Social Security Disability:

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Disability According To Social Security

Congress has defined disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. To meet this definition, you must have a severe impairment, which makes you unable to do your previous work or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the national economy. To determine whether you are able to do any other work, we consider your residual functional capacity and your age, education, and work experience."

From this definition has emerged a standard set of questions which must be asked of each claimant (the person who is applying).

1. Is the individual gainfully employed? The answer to this must be "no."

2. Is there a severe impairment (or group of impairments) which exist?

3. Will the impairment(s) last at least 12 months or result in death?

4. Does the impairment meet any of the standards set by SSA as being severe enough to grant disability?

If questions 2, 3, and 4 above can be answered "yes," then that person will be awarded benefits. If all of the above questions, except number 4 can be answered "yes," then several more questions must be asked. If the answer to number 4 is "no," then SSA must ask:

5. Can the individual perform any of the work s/he has done in the last 15 years? If the answer to this is "yes," then that person is considered not disabled. If the answer to number 5 is "no," then SSA must ask:

6. Given the limitations of the individual's impairment, are any of the skills s/he learned in past work able to be used in another occupation that would require very little retraining? If the answer to this last question is "yes," then that person is not disabled. If the answer is "no," then s/he must be found disabled.

All of the above is based on certain definitions, assumptions, and conditions which pertain to age,education, work experience, and residual functional capacity.

Age

In general, SSA operates on the assumption that the older one gets, the less able s/he is to learn new skills. An individual under the age of 50 is referred to as a "younger individual." Ages 50 to 54 are called "closely approaching advanced age;" 55 and over is "advanced age," and ages 60 to 64 are called "closely approaching retirement age."

Education

SSA makes the assumption that the more education one has, the better able s/he is to make adjustments in jobs. Conversely, the less education, the less able one is to adjust. So if one has a severe impairment, and cannot read or write, s/he should be found disabled.

Education through the 6th grade or less is termed "marginal;" 7th grade through the 11th is "limited." If one has a 12th grade education or a GED, then the question remaining is whether or not s/he has done work which permits entry into another group of jobs which require many of the same skills as s/he was doing before, or less.

If there are jobs in the economy which are related in skills to the one(s) s/he was doing within the last 15 years, and which s/he is determined capable of doing given the limitations imposed by the impairment(s), then s/he will not be found disabled.

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  • 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


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Vet Falsely Accused Of Faking PTSD

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. Dr. F. questioned the direction from which Bill was coming in an accusatory tone,

suggesting that he was not telling the truth. "I was questioned like I was a POW,"said Bill. This is an anatomy of how prejudice against veterans not-so-subtly denies them of their legitimate and well-deserved right to disability benefits.


In 2003, the Veterans Administration determined that Bill suffered form major depression and PTSD. This was established with standardized nationally-accepted testing. VA records on Bill explained, "The mental status exam reveals low self esteem, energy level, poor concentration, memory, poor sleep, affect was irritable. The claimant admitted to a past of alcohol and drug abuse. Last use of drugs in 1970’s : last use of alcohol May 2002. Dept. of Veteran Affairs report dated 7/23/02 states the claimant has been a at VA Trauma Recovery Program since 1995 and has of PTSD, chronic, severe; Bipolar with mixed manic and depressive episodes. He is 100% disabled by VA due to psychiatric problems. He is prescribed Depacote; Wellbutrin A 12/17/2001 progress note from Wm B., PhD. "The clinical opinion of Multi D team which has known the Veteran for many years, his PTSD has become so debilitating to render him unemployable."


Dr. F., Social Security's consulting psychiatrist, tipped his hand before the interview began, making it clear what his estimation is of those in the military who have been diagnosed with PTSD, saying, "I was a Lieutenant Colonel in the military and all I saw was people claiming PTSD." The statement was not made as a matter of information, but with the tone of derision, and implication that all--or at least most--of the claims of PTSD were bogus. Bill explained later, "He created such a hostile environment that all I wanted to do was get out of there."


As could be expected, Dr. F. concluded in his 5 page report, "There were no signs of major depressive illness. There was no indication of bipolar disease during the extended course of the examination." Afterwards, Bill related that this "extended examination” lasted between 20 to 30 minutes. Yet, in that amount of time, Dr. F. is able to determine that Bill's PTSD was "learned rather experienced."


Significantly, Dr. F. is able to draw his conclusions without attempting to discover any definitive characteristics of major depression and PTSD, such as troubled sleep patterns, appetite disturbance, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, decreased energy, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and poor memory. He notes flashbacks in his evaluation, but ignores or discounts them in his conclusions. Bill's VA medical records were at Dr. F.'s fingertips.


None of the VA's records contradicted any of these findings. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administrative Law Judge chose to rest his case on Dr. Freed's single report rather than the extensive reports by Bill's treating VA psychiatrists and therapists.


Exactly how does the ALJ accomplish this? Essentially with the following:


"The undersigned notes that although the claimant suffers from a mental impairment, the evidence shows that he is still able to take care for his own personal needs, he is able to think, communicate, and act in his own interest, and he is able to carry out his activities of daily living. Indeed at Exhibit 4F the claimant reported that he does his activities on his own initiative. He performs his activities routinely and consistently and he is able to comprehend his activities. He reported ding [sici occasion Isic] housework, laundry, and cooking. He reported taking care of his 7 year old son who stays with him sometimes and he home teaches. He reported driving three or four times a week and caring for his own personal needs. He goes to public place [sici once or twice a month. and he reported that he was able to understand and follow simple instructions independently."


But, the ALJ evaded the mountain of evidence in Bill's favor over years of treatment, as well as rules that disability under Social Security does not mean the absence of all human activity, and that work is defined as being able to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year.


Since the Baltimore ALJ who rendered the negative decision is usually very fair and reasonable, there can be only one conclusion to draw: prejudice against veterans.


Bill's case was appealed on December 30, 2004. The Appeals Council sent his case back to the ALJ, who reversed his previous decision on July 10th, 2006. Unfortunately, Bill was never able to taste the victory. He died in September of 2005 from a physical condition unrelated to his depression. His benefits went to his son.


Social Security Disability Self-Evaluation

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    Record 100 Dystonia Cases Won; No Losses


    On December 12th, Frederick A. Johnson, President of Disability Income Associates for 23 years, won his one hundredth dystonia case. He has never lost a dystonia case.


    He is expert advisor to the American Dystonia Society, providing immediate answers to questions about Social Security disability programs and procedures to its 500 plus members. The American Dystonia Society is dedicated to research as a non-profit organization, and established in 2009. http://dystonia.ning.com/main/authorization/signUp?


    Johnson has spoken on 3 occasions at the National Spasmodic Torticollis Association, a cervical dystonia patient support organization headquartered in Fountain Valley, CA.


    Since 1990, Johnson has represented over 1,000 patients who were not able to work because of the severity of their medical problems.


    He is author of "How To Apply For & Win Social Security Disability Benefits," and created specialized proprietary residual functional capacity forms for every major condition. The forms integrate the symptoms Social Security looks for in making its awards with the most basic legal standards.


    Johnson was a member of the medical corps in the Navy, working in the ICU, emergency room, recovery room, and surgical wards at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. Additionally, he was a medical worker in the private sector for 2 years.


    Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, or torticollis, is the most common of the focal dystonias. In torticollis, the muscles in the neck which control the position of the head are affected, causing the head to involuntarily twist and turn to one side. In addition, the head may be pulled forward or backward. Though of different etiology, dystonia is treated in the same ways as Parkinson's. Neurologists, however, frequently misdiagnose the condition. A gene has recently been found for dystonia; however, there is strong evidence to show that it can be originated by trauma.


    Dystonia can effect other body parts or the entire body. It can be constant or episodic and sporadic. It is usually treated with botox injections at 3 month intervals.




    What a Few Clients Say



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


    Four 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.


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