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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My Social Security disability application was denied, and I do not understand the appeals process. Should I contact a lawyer?
Yes. In many cases, it makes sense to appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits. The majority of initial Social Security disability claims are denied, and many deserving claimants are left deciding whether they should give up on their application or file an appeal. If you decide to file an appeal and to pursue the benefits that you deserve, then an experienced disability lawyer can improve your chances of success.
How to Know If an Appeal Is Right for You
If you received a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) saying you are not eligible for disability benefits, it is not the end of the road. In our experience, it may be worth the trouble to appeal what may be an unfair decision after you answer the following questions:
- Is your disability included on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments? The Listing of Impairments provides an index of disabling conditions and explains how severe a condition must be to qualify for disability benefits.
- Will your disability keep you from working for at least a year or result in your death? One of these things must be true in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
- Are you over age 55 or is your disability severe? These factors can greatly influence your chances of winning an appeal.
- Are you truly unable to work at any job? The Social Security Administration will look at your condition and decide if you are skilled enough to do some kind of work.
- Did you find any incorrect information in your denial letter? You can challenge anything that is not factual.
Being denied Social Security disability benefits may not be the end of the road. If you want help with making the decision about whether to appeal your disability benefits denial, call the experienced attorneys at Keefe Disability Law today. We can help you sort out the sometimes confusing Social Security disability appeals process and get you on the right track to getting the benefits that you have earned.
When will my Social Security disability benefits end?
You qualify for Social Security disability benefits because you have a terminal illness or a medical condition that has resulted in your permanent disability. Some Social Security disability recipients believe that because their condition is terminal or permanent that they will receive Social Security disability benefits for the rest of their life. However, this is not always true.
The Social Security Administration Can Terminate Disability Benefits in Certain Situations
The federal laws and regulations that govern Social Security disability allow the Social Security Administration to end a recipient’s benefits when:
- Your health improves and you are no longer disabled. Sometimes medical conditions improve. Whether that is due to luck, medical advancements, or the natural progression of your condition, you may no longer be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if your health has improved to the point where you no longer qualify.
- You are able to go back to work. Even if your health condition is permanent, there may come a time when you are able to go back to work. You may find a medication that allows you to work, there could be a breakthrough in treatment for your condition, or you may find that you can work with certain accommodations. If this happens, and you are able to earn enough to engage in substantial gainful activity, then your benefits will stop. If you are unsure about whether you can earn enough to stay in the workforce or to earn enough money to qualify as engaging in substantial gainful activity then you may be able to go back to work on a trial basis until you know for sure. The exact amount that is considered substantial gainful activity is subject to change annually. In 2017, substantial gainful activity was defined as $1,170 a month for non-blind individuals and $1,950 a month for blind individuals.
- You reach retirement age. You cannot receive both Social Security disability and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. Thus, the Social Security Administration will stop your disability benefits when you reach retirement age and you begin receiving retirement benefits.
Before the Social Security Administration can take away your benefits, however, the agency must be aware that one of the conditions described above has occurred.
How Will the Social Security Administration Know?
The Social Security Administration may know that your benefits will be terminated because of:
- Your report to the agency. You may need to proactively report changes of your medical condition or your work status to the Social Security Administration.
- The agency’s periodic review of your claim. The Social Security Administration periodically reviews all disability cases. During these reviews, the agency may decide whether or not you continue to qualify for benefits. Periodic reviews may happen as frequently as every few months or as infrequently as every seven years, depending on the unique disability that you suffer. The Social Security Administration should let you know when a periodic review is occurring and the status of the agency’s findings.
However, the Social Security Administration does not always come to the right conclusion based on the information that it collects when you self-report or it conducts a periodic review.
Sometimes the Agency Wrongfully Decides That Your Benefits Should Be Terminated
If you receive a notice of termination then it is important to take action quickly to avoid an unnecessary disruption in your disability benefit payments. While it may seem like a hassle now, it is actually easier to stop benefits from ending than to go through the entire process of applying for Social Security disability benefits again.
For this reason, we encourage you to contact an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as you think that your benefits may be in jeopardy. We will investigate your claim and work hard to convince the Social Security Administration of your continued eligibility if you remain disabled.
Can I get Social Security disability benefits for asthma?
It depends on the severity of your asthma. Only those who suffer from frequent and severe asthma attacks that cannot be controlled with medication are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
Understanding Asthma: When Is it Severe?
Asthma is a chronic obstructive condition of the respiratory system. During an asthma attack, the airways become inflamed and cause a range of symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Chest pain
There are many triggers for asthma which include:
- Dust, mold, pollen, and animal fur.
- Cigarette smoke, workplace chemicals or dust, home spray products, and air pollution.
- Some medicines, such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta-blockers.
- Sulfites found in food and beverages.
- Respiratory infections, including colds.
- Physical exercise.
Asthma is generally treated with two types of medications: quick relief and long-term control. These are usually effective in controlling symptoms. However, your asthma may affect your ability to work if:
- Your symptoms are causing you to lose sleep, occurring more often, or are more severe.
- You are missing work because of asthma attacks.
- Your peak flow number (established with your doctor) is low or swings from day to day.
- Your asthma medicines are not working.
- You need your quick-relief inhaler more than usual.
- An asthma attack sends you to the emergency room.
If an asthma attack can be stopped by moving away from the trigger, with an inhaler, or with another medication, then it is not considered severe.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you meet the qualifications in the Listing of Impairments or if your condition is so severe that you are unable to work.
Asthma is specifically listed in Section 3.03 of the Listing of Impairments. According to this listing, you may qualify for benefits if you meet both of the following requirements:
- The results of your lung function test (FEV1) are low for your age, gender and height. What’s defined as “low” is provided in a chart in Section 3.03A.
- You have had three asthma-related hospitalizations within the last 12 months. Each hospitalization must last at least 48 hours and each hospitalization must occur at least 30 days apart.
If you have chronic asthmatic bronchitis, then you may qualify for Social Security disability if you can meet the requirements of the Listing of Impairments for COPD.
Additionally, you may qualify for benefits even if you do not meet any of the listings in the Listing of Impairments if you can prove that your condition is equal in severity to any listing in the Listing of Impairments or if you are unable to work due to your medical condition.
Regardless of which way you qualify, you will need documentation to prove that you are eligible for benefits. You should have a record of each episode, how long it lasted, the treatment that was administered, and how well you responded to treatment. You should also have results of spirometry tests and arterial blood gas studies (ABGS) from each attack. Additionally, your medical records must show that you are following the treatment plan ordered by your doctor unless you have a valid reason not to do so.
Not Everyone With Asthma Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits
Approximately 18.4 million people over the age of 18 suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but not all of them qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If you can control your asthma by avoiding environmental triggers and by using medication, then you will not be eligible for benefits. However, if you experience frequent, sudden, and severe asthma attacks despite treatment then you may be unable to work and you may qualify for benefits.
The Social Security disability application process is confusing, but you can be prepared. Learn more about applying for benefits by reading Attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process or by contacting our firm directly by phone or via this website to schedule an initial meeting.
I have severe osteoarthritis that is affecting my ability to work. Will I qualify for Social Security disability?
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is a painful joint disorder that often occurs as people age and the cartilage that protects the bone begins to wear down. The symptoms of osteoarthritis will depend on which joints are affected. Osteoarthritis can cause stiffness in the joints that make it difficult to move and to work.
Will You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
When you apply for Social Security disability, you will have to go through the disability evaluation process established by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The first five steps are the same for every applicant. The Social Security Administration will want to know if:
Your condition is on the Social Security Administration’s List of Impairments.
Your condition is severe and expected to last for 12 months or longer.
You are still working.
You cannot work at your current job and if you are able to do any other work that you have done in the past.
There is any other type of work that you can do, given your age, education, past experience, and physical limitations.
Depending on your answers to these questions and the body part that is affected by osteoarthritis, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability.
Osteoarthritis of the Spine
If you have osteoarthritis in your spine, you might qualify for disability benefits under the listing for Disorders of the Spine (Listing of Impairments Section 1.04). To receive Social Security disability for osteoarthritis of the spine, the disorder must be diagnosed by a doctor and meet one of the following conditions:
Compression of the spinal nerve root that limits your ability to move your spine.
A narrowing of the spinal canal in your lower back that makes it very difficult to walk.
Inflammation of the arachnoid membrane that requires you to change position frequently.
You will need medical evidence of your condition and treatment plan if you apply for benefits pursuant to this listing, any other listing, or if you apply based on the severity of your condition.
Osteoarthritis in Other Parts of the Body
If your osteoarthritis affects a body part other than your spine, then you might be able to qualify for disability benefits under the category of Major Dysfunction of a Joint (Listing of Impairments Section 1.02). To be approved for Social Security disability under this category, you must have an obvious joint deformity or bone destruction. You must have a documented history of pain and stiffness in the joint, as well as lack of motion. The osteoarthritis must affect a hip, a knee, or an ankle joint, or a hand, a wrist, an elbow, or a shoulder in each arm, making it difficult for you to complete everyday tasks.
You Can Still Qualify for Social Security Disability If Your Osteoarthritis Doesn’t Meet the Blue Book Standards
If you do not meet the criteria for either of the blue book categories described above, you might still qualify for Social Security disability. You will need to prove that your osteoarthritis causes you to have reduced functional capacity that is equal in severity to one of the blue book standards and that makes you unable to work. The Social Security Administration will consider your physical limitations and determine the type of work you are capable of doing, if any.
Get the Help You Need Before You Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied. It is important to understand how you should apply, the documentation that you need to apply, and to submit your application correctly so that you can start getting the Social Security disability benefits that you deserve for osteoarthritis as soon as possible.
To learn more about your rights, please request a FREE copy of our book, The 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability, today. Additionally, we invite you to contact us directly via this website or by phone to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer who can help you get the fair benefits that you have earned.
I was denied Social Security disability benefits because of problems with my medical evidence. What do I do now?
You will not qualify for Social Security disability benefits unless you can prove that you are disabled. This requires complete, correct, and current medical evidence that you can present with your application to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
What Must Your Medical Evidence Prove?
As a Social Security disability applicant, it is your responsibility to provide medical evidence that proves that:
- You have one or more health impairments. You must prove that you have a health impairment by providing objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source.
- The severity of your impairment qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits. After you prove that you have a health impairment, then the SSA will look at medical evidence (and non-medical evidence) to determine how the impairment impacts your ability to work.
Who Can Provide Medical Evidence?
You should provide all of your medical records from all of the medical providers who have seen you for the condition for which you are seeking benefits. Acceptable medical sources include:
- Hospitals, clinics, or other health facilities where you have been treated—even if only for a brief time.
- Medical or osteopathic licensed physicians.
- Licensed or certified psychologists.
- Licensed optometrists who can prove that you have a qualifying visual disorder.
- Licensed podiatrists.
- Speech-language pathologists who are qualified to establish a speech or language impairment.
While you may provide the information yourself, the SSA will also help you get the medical reports you need from your own medical providers.
The Social Security Administration guidelines refer to “treating sources.” These are medical professionals who have treated you for some length of time and who are likely to be able to provide medical evidence that shows the history, severity, and future prognosis of your impairment.
Treating sources are considered to be strong advocates for you and may provide useful medical evidence to the Social Security Administration. Therefore, if you have a medical provider who can be considered a treating source, then it may improve your chances of receiving Social Security disability benefits.
What Kinds of Medical Evidence Do You Have to Provide?
You must provide enough medical evidence to prove that you are unable to work; otherwise, the SSA will deny your application. Generally, this includes the following types of evidence from the professionals described above:
- A complete record of all the medical treatment you have received in connection with your condition.
- A medical determination that you cannot work as a direct result of your medical condition.
- A medical opinion that you will not be able to work for at least 12 months or that your condition will result in death.
- A detailed account of your treatment plan and evidence that you are following that treatment plan. You are expected to follow your doctor’s orders for treating your condition. You should be taking the medicine that you are prescribed and participating in any recommended physical therapy.
The SSA will also be looking to see if you are keeping all of your scheduled medical appointments.
If the Social Security Administration determines that the medical evidence that you have provided is insufficient, then the agency may request a consultative examination, or it may deny your application.
Don’t Give Up If Your Social Security Disability Application Has Been Denied
One of the main reasons Social Security disability claims are denied is because of a lack of medical evidence. Even if you think that you are providing full and accurate records to the Social Security Administration, you may not be providing everything that the agency requires because the requirements are complicated and often confusing.
An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you sort out the many pieces of evidence that you need, help you get the necessary paperwork you do not already have, and help you get the benefits that you deserve by filing the right kind of appeal. Contact our experienced attorneys today via this website or by phone to schedule an initial consultation about your rights.
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.