Social Security Disability:

How To Apply; How To Win

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  • Broke Last year the Social Security Administration sent $127.7 billion to those determined disabled but took in only $104 billion in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Deficits began draining the trust fund in 2005 and are expected to be exhausted by 2017
  • Account Overdrawn Just as when individuals spend beyond their means to repay, so too, do states and nations. "Washington's public debt is nearly $8.5 trillion, which comes to about 58% of the U.S. economy, compared with ratios exceeding 100% in places like Greece.
  • The End of Healthcare Make no mistake about it: socialized medicine is medical treatment at the point of a gun. Under a single payer government plan, medical decisions will be taken out of doctors' hands and relinquished to the arbitrary whims of government.
  • Vet Falsely Accused An atmosphere of suspicion and distrust was created even before Bill arrived at the meeting with Social Security's consulting psychiatrist, Dr. F. Bill called him from the road to tell him he was on Key Bridge and would be a few minutes late.
  • Our Deceptive SSA An audit of the Social Security Administration by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) two years ago uncovered some very disturbing and damning facts. Among them are: Hundreds of pieces of unopened mail;


  • The Good, Bad, & Ugly Over many years I have seen a lot of representatives ask questions about the numbers of jobs vocational experts (VEs) testify to under a set of limitations the ALJ accepts. However, the latest dialogue among representatives has confirmed for me


  • Do The Math For the purpose of constructing a model which excludes the fact that the number of workers (who pay the bill) is less than the number of retirees (who collect via SSA from the workers), consider the following: Start with an eighteen-year old


  • Backlog Crisis The latest processing times for Social Security disability cases have hit new all-time highs. The average lengths of time up to May of 2008 for Social Security disability claimants to get a hearing after a hearing is requested, has been received from the Social Security Administration through


  • Safety Net Knot David Michaelis of Chewala, WA, felt the symptoms of a rare neuromuscular disease in October of '02.The condition causes involuntary movements of the head and neck, which destroys the ability to coordinate eye-hand movements.


  • I AM NOT A CROOK


  • Disable Social Security Chile's Social Security system is based on individual freedoms - economic, social and political - and is a much more prosperous and lively society.


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Disabling Conditions, Effects and Symptoms (Con't)

Drowsiness

Drowsiness, on the other hand, is highly significant and should be always be documented and entered into the record. An individual who is nearly always drowsy will not be able to function in any job capacity for very long. Productivity requires alertness.

Drowsiness is most often produced by narcotics and muscle relaxants. It should always be documented using a drug/symptom form.


Prescribed Drug Side Effects

Many of the common side effects of prescribed drugs can help you win your case.

Any drug which causes drowsiness, dizziness and even clumsiness can be in your favor. Antihistamines, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines frequently cause these side effects. Narcotics, too, often cause drowsiness. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors cause dizziness.

Antihistamines are drugs used to treat allergic conditions such as hay fever, itching, sneezing and motion sickness. Common brand names are Compoz, Benadryl, and Nytol.

Beta blockers are used to treat angina, heartbeat irregularities, high blood pressure, and subaortic stenosis. They frequently cause drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, weakness and tingling in the fingers and toes. Some of the names are: Inderal, Lopressor, nadolol, propranolol, and timolol.

Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and are sometimes used for sedation. They include: clonazepam, diazepam, flurazepam, lorazepam, and prazepam. They usually cause drowsiness and weakness.

ACE inhibitors treat hypertension and congestive heart failure. They include: captopril (Capoten), enalaprilat (Vasotec), and lisinopril. They often cause rashes.

Anticholinergic drugs inhibit nerve impulses through the parasympathetic nervous system and frequently cause blurred vision.

Drugs which are used to treat high blood pressure are antihypertensives. They commonly cause drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes. They include: acebutolol, atenolol, clonidine, diazoxide, reserpine, timolol, and verapamil.

You should get a statement from your doctor to substantiate your symptoms. The one I use is reproduced on page 5-14. If you are unsure about whether or not what you are experiencing is being caused by your medications, ask your pharmacist what the side effects are of each drug you are taking.


Poor Eye-Hand Coordination

Good eye-hand coordination is critical for nearly all jobs which are considered to be sedentary and light. In other words, where sitting is required only every now and then up to 6 and 8 hours. If you lose this coordination as a result of your illness, then you are prevented from performing most all jobs.

A vocational expert can test and measure this ability with a Crawford Small Parts Inventory Test, the Pennsylvania Bi-Manual Work Sample, and the Purdue Pegboard Test, all of which also measure finger dexterity.

Loss of these capabilities are often seen in neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis but also in degenerative spinal disease in the neck, arthritis, and even diabetes - especially when there is neuropathy.


Fatigue

Fatigue is difficult to measure, but it is easily detected when the patient is subjected to a battery of tests by a psychologist and vocational expert. In one 2- to 3-hour session, it will show up very quickly and should be noted in the vocational expert's report.

Without these tests, it is still credible when documented by a treating physician either as a result of the impairment or as a known side effect of a drug.

Fatigue has a profound effect on job performance, making productive work in a competitive environment nearly impossible. If it exists, it should always be made a part of the file with documentation as to how often it occurs, under what circumstances, how long it takes to recover, and what the patient must do in order to recover from the fatigue; i.e., lie down and sleep for 4 hours. Clearly there are no jobs which would permit this behavior.


Grasping

The ability to grab onto and hold objects is essential in many light and sedentary jobs. If there is a deficit here, it can be easily detected with the same tests used to measure eye-hand coordination. (See Numbness.)


Headaches

In general, one should not rely on headaches to win a case. The reason is because they are purely subjective and cannot be measured. PET scans (positron emission tomography, a special x-ray of the brain) are able to detect hyperactivity within the brain with migraine headaches, but they do not tell anything about their severity.

On the other hand, if the patient can do nothing but lie quietly in bed for 2 to 3 days at a time with the room darkened, and vomits along with the complaints of pain, then this is best substantiated by having someone the patient lives with testify to this at the hearing.

In order to have a significant impact on a disability decision, migraine headaches would have to occur 2 to 3 times a month and last 2 to 3 days each time.


Memory Loss

Severe memory loss is not forgetting a few names of people you met only once several years ago. It's when you forget you've ever been to an important event like a wedding.

Generally, this is caused by a form of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease where the ability to think and reason is slowly lost.

However, memory loss can occur with strokes, arteriosclerosis, severe head injuries, and brain tumors. Hormone deficiencies such as those which affect the thyroid and pituitary glands, anemia, depression, and overdoses of street drugs or medications can also be causes.

Short term memory loss is also significant for disability determination and often happens as a side effect of prescribed medications.

The Rey Auditory Memory Test can detect this problem and measure the degree of loss.


Numbness

Numbness in the hands and fingers is highly significant in disability issues. Depending on the degree, it can prevent the use of one's hands and fingers for handling, grasping, and manipulation of objects. While important for most all jobs, this ability is critical in jobs in which one is required to sit part or most of the time.

Three rules of law have been made from court decisions that pertain to the use of the fingers and hands. All state in different ways that if there is a loss of the ability to use the hands and fingers for grasping, holding, turning, then that constitutes an inability to perform jobs which are classified as sedentary and light.

Numbness in the hands and fingers is often seen where there has been deterioration or injury of the spine in the neck area. But it can also occur with diabetes and carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition which is often caused by repetitive wrist actions such as typing. The swelling from arthritis can also produce numbness, as can strokes.

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Social Security Disability Self-Evaluation

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Here's a short quiz that will help you determine what your chances are of being found disabled.

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Of Note

    Rules To Ignore At Your Peril


    1. Do not ask your treating doctor to write a memo saying that you are disabled and cannot work. Such statements are always rejected by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) on the basis that doctors do not know what SSA's standards of judgment for disability are.


    2. Make certain you are seeing a doctor of your choosing on a regular basis so that a good and complete medical record has been established. Evaluations should be typewritten; handwritten notes are rarely read. Nor do they provide a comprehensive assessment of the medical problems. Treating doctors are required to be given controlling weight in making a decision as long as what your doctor says does not contradict other reports from other treating and non-treating doctors.


    3. All statements by medical professionals must be well supported by objective medical evidence, wherever possible. Objective medical evidence includes x-ray reports, CT scans, MRIs, endoscopic exams, EEGs,ECGs, blood tests, neurological exams, etc. for physical impairments. Clinical observations should be as detailed as much as possible. Mental impairments should be supported with as much testing and therapeutic findings as possible. Testing should include a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Rey Auditory Memory, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), and clinical observations and findings.


    4. While pain is subjective, as long as there are sound medical reasons for causing pain, then it will be taken into consideration.


    The degree of pain cannot be measured, but its effect on thinking and concentration can be with an MMPI or IPAT. What you do, or don't do, during a typical day is also taken into consideration in evaluating the intensity and limiting effects of pain. The greater the degree of pain, the less one is able to do.
    In theory, if your doctor replies that your impairments do meet or equal one or more of the Listings, that should be the end of it--you should be found disabled.


    ALJ Listing Form
    At the fourth step of the decision-making process, where the adjudicator must ask whether the individual's impairment meets or equals the Listings of Impairment, this form helps resolve any issues which might otherwise be left open to questions. It should be given to your treating doctors to answer, along with a copy of the Listings which apply to you.


    But, in practice, it doesn't always work that way. The bottom line is always, how well does the individual function in spite of his or her impairments. So, be sure to get your doctor to complete the residual functional capacity assessment, too.




    What a Few Clients Say



    I gladly write you a check today for our fully favorable SSDI win.


    For long years and NC didn't do anything quickly or easy, but you stayed the course, kept me informed and most important-were my champion. I never spoke to anyone at SSA because you were on the front line for me.


    I am proof positive that you can win your benefits with a skilled professional by your side. Dystonians rejoice for Fred Johnson!


    D.Brinkley Snead Ferry, NC
    2/2/11



    Thank you for the untiring support given to me in obtaining my Social Security Disability claim. I would not have been able to do all the hard work that you have put into this case. You will be greatly rewarded for the work you do for Disabled population. I will keep you always in my prayers. Again, thank you.!!!


    E. White
    Randallstown, MD 21132
    4/23/08




    I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for successfully navigating us to a favorable decision with regard to my case. If one ever has any concern or doubt about hiring a representative over an attorney, I can assure them that this notion can be set to rest. You very capably guided me through a maze of obstacles designed to confuse and bewilder even the well educated.


    Because Spasmodic Torticolllis is considered somewhat of a rare disorder and is not listed on the Department of Social Security's "listing of impairments:, it created a challenge, but it was one you were more than able to handle. Everything happened as you predicted with respect to the denials, but it was your expertise and perseverance that prevailed somewhere between the reconsideration denial and the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, which was very unusual. You spared me the great anxiety and further depletion of my savings by cutting through the labyrinthine bureaucracy at the hearing level and winning benefits without have to go to a hearing. Needless to say, I am very pleased and would highly recommend you to anyone who may be considering you as their representative.


    Not only were you always available to answer my questions and concerns on a professional level, but equally as important, was the way in which you took this case on personally. I really admired the way you actually fought for me. Your heart was in it and I could tell. You know the system so very well Fred, and people who attempt to take on this giant on their own are at a tremendous disadvantage from the beginning.


    If your assistance will help level the playing field and helps them decide on the proper representation they truly need, then it is my honor and pleasure to be of service to you.


    Thank you so much!


    G. Beaubien, Jr.
    Osprey, FL
    2/19/05