Are you unable to work because of a disability? Get the answers you need on Social Security Disability to protect your rights

Keefe Disability Law has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions in response to the overwhelming number of people who need help with the Social Security Disability process in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. If you are disabled and need help with disability benefits, read on to learn how to protect your legal rights.

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  • How do I send medical records to the Social Security Administration?

    There are various ways to submit health records to the Social Security Administration. However, you should not provide anything to the Social Security Administration or a Disability Determination Services (DDS) office on your own.

    Medical Records in an EnvelopeYour health records are essential parts of your Social Security disability application. The information in your medical records may establish your diagnosis, treatment plan, and compliance with your treatment plan. All of these things are critical to a disability finding.

    Once you submit your health records, they become part of your application and they may affect the outcome of your claim. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact an experienced disability lawyer before providing any information to the Social Security Administration or DDS.

    How to Submit Health Records

    Your medical records help the Social Security Administration understand your disability. Without this information, your Social Security disability application may be denied or unnecessarily delayed. While health records are essential, you do not want to provide unnecessary or confusing information to the Social Security Administration because that could also result in a denial or unnecessarily delay.

    Fortunately, you don’t need to make these decisions alone if you hire a Social Security disability attorney to represent you. Our experienced Boston area Social Security disability lawyers have been helping people in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire get the disability benefits they deserve since 1994.

    When the time comes to submit records in support of your Social Security disability application, our lawyers may submit the information:

    • Electronically or by fax. The Social Security Administration encourages attorneys and other representatives to submit health records electronically because it is more convenient, saves time, and saves postage, copying, ink, and paper costs. The agency maintains that follow-up communication may happen more quickly and that the Social Security Administration’s website is secure, so there is no need to worry about your health records falling into the wrong hands. Once you sign SSA Form 827, submitting your health information electronically will satisfy HIPAA requirements. Currently, health records may be submitted in .wpd, .doc, .docx, .mdi, .txt, .rtf, .xls, .xlsx, .pdf, .tiff, .tif, or .zip formats.
    • By U.S. mail. The Social Security Administration continues to accept medical records, applications, and other supporting materials by regular mail.

    Either way, we will ensure that the necessary medical information gets to the Social Security Administration so that DDS considers your claim fairly and avoidable delays are prevented. Additionally, we will provide other information, such as information about your work history and education, in an easy to understand way so that the Social Security Administration has all of the data it needs to make a fair determination about your eligibility.

    There Is No Financial Risk in Contacting a Social Security Disability Attorney

    Keefe Disability Law provides free Social Security disability claim evaluations. During your disability claim evaluation, we will review how we are paid. However, we want you to know now that we are only paid if we successfully secure disability benefits for you. Federal law regulates how we are paid. In many cases, we are paid a percentage of your back Social Security disability payments up to a maximum amount set up law. The Social Security Administration will pay our legal fees directly.

    The Social Security disability eligibility process is complicated. Many deserving applications are frustrated by unnecessary delays and unfair denials due to technical errors on their initial applications. Our disability lawyers will work hard to prevent these delays and denials or help you appeal if your initial application has already been denied.

    However, we can’t help you unless you take the first step and contact us to schedule your free consultation. Please call us, start a live chat, or complete our contact form to have us contact you as soon as possible. Together, we can work toward getting you the disability benefits you’ve earned with as little frustration and delay as possible.

     

  • Is a chiropractor an acceptable medical source?

    Patient at a Chiropractor AppointmentNo. A chiropractor may be an essential part of your medical team if you suffer back pain, neck pain, or other injuries. However, a chiropractor is not considered an acceptable medical source for purposes of Social Security disability eligibility.

    Will Information From Your Chiropractor Be Considered for Social Security Disability Eligibility?

    Since the Social Security Administration does not consider chiropractors acceptable medical sources, the disability examiner assigned to your case is unlikely to request your chiropractic records or to consider any chiropractic records you provide.

    However, if your chiropractor ordered any diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, the disability examiner may consider those test results. Since the chiropractor’s records won’t be part of your Social Security disability file, you will need to provide the results of the diagnostic tests for consideration.

    Who Is an Acceptable Medical Source?

    Federal regulations maintain a clear list of who is considered an acceptable medical source. As of January 2021, acceptable medical sources for adult Social Security disability applicants include:

    • Doctors, including licensed medical doctors and osteopathic doctors
    • Licensed or certified psychologists
    • Licensed optometrists (for visual disorders only)
    • Licensed podiatrists (for foot and ankle impairments only)
    • Qualified speech and language pathologists (for speech and language impairments only)
    • Licensed audiologists (for hearing loss, auditory processing disorders, and balance disorders only)
    • Licensed physician assistants (PAs)
    • Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), including certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and clinic nursing specialists

    The disability examiner may consider objective medical evidence (such as diagnostic test results), medical opinions, and other medical evidence from acceptable medical sources when determining your Social Security disability eligibility.

    You Can See a Chiropractor and Get Social Security Disability Benefits

    You should not stop seeing a chiropractor just because the Social Security Administration doesn’t consider a chiropractor an acceptable medical source. If a chiropractor provides you with pain relief or prevents a disability from worsening, you may continue care.

    However, you should also make sure that you are under the treatment of at least one person who is considered an acceptable medical source. That acceptable medical source may be your primary care doctor, orthopedist, or another type of medical professional described above. These acceptable medical sources may provide you with additional information about your condition that helps you and provides essential information to the Social Security Administration so that your eligibility determination is made fairly. Additionally, you should let your doctor (or another acceptable medical source) know that you are seeing a chiropractor so that any relevant medical information can be documented in your record and shared with the Social Security Administration.

    How to Submit a Strong Social Security Disability Application

    Medical evidence is a critical component of your Social Security disability application. In addition to any chiropractor appointments you keep, it is essential to:

    • Attend regular appointments with your doctor or other acceptable medical sources
    • Get all of the tests recommended by your doctor or other acceptable medical sources
    • Comply with all treatment recommendations
    • Be honest with all of your medical providers and ask that all of your concerns and symptoms be documented in your medical record
    • Seek second opinions from other acceptable medical sources if you are uncertain about your diagnosis or treatment plan

    Additionally, if you are unable to work and your condition is expected to last for 12 months or longer, then now is also the right time to contact an experienced Social Security disability lawyer.

    You have paid into the Social Security system, and you deserve to get disability benefits if you qualify. Our experienced lawyers can evaluate your claim, advise you of your chances of success, prepare your initial Social Security disability application, and represent you in any necessary appeals. Over the last 25+ years, we have helped thousands of people in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island get the Social Security disability benefits they’ve earned. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how we may help you.

     

  • What is a Social Security disability TERI case?

    Disappearing Clock in a Terminal Illness Patient's HandsThe Social Security Administration handles medical conditions that are untreatable and likely to result in death differently than other permanent disabilities. Terminal illness cases, known as TERI cases for Social Security disability purposes, are processed faster so that the applicant may receive a disability determination sooner.

    Types of TERI Cases

    Any terminal illness may qualify for TERI processing. TERI cases include, but are not limited to:

    • ALS (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
    • AIDS (also known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
    • Waiting for a heart, heart and lung, lung, liver, or bone marrow transplant
    • Chronic pulmonary or heart failure that requires continuous home oxygen and prevents a person from caring for their personal needs
    • Dependence on a cardiopulmonary life-sustaining device
    • Metastatic cancer
    • Stage IV cancer
    • Cancer that is persistent or recurrent following initial therapy
    • Inoperable or unresectable cancer
    • Esophageal cancer (cancer of the esophagus)
    • Liver cancer
    • Pancreatic cancer (cancer of the pancreas)
    • Gallbladder cancer
    • Mesothelioma
    • Small cell or oat cell lung cancer
    • Brain cancer
    • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
    • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
    • Being in a coma for 30 days or more

    Additionally, Social Security disability applicants who receive hospice care may have their disability applications expedited through the TERI program.

    How TERI Cases Work

    Disability applicants with terminal illnesses have the same eligibility requirements as applicants with other medical conditions. While eligibility remains the same, the processing of cases for terminally ill applicants is different than it is for other disability applicants.

    Social Security disability applicants cannot designate their own cases for expedited TERI processing, but they should make sure their application clearly states that they suffer from a terminal illness.

    The Social Security Administration does not inform applicants that their applicants are being processed through the TERI program. However, applicants with terminal illnesses may benefit from TERI processing, which begins when:

    • A field office identifies and flags an application as a TERI case. Review of the case should be expedited for no later than the following business day. The claim should be hand-carried to the disability examiner assigned to the case.
    • DDS identifies and flags an application as a TERI case. DDS controls must show the name of the examiner and DDS must notify the field office by telephone or electronic means so that the case may be expedited.

    The disability examiner assigned to the case must use telephone, fax, or electronic means to handle any follow up on the case so that a determination can be made as quickly as possible.

    Once a TERI designation is attached to a case, the designation remains unless a mistake has been made and specific procedures are followed to remove the TERI designation. The Social Security Administration cannot remove a TERI designation because of a failure to cooperate or for any other non-medical reason. Instead, all cases where an applicant has “a medical condition that is untreatable and expected to result in death” must retain the TERI designation.

    How to Keep Your Social Security Disability Case Moving

    Expedited and fast often mean different things. While the Social Security Administration may expedite the processing of cases for terminally ill applicants, delays and application denials still occur for people with terminal medical conditions.

    Experienced Social Security disability attorneys can help prevent application delays and denials by submitting complete and accurate disability applications that include a medical source statement, medical testing results, and progress notes that clearly establish your medical condition.

    Please contact our experienced Boston area Social Security disability lawyers today if you or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal illness and you are seeking Social Security disability benefits. We represent clients in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and we will fight to get you the Social Security disability benefits you’ve earned while you spend time with family and friends and on the things that are most important to you. Call us or reach out to us through this website today to schedule your free, no-obligation legal consultation.

     

  • Can I do volunteer work and qualify for Social Security disability?

    You ask an important question that’s essential to answer before you start volunteering. You may be looking for something to do with your time, or you may want to continue supporting a favorite cause, but before you volunteer, you need to know whether your unpaid work could impact your Social Security disability eligibility.

    What Type of Volunteer Work Will You Do?

    The Social Security Administration is only concerned with one thing when it comes to your philanthropic activities. The agency wants to know if the work that you are doing would Group of Volunteers Packing Foodbe considered substantial gainful activity if you were paid for it.

    Since you aren’t paid, the Social Security Administration must consider factors other than your income when deciding if the work rises to the level of substantial gainful activity. Some of the things the agency will consider when making this determination include:

    • How often you volunteer. If you volunteer more than a few hours a week, then the Social Security Administration may assume that you can get a paying job.
    • The value of your volunteer work. If you were paid a fair wage for volunteering and that wage would exceed the substantial gainful activity level, then the Social Security Administration may decide that you can work.
    • The physical requirements of your volunteer work. If the job requires a lot of lifting, walking, or other strenuous activity, then you may be able to work at a paying job.
    • Whether the work you do is typically paid work or volunteer work. Suppose you volunteer for a for-profit business or for a family member’s business and someone else would be paid for the work. In that case, the Social Security Administration may conclude that your lack of pay is only so that you can keep receiving disability benefits. However, if your work is typically done on a volunteer basis, then the Social Security Administration may come to a different conclusion.

    Is Your Volunteer Work Exempt?

    Certain types of volunteer work will not trigger a review by the Social Security Administration and may not be considered evidence that you can engage in substantial gainful activity.

    If you volunteer for a program included in the Domestic Volunteer Service Act, then the Social Security Administration may not consider your volunteer work when deciding whether you are disabled. Some of these exempt volunteer opportunities include:

    • Volunteers in Service to America
    • University Year for Action
    • Special Volunteer Program
    • Retired Senior Volunteer Program
    • Foster Grandparent Program
    • Service Corps of Retired Executives
    • Active Corps of Executives

    Similarly, if you serve on a board, advisory committee, or commission for a group created by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, then the Social Security Administration will not consider your volunteer work unless you are volunteering as part of a paid job.

    Generally, if you are volunteering for one of the groups described above or a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit group in a way that is consistent with your disabilities and that does not indicate to the Social Security Administration that you can work, then volunteering can be a great thing. You may be happier and less anxious if you are doing volunteer work that you enjoy.

    Do You Have Other Questions About Social Security Disability Eligibility?

    Your disability has changed so much about your life. Social Security disability provides important financial benefits if you have a permanent or life-ending disability, and you can’t work. Initial and continued Social Security disability eligibility is often confusing, and a simple mistake or miscommunication could put a stop to your benefits.

    Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers don’t want this to happen to you. Instead, we want to make sure that you continue to do your volunteer work while getting the Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned.

    If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for benefits or if you need to appeal the Social Security Administration’s denial of your benefits, please contact our Boston-area Social Security disability attorneys today for a free consultation.

     

  • I’m not a United States citizen. Am I eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

    American Flag Background With PortraitsYou may be eligible for Social Security benefits even if you are not a United States citizen.

    Social Security Disability Eligibility

    Before you consider whether your citizenship impacts your disability eligibility, you need to determine whether you meet the basic qualifications for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security disability benefits are only an option for people who:

    • Have paid enough into the Social Security system. The Social Security Administration will consider the number of work credits you’ve earned and your age to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits. Generally, you earn one work credit for every three months that you work. Most people need at least 40 work credits, with at least 20 of those earned in the 10 years immediately before becoming disabled. However, this number is adjusted for younger workers since it takes at least ten years to earn 40 work credits.
    • Have a disability that will last at least 12 months or likely cause death within a year. Only people with permanent disabilities are eligible for Social Security disability.
    • Have a disability that limits functionality so much that you cannot work. Social Security disability benefits are only issued for complete disabilities. That means that you cannot engage in what the Social Security Administration calls substantial gainful activity. The amount of money that is considered substantial gainful activity changes annually. In 2020, substantial gainful activity was defined as $1,260 for most people with disabilities and $2,110 for people who are blind.

    If these three things apply to you, then you may consider applying for Social Security disability benefits.

    Special Social Security Disability Considerations for Non-U.S. Citizens

    Generally, non-U.S. citizens who work in the United States may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if they’ve paid into the Social Security system for the required amount of time. For example, you may receive Social Security disability benefits if you are:

    • A permanent resident of the United States
    • In the United States military or a Veteran of the United States military

    As a non-citizen who is authorized to work in the U.S., you should have a Social Security number to include on your Social Security disability application. However, you may need to provide additional information to the Social Security Administration. For example, you may need to provide certain Department of Homeland Security documents, such as your:

    • I-551 permanent resident card, or green card, which will verify your nine-digit alien registration number, or A number
    • I-94 form, or Admission-Departure record to verify your 11-digit admission number

    Eligibility Exceptions

    Even if you’ve worked in the United States, you may not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you are a:

    • Foreign student or exchange visitor who worked in the United States but was exempt from paying Social Security taxes
    • Citizen of Cuba, Vietnam, or North Korea

    Talk to a Social Security Disability Before You Apply for Benefits

    An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will:

    • Review your eligibility
    • Advise you of your rights
    • Make sure that you have all of the right documentation based on your specific situation so that your Social Security disability application isn’t denied because of missing information

    Additionally, a Social Security disability attorney will advise you about what happens to your Social Security disability benefits if you travel or reside outside of the United States. Your right to continue receiving Social Security disability benefits depends on the specific country you reside in, how long you are out of the country, and other factors.

    Applying for Social Security disability is usually tricky but can be even more complicated by your citizenship status. Our disability attorneys are here to help you through the process.

    Contact our experienced Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island Social Security disability law firm today for a free consultation about your rights and for more information about how to get the Social Security disability benefits you’ve earned.

     

  • Am I eligible for Social Security disability if I was hurt in a car crash?

    Car Passenger Holding Her Neck After a WreckSome people who are hurt in a car accident are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, but many people who suffer significant injuries in car crashes do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

    If you are injured in a car wreck, your Social Security disability eligibility will depend on whether:

    • You have paid enough into the Social Security system to be eligible for benefits
    • You are disabled according to Social Security disability rules

    Car Crash Injuries That May Result in Social Security Disability Eligibility

    Car accident injuries are often painful and last for many months. You may be out of work during this time, but you won’t qualify for Social Security disability unless your injuries are permanent and expected to last more than 12 months or cause your death.

    Some of the car crash injuries that can be severe enough to qualify for Social Security disability, according to the Listing of Impairments, include:

    • Broken bones. If you suffer a fracture of the femur, tibia, pelvis, or a tarsal bone that keeps you from walking effectively for more than 12 months, then you may qualify for benefits pursuant to Section 1.06 of the Listing of Impairments. Likewise, if you suffer a fracture of an upper extremity, including the humerus, radius, or ulna, and you do not have functional use of your upper extremity for more than 12 months, you may qualify for benefits pursuant to Section 1.07 of the Listing of Impairments.
    • Soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries of an upper or lower extremity, trunk, or face under continuing surgical management to save or restore a major bodily function may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if the major function is not restored or expected to be restored within 12 months. Burns are included in soft tissue injuries. More information about eligibility for soft tissue injuries is included in Section 1.08 of the Listing of Impairments.
    • Traumatic brain injuries. Section 11.18 in the Listing of Impairments describes two ways that someone with a traumatic brain injury may qualify for disability benefits. First, you may qualify if you have disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use of the upper extremities and the condition persists for at least three months after you are hurt. Alternatively, you may qualify for benefits if you have a marked limitation in physical function and at least one of the following areas of mental functioning: (1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or (4) adapting or managing yourself.
    • Spinal cord injuries. Two sections of the Listing of Impairments deal with spinal cord injuries. Section 1.04 allows people to recover if the spinal cord is damaged and causing nerve root compression that results in pain, weakness, or an inability to walk effectively. Section 11.08 also considers spinal cord disorders and may apply if you are paralyzed because of your injury.
    • Anxiety. If you have a severe and persistent anxiety disorder that affects you in three or more of the following ways: restlessness, getting easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance, then you may have an anxiety disorder that qualifies for Social Security disability. To qualify pursuant to Listing 12.06, you must also have an extreme limitation of one or a marked limitation of two of the following: (1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or (4) adapting or managing yourself.

    You may suffer multiple car accident injuries. Any one of these injuries may not be enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits on its own, but when all of your injuries are considered together, they may be equal in severity to a Blue Book Listing.

    Alternatively, if your injuries do not qualify according to an individual listing or are not equal in severity to a Blue Book listing, then the Social Security Administration may consider your residual functional capacity. If the agency determines that your medical condition, age, education, and work experience prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. 

    Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer Before Applying for Benefits

    Whether you suffer a back injury, neck injury, broken bone, or another type of severe injury that is expected to last 12 months or longer, the action you take should be the same. Contact an experienced Boston area Social Security disability lawyer to discuss your potential eligibility.

    We help clients throughout New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts get the disability benefits they deserve, and we welcome you to call us or contact us through this website today to learn more.

     

  • What is included in a consultative examination report?

    Consultative Exam Paperwork for Social Security DisabilityDisability Determination Services (DDS) requested that you get a consultative exam. You complied with the request because you knew that the consultative exam was essential to your Social Security disability determination. Now, however, you may wonder what will be included in the consultative exam report.

    Required Consultative Exam Report Content

    The Social Security Administration’s Consultative Examination Guide, also known as the Green Book, requires consultative exam reports to include at least the following content:

    • The applicant’s Social Security number (or other case identifier)
    • Whether the applicant provided a photo ID
    • A physical description of the applicant
    • The applicant’s current medical history including symptoms, history of the start of the condition and its progression, treatment, and impact on daily living activities
    • The applicant’s past medical history, including things such as significant illnesses, injuries, and treatments
    • A list of the applicant’s current medications
    • A review of the applicant’s body systems and how the condition has or has not impacted them
    • The applicant’s social history, including alcohol use, tobacco use, and drug use
    • The applicant’s family history
    • A description of the physical examination conducted by the doctor
    • An interpretation of lab results for any tests conducted
    • The results of imaging tests, if authorized by DDS
    • Medical source statement that assesses the applicant’s abilities and limitations based on the applicant’s medical condition. In this section, the doctor should explain the medical condition that prevents the applicant from working. Some of the specific things the doctor should include are the applicant’s ability to lift, stand, sit, stand, walk, carry, push, pull, and other factors that would impact the applicant’s ability to work.

    Once the report is complete, the doctor who performed the exam should review and sign it. The doctor is responsible for the report’s contents. DDS will reject any report that is unsigned, signed with a disclaimer such as “dictated but not read,” rubber-stamped but not signed, or signed by someone other than the doctor.

    Additional Consultative Exam Report Content for Specific Disabilities

    Specific types of disabilities require additional information. For example, consultative exam reports require specific details about things such as diagnostic procedures, physical exams, symptoms, and more for the following types of conditions:

    • Musculoskeletal injuries
    • Visual impairments
    • Hearing impairments
    • Respiratory system conditions
    • Cardiovascular system conditions
    • Digestive system disorders
    • Genitourinary impairments
    • Hematological disorders
    • Skin disorders
    • Endocrine disorders
    • Neurological disorders
    • Mental disorders
    • Malignant neoplastic diseases
    • Immune system disorders

    The goal of all of this information is to help DDS decide whether you are disabled and whether you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Overall, the consultative report should explain your disability in enough detail for DDS to thoroughly understand how it impacts your life, how it affects your ability to work, and how long it is expected to last.

    You can help the doctor complete a full consultative exam report by being honest and cooperative. If you need an interpreter with you during the exam, then an interpreter should be provided to you at no cost so that the exam and resulting report are thoroughly and accurately completed.

    Incomplete consultative exam reports may be sent back to the doctor, and a determination on your Social Security disability application may be delayed until all the required information is provided to DDS.

    What Happens After You Receive a Consultative Exam Report

    Once a complete and signed consultative exam report is provided to DDS, the report should be considered by DDS and DDS should make a determination about your Social Security disability eligibility.

    While your consultative exam report is important to your disability determination, it is not the only factor that will be considered.

    Contact an experienced Social Security disability lawyer today to discuss your application and the necessary steps to getting your disability application approved. Our Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyers would be pleased to provide you with a phone consultation. You don’t have to travel to our Natick office to get the disability benefits that you deserve. Call us today to learn more.

     

  • Can Social Security disability benefits be garnished?

    Wallet With Money and a Wooden GavelThere are different Social Security disability garnishment rules for various types of debt. If you owe money and a court has issued a garnishment order, then it is essential to understand which debts may be garnished and how garnishment is calculated. Then, you can estimate your monthly Social Security disability benefits.

    No Social Security Disability Garnishment for Private Debts

    Only the federal government can garnish your Social Security disability benefits. Therefore, even if you are behind on other significant debts and a legal garnishment order is in place, your Social Security disability benefits may not be garnished. Privately owned debts include:

    • Credit card debt
    • Mortgages
    • Auto loans
    • Bank loans
    • Private student loans

    While private lenders cannot garnish Social Security disability benefits, you should regularly check your bank account to make sure that no mistakes are made and that private lenders do not wrongfully garnish your disability benefits.

    Social Security Disability Garnishment for Other Debts

    While the Social Security Administration cannot withhold any portion of your disability payments to pay your private loans, the agency can withhold a portion of your disability payments if there is a legal garnishment order in place for other types of debts. These debts include:

    • Child support
    • Alimony or spousal support
    • Restitution, or payment that is required to be paid to a victim after a criminal conviction
    • Overdue federal taxes
    • Federal student loans
    • Non-tax debts owed to other federal agencies

    If you owe debts that may be legally garnished, then the garnishment should be calculated from your monthly benefit after other legal deductions. In most cases, your garnishment will be the weekly garnishment amount multiplied by 52 and then divided by 12 and rounded to the nearest dime. Typically, the garnishment is limited to either the state maximum or the federal maximum allowed under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, whichever is lower.

    For child support payments, the federal maximum provides that you owe:

    • 50% of eligible benefits if you support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order
    • 60% of eligible benefits if you do not support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order

    If you are more than 12 weeks late with your child support payments, then the percentage that you must pay rises to 55% if you support another child or spouse or 65% if you do not support another child or spouse.

    Make Sure You Get the Social Security Disability Benefits You’ve Earned

    Debt is a common part of life. Unfortunately, now that you are disabled and unable to work, it is more challenging than ever to make regular payments on your debts. That doesn’t mean that your disability payments should always go toward paying your debt, however.

    The first step in getting the disability benefits that you’ve earned and satisfying your legal garnishments is to apply for Social Security disability benefits. If your application is denied, then you won’t have the money to live on or to pay your garnishments.

    Accordingly, our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will work hard to get you the benefits that you’ve earned. We will thoroughly review your medical record and work history so that we can submit a strong and complete Social Security disability application on your behalf. If your application happens to be denied, we will fight hard on appeal to protect your rights.

    Don’t let a potential garnishment prevent you from applying for Social Security disability benefits. If you are eligible for benefits, then some of your monthly payments may go toward satisfying your debts, but the rest will be yours to use as you wish.

    Learn more about your rights for free. We invite you to contact our Boston area Social Security disability attorneys for a free consultation and to download a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.

     

  • Can I make money doing my hobby and continue to qualify for Social Security disability?

    Woman Paintng a Piece of PotteryYour medical condition prevents you from working. While your daily activities have changed significantly, you still have a hobby that you enjoy. Perhaps you enjoy crafts that you can do from the comfort of your home, maybe you are a gifted graphic designer and you can do a few projects at a time, or maybe you have a knack for fixing broken appliances.

    You can’t turn your hobby into a steady income because of your disability, but can you sell your goods or services on the side and earn a little money.

    How Much Money You Can Earn While Receiving Social Security Disability

    Typically, the Social Security Administration does not consider your hobbies when determining whether you can work. However, if you get paid for what you consider to be a hobby, then your hobby is relevant in the Social Security disability eligibility or continued disability eligibility determination.

    The Social Security Administration must find that you are completely disabled and unable to support yourself by working before it begins sending you Social Security disability benefits.

    More specifically, the Social Security Administration must find that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.

    The amount that you can earn and still qualify for Social Security disability benefits changes annually. For example, in 2020, substantial gainful activity, or the amount that you could earn and still qualify for benefits, was set at $1,260 per month for non-blind Social Security disability recipients and $2,110 per month for blind Social Security disability recipients.

    If you want to make money at your hobby, however, it is not enough to make sure that your earnings are below the substantial gainful activity threshold. While you can’t make more than the substantial gainful activity amount, you need to be careful that the Social Security Administration doesn’t think that you are purposefully holding back on earning an income so that you remain eligible for disability benefits.

    In making its determination, the Social Security Administration may consider things such as:

    • The circumstances under which you did the work. These circumstances could include but aren’t limited to whether you did the work at home and any special accommodations that you had at home to make doing the work easier.
    • Your “work” hours. If you work on your hobby during non-traditional work hours or require frequent breaks, then you may not be able to go back to work even if you can make some money with your hobby.
    • Special assistance you receive at home. Are you able to complete all of the work that it takes to make money at your hobby independently, or are other people involved in the making, advertising, selling, and managing of the endeavor?

    The Social Security Administration should consider all of the information that you provide when determining whether you can work and whether you are disabled.

    Is the Benefit of Earning Money Worth Risking SSDI Benefits?

    You, like many other Social Security disability recipients, may have trouble making ends meet with just your monthly disability payments and existing assets. Additionally, or alternatively, you may suffer emotionally if you are not working. Part-time self-employment from home doing a hobby that you enjoy may be just the answer for you.

    If you choose to pursue earning an income from your hobby and receive Social Security disability benefits, then we encourage you to make sure that all of your rights are protected. Our experienced Metro Boston Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you. We want you to lead the most fulfilling life that you can. If earning money from a hobby is part of your plan, then let’s talk about how you can do that without jeopardizing the fair Social Security disability benefits that you’ve earned during your years of work.

    Call us or contact us through this website to learn more today. We would be happy to meet with you by phone or in person for a free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • Can I qualify for Veterans disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits?

    Social Security Disability Benefits PaperworkThe good news is that, yes, you may qualify for Social Security disability and Veterans disability benefits at the same time, and you may receive benefits from both programs.

    However, each program has its own definition of disability and its own eligibility requirements. Therefore, qualifying for one program does not automatically qualify you for the other program, even if you are a Veteran.

    Instead, you need to have your application approved by the Social Security Administration for Social Security disability benefits and the Department of Veterans Affairs for Veterans disability benefits.

    Definition of Disability

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs considers someone disabled if the person:

    • Served on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training.
    • Has a disability rating because of an illness or injury that impacts the body or mind. The disability does not need to be a complete disability.
    • Got sick or injured, or had an illness or injury worsen while serving in the military.

    However, a Veteran who receives an other than honorable, dishonorable, or bad conduct discharge from the military will not qualify for Veterans disability benefits even if the Veteran meets the disability definition described above.

    The U.S. Social Security Administration has completely different criteria for determining if someone is disabled. The Social Security Administration doesn’t care where or when you were disabled or if you served in the military, and the Social Security Administration will not accept a partial disability. Instead, a person is disabled if:

    • You are totally disabled. If your condition prevents you from earning more than a minimum amount defined as substantial gainful activity, then you may be totally disabled. Partial disabilities are not considered by the Social Security Administration, even if they impact your income.
    • You are permanently disabled. Medical professionals must expect your condition to last for at least one year or to result in your death.
    • You have paid enough in Social Security disability taxes to qualify for benefits. You must have earned enough work credits to qualify for benefits. The number of work credits that you need depends on your age. However, most adult workers need to have earned 40 work credits with 20 of those credits earned in the ten years immediately before filing for disability.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration are both agencies of the United States government. However, they do not share a common application process. Instead, you need to convince each agency of your eligibility based on that agency’s specific eligibility criteria. That said, if you have a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, then your Social Security disability application may be expedited, although your eligibility is not guaranteed.

    If you think that you meet the disability definition for either program, then your next step is to complete an application for one or both programs.

    You Don’t Have to Apply for Disability Benefits on Your Own

    Whether you apply for Social Security disability benefits or Veterans disability benefits, you have the right to work with an experienced lawyer who may reduce the frustration and stress that comes with applying for either program.

    While there are significant eligibility differences and different application procedures for Veterans disability and Social Security disability, both application processes can be frustrating and stressful. Both government agencies require precise information and may delay or deny applications based on unclear or missing information.

    Accordingly, it is essential to work with an experienced disability lawyer to file your application, or your appeal if your initial application is denied. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help Veterans and non-Veterans in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire get the Social Security disability benefits that they deserve. We can also direct you to a Veterans disability lawyer if you need one.

    To learn more, please read our free book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, and call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • I need to file for bankruptcy protection. What will happen to my Social Security disability payments?

    Petition for BankruptcyThe Social Security disability payments that you receive each month help you financially. Your Social Security disability deposits provide some money to pay for essential things such as food, shelter, heat, and food.

    The exact amount of monthly Social Security disability payments depends on your work history and changes slightly from year to year. However, in January 2020, the average monthly Social Security disability payment to a disabled worker was $1,258. Given the high cost of living in the Greater Boston area and throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, Social Security disability benefits are unlikely to pay all of your bills.

    You may be in debt. Your next step may be to file for bankruptcy relief so that you can have the fresh start bankruptcy allows. However, you may be worried about what will happen to your Social Security disability benefits if you pursue a bankruptcy case.

    Keep Your Social Security Disability Income and File for Bankruptcy

    You don’t have to choose between bankruptcy and Social Security disability. In most cases, you can keep your Social Security disability payments and get bankruptcy relief.

    Chapter 7 Bankruptcies

    Chapter 7 bankruptcies are also known as liquidation bankruptcies. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, your assets that are classified as non-exempt assets are sold and distributed to your creditors to satisfy your debts. Therefore, the question becomes whether Social Security disability payments are exempt assets.

    Social Security disability payments may be exempt pursuant to state exemption laws or the federal exemption law. You must decide whether you are going to choose the state exemptions or the federal exemptions when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Therefore, it is important to let your bankruptcy lawyer know that you receive Social Security disability payments so that all relevant factors can be considered when deciding which exemption list to choose.

    Even if your Social Security disability payments are exempt from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there is an important factor that can complicate your case. Most people have their Social Security disability payments deposited into a bank account that also has money from other sources. Whether it is money that was gifted to you or that you earned from a hobby, for example, the money is not all from the Social Security Administration.

    The comingling of money in one bank account makes it hard for the Chapter 7 Trustee to determine which money is Social Security disability income and which money is from other sources. The Trustee may decide that it is impossible to figure out how much of the money is from Social Security disability and, therefore, the entire bank account may be non-exempt and used to pay your creditors. This problem may be avoided if you keep Social Security disability payments in a separate bank account.

    Chapter 13 Bankruptcies

    Chapter 13 bankruptcy works differently than Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep all of your assets and pay your creditors through a court-approved monthly repayment plan over a three- to five-year period. Your income and expenses are considered when a repayment plan is created. Your Social Security disability income may be exempt from the income that is considered when determining your ability to repay your creditors.

    Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer to Protect All of Your Rights

    Your bankruptcy lawyer will make sure that Social Security disability payments and other exempt assets are protected during bankruptcy. However, you may have other concerns about your Social Security disability payments, such as:

    Our Boston area Social Security disability lawyers encourage you to contact us as soon as you have a question. Don’t wait for the Social Security Administration to take away your benefits. Instead, let’s work together to make sure that there is no interruption in the benefits you receive.

    To learn more, please contact us through this website or by phone at any time. We would be pleased to offer you a free consultation by phone or in person to discuss your legal options.

     

  • What happens if you apply for Social Security disability and your job no longer exists?

    Job Search Button With LaptopThe Social Security Administration will find that you are disabled if your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you’ve done in the past or another type of work.

    However, what happens if the work that you did no longer exists and you aren’t qualified to do any other type of work for which there is currently a demand?

    Jobs Change Over Time

    The jobs available in the workforce change over time. For example, some jobs from the 20th century, such as switchboard operators, elevator operators, and film projectionists are no longer necessary because of technological advancements. Other jobs, such as milk delivery, have fallen out of fashion. Some of the skills used in some of these jobs are easily transferred to other occupations, but others are not as easy to apply in different situations.

    Jobs in the National Economy

    When deciding whether you can do the work that you used to do or another type of work, the Social Security Administration must consider whether you can do work that currently exists in the national economy. Your physical ability, mental ability, and vocational qualifications are considered when determining what kind of work you can do.

    Generally, work exists in the national economy if the jobs exist in significant numbers in the region where you live or in several other regions in the United States. There must be a significant number of jobs in one or more occupations that have requirements that you can meet. While the federal regulations do not establish a specific number as “significant,” the regulations are clear that a few “isolated” jobs that exist in “very limited numbers in relatively few locations outside of the region where you live are not considered work which exists in the national economy.”

    When the Social Security Administration determines whether jobs exist in the national economy, it considers information from the:

    • Dictionary of Occupational Titles, published by the U.S. Department of Labor
    • County Business Patterns, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census
    • Census Reports, from the U.S. Bureau of the Census
    • Occupational Analysis prepared for the Social Security Administration by State employment agencies
    • Occupational Outlook Handbook, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
    • Vocational experts or other experts if there is a complex issue, such as whether your work skills can be used in other work or occupations.

    If jobs that you can do exist in the national economy, then you are not disabled even if you are unemployed because:

    • You can’t get work
    • There isn’t enough work in your local area
    • The hiring practices of employers prevent you from working
    • Technology has changed in the industry
    • Cyclical economic conditions temporarily make work unavailable
    • There are no job openings
    • You don’t want to do a particular kind of work.

    Additionally, the Social Security Administration will not consider the following in determining whether work exists in the national economy:

    • If there is work in your immediate geographic area
    • Whether a specific job vacancy exists
    • If you would be hired if you applied for a specific job

    The Social Security Administration must follow the specific regulations for determining if work exists in the national economy, as described above. However, the information that you provide or that your Social Security disability attorney presents in your application or appeal may influence the outcome of your Social Security disability case.

    What Else You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Eligibility

    A determination of your eligibility may be made without the Social Security Administration ever considering whether your job still exists in the national economy. For example, if your disability is included in the Listing of Impairments, then it is presumed that you cannot work.

    Learn more about your Social Security disability rights and how to protect them by browsing our free library of articles or contacting our Boston area Social Security disability application lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.

     

  • I had a heart transplant a year ago or longer, and I still can’t work. Do I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

    Beating Heart in the Chest CavityGetting a heart transplant is a significant procedure. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes how important it is that you make a full recovery, which is why it automatically approves heart transplant recipients to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for the first year.

    If you still can’t work after one-year post-surgery, then you may reapply for Social Security disability benefits. This time, however, there is not a specific heart transplant listing in the Listing of Impairments that applies to you. Instead, you will need to prove that you qualify for benefits pursuant to a different section of the Listing of Impairments or that you can’t work because of the severity of your disability.

    Heart Transplant Complications

    Complications may occur if your body rejects the new heart, if the new heart fails, or if you experience significant side effects from transplant medications. While some of these complications are acute and happen soon after heart transplant surgery, other complications occur over time. Even at one-year post-transplant, you are still at risk.

    Some of these complications are so severe and common that they are included in the Listing of Impairments. For example, you could experience:

    • Coronary artery disease (Listing 4.04). Coronary artery disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced because of narrowed arteries. Not everyone with coronary artery disease qualifies for benefits, but if you meet the qualifications of Listing 4.04, then you will qualify for benefits.
    • Heart failure (Listing 4.02). If you are diagnosed with chronic heart failure, you are on medication, and you meet the severity requirements included in the listing, then you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
    • Heart Arrhythmia (Listing 4.05). You may be eligible for Social Security disability if you have recurrent arrhythmias that occur despite treatment and meet the severity requirement of the listing.
    • Kidney Damage (Listing 6.00). Heart transplant medications can damage your kidneys. If you experience a kidney condition that falls under Section 6.00 of the Listing of Impairments because of your heart transplant medication, then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
    • Thin bones, which may cause bone fractures (Listings 1.06 and 1.07). Heart transplant medication may cause your bones to thin. If you suffer a significant fracture of your femur, tibia, pelvis, a tarsal bone, or an upper extremity bone, then you may qualify for Social Security disability if you meet the requirements of Listing 1.06 or 1.07.
    • Diabetes (Listing 9.00). The medications that you are on to keep your body from rejecting your heart transplant may cause diabetes. If this happens to you and you meet the requirements of Listing 9.00(5), then you should qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
    • Cancer, especially skin cancer or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (listing 13.03 or 13.05). Anti-rejection medications can make you more susceptible to some kinds of cancer. If you suffer skin cancer or lymphoma from your medication, or for any other reason, and you meet the Listing of Impairments requirements, then your Social Security disability benefits should continue beyond one-year post-transplant or begin again once you are eligible for benefits.

    Other conditions such as high blood pressure or an infection may also result in a permanent disability.

    Even if your condition is not listed above, you may still qualify for benefits if you can prove that you can’t work because of your physical condition.

    Are You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

    Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will thoroughly review your claim and consider all of your legal options.

    If, at any point during your first year of Social Security disability eligibility, you think that you might be unable to go back to work, then we encourage you to contact us right away so that we can minimize any disruption in your benefits. Likewise, if you develop any complications after your first year of benefits expires, then you may still have a successful Social Security disability complication.

    To learn more, contact Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights. Additionally, if you know someone on the heart transplant list or who is recovering from a heart transplant, please share this article with them as a way to show your support.

     

  • Will I qualify for Social Security disability benefits if I have atrial fibrillation?

    Beating Heart ImagingYou may or may not qualify for Social Security disability depending on your unique medical condition.

    Any time something prevents your heart from functioning normally, you risk side effects and complications. Atrial fibrillation, called “AFib” for short, impacts your heart rhythm. If your doctor has diagnosed you with AFib, the upper chambers of your heart might not be pumping blood normally, and you could suffer serious health complications such a stroke or heart failure.

    Symptoms of AFib

    You may have AFib without any symptoms, or you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

    • Dizziness
    • Palpitations
    • Fainting
    • Chest pain
    • Fatigue
    • Difficulty with heavy manual labor

    If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor should give you medication to help. If that still does not work, you might need a pacemaker to keep your heart rhythm regulated.

    Getting SSDI With AFib

    If your treatment works to control the symptoms of AFib, you will not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, if you have other symptoms that go beyond what the medication or a pacemaker can treat, then you might qualify to receive SSDI.

    Since AFib is a type of heart arrhythmia, it may be evaluated pursuant to Section 4.05 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments. To qualify for benefits pursuant to this section of the Blue Book, your AFib must:

    • Be irreversible, uncontrolled, and recurrent. In other words, your condition is not controlled by medication, a pacemaker, or other medical interventions.
    • Cause episodes of fainting or near fainting despite treatment. A near-fainting episode, also known as a near syncope, is not just a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness. Instead, it is a period of altered consciousness.
    • Be documented by resulting or ambulatory electrocardiography or another appropriate medically acceptable testing that occurs at the time of fainting or near fainting to establish the medical connection between AFib and fainting or near fainting episodes.

    Section 4.05 Isn’t the Only Way to Qualify for Benefits

    Section 4.05’s requirements are precise, but they aren’t the only way you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You may also qualify for benefits if your Social Security disability application proves that:

    • Your AFib is equal in severity to another Blue Book listing. If you can prove that your AFib impacts your life to the same degree as another listing, then you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
    • Your AFib is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or result in your death. To make this determination, the Social Security Administration will consider whether you can do any work, not just the work that you did before your AFib diagnosis.

    If you qualify for Social Security disability benefits in any of these two ways, then two things must happen before you receive benefits. First, you must fully complete an honest and accurate Social Security disability application. Second, you must provide appropriate documentation, which includes, but is not always limited to, information about your diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis, work history, and education.

    Some of the medical documentation that you will need may include:

    • Chest x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan results
    • Electrocardiogram results
    • Holter monitoring results
    • Echocardiogram results
    • Electrophysiological testing and mapping results
    • Blood test results
    • Exercise tolerance test or stress test results
    • Tilt table test results which show your blood pressure and heart rate respond to gravity
    • Detailed information about how your fainting episodes are connected to your AFib
    • A detailed list of every treatment you’ve treated and its effect on your body
    • Reports about any AFib related operations or hospitalizations you have had

    Additionally, you will need a detailed report from your doctor that describes how AFib impacts your life.

    Find Out If You Qualify for SSDI With the Help of an Experienced Disability Lawyer

    Remember, not everyone with AFib will qualify for Social Security disability. When applying for disability benefits with a complicated condition like AFib, it is especially important to work with a Social Security disability attorney on your application. Fill out our online contact form or call us directly, and we will be in touch soon with more information for you.

     

  • Will psychotherapy notes be considered if I apply for Social Security disability?

    Doctor Writing Down Psychotherapy NotesYou know what’s going on with your health. You know that your physical or mental condition prevents you from working. However, before you receive Social Security disability benefits, you have to convince the Social Security Administration that you are disabled.

    You Will Need Medical Evidence

    The Social Security Administration is not going to find you eligible for Social Security disability benefits just because you say that you are disabled. Instead, you must provide evidence to convince the Social Security Administration that you meet the requirements of a disability described in the Listing of Impairments, your disability is just as bad as one of the conditions in the Listing of Impairments, or you can’t work because of your disability.

    Some of the most important pieces of evidence that you must provide are medical evidence. The specific medical evidence depends on the nature of your disability. For example:

    • If you have cancer, then medical records from your oncologist may be crucial
    • If you have a heart condition, then medical records from your cardiologist may be essential
    • If you have a mental health condition, then medical records from your psychologist or psychiatrist may be critical to your disability determination

    While you may be willing to share the details of your diagnosis, treatment plan, and prognosis with the Social Security Administration, you may be reluctant to share your psychotherapy treatment notes with anyone.

    What Are Psychotherapy Notes?

    According to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), psychotherapy notes include notes recorded in any way by a mental health professional that document or analyze the contents of conversation during a private counseling session or a group, joint, or family counseling session. These notes must be separate from the rest of an individual’s medical record.

    However, psychotherapy notes do not include medication prescription and monitoring, the start and stop times of counseling sessions, the modalities and frequencies of treatment, clinical test results, or summaries of diagnosis, functional status, treatment plan, symptoms, prognosis, or progress. Instead, psychotherapy notes are limited to the therapist’s documentation or analysis of private conversations.

    Psychotherapy Notes Are Not Medical Evidence

    The Social Security Administration’s guidance to healthcare professionals about psychotherapy notes is clear. The agency states explicitly, “Social Security recognizes the sensitivity and extra legal protections that concern psychotherapy notes (also called “process” or “session” notes) and does not need the notes.”

    The Social Security Administration goes on to provide three options for mental health professionals. Mental health professionals who keep psychotherapy notes may:

    • Send medical records without psychotherapy notes, if psychotherapy notes are kept separate from medical records.
    • Disclose all records, including psychotherapy notes, if psychotherapy notes are not kept separate from other parts of the medical record. Alternatively, the medical provider may choose to blackout or remove parts of the record that would be considered psychotherapy notes and could be kept separately by the mental health provider.
    • Prepare a special report describing in detail the critical current and longitudinal aspects of the patient’s treatment and functional status.

    Your Social Security disability will advise you about the evidence needed to establish eligibility.

    Protect Your Privacy and Your Social Security Disability Eligibility

    You shouldn’t have to choose between protecting the privacy of your therapy notes and receiving Social Security disability benefits. Instead, we invite you to contact our experienced Social Security disability lawyers today for a free phone screening about your Social Security disability eligibility.

    If you qualify for Social Security disability, then our lawyers will gather all of the relevant evidence, complete your application, and advocate on your behalf throughout the eligibility process. The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied, and we can help you avoid preventable errors that prevent you from getting the benefits you’ve earned. Call us or complete our online contact form if you are applying for Social Security disability in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts and let’s talk about your rights and how we can help you.

     

  • What is the maximum amount I can receive in Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits?

    Workers' Compensation Claim FormMoney is tight. You can’t work because of your workplace injuries, and you are wondering how you are going to make ends meet.

    Workers’ compensation may be an option for you, but you may be wondering how much money you will receive. We can’t give you a specific dollar amount by answering an FAQ, but we can explain the maximum amount you can receive, the minimum amount you may receive, and how your particular benefits should be calculated. We can also encourage you to call us for a free consultation about your specific benefits.

    Minimum and Maximum Amounts of Workers’ Compensation

    Your specific workers’ comp benefits will depend on your injury and the income you made before you got hurt. We will discuss how workers’ comp is calculated below. However, first, we want to review the maximum and minimum amounts of workers’ compensation in Massachusetts.

    In Massachusetts:

    • The minimum amount of workers’ compensation an injured worker may receive is 20 percent of the average weekly wage in Massachusetts.
    • The maximum amount of workers’ compensation an injured worker may receive is 100 percent of the average weekly wage in Massachusetts.

    The specific dollar amounts change on October 1 of every year and are determined by the deputy director of the division of employment and training. For example, in 2019, the maximum rate was $1,431.66, and the minimum rate was $286.33. Therefore, everyone who is eligible for Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020, received no less than $286.33 per week and no more than $1,431.66 per week.

    How Your Workers’ Comp Benefits Will Be Determined

    Your workers’ compensation benefits are subject to the maximum and minimum amounts described above, but there is a wide range between the maximum and minimum amounts. The specific amount of workers’ compensation that you collect will depend on your wages in the year before your work injury. In other words, you will earn a percentage of your wages that may not be less than the minimum amount of workers’ comp set by law and not more than the maximum amount of workers’ comp set by law.

    The percentage of workers’ compensation that you can receive depends on how badly you are hurt. Specifically, you may recover:

    • 60% of your average weekly wages for the 52 weeks leading up to your injury if you suffer a temporary total incapacity. You may receive temporary total incapacity benefits for up to 156 weeks.
    • 75% of the amount that you could recover if you had a temporary total incapacity. You may receive temporary partial incapacity benefits for up to 260 weeks.
    • 66% of your average weekly wages if you are totally and permanently incapacitated by your work injury. These benefits may continue for as long as you are disabled.

    Additionally, important workers’ compensation benefits such as medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and scarring or loss of function benefits may be available to you and are not subject to the minimum or maximum amounts of workers’ compensation allowed by Massachusetts law.

    Make Sure You Get the Workers’ Compensation You Deserve

    There are so many factors that go into determining an injured worker’s workers’ comp benefits. You want to get the most you can get up to the maximum amount allowed by law, and we want to help you do that. However, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer does not want you to get the maximum allowed by law. Instead, the insurance company wants you to accept as little as possible in weekly benefits so that it keeps as much money as possible for itself.

    Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers know how to negotiate with insurance companies, and we will fight to get you the fair benefits that you deserve, up to the maximum allowed by law.

    Please contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with our workers’ comp lawyers. We will review your claim, advise you of your rights, help you make the right decisions for your financial future, and fight to get you the benefits that you’ve earned. Call us, start a live chat with us, or fill out our online contact form to learn more.

     

  • Can I receive workers’ comp benefits if I have a pre-existing condition?

    Workers' Compensation Pre-Existing Condition StickerFew of us are lucky enough to get through life without any medical injuries or conditions. Even if our illnesses or previous injuries are under control, they may make us more likely to be hurt in future accidents.

    Your pre-existing conditions do not, however, prevent you from getting fair workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt at work in Massachusetts.

    What Is a Pre-existing Condition?

    As the term suggests, a pre-existing condition is any illness or injury that you had before getting hurt at work. Some examples of pre-existing conditions that may be made worse by your regular work responsibilities or a workplace accident include:

    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Back injuries
    • Shoulder injuries
    • Neck injuries
    • Arm or hand injuries
    • Leg or foot injuries
    • Knee or elbow injuries
    • Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
    • Hearing loss
    • Vision loss
    • Arthritis

    Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will likely try to deny paying you the workers’ compensation benefits that you deserve if you have one of these, or any other, pre-existing condition.

    You Can Recover for Your Work-Related Injury

    Massachusetts law allows most workers to recover for work-related injuries. To protect your recovery, however, it is essential to understand your rights. Massachusetts workers have the right to recover for work-related injuries regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions, but the cause of your pre-existing condition is important. Specifically:

    • If your pre-existing condition is a work-related injury that was compensable under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation even if you aggravate that injury at a new job.
    • If your pre-existing condition is not a work-related injury, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if your subsequent work injury is a major cause of your current injury, disability, and need for medical attention. A major cause does not have to be a predominant cause. Workers’ compensation will pay only for your work-related injury and not for any disability or medical attention that you need because of your pre-existing condition.

    Figuring out how much of your current condition is due to the new work-related injury rather than a pre-existing condition is often challenging. You will need evidence, including medical records, to convince the workers’ compensation insurance company that you deserve compensation for your injuries.

    Why You Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Massachusetts

    You have a lot at stake. Workers’ compensation may pay a portion of your lost income, all of your medical bills, and provide other benefits. Without workers’ compensation, you are on your own for all of these costs.

    Since you had a pre-existing condition at the time of your work-related injury, you should expect the following potential complications in your current workers’ comp case:

    • The workers’ compensation insurance company may request an independent medical examination. You must comply with the insurance company’s request, but you should not stop seeing your own doctor for treatment.
    • The workers’ compensation insurer may say that you have a combination injury. A combination injury is one that includes both a pre-existing condition and your current work-related injury. If this happens, then you have the burden to prove that your work-related accident was a major reason for your current disability and medical care so that you can receive compensation.
    • Your workers’ comp claim may be denied. If this happens to you, then you should be ready to file a workers’ compensation appeal. Appeals can be complicated and may include different stages such as conciliation, conference, hearing, Reviewing Board proceedings, and an appeal to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.

    Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ comp lawyers will gather all evidence including but not limited to emergency room records, medical records, employment records, and incident reports. We will make persuasive arguments to help you get the benefits that you deserve either in negotiations with the workers’ comp insurer or through a formal appeal, if necessary.

    Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today. Let us schedule a free consultation and discuss how to protect your rights.

     

  • Why didn't the FDA prevent my asbestos-related cancer from Johnson & Johnson baby powder?

    We trust the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect us from potentially harmful substances that we put in our bodies. As the name of the agency suggests, the FDA regulates food, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs that are available to consumers in the United States. Specific safety standards must be satisfied before food or medicine can be sold.

    But Talcum Powder Is Not a Drug

    Instead, talcum powders, such as Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-based baby powder, are classified as cosmetics.

    Two Hands Holding Johnson and Johnson's Talc-Based PowderThe FDA’s authority to regulate cosmetics is limited to the authority that the United States Congress explicitly gives the FDA. Currently, federal law does not require cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients (except for color additives) to have FDA approval before being sold in the United States.

    However, specific federal laws such as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act do apply to cosmetic products used in interstate commerce. For example, the FDA could take action against a cosmetic manufacturer if:

    • There is a contaminant that may make the cosmetic harmful
    • The cosmetic is improperly labeled or handled

    Therefore, while the FDA does not have to approve cosmetics that go on the market, it does have the authority to request a voluntary recall to get some dangerous cosmetics off the market.

    What Happened With Johnson & Johnson’s Talcum-Based Baby Powder?

    According to a Reuters investigation, the FDA has relied on the cosmetic industry to self-report on the safety of talcum-based baby powder for the last half-century. The agency claims that it does not have the authority to require manufacturers to conduct any asbestos tests or to report the results of any tests to the government.

    Instead of conducting its own tests, the FDA relied on the word of the manufacturers until recently. Recently the FDA did pay for its own tests of 11 different cosmetics that contain talcum powder. The tests included Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and resulted in the recall of 33,000 bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder.

    As of January 2020, however, the FDA has refused to issue warnings about potential asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder or other cosmetics containing talc. The FDA has said, however, that no amount of asbestos is known to be safe and that it will encourage cosmetic product recalls even when only small amounts of asbestos are found in a product.

    The Reuters investigation indicates that the FDA had plans to require specific testing for talc powders and cosmetics, but abandoned those plans in the 1970s. If the agency had reached a different decision, then the public may have known about the potential asbestos contamination and the possible health risks earlier and lives may have been saved.

    Do You Have Cancer From Asbestos Found in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder?

    The FDA did not protect you. Johnson & Johnson did not protect you. Now, you are suffering from ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

    While no one can undo the harm that you’ve already suffered, your doctors may help treat your cancer, and our experienced lawyers will fight hard to help you with your legal and financial recoveries.

    It may be challenging to prove that Johnson & Johnson's baby powder caused your cancer. However, other people with ovarian cancer and mesothelioma have successfully sued Johnson & Johnson and recovered millions of dollars for their injuries. Their recoveries often include compensation for past and future medical bills, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, physical pain, emotional suffering, and punitive damages that are designed to punish Johnson & Johnson for what happened.

    Our New England baby powder injury lawyers are here to make sure that your rights are protected. We will gather all of the necessary evidence and fight hard to help you make a fair recovery. Call us today or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you.

     

  • What is Fournier’s gangrene?

    Fournier Gangrene Text and StethoscopeGangrene is a medical condition that occurs when your body’s tissue dies. Fournier’s gangrene is a rare type of gangrene that begins in your genitals and the area around them, but that can spread to other parts of the body. Men, women, and children can develop Fournier’s gangrene, but it is most common among men.

    Immediate medical treatment is required to treat Fournier’s gangrene. Without it, the condition can be fatal. Therefore, there are some essential facts that you should know about Fournier’s gangrene—especially if you take an SGLT2 inhibitor such as Invokana to control your diabetes.

    Fournier’s Gangrene Symptoms and Diagnosis

    Fournier’s gangrene begins as an infection of the scrotum, penis, or perineum, which can spread to other areas like the thighs, stomach, chest, and bloodstream.

    Symptoms of Fournier’s gangrene which require immediate medical attention include:

    • Pain
    • Fever
    • Swelling
    • An unpleasant or rotten smell
    • Skin that turns a reddish-purple or a blue-gray color
    • Popping or crackling of the skin when it is touched
    • Rapid heartbeat

    If your doctor suspects Fournier’s gangrene after a physical exam, then your doctor will likely take a tissue sample that will be sent to a lab for testing. Additionally, blood tests and medical imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, or x-ray, may be used to confirm the diagnosis.

    Fournier’s Gangrene Treatment and Prognosis

    Treatment for Fournier’s gangrene includes:

    • Antibiotics. Antibiotics are a necessary part of treatment for Fournier’s gangrene, but antibiotics are not enough to resolve the condition on their own.
    • Surgeries. Surgery, and often multiple surgeries, are required to remove the dead tissue. Reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts may also be necessary.

    Even with treatment, however, the condition may be fatal. Many people who survive the infection will live with chronic pain and sexual difficulties.

    Warnings Issued About Some Diabetes Medications

    Most people live their entire lives without ever getting Fournier’s gangrene. When the condition does occur, it can happen because of a bladder infection, urinary tract infection, or hysterectomy.

    In December 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public that Fournier’s gangrene occurs more frequently among people taking SGLT2 inhibitors than other diabetes medications. Specifically, the FDA received:

    • Twelve reports of Fournier’s gangrene among patients taking SGLT2 inhibitors over a five-year period, from March 2013-March 2018. Seven of the 12 reported cases were men and five were women. All 12 patients developed Fournier’s gangrene within months of starting an SGLT2 inhibitor. Additionally, all 12 patients were hospitalized and required one or more surgeries. One patient died.
    • Six other cases of Fournier’s gangrene among people taking medication to treat diabetes over a thirty-year period. All six patients were men.

    Accordingly, the FDA required that a new warning be added to the prescribing information and patient medication guide of all SGLT2 inhibitors, including Invokana.

    A study published in the June 4, 2019, Annals of Internal Medicine, also found an increased risk of Fournier’s gangrene among people with diabetes who were taking SGLT2 medications. Researchers identified 55 cases of people who developed Fournier’s gangrene while taking SGLT2 inhibitors from March 1, 2013 through January 31, 2019. In comparison, only 19 cases of Fournier’s gangrene were reported among people who took other drugs to control diabetes from 1984 through January 31, 2019.

    Fournier’s Gangrene Lawsuits

    If you have been diagnosed with Fournier’s gangrene or if your loved one has died from this disease while taking Invokana or another diabetes medication in the SGLT2 family, then you may be entitled to a legal recovery.

    You may be able to recover for all of your medical expenses, lost income, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other costs. However, you will have to fight for your fair recovery, and your time to pursue a drug injury lawsuit is limited by law.

    We don’t want you to leave any compensation on the table. You’ve already suffered enough. Let our experienced attorneys provide you with a free and honest review of your claim. Schedule your free consultation by starting a live chat with us now or calling us at any time.

     

  • When should I call a Roundup® injury lawyer?

    Lawyer Working on a Roundup Cancer CaseNot everyone who used Roundup® needs to contact a Roundup injury lawyer. However, if you have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another type of lymphoma, or leukemia and you used Roundup, then now is the time to call an attorney.

    What Happens When You Call a Roundup Lawyer

    Once you contact a Roundup lawyer claiming that you have cancer from Roundup exposure, you can expect the attorney to schedule a free initial meeting with you. At that meeting, the lawyer will ask you questions, such as:

    • How or where did you use Roundup?
    • How long, or over how many years, did you use Roundup?
    • What is your medical diagnosis?
    • How has your cancer impacted your life?
    • What is your prognosis?

    Additionally, you can ask the lawyer your own questions at this meeting. Your questions may include:

    • How long have you been practicing law?
    • Why do you think I should pursue a Roundup lawsuit?
    • How will my case work?
    • What will be expected of me during litigation?
    • What could be included in my recovery if my case is successful?
    • Do you have any client reviews or testimonials that I review?
    • What do you know about Roundup safety studies and warnings?

    The goal of the meeting is for you and your lawyer to get to know one another, for your lawyer to assess your potential claim, and for you to decide whether you trust this lawyer to represent you.

    Don’t Wait Too Long to Make the Call

    Every state, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, has a statute of limitations that gives you a time by which you must file a lawsuit. If you file a Roundup cancer case after this deadline expires, then the defense can file a motion with the court to dismiss your case and you won’t recover any damages.

    Don’t take this risk. Instead, contact the local lawyer of Keefe Disability Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can reach us any time by phone, by starting a live chat, or by filling out our online contact form.