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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  • Help! My daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autistic disorder. I thought I would be able to work, but I need to stay at home and care for my child. I applied for SSI in Boston but I was denied. What can I do now?

    Applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Massachusetts on behalf of a child can be enormously difficult. There are many factors that you must demonstrate to the Social Security Administration in order for it to approve your application. Juggling all of these factors can be confusing. One small mistake on your application, and you may be denied.

    Some of the factors that go into consideration when deciding whether or not to provide your family with SSI are the following:

    • Your family income limitations
    • The resources available to your family
    • Your child’s abilities in acquiring and using information, completing tasks, social interaction, moving about on her own, caring for herself, and her overall physical health and well-being.

    Although it may seem like you should automatically be provided SSI in this situation, the SSA may find a reason to deny your application. This is when working with a Boston SSI lawyer is so critical.

    With help from an attorney experienced in disability law, you can review your application to find any errors or reasons for the denial. In addition, having attorney help allows you to file an appeal within the time limit that will increase your chances at having the denial overturned.

    Contact a Boston SSI attorney at Keefe Disability Law to get started as quickly as possible on filing your appeal.

  • PTSD Anxiety and SSD Benefits

    PTSD is a condition caused by going through a serious and traumatic life event, such as an auto accident, abuse, natural disaster, or a scary emergency health condition. There are a number of experiences that can trigger PTSD. Once you have the disorder, you may frequently experience flashbacks, nightmares, or other forms of anxiety that disrupt your ability to live the daily life you once did.

    Unlike some other mental disorders, PTSD actually triggers a chemical reaction in your brain, changing your behavior. This can be extremely debilitating, leaving you unable to work at the same job you held before the traumatic incident. This can cause you to need Boston Social Security disability to help cover your expenses.

    To receive benefits for your PTSD, you must have one or more severe symptoms, such as:

    • Recurring nightmares
    • Frequent flashbacks
    • Extreme anxiety or emotional disturbance from regular memories
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Inability to maintain a normal social life
    • Inability to perform daily activities

    Showing each of these items can be difficult. To document your disability, you must have a detailed description of a regular PTSD episode that you experience. This should include the duration and symptoms of the episodes. You must also have a description from your doctor of your symptoms. Finally, your medical records must determine that you are unable to perform your tasks at home and at work as normal.

    This can be very difficult to show. Contact a Massachusetts Social Security Disability lawyer at Keefe Disability Law for help with your application. Call us today toll-free at 888-904-6847 and request a FREE copy of our book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.

  • What types of neurological conditions receive Social Security disability benefits in Massachusetts?

    When an accident or chronic disease impacts the brain or nervous system, it can leave you unable to live as you once did. Suddenly, daily chores and tasks become painfully difficult, leaving you disabled and out of a job. When you cannot work, you cannot earn the income you once did which can be enormously stressful on your bank account, and on you and your family.

    Many neurological conditions are covered under Social Security disability benefits, but many people are denied benefits simply because their application was not filled out correctly. The following are a few examples of neurological conditions that are usually serious enough to be considered eligible to receive benefits:

    • Brain tumors
    • Central nervous system vascular accidents (such as a stroke)
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Brain injury or trauma
    • Degenerative diseases (such as Huntington’s Chorea)
    • Epilepsy
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Muscular Dystrophy
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • Spinal cord lesions on the nerve roots
    • And more

    Because the list is so lengthy and there is a lot that goes into qualifying for benefits, it is critical that you talk to a Massachusetts Social Security disability attorney before filling out your application. We will work with you to help you understand the complexities of the application process and maximize your opportunity for acceptance.

  • Is a diagnosis of lung cancer enough for me to be approved for SSDI benefits in Massachusetts?

    Any cancer diagnosis is traumatic, but even a diagnosis of lung cancer does not guarantee approval for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). If the cancer is in the early stages, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not likely to approve a request for benefits.

    However, one type of lung cancer does qualify an applicant for automatic approval of SSDI benefits regardless of stage. Patients with a diagnosis of small-cell (oat cell) cancer of the lungs will automatically qualify for approval of benefits if their medical records support their diagnosis. Proper medical documentation includes doctors’ notes, hospital records, and results of blood test, breathing tests, and imaging studies (x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs).

    Patients with small-cell lung cancer also qualify for expedited approval under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program. This means that they can get benefits within a few weeks rather than waiting months.

    A patient whose lung cancer has spread beyond the regional lymph nodes or to other parts of the body will also qualify for SSDI regardless of the type of lung cancer. When the cancer has not spread, the decision will depend on how easily the cancer can be treated and how the cancer (and its treatment) affects the applicant’s ability to work.

    Your medical records will show whether or not your cancer can be removed with surgery. If the cancer cannot be surgically removed (inoperable) or can only be partly removed (unresectable), the patient must undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These treatments have debilitating side effects, so patients with inoperable or unresectable lung cancer also qualify for SSDI.

    When a lung cancer returns after removal or other treatment, it is said to be recurrent. The SSA will approve SSDI benefits for patients with recurrent lung cancer.

    If you do not have small-cell lung cancer, or recurrent, unresectable, or inoperable lung cancer, the SSA will evaluate your claim based on your ability to do work. Your case manager will make this decision based on your medical records, age, education, and work history. If your health changes during the SSDI application process, it is important that you send the SSA your updated medical records. Those who don’t initially qualify for SSDI often qualify if their condition worsens.

    Do you have additional questions about applying for SSDI in Massachusetts? Get your free copy of Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact the disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • Can I get a compassionate allowance for advanced prostate cancer?

    The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program provides fast-track claim processing for applicants who are diagnosed with one of 200 qualifying disabilities. Prostate cancer is not on the list of disabilities. This means that even a diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer is not considered severe enough to qualify for a compassionate allowance.

    There is one exception: a compassionate allowance is available for applicants diagnosed with small cell cancer of the prostate. Small cell cancer or carcinoma accounts for no more than one percent of all prostate cancers. The tumors in small cell prostate cancer are formed from the hormone-producing cells of the prostate rather than from glandular cells. While most prostate cancers grow slowly, small cell prostate cancers are very aggressive and metastasize quickly.

    There is another important difference between small cell prostate cancer and other prostate cancers. Small cell carcinomas do not affect prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. This means that the cancer is rarely detected in its early stages.

    The five-year survival rate for most prostate cancers is near 100 percent. The five year survival rate for small cell cancer of the prostate is 20 percent in its limited stage and less than 5 percent after the cancer has metastasized.

    While the Compassionate Allowance Program is reserved for applicants with the most serious disabilities, there are other ways to get a quick decision regarding SSA benefits. If you have Stage 4 cancer, you may qualify for a Quick Disability Determination. To learn more or to discuss your claim, contact the New England Social Security benefits attorneys at Keefe Disability Law by calling 888-904-6847.

  • I am applying for SSDI for Parkinson’s disease. What evidence do I need to provide in order to prove that my disability prevents me from working?

    Many people assume that a diagnosis with a chronic, progressive disability like Parkinson’s disease automatically entitles them to Social Security disability benefits (SSDI); however, a diagnosis is not enough. You must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from regularly engaging in any work activity. Here is a list of evidence that will support your claim:

    • Your medical records: Your medical records should include your diagnosis, documentation of your current symptoms and how they affect your ability to perform daily activities, and the results of any diagnostic tests that support your diagnosis. Your records should also contain information about treatment you have tried and any negative effects from your medication.
    • A psychological evaluation: Many who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease suffer from depression or anxiety due to their condition. Documentation of mental health conditions associated with your diagnosis will help your claim. 
    • A recommendation from your doctor: It can help to have a separate letter from your doctor discussing the nature and frequency of your symptoms and his thoughts on your ability to work.
    • A symptom diary: A symptom diary will show the SSA how your symptoms affect your ability to perform life activities. Take notes about your symptoms and how they limit your activities.  If you have trouble writing because of tremors, make a note. Your diary does not have to be written. You can use a computer or a tape recorder.

    For more information about applying for SSDI, request a free copy of Massachusetts disability lawyer John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact Keefe Disability Law at 973-595-8900.

  • Can I Get Disability For My Multiple Sclerosis Even If I Don't Experience Symptoms Everyday?

    It is not unusual for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to have good days and bad days. While a good day may be symptom-free, a bad day can be debilitating. Symptoms such as fatigue, blurred vision, numbness, pain, incontinence, and mental changes can affect your ability to walk, talk, follow directions and otherwise engage in work activities. When bad days make it impossible to earn a living, you may want to consider Social Security disability benefits (SSDI).

    There are a few qualifications you must meet in order to be approved for SSDI for MS:

    • It is OK if you are working when you apply for SSDI. However, in order to be considered disabled, you cannot earn more than $1,040 a month.
    • Your disability must have lasted for one year or longer or be expected to last for one year or longer. Since there is no cure for MS, you will meet this qualification.


    If you meet these qualifications, your next step will be to show that you cannot work because of your symptoms. This will be easy if you meet the disability criteria of Social Security Blue Book listing 11.09. If you don’t, you will have to rely on medical documentation to explain how your disability affects your ability to hold a job.

    Still not sure if you qualify? Contact the New Hampshire disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law for a free case evaluation. Call us at 8I88-904-6847, and we’ll let you know if you qualify for SSDI. If you can’t work because of the symptoms of MS, our Nashua SSDI attorneys can help you obtain the documentation you need to support your SSDI claim.

  • Can I receive Social Security disability benefits if I have skin cancer?

    Yes, Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) are available for those with advanced skin cancer. The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book listing 13.03 outlines the guidelines for approval of applicants with skin cancers. 

    Most SSDI claims for skin cancer involve melanoma. Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, but it is the most serious. It spreads very quickly and can affect the skin, eyes, and internal organs. You can receive SSDI for melanoma if any of the following are true:

    • Your melanoma has returned even after the cancer and skin surrounding the cancer was surgically removed.
    • Your melanoma has spread to one or more lymph nodes that can be seen through medical imaging.
    • Your melanoma has spread to four or more lymph nodes.
    • Your melanoma has spread to adjacent skin or other sites on your body.

    If you have squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell skin cancer, a skin sarcoma, or another skin cancer, you are eligible for SSDI if the cancer spreads beyond the local lymph nodes.

    It is possible to get SSDI if you don’t meet these requirements, but you must show that the cancer or the effects of the cancer are equal in severity to another listing, or that you are unable to work because of your condition. For example, you may qualify for SSDI if your chemotherapy treatments leave you exhausted and in pain. You will have to have medical documentation that shows your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year.

    In order for the Social Security Administration to approve your application, you must provide medical records that show your diagnosis, outline your treatment plan, and document how the cancer has spread. Any medical imaging of the cancer, including computed tomography scans, radiographic studies, ultrasounds, nuclear scans, and magnetic resonance imaging will help to support your claim.

    Applying for disability can be overwhelming when you are fighting cancer. Our Boston disability benefits lawyers can help. We can fill out the paperwork, obtain your medical records, and get the additional evidence needed to support your SSDI application. You can focus on getting well.

    To learn more about applying for disability benefits in Massachusetts, request a free copy of our book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I suffered a stroke that has left me completely paralyzed on one side. I applied for SSDI, but my claim was deferred. I am obviously not able to work, so why is the Social Security Administration waiting to make the decision?

    A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, occurs when there is a blockage of blood flow to an area of the brain. This deprives the brain of oxygen and causes brain damage that may affect other parts of the body. Your paralysis is a result of that type of damage.

    Some of the effects of stroke are permanent; others are temporary. Symptoms are most severe immediately after the stroke. Over the next few months, the brain tries to rewire itself and repair the damage. This usually leads to improvement. Many stroke survivors will completely recover within six months after the stroke. Although you are completely paralyzed now, you may gain significant function in the next few months. Everyone recovers differently, and doctors are not always able to predict the level of improvement

    When a stroke victim is left unable to work he may apply for SSDI, if he meets certain requirements.

    One of these requirements is that the disability must last for at least 12 months. You have a serious disability, but you may not be as disabled in six months. The Social Security Administration defers all SSDI applications for stroke for at least three months. This gives your doctors time to assess how much of the damage from the stroke will be permanent.

    Do you have more questions about applying for SSDI after a stroke? Our Nashua Social Security disability lawyers have written a book that may help. Request your free copy of Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. If you don’t see the answers you need, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847. We’ll be happy to help.

  • I have celiac disease. Can I get Social Security disability benefits?

    It is difficult, but not impossible, to get Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) for celiac disease.

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the system.  When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, a protein that can be found in wheat, rye, and barley, the body responds by attacking the villi of the small intestine. This prevents the body from absorbing nutrients and can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, canker sores, and depression. 

    Celiac disease is diagnosed with a blood test. It is usually treated with a gluten-free diet. Because the symptoms of celiac disease disappear when there is no exposure to gluten, most people with celiac disease do not qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits.

    In order to receive SSI or SSDI for celiac disease, you must be unable to work for a year or longer as a result of your condition. Very few people meet this requirement because the symptoms of celiac disease go away when the patient gives up gluten-rich foods. However, there are exceptions. In cases where it takes years to be diagnosed with celiac disease, an applicant may request benefits for the time that he was unable to work because of the disability. The applicant must have documentation that his symptoms lasted one year or longer and that the symptoms were severe enough to prevent him from being able to work for pay. He must also present documentation showing that he was following all doctors’ orders for medical treatment at that time.

    Celiac disease is not listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Blue Book” listing of impairments, so an application for SSDI must include a medical statement showing that your condition is severe enough to be considered equivalent to a disability that has a listing, such as inflammatory bowel disease (5.06) or weight loss (5.08) due to any digestive disorder.  

    When considering whether you qualify for SSDI or SSI, the SSA will also consider whether you have any other medical conditions, such as depression. 

    Do you have additional questions? Find the answers in your free copy of Boston SSDI attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. To schedule an appointment with a Massachusetts disability advocate, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • My father was diagnosed with Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He was just approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but this will not provide enough to pay medical bills. How long will it be before he is eligible for Medicare?

    Most people who receive Social Security Disability benefits are not eligible to receive Medicare benefits until they have collected benefits for 24 months. There are two exceptions:

    1. End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): Those with ESRD may receive Medicare three months after beginning regular dialysis treatment or immediately after a kidney transplant.
    2. Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease): Patients with ALS are eligible for Medicare when they are approved for SSDI.

    This means that since your father was approved for SSDI for ALS, he is also approved for Medicare Part A and B. He is eligible for all the benefits that are available to those over age 65, including hospital, physician, home health, nursing home, and community-based services. The services do not have to be related to his disability.

    Because your father was approved for SSDI, he will be automatically enrolled in the Medicare program and should receive a Medicare card in the mail. If he does not receive the card, contact your local Social Security office. 

    Do you have additional questions about SSDI and other disability benefits? Request a free copy of Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. If you’d like to discuss your own situation with a Massachusetts SSDI attorney, please contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I am applying for SSDI for cor pulmonale. Which tests do I need?

    When you apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), it is important that you provide a copy of your medical records showing your diagnosis, any treatments that have been prescribed, and the outcome of those treatments. You should also provide the results of any medical tests used to diagnose and evaluate your condition. 

    The following tests are used to diagnose and assess cor pulmonale:

    • Physical exam: Your doctor should provide notes about all your health problems. He should comment on any unusual sounds in the heart and lungs, the amount of swelling in the abdomen, ankles, and feet, your energy level, the amount of physical activity that you can safely perform, and any restrictions or limitations caused by your condition.
    • Blood tests: You should have test results showing the amount of oxygen, acids, and carbon dioxide in the blood. 
    • EKG: An electrocardiogram checks the heart rhythm for indications of heart damage and heart disease.
    • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create an image of the heart as it beats and pumps blood.
    • Chest X-ray: A chest x-ray will show the size of your heart and any fluid in the heart and lungs.
    • CT scan: A CT or CAT scan uses a computer-operated x-ray to take pictures of the heart.
    • MRI: An MRI is another way to create an image of the heart. An MRI can show how the heart is functioning.
    • VQ scan: A ventilation (V) and perfusion (Q) test shows the airways and blood vessels in the lungs and provides information about how well your lungs are working.
    • Spirometry: A spirometer measures the volume of air in the lungs and the speed at which the air is inhaled and exhaled.

    You may not need every test, but our disability lawyers recommend that you provide as much supporting information as possible with your SSDI application.

    Learn more about applying for SSDI in Massachusetts; request a free copy of disability benefits attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. If you have questions about your individual situation, please call Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • Does sleep apnea qualify for Social Security Disability?

    More than 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, although most are undiagnosed and untreated. 

    Types of Sleep Apnea

    There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.  Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and is characterized by loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. It occurs when the throat muscles relax and interfere with air flow. In a single hour, a person can have more than 30 interruptions in breathing. These are called "apneic events.” 

    Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain neglects to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. Some people have a combination of both types of sleep apnea. 

    Sleep Apnea Symptoms

    Sleep apnea can cause early-morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and sleepiness. The biggest risk is falling asleep while driving. Most people can manage sleep apnea by losing weight, avoiding alcohol, stopping smoking, and using a breathing machine called a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure device.

    However, there are people whose apnea cannot be treated. Those people may qualify for SSDI if their symptoms are severe enough to prevent them from working.

    Severe sleep apnea symptoms that may qualify for disability benefits:

    • Personality changes
    • Memory problems
    • Severe mood swings, extreme irritability, and other disturbances in mood
    • Hallucinations, delusions and other cognitive disturbances 
    • Emotional instability 
    • Poor impulse control 
    • A loss of 15 I.Q. points or more
    • Cor Pulmonale, a heart condition caused by years of untreated sleep apnea

    Applying for Disability Benefits for Sleep Apnea

    When you apply for SSDI, the Social Security Administration will conduct an assessment of your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.” Your RFC details what you are capable of doing despite your impairment and is used to determine what kind of work you can do. It will include your doctor’s opinion of your capabilities and restrictions, including comments on how the sleep apnea affects your mental abilities. You should document any other health problems in your application. Your RFC considers ALL your disabilities.

    If you have questions about your own situation, please contact the New Hampshire SSDI attorneys at Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I have vertigo from Meniere’s disease. Are Social Security disability benefits available for Meniere’s disease?

    Meniere’s disease is a medical condition that affects the inner ear. It occurs when the pressure of the fluid in the canals of the inner ear gets too high. The four main symptoms are:

    • Loss of hearing
    • Pressure in the ear
    • Tinnitus (ringing or other sound in the ear)
    • Vertigo

    The Social Security Administration includes Meniere’s disease under category 2.07, Disturbance of Labyrinthine-vestibular Function. To qualify for SSDI benefits for Meniere's disease, one must have frequent attacks of vertigo, tinnitus, and progressive loss of hearing as established by audiometry. You must show the results of a comprehensive neuro-otolaryngologic (ear/nose/throat) examination that includes caloric or other vestibular tests of the inner ear and hearing tests. If you meet the criteria of the SSA’s vestibular balance disability listing, you will automatically be granted disability benefits, as long as you meet the other requirements for approval for SSDI.

    • You do not earn more than $1,040 per month from employment.
    • Your condition interferes with your ability to hold a job.
    • You can no longer do the jobs you did in the past.
    • You cannot do any other type of work.

    If you don’t meet the requirements for SSDI for Meniere’s disease, you may still qualify with a “medical-vocational allowance.”  A medical-vocational allowance is used when a disability does not meet the SSA’s criteria for approval, but is still serious enough to prevent the applicant from engaging in substantial gainful employment (earning more than $1,040 per month). Any other disabilities or symptoms can be included in your evaluation.

    Learn more about the SSDI application process in Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. To discuss your claim with one of our New England SSDI lawyers, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • What is meant by "legally blind"?

    Have you ever heard someone say that they are legally blind because they cannot see to drive without glasses or contact lenses? Have you wondered how someone can be blind if they can see? 

    In fact, “legally blind” refers to one’s best, corrected vision. The Social Security Administration and other government agencies consider a person legally blind when he or she has a best, corrected vision of no more than 20/200 in their best seeing eye. As long as your vision can be corrected to 20/200 with any type of visual aid, you are not considered legally blind.

    To be legally blind, one of the following must be true:

    • You must have a corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in your best seeing eye.
    • Your visual field must be limited to only 20 degrees.

    What does this mean?

    A person with perfect, 20/20 vision can see a certain amount of detail in an object when standing 200 feet away. A person with 20/200 vision must stand 20 feet away to see the same level of detail. A legally blind person has problems seeing objects that are far away or very close.

    A normal person has a visual field of 180 degrees. If you have a normal visual field, you can see what is in front of you, even if it is to one side. A person with a visual field of only 20 degrees has tunnel vision.  He who can be considered legally blind cannot see someone standing next to their shoulder. Someone with tunnel vision may be able to read, but will not be able to drive. 

    Only ten percent of those who are legally blind have no vision.

    The definition of legal blindness determines who is able to drive and who is able to receive Social Security disability benefits. 

    If you have additional questions about disability benefits for visual impairments, request a free copy of Boston disability lawyer John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847. The initial consultation is free.

  • I heard that the Social Security Administration has special rules for people who are blind or have low vision?

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that blindness has a severe impact on a person’s ability to work and keep a job. For this reason, the SSA has a number of special rules for those who are blind.

    • A higher monthly earning limit: Work incentives make it easier for those who receive disability benefits to work. If you are not blind, you may earn up to $1,040 a month and still qualify for SSDI. If you are legally blind, you may earn $1,740. If you are self-employed, the amount of time you spend working is not held against you. You may continue to receive SSDI, as long as your net monthly profit averages $1,740 or less.
    • Ability to work when over age 55:  There are special guidelines for those who are both legally blind and age 55 or older. If a person who meets these conditions earns more than $1,740 a month and is working at a lower skill level than before age 55, benefits are suspended rather than terminated. The applicant may receive benefits whenever his income falls below $1,740 a month.

    For more information on disability benefits for vision loss, request a free copy of Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. If you have further questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please contact the Boston disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I am applying for SSDI for a heart condition. The Social Security Administration has asked me to take an exercise test. Why do I need an exercise test?

    There are many heart conditions that potentially could qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). These conditions, and the criteria for approval, are listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments under Section 4.00, Cardiovascular System.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses test results as part of the criteria to determine if a disability qualifies an applicant for SSDI. An exercise test is one such test, commonly used for determining the severity of heart conditions.

    Exercise tests help doctors determine how much your heart condition affects your ability to live an active life. Exercise tests involve using common gym equipment, such as treadmills and exercise bicycles, to measure how the heart responds to physical activity. There are several types of exercise tests.

    Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT): The exercise tolerance test measures the heart’s performance during exercise. The patient is asked to walk or ride a bike while the doctor takes an ECG. The ETT is used to test the severity of ischemic heart disease or chronic heart failure.

    Doppler test: The Doppler test uses ultrasound to measure blood flow in the legs while a patient walks on a treadmill. This test is used for patients with peripheral vascular or peripheral arterial disease, and may be used to determine if a patient has chronic heart failure.

    For some people with severe heart conditions, exercise tests are dangerous. If you have concerns about taking an exercise test, please speak with your doctor. If you feel any discomfort during the test, let your doctor know immediately.

    Do you have additional questions about applying for SSDI for a heart condition? Request a free copy of our book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I have heart failure and cannot do strenuous work. My work history is mostly office jobs. Does this mean I will not qualify for SSDI?

    Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body and the muscles and organs don’t receive enough oxygen to perform as they should. People with heart failure often find it difficult to work. They tire easily and may lack the stamina and endurance to perform even sedentary work. Social Security Disability (SSDI) often is a good option for those who no longer can work for pay because of heart failure.

    To qualify for SSDI for heart failure, you need to prove that your condition makes it impossible for you to perform any of the jobs you have done for pay in the last 15 years. If you have mostly held jobs that required physical labor, it will be relatively easy to document that you no longer can do those jobs. However, it won’t be as easy to show that you can’t perform any sedentary jobs.

    While sedentary jobs are not as physical as other work situations, you may be required to lift boxes of files or stand and walk on a regular basis. Your job may involve a lot of stress, a condition that may worsen your heart disease.

    Many sedentary jobs require:

    • The ability to lift at least 10 pounds
    • The ability to carry files, documents, and office supplies
    • The ability to stand for 2 hours in an 8 hour work day
    • The ability to sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour work day
    • The ability to attend work regularly

    You will need to speak with your doctor about the demands of your job. Ask your doctor for a letter that explicitly states all restrictions on your physical activity, including your ability to lift, carry, sit, stand, and walk. Ask your doctor to state how much stress you can handle and whether he believes stress contributed to your heart condition.

    It is always a good idea to have a Boston Social Security Disability attorney review your application before you file it. Most people are denied the first time they apply, even if they qualify for benefits. If you are denied SSDI, a Massachusetts SSDI lawyer can help you file an appeal and obtain the documentation needed to support your disability claim. To learn more, request a free copy of our book, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I heard it is very hard to receive SSDI for fibromyalgia. Many people in my support group say they have been denied Social Security benefits. Is SSDI as hard to obtain as it sounds?

    Fibromyalgia is the second most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Persons with fibromyalgia suffer widespread muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Because fibromyalgia can make it difficult for a person to engage in many life activities, it can lead to depression and social isolation.

    In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied most applications in which the only diagnosis was fibromyalgia. In part, this was because of conflicts within the medical community. While fibromyalgia certainly can be debilitating, the label “fibromyalgia” refers to a list of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Many family doctors used fibromyalgia as a catch-all diagnosis, when no cause for symptoms could be found.

    Because of this, disability examiners were not sure how to classify the disorder. Applications were more likely to be approved if the applicant had a second diagnosis, especially a musculoskeletal disability such as rheumatoid arthritis or degenerative disc disease.

    Fibromyalgia is becoming better understood. While the cause of fibromyalgia still is unknown, doctors have found differences in the blood work and brain chemistry of those with fibromyalgia. This allows a more certain diagnosis.

    In July 2012, the Social Security issued a ruling allowing fibromyalgia to be a medically determinable impairment (MDI) if the applicant meets certain conditions.

    In order for fibromyalgia to qualify as an MDI, the following must be true:

    • There must be medical documentation of chronic widespread pain, including pain in the back, neck, or chest. 
    • The doctor must document that he has ruled out other diseases that may cause the same symptoms through lab tests and other medical exams.

    In addition, one of the following must be true and well-documented:

    • There is pain in at least 11 of 18 possible tender point areas of the body. The tender points must occur on both sides of the body. There must be tender points both above and below the waist. Or,
    • The patient must exhibit a minimum of six fibromyalgia symptoms, including: fatigue, non-restorative sleep, cognitive or memory problems, depression, anxiety, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

    Need help? Our SSDI attorneys can help you fill out your application and gather the documentation you need to support your SSDI claim. To learn more, request a free copy of Massachusetts disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery - The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I recently found out I have breast cancer. It looks like my treatment will take a lot of time over the next three months. Is it possible to keep working while undergoing treatment for breast cancer?

    It is amazing how many appointments can be needed to treat cancer. While you need your paycheck and your insurance, you may wonder how you can undergo chemotherapy and radiation and still keep your job. You may also be concerned that the side effects of chemotherapy will prevent you from working. You might be surprised to learn that many women do continue to work even while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

    You've probably seen movies in which the chemotherapy made the patient more ill than the cancer did. The side effects that you will experience will depend on the types of medications you are given, their dosages, and the length of treatment. The most common side effects of chemotherapy include:

    • Fatigue
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Lack of appetite
    • Hair loss
    • Mouth sores
    • Increased risk of infection
    • Bruising or bleeding
    • Changes in menstrual cycles

    Ask your doctor about the side effects associated with your specific chemotherapy medications and how they can best be managed. Schedule accordingly. For instance, if you will be undergoing weekly chemotherapy that will leave you tired and nauseated for about 24 hours after treatment, you might want to consider scheduling your treatments for Friday nights. Then you would have the weekend to rest.

    If you have severe side effects from chemotherapy, you will need to temporarily adjust your schedule. You may even have to take time off from work. This is a big deal, especially if you are dependent on your job for health care benefits and to make ends meet.

    Before talking to your supervisor, make sure you know your employer's sick leave policy. Employers are required by federal law to provide “reasonable accommodations” for anyone with a disability. When cancer affects your ability to participate in life activities, it qualifies as a disability. Reasonable accommodation for cancer can include:

    • Providing an altered work schedule or flextime
    • Granting time off for doctor visits, treatment, and recovery from treatment
    • Allowing short breaks during the workday so you can rest
    • Temporarily reassigning some of your tasks to another employee
    • Allowing job sharing
    • Making changes to the workplace environment (such as turning up the heat or offering a padded chair) to increase comfort
    • Allowing an employee to work from home
    • Allowing a leave of absence

    When you tell your boss about your diagnosis, be clear that you want to keep working. Make a list of reasonable accommodations that will help you do your job while you recover. The request cannot cause your employer “undue hardship”; however, most accommodations cost less than $500.

    If the effects of the cancer or its treatment become severe, you may need to take time off. People who receive a cancer diagnosis are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work for medical reasons. The 12 weeks do not have to be continuous.

    To qualify for FMLA, you must meet the following conditions:

    • You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before the FMLA request.
    • You must have worked more than 1,250 hours in that calendar year.
    • Your employer must have at least 50 employees.

    If you have to take leave, short-term disability insurance can help you make ends meet. If your cancer keeps you out of work for a year or longer, you may want to look into Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). For more information about applying for SSDI for breast cancer, request a free copy of Boston Social Security attorney John Keefe’s book titled Unlocking the Mystery – The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.