There is a social bookmarking site on the Internet called Reddit.com which offers fascinating insight about many topics, including Social Security disability. Specifically, Reddit has a feature called “Ask Me Anything” where users who have “insider” status volunteer to answer questions from visitors. For obvious reasons, most of these insiders appear anonymously.
If you search “Social Security disability” you will see that several Social Security adjudicators have volunteered to answer questions about their work. I have never before visited a site where such “no holds barred” information was available and I encourage you to check it out.
I ran across one conversational thread from an adjudicator regarding part time work. The anonymous adjudicator answered a question about how SSA evaluates claimants who show earnings at less than “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) during the time they claim to be disabled 1. [Read More...]
- In 2013 the SGA limits are $1,070 per month for a non-blind worker. Since SSA defines “disability” as the inability to perform SGA level work, you could, in theory, be found disabled if you show earnings at less than SGA amounts. ↩
One of the more troubling parts about practicing Social Security disability law involves hearing stories of how my clients suffered horrific abuse. I would estimate that at least 75% of my cases involving mental illness also include a history of abuse. It is no surprise to me that anyone who was abused by a parent or authority figure, or by a person physically stronger would continue to suffer physical and emotional wounds for years to come.
Because a claimant’s history of abuse helps explain current symptoms – depression, social phobia, anxiety, etc. – I think it is necessary to question my client about the abuse he or she experienced during that client’s disability hearing. Obviously this is a difficult and uncomfortable task – I have no desire to dredge up bad memories or to make my client relive a terrifying experience – but I have to bring this information about in testimony so the judge can better understand what my client is going through.
In preparing my clients for testimony about prior abuse, I suggest one of two ways to present this evidence. [Read More...]
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment called Disability USA, in which correspondent Steve Kroft reported on the “alarming state of the federal disability program” which has exploded in size and is about to run out of money. Kroft interviewed Senator Tom Coburn (who is also a medical doctor), several current and former Social Security employees and former associate attorneys for a national law firm that advertises heavily 1.
The gist of the story is that hundreds of thousands of able-bodied people have been approved for disability and are costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Further, the story suggested that disability lawyers are culpable in the outsize growth of the disability program because they advertise heavily. Further, there was an implication that at least some disability lawyers game the system with inappropriate and/or illegal relationships with doctors and judges. Several of the judges and SSA employees interviewed opined that the disability program has devolved into a last resort unemployment program rather than one focused on people with serious disabilities.
I have no doubt that fair minded American taxpayers who have no experience with the disability program were and are appalled at a system which appears to be out of control and rife with fraud and manipulation. [Read More...]
I have been told I should qualify for disability because of my permanent restrictions set by my FCE. I was put in a light category. What do you think?
Here is my response:
First, let’s clarify what a functional capacity evaluation is and why it is important to Social Security. Functional capacity evaluations (abbreviated FCE) are a set of tests and evalautions designed to objectively determine your capacity to perform the physical demands of work 1. A physical FCE will categorize you as:
- able to perform heavy work
- able to perform medium work
- able to perform light work
- able to perform sedentary work
- unable to perform sedentary work
Social Security has defined each of these terms – click here for the definitions.
An FCE can be preformed by a rehabilitation supplier, a physical therapist or a physician. A formal FCE may involve one or two days of testing along with interpretation by a trained health care provider. An informal FCE may involve a checklist form completed by your doctor. [Read More...]
You are going to be hearing a lot about Social Security disability fraud in coming months. With the disability trust fund about to run out of money, Congress will find itself moving money from other programs into the disability fund to shore it up.
With their attention drawn to the disability programs, legislators will demand more accountability from Social Security administrators. Fraud against the program will be a focus.
A recent USA Today story about fraud was entitled Feds: 36,000 Get Improper Disability. The news article cited a GAO report showing that Social Security issued $1.3 billion in disability payments to people who had jobs from December, 2010 through January, 2013 and that Social Security is going to aggressively pursue recovery of these overpayments.
According to the news story Social Security has trouble tracking earnings during the five month waiting period applicable in SSDI claims. Claimant earnings did not reach the wage-earner’s record and Social Security issued payment for months where an approved claimant was not eligible.
While this USA Today story and others like it are sure to inflame the passions of those who are convinced that 80% of disability claims are fraudulent, the truth is a little less newsworthy. [Read More...]
My case involved a man in his early thirties with a significant hip problem. He had been born with a bone deformity in his hip that was surgically repaired during his childhood and he was able to work a variety of physically demanding jobs during his 20′s.
By age 30, however, he was experiencing severe hip pain such that he could not drive a truck or perform his job. He met with a surgeon and underwent hip replacement surgery. I should note that surgeons rarely recommend hip replacement surgery for individuals younger than 50 because artificial hips rarely last more than 15 years and current medical technology does not allow for more than two hip replacement over one’s lifetime. [Read More...]
- A Social Security Disability Insider Reveals How SSA Views Part Time Work
- How to Testify Credibly About Sexual, Emotional or Physical Abuse in a Social Security Hearing
- Reaction to 60 Minutes Disability Segment: Truth or Fantasy?
- Functional Capacity Evaluations: Helpful or Hurtful?
- Payment Processing Mistakes Made by Social Security Result in Accusations of Claimant Fraud
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- Social Security Disability Again the Subject of Congressional Inquiry
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- Your Lump Sum Payment for Past Due Benefits may be at Risk from Child Support Collection Companies
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- Absence of Political Influence Costs Social Security Disability Claimants
- How do I Win for a Medical Condition that Cannot be Seen on a Diagnostic Test