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

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

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  • What is included in a consultative examination report?

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

    Required Consultative Exam Report Content

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

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

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

    Additional Consultative Exam Report Content for Specific Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

    What Happens After You Receive a Consultative Exam Report

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Definition of Disability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Jobs Change Over Time

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

    Jobs in the National Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What Else You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Eligibility

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

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


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

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

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

    Heart Transplant Complications

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

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

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

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

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

    Are You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Symptoms of AFib

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

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

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

    Getting SSDI With AFib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    You Will Need Medical Evidence

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

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

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

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

    What Are Psychotherapy Notes?

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

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

    Psychotherapy Notes Are Not Medical Evidence

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

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

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

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

    Protect Your Privacy and Your Social Security Disability Eligibility

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

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


  • Can I get Social Security disability benefits if I’ve been diagnosed with an affective disorder?

    Yes, if you suffer from an affective disorder and you can prove that you meet the eligibility criteria for Social Security disability then you may be able to recover monthly benefits.

    The First Question Is Whether You Have an Affective Disorder

    An affective disorder is not one specific disease. Instead, it is a term used to describe a set of psychiatric diseases that can range from mild to severe, with symptoms varying between individuals. Affective disorders are also sometimes referred to as mood disorders. There are three main types of affective disorders, including the following:

    • DepressionAlso known as major depressive disorder, this condition typically causes people to feel extreme sadness and hopelessness. Episodes can last for several days or can continue for weeks or months.
    • Bipolar disorder. This condition results in people experiencing periods of depression followed by periods of mania. Mania occurs when you feel extremely positive and active. Unfortunately, mania is not always good. Instead, it can make you feel irritable, aggressive, impulsive, and even delusional. Bipolar disorders can be further broken down into different classes of the disease according to the severity of the depression and mania, as well as how often the swing between the two moods occurs.
    • Anxiety disorders. Like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders come in many different forms. These include social anxiety caused by social situations, post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a traumatic event, generalized anxiety disorder which does not have one particular cause, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    While anxiety is a type of affective disorder, the Social Security Administration categorizes anxiety disorders differently than depression and bipolar disorders. If you are applying for benefits then it is important to know which Social Security disability listing of impairment may be relevant to your claim.

    The Next Question Is Whether You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits Because of Your Affective Disorder

    Unfortunately, when affective disorders are severe enough, it can become difficult or impossible for a person to carry out activities of daily living and to work. Social Security disability benefits may be available to provide some relief from this financial burden—if you qualify.

    Just as there are different types of affective disorders, there are different ways to qualify for Social Security disability if you are diagnosed with an affective disorder. For example, you may qualify for disability benefits if:

    You Meet the Requirements in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments

    Affective disorders are included in Section 12.00 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments which covers mental disorders. You may satisfy the requirements for an affective disorder pursuant to a specific listing if one of the following is true:

    • You have depressive disorder and you meet the requirements in Section 12.04A(1). To do this, you must have medical documentation that shows that you experience five or more of the following symptoms: depressed mood, diminished interest in almost all activities, appetite disturbance with a change in your weight, sleep disturbance, observable psychomotor agitation or retardation, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or thinking, and thoughts of suicide or death.
    • You have bipolar disorder and you meet the requirements in Section 12.04A(2). To meet this requirement, you must have medical documentation that proves that you experience three or more of the following symptoms: pressured speech, flight of ideas, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized, or an increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.
    • You have anxiety disorder and you meet the requirements in Section 12.06A(1). To qualify pursuant to this listing, you must have medical documentation that proves that you have at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, tiring easily, having difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance.
    • You have panic disorder and you meet the requirements in Section 12.06A(2). To qualify for benefits under this listing, you must have medical documentation that one of the following is true: you have panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about having more panic attacks or the consequences of panic attacks, or you have a disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations.
    • You have obsessive-compulsive disorder and you meet the requirements in Section 12.06A(3). You will qualify for benefits under this listing if you have medical documentation to prove that one of the following is true: you have an involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts or you have repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.

    In order to qualify for benefits pursuant to any of these listings, you must also prove that one of the following is true:

    • You have an extreme limitation in one, or a marked limitation in two, of the following four areas of mental functioning: (1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and (4) adapting or managing yourself.
    • Your affective disorder is serious and persistent. That means that you have a medically documented history of the disorder for a period of at least two years and there is evidence—that despite ongoing medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support, and a highly structured setting that diminishes your symptoms—you still have a minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or demands that are not part of your daily life.

    These are tough requirements to meet and you may be unable to work because of your disability—even if you do not meet the technical requirements in the Listing of Impairments.

    You May Qualify for Benefits Because of the Severity of Your Affective Disorder

    Even if you do not meet the requirements in one of the listings described above, you may still qualify for benefits if your symptoms are equal in severity to another listing or if you are unable to work because of the significant way that your condition impacts your ability to work.

    Get the Help You Need Before You Apply for Benefits

    Obtaining Social Security disability benefits is important for many people suffering from affective disorders. You may need these benefits if you are unable to earn a living. Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you through this process. We encourage you to contact us today for a free consultation and to download our free report, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, to learn more.


  • I got a call from Texas Disability Determination Services asking me to see a doctor before a decision is made on my Social Security disability application. Do I have to attend this appointment?

    Social Security Disability and Consultative ExamsGenerally, yes, if you want your application for Social Security disability benefits to be approved then you need to comply with the Disability Determination Services (DDS) request that you attend a consultative medical exam. This exam will not cost you any money, but before you see any doctor for any reason, it is important to understand the purpose of the appointment and your rights.

    Who Performs a Consultative Exam?

    The doctor who you usually see may be the one who performs your consultative exam. It is the Social Security Administration’s policy that the treating source (or your regular doctor) perform the consultative exam if the doctor is:

    • Qualified and able to perform the exam or tests requested.
    • Willing to do the exam or tests for the fee schedule payment provided by the Social Security Administration.
    • One who generally furnishes complete and timely reports.

    However, in some cases DDS may request that an independent medical provider conduct the consultative exam or test. This may occur if one of the following things is true:

    • Your regular doctor does not want to perform the exam.
    • There are conflicts or inconsistencies in your file that can’t be resolved by your regular doctor.
    • You prefer to have someone else perform the exam and you have a good reason for having this preference.
    • Prior experience indicates that your regular doctor may not be a productive source for getting the information sought in the consultative exam.

    If a doctor other than your own is selected to perform your consultative exam, then that selection should be based on the doctor’s ability to perform the requested tests or specific exam, the doctor’s appointment availability, and the distance you must travel to get to the doctor.

    What Happens at a Consultative Exam

    DDS must be clear about the additional medical evidence that it needs to make a determination about your eligibility. In some cases a full exam may be needed. However, in other cases one test (such as an X-ray or EKG) may be all that is needed. You should understand the scope of the consultative exam before you attend your scheduled appointment.

    Even though the scope of the consultative exam may be limited, the consultative exam report must contain specific information. Specifically, the Social Security Administration requires the report to include:

    • Your claim number and a physical description of you.
    • Your medical history.
    • The results of your physical examination and laboratory findings.
    • The examiner’s medical conclusions.

    The report must be complete enough to allow a reviewer to determine what your disability is, how severe it is, how long it is expected to last, and how it impacts your ability to work. Additionally, it must be consistent. However, it should not include an opinion as to whether you are disabled as that term is defined by Social Security disability law. If the report is found to be incomplete or inconsistent then it will be sent back to the doctor and a determination about your Social Security disability claim may be delayed.

    What to Know Before You Go to a Consultative Exam

    The failure to attend a consultative exam may result in your Social Security disability claim being denied. While you need to attend the appointment, you also deserve to understand what is happening with your claim before, during, and after a consultative exam.

    During the exam, all of your questions should be answered. The doctor treating you should explain what he is doing and why. If you do not speak English then an interpreter will be provided to you during your exam. You will not have to pay for the interpreter’s services.

    Before you attend the consultative exam, and afterward, your Social Security disability lawyer will be available to help you with your application for benefits. The consultative exam is just one part of the application process. We will use the information from your exam, and all other applicable information, to help you get the benefits that you deserve. Please contact us today via this website or by phone to learn more about protecting your rights.


  • What is the Activities of Daily Living questionnaire?

    The Social Security Administration wants to know if your disability prevents you from working. In order to make this critical assessment that will significantly impact your Social Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire and Social Security Disability BenefitsSecurity disability eligibility, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may ask that you fill out an Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire.

    The purpose of the questionnaire is to better assess how your physical and mental impairments impact your daily life. While your medical records allow the SSA to evaluate your medical diagnoses, this questionnaire allows them to assess how the diagnoses impact your life on a day-to-day basis. Your answers will help determine whether you have functional limitations that impact your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. Learn more about substantial gainful activity in our other article.

    What Is Included in the Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire?

    The Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire is more formally known as Function Report – Adult – Form SSA-3373-BK. This form asks about your abilities and limitations in performing tasks such as caring for yourself and your household.

    Some of the questions that you can expect on the form include:

    • Do you live alone or with other people?
    • How does your disability limit your ability to work?
    • What do you do on a typical day, starting from the time you wake up until the time you go to             bed?
    • Do you take care of other people—such as children, a spouse, parents, other relatives, or pets?          What do you do for them? Do you have any help from anyone else?
    • What were you able to do before you became disabled that you cannot do now?
    • Does your disability affect your sleep?
    • Does your disability affect your ability to get dressed, bathe yourself, shave, use the toilet, or          otherwise take care of yourself?
    • Do you need help or reminders to take medication?
    • Do you prepare your own meals?
    • Are you able to do household chores? Are there any household chores that you need help                   with?
    • How often do you go outside?
    • Do you drive?
    • Can you go out alone?
    • Can you shop? Can you do it independently?
    • Are you able to pay your own bills and manage your own money?
    • Do you have hobbies, interests, and activities that you enjoy on a regular basis?
    • Do you spend time with others? In what situations? Do you have trouble getting along with               people?
    • What abilities does your disability impact? Examples include lifting, walking, concentrating,               using hands, talking, sitting, and other important abilities.
    • How far can you walk before you need to rest?
    • How long can you pay attention?
    • Do you finish what you start?
    • Can you follow verbal or written instructions?
    • Do you get along with authority figures?
    • Have you ever been fired because you had trouble getting along with others?
    • How well do you handle stress and changes in routine?
    • Do you use any assistive devices (such as hearing aids or crutches, for example)?
    • Do you take any medications? What are the side effects of those medications?

    If you answer yes, or in such a way as to indicate that you are disabled, then you will be asked to further explain your limitations or condition in a short answer format. Additionally, there is space at the bottom of the questionnaire for you to add in information that was not included in the routine questions.

    Tips for Completing the Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire

    The good news is that you are the person in the best position to answer questions about what you do on a typical day. When you complete the form it is important to:

    • Be honest. You do not want to exaggerate or understate your limitations and abilities.
    • Give as many details as you can so that the person reading the questionnaire gets an accurate         idea of what your life is like on a daily basis.

    Technically, this form is voluntary. However, if you fail to fill it out, then the SSA may not be able to find you eligible for Social Security disability benefits. While you are the one who must fill out the form, it should be done in consultation with your Social Security disability lawyer who can help you complete your entire Social Security disability application.

    For more information, or to get started with your own Social Security disability claim, please contact us today via this website or by phone to schedule your initial consultation. Additionally, we encourage you to download a FREE copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, to learn more today.


  • I have a slipped disk and I am in excruciating pain. Am I eligible for Social Security disability benefits?

    Slipped Discs and Social Security Disability BenefitsYou have been through physical therapy and you have followed your doctor’s recommendations concerning back surgery. You have done everything that you are supposed to do, but you are still in pain, you are still unable to work, and you are still living with a disability.

    A slipped disc is one of the most painful back problems you can experience. The sharp pain, limited range of mobility in your shoulders and hips, and the radiating tenderness that shoots down your arms or legs are enough to hold even the healthiest people back from work. It can make manual labor and sitting for long periods of time impossible—it can leave you unable to do your job.

    Obtaining Social Security Disability for a Slipped Disc

    You may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if your condition is expected to last for more than one year, if you have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability and if one of the following is true:

    • You meet one of the conditions in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. In some cases, you may meet the requirements of Section 1.04: Disorders of the Spine. Most often, the slipped, bulging, or herniated disc must compromise a nerve root in the spinal cord and result in: (a) pain, limitation of motion of the spine, or motor loss with sensory or reflex loss, or (b) spinal arachnoiditis, or (c) lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication.
    • Your condition is equal in severity to a specific condition in the Listing of Impairments. If you do not meet any specific requirement in the Blue Book, but your medical condition has the same effect on your life as another condition in the Blue Book, then you may qualify for benefits.
    • You are unable to work. If your condition leaves you with a residual functional capacity that makes you unable to work then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will consider your physical condition, work experience, education level, age, and job skills when deciding whether you can work a sedentary or manual job.

    If you believe that you qualify for benefits in an any of these ways, then you may want to pursue Social Security disability benefits.

    Helpful Tips for Getting the Benefits That You Deserve

    The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied. We say that not to scare you, but instead to highlight the importance of being prepared before you file a claim. Before you send anything to the Social Security Administration, it is important to:

    • Gather evidence. Pull together as much evidence as you can about your condition and the impact it is having on your life. This evidence can include doctor’s notes, imaging tests, a journal of your symptoms, work records that cite how your injury stopped you from working, and more.
    • Talk to an attorney. Working with an attorney who is knowledgeable in federal disability law can save you time and help you increase your chances of getting your application approved. An attorney can make sure that your application is complete so that you submit a strong claim that has a good chance of being approved.
    • Put your application together. With all of the evidence in hand, put your application together to show specifics about how your injury stops you from working. The Social Security Administration must see that you are disabled to the point that you cannot perform sedentary or manual labor tasks. Your lawyer can help you with this task.

    When it comes to serious back pain from a slipped or bulging disc, having a Social Security disability attorney on your side gives you invaluable support. You do not have to do this alone. Instead, we encourage you to learn more about your rights and about how to protect your disability benefits by reading our free book, The 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability, and by contacting us directly for a confidential consultation.


  • Can I get Social Security disability benefits for asthma?

    Asthma and Social Security Disability BenefitsIt 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: 

    • Coughing
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Tightness in the chest
    • Chest pain
    • Lightheadedness

    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.


  • What happens if I become disabled before I reach retirement age?

    Retiring Before Retirement AgeYou 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 and SSDI benefitsSarcoidosis 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?

    disability for gestational diabetesThe 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.

    If your asthma severely limits your ability to carry out your job, you may qualify for disability paymentsAsthma 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.

    medical illustration of adrenal glandsWhat 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
    • Bruising
    • 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?

    Medications and paper with cardiomyopathy printed on itThe 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.

  • 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.