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Why Activities of Daily Living are so Important to your Social Security Disability Claim

When you pursue disability benefits, you will be asked to fill out numerous forms by Social Security. You will find that many of these forms are repetitive – they seem to ask for the same information over and over.

Having spent a good deal of time with SSA’s forms (I wrote a book about how to fill them out properly), my guess is that this redundancy arises from the overall dysfunction at the Social Security Administration. Someone, in some far away office somewhere in the country, was given the assignment of heading up a team to update SSA’s disability forms. Government agencies rarely simplify anything so this nameless bureaucrat and his/her comrades no doubt spent months changing the format and the fonts, and adding questions to the forms.

Since there are only so many ways to ask you for an explanation why you believe you are disabled, the new forms ask for the same information 5 or 6 different ways.

With a few exceptions discussed below, I am not convinced that anyone with any decision making power actually reads your responses to these forms but you have to fill them out. Continue reading →

Approved Claimant Returns to Work – Are there any Defenses to a Continuing Disability Review or Termination Action by SSA

How should you prepare for a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) or notice of proposed termination?  It depends on how vulnerable you are to losing.   I received the following question from one of my readers:

I received a letter from SSA saying that they are reviewing my current SSDI benefit and possible to end my benefits due to substantial work between 2004 and now.   I would like to have your advisement how I should handle this and what options I can do to keep my SSDI benefits.   I only have Medicare insurance and living with AIDS.   Also, I am deaf.

My response: Social Security is saying that you engaged in “substantial activity” from 2004 to the present.  “Substantial activity” is a term of art and refers to activity that is work or work like activity.   Substantial activity can be work for pay, volunteer work, school or other similar activites.

In a CDR context, Social Security is most likely looking at your earnings record.  As you know, when you work your employer files copies of all W-2’s and 1099’s generated on behalf of employees.  If you were working and your employer was withholding taxes as the law requires there is a written record of your earnings.

I have posted a table on this blog setting out what you can earn and still fall below SGA (substantial gainful activity).   Social Security will look at your earnings month by month to calculate how many months you exceeded SGA.  You could, in theory, could be asked to repay SSA for each month that you received earnings over SGA and also collected SSDI. Continue reading →

How Do Job Training Programs Affect Continuing Disability Reviews

In my practice I do not see very many continuing disability review (CDR) cases.   If you are not familiar with this term, a “continuing disability review” involves a review by Social Security as to whether an approved claimant remains disabled.  For example, there are some medical conditions that can and do improve over time and with treatment.   I have been involved in many cases – especially those in which the claimant is in his 20’s or 30’s – when the judge specifically includes in his decision that a particular claimant should be reviewed in 1 year, or perhaps 3 years.

In theory, every Social Security disability case will be subject to a CDR.  In reality, because of the current backlog, I rarely hear from my clients that their cases are being reviewed.   The few cases that do seem to end up in a CDR typically involve younger claimants.

I am not usually called upon to handle CDR cases because Continue reading →

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