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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What happens if I become disabled before I reach retirement age?
You are not yet eligible for Social Security retirement benefits; however, if you have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, then you may be able to recover such benefits if you qualify. In 2016, more than 8.8 million people received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Your Eligibility Is Not Automatic
Instead, you must apply for Social Security disability benefits. If your disability has lasted or will last for at least one year, your condition makes it impossible to do your job or another job, and you have worked at least five of the last ten years, then you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The average benefit ranges from $1,100 to $1,200 per month.
What Happens When You Reach Retirement Age?
When you reach the age of full retirement, as defined by the Social Security Administration, then your benefits will be converted from disability benefits to retirement benefits. The age of full retirement depends on the year in which you were born. If you were born in 1937 or earlier, then your full retirement age is 65. If you were born in 1960 or later, then your age of full retirement is 67. People born between 1937 and 1960 have full retirement dates between the ages of 65 and 67.
You should not have to take any action to have your Social Security disability benefits converted to Social Security retirement benefits, and you should continue to receive monthly payments without interruption.
However, you will have to take action to get your initial Social Security disability benefits. If you believe that you qualify for such benefits, then you will need to complete a Social Security disability application and you will need to have it approved. This can be a difficult and frustrating process, but you do not need to do it on your own. Instead, an experienced disability lawyer can help you through the application process and can help you get the benefits that you deserve. For more information, please download a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.
What are the most common eye-related symptoms of sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a disorder that causes the growth of granulomas throughout the body. These clumps of cells may develop slowly over time, often producing no symptoms until the condition has progressed considerably. Depending on where the growths have formed, a patient can suffer symptoms in many different body systems—and over 25 percent of sarcoidosis patients experience symptoms that affect the eyes.
Complications and Symptoms of Sarcoidosis of the Eyes
In addition to fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and weight loss, patients with sarcoidosis can also have trouble seeing and experience visual disturbances that can lead to blindness. It is vital for patients who have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis to undergo comprehensive eye examinations every year, and to report any vision changes to their doctors to begin treatment as soon as possible.
The most commonly-reported eye complications of sarcoidosis include:
- Eye pain. Patients with sarcoidosis may have chronic eye problems, including burning, itching, stinging, redness, tearing, or severe dry eyes. Light sensitivity is also common, causing pain in the eyes as well as chronic headaches. Patients who are experiencing these symptoms may get some relief through prescription eye drops, dilation of the pupils, or prescription eyewear. Doctors may also numb the eyes to reduce spasms in the pupillary muscles, or prescribe medications to lower blood pressure to relieve pain in the eyes.
- Uveitis. Inflammation of the uvea, or uveitis, in one of the most dangerous eye problems sarcoidosis can cause. The uvea sits between the sclera and the retina in the center of the eye. In patients with sarcoidosis, white blood cells may collect on the inside of the eye, causing the iris, lens, and other structures of the eye to stick together. This can cause a number of problems, including increased ocular pressure, pain, redness, extreme light sensitivity, and even blindness. The longer uveitis is left untreated, the more likely it is that the condition will cause vision problems. Treatments for uveitis are typically painless, and involve steroid drops, injections to relieve pressure, or oral medications to bring down the inflammation.
- Vision problems. Ocular sarcoidosis can cause a wide range of visual problems, such as blurred vision, floaters (small particles inside the eye that “float” in a person’s field of vision), color blindness, or even total loss of eyesight. Some sarcoidosis patients also have small yellow bumps on their eyes that cause visual distractions and eye irritation. These conditions may be reversible if treated quickly, so sarcoidosis patients should see a doctor immediately if they experience changes in their vision.
Collecting Disability for the Effects of Sarcoidosis
The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows claimants to collect Social Security disability for sarcoidosis if they are no longer able to earn a living. Patients who have suffered total blindness will likely qualify for automatic benefits, but others may have to prove the extent of their conditions to the SSA before they can collect payment.
If your sarcoidosis symptoms do not meet the Blue Book disability listing, you may still qualify for benefits based on your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). One of the biggest benefits of getting disability based on RFC is that Social Security considers the full scope of your physical condition when assessing your work limitations. This means that a person who is experiencing symptoms of a variety of conditions and treatments could be considered disabled even if he or she does not meet the criteria for any disability listing by itself. You will have to provide extensive medical proof of your diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment, as well as any work-related difficulties you are facing due to your disability.
If you are unable to work due to the limitations of your sarcoidosis, we can help. Please fill out the form on this page today to speak to an attorney about your disability benefits, or download our free report, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
Could I collect Social Security disability benefits for gestational diabetes?
The health effects of diabetes can significantly impact a person’s ability to earn a living. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are recognized as potentially disabling conditions by the Social Security Administration (SSA), as the illnesses are likely to last for a person’s entire life. However, there is another form of diabetes that could qualify a woman for benefits: a serious condition called gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes causes blood sugar imbalances due to insufficient insulin and hormonal changes during pregnancy. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes are more likely to have difficult pregnancies and experience birthing complications, and are likelier to develop type 2 diabetes in the years following pregnancy.
Social Security Requirements for Women With Gestational Diabetes
Even though it is not a permanent condition, gestational diabetes is compensable under the Social Security listing for diabetes However, the listing requires that diabetes sufferers must be diagnosed with at least one other of the following disabling conditions in conjunction with diabetes mellitus:
- Neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a numbness, tingling, or burning in the extremities, usually the feet and toes. The SSA will consider a claimant disabled if neuropathy significantly affects the arms, the legs, or one arm and one leg to the extent that movement is impaired. Patients can be considered “impaired” if they have trouble sitting, walking, standing, or changing positions.
- Acidosis. Diabetes can change the acidity of the blood, causing potentially fatal effects for the patient. Disabling acidosis must be documented by blood tests and occur at least once every two months.
- Retinopathy. Diabetes can damage blood vessels inside the eye, causing blurred vision or even blindness. Claimants must be suffering from a significant loss of vision (or loss of peripheral vision) in the better of their two eyes, with overall vision so impaired that the person is practically blind.
What If I Do Not Meet the Blue Book Requirements?
Many people who do not meet the listing for diabetes can still collect benefits if they are unable to work. Claimants must be able to demonstrate that gestational diabetes has a marked impact on their ability to earn a living, their independence, or their performance of daily life activities.
If you do not meet the qualifications above, you could still receive benefits for gestational diabetes depending on:
- Your medical records. Social Security disability benefits are often approved in the form of a medical vocational allowance. This means that you can be considered disabled if you are unable to return to your old job or perform any other kinds of sustainable work due to a condition or treatment of a condition. This approval is granted only after the SSA has reviewed your medical records to assess your limitations and ability to perform everyday activities and work tasks.
- Your specific symptoms. Treatment of gestational diabetes requires constant monitoring and maintaining blood sugar levels throughout the day. Patients may need to eat smaller meals more often, have special dietary requirements, need to inject insulin, have lifting restrictions, or need frequent breaks due to fatigue. All of these may cause work disruptions or require the claimant to have accommodations in the workplace.
- Length of condition. While many women see the condition subside after the child is born, many suffer persistent effects of gestational diabetes for several weeks or even months. In addition, women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes usually suffer the condition in subsequent pregnancies. In some cases, women with gestational diabetes will remain diabetic after pregnancy is over.
- Residual functional capacity (RFC). The SSA will determine whether an applicant is able to reasonably perform work by assigning a residual functional capacity rating. The evaluation takes into account all of your limitations, as well as the type and exertion level of work you are capable of performing.
If you are unable to work due to the limitations of your diabetes, we can help. Please feel free to contact our law firm today to get started on your disability application, or download our free report, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability.
Why Am I At Risk of Developing PTSD If I Suffer a Head Injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can greatly affect the way a person lives his or her life. The frustration as a victim struggles to recover adds overwhelming stress to his or her daily life, making a bad condition even worse. The stress of the injury can even cause victims to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adding mental and emotional trauma to the physical head injury.
Researchers Find Evidence Linking PTSD to Traumatic Brain Injury
Several researchers have found evidence that TBI increases the risk of PTSD. While many of the studies involve military personnel, it is important to note that civilians who suffer falls, violent acts, and car accidents are equally vulnerable to both TBI and PTSD. Over the course of many studies, scientists have discovered some interesting interactions between PTSD and brain injuries, including:
- One study at the VA San Diego Healthcare System followed over 1,600 Marine and Navy service members from Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. All of the service members were assessed by psychologists both before and after deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. They found that troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries due to trauma and blast injuries were twice as likely to develop PTSD. Half of a battalion deployed to Helmand province in Afghanistan showed evidence of TBI and PTSD due to blast exposures.
- A coordinating experiment performed at the University of California Los Angeles compared healthy lab rats with rats that had suffered TBIs. When the rats were given behavioral conditioning to induce fear, the rats with TBIs showed greater fear responses than healthy rats. The UCLA researchers examined cells in the amygdala, a part of the rats’ brains that responds to sensory information and experiences emotions. The rats with TBI showed changes in these cells that amplified the brain’s response to situations involving fear.
- A brain study of 20,000 people has found a new way to separate diagnoses of TBI and PTSD. The patients were scanned with single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) to measure blood flow to different regions of the brain. While patients with TBI showed slowed activity in the areas of the brain that control mood and behavior, memory formation, and body movements. However, patients with PTSD showed increased activity in the regions involving recognition of threat and dangers, fear processing, and regulation of emotional responses. Computer-driven analysis of the brain scans allowed scientists to correctly diagnose PTSD, TBI, both or neither with 100% accuracy.
Studies Are Key to Treating PTSD
It is vital that patients have a proper diagnosis of their conditions in order to treat their TBI or PTSD effectively. The treatment plan for PTSD can be vastly different than treatment for TBI, and the treatments can even be harmful for people with the other. For instance, people with PTSD are often prescribed tranquilizers and anti-anxiety medications that slow down activity in an overactive brain, something that can be dangerous for people suffering diminished brain activity due to TBI. Similarly, techniques used to stimulate a brain with TBI can cause a person with PTSD to become even more stressed and hyperactive. People with both conditions will need a delicate mix of therapies to ensure that both of their ailments are progressing in the right direction.
If you have suffered a traumatic event that has left you unable to work, you may be able to get payment for your lost wages and medical treatment by filing for Social Security disability. Your benefits can support you as you undergo treatment for your condition, easing you slowly back into the workforce only after you are cleared to work by a medical professional. Please feel free to contact our law firm today to get started on your disability application, or download our free report, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability.
How does the Social Security Administration use functional capacity to evaluate my asthma disability claim?
Asthma is a serious disease that causes obstructed breathing. When a person with asthma suffers an “episode,” or an asthma attack, his airways constrict and become inflamed. This inflammation narrows the passageway, making it difficult to breathe. Depending on the severity of an attack, the victim is at risk for a variety of dangers, including mild to severe chest pains, breathing difficulties, hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), blackouts, and even death.
An asthma attack can be disruptive in the workplace. It may frighten customers and limit the ability of a worker to function. As a result of functional capacity limitations, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers severe cases of asthma potentially disabling.
Asthma Requirements for Consideration
In order to qualify for disability, your condition must affect your ability to work. If your condition physically prevents you from doing your job or places you at risk for suffering an attack, you may need to rely on disability benefits to support your family. However, it’s important to note that only severe cases are considered for approval. Occasional bouts of inflammation or minor attacks that can be controlled by using medication such as inhalers aren’t considered to limit functional capacity enough to warrant disability.
For the SSA to recognize your condition as severe, your claim must adequately show the results of respiratory function tests. These tests can evaluate…
- Spirometry: the measure of how much air you take into the lungs with each breath.
- Peak flow: the measure of your ability to push air out of your lungs.
- ABG (arterial blood gas): the measure of carbon dioxide and its pressure within the blood.
- DLCO (diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide): the measurements of the gas exchange (oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide) across cell membranes in your lungs.
- Pulse oximetry: the measure of oxygen saturation within the blood.
If your test results fall within the SSA limitations for respiratory disability, your claim will be considered for approval. If your results don’t qualify under the limitations, you may still be eligible for benefits if you can convince the SSA that your condition significantly affects your functional capacity.
Proving Functional Capacity Limitations
The measured ability to complete tasks in spite of your condition is referred to as your “functional capacity.” When your condition causes frequent and extreme attacks, your ability to be a reliable employee greatly diminishes, which in turn, can compromise your employment. To convince the SSA that your functional capacity is low enough to warrant disability, you must be able to show that your condition will not allow you to sustain employment. You can help illustrate your decreased functional capacity by including the following with your claim:
- A symptom journal. A detailed journal of your symptoms, including what you were doing when the attack occurred and what happened as a result of the episode, can help you and the SSA follow the deterioration of your condition. Rather than including a statement that you regularly experience attacks at work, your journal can recount the exact dates, frequency, and effects of those attacks. The SSA is more likely to understand your condition’s severity and need for disability if they can see it in black and white.
- Personal PEF records. If you’ve ever had to make a graph or grid, you know that one data point isn’t enough to show anything. However, if you routinely record your peak flow measurements over an extended period, you can use those data points to show the SSA how your breathing fluctuates. Again, the SSA is persuaded by data and evidence that they can see and analyze themselves. Including your records along with physician records can help them better relate to why you feel you can’t work.
Help With Your Disability Application
Do you have questions about applying for asthma-related disability? Request a complimentary copy of attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. For a more direct approach, contact our office directly at 508-283-5500 to schedule a one-on-one consultation to discuss your claim. The meeting is FREE, so you have nothing to lose.
Does adrenal cancer qualify me for Social Security disability benefits?
Cancer, or malignant neoplastic disease, is one of the 14 disability classifications that the Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledges for benefit consideration. Depending on the type of cancer, as well as the severity and long-term diagnosis, sufferers may even warrant an expedited approval process—known as a compassionate allowance—to ensure benefits are awarded as quickly as possible. Adrenal cancer is one condition that the SSA not only considers viable for disability but, in many cases, also worthy of compassionate allowance.
What Is Adrenal Cancer?
The adrenal glands are located at the very top of each kidney and work to maintain hormone levels in the body. The steroidal hormones these glands secrete—cortisol, aldosterone, androgens—help the body to:
- Stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure
- Properly burn protein and fat
- Maintain metabolic rate
- React to illnesses and injuries
- Control sexual drive and performance
When tumors grow on these glands, they fail to secrete the adequate levels of hormones that your body needs to function. Over time, the fluctuation of hormones can cause serious and even fatal medical issues. In fact, localized adrenal cancer has a five-year fatality rate of 35 percent and regionalized disease has a five-year fatality rate of 56 percent. Distant adrenal cancer, where the cancer is inoperable and has spread to other sites, has an alarming mortality rate of 97 percent.
Symptoms of Adrenal Cancer
Common debilitating symptoms of this form of cancer, which can affect your ability to work, include:
- Increased weight gain—most noticeably above the collar bone and around the abdomen
- Fat deposits behind the neck and shoulders
- Stretch mark scarring or stretch marks with deepening shades of purple on the abdomen
- Hair growth on the face, chest, and back (most noticeably in women)
- Menstrual irregularities
- Leg weakness or muscle loss
- Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Weakness in bones (osteoporosis)
- Increased blood sugar or blood pressure
All of the above symptoms, in addition to reactions to surgery and chemotherapy, can have a detrimental effect on your ability to work. Considering these effects, as well as the fatality risks involved with this disease, the SSA understands the rapid need for disability benefits when you become unable to provide for your family. However, understanding the need isn’t the same thing as granting benefits without any questions asked. To receive disability for adrenal cancer, you still must obey the rules and follow the procedures for filing a claim.
Applying for Compassionate Allowance Benefits
Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are ways for the SSA to identify diseases and other medical conditions that qualify under their qualifications quickly, with the need for only minimal information. Although adrenal cancer is recognized by the SSA as being a qualifying condition, to receive benefits you still must be able to prove your condition’s eligibility. However, through CAL, this process is quicker and requires less evidence than with the standard disability claims. That being said, you’ll still need to secure your claim with the following:
- Medical evidence and diagnoses. When collecting evidence for your claim, you must show your eligibility by providing pathology reports confirming the presence of cancer and your long-term prognosis. You may also want to secure a physician's opinion that indicates the cancer is inoperable or unable to be completely removed.
- Proof of severity and long-term prognosis. In addition to showing your condition, you must also be able to show its severity. To be eligible for an expedited review, you must be able to provide evidence that your condition is inoperable, unresectable, or recurrent, with metastases to or beyond the regional lymph nodes.
- A reliable attorney. Securing the guidance and support of a credible disability attorney is one of the best ways to ensure your claim is handled correctly. Furthermore, an attorney can help explain the process in detail so you’ll know what to expect from your claim.
Contact our office today to speak with an experienced and highly dedicated disability attorney. It’s our job to help you get the disability you need—it’s our pleasure to do so while causing you the least amount of stress possible. Call 508-283-5500 to schedule your FREE consultation.
Am I eligible to receive disability if I have dilated cardiomyopathy? What do I have to do to file a claim?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a categorized list of medical conditions and injuries that it feels could qualify for disability benefits. This list is broken down into 14 separate groups, each dealing with a specific area of the body. Number four in this list deals specifically with cardiovascular ailments—which includes dilated cardiomyopathy (DC).
What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy?
The term cardiomyopathy refers to diseases of the heart muscle. Depending on the type of cardiomyopathy present, portions of the heart muscle can thicken, enlarge, or become rigid, making it extremely difficult for the heart to pump blood. The four types of cardiomyopathy include:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Muscle cells thicken and block blood flow.
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy. Abnormal tissue replaces healthy muscle cells, causing the muscle to become hard or rigid.
- Unclassified cardiomyopathy. Muscle inexplicably fails to pump necessary blood throughout the body.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy. Muscle chambers stretch and become thin.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common form of cardiomyopathy, and causes the inside of the heart’s left ventricle and atrium to enlarge. As the chambers dilate, the heart muscle can’t contract or pump blood effectively. As the condition worsens, it can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, heart valve problems, arrhythmias, blood clots, and ultimately complete heart failure.
If you suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy, the SSA understands that working can not only be tough, but life-threatening. As a result, depending on the severity of your condition, filing for disability may be your best option.
Applying for Disability for Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Before applying for disability, it’s important to know that just because you have a debilitating condition, doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to receive aid. Requirements for consideration include the following:
- A thorough understanding of the SSD process. The disability claim process is complicated and can be extremely confusing. The SSA wants to ensure that every precaution is made to avoid fraudulent claims. This diligence is expected from the U.S. government, and may even be beneficial to those whose claims are legitimate because it weeds out undeserving candidates, which could improve your chances for approval. However, this convoluted process can be overwhelming without the right tools and resources, especially when you’re already dealing with a heart condition.
- A thorough confirmation of your condition by qualified medical professionals. Simply telling the board that you have dilated cardiomyopathy isn’t enough to be approved for disability—you must be able to prove it. Restrictions on severity, type of condition, and ability to provide for oneself all come into play when determining government aid. Consequently, for your claim to even be considered, you must show that the effects of your condition have a direct impact on your ability to financially provide for yourself and family. Medical records, physician statements, and diagnostics from your hospital can all be used as evidence of your ailment to help persuade the SSD board to give your claim the attention it needs for approval.
- A thorough description of the severity of your condition. The SSA not only requires that you have dilated cardiomyopathy but also that the condition is severe enough to warrant disability. Therefore, you must be able to convince the SSD board that you’re unable to continue working as a result of your condition. Employer statements and doctors’ notes that detail your limitations can go a long way in persuading the board of the severity of your condition.
The Edge You Need
At Keefe Disability Law, we believe that your claim deserves to be as strong as possible, so the disability board has no other option but to approve it. Contact our office today to see how our knowledge, experience, and resources can help you build a case worthy of the benefits you need. Call 508-283-5500 to schedule an appointment.
What Happens When an Applicant Dies While Waiting for Claim Approval?
Unfortunately, with approval for Social Security disability applications taking anywhere from a few months to a few years, it's not uncommon for applicants to die while their application is still under review by the Social Security Administration (SSA). When this happens, a family member of the deceased—such as their spouse, children, or parents—can continue the claim on their behalf. However, it's important to note that continuing a Social Security disability claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is determined by the applicant's work history, is easier than continuing a claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a need-based program determined by income.
SSDI applicants who are eventually approved for benefits must endure a five-month waiting period following the onset of their disability before they actually begin receiving payments. In the case of deceased applicants, the benefits would begin accumulating at the end of that waiting period and end the month of their death.
Additionally, the spouse, children, or parents of disabled individuals can also start a new application for Social Security disability benefits on behalf of their loved one—even if they didn't apply for benefits prior to their death.
Do You Need Help Pursuing Social Security Disability Benefits?
If your loved one died while their SSDI or SSI application was still pending, or you'd like to apply and start a posthumous claim on their behalf, working with a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney gives you the best chance for a successful resolution. The skilled attorneys with Keefe Disability Law know the ins and outs of the SSA's application process and can guide you each and every step of the way, providing you with the compassionate and thoughtful representation you need during what is sure to be a difficult and emotional time. Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation or to request a copy of our free eBook, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.
How do I become a representative payee to help a loved one manage her SS disability benefits?
The majority of people who receive Social Security (SS) disability benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have payments made to them directly. However, if your loved one is a minor, has been declared legally incompetent, or has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may decide that a third party, known as a representative payee, should manage payments on behalf of your loved one. Becoming a representative payee is a simple, straightforward process, provided you're able to meet the SSA's stringent requirements.
Who Can Be a Representative Payee?
Most representative payees are a friend or family member of the beneficiary, but lawyers and other legal guardians can also apply to fill the role. The representative payee cannot have any felony convictions on his record, and the SSA gives preference to applicants who live with the beneficiary and are aware of their day-to-day needs.
Serving as a representative payee is a substantial undertaking. Individuals in this role must:
- Spend the beneficiary's disability payments to provide for needs such as food, clothing, housing and utilities, medical expenses, and miscellaneous personal items.
- Use remaining funds to pay for things such as rehabilitative therapies, bills and other family expenses, and entertainment or education for the beneficiary.
- Save any leftover money in an interest-bearing bank account.
- Report the beneficiary's life changes to the SSA. These include marriage, medical changes, or death.
- Keep track of how all of the beneficiary's payments are spent and file an annual report with the SSA.
To apply to become a representative payee, you must complete Form SSA-11, provide your Social Security Number for a background check, and be interviewed by someone with the SSA.
If You Need Help Becoming a Representative Payee
Although the process of becoming a representative payee is fairly straightforward, it can be daunting for those who have no experience dealing with the SSA. A knowledgeable disability attorney can help you simplify the process by ensuring that you provide all of the information the SSA requires when you submit your initial application. Contact the seasoned disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss becoming a representative payee.
If I Move Into a Nursing Home, Will I Lose My SSI Benefits?
Changes in your living situation, such as moving into a nursing home, can dramatically affect your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments and, in some cases, may even cause your benefits to be terminated.
If you enter a medical facility such as a nursing home or hospital where Medicaid covers the cost for more than half your care, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may reduce your monthly SSI payment to $30. Additionally, the monthly $30 SSI benefit may be further reduced based on your income. However, some states will supplement the amount you receive from the federal government.
Adults who move into a medical facility not paid for by Medicaid are not eligible for SSI benefits. Likewise, children (age 18 and younger) who move into medical facilities not paid for by Medicaid or private insurance are also ineligible for SSI benefits.
Thanks to a special rule, the SSA generally does not terminate SSI benefits for recipients who will only be residing in a nursing home or other medical facility for 90 days or less. To preserve your SSI benefits during short-term nursing home stays, you must provide the SSA with the following information:
- A written statement from your doctor verifying that you will be in the medical facility in question for no more than 90 consecutive days
- A written statement from you, a family member, or other caregiver stating that you need your current SSI benefits to maintain your permanent home during your short-term stay in the nursing home
This information must be provided to the SSA as soon as possible to avoid forfeiting your SSI benefits. The SSA requires SSI beneficiaries to submit the necessary information before leaving the nursing home.
Is Your Social Security Disability Case Under Review?
If your living situation changes, the SSA may put your case under review. Don't risk losing your SSI benefits. Contact a knowledgeable and experienced disability attorney for help navigating the case review process. The skilled disability attorneys at Keefe Disability Law will work with you to address your questions and concerns. Call our law office, or complete our online contact form.
If my disability worsens, will I receive increased SS benefits?
If you receive Social Security (SS) Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a disabling condition, you may wonder if you're entitled to an increase in benefits if your condition worsens. Unfortunately, a worsening condition doesn't usually entitle an SS beneficiary to receive a larger monthly payment. This is because the amount of SS Disability you receive is related to your previous earning record rather than the severity of your condition.
However, there are a few situations in which a worsening condition may entitle you to additional benefits. For example:
- If you were receiving SS payments for a condition such as low vision, you may be able to receive additional benefits if the condition progresses to legal or full blindness that prevents you from working.
- If you were approved for SS benefits for a kidney disease, you may become eligible for Medicare coverage more quickly if your condition results in complete kidney failure, requiring a kidney transplant or daily dialysis.
- If you develop a new disabling condition, in addition to the condition for which you were approved, you may be eligible for additional benefits through a different assistance program.
Do You Need Help With Your Social Security Disability Claim?
Applying for SS benefits can be a lengthy and complex journey. Failing to provide all the necessary information in the initial application can result in frustrating delays or denials. Additionally, even after you're approved, you may not know the best way to communicate your needs to the SSA. Fortunately, an experienced disability attorney can help. Seasoned disability attorneys can advocate for you every step of the way—from your initial application, to changes in your condition, to a denial. Don't go it alone. Contact the attorneys with Keefe Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your case. We're happy to answer any questions and concerns you may have. You can also request a free copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
Should I Hire a Social Security Disability Attorney or an Advocate When Applying for SS Benefits?
While it doesn't matter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) if you use an attorney or an advocate to help you apply for Social Security (SS) Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, being represented by a seasoned disability attorney offers clients clear advantages. For example, disability attorneys undergo years of education and training to ensure that they completely understand the SS application process. Additional benefits of hiring a skilled disability attorney include:
- Attorney-client privilege. When working with a licensed disability attorney, applicants enjoy attorney-client privilege. Your attorney is required to keep all of your information personal and confidential.
- Strict ethical guidelines. Attorneys are required to abide by strict ethical guidelines when representing their clients.
- Easier appeal process. If your application for SS or SSI benefits is denied, a disability attorney can help you appeal that decision to the federal district court. Non-attorney disability advocates are unable to do this.
- Option to file a grievance. Should you have a problem with your disability attorney, you have the option of filing a grievance with the state bar regulatory commission; you do not have the same recourse when working with a non-attorney disability advocate.
Also, while disability attorneys and non-attorney disability advocates receive the same fee—paid by the SSA out of an applicant's back payment benefits—a non-attorney disability advocate does not have to meet the same educational requirements as a lawyer. While disability attorneys are required to have a four-year bachelor's degree, a three-year juris doctorate degree, and pass the exacting state bar exam, non-attorney disability advocates are only required to have a bachelor's degree or equivalent work experience, pass a criminal background check, have liability insurance, and complete a written exam. For the same price, you can work with someone with much more impressive credentials.
Do You Need Help Applying for Social Security Benefits?
The knowledgeable legal team at Keefe Disability Law has extensive experience helping applicants apply for and obtain the SS Disability benefits they need and deserve. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation or to request a free copy of the book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
Will my wife’s income affect my Social Security disability claim?
No, because Social Security (SS) Disability is not based on income, so your wife's income will not be considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when reviewing your claim. Instead, the SSA will determine your eligibility for SS benefits based on the severity of your disability, its expected duration, and whether it prevents you from holding a job and engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). So, if your medical condition has rendered you totally disabled and unable to work for a period of 12 consecutive months or more, you may qualify for SS benefits, even if your wife continues to work and make a good income.
However, this is not the case when applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Because SSI is a needs-based program for disabled individuals with low income, a wife's income is used when determining eligibility. If you were applying for SSI and your wife's income exceeded a certain amount, the SSA would consider a portion of that income available to you.
Do You Need Help Applying for SS?
Applying for SS benefits can be tricky for those who are unfamiliar with the SSA's application process—particularly if you're applying for a condition that's not included in the “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments. Even a minor mistake can cause frustrating delays or application denials that require you to wait even longer for the financial benefits you so desperately need. A seasoned team of knowledgeable disability attorneys can help make sure that your application is complete and ready to go before you send it in. And in the event that your claim is denied, your legal representative can go to work to help overturn that decision. Contact the skilled attorneys at Keefe Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your SS claim, or request a free copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
Do I have to be permanently disabled to receive SS Disability?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require applicants to be permanently disabled in order to receive Social Security (SS) Disability benefits. To be eligible for SS Disability, applicants must have a medical condition that renders them totally disabled and unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer.
However, depending on the medical condition and its potential for improvement, the applicant may be subject to periodic eligibility reviews, usually after one, three, or seven years. During these reviews, applicants can submit medical documentation from the doctor who treats their condition that discusses their diagnosis and prognosis.
Even if the applicant's medical condition has improved to the point that the SSA no longer considers him totally disabled, the applicant may still be eligible to receive benefits for the time period he was totally disabled, under the SSA's “closed period” benefits policy. SS Disability applicants who meet the closed period criteria may be entitled to a lump-sum payment from the SSA that covers the time frame during which they were totally disabled.
If You Need Help Applying for SS Disability Benefits
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, you may be eligible to receive SS benefits from the SSA. Working with an experienced disability attorney when you apply can help save you both time and effort by ensuring that your application contains all the necessary information before you submit it. And, in the event that your application is denied, a knowledgeable attorney can help you appeal that decision and fight for the benefits you need and deserve. Contact Keefe Disability Law today to schedule a no-cost case evaluation, or request a free copy of the book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.
Does owning a home make me ineligible to receive SS benefits?
No. If you are applying for Social Security (SS) disability benefits, owning a home will not negatively affect your eligibility for benefits. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines an applicant's eligibility based on the severity of his medical condition and ability to work, rather than any assets or resources he may have in his name. This means that it is possible for applicants to qualify for SS benefits even if they own multiple homes or vehicles, provided they meet the SSA's medical criteria for total disability.
However, the same cannot be said for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the other disability-related program administered by the SSA. This needs-based program is only available to low-income applicants with limited assets and resources. The SSA currently caps the assets for SSI applicants at $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple, but not all assets are counted toward this limit. For example, the home you live in and the vehicle you use for regular transportation may be exempted, making it possible for some applicants to qualify for SSI even if they own their home or have their own vehicle.
In select instances known as concurrent disability claims, applicants may be eligible to receive both SS disability and SSI benefits, provided they meet the criteria for both programs.
Do You Need Help Applying for SS or SSI?
The SSA uses very specific criteria to determine SS and SSI eligibility, and applicants must include detailed medical information when applying. If this information is not included, the application may be rejected. Don't allow a small mistake or oversight to delay the approval of your benefits. Contact the experienced legal team at Keefe Disability Law for a free case evaluation or to request a free copy of the book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability. Our knowledgeable attorneys understand the disability application process and are ready to help you every step of the way.
Do All Disabilities Qualify for Social Security Benefits?
Having a disability doesn't automatically mean that a person is eligible for Social Security (SS) disability benefits. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines disability based on a person's ability to work and doesn’t view having a disability the same as being totally disabled.
To meet the SSA's definition of total disability, a person must be unable to do the type of work he did prior to the disability and be unable to adjust to other types of work due to the severity of his medical condition. The disability in question must also be expected to last for a year or longer, or result in death.
In most cases, SS applications submitted by people who are working full time will not be approved. Even working part time can hurt your chances for receiving SS benefits if the SSA determines you're capable of substantial gainful activity (SGA)—work that involves significant physical or mental activity, or a combination of the two. The SSA uses a dollar amount to determine SGA, so people who work full- or part-time hours but whose gross earnings average less than $1,130 per month may still be eligible for benefits. A higher SGA threshold of $1,820 applies to blind applicants.
If you're disabled, there are two ways to secure SS benefits. The first is by having a disability on the SSA's list of “Blue Book” conditions—these disabilities are considered severe enough to automatically qualify an applicant for benefits. The second is by proving that your condition prevents you from working—even if you don't have one of the qualifying, disabling conditions listed by the SSA.
If You Need Help
Applying for SS benefits can be a complex and lengthy process. Having a knowledgeable disability attorney by your side to help guide you through each step of the journey can be invaluable. An attorney who knows the specific SS process may increase the likelihood of your application being approved and help you if your application is denied. Contact the experienced attorneys at Keefe Disability Law for a free case evaluation or to request a free copy of the book, "Seven Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim."
How Can a Residual Functional Capacity Form Help Me Prove PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that's caused by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event that usually involves physical harm or the threat of physical harm. People who suffer from PTSD can experience a wide range of symptoms that make everyday life difficult, including:
- Severe anxiety
- Uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event
- Poor self-esteem
- Emotional numbness
- Memory and concentration problems
- Feelings of irritability, anger, guilt, and shame
- Trouble sleeping
- Self-destructive behavior
Although PTSD is most commonly associated with combat veterans, anyone who has experienced a particularly traumatic event such as a serious car accident, abuse, assault, or a natural disaster can develop the disorder. Most people experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, and many recover with time. However, when serious mental health symptoms linger for months or years and disrupt daily life, they may be a sign of PTSD.
Applying for SS Disability Benefits
When you apply for SS disability due to your PTSD, the medical professional treating you should fill out a residual functional capacity (RFC) form. If you hire a SS disability attorney, he’s likely to use this form when presenting your case to the SSA adjudicator or the judge. Once your doctor fills out the form, it will help give the judge specific information relative to your claim, and your attorney will use it to try and prove that your PTSD makes it impossible for you to work and earn a living
Additionally, the RFC form helps your doctor use specific work capacity language that judges look for when determining your case. That language helps provide important information about your performance on the job and how reliable you are as an employee.
An RFC form should include your diagnosis and symptoms and discuss your ability to:
- Carry out a regular routine without supervision
- Concentrate on work-related tasks
- Understand and follow simple and complex instructions as they relate to your job
- Interact and communicate appropriately with others, including supervisors and co-workers
- Have suitable workplace attendance, be punctual, and avoid unscheduled breaks
- Make simple occupation-related decisions
If you don't include an RFC form filled out by your medical provider with your application for benefits, an SSA medical examiner will complete one using the documentation supplied in your application. However, because physician-completed RFC forms carry more weight, including one with your application is essential to proving your PTSD claim.
Keefe Disability Law Can Help
Applying for SS disability benefits can be a complex and frustrating process. Let the knowledgeable, experienced attorneys at Keefe Disability Law help you secure the benefits you need and deserve. Contact us today for more information or to request a free copy of our eBook, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security.
I was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, can I qualify for disability benefits?
After a diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma, you may find it difficult or impossible to hold a job. Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in the soft tissues of the body. These soft tissues may include the muscles, tendons, fat, lymph vessels, blood vessels, nerves, and tissue surrounding joints. The resulting tumors can be found in many areas, including the arms, legs, chest, or abdomen. Unfortunately, many people suffering from this condition do not have signs or symptoms until the disease has already progressed.
Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Soft tissue sarcoma comes in many different forms. The different types of this condition depend upon the type of soft tissue cell in which the cancer formed. These types may include:
- Rhabdomyosarcoma. This is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma, often diagnosed in children. It originates in muscles that attach to bones.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors. This type of soft tissue sarcoma forms in soft tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. It is most often seen in the stomach or small intestine and effects adults much more frequently than children. Unfortunately, this type of soft tissue sarcoma may not have any early symptoms.
- Ewing sarcoma. These tumors are more commonly formed in the bones of children and adolescents, but may also form in the soft tissue surrounding bone.
- Kaposi sarcoma. Lesions made of cancer cells grow in the skin, lymph nodes, or lining of the mouth, nose, or throat in this type of soft tissue sarcoma. It is most common in people with weakened immune systems.
- Uterine sarcoma. Forming in the muscle and tissue that support the uterus, this is an uncommon form of uterine cancer.
Regardless of the type, if you have soft tissue sarcoma you may potentially qualify for Social Security disability benefits. These benefits can provide a badly needed financial lifeline as you focus your time and energy on fighting the disease.
3 Situations Where You May Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits Due to Soft Tissue Sarcoma
You might qualify for disability benefits with soft tissue sarcoma in the following situations:
- You are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in an early stage but can demonstrate an inability to work as a result of your condition.
- You are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma that has metastasized, or spread, and meets the eligibility requirements of the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments.
- You are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma for the second time, having first been diagnosed and then having had the condition return after your initial treatment.
In addition, if your soft tissue sarcoma is metastatic or recurrent, it may qualify you for a rapid review under the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances program. This means that your claim will likely be reviewed and either approved or denied within a few weeks of submitting your application.
Meeting the Blue Book Requirements for Soft Tissue Sarcoma
If your soft tissue sarcoma meets the requirements outlined by the Social Security Administration in the Blue Book’s listing of impairments, you may be able to qualify for benefits more easily. Meeting the criteria for this condition under the Blue Book requires some or all of the following:
- A diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma.
- Evidence of regional metastasis.
- Evidence of distant metastasis.
- A medical history that shows the cancer is persistent or recurrent following initial treatment.
There are various types of medical evidence that must be demonstrated in your file in order to prove that you suffer from a disability as a result of your soft tissue sarcoma. Records that every applicant should present include the following:
- A clinical history report that details the features of your disease.
- Results from imaging test results that document the tumor locations and sizes.
- A copy of the notes from your surgical procedures. Patients with soft tissue sarcoma may need to undergo surgical resections, exploratory surgeries, or biopsies.
- Results from pathology reports that verify your diagnosis.
- Results from pathology reports that stage your tumors.
Applying for disability benefits is not an easy process for those who have been through this experience in the past. Fortunately, we are here to help you navigate. We encourage you to contact us today for a free consultation at 888-904-6847.
I was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease. Can I qualify for Social Security disability benefits?
While your physician may be unable to pinpoint just one specific connective tissue disorder that you suffer from, the good news is that you may still qualify for disability benefits. These benefits are often very important because they provide much-needed financial assistance. This financial help can be critical when your connective tissue disorder is so severe that you are unable to work to support yourself.
How to Qualify for Disability Benefits With Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Qualifying for disability benefits due to connective tissue disease is not always easy. Your first hurdle in the process it to provide medical proof that symptoms support a diagnosis of one of the following conditions:
- Undifferentiated connective tissue disease. In these cases, your symptoms are associated with connective tissue disease but do not specifically meet the criteria for one specific condition. Since your symptoms cannot be narrowed to one specific disease, you may receive a diagnosis of undifferentiated connective tissue disease.
- Mixed connective tissue disease. In these cases, your symptoms and blood tests indicate that you have more than one type of connective tissue disease.
The second hurdle is to prove to the Social Security Administration that you have one of the following:
- Two or more areas of your body are affected by the disease, with at least one of these areas showing severe symptoms. You also must prove that you have two symptoms that indicate severe illness. These symptoms may include fever, weight loss, or severe weakness.
- You have frequent symptoms of the disease, with at least two signs of severe illness, and you are unable to perform daily tasks as a result. You are also unable to interact with others and function properly both mentally and physically in order to perform job tasks.
If you suffer from undifferentiated connective tissue disease or mixed connective tissue disease, it is important to seek assistance from an experienced attorney. We are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation at 888-904-6847.
I received notice that my disability benefits are about to stop, what should I do?
For many disabled individuals, Social Security disability benefits are a financial lifeline crucial to overall well-being. These benefits can help to make up for the income that the person is unable to earn as a result of his or her condition. For this reason, receiving notice that disability benefits are about to cease can be a terrifying prospect for many people.
What Will Cause Disability Benefits to Stop?
Once you qualify for disability benefits, certain events can trigger these benefits to terminate. Examples of reasons for disability benefits to be cut off include the following:
- Improvement of your medical or psychiatric condition. The Social Security Administration conducts continuing disability reviews, usually in either 3- or 7-year increments. During this process, the Social Security Administration evaluates whether your condition has improved such that you are no longer eligible for disability benefits.
- You returned to work. This is the most common reason for disability benefits to cease. In most cases, you cannot work and continue to receive disability benefits. There are some cases in which this is permitted; however, specific provisions must be complied with. The Social Security Administration will evaluate whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity, and if it is determined that you are, you may have your benefits terminated.
- You reached retirement age. People receiving disability benefits are no longer eligible once they reach full retirement age. This is because you cannot receive both Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. People who were previously receiving disability benefits will instead receive retirement benefits.
- You are incarcerated or institutionalized. If you are in jail, your disability benefits will stop for the period of time during which you are incarcerated. You may also see your benefits terminated if you are convicted of certain types of felonies.
- You receive too much income. This is another common reason for disability benefits to be terminated. To continue to be eligible for benefits, you must fall within the income or asset limits.
- You were a child when you first began receiving disability benefits and have since turned 18. When this happens, you will be reevaluated to see if your condition matches Social Security Administration standards for adults.
- Your living situation has changed. If you enter or leave an institution such as a nursing home or a halfway house, you may see your disability benefits terminated. Similarly, if you leave the country for more than 30 days, benefits can cease.
If your benefits have been terminated or about to terminate, it is crucial to take the proper steps in order to prevent the loss of benefits.
What to Do If Your Disability Benefits Stop
Any person receiving disability benefits will be subjected to periodic reviews to determine if they remain eligible. First, the Social Security Administration will contact you to request updates on your status as well as the treatment you are receiving for your condition. They will also look at your medical records to evaluate whether you are still deemed to be disabled. It is important to be responsive and cooperative with the Social Security Administration during this process.
If the Social Security Administration decides that you are no longer eligible for benefits, you will receive a letter stating that your benefits are being terminated. From this point forward, you have two months to continue receiving benefits. It is important to consider filing an appeal. It is important to begin the appeal process as quickly as possible and with the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
If you decide to file an appeal and you do so within ten days after receiving notice of termination, you can choose whether to continue receiving benefits while the Social Security Administration processes your disability appeal. If the judge overseeing the appeal sides with you, your benefits will continue. If the judge rules against you, however, the Social Security Administration can declare that you have been overpaid. If you file an appeal outside of that 100-day window, your benefits will be suspended until a judge rules on the appeal. In this case, the Social Security Administration must receive notice of your appeal within 60 days of your receipt of the disability benefits termination letter.
The first task on the to-do list for any person whose disability benefits are about to terminate is to contact an attorney. He or she can provide the guidance you need to have your benefits continue. We encourage you to contact us today for a free consultation at 888-904-6847.