Lawyer Referral Information Service – August Newsletter 2017

A General Scope for Social Security Eligibility.
by Allison Affleck

A person may become unable to work for many different reasons. He or she may, for example, develop a form of cancer, or lose a limb to diabetes, or develop a blockage resulting in a heart attack. The physical manifestations are often obvious. There may also, however, be mental or psychological impairments that one cannot physically see that plague a person the most. These symptoms may be brought on by emotional trauma as well as physical, and may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, for example. Sometimes, psychological conditions such as severe depression and anxiety may develop as the result of the continued effects of physical injuries such as pain. Unfortunately, these conditions may not be as easily recognized, diagnosed, or treated as quickly and effectively as physical problems may be.

To determine whether or not a person is disabled because of a mental impairment, Social Security considers how a person’s functional limitations may preclude work. To be eligible for Social Security disability based on a mental or psychological impairment, a person must demonstrate one of the following: first, that his or her psychological condition(s) meets or equals one of the “listed” impairments outlined by the Social Security Administration (SSA listing 12.00 Mental Disorders – Adult) or second, that his functional limitations result in a “residual functional capacity” that would preclude work. To satisfy these requirements, SSA looks to medical evidence, including opinions from treating medical providers, and testimony from the claimant, among other information.

The requirements for meeting or equaling a listed impairment are very specific. Some of these general conditions include: neurocognitive disorders; schizophrenia; depression; bipolar; intellectual disorders; anxiety; obsessive-compulsive disorders; and trauma- and stressor- related disorders. If a person’s condition(s) meets or equals the requirements of one of these listings, and the durational component is met, he should be awarded disability.

If a person can’t prove that his mental impairment meets or equals the requirements of a listing, he may also establish the degree of his disability through his “residual functional capacity” or “RFC.” Here, he demonstrates how his functionally impaired abilities would preclude his ability to perform certain work activities. Some abilities SSA may consider in determining an RFC include: the ability to relate and respond appropriately to people in a work setting; the ability to attend meetings; the ability to work around the home; the ability to socialize with friends and neighbors; the ability to care for personal needs; the ability to understand, carry out and remember instructions; the ability to maintain attention/concentration; the ability to respond appropriately to supervision; the ability to function independently to complete tasks; the ability to respond to customary work pressures; the ability to demonstrate reliability; and the ability to maintain persistence and

pace. SSA considers, alone or together, whether the total of such limitations would preclude work. For example, perhaps a person’s symptoms cause him to be “off-task” for 15% or more of the work day. Or, maybe a person’s symptoms would cause him to be consistently late to work, need to leave early from work, or to miss more than one day of work per month. Such limitations would most likely preclude work.

Counsel should keep in mind the importance of psychological or mental impairments, as well as physical components of a disability, to determine the true cause and limiting effects of a person’s conditions. He or she should fully bring into focus the participation of each and the weight that each must be afforded.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for Social Security Disability

1. Not Hiring an Attorney. Assuming you can go it alone or can’t afford an attorney. Get help from an attorney and don’t wait until the month, the week, the day before the hearing to call a lawyer or your hearing will have to be postponed and reset. Even if you do wait until the last minute, do call an attorney to help you. When you go to the hearing without an attorney the judge will strongly suggest you need an attorney. You might as well get a head start by start calling for an attorney today.

2. Not Appealing Your Denial. Appeal, appeal, appeal each and every denial. And make sure you appeal it timely. You have 60 days plus 5 days mailing time to appeal the denial. You also need to check the status of your claim by calling Social Security as too many claims get lost in the system. If you don’t check the status periodically, you may miss the deadline to appeal. Do keep checking with Social Security on the status of your claim, and don’t forget to keep appealing each and every denial.

3. Not Taking Your Doctor’s Advice. Your doctor tells you, “take your medication and return in 3 months.” It’s a mistake not to take your doctor’s advice, as you can’t get social security disability unless you show continuous and consistent medical treatment. However, you don’t have any money coming in and you can’t afford the doctor’s visits and the medications. You feel as if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’re going to have to use free or low cost medical clinics available in your community. If you have a mental impairment, contact your county mental health department. If you have a physical impairment, go online and check out charitable clinics listed on the website at http://charitablecarenetwork.com/resources/find-a-clinic/ Please also review the website’s guidelines in order to use one of their charitable clinics and don’t forget to contact the clinic directly before going to the clinic.

4. Not Including Your Mental Impairments. You need to list ALL your severe impairments including your mental impairments as well as your physical impairments on your application. Not including your mental impairments such as depression or panic attacks may be the key element to winning your disability claim, as your physical impairments may still allow you to hold down a sit-down job but your depression and panic attacks prevented you from holding down sit-down jobs that you could do.

5. Not Going to Social Security’s Medical Exam. When Social Security sends you a notice to attend a medical appointment, it’s a good sign. By sending you to a medical exam, Social Security is telling you that you may have a valid claim and some medical information is missing from your own doctor’s records. You will want to be on time for the doctor’s appointment. If you know you are unable to attend the appointment due to a scheduling conflict, you will need to notify Social Security as far in advance as possible so the appointment may be rescheduled. If you don’t show up, it’s a red flag to the adjudicator and it’s likely that the appointment won’t be rescheduled and your claim will likely be delayed and then denied.

Remember, even if you have been turned down for social security disability benefits, you may still be eligible. Contact our experienced law team at Affleck & Gordon today. We can help.

FREE CONSULTATION – Contact our office today at 404-373-1649 to schedule a free case review.

Can You Get Social Security Disability for Your Herniated Disc?

Yes, and…

There are two ways to get Social Security Disability for your herniated disc. The first way is to show that you meet Social Security’s specific listing on herniated discs and the second way is to show that due to your physical restrictions there are no jobs available in the US economy Which You Would Be Able To Do On An Ongoing Full-Time Basis. We will discuss both methods of getting disability benefits for your herniated disc below. However, it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to win your case by showing there are no jobs available than by meeting a listing because the requirements of listings are often so exact that most people do not meet them.

Method 1 – Listing: The listing for herniated discs is listing 1.04. This listing is extremely specific and requires a compromise of the nerve root with “neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test.” Your herniated disc might cause severe pain, but if you do not have documentation by your doctor of all of the specific requirements in the listing, social security will not find you disabled based on the listing. People rarely win their cases based on the listing because it’s difficult to document all of the findings listed above. You might have a positive straight-leg raise but no atrophy of the muscle. Other times, you might have all of the symptoms listed above, but no evidence of nerve root compromise on your MRI. It is not enough to have a few of the findings in the listing. You must have all of them in your medical treatment records or Social Security will not find you disabled based on the listing alone. All is not lost, however. You can still prove you are disabled due to your herniated disc by showing that your combination of symptoms would make you unemployable.

Method 2 – No Jobs You Can Do: You can get disability for your herniated disc if you show that the symptoms from your herniated disc along with any other health conditions you have would make you unemployable. Social Security will consider more than just your herniated disc. They will also consider all of your other health conditions in determining whether or not you can work. Social Security will look at things like how much you can lift or how long you can stand, walk, and sit in a day to determine if jobs are available that you could do. Social Security will also look at whether you have to lie down during the day, take extra breaks or miss several days a month due to your medical conditions. Social Security will even look at your ability to concentrate and follow instructions due to you medical conditions. If your combination of limitations would make you unemployable, then you can get Social Security Disability due to your herniated disc. Remember, Social Security will find you disabled if your combined symptoms would keep you from being able to do any job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, week in and week out.

What do you need to prove there are no jobs you could do?

In order to prove there are no jobs you could do, you need medical documentation for your doctors of all of your medical conditions. This means you need to make an effort to get regular treatment to document your condition over time. Further, it is helpful to get statements from your doctors on how your medical condition limits your ability to work. This can include a letter from the doctor or simply having your doctor fill out a questionnaire on your condition. Doctors often do not comment on your ability to work in their office notes because they’re focused on treating you rather than commenting on your ability work. It helps to ask your doctor’s opinion on your ability to work. Our firm often gives our clients questionnaires to take to treating physicians to document your symptoms and how they would limit your ability to work. We have developed questionnaires over time that ask the questions we have found are helpful in proving your case.

It can be overwhelming to try to prove that you are disabled. You have to collect medical records and submit them to Social Security and you have to get opinions from doctors that prove your inability to work. We can help you get all this information and improve your chances of getting social security disability benefits. If you would like help proving you are entitled to social security disability due to your herniated disc, feel free to call us at 404-373-1649.