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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  • 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.

    What is 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. 

    Diagnosing Celiac Disease

    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.

    Receiving Disability Benefits for Celiac Disease

    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.

    Request a Free Consultation 

    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.

  • 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.

    Ask a Boston Disability Lawyer

    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 Boston 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

    Disability Benefits for Meniere's Disease

    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.

    Qualify with a Medical-Vocational Allowance

    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.

    Consult a Disability Benefit Lawyer

    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? 

    What Does It Mean To Be "Legally Blind"?

    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 is 20/20 Vision?

    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.

    How Does This Affect Social Security Disability Benefits?

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

    Contact a Boston Disability Lawyer

    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.

  • Does heart failure qualify for SSDI for office jobs?

    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.

    How To Qualify After 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

    Consult Your Doctor

    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.

    Request a Free Consultation

    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.

  • Applying For SSI and SSDI With Autism

    Autism is listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of qualifying conditions. To receive disability benefits for autism, you must meet certain medical requirements.

    • You must not be working. If you earn more than $1,000 a month, you will not qualify for disability benefits.
    • Your autism must be severe enough to limit your ability to work for pay.
    • You must meet certain requirements listed on the Social Security Administration’s list of disabilities under section 12.10 Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders, including medical documentation of your diagnosis showing:
    1. Difficulties in social interaction
    2. Difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication and in imaginative activity
    3. Restricted range of activities and interests
    4. Any episodes of decompensation
    • You must have documentation that demonstrates how these symptoms restrict your activities of daily living, social functioning, ability to maintain concentration, persistence, or pace

    Your Age Matters For SSI

    Many young adults with autism qualify for SSI. If you received SSI for autism as a child, you will need to reapply on your 18th birthday. If you did not receive SSI as a child because your family’s income was too high, you will be able to apply based on your assets once you turn 18.

    Most people with autism do not qualify for SSDI. To apply for SSDI, you must have held a job for a significant period in the past. Since autism is present at birth, having a work history would make it hard to prove that your autism affects your ability to work.

    Contact a Disability Lawyer Today

    Getting the documentation you need to support an SSI or SSDI claim can be a challenge. Most people are rejected the first time they apply for disability benefits. Don’t give up. Get the facts in Massachusetts disability lawyer 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 learned that I have schizophrenia. My boss said I can no longer do my job and suggested that I apply for SSDI. Can schizophrenia keep me from getting a job?

    Schizophrenia is a lifelong psychological disorder that generally manifests in early adulthood. The symptoms of schizophrenia vary from person to person, but can include:

    • Hallucinations
    • Delusions
    • Paranoia
    • Odd ways of speaking
    • Strange behavior
    • Lack of emotional expression
    • Disorganized behavior
    • Loss of interest in everyday activities
    • Difficulties with cognitive function, including problems with memory, thought, and speech

    Some symptoms can make it difficult to keep a job because they make employers, co-workers and customers uncomfortable. Other symptoms, such as loss of memory, can make it difficult to do a job effectively, even if you did that job for many years before the onset of your schizophrenia. Paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations can sometimes make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a person with schizophrenia to function in the outside world.

    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a benefit that is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSDI is available only when a person becomes disabled and is no longer able to work for pay. SSDI is available for those with physical or mental disabilities.

    If you are suffering from schizophrenia and have lost your job or you’re experiencing difficulty finding a job because of your symptoms, you might qualify for SSDI for schizophrenia. However, the application process can be overwhelming. Don’t despair. Help is available. The Social Security disability attorneys at Keefe Disability Law can help you with the SSDI application process. To learn more, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847 and ask to schedule a free consultation.

  • I am applying for SSDI for a mental illness and have been asked to see a psychologist for a mental examination. What should I do to prepare?

    To approve your application for SSDI, the Social Security Administration must be able to show that you have a disability and that the disability is preventing you from being able to work for pay. If your medical records are incomplete or there just isn’t enough information about your disability in your medical record, the SSA will send you to an independent doctor for additional testing.

    You know that you have a problem. You may have listed the symptoms of your mental illness on your application, but you need medical documentation. Whether you saw a doctor in the past but it’s been more than 60 days since you’ve sought treatment, or you never had treatment because of a lack of insurance, the purpose of the examination is to obtain the medical documentation necessary to determine whether you have a disability and to inform the Social Security Administration about your current mental state. Without a recent medical evaluation, your case cannot be decided.

    A mental examination is a one-time visit with a psychologist or psychiatrist. There is no cost to you. The SSA pays all expenses related to the examination.

    There are three possible types of examinations:

    1. IQ testing or memory testing: This type of testing is used for learning disabilities, organic brain disorders, brain injuries, and mental retardation.
    2. Psychiatric testing: Psychiatric testing is often used to evaluate an applicant for personality and mood disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
    3. Mental status examination: This test is used to evaluate the mental condition of those suffering from depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.

    During the examination, be honest and give the test your best effort. If you are dishonest or try to fake a disability, the doctor is required report his suspicions to the SSA.

    After the examination, the doctor who performed the test will have 10 days to send the results to the SSA. The doctor’s report will contain information about your ability to follow directions and remember instructions and your ability to deal with coworkers, supervisors, and the stress of work.

    Do you have additional questions about applying for SSDI for a mental disability? Request a free copy of disability attorney John Keefe’s book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

  • I was recently diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia. What can I expect in the treatment, and should I apply for benefits now?

    As New England Social Security disability specialists, we always urge our clients to begin the application process as soon as they possibly can. Approval can take months, and many initial claims are denied the first time around.

    You are correct in assuming that the treatment for your leukemia can be lengthy. If you are in early-stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you might not begin treatment for a while. Your doctors will closely monitor you for signs of progression of the disease.

    However, if you have reached the intermediate or advanced stages, your treatment will probably be immediate and aggressive. Most patients with leukemia will be given chemotherapy, which can be debilitating during its course.

    In addition, you may be treated with radiation therapy, targeted therapy, biological therapy, and even a stem cell transplant. Each, of course, has its own timeline and recovery period.

    While some patients continue treatment indefinitely, some receive the “all clear” to go back to work at the end of the treatment period. Either way, months and even sometimes years will pass as the leukemia battle is waged and you will be unable to work.

    For these reasons, we urge you to start educating yourself now about your disease and the possible outcomes. We also suggest that you begin the SSA disability application process now.

    Keefe Disability Law has helped many people with their New England SSA disability applications and appeals. Give us a call toll free at 888-904-6847 to discuss your options. We also offer a free report, “The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability.” Order yours today by clicking the sidebar link on this page.

  • If I have an angina attack, does that mean I am about to have a heart attack?

    When you have an episode of angina, it means that one of the muscles in your heart is temporarily not getting enough blood. Usually, this happens when you are exercising or going up a set of stairs. While you should never be complacent about chest pain, angina itself is not a heart attack.

    Angina does, however, mean that you are suffering from coronary artery disease and being aware of the symptoms and feelings of your stable angina episodes will help you to recognize if something more serious is going on. 

    A heart attack is different from angina and means that the blood flow to some part of your heart is suddenly cut off. While symptoms can vary greatly among people, with a heart attack, the chest pain lasts longer, is more severe, and previously prescribed medications do not help.

    If you have angina, you are at a greater risk of heart attack than those who don’t. Also, the risk of a heart attack increases if your angina patterns change.  If your episodes become longer, happen without any exercise, or are more frequent, you need to seek medical attention immediately.

    Knowing your condition and having it treated are the best precautions against heart attack. And if you are having trouble working, or have had to quit your job, you may want to consider applying for disability in Massachusetts.

    Contact Keefe Disability Law in the Boston area for advice and help with your disability needs. You can reach our Massachusetts disability benefit attorneys toll-free at 888-904-6847 or fill out the confidential form online for a quick response.

  • I was recently injured at work in Boston and expect to be disabled for at least the next year. Is there anything I can do to improve my chances of getting my SSA disability claim approved?

    Yes, there are definitely ways to improve your chances of being approved for SSA disability benefits. In theory, the Social Security Administration maintains the disability program to help people just like you. But, as we hear on the news and from friends, this program is cumbersome, and applicants often wait long periods of time to be approved.

    In order to help yourself, you might consider the following suggestions:

    • Don’t wait another minute to apply. Because it may take some time to get your case approved, you need to get into the system just as soon as possible.
    • Be absolutely honest and complete about the condition(s) that disable(s) you. Some people are embarrassed to mention psychiatric problems or learning disabilities. This is a mistake, as the SSA disability program will consider more than one condition in making a determination. For instance, if you suffer from depression and have a spinal cord injury, both conditions will be taken into consideration.
    • Most important, get some help. Hiring an attorney either to help you apply or to work through the appeals process will give you the edge. You do not understand the complicated workings of the system, but an experienced disability attorney does. 

    The Massachusetts disability attorneys at Keefe Disability Law have the reputation, experience and perseverance to take you through the entire SSA disability process. Call us today toll free at 888-904-6847 to schedule a free case consultation. Or, you can simply fill out the form on this page and we will contact you within 24 hours.