Free Consumer Reports

  • Long Term Disability Guide

    Robbed of Your Peace of Mind? Your Guide to Long Term Disability Benefits

    View Details

  • Hiring a Great Long Term Disability Attorney

    The Key To Hiring The Right Long Term Disability Attorney

    View Details

  • #

    The Smart Long Term Disability Guide For Preparing Your Statement and Field Visit

    View Details

  • Social Security Disability Guide

    Your Rights To Social Security Disability Benefits - Your Guide to Getting Benefits Now

    View Details

Category Archives: Social Security Disability (SSD)

More Bad News About The Delay In Social Security Hearings

social security disability hearing delays

The time for Social Security Disability hearings gets longer.

The Social Security Administration doesn’t always make it easy for those who are disabled to get the Social Security benefits they deserve. It’s not uncommon for initial applications, and even requests for reconsiderations, to be denied and, as a result, the Social Security Disability applicant has to file a Request for a Hearing.

social security disability hearing delays

What’s a Request for a Hearing?

A Request for a Hearing asks that the case to be transferred to a Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge to have a hearing on an applicant’s right to Social Security Disability benefits. At the end of fiscal year 2012, the average processing time was 353 days and, by the end of September 2014, it was over 454 days. The amount of pending cases has increased every month in 2014 and went over the one million mark by the end of November 2014. Clearly, justice delayed is justice denied!

What Else do the Statistics Show?

The number of Social Security judges has declined from 1,366 as of March of 2013 to 1,264 in November of 2014. That’s 100 fewer judges doing cases. Worse yet, the number of ALJ dispositions has dropped steadily from a high of 783,061 in 2012 to a low of 679,091 in 2014.

Unfortunately, the number of cases that are being denied at the ALJ level is also increasing.

We urge Congress to appropriate more funds or more administrative law judges and an increase use of senior attorney advisers to assist the judges in making decisions.

Need Help With Your Social Security Disability Case?

The Law Office of Nancy L. Cavey can help you with your Social Security disability questions and concerns. Give us a call today at 727-894-3188 to talk about your options!

Article sited from ALJ Hearing Processing Times and Pending Claims: The Statistics Tell All, December 2014, Volume 36, Number 11.

What Sort Of Medical Treatment Will Trigger A Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion In An Erisa Governed Disability Plan?

pre existing disability ERISA

Many disability plans will have a pre-existing condition clause that prohibit the payment of LTD benefits, if you received medical treatment for a specific period of time before the start of the disability.

For example, in the case of Kutten v. Sun Life Assurance company of Canada, 2014 WL 3562784 (8th Cir. July 21, 2014), Kutten’s ERISA long term disability policy had a pre-existing condition exclusion clause.

The policy defined a pre-existing condition as one in which the employee “received medical treatment, care or services, or took prescribed drugs or medication for the disabling condition 3 months before the start of the policy.

pre existing disability ERISA

What is Medical Treatment?

Kutten had a progressive eye disease. In 1994, his doctor told him to start taking an over-the-counter Vitamin A supplement. This supplement couldn’t cure the disease, but slowed the disease.

When Kutten applied for disability benefits, Sun Life determined that the Vitamin A supplements triggered the pre-existing exclusion clause as medical treatment.

The court in this 8th Circuit decision found that a Vitamin A supplement was not “medical treatment” because the “use of the supplement didn’t require the same medical intervention as prescribed drugs and medicines.” The court noted that the supplements were medical “in the sense they prevented or alleviated the progression of” the disease.

The appellate court reversed the decision, saying that the ordinary meaning of the phrase, “medical treatment,” encompassed the use of supplements.

What Should I do if I’m Thinking About Applying for Disability Benefits?

Get out your disability policy! You need to review the pre-existing disability clause and determine whether you have received treatment that would disqualify you for benefits. If you have, timing may be the key so that you don’t receive medical treatment, care or services in the applicable period of time that would disqualify you for benefits.

It’s time for you to contact a Disability attorney, like Nancy Cavey, who can help you make the difficult decision about whether to apply for long term disability benefits and when you should apply for benefits.

She can help you, regardless of where you live in the United States. Call today at 727-894-3188.

Cognitive Problems As A Result Of Multiple Sclerosis And Your Rights To Social Security Disability Benefits

multiple sclerosis disability attorney tampa

One of the most devastating consequences in MS are cognitive problems. It is not uncommon for those with MS to have problems with attention, processing speed and working memory because of problems in connectivity between areas of the brain.

multiple sclerosis disability attorney tampa

How Can I Win my MS Social Security Disability Claim?

To win your Social Security Disability claim, you have to prove that either you meet a medical listing for MS or establish that, because of vocational factors, you can’t return to the lightest job you’ve held in the last 15 years or other work in the national economy based on your age, education, transferrable skills and restrictions and limitations.

It’s important that the cognitive problems do develop so that the Administrative Law Judge understands the difficulties you have with attention, processing speed and working memory! It takes a team effort to get the disability benefits you deserve. Make sure that you’re represented by a Social Security Disability attorney who specializes in MS claims and can work with your physician to get the necessary documentation to establish the functional and non-functional restrictions and limitations you have, including cognitive problems as a result of your MS.

What You Should Do Right Now If You Suffer From MS

Call today at 727-894-3188 for a free, no obligation consultation and you can learn more about your rights to Social Security Disability by ordering a free, no obligation copy of our book, “Your Rights to Social Security Disability Benefits.”

 

What Every Social Security Disability Applicant Should Know About The 5 Steps Used In Determining Their Rights To Social Security Disability Benefits

5 steps social security disability applicant

The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t make it easy for those who are disabled to get the benefits they deserve. SSA uses a 5 Step Sequential Evaluation test when it reviews every Social Security Disability applicant. So, if your doctor has told you to stop working, you should apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Before you do so, ask yourself the following questions:

5 steps social security disability applicant

Step 1: Are you gainfully employed?

You must establish that you are gainfully employed or that you are earning less than the federal benefit rate (FDR). If in any month, after the period you claim you are disabled, you are gainfully employed earning $1,090 dollars, regardless of the severity of your disability, you’re not entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.

Step 2: Is your medical impairment severe?

If you have a medical condition that results in limitations and restrictions, you have a severe impairment. For example, if you’ve had back surgery that’s limited your ability to lift more than 10 pounds, you have a severe disability.

Step 3: Does your impairment meet or equal a medical listing?

The Social Security Administration has a disability handbook called the “Blue Book of Impairments” which lists all recognized disabilities. If your disability doesn’t meet or equal the Listings, which you can find at the SSA website, the SSA evaluation process will proceed to Step 4 and Step 5.

Step 4: Can you perform your previous type of work?

If your disability doesn’t meet or equal the Listings, you can still be found disabled based on vocational factors found at Step 4 and Step 5. At Step 4, you must show that you can’t do any previous work that you did for the last 15 years that lasted more than 30 days.

If you’ve had back surgery and your doctor says that you can’t lift more than 10 pounds, and your previous work for the last 15 years was a Stocker, you’ll satisfy Step 4 because your job requires heavy lifting.

Step 5: Can you return to any of the work in the national economy?

SSA will determine, based on your restrictions and limitations, whether there is other work that you’re capable of performing. They will consider your pain, side effects and any psychological problem you have. It’s important that you have a Social Security attorney represent you because most cases are decided at the hearing at Step 5.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will present the Vocational Evaluator a hypothetical based on a mythical individual just like you. The ALJ will ask the vocational evaluator questions about whether there is other work this mythical person might be capable of performing in the national economy taking into consideration your age, education and skills you have learned at other jobs.

Having an attorney represent you to make sure that the hypothetical given to the vocational evaluator is accurate and correct!

What You Should Do Next!

Don’t make a crucial mistake and attempt to represent yourself in a Social Security Disability hearing.

While your doctor told you that you’re unable to work, it takes more than just your doctor’s word to get you the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve.

Contact Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey today at 727-898-3188. She can help you get the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve.

Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits And Supplemental Security Income Benefits?

While you can collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, any Unemployment benefits you receive count as unearned income which will reduce the amount of your SSI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income Benefits Questions?

Applying for SSI and need some guidance? Contact Supplemental Security Income lawyer Nancy Cavey today for a complimentary, no obligation consultation at 727-894-3188 to help you with any questions you may have. We are here to help you with your situation if you are in need.

Is It Inconsistent For Me To Apply For Unemployment Insurance And Social Security Benefits?

That’s a great question and many Social Security Administrative Law Judges believe that collecting Unemployment Insurance and Social Security benefits is “double dipping.”

What’s the inconsistency?

When you apply for Unemployment Compensation benefits, you’re certifying that you’re able to work.  Yet, when you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you’re certifying that you can’t work.  Which is it?

What’s the Social Security rule and policy?

The Social Security rules and policy provide that the “receipt of unemployment insurance benefits does not preclude the receipt of Social Security Disability benefits.”  It is only “one of the many factors that must be considered in determining whether the claimant is disabled” and “a person can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, even though they remain capable of performing some work.”

Therefore, the Chief Social Security Judge has issued a Memorandum to the Administrative Law Judges advising that it is “SSA’s position that individuals need not choose between applying for unemployment insurance and Social Security Disability benefits.”  (Cite to the Memoranda of Chief ALJ Frank Cristaudo, dated November 15, 2006 Ref. No. 07-11; and August 9, 2010 Ref. No. 10-1258.)

So, how do the Tampa Bay Social Security judges apply this ruling?

Unfortunately, despite the Chief Judge’s pronouncement, some Administrative Law Judges simply won’t award SSDI benefits during a period of time in which you’ve collected unemployment benefits.

Others will award Social Security Disability benefits during a period of time in which you collected unemployment, if you can show:

1.         You can only work part-time at less than presumed SGA levels due to medical impairment;

2.         Can only work in a sheltered or accommodated work due to disability;

3.         Can only work sporadically due to a medical impairment producing episodic incapacity to work;

4.         Meets a medical vocational (grid) rule directing a finding of disability);

5.         Filing in the alternative to preserve rights because you’re unsure of whether your medical condition meets the disability and duration requirements when filed; or

6.         You honestly but mistakenly believed that you could work.

What should you do if you’ve applied for both Social Security Disability and Unemployment benefits?

Be sure to tell your disability attorney that you’ve applied for both because you can be assured that the Social Security Administrative Law Judge will ask you questions about the receipt of your unemployment benefits.  You should be prepared to answer these questions honestly and accurately.

What should you do if your Social Security Disability claim has been denied?

Contact Tampa/St. Petersburg Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey today who can help you get the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve.  She can answer any questions you have regarding the receipt of unemployment compensation benefits and your Social Security Disability application.  Call today at 727-894-3188.

What Every Prostate Cancer Sufferer Needs To Know About Social Security Disability Benefits

prostate cancer social security disability

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate and is normally a slow growing tumor. However, once the prostate cancer spreads, it is dangerous and aggressive and can reach your bones, lymph nodes and lungs.

prostate cancer social security disability

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Unfortunately, during the early stages of prostate cancer there are no symptoms and that’s why annual prostate cancer testing is critically important.

Serious prostate symptoms can include:

• Pain in the genital and pelvic area;
• Blood in the urine or seamen;
• Frequent urinary tract infections;
• Unexpected weight loss;
• Pain in the lower back or pelvic area;
• Anemia; and
• Fatigue.

Many of the prostate cancer symptoms are similar to prostatitis, erectile dysfunction or an overactive bladder. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your physician immediately.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer?

If your physician has diagnosed prostate cancer and told you that you’re unable to work, you should immediately apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration doesn’t always make it easy for those with prostate cancer to get the disability benefits they deserve, even in more progressive cases. However, the Compassionate Allowance Program may be the right answer for getting you your Social Security Disability benefits.

To learn more about your rights to Social Security Disability benefits for prostate cancer, contact Tampa Bay Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey at 727-894-3188.

What You Need To Know About The Appeals Council If Your Social Security Disability Claim Is Denied

social security disability appeals council

If your Social Security Disability claim is denied by the Administrative Law Judge you have a difficult decision to make. The Social Security Administration will give you 30 days to appeal to the Appeals Council or file a new Social Security Disability claim asking for benefits from the date of the Administrative Law Judge’s denial forward.

By filing a new claim for Social Security Disability benefits you give up the back benefits from the time of your initial application until the time of the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. That can be a significant amount of Social Security benefits.

On the other hand, the Appeals Council is just not a friendly place for Social Security Disability applicants whose claims have been denied.

social security disability appeals council

Statistics About the Appeals Council in 2013

The appeals council processed 176,251 requests for review and the average time for the Appeals Council to make a decision was 364 days.

The Appeals Council will not take new testimony and simply reviews the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and the record to determine whether the Judge has made an error of law.

According to the statistics, over 76.87% of Administrative Law Judge’s denials were upheld and only 17.11% were remanded to the Administrative Law Judge. Less than 1.45% of decisions were found to be fully favorable.

These are awful statistics!

Making a difficult decision

If your claim for Social Security Disability has been denied, you’ll have to make a difficult decision about whether you want to appeal to the Appeals Council or start all over. Certainly, these statistics don’t bode well if you choose to appeal to the Appeals Council.

You should contact experienced Appeals Council attorney Nancy Cavey for advise as to how to proceed if your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied by the Administrative Law Judge. Give us a call today at 727-894-3188 to discuss your options!

Can I Work And Still Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

work while on social security disability benefits

Maybe! It is possible to work part-time and not lose your Social Security Disability benefits but the answer depends on how much you earn and what kind of disability benefits you are receiving.

If you’re receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and go to work, your SSI benefits will be reduced by $1.00 for every $2.00 you earn after the first $65.00 or ($85.00) if you have no other income. That means that you could earn so much working part-time but your SSI benefits would stop.

work while on social security disability benefits

Social Security Disability Benefits and Working (SSD)

If you’re receiving Social Security Disability benefits and your earnings are below what the Social Security Administration calls the annual “Substantial Gainful Activity Amount,” your benefits will neither stop or be reduced because of your earnings. You continue to get your full Social Security Disability benefits while you work part-time. It’s also possible to earn more than “SGA” amount and still receive your full benefits during the 9-month trial work period.

How much can I earn per month and still receive my Social Security Disability benefits?

The amount that you can earn up to “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) changes on an annual basis and, as of 2014, is $1,070 per month. The SGA amount is the absolute cut-off point.

If your earnings are more than the substantial gainful activity amount your benefits will stop after you’ve used up your 9-month trial work (on a grace period of 3 months), no matter how disabled you are.

If you want to work part-time, it’s best to keep your income well below the substantial gainful activity amount. Remember, there is no trial work for SSI.

How long is the trial work period for SSD?

That trial work period allows you to earn any amount for 9 months and still receive your full disability benefits. You can test your ability to return to work full-time without having your monthly disability benefits stopped. Most people often use up their trial work period by working part-time. A trial work month here, and a trial work period there, still counts as long as all 9 months are used in a 5-year period of time. Once you use up your 9-month trial work period, it’s gone!

You’ll probably be able to get your disability benefits back if you start working within 3 years after you’ve used up your 9-month trial work period. If you’ve worked again at SGA for more than 3 years after your trial work period, you’re going to have to start the Social Security Disability Claims process all over.

The SGA number is based on gross wages which is not averaged over the months worked.

Don’t use up your trial work period

It’s best not to use your trial work period until you are ready to return to work full-time. Don’t waste it on part-time employment.

If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you are required to report your work promptly. We suggest that if you telephone the Social Security Administration to report you’ve begun to work, ask when you need to provide income documentation. Be sure to get the name and location of the name of the person you speak with and follow up with a letter to your local office keeping a copy of the letter for your files.

Call us at 727-894-3188 to discuss your options when it comes to hiring an Social Security Disability Attorney in the Tampa St. Petersburg area to help!