Before you apply for Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income, make sure you have the information you need before you fill out your application. You will need your personal information; your social security number, birthday, marriage date, divorce date, parent's names, and/or children's names. You will also need, if you have one, your bank account information. If you do not have a bank account, this will not stop you from applying for benefits. You will also need to provide a list of your doctors and their addresses and it would be extremely helpful if you have a resume. You will need to list of the jobs that you have had for the past 15 years. If you have worked full-time, for longer than 3 months, at any job - then you will need to provide that information to the Social Security Administration. You may also need to provide a copy of your birth certificate or, if you have become a citizen of the U.S., you will need your paperwork to submit along with your application. Don't let the lack of some of this information prevent you from applying for benefits. Remember, every day you wait to apply for benefits is a day that you lose money. Benefits are tied to the date that you apply, whether online, in the mail, or by phone. For further information, please contact Cannon Disability Law.
#SOCIAL #SECURITY, #RETIREMENT & #DISABILITY PAYMENTS - CHECK YOUR EARNING'S RECORD TO PROTECT YOUR FUTURE
The monthly amount of your Social Security Disability benefits and your future retirement benefits is based upon your earnings. Earnings are reported when you file your income tax. The IRS reports your yearly earnings to the Social Security Administration. If your employer makes a mistake reporting your wages or you make a mistake on your taxes, the IRS will still share your wage information with the SSA. If an employer doesn't fully report your income and you don't fix it, your monthly disability payment and your future monthly retirement payment will be less money than you are entitled too.
There is a simple way to make sure that the Social Security Administration has documented your earnings correctly. You can go online and create a personal account at www.ssa.gov and through that account you can request a copy of your earning's record. It does not take much time to create a personal account and your account information can only be accessed by you. Once you obtain your earning's record, review it for accuracy. If it seems that your earnings have not been reported properly, you can have your record amended by the SSA if you have proof of your earnings. You can also amend your taxes with the IRS, but there is a time limit on the ability to go back into the past and amend taxes. You should review your earning's record at least once a year to make sure that it is correct. If you do so, you will ensure that your yearly earnings are being properly credited to you and that you will receive the correct amount of monthly payments if you ever become disabled or when you retire.
Depression is a common mental ailment that most people suffer at some time during their lives. Most depression is situational, which means it comes about because of a traumatic or stressful event. For example, if you spouse passes away, you may experience symptoms such as sadness, memory loss, inability to sleep, irritability, crying spells, and feelings of hopelessness. These are all symptoms of depression and are a normal response to the death of a spouse. With time, these symptoms abate for most people, and they are able to return to their normal emotional state. It is when the symptoms of depression becomes a chronic, daily occurrence that interferes with the ability to perform activities of daily living, such as working, going to the store, and interacting with family and friends, that it becomes known as Major Depressive Disorder.
In order to be found disabled by the Social Security Administration for Depression, a person must be incapable of working due to the severity of the depressive symptoms. For example, everyone experiences the inability to sleep a few times a year, but if you cannot sleep night after night and you pace the house worrying about things you cannot control, that could be a symptoms of severe depression or anxiety. The SSA has divided Depression into two elements, the first element lists symptoms of depression. The second element requires the severity of the symptoms to prevent you from working. In order to be found disabling, depression must interfere with activities of daily living, with the ability to persist and finish tasks, with the ability to concentrate and persist, and interfere with the ability to socialize with others. Millions of people have symptoms of depression, but they still go to work. If you have depressive symptoms and you are not able to work because you are avoiding others, failing to keep appointments, take care of yourself, and are unable to eat or sleep - you may qualify for disability benefits. Disability benefits also come with Medicare or Medicaid, which should provide you with the health insurance you need to seek treatment. Call our office at 1-801-322-2121 or contact Cannon Disability Law at www.cannondisability.com and ask us now whether or not you are eligible to apply for disability benefits.
#ALJ IGNORES #DOCTORS' OPINION AND DENIES CLAIMANT WITH #CEREBRAL #PALSY - DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU
It is getting more and more difficult to win disability benefits. Recently, an ALJ denied a claimant with Cerebral Palsy, even though Social Security's own doctors opined she could not work. The claimant filed for disability benefits stating she could no longer work, because her Cerebral Palsy had become worse as she aged. The medical record stated she could no longer walk without the use of a cane. Social Security's doctors examined her and found her back and legs had deteriorated and were deformed. They said she could not walk or stand more than two hours in an eight hour day and found she could not sit for more than 4 hours in an eight hour day. These limitation alone would place the claimant into a part-time work status, but the ALJ ignored these findings. Another doctor performed an objection mental health examination at the request of the Social Security Administration and found the claimant had severe depression and other mental impairments which precluded all work. The ALJ chose to ignore the findings of both doctors, even though the medical opinions were requested by the SSA, and found the claimant could work at a seated job.
The ALJ's findings contradict the medical record which was developed by the Social Security Administration. The ALJ had the opportunity to see the claimant walk into the court room with a deformed leg and could see her inability to walk and sit for himself. According to the medical records, the claimant meets the listing for Cerebral Palsy and should have been found disabled. Despite all of the facts and the obvious inability of the claimant to perform a seated job, the ALJ said he didn't need to accept the opinions of the doctors and he denied benefits. If ALJ's are ignoring their own Consultative Examiners' opinions and denying benefits to claimant's with severe deformities due to Cerebral Palsy, then who is disabled? This one case illustrates what we, as attorneys, see and fight every day. Many ALJ's have taken Social Security's edict to deny more cases to heart and the ALJ's are ignoring medical evidence and denying cases that should be granted under the law. This case shows how difficult it is for even the most impaired individuals to win disability benefits when they cannot work. Do not give up fighting for your disability benefits just because the government says you are not disabled. There is a very high chance the SSA is ignoring the objective medical evidence that proves disability in your case. If the SSA has denied your claim, contact our office at www.cannondisability.com or call us at 1-801-322-2121. We have the experience and the determination to fight for the disability benefits that you earned by working and paying your taxes. Contact Cannon Disability Law if you need to #apply for benefits, file an #appeal, or you need an experienced attorney to represent you in court.
Many people file an application for disability benefits more than once. Sometimes, people file an application and don't appeal a denial because they think they are going to return to work. Sometimes, people miss the 60 day deadline to file an appeal, for whatever reason, and the SSA tells them they need to file a new application. If you have filed more than one application, especially if you have filed two or three times within a a two year period, you need to know you have the right to ask for a "reopening" of your prior application. The law states that a prior application can be reopened for any reason within a 12 month period.
"An administrative law judge (ALJ) has the authority to reopen an initial, revised or reconsidered determination, or a hearing decision or revised hearing decision under title II or title XVI of the Social Security Act for any reason within 12 months from the date of the notice of the initial determination (see 20 CFR 404.988(a) and 416.1488(a))."
In order to get a prior application reopened, so that you can obtain all of you back benefits, you need to ask the ALJ to reopen it at your hearing. Additionally, you typically need a reason to request reopening. It could be a simple reason, such as you missed the deadline to appeal because you were in the hospital or did not receive your mail because you moved. You may have mental illness that prevented you from understanding your rights or you may have been trying to gather all of your medical records before submitting your appeal. As long as you have a reason, the ALJ must consider a reopening request that is within a 12 month period from the date of the notice of the initial determination. The ALJ is not automatically required to reopen a previous determination, even if it is within 12 months, but the ALJ cannot automatically deny a request to reopen a prior application. If the ALJ reopens a prior application, it should result in you receiving a larger back benefit amount or, in other words, all of the benefits you are entitled to since you filed your first application.
After you apply for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits, you may receive a notice scheduling you for a Consultative Examination. A Consultative Examination is usually scheduled by SSA during the first six months of the appeals process or at the initial or reconsideration level of your case. Typically, a physical or mental examination with a doctor is scheduled because the government feels they need more evidence to decide whether you are disabled. Under Social Security Law, physical and mental impairments can only be found disabling if they are diagnosed by an acceptable medical source, like an M.D. or a Ph.D.. The SSA does not consider physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, counselors, chiropractors, or physical therapists, acceptable medical sources. Therefore, if you are seeing a social worker for mental impairments or a chiropractor for back impairments, the SSA may schedule you for an examination with a doctor to determine whether or not your are disabled. The doctor will write a report, after your examination, and submit it to the SSA. The report usually includes information about how your impairments would affect you if you were working on a 40 hour a week job.
You should take the scheduled doctor examination seriously and if for any reason you cannot attend, you should reschedule the examination. The SSA pays for the examination and will use the results to decide your case. But if you do not attend the examination, they will use your failure to attend to deny your claim.
Here are some tips to help you during your Consultative Examination. The doctor who is doing your examination is paid by the SSA, they are not your doctor and you should not assume they are in support of you obtaining benefits. If you are sent to an exam for physical impairments, you should bring copies of medical tests with you. For example, if you have an MRI, X-ray, CT scan, or surgical report, bring it with you to the exam. The reports provide objective medical evidence of your impairments and are good for the doctor to see. Do not give the doctor your original copy and do not assume the SSA will send your medical records to the doctor, because they usually don't. If you are scheduled for a physical examination, explain all of your problems to the doctor. The examination is your opportunity to describe your pain and how it limits you. If you do not tell the doctor what is wrong, there is no way for the doctor to write a favorable report. The same is true for a mental examination. If you are scheduled to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, tell them about your depression, anxiety, panic attacks, inability to concentrate, memory problems, and so on. You should tell the doctor how your mental impairments prevent you from performing normal activities of daily living. For example, if you have memory problems, you may forget to the pay your bills and family members may need to remind you to do so. If you have physical impairments, you may need help showering, doing laundry, or cooking. It is important to talk about your limitations at the Consultative Examination.
Typically, during a physical examination, you will be asked how much you can lift. Do not overestimate or brag about your past strength. The doctor is asking how much you could lift repetitively throughout the course of an 8 hour workday. If you have back problems, arthritis, or joint pain, it is unlikely that you could lift more than 10 pounds repetitively over an eight hour period of time. Be realistic when you are answering the doctors questions and explain what impairments are preventing you from working. Think about how difficult it would be for you to sit or stand for six to eight hours during a work day. If you have mental issues, think about how hard it might be for you to leave your home, deal with the public, or focus and maintain concentration for 8 hours a day. Thinking about how your impairments would affect you in the workplace and being able to honestly answer the doctor's questions will help you be successful in your disability claim. If you have questions about what will happen at your Consultative Examination, call Cannon Disability Law and we will help you prepare for your examination.
By now, you have read the news that a group of Republicans locked themselves away from the public and came up with a healthcare bill that is so cruel it will take Medicaid away from 22 million Americans. We cannot allow this bill to pass through Congress. If this bill passes, disabled individuals, the elderly, and children who rely on Medicaid will be left without insurance coverage. These are individuals who cannot work and get insurance through an employer. What makes Congressional representatives think that those on Medicaid can go find work? Medicaid insures the disabled, chronically ill individuals and dying children. It also insures adults who are unable to work or who have never worked due to disability. Republicans claim these people are living off of a government system, when the truth is they would not survive their disabilities without health insurance. Medicare, which is earned and paid for by working citizens, is also in jeopardy. These healthcare benefits are not a free handout. In fact, the majority of disabled people who apply for Medicaid are denied health insurance through the program until they prove in court that they are disabled. Proving disability in the Social Security system can take up to two years - in which claimants live without being able to pay bills, without health insurance, without basic needs - and these are people who have worked their entire lives. This healthcare bill is more than misguided - it is a nightmare - dreamed up by people who have too much power and money and care nothing about others. The real question is why we, as American voters, allowed this group of men to have the power to try to derail the small progress this country has made. Call your representatives and demand healthcare as your right and as a basic right for all American citizens.
While Fibromyalgia was officially recognized by the Social Security Administration as a qualifying condition for Social Security Disability Benefits in July 2012, many people still don't know what is needed in order to document this impairment as a disability.
The SSA will consider your Fibromyalgia as a disabling condition if your medical records contain the following information:
A history of widespread pain that lasts for at least three months. The pain may fluctuate in
intensity and may not always be present.
Evidence that other disorders that could cause the same symptoms have been excluded;
One of the following:
At least 11 tender points on physical examination OR
If you have Fibromyalgia and are not able to work, you can #apply for Social Security Disability benefits, but it will increase your chances of winning disability benefits if your treating physician has documented the above symptoms in your medical record. It is also helpful if you can find a physician or rheumatologist who specializes in treating Fibromyalgia. If you have further questions about applying for disability benefits, contact Cannon Disability Law.
The Social Security Disability benefit amount is different for every applicant because SSD benefits are based upon the amount you have worked during your lifetime. Since everyone has a different earnings record, everyone's monthly disability payment is also different. If you have earned very little during your working years, you will receive a lower benefit amount. Conversely, if you have been a high earner, you will receive more money per month. In 2017, the average SSD benefit amount is $1,171 per month. For those who have been high earners, it is possible for them to receive up to $2,687 in monthly benefits.
In order to calculate your monthly disability benefit, the Social Security Administration uses your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings or AIME. The AIME is calculated by using your highest indexed earnings during 35 working years, adding them together and then dividing them by the total number of months for those years. This average is rounded down to determine your AIME.
If you want to see an example of how the SSA calculates an AIME go to the SSA website.
The SSA uses the AIME to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is the base amount of your benefits, and typically, the amount of your monthly benefit. Three fixed percentages of your AIME are used to determine your PIA. The dollar amounts that result from the calculation are called “bend points.” Bend points are changed on a yearly basis to reflect the national average wage index.The PIA for a disabled individual who became eligible for SSD in 2017 is the sum of the following:
If a claimant loses their case at the ALJ hearing, they have the right to appeal the case to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews cases from the entire country and it takes, on average, two years for them to review an appeal. The Appeals Council will either deny review (which means the case must then be appealed to Federal Court), remand the case back to the same ALJ, or grant the case (this is very rare). Unfortunately, data released by the Social Security Administration reveals that the number of claimant's who are successful on appeal has plummeted over the past five years.
In 2010 the Appeals Council remanded %21.77 of the cases that it reviewed. In 2011, the percentage of remands was similar, at %21.19. The percentage of cases since then has steadily declined until 2015, where the Appeals Council only remanded %13.58 of the cases it reviewed. SSA's data shows that in 2016, the percentage has declined again to %12.3. This means that out of hundreds of thousands of appeals, the Appeals Council remanded approximately 19,000 cases in 2016. Data is not available for 2017, but the troubling trend of denying review for the the majority of disabled individuals who appeal their case has not changed.
Since 2010, the Appeals Council has not only had more than an 8 percent drop in remands, they have also spent their time reviewing favorable ALJ decisions and remanding those cases back to ALJ's in an attempt to overturn cases where the claimant was awarded benefits. This is an alarming turn of events for the disabled community when one considers that over the same period of time, the ALJ award rate at hearing has fallen from %63 in 2009 to %45 in 2014. In other words, the ALJ award rate has dropped by %20 in the last 6 years, but even when the ALJ grants a case there is a chance that the SSA will review it of its own accord and the claimant will have to go through another hearing. These statistics mean that hundreds of thousands of disabled people throughout the country are being denied at ALJ hearings and at the Appeals Council. Worse, once an ALJ has granted a case, there is a chance that the benefits can be taken away, simply because the Appeals Council has the unfettered power to review favorable decisions. In what other court system in this country is a case reviewed by a higher court and overturned without an appeal? The answer is - there are no other court systems that subject independent judge's decisions to being overturned without appeal. Obviously, the SSA is attempting to lower the amount of cases that are granted by steadily denying review at the Appeals Council level and overturning favorable ALJ awards at the same time. If the percentage of remanded cases can drop so quickly in a 5 year period, disabled claimant's are dealing with a court system that is rigged against them by a governmental agency who appears to be willing to do anything to save a dollar.
DIANNA CANNON, J.D.