May 27, 2016

How Your Hearing Testimony Can Help Win Your Disability Benefits Case

Social Security disability hearings generally last less than an hour, but the agency’s hearing backlog currently averages over 18 months in many locations. When you add the 8 to 12 months it takes for SSA to conduct its administrative review, most disability claimants won’t see the inside of a courtroom for over 2 years from the date they apply for benefits.

If you are waiting 2 to 3 years for your chance to spend an hour with a judge, you cannot afford to waste time or come to your hearing unprepared. Nevertheless, far too many disability claimants waste or misuse the precious time they have with the judge by testifying ineffectually. [Read More…]

Should You be Concerned About “Trick Questions” from the Social Security Disability Judge?

Back in May, 2014 I released a video about trick questions from Social Security disability judges and I continue to receive a great deal of feedback and comments on that video. In the 2014 video I talked about one type of trick questions but there are many examples you should know about – thus this new video.

My experience has been that disability judges are not trying to treat you unfairly with their questions, but instead, use their experience and knowledge to ask probing and incisive questions. More specifically they want to assess your credibility by asking questions to which they already know the answer so they can see how you respond.

Many of these questions relate to your medical record – comments you may have made to your doctor about work attempts, stopping bad habits like smoking or marijuana use, or even about how you are feeling on a particular day.  You may have forgotten about that quick conversation you had with your doctor 2 years ago, but there is a good possibility that your doctor wrote down the substance of what you said. [Read More…]

Peyton Manning and Your Social Security Disability Hearing

peyton manning and your social security disability hearingWhen your Social Security disability hearing is scheduled, you can help your cause by thinking about Peyton Manning while you prepare for your hearing date.

Manning, as you probably know, recently retired from the National Football league after 18 seasons, capped off by a league championship this past February.

But Peyton’s greatness and success on the football field is not especially relevant to your disability case. Instead, his focus and drive in coming back from a serious neck injury and four (4) neck surgeries, including a disc fusion, are worthy of review.

Peyton could have retired after his September, 2011 surgery. Following this surgery and continuing to this day, he has no feeling in the fingertips of his throwing hand. When he first started rehabbing, he could barely throw a football 10 yards and was in constant pain.

Had Peyton retired in 2011 or 2012 no one would have questioned his decision, nor would his status as a hall of famer been challenged. [Read More…]

How to Choose the Right Onset Date for Your Disability Claim

alleged onset dateWhen you apply for disability benefits, one of the first questions that Social Security will ask you is “when did you become disabled?” or “what onset date do you want to use?”  Social Security calls this date your alleged onset date and it will be used throughout the course of your disability claim.

Interestingly, many of my clients tell me that this question caught them off guard – what date should they choose? Sometimes, as we approach a hearing date I may discover that we have to change, or amend, the onset date. But, as you will see, it is much better to choose the right onset date early on as opposed to changing it later.

What is the “Best” Onset Date for Your Disability Claim?

Social Security will find that you are disabled if the symptoms arising from your medical problems make it impossible for you to work. Thus, your onset date ought to be the day when you could no longer perform the duties of any type of work even a simple, entry-level job. [Read More…]

Unconventional, Non-Medical Evidence That Can Help You Win

Think Outside The Box appearing behind torn brown paper.

With approval rates on the decline at hearing offices throughout the country, disability lawyers and their clients have to find creative and compelling evidence to make their cases stand out.

In my practice I regularly look for evidence beyond medical records and medical source statements. Often times you can find very convincing evidence in the form of employee files, school records, statements from former co-workers and supervisors and claimant maintained pain diaries.

Now, to be sure, judges are most concerned about your medical record and how your medical issues impact your capacity to work. However your doctor’s main concern when keeping medical records tends to focus on medical issues alone – rarely will medical records contain the specific vocational capacity observations or opinions that judges rely upon.

We can ask your doctor complete a functional capacity evaluation or narrative report (often at a cost of several hundred dollars) but some doctors do not wish to get involved in disability matters and others don’t feel equipped to make vocational capacity conclusions.

This is where unconventional evidence comes in. [Read More…]

Part Time Work Before and After Your SSD Award

part time work and social security disability

This month I received two questions via the Speakpipe app on my blog about outside earnings and Social Security disability. The first gentleman is applying for disability and wants to know how much he can earn without jeopardizing his case, while the second gentlemen wanted to know how much an approved claimant (his son) could earn without jeopardizing his SSDI award.

Neither gentleman left an email for personal reply so I am using my blog to respond.

The raw number that applies to both of these questions is the current SGA (substantial gainful activity) figure. For 2015, the figure is $1,090 per month. For 2014, the SGA number was $1,070 per month. This number will change every year. Here is the current link to the page on SSA’s web site which shows the current SGA figure. If this link changes you can search “SGA and Social Security disability” to find the current number.

So now you know that the earnings limit for both disability applicants and approved disability claimants is the same – the current SGA number. However, that is not the end of the story. My experience has been that SSA treats disability applicants quite differently from approved disability claimants. Here’s what I have observed: [Read More…]