributes being with them their entire adult lives, and they’ve worked with these problems, and maybe raised a family, they often don’t think it’s important to mention.  But they are critical to the analysis.  Details matter.

 

Unemployment Benefits

Some people may think they can’t get Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) and have a claim for Social Security disability benefits.  But, with the older worker, that is not necessarily true.  It is not inconsistent to tell the State that you could do some type of work, but no one will hire you, and for you to also say you are too disabled to do his or her old job, and that what you can potentially still do is very limited.  Only younger workers, those 49 and under, need to show that they are so disabled that they cannot perform even the simplest job.

Of course, if the claimant has a significant, dramatic, or terminal illness or impairment, such as being a double amputee or having metastasized, inoperable cancer, none of these vocational factors will be relevant, but the number of claimants who have a serious enough impairment to meet the Social Security Act’s Listings of Impairments are a very small percentage of people with claims pending at the hearing level.

If approved for Social Security disability benefits (not SSI) you will also be eligible for Medicare, which you would not have ordinarily received until age 65.  Other advantages, besides the monthly check, include a reduction in property taxes in most states, and potential eligibility for subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled, energy assistance, a personal assistant, and paratransit services.  Lastly, going on Social Security disability benefits after 50 will freeze a worker’s Social Security retirement benefits at their highest level.

Obesity Social Security Disability Claims

By Applying for disability benefits when you have:, English Blogs, Social Security Disability Library

Even though the Social Security Administration no longer considers obesity to be a listing-level severe impairment, it still remains an important element of many disability applications.  The potential effects obesity has on the musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular body systems makes inclusion and evaluation of this condition an important part of many disability claims.

Obesity is considered a complex, chronic disease from excessive accumulation of body fat in a person.  Obesity can be a result of any of a number of factors, including genetics, nutrition, environment, behavior, and medication.

The National Institute of Health defines categories of overweight and obesity in adults based on the Body Mass Index (“BMI”).  The Body Mass Index is the ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms to the square of the person’s height in meters.  As a formula, BMI=kg/m2.  Most online calculators of a person’s body mass index will make the conversion from pounds to kilograms and inches to meters to make the process simpler.  The National Institute of Health’s guidelines state that a person is underweight at under 18.5, normal weight at 18.5-24.9, and overweight at 25-29.9.

The National Institute of Health generally defines obesity at 30 or higher and breaks it up into three levels.  Level I covers a Body Mass Index of 30.0-34.9 and Level II of 35.0-39.9.  Obesity is considered “extreme” at Level III, with a Body Mass Index of 40 and above.  People at Level III obesity are at the greatest risk for developing obesity-related impairments.  For children, there is no official criteria for making an obesity determination.  A Body Mass Index at or greater than the 95th percentile for the child’s age and gender will usually be enough to diagnose childhood obesity.  Given the different body types people have and each person’s unique physiology, the Body Mass Index is not the best indicator of a person’s fitness level.

Relevancy

While obesity is no longer considered a listing-level impairment, it is still relevant to examination of your Social Security disability claim. The Social Security Administration deleted obesity from the listing of impairments  in August 1999 as the indicators for obesity were not considered to cause enough of a functional limitation for the Agency to considered it “severe.”  With this deletion, the Agency did add instructions for considering the effects of obesity to the musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular body system listings.  These instructions require Administrative Law Judges to consider the potential effects of obesity in creating or increasing the limitations of these body systems.  These instructions require those making disability determinations to consider the effects of obesity combined with other impairments in determining a person’s general ability to function and perform basic tasks.

This change should not affect people found disabled due to obesity before the deletion.  When the Social Security Administration conducts a continuing disability review, they will apply the same medical improvement review standard as for other cases.  Specifically, the Administration will consider whether the disabled person’s impairments have medically improved and whether the medical improvements are related to the person’s ability to work based on the criteria for making the original favorable decision.  In the case of obesity, a person’s condition will be considered to have medically improved if the person has lost at least ten percent of their body weight over at least twelve months.  This time period is important to make sure that a person’s ordinary and temporary weight changes do not affect their disability status.

Functional Limitations

There are a number of ways that obesity may affect your ability to perform your ability to function.  These limitations may be based on any number of circumstances including where the excess weight is carried and how it affects your other impairments. Most commonly, a person will have a limited ability to perform basic activities.  These limitations in activity could include sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling. Obesity can also frequently affect a person’s ability to move their body around.  These moving or postural limitations could include climbing, balance, stooping, and crouching.  The accumulation of fatty tissue in a person’s hands and fingers could limit their ability to manipulate objects, limiting the person’s ability to use their hands to perform fine movements like typing or more general tasks such as grabbing.  This condition can also have an overall affect of limiting the person’s ability to repeatedly perform routine movement or other physical activities in a work environment.  While not preventing any one particular capability, obesity could prevent the person from performing certain activities on a regular and ongoing basis.  Obesity can also limit a person’s ability to tolerate a broad range of environmental challenges including heat and cold, humidity, and more hazardous conditions such as platforms and places where the ground may be uneven.

Obesity can also make physical or mental limitations worse in combination with other impairments. For physical impairments, such as arthritis, joint, and back pain, obesity can increase the levels of pain and related limitations beyond the level that would usually be expected for the conditions.  Weight gain contributing to obesity is both a natural result and consequence of joint and back pain, since the lesser ability to exercise contributes to additional weight gain.  Mental impairments are also ordinarily related to obesity.  For example, obesity regularly contributes to a person having sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea makes it harder for a person to focus or concentrate on tasks.  Fatigue, of course, can have a significant affect on a person’s physical or mental abilities.

If you suffer from obesity, make sure to discuss all limitations it causes you to experience with your medical treatment providers and your Social Security disability attorney.  When speaking with medical and psychological treatment providers, be sure to discuss all physical and mental limitations you experience, both as a result of obesity and from other conditions.  Your Social Security disability attorney will be able to use this information to help make a stronger case for a favorable disability finding.

Lowell Child Social Security Disability Evaluations

By English Blogs

Lowell Child Social Security: What Are Children Eligible For?

Children can be eligible for Social Security disability payments, just like adults.

The idea of a disabled child may sound a little strange.  After all, children are not expected to work in order to support themselves like adults.  Even so, a child can be found disabled and be eligible for disability benefits if they have a combination of physical or mental disabilities that cause significant limitations to the child’s activities and have lasted, or are expected to last for at least one year or result in the death of the child.  These benefits may be available to a newborn child until they have reached the age of eighteen.  Social Security disability benefits may even be extended past this age under certain circumstances related to their education.  While there are also ways for a child to receive benefits due to a parent’s disability, that will not be discussed in this article.

Before you start going through the child disability application process, it is important to first find out if your child is eligible for disability payments.   The Social Security Administration places limits on the amount of household income and other resources a family has when determining whether a child may be eligible for Social Security disability payments.  You should consult with your Social Security disability attorney or a representative of the Social Security Administration to determine whether your child may be eligible.  Interestingly, the Social Security Administration will exclude much of the child’s own earnings when making decisions about disability payments.

For a child’s condition to be eligible for Social Security disability payments, the child must have severe (known as “marked”) limitations in two areas of functioning, or an “extreme” limitation in at least one area.  The six areas evaluate your child’s ability to acquire and use information, complete tasks, interact and relate to others, manipulate objects, take care of themselves, and their overall health and physical well-being. A child’s abilities in each of these six domains will be evaluated based upon their age range and a typical child’s milestones in that range.

A “marked” limitation seriously interferes with a child’s ability to initiate, sustain, or complete tasks independently.  “Extreme” limitations do not require a total loss of ability to function.  These definitions are not very exact, which is one of the reasons that state examiners and administrative law judges will review your case.\

Specifics

The first domain reviews a child’s ability to learn new information and is based upon typical milestones for children.  They include not only performance in school, but their ability to communicate, read, write, and use numbers.   Examples of marked or extreme limitations in this area include trouble understanding concepts like time of day, inability to remember important things learned in school the day before, trouble with math problems or explaining an idea, or talking in no more than short sentences.

The second domain reviews a child’s ability to concentrate on a given activity and to work at a normal rate for children at their age range.  This includes following directions, completing school assignments, and doing chores in the home.  Children that do not complete tasks that interest them, are easily distracted, need additional help to concentrate on their work, or give up on tasks too easily may have marked or extreme limitations in this domain.

The third domain reviews a child’s ability to interact with others.  This domain includes forming relationships with family and friends of the same age groups, know how to act appropriately in different settings (in public compared to at home), speaking with others, ability to express emotions and respond to the emotions of others, and be able to understand other people’s points of view.  Children who do not have friends their own age, cannot talk clearly or understandably, or avoid other people may have marked or extreme limitations in this domain.

The fourth domain reviews a child’s ability to move and handle objects and move themselves from one place to another.  Infants should be able to sit, crawl, stand up with support, and grab objects after a certain age.  As they get older, the child’s ability to use a pencil and scissors, tie their shoes, walk and run, and play all bear on this domain.  Marked or extreme limitations in this domain may include problems using their hands, trouble running or riding a bicycle, bad hand-eye coordination, or trouble gripping small objects or using tools.

The fifth domain reviews a child’s physical and mental ability to take care of themselves.  On the physical side, this may include their ability to get dressed, groom themselves, and eventually prepare simple meals.  Mentally, the child should be able to understand what types of behavior are appropriate, understanding and responding to their own needs and desires, and make the connection between their actions and consequences for their actions.  Marked or extreme limitations in this domain may include engaging in dangerous activities, having trouble performing basic grooming, poor eating or sleeping habits, or hurting themselves deliberately.

The sixth domain reviews a child’s health and physical well-being.  This domain is where most physical impairments and side-effects of treatments are considered.  Long-lasting injuries, physical deformities, motor or sensory problems, frequent hospitalizations, and other physical problems are all reviewed as part of this domain.  Marked or extreme limitations in this area could include frequent hospitalizations, need for multiple surgeries, or requiring frequent or intensive medical care to avoid a serious decline in the child’s health.

Evaluating a child’s performance in all these domains requires a broader range of evidence than would be required for an ordinary adult application for Social Security disability benefits.  In addition to medical records and statements from medical treatment providers, a Lowell child Social Security disability claim will usually request information from teachers and other adults who helped take care of the child for significant periods of time.  When preparing to make a child Social Security disability claim, you should prepare a list of the schools the child attended over the past year (although the last two or three years would be better).  You should also try to gather the contact information (name, address, phone number, and email) of the child’s teachers, caregivers, counselors, speech or other therapists, and other adults who spent significant time with the child.  With this information, Social Security representatives can send information requests to these people.  The statements these people prepare will be used to help a Social Security disability examiner review the child’s abilities to function in these six domains.

An application for child disability payments will be evaluated on six factors.  Each factor is detailed here, complete with what the examiner is likely to find sufficient.

 

Witness Testimony at Your Lowell Social Security Disability Hearing

By English Blogs

There are a number of ways your Social Security disability hearing differs from the kinds of courtroom trials you may see on television.  There will be no jury, no attorney arguing against your claim, and probably no arguments about the law.  Unless you insist on it, there should also not be witness testimony during the hearing.  Here are some tips to understand witness testimony at your Lowell social security disability hearing. Let me explain.

Medical Opinions

Your Social Security disability hearing focuses on whether the combination of physical and mental impairments you are suffering prevent you from working based on Social Security laws and regulations.  This focus on your physical and mental health means that testimony from medical practitioners will probably be more important to the administrative law judge than the opinions of your family or members of the community who know you well and can talk about why you are a good person or need the financial help.  This greater focus on medical opinions is why it will probably not be helpful to have your spouse, children, neighbor, pastor, social worker, or other witness testify at your hearing.

When making a decision about your Social Security disability claim, judges are supposed to evaluate written witness testimony and opinions by certain levels.  The greatest importance usually goes to opinions by highly educated medical practitioners with advanced degrees like doctors and psychologists.  Medium importance may be given to opinions from educated medical professionals with more modest degrees such as registered nurses, physician’s assistants, and some social workers. The lowest level of importance usually goes to opinions from people outside the medical profession.  Opinions from people without medical training can be helpful to administrative law judges to understand how your physical or mental impairments affect you, but are not usually more important to the judge than those of dedicated medical professionals.

There are a number of strategic reasons why it may not be a good idea to have a witness testify during your Social Security disability hearing.  The most significant factor is time.  Administrative law hearings considering at your Social Security disability claim only last for an hour or so.  Your Social Security disability attorney has only a limited amount of time to help the administrative law judge understand the extent of your mental or physical impairments.  Your attorney makes his case through the testimony that you provide as well as the attorney’s work emphasizing the most helpful parts of your claim and minimizing harmful ones.  By insisting on including witness testimony in your Social Security disability hearing, you take time away from your attorney’s ability to make an effective presentation to the administrative law judge during the hearing.  Witness testimony may also distract the judge from the more important parts of your claim, divert your attorney from reviewing your file or working on your case, and may cause additional difficulties if the witness tells the judge harmful facts or opinions.

Witness Letters

Getting a written opinion statement is one way you can provide witness testimony that will create fewer distractions to your attorney and the administrative law judge. By having a witness provide written testimony, you can make their opinions and statements part of the record without needing to worry about how the witness may respond to questions by the administrative law judge.  Still, the time and attention your attorney and the administrative law judge spend reviewing these opinions may take away from their review of your claim.  If you do want to provide witness testimony by written letters, there are a few things you should ask your witness to focus on when writing the letter:

  • To be useful, the letter should focus on discussing how your mental or physical impairments affect your ability to take care of yourself, interact with other people, and perform basic daily activities. When witness testimony letters focus on how good you are or how much you need the money, an administrative law judge will usually place very little weight on these opinions since they do not tell him anything useful about your disabling impairments.
  • You may want your Social Security disability attorney to quickly review the witness testimony letter before it is sent to the Social Security Administration. Your witness may write a letter that contains information that hurts your case.
  • As a practical matter, you may encourage your witness to type their letter rather than writing it by hand. Handwriting may be seen as more personal and expressive means of making their point.  However, the administrative law judge will regularly have a hard time reading their handwriting. This will require additional time that should be spent on your medical records.

It is perfectly normal to want someone else to help you with your Social Security disability hearing.  These hearings are usually scary, so it is OK to be nervous or to want someone familiar around for support.  You may also be tired, in a lot of pain, or have difficulty concentrating.  Your family or friends may want to help out in any way possible and push themselves forward in what they feel is for your benefit.   It is important to keep in mind that, while they do mean well, such witness testimony may not significantly help your Social Security disability claim and could be a distraction.

If you really want to have a witness give testimony during your hearing, let your Social Security disability attorney know about this as soon as possible before you start reaching out to your friends, family, or members of the community for witness testimony at your Lowell Social Security disability hearing.

 

Can I Work?

By English Blogs

 Disability Attorney In Lowell Answers, Can I Work?

Because it can take the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) several months or even years to determine whether an applicant is disabled, many claimants want to know if they can work while the SSA is making its determination. Furthermore, many beneficiaries who are already receiving benefits may want to know if they can try to work while on disability.

The answer is to both questions is yes, but there are very strict rules which can vary depending on whether you are waiting for benefits or already receiving them. It is a good idea to consult a disability attorney in Lowell for further clarification on these rules, but the following discussion covers the basics.

Working Before You Have Been Found Disabled

The SSA definition of disability is the inability to engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). This is a fancy way of saying full-time work. Because of this, it is possible to do some work, and still be found disabled. There are many aspects to the definition of SGA, but the basic rule for 2016 (the amount is adjusted yearly) is that an applicant cannot earn more than $1,130 a month ($1,820 if you are blind). The SSA looks at gross earnings, so it is important to pay attention to the amount of money you make before taxes, insurance, or any other deductions are taken out.

It is also important to remember that while this is the general rule, the SSA will look at other factors as well. Thus, even if you work under SGA, the SSA can use your work activity against you. Remember, the SSA has to decide if you can engage in SGA. Thus, even if you are not, they may think you are able to. They may look at other factors, including:

  • How many hours you work;
  • Whether the job you are doing requires the use of experience, skills, supervision or responsibilities; and
  • How well you do your work

On the flip side, even if you work over SGA, there are certain rules that may allow you to still be found disabled. The most notable of these rules is the unsuccessful work attempt (“UWA”). For this exception to apply, there are certain requirements that must be met. For example, the job must have ended because of your conditions, and not for other reasons. Also, the work must end or drop below SGA for at least 30 days. If these requirements are met, and the job lasts less than 3 months, then it is a UWA.

If it lasted more than 3 months, but less than 6, there must be other circumstances related to the work (i.e., you missed work frequently, your work was unsatisfactory, you worked during a period of remission, or you worked under special conditions). If you go over SGA for more than 6 months, there is no UWA.

Another exception is impairment related work expenses (“IRWE”). These are expenses you pay for items or services that enable you to work (for example, transportation costs or medical devices such as a brace or walker). The SSA will deduct these amounts from your earnings, which could take you from earning over SGA to earning below SGA. Again, it is important to discuss your work activity with your disability attorney in Lowell, because these rules can be complicated. For example, if you work outside the home, you can deduct modifications to the outside of your residence to help you get to work, such as a ramp or railings, but you cannot deduct modifications inside your residence.

A third exception arises if you have special conditions at work. This may include extra assistance from your co-workers, extra breaks or days off, irregular hours, special equipment, working at a lower standard, or any other special treatment. These conditions could mean that even if you are grossing over $1,130 per month, you are not earning SGA.

Working After You Have Been Found Disabled

The SSA tries to encourage disability beneficiaries to work. Thus, while the SGA rules apply to those who have been found disabled, there are other exception in addition to the UWA, IRWE, and special conditions.

The most common exception to SGA while you are receiving benefits is the trial work period (“TWP”). This exception only applies to SSDI beneficiaries, not SSI beneficiaries. You get 9 trial work months in the 5 years after your disability began (or the 5 years after you filed, whichever is later). Any month in which you earn more than $810 counts as a TWP (this amount is for 2016; again, this is adjusted yearly). Once you use all 9 of your months, normal SGA rules apply.

The SSA also has several work related programs that can help you try to get back to work. These include PASS and Ticket to Work.

Navigating the minefield of working while waiting for or receiving disability benefits can be tricky. That is why it is so important to have an attorney to turn to for advice on these subjects.

 

 

 

 

How the SSA Evaluates Pain Testimony

By English Blogs

social security disability formWhen you file a claim for Social Security disability benefits, you will be expected to provide statements regarding any symptoms of pain that you are experiencing.  You will be asked about the location of pain, how long it lasts, what causes the pain, whether it can be effectively treated by medication, the frequency of pain, and other factors.  You may also need to testify about your pain at a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.

 

A key issue in Social Security disability cases is whether the Social Security Administration will accept or reject your pain allegations.  This article by Lowell Social Security disability benefits attorney Gerard Palma will address how the Social Security Administration handles allegations of pain when reviewing your claim for Social Security disability benefits.

 

Symptoms of Pain and Your Residual Functional Capacity

Social Security regulations and rulings state that symptoms of pain must be considered when determining a person’s residual functional capacity (RFC).  Your residual functional capacity is a summary of the physical and mental activities you could be expected to perform during a standard eight-hour workday.  These activities include the ability to lift and carry weight, stand, walk, sit, reach, stoop, kneel, use your hands, understand and remember simple to complex instructions, concentrate on tasks, deal with changes in a work environment, and work with supervisors, coworkers, and the public.  Your RFC is based on all the evidence in your disability case record.  The residual functional capacity assessment is important because it will be used to decide whether you can perform your past work, and whether there is any other work present in significant numbers in the national economy that you can perform.  Generally, if the Social Security Administration finds there are no jobs you can perform based on your RFC, then you will be found disabled and given Social Security disability benefits.

 

If you are alleging a high level of pain, then that will affect what activities you can perform in your RFC. For example, if you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you may have frequent pain when doing tasks involving fine fingering.  An inability to perform fine fingering during most of a workday may prevent you from performing your past work, and it could substantially reduce the number of jobs available in the national economy that you could perform.  In addition, if your pain level affects your ability to perform mental tasks and deal with routine changes in a work environment, then the number of jobs you could perform would also be greatly reduced.

 

How the SSA Evaluates Your Pain Testimony

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not give much weight to your allegations of pain unless 1) you have a diagnosed medical condition (a medically determinable impairment) which could reasonably be expected to produce pain, and (2) the intensity and frequency of your symptoms of pain are consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence in your case record.

 

Following is evidence in your case record which the Social Security Administration will consider when evaluating your statements regarding pain:

 

  • Abnormal medical signs and laboratory findings that support your level of pain. These findings will vary based on your medical condition.  For instance, you may have physical and mental examinations demonstrating a reduced range of motion, muscle spasms, decreased grip strength, wasted or loss of muscle, a positive straight leg test, or difficulty following a 3-step instruction.
  • Medical opinions from your treating doctor or an examining doctor. These statements should describe the onset and frequency of the pain symptoms, the location, whether the pain has changed over a period of time, whether any medication helps to reduce the level of pain, how long the doctor has treated the individual, and how the pain limits the individual.
  • Witness statements. These statements should state how long the witness has known the individual filing for disability benefits, and whether he or she has seen a change in the individual’s ability to perform activities because of individual’s pain level.
  • Activities of daily living. The SSA will consider whether there are any inconsistencies between your alleged pain and your reported activities of daily living.
  • Whether you have sought medical help for your symptoms of pain and whether you have complied with all medical treatment.

 

If the Social Security Administration decides to reject any of your statements regarding your symptoms of pain, it must give specific reasons explaining why it rejected your testimony.  A new Social Security Ruling issued in March 2016, SSR 16-3p, cautions that the SSA cannot evaluate your credibility or truthfulness in the same manner as in adversarial court litigation.  Rather, the adjudicator should concentrate on evidence in the case record which relates to an individual’s medically determinable impairment.

 

If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits, Lowell Social Security disability benefits attorney Gerard Palma can review and evaluate the denial.  888-295-4955.

How Your Lowell Social Security Disability Lawyer Will Prepare Witnesses for Your Hearing

By English Blogs

How Your Lowell Social Security Disability Lawyer Will Prepare Witnesses for Your Hearing

Witnesses will have the opportunity to testify on your behalf at your disability hearing. Your Lowell Social Security disability lawyer will meet with your witnesses before the hearing so Lowell Social Security Disability Lawyerthat he may prepare them to testify effectively.

The Initial Meeting Between a Witness and Your Lowell Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyer

It will be important for you to give your Lowell Social Security disability lawyer all necessary contact information for any witnesses so that he may set up an initial interview with them. The interview process will be used to narrow down which witnesses will be best for your case.

Your Lowell Social Security Disability Lawyer Will Prepare Witnesses

At the preliminary interview, your attorney will also begin to prepare witnesses. It is important for them to present knowledgeable and relevant testimony without sounding rehearsed.

Your Lowell Social Security Disability Benefits Attorney Explains Good Testimony

Your attorney will prepare your witnesses by explaining to them that the judge wants to hear their observations about your daily activities and limitations. A witness that offers his conclusions to the judge about your impairment or the fact that you are disabled may do more harm than good.

Your Hearing

After preparing you and your witnesses, your Lowell Social Security disability lawyer will be by your side at the hearing to advocate for your needs and interests. Call Gerard A. Palma today at 888-295-4955 for more information.

RFC Questions

By English Blogs

RFC Questions

As you go through the process of applying for benefits, you and your Lowell Social Security disability lawyer will discuss many aspects that are involved in this process. One topic that is likely to be raised is your RFC.Lowell Social Security disability lawyer

What is an RFC?

Your Lowell Social Security disability lawyer can explain that your Residual Functional Capacity indicates the level and type of work that you are physically capable of completing.

Questions About Lifting and Carrying

Your Lowell Social Security disability attorney can explain that you may have to answer a variety of questions regarding lifting and carrying. A few examples of these questions include:

  • Do you experience problems when you try to lift or carry objects?
  • What items are you no longer capable of lifting?
  • What is the heaviest item that you carry on a routine basis?
  • How much weight can you lift or carry?
  • How do you lift or carry objects?
  • How are you affected when you attempt to lift or carry objects?

Postural Limitations

You may also have to answer whether you have any difficulty with twisting, bending, kneeling, crouching, climbing or crawling.

Other Questions

You may also be asked about your ability to manipulate your body in other ways, such as pushing, pulling, reaching or feeling objects. Another common question is whether you complete repetitive hand activities for most of a work day.

If you would like more information about questions you might encounter regarding your RFC, contact Lowell Social Security disability lawyer, Gerard A. Palma, at 888-295-4955.