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)


Pain

As noted previously, pain - if its presence is logical and expected as the result of an impairment - is extremely important in disability determination. It can be so severe that it disrupts concentration and thinking. If this is true, it should be measured by a psychoogist with either a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test (MMPI) or a combination of the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) and the Rey Auditory Memory Test, which will pick up problems with preoccupation with pain. Testimony at the hearing should support these findings.

Congress, in 1984, passed the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act which attempted to define and clarify the standard of judgment on pain.

"An individual's statement as to pain or other symptoms shall not alone be conclusive--there must be medical signs and findings established by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques which show the existence of a medical impairment that results from anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormalities which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged and which, when considered with all evidence required to be furnished under this paragraph (including statements of the individual or his physician as to the intensity and persistence of such pain or other symptoms which may reasonably be accepted as consistent with medical findings), would lead to a conclusion that the individual is under a disability. Objective medical evidence of pain or other symptoms established by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory techniques (for example deteriorating nerve or muscle tissue) must be considered in reaching a conclusion as to whether the individual is under a disability."

Even though this law had an expiration date of December 31, 1986, its acceptance had the effect of becoming the standard of judgment.

In 1988, Social Security Ruling 88-13 stated that there doesn't have to be objective evidence of the degree of pain and that an ALJ cannot reject a claimant's subjective complaints solely on the basis of his observations. Further, it says, "When the claimant indicates that pain is a significant factor of his/her alleged inability to work, and the allegation is not supported by objective medical evidence in the file the adjudicator shall obtain detailed descriptions of daily activities by directing specific inquiries about the pain and its effects to the claimant, his/her physicians from whom medical evidence is being requested, and other third parties who would be likely to have such knowledge."

This ruling lists the essentials which must be used to determine proof of pain. They are:

1. The nature, location, onset, duration, frequency, radiation, and intensity.
2. The factors which cause the pain and make it worse, such as movement.
3. The name, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of pain medication.
4. Treatment, other than medication, for pain relief.
5. Functional restrictions.
6. The claimant's daily activities.

A subsequent ruling in 1996 (SSR 96- 7p) sought to clarify and solidify previous definitions, but added little to the previous dictum. The bottom line of this ruling and 8 others issued at the same time is that if the impairment can medically be expected to impose more than minimal pain and limitations, then it must be deemed severe and the ALJ must go on to the next step in the process to decide whether or not there are any occupations in the economy which he or she can do despite the impairment.



NOTE: Nowhere has SSA ever stated flat out that part-time work could not be considered substantial gainful activity (SGA). At the same time, it has defined the dollar amount per month, over which work is to be considered to be SGA: $1040.

Additionally, working more than 20 hours per week will generally be regarded as SGA. Ultimately, the prime consideration is whether or not the individual is capable of working (Step 5) on a "regular and continuing basis, which means 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule." This is a murky area legally, but new clarifications of definitions in the psychological area, for example, make it unmistakably clear that the ability to work must be on a sustained basis. The best answer to this is to follow the directions under "Rules To Ignore At Your Peril". See also, Medical Problems Which Preclude All Work .


Poor Stress Tolerance

SSA recognizes the fact that stress is subjective, that what may be stressful to one individual may not be at all stressful to another. Stress can be a highly significant factor in immune deficiency diseases such as diabetes and lupus. It is usually a significant factor in heart disease as well.


Shortness of Breath

Unless your condition is severe enough to equal the disability requirements for respiratory problems, you will not get very far with this problem by itself. Most all those who suffer from shortness of breath will fall very short of the standards. And, the degree of breathing difficulty an individual experiences is not in direct relationship to the test results.

It is best to approach shortness of breath problems by describing the amount of effort it takes to bring on the feeling of not being able to get your breath. For example, "I get short of breath when I walk 1/2 block and when I climb halfway up a flight of stairs." Do you have to lie down after climbing 1/2 a flight of stairs?

The most significant result of chronic lung obstruction, though, is constant fatigue. This is due to the continual struggle to take in and process oxygen.

Fatigue greatly impacts the ability to do even sedentary work. If you can get a statement from past employers saying that your problem caused you to miss work more than 2 to 3 times a month, this would exclude you from being able to keep any job in the competitive marketplace.


Skin Conditions

Chronic an painful skin conditions, especially when they interfere with use of the hands, can prevent all work.

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