Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comparing SSI and SSDI Benefits


The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides benefits to disabled individuals under 2 programs: 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and

Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

  To qualify for either  program your condition must be terminal, or prevent you working for 1 year or more. 

  SSDI is like insurance you have paid into during your past employment. For SSDI you must have earned work credits.  This requirement is generally met if you have worked at least 5 out of the past 10 years.  You also must be a legal resident of the U.S., and below retirement age.  Ask your lawyer if you qualify.   

For SSI you must not make more than $674 per month ($1011 for a couple).  Certain states increase these amounts.  You also can not have more than $2000 in resources ($3000 for a couple).  Certain resources, like your home and car, are not counted.  You must be a U.S. citizen (with limited exceptions), but any age may apply. 

            SSDI comes with Medicare.  SSI comes with Medicaid (or MediCal in California).  There is a 2 year waiting period from SSDI award for your Medicare to start, but Medicaid starts right when you get SSI.  SSDI also provides benefits to certain family members, while SSI does not.

            It is possible to get benefits under both programs, so apply for both when filing a disability claim with the SSA.  Ask your lawyer or the SSA to see if you qualify.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Prove Mental Illness in a Social Security Application

There is no question that people who suffer from mental illnesses have difficulty finding and maintaining employment in San Francisco.  Many mental illnesses, such as clinic depression or bi-polar disorder, can have a major effect on one’s ability to interact with others, follow directions and stay on task.  These qualities are necessary for most individuals to find employment and avoid getting fired.
Although all doctors acknowledge the existence of mental disorders, not all of them are disabling.  When a person claims that they are disabled due to a mental condition, there are many complex processes that the Social Security Administration will go through in order to determine whether or not your mental condition is truly “disabling.”  The following questions address some of the things that Social Security will consider when evaluating a mental illness claim.
Can the mental condition be successfully treated using medication or therapy?
If someone alleges that they have a mental disability but have never been treated for it, then there is very little chance that they will receive disability benefits. 
If you are being treated for a mental illness the next question is, can the illness be treated? Many doctors are weary about the effects of certain medications and may try to use therapy as a means of treatment first.  If this is unsuccessful, then your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist.
 There are numerous medications that psychiatrists can try before determining that your mental illness is not treatable.  Just because one medication does not work does not necessarily mean that another will not.  Everyone responds to medications differently and doctors generally have no other way to determine which one is best for you other than by trial and error.
Do drugs and alcohol affect a mental disability?
Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse can cause a person to have similar symptoms as someone with a mental illness.  For that reason a person using drugs and/or alcohol may have a difficult time winning their disability claim.
One of the steps to proving a person’s disability involves determining the severity of the person’s impairments.  This step can be difficult if there is any evidence of drug/alcohol abuse in the individual’s medical records.  If you have a history of substance abuse and you currently have a claim for disability, it is important that you:  1) abstain for such activities and 2) make sure that your medical records state that your substance abuse is “in remission”.
How severe must a mental disability be in order to be considered disabling?
It depends on the specific mental disorder that you have but in general there are four areas that a judge will consider in determining how severe your impairments are:
1)      Activities of daily living refers to your ability to perform certain tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, using public transportation, grooming, paying bills, using telephones etc.
2)       Social Functioning refers to your ability to interact with other people, such as family, friends, and neighbors, and your ability to make friends, participate in groups, and cooperate with others.
3)      Concentration, persistence or pace refers to the ability to stay focused and complete tasks in an appropriate amount of time.
4)      Episodes of decompensation are a little more complicated but it basically refers to any extended period of time where someone experienced increased signs of difficulty with the previous three areas.
Some tips to help your case:
1)      Continue seeing your doctor and make sure to explain fully how your condition affects you
2)      Completely avoid using drugs or alcohol
3)      Make sure that you are being compliant with treatment (i.e. follow doctor’s orders)
4)      Give social security the same information that you give your doctors

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Should I Expect at My Disability Hearing?


If you are like the majority of people in San Francisco at this stage, you have been previously denied for benefits and have been waiting anywhere between a year and a half to two years and a half for the opportunity to be able to, in your own words, express your impairment and inability to work. Though the thought of going before a judge may understandably stir up feelings of anxiety, there’s really nothing to be nervous about. The following is an explanation of what you can expect from your hearing.


Where Will The Hearing Be?

Hearings for social security benefits are much less formal than you may think. They are not held in a court room. In fact, hearings often take place in a small room in your local Social Security office, an office building, or even a hotel. The exact address and time of your hearing can be found on the first page of the Notice of Hearing that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you no later than 20 days before your hearing.


Who Will Be at the Hearing?

Social security disability hearings are closed hearings; this means that members of the public are not allowed to observe. The only people that will be present at your hearing are:
·         you,
·         your representative,
·         the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),
·         the ALJ’s assistant, and
·         at most, 2 experts. The expert present may either be a Vocational Expert (VE) or a Medical Expert (ME). The ALJ may require that either the VE or ME, both the VE or ME, or in rare cases, neither the VE or ME be present.


What Takes Place at the Hearing?

There are no set rules for how an ALJ must conduct a hearing. However, despite the differences amongst judges, there are a few things that are certain to happen at your hearing.
·         The ALJ will begin the proceeding by going over preliminary issues and swearing in all witnesses.
·         The ALJ will ask you questions. Your attorney will also have an opportunity to ask you questions, if necessary. Some common questions include:

What is your name, age, and education level?
What type of previous work did you do?
Why did you stop working?
Where is your pain located?
Can you describe the pain?
Do medications take away your pain?
Do you have any side effects from your medications?
What type of daily activities do you partake in?
How long can you sit/stand/walk?
How much can you lift/carry?

·         If a ME is present, the ALJ will ask he or she to testify about the severity of your condition. Your representative will have an opportunity to cross examine the ME.
·         If a VE is present, the ALJ will ask he or she to testify about your past work and whether he/she believes you are able to return to your past work or any other jobs that exist in the national economy in significant amount.


What Happens After the Hearing?

In very rare cases the ALJ will make and announce his/her decision at the hearing. However, in the majority of cases, you will receive a written decision anywhere between 30 to 90 days after the hearing has taken place, and in some cases, a decision may take even longer.
If you have received a partially favorable decision or an unfavorable decision you may appeal the decision to the Social Security Appeals Council.

Click here for more information on hearings for social security benefits.

The Initial Application Process: An Explanation

                The first step when applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in San Francisco begins with the initial application. This process takes roughly 4-6 months to have a decision made. The initial application can be filed online or at the claimant’s local Social Security Office. The application includes detailed information regarding your condition and work history. Once the initial application is filed, it is processed by Social Security in 2-4 weeks and sent to Disability Determination Services. The Disability Determination Services is where the application resides for the majority of the process. The case is assigned to an adjudicator within 1-2 months of being filed and the adjudicator is in charge of the case until a decision is eventually made.
                The first step an adjudicator takes is to request copies of all medical records from the sources listed in the initial application. To obtain further information adjudicators typically send out additional forms referred to as ADL’s, or activities of daily living. The ADL’s provide Social Security with an idea of how the disability affects the claimant’s life on a daily basis.  Once all medical records have been received by the adjudicator as well as the ADL’s, the adjudicator reviews all the evidence that has been obtained. This is usually the halfway point of the initial application process.
                If there is sufficient evidence provided in the records to make a determination about whether the claimant is fully disabled, the adjudicator will make a decision and send out the notice. However, if the claimant’s medical records are not detailed enough, the adjudicator will request that a Consultative Exam, or a doctor’s appointment with a doctor designated by Social Security. These exams are generally brief and designed to provide only the missing information the adjudicator needs. Once the exam has been scheduled and completed, the doctor will send the adjudicator the written report.
The final medical review will then take place with all the necessary evidence. The final medical review is completed by another doctor to make an objective decision. This doctor is to decide if the claimant will be able to return to any type of work. This final review is the last step and typically occurs between the 4th and 6th month after the application. Once a decision is made, the case is sent back to Social Security and within 2 weeks a decision notice is sent out. This is either a favorable decision or a denial, which can be appealed and taken to the next level.

Monday, April 4, 2011

San Francisco: Low Cost Housing

As Social Security disability claims attorneys we serve clients who struggle with financial challenges stemming from their inability to work. Unfortunately, we often see situations where the wait for benefits can put the disabled at risk of becoming homeless.

We believe every American is entitled to life with dignity, including access to affordable healthcare and safe housing.

As part of our commitment to our national community we have assembled information on housing resources across the United States.

If you have any additional questions and would like to speak with us regarding your disability please visit our web site at http://www.sanfranciscodisabilitylawyer.com/

Bridge Housing Corporation -
http://www.bridgehousing.com/ - 345 Spear St # 700, San Francisco - (415) 989-1111

Bethany Center Senior Housing - 1 review - Place page
http://www.bethanycenter.org/ - 580 Capp Street, San Francisco - (415) 821-4515

Tenderloin Neighborhood -
http://www.tndc.org/ - 201 Eddy Street, San Francisco - (415) 776-7074

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco - 1 review -
http://www.habitatgsf.org/ - 645 Harrison Street, San Francisco - (415) 625-1000

Mission Housing Development Corporation -
http://www.missionhousing.org/ - 474 Valencia St # 280, San Francisco - (415) 864-6432

Low Income Investment Fund -
http://www.liifund.org/ - 100 Pine St # 1800, San Francisco - (415) 772-9094

California Housing Consortium -
http://www.calhsng.org/ - 369 Pine Street #310, San Francisco - (415) 677-4436

San Francisco: Low Cost Medical Resources

As Social Security disability claims attorneys we serve clients who struggle with financial challenges stemming from their inability to work. Unfortunately, we often see situations where the wait for benefits can put the disabled at risk of being without medical resources.

We believe every American is entitled to life with dignity, including access to affordable healthcare and safe housing.

As part of our commitment to our national community we have assembled information on medical resources across the United States.

If you have any additional questions and would like to speak with us regarding your disability please visit our web site at http://www.sanfranciscodisabilitylawyer.com/.

University of the Pacific: Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry -
dental.pacific.edu - 2155 Webster Street, San Francisco - (415) 929-6501

San Francisco City Clinic -
http://www.sfcityclinic.org/ - 356 7th Street, San Francisco, California - (415) 487-5500

Golden Gate Community Health - San Francisco -
http://www.ppgg.org/ - 815 Eddy Street, San Francisco - (415) 441-7858

Lyon-Martin Health Svs -
1748 Market Street, San Francisco - (415) 565-7667

Women's Community Clinic -
http://www.womenscommunityclinic.org/ - 2166 Hayes St # 104, San Francisco - (415) 379-7800

North East Medical Services (NEMS) - 7 reviews - Place page
http://www.nems.org/ - 1520 Stockton Street, San Francisco - (415) 391-9686

Community Health Network of San Francisco: Cole Street Youth Clinic -
http://www.huckleberryyouth.org/ - 555 Cole St # 6, San Francisco - (415) 386-9398

San Francisco: Office of Disability Adjudication and Review Near You

Here is a list of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) nearest to you. 

Regional Office: San Francisco Regional Office:
SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
555 Battery Street
5th Floor
San Francisco, California 94111
Telephone: (866) 964-7584

Statewide Offices: SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
8345 Firestone Boulevard
Suite 210
Downey, California 90241
Telephone: (877) 870-6385

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
2440 Tulare Street, Suite 300
Fresno, California 93721
Telephone: 1-866-596-7568

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
501 West Ocean Boulevard
Federal Building, Suite 5300
Long Beach, California 90802
Telephone: (562) 980-4116

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
606 South Olive Street
City National Bank Building, Suite 1200
Los Angeles, California 90014
Telephone: (213) 894-2669

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
12121 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 400
Los Angeles, California 90024
Telephone: (866) 748-2089

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
1301 Clay Street
Oakland Federal Building, Suite 200N
Oakland, California 94612
Telephone: 866-366-4916

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
1120 West La Veta Avenue
Centrum North, Suite 600
Orange, California 92868
Telephone: 866-593-1447

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
800 E. Colorado Blvd., Suite 500
Pasadena Towers 1
Pasadena, California 91101
Telephone: (866) 354-0220

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
1610 Arden Way
Suite 250
Sacramento, California 95815
Telephone: (866) 931-2544

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
605 North Arrowhead Avenue
Suite 200
San Bernardino, California 92401
Telephone: 1-866-331-7127

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
525 B Street, 8th Floor
San Diego, California 92101
Telephone: 1-866-331-2294

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
301 Howard Street
Equity Building, 16th Floor
San Francisco, California 94105
Telephone: 866-770-1221

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
280 South First Street
RSP Federal Building, Suite 330
San Jose, California 95113-3086
Telephone: 1-866-331-2219

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
4040 Civic Center Drive
Suite 230
San Rafael, California 94903
Telephone: (415) 472-0173

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
222 East Carrillo Street
Suite 206
Santa Barbara, California 93101
Telephone: (805) 962-2260

SSA, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
3116 W. March Lane, Suite 100
Stockton, California  95219
Telephone: (209) 477-3103

San Francisco Social Security Disability Hearing Processing Time

San Francisco Social Security Office:  Current Processing Time

The latest National Ranking Report by Average Processing Time from January 2011 has been released. San Francisco ranks 105th out of all Hearing Offices with a processing time of 401 days (over 13 months).
When processing times are high, it’s more important than ever to process your claim the right way with no mistakes. Having a lawyer on your side to stay on top of all requests from the Social Security office is key to your successful claim.