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Disability Topics

I Provide the Following for Your Social Security Disability Application

I meet with you or have a phone or video conference.   I will obtain all of the information necessary to complete your online social security disability application.  You never have to go near your computer.

I arrange the phone interview that is required for an SSI application – supplemental security benefits.

We fill out the New York State function reports and work history together- these usually total 28 pages.  I never ask you to complete them by yourself.

Your file is reviewed to confirm that it contains all of your medical records. If medical records are missing I follow through to make sure your file is complete.

I advise you on how to prepare for a consultative exam.  I’m more than happy to answer all of your questions.

What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing

Many of my clients are nervous about going to a hearing.  You do not have to be afraid at a hearing in front of a social security judge. The judge is an administrative judge. This means that it is a non-adversarial setting. There is no attorney present that is opposing you.

Vocational Expert-  There may be a vocational expert present, but his/her job is to be neutral.  The vocational expert is there to help the judge by presenting the judge with a list of possible jobs that the claimant could perform.

If the vocational expert comes up with a list of jobs the claimant needs to explain to the judge why he/she cannot perform them or show the judge that the jobs listed are not available in sufficient numbers in the economy.   There may sometimes also be a medical expert present. He/he also is neutral and is present to answer any questions the Judge may have about your medical condition.

The judge will ask questions of the claimant and if the claimant is represented will allow the claimant’s representative to also question the claimant. The questions are designed to help the judge make an informed decision on whether the claimant is disabled.   It is very important to be honest and sincere. If the Judge feels that you are not telling the truth he will not find you credible. If the Judge does not find you credible then the Judge may not believe any of your testimony. Do not be afraid to talk to the Judge- when you talk to the Judge talk as if you are telling a friend a story. Be as detailed as you can. Do not say that you cannot sit for a long period of time.   As an example, tell the judge that you can only sit for 10 minutes at a time before you have to stand up due to the pain you experience.   Then you have to stand for at least 10 minutes before you can sit back down.

The judge will also review the file and all of the submitted medical records in order to make a decision. That is why it is imperative for the claimant to make sure that his/her file contains all of the relevant medical records. The claimant may need to explain to the judge any negative information that is contained in the file. An example is that the doctor writes down that he feels the claimant’s condition is not as severe as the claimant states it is. This cannot be overlooked as the judge will see it in the file and pretending the statement does not exist will not help your case.

It would be helpful for you to keep a daily journal of your daily activities as these are brought up at a hearing. The judge wants to know what you do each day- if you are able to cook, clean and drive to events the judge will want to know why you cannot work. Be honest in your assessment and do not tell the judge that you do nothing. The judge will not believe that you do nothing- everyone does something even if it is just sitting in a recliner watching television.

Please remember that this is just general information, and everyone’s situation is unique. This article should not be considered legal advice.

I Provide the Following for Your Social Security Disability Hearing

I carefully review the file.

I immediately prepare medical source documents for your doctors to complete.

I order all necessary medical records to complete your file.

For each hearing I prepare a 2 to 3 page memorandum to present to the judge that presents all of the arguments of why you deserve disability benefits.

I go over potential questions that may be asked at the hearing so that you are prepared.

If necessary I contact your doctors to obtain evidence to support your case.

I am in contact with you so that I can continually update your file and prepare for your hearing.

Social Security Disability Hearing- Types of questions that you may be asked

Here are some sample types of questions that an attorney may ask you at a hearing:

Background:

Name, address, social security number.

Date of birth, age today, age at onset of disability.

Marital status.

Level of education.

Any vocational or on the job training?

Last day worked due to disability.

Work Experience:

Dates of employment.

Type of job and job duties.

Full time or part time job?

How long did you work there?

Why did you leave the job?

How long can you sit for?

Can you bend?

Did you experience stress at your last job?

Can you still do your last job?

Can you do any of the jobs you held in the last 15 years?

Medical History:

Date of injury.

Have you worked since you were injured?

Have your symptoms worsened since the injury?

Who are your treating sources?

What types of treatment have you received?

What medications have you taken for your condition?

Any side effects from your medications?

Do you drive?

What are your daily activities?

Pain:

Frequency, duration, location, aggravating factors.

What causes pain?

How long have you had pain?

Is it constant or does it come and go?

How many hours of the day are you in pain?

What does the pain feel like?

What is the location of the pain?

What aggravates the pain?

What relieves the pain?

What is your pain level on a ten-point scale?

Are you affected by movement, staying in one position?

Are you helped by lying down, shifting positions, etc.?

Does it cause you to be irritable, depressed, worried, anxious, experience difficulty concentrating or remembering?

Physical RFC:

How long can you sit for one stretch? 8-hour day?

How long can you stand for one stretch?

Can you alternate sitting with standing?

What do you do to relieve pain?

Do you have trouble sleeping?

How much can you lift and carry for an 8-hour day, one third of a day, and two thirds of a day?

Heaviest thing you can lift and carry in daily life.

What can you no longer lift and what happens when you try to lift them?

Difficulty:

Bending, twisting, stooping, kneeling, crouching, climbing stairs or a ladder.

Describe a typical day from morning until evening.

What you do differently now?

Good Days, Bad Days:

How many per month?

What are you capable of doing during a bad day?

Remember that these are just sample questions- the questions must be tailored to your specific disability and situation. What happens is you lose at the hearing level? Then you have to appeal to the appeals council which will review all of the documentation and a transcript of the hearing. If you lose at the appeals council level then the only alternative you have is to file an appeal in federal court.

Please remember that this is just general information, and everyone’s situation is unique. This article should not be considered legal advice.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction- Can I Still Get Social Security Disability?

It depends. Is alcohol or the use of drugs a contributing factor to your disability? If you are claiming that your disability is solely mental, and it is shown that your drug or alcohol use affects your mental health, you may not be found to be eligible for social security disability.   If you can show that it is not a contributing factor to your mental disability then you may be eligible for disability benefits.  You can do this by having a period of time in which you do not use drugs or drink for a period of time.

If you are claiming disability for physical problems, the difficulty with abusing alcohol or drugs is that it may affect your credibility.   In other words, the Social Security Administration or an ALJ (administrative law judge) may not believe what you say because of your drinking or drug use.

When is alcohol or drug use not a contributing factor?   Well, an example is you have cirrhosis of the liver.   If your doctor states that you will never improve, even if you stopped drinking, then your alcoholism may not be a contributing factor.   If however, your condition would improve if you stopped drinking, then alcoholism would be a contributing factor. So basically the question is would you still be disabled even if you were to quit using drugs or drinking?

If you have a drug or alcohol problem it is in your best benefit to seek treatment for your condition. The Social Security Administration or a judge may look more favorably on a former addict rather than a current addict.

Please remember that this is just general information, and everyone’s situation is unique. This article should not be considered legal advice.

Social Security Disability Grid Rules

I frequently refer to grid rules.  What are grid rules?  They are a set of charts that are medical -vocational guidelines.  Social security has recognized that it may be difficult for claimants over 50 to get a job.   The lower your education level and the fewer job skills you have the more difficult it may be to find a job.  So they have a list of charts set up in grids that you can use to see if you may qualify for disability using the grid rules.

The grid rules use your age, education, the level of skill of your previous work, transferability of job skills and the level of exertion of work that you are able to perform to help determine if you are disabled.  The grid rules are not used for mental impairments.

The age categories include the following:  45 to 49, 50 to 54, 55+ and 60 to 64.

The level of skill includes skilled jobs, unskilled jobs and no job history.

The level of exertion consists of 3 categories:

Sedentary: Sedentary work means that you are able to sit for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, and lift up to 10 lbs. occasionally during a day.

Light: Light work means that you can stand and walk for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, lift 10 lbs. frequently and 20 lbs. occasionally.

Medium: Medium work means that you can stand and walk for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, lift 25 lbs. frequently and 50 lbs. occasionally.

To use the charts first you need to determine at what level of exertion you can perform a job.

If you can perform a sedentary job go to the sedentary work charts here: Sedentary Work

If you can perform a light job go to the light work charts here: Light Work

If you can perform a medium job go to the medium work charts here: Medium Work

You then look at the table and find your age, level of education and level of skill and transferability.  You then look to the right of the chart and it will state whether you are disabled or not disabled according to the grid rules.

You must remember that even if you are found disabled according to the grid rules the social security administration may still find that you are not disabled if you can return to a job that you have held in the previous 15 years.

Please remember that this is just general information, and everyone’s situation is unique. This article should not be considered legal advice.

Social Security Disability Grid Rules- Sedentary Work

RuleAgeEducationPrevious WorkDecision
201.0155+Limited or lessUnskilled or noneDisabled
201.0255+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled.
Skills not transferrable
Disabled
201.0355+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled. Skills transferrableNot Disabled
201.0455+Limited or lessUnskilled or noneDisabled
201.0555+HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
201.0655+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableDisabled
201.0755+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills transferrableNot Disabled
201.0855+HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableNot Disabled
201.0950-54Limited or lessUnskilled or noneDisabled
201.1050-54Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableDisabled
201.1150-54Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled; skills transferrableNot Disabled
201.1250-54HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workUnskilled or noneDisabled
201.1350-54HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
201.1450-54HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableDisabled
201.1550-54HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills transferrableNot Disabled
201.1650-54HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableNot Disabled
201.1745-49Illiterate or unable to communicate in EnglishUnskilled or noneDisabled
201.1845-49Limited or less but literate and able to communicate in EnglishUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
201.1945-49Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableNot Disabled
201.2045-49Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled; skills transferrableNot Disabled
201.2145-49HS grad or moreSkilled or semi-skilled; skills not transferrableNot Disabled
201.2245-49HS grad or moreSkilled or semi-skilled; skills transferrableNot Disabled

Social Security Disability Grid Rules- Light Work

RuleAgeEducationPrevious WorkDecision
202.0155+Limited or lessUnskilled or noneDisabled
202.0255+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Disabled
202.0355+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
202.0455+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workUnskilled or noneDisabled
202.0555+HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
202.0655+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Disabled
202.0755+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
202.0855+HS grad or more – provides for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
202.0950-54Illiterate or unable to communicate in EnglishUnskilled or noneDisabled
202.1050-54Limited or less – at least literate and able to communicate in EnglishUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
202.1150-54Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
202.1250-54Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
202.1350-54HS grad or moreUnskilled or noneNot Disabled
202.1450-54HS grad or moreSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
202.1550-54HS grad or moreSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled

Social Security Disability Grid Rules- Medium Work

RuleAgeEducationPrevious WorkDecision
203.0160-64Marginal or noneUnskilled or noneDisabled
203.0260-64Limited or lessNoneDisabled
203.0360-64LimitedUnskilledNot Disabled
203.0460-64Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
203.0560-64Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
203.0660-64HS grad or moreNone or unskilledNot Disabled
203.0760-64HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
203.0860-64HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
203.0960-64HS grad or more – does provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
203.1055+Limited or lessNoneDisabled
203.1155+Limited or lessUnskilledNot Disabled
203.1255+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
203.1355+Limited or lessSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills transferrable
Not Disabled
203.1455+HS grad or moreNone or unskilledNot Disabled
203.1555+HS grad or more – does not provide for direct entry into skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled
Skills not transferrable
Not Disabled
40-54Not Disabled

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