Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ways to Help Strengthen your Disability Claim in San Francisco

Though the Social Security claims process can be unpredictable and often yields unfavorable outcomes, there are several things a claimant can do to help receive a favorable decision on his or her Social Security claim in San Francisco. A very important step the claimant can take is to hire a representative. Having a representative can significantly improve a claimant’s chances, because of their knowledge and understanding of Social Security laws, policies, and paperwork. Representatives can also be helpful advisers, guiding the claimant through the process and suggesting actions in their best interest such as diligently seeking medical care.

Going to the doctor regularly can certainly strengthen a disability claim because medical treatment provides the bulk of the evidence Social Security relies on to determine disability. The fuller your medical records are, the clearer your disabilities and limitations become. So it is very important to see a medical professional, seek medical treatment, and comply with all sound prescriptions and recommendations. Hiring a representative and diligently seeking treatment for your conditions are the biggest things you can do to help your case.

Some other helpful things you can do are:

Collect/ keep copies of your own medical records: Though Social Security attempts to collect records from you physicians directly, they are not always successful. Having a copy of your records is a great back up to ensure your case has sufficient evidence.

Complete Social Security paperwork thoroughly and accurately: When completing Social Security forms it is important to be detailed and precise. The difference between “I am able to wash the dishes” and “I am able to wash the dishes but need to take several breaks to sit down” can be the difference between a denial and an award.

Comply with all requests made by the Social Security Administration or Disability Determination Services: Often, Social Security schedules meetings for you with their own contracted doctors or other representatives. Missing these appointments frequently results in claims being denied. This is an example of why it is important to keep all paperwork related to your claim organized and available for you to review and act upon if necessary.

Write to your local congressman: In instances of severe hardship or an unusually lengthy claim process, writing your local congressmen can really gain some influential support that will move your process along and get you results sooner.

The best thing you can do while going through the disability process is take care of yourself and follow the direction of legal, medical, and Social Security professionals who work together to get disabled Americans the benefits they deserve. For more information, go to www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Commonly Used Social Security Terms Explained

The Social Security Disability process can often be time-consuming and frustrating for those applying. Many claimants frequently get confused due to the many new terms they come across while dealing with Social Security paperwork and requests. We’ve put together a list of commonly used Social Security terms and their meanings to help you out with your claim.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL) or Adult Function Report:

This form details how your conditions affect your daily life. It includes questions about what you do on a daily basis and how you are able to care for yourself and your personal needs. This form is important, because it is your chance to show Social Security how your conditions limit your ability to function on a day to day basis.

Adjudicator:

This is the person who handles your claim at Disability Determination Services (DDS). It is their job to gather your medical records, send out forms for you to fill out and schedule exams if necessary. If they are missing information they will contact you; it is important that you respond immediately, or your claim could be denied.

Alleged Onset Date:

This is the date in which you claim your disability became severe enough to keep you from working. This date can differ from Social Security’s Onset Date, the date that Social Security decides that your disability is severe enough to keep you from working.

Auxiliary Benefits:

These benefits are paid to the minor children of the disabled receiving Disability Insurance Benefits. Their disabled children may also be eligible to receive benefits if their disability began before the age of 22.

Claims Representative:

This person handles your claim while it is at the main Social Security Administration office. It is their responsibility to handle the claim before it is sent to Disability Determination Services and after the medical decision has been made.

Consultative Exam (CE):

These exams are scheduled if there is not enough medical information for Disability Determination Services to make a decision. They are generally very brief ten to fifteen minute exams used to gather more information about a claimant’s condition. These appointments are important to attend, because missing an exam can result in a denial as SSA will not be able to gather they evidence they need.

Disability Determination Services:

This is the branch of Social Security that determines whether a claimant is medically disabled or not. This office will gather medical records and compare these to the age, education and work experience of the claimant in order to determine whether they are blind or disabled under Social Security’s rules.

Disability Insurance Benefits:

Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) are one type of benefit program that Social Security offers to disabled Americans. You must have worked enough an earned enough work credits to be eligible for DIB (the general rule of thumb is that you must have worked at least 5 out of the past 10 years and paid into the system) and you must be found medically disabled to be eligible.

Medical Review:

This is the last stage of the determination process, where the staff doctors at Disability Determination Services will review the medical evidence and make a medical decision. A claim can sometimes be sent back to the adjudicator from medical review if the doctor feels that more information is needed to make a decision.

Onset Date:

This is the date that Social Security decides that your disability became severe enough to keep you from working and determines when your benefits will start. This date can differ from the claimant’s Alleged Onset Date as it is determined based on when Social Security decides you cannot work.

PERK Meeting:

This meeting is held between the claims representative and the claimant as the last step before SSI can be awarded. The claims representative will go over the earnings and resources of the claimant one final time before determining the amount of payment.

Quality Review:

Quality Review is a step that certain randomly-selected claims must go through once a decision has been made on the claim. The Social Security Administrations selects a handful of claims every month to review and ensure that the correct decision was made by the Disability Determination Services (DDS). This process can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks.

Social Security Administration:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a part of the US federal government which is in charge of funding Retirement, Disability, and Survivor’s benefits to eligible Americans. Social Security offices are located in all major cities in the United States.

Supplemental Security Income:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the second type of disability benefit that disabled Americans can qualify for. SSI is a welfare-based program in which claimants must have a very limited income and resources to be eligible, as well as being found medically disabled.

Survivor’s Benefits

Survivor’s Benefits are monthly benefits that Social Security pays to family members of a deceased spouse or parent. Generally, the deceased person must have paid into the system or already been receiving Disability or Retirement benefits for family members to be eligible.

Work Activity Report:

This form is sent out by Social Security if they see any wages earned by the claimant after the Alleged Onset Date.

Work Credits:

These are used to determine whether a claimant is eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits or not. They are earned by working and paying into Social Security; one can earn a maximum of four each year, and twenty are needed in the last ten years in order to qualify for DIB.

Work History Report:

The Work History Report is a form that is sent out by Disability Determination Services and asks detailed questions about a claimant’s past work history. It is very important to fill this form out as thoroughly and truthfully as possible as Social Security needs these dates and details on your past work in order to be able to determine if you can go back to this type of work, or any other type of job that exists.

3rd Party Function Report:

This form should be filled out by a close friend or family member that knows about your conditions. Similar to the Adult Function Report, this form details how your conditions affect your life. It includes questions about what you do on a daily basis and how you are able to care for yourself and your personal needs. This form is important, because it shows from another person’s view how your conditions affect your ability to function on a day to day basis.




Disability Group Inc was founded on the principles of dignity and respect. We are a national law
firm focused exclusively on helping people receive the Social Security Disability benefits they deserve. For more information about Social Security, or to see if you qualify for benefits, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What to Expect at your Hearing in San Francisco

Social Security Disability hearings in San Francisco are very different from the action-packed, theatrical trials often shown on television and in movies. In this case there are no juries, defense, or prosecution arguing the case on either side. The hearing does not have a jury, but usually only consists of: the claimant (you), the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the representative, and a vocational expert. Those in attendance have been provided with the claimant’s medical history well in advance and are familiar with his or her conditions. The representative’s job is to ask the client questions that will illustrate to the judge the severity of his or her limitations and inability to work. This testimonial evidence may be challenged or probed further by the judge who may ask follow-up questions as well. Social Security Disability hearings can differ slightly from claimant to claimant. In some instances, ALJ’s ask the claimant many clarifying questions and other times the claimant receives questioning entirely from their own representative.

The vocational expert is someone who offers testimony about the various jobs in the national economy and the degrees of limitation that are required for disability to be established. The vocational expert testifies and is questioned by the representative to determine the claimant’s level of ability or inability to work. After the hearing is conducted, the ALJ will consider all the evidence that has been presented through testimony and medical records and will make a decision granting or denying the claimant disability benefits. Some helpful hints for attending your hearing are:

Speak with your representative before hand to become comfortable with his questions and your answers.

Be honest, don’t try to invent impairments you don’t have; rather elaborate on the severity and limiting nature of those you do have.

If your impairment requires you to stand, sit, or adjust yourself periodically be sure to do so during the hearing if needed. Everyone will understand if you need to stand for a moment.

Make sure you’ve given your representative all the medical records you may have. The smallest piece of evidence can sometimes change the entire outcome of a case.

With disability processing times often at well over a year, it is essential that you ensure your claim is being processed correctly. Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to handle your case will guarantee that no mistakes are made and no further delays are placed on your case. To find our more, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Diabetes? Here is What You Need to Know!

If living life with diabetes in San Francisco prevents you from being able to work, it may be time to file for Social Security Disability. Diabetes is considered by SSA along with its effects on other parts of the body, such as the nervous system or the eyes. In order to be approved for disability with diabetes, it has to have caused other complications that prevent you from working. These include conditions are that are caused by both hyperglycemia (high levels of sugar in the blood stream), or hypoglycemia (lower than normal levels of sugar in the blood stream).

Diabetes can cause many other complications that limit your ability to work. If either high blood sugar or low blood sugar has caused you to develop other conditions, you may qualify for disability benefits. Some of the conditions that Social Security will consider along with your diabetes are:

· Diabetic Neuropathy

· Seizures

· Diabetic Retinopathy

· Infections that will not clear

· Cardiac Conditions

· Amputations

· Gastrointestinal Issues

· Mental or Cognitive Conditions

Social Security will also determine whether you can work by examining how your diabetes and relevant conditions limit your ability to perform daily functions. If your conditions will cause a significant disturbance in the workplace and prevent you from performing a job in the national economy, you can be awarded on this basis. Some of these symptoms include:

Difficulty walking

Difficulty seeing/damaged vision

Concentration or memory problems

Extreme fatigue

Difficulty performing simple tasks

Frequent seizures or loss of consciousness

Bladder/Bowel dysfunction

If your condition has progressed to the point where you cannot sit or stand for more than an hour at a time, you may be disabled under Social Security’s rules. Similarly if you are prone to seizures or loss of consciousness due to hypoglycemia, you may be eligible for benefits.

Due to the fact that diabetes affects each person differently, it is important to see a doctor regularly to monitor the progress of the disease. Frequent doctor visits are an essential part of applying for disability benefits; the more thorough and frequent your doctor visits, the more information Social Security will have to make their decision. Logging numbers and insulin dosages may prove to be useful both in your claim and also in controlling your diabetes.

With disability processing times often at well over a year, it is essential that you ensure your claim is being processed correctly. Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to handle your case will guarantee that no mistakes are made and no further delays are placed on your case. To find out more, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Tips on Filling Out Common Disability Forms from SSA in San Francisco

Social Security Administration (SSA) forms can be long, confusing, and even discouraging, but if done right they can be an invaluable way for you, as the claimant, to submit your own evidence about your disability and be sure your perspective is counted and taken into consideration. The forms that SSA and Disability Determination Services (DDS) require are very specific in nature and are meant to obtain very particular information from you that will inform whether or not you can actually work. For this reason, it is very important to answer the questions in detail and not get too off topic or be too general. Precision, detail, and honesty are best policies when describing your disability to SSA or DDS. Here are some common disability forms and some helpful hints to completing them well:

Form

Helpful tips

Work History Form

· Asks about jobs and duties for the past 15yrs.

You may not remember the exact dates and term of your various jobs. It is ok to estimate these things.

Be sure to include as much detail about the duties you performed on the job as you can.

Don’t Forget:

You may have had many different employers, but were performing the same job. Social Security is not as interested in the number of employers you’ve had but in the different type of work you performed.

Adult Disability Application

List all medical professionals, hospitals, or doctors that have treated you within the last year. Even if you think they aren’t relevant, missing records can be essential evidence for your claim.

Don’t Forget:

You must complete and submit this application to be considered. If you don’t receive a receipt or confirmation, it hasn’t been completed.

Child Disability Application

When applying for benefits for your child you must provide financial information and social security numbers for the child’s parents. Having this and the child’s birth certificate can make the process of applying easier.

Don’t Forget:

It is very important to submit medical releases so that SSA can obtain confidential medical and educational information about your child’s disability. Without this release there will be no evidence to support your claim.

Request for Reconsideration

Include only updated or additional medical information on your reconsideration application, as not prolong your process by having Social Security request records they already have from your initial application.

All medical sources listed should be fairly recent. This is the same for medications and tests.

Don’t Forget:

You have to sign a new form SSA-827 Authorization to Release Medical Information to the Social Security Administration each time you file an application or appeal with SSA.


Disability Group Inc was founded on the principles of dignity and respect. We are a national law firm focused exclusively on helping people receive the Social Security Disability benefits they deserve. For more information about Social Security, or to see if you qualify for benefits, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What Are the Typical Wait Times for Disability Benefits in San Francisco?

Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits in San Francisco can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Many Americans who apply are commonly denied at the first and second levels after waiting several months just to hear a decision. It is best to be aware in advance of the general time it takes to receive a decision notice.

Initial Application Level

The initial application is the first step all claimants must take when applying for disability benefits. At this initial level, it usually takes 4-6 months for a decision to be made. This is because Social Security must process all the initial application paperwork, determine if the claimant meets the technical requirements, then send the case to Disability Determination Services (DDS) where the case resides for the majority of the time. It is assigned to a caseworker at DDS who must request all of the claimant’s medical records and thoroughly analyze them to determine if the claimant can or cannot go back to work based on what their medical records state. The award rate at this level is about 35%.

Reconsideration Level

If your initial application is denied, the next step is to file an appeal, called a Request for Reconsideration. It generally takes anywhere from 3-5 months to hear a decision once the appeal has been filed. This is because Social Security must again process the basic paperwork, and then request and re-analyze all your updated medical records. Only about 15% of claimants are awarded at this level.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

Many applicants find themselves preparing to go before a judge as the initial and reconsideration award rates are so low. However, the majority of states are extremely backlogged in setting hearing dates and thus it normally takes anywhere from 12-24 months to have a hearing scheduled. During this long wait time, your attorney will be preparing your case for the hearing. It is important to make sure you have copies of all your medical records to be thoroughly prepared for your hearing.

Appeals Council Review

If your hearing is denied and you wish to continue to appeal, the next step is filing an Appeals Council Review, where it will generally take 12-18 months to hear another decision. Not all cases qualify to proceed to this level, but if your case is accepted then the ALJ’s decision will be reviewed for any errors and your case will either be sent back to the hearing level, approved, or denied and moved to the last level in the process.

Federal Court Review

If your disability claim reaches this level, you will have to wait anywhere from 12-24 months to hear a decision. At this level, a case is filed in the United States district court for your claim. You can either be approved or denied at this level; in the case of the latter, you will be able to re-file a claim at the initial application level.

The best way to ensure that your claim is handled properly is to hire an attorney. Your disability attorney will stay on top of all paperwork and requests from Social Security and make sure that all your medical records have been received. For more information, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Income and Resources That Count Towards Determining Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

One of the main factors in obtaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) depends on your income and resources:

Income

Income is all earned and unearned income. Earned income usually comes in the form of wages or self-employment and is usually money earned from a job. Unearned income is usually in the form of pensions, Unemployment, State Disability, Child Support, etc. There is a difference between earned and unearned income when determining your award amount. Working income may be weighed more than income received from retirement.

If you are married, your spouse’s income is also counted. If you are under the age of 18 your parents income is counted. The maximum payment and the income limit for SSI is $637.00 a month for a single person and $1,011 for a married couple (this is a federal standard, each state varies due to their cost of living). The amount that you are awarded also depends on living arrangements; if you live in someone’s home your payment may be reduced up to one-third.

Some income does not count, specifically: Food Stamps, tax refunds, cash aid (welfare), or money that someone else may give you to pay for expenses other than food or shelter (like a phone bill or a medical expense). If you are a student, some wages and/or scholarships you receive may not count. Social Security does not count the first $20 a month of income you receive as well as the first $65 a month you earn from working and half the amount that is over $65. If you are disabled or blind, some of the income you use for training or to buy items for work may not count.

Resources

A resource is referred to something you own. These may be items, money or property which has value. The limit for resources is $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a married couple. Some resources are excluded:

1) The home you live in and any adjacent land;

2) One vehicle per family (which is your main source of transportation);

3) Life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less;

4) Burial plots;

5) Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse.

Life insurance can be a little complicated. The cash value of the policy is only counted - not the face value. This is the amount you can cash out if and when you need to use this resource. Term life insurance policies don’t usually count as a resource because they do not have a cash value. Whole life insurance policies do count because they have a cash value that can be accessed. Your insurance policy should provide you with a chart of the cash value of your policy, which you must report to Social Security. If you have a policy whose only value is a benefit which can only be paid upon death, this is not counted as a resource.

If you are denied due to excess resources, you can always reapply for SSI if your resources have changed. But you must provide proof to Social Security regarding what happened to the resource and how the money was spent. Did you use it to pay medical expenses? Debt? If your resource was sold you must also provide proof that it was sold at the appropriate cash value on the market. If you sell a resource lower than its market value or give it away you may become ineligible for SSI for up to 36 months.

With disability processing times often at well over a year, it is essential that you ensure your claim is being processed correctly. Hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer to handle your case will guarantee that no mistakes are made and no further delays are placed on your case. To find out more, visit us at www.socialsecuritylaw.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Importance of Documenting your Medical Conditions

It is important to understand the mind of a disability determinate. During this process the only real evidence Social Security has of your disability, other than your testimony, are your medical records. So, it is critical to see your doctor regularly in San Francisco and ensure your doctor records and documents your disability symptoms.

The Importance of Documenting Symptoms and Impairments

What does it mean to ‘document’ your disability symptoms and impairments?

Documenting symptoms and impairments means making sure you are telling your doctor all of your symptoms every time you go in and making sure that your doctor is writing the information down. Having well documented medical records and doctor’s notes are critical components for presenting your Social Security disability claim.

Be specific! You must clearly state how you feel and how your disability affects your daily life. If you give vague feedback, your doctor will write vague notes, which will not help your disability case.

Do not only rely on the doctor visits to discuss impairments. Keep a daily log especially if your condition seems to be worsening. Also take your log to each doctor visit and call your doctor whenever you experience significant pain or trauma. Do not be afraid to visit the hospital or ER if you are need of medical attention. This can only help the disability determinates get a better look inside of your hardship.

The most important part of documenting your symptoms is being consistent. For instance, if on one occasion you are in uncontrollable pain, then the next visit you say that you have never felt better, this may look suspicious. A disability is a lifelong condition that should be consistently causing discomfort. It is best when filing for disability that you continue treating for the same condition you listed on your initial application.

Keeping a copy of your own records can help with a smooth process while applying for disability. Also keep your doctor appointments and be on time for your visits. Staying in contact with your doctor will ensure accurate medical records and help you win your claim.

Click here for more information on the best way to handle your disability claim in San Francisco.