Social Security Disability Insurance FAQ

The SSDI application process can be confusing, and leave you with more questions than answers. Loyd has put together some of the answers that you need about SSDI claims, appeals, and more, right here in the FAQ section.

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  • How does the assigned ALJ affect my Social Security disability hearing?

    The job of an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) is to apply the law to the facts of your case and determine whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. The law is pretty developed, and Social Security has procedures on top of procedures to ensure that a consistent decision-making process is employed.

    In theory, it should not affect you in any way which disability judge is assigned to your case.

    However, the numbers paint a different picture.

    SSDI Approval Rates in Louisiana

    I have compiled and analyzed statistics of the ALJs at Louisiana’s ODAR offices. These statistics were compiled by Social Security itself for September 30, 2017 through July 27, 2018. I used that information to take a look at all of the ALJs determining disability benefit decisions for Louisiana SSDI claims. I separated the information by ODAR office and sorted by the administrative law judge's approval rate from highest to lowest. The award numbers include both fully favorable and partially favorable awards.

    The national average award percentage was 54.7%. The Louisiana average was below the national average at 49.3%. 

    Approval rates for three of Louisiana’s four ODAR offices came in below the national average. Alexandra at 44.8%, Metairie at 41.0%, and Shreveport at 48.7%.  New Orleans was the only office to come in above the average at 59.3%.

    Approval rates for ALJs in Louisiana with at least 10 decisions range from a high of 78% to a low of just 8.9% and everywhere in between.

    While there is not much you can do about the ALJ that gets assigned to your case, this information is important to know because it can impact how you prepare your claim and yourself for the hearing in front of the ALJ. For example, if your ALJ denies a large percentage of the cases heard, you may want to move for an on-the-record decision (which can be granted by ODAR staff attorneys). Or you may want to know what information will be most helpful on an appeal and focus on that issue to make sure the record is fully developed for later proceedings.

    While this information provides a statistical representation of how ALJs have decided the cases before them during the reporting period, I will note that an ALJ can only make a decision based on the facts of the case in front them. What this means is that each case is different and you should not rely on the statistics provided above to determine whether or not your specific case will be decided one way or another.

    A local, experienced attorney who specializes in Social Security and is familiar with the different ALJs, their personalities and their expectations can best advise you on how to proceed. If you need help with your Louisiana Social Security Disability hearing or appeal, contact SSDI attorney Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773 or submit an online case evaluation

    Judge Office Decisions Awards Denials
    Molinar, Kathleen S ALEXANDRIA 314 208 (66.2%) 106 (33.8%)
    Grant, Robert ALEXANDRIA 408 260 (63.7%) 148 (36.3%)
    Schwartz, Stanley M ALEXANDRIA 26 15 (57.7%) 11 (42.3%)
    DeLoach, Rowena E ALEXANDRIA 374 200 (53.5%) 174 (46.5%)
    Able, Devona ALEXANDRIA 320 142 (44.4%) 178 (55.6%)
    Fields, Kim A ALEXANDRIA 335 146 (43.6%) 189 (56.4%)
    Hansen, Holly ALEXANDRIA 336 145 (43.2%) 191 (56.8%)
    Wood, Paul ALEXANDRIA 303 115 (38.0%) 188 (62.0%)
    Smilie, Carolyn ALEXANDRIA 318 111 (34.9%) 207 (65.1%)
    Ragona, Lawrence T ALEXANDRIA 343 105 (30.6%) 238 (69.4%)
    Latham, Carol L ALEXANDRIA 290 83 (28.6%) 207 (71.4%)
    Akers, Janet ALEXANDRIA 118 33 (28.0%) 85 (72.0%)
    Judge Office Decisions Awards Denials
    Ramsey, Ruth METAIRIE 1 1 (100.0%) 0 (0.0%)
    Juge, Christopher H METAIRIE 349 178 (51.0%) 171 (49.0%)
    Stewart, Timothy G METAIRIE 338 166 (49.1%) 172 (50.9%)
    Wiedemann, Karen METAIRIE 249 108 (43.4%) 141 (56.6%)
    Perez, Gerardo METAIRIE 286 124 (43.4%) 162 (56.6%)
    Hertzig, Michael S METAIRIE 454 181 (39.9%) 273 (60.1%)
    Morgan, Jeffery D METAIRIE 374 137 (36.6%) 237 (63.4%)
    Exnicios, Richard M METAIRIE 333 100 (30.0%) 233 (70.0%)
    Lobo, Benita A METAIRIE 56 5 (8.9%) 51 (91.1%)
    Judge Office Decisions Awards Denials
    Kinnell, Tresie NEW ORLEANS 1 1 (100.0%) >0 (0.0%)
    Voisin, Glynn F NEW ORLEANS 318 248 (78.0%) 70 (22.0%)
    Anzalone, Kerry J NEW ORLEANS 305 237 (77.7%) 68 (22.3%)
    White, Charlotte N NEW ORLEANS 212 163 (76.9%) 49 (23.1%)
    Burgess, John R NEW ORLEANS 291 213 (73.2%) 78 (26.8%)
    Volz, III, Louis J NEW ORLEANS 519 338 (65.1%) 181 (34.9%)
    Gattuso, Mary NEW ORLEANS 221 127 (57.5%) 94 (42.5%)
    Pizzo, Nancy M NEW ORLEANS 396 212 (53.5%) 184 (46.5%)
    Gordon, Tamia N NEW ORLEANS 387 189 (48.8%) 198 (51.2%)
    Day, Kelley NEW ORLEANS 330 161 (48.8%) 169 (51.2%)
    Hilleren, Christine NEW ORLEANS 322 135 (41.9%) 187 (58.1%)
    Henderson, Thomas G NEW ORLEANS 370 154 (41.6%) 216 (58.4%)
    Judge Office Decisions Awards Denials
    Abbondondelo, Mary SHREVEPORT 341 255 (74.8%) 86 (25.2%)
    Kirzner, Ryan SHREVEPORT 281 140 (49.8%) 141 (50.2%)
    McGee, Elisabeth SHREVEPORT 241 114 (47.3%) 127 (52.7%)
    Wright, Charlotte A SHREVEPORT 290 133 (45.9%) 157 (54.1%)
    Lindsay, Charles R. SHREVEPORT 411 174 (42.3%) 237 (57.7%)
    Ebbers, Carolyn SHREVEPORT 79 29 (36.7%) 50 (63.3%)
    Antonowicz, John SHREVEPORT 368 135 (36.7%) 233 (63.3%)

    2018 Louisiana SSDI Approval RateNational SSDI Approval Rate

  • Do I Have To Submit The Worker’s Comp Report to SSA?

    We recently represented “Donald” who was injured on the job when attempting to lift a heavy object.  Donald’s injury required surgery.  Luckily for Donald, his injury was covered by worker’s compensation so it paid for the surgery.  After Donald did not recover as expected, he filed for Social Security Disability.

    At some point during the process, however, Donald’s worker’s compensation insurer required he take a Functional Capacity Exam to determine whether or not he could return to his previous work.  The FCE found that Donald was capable of working at the same physical level as before his injury.  Clearly, this FCE did not support Donald’s claim for disability benefits – where we must prove that Donald’s limitations prevent him from performing any work.  Simply put, this type of evidence hurts Donald’s claim.

    Do I have to submit the Worker's Comp report to the SSA?The question is this – Do we have to submit this unfavorable worker’s compensation report to SSA even though it does not help Donald’s claim?

    The answer is YES!

    SSA has an “all evidence” policy that you and your representative must follow.  This means that all evidence obtained in your case, even if it is unfavorable, must be submitted to SSA on your claim. 

    But, there is hope. 

    If you have unfavorable evidence from a worker’s comp doctor or any other doctor, you should promptly advise your attorney so that an effective strategy can be developed to minimize the negative evidence.

    In some cases, one strategy we employ is to have your own doctor prepare a letter detailing why the negative evidence is wrong and/or problems with the methods, technique or conclusions of the negative evidence.  Other strategies may be appropriate or required depending on your specific case.

    If you have a worker’s compensation claim or other negative evidence that you must submit to SSA, you should seek representation from a skilled and knowledgeable SSA attorney to help in your disability claim.  Our team would love to help – give us a call or use our contact form.

  • Do Social Security retirement benefits affect my Long-Term Disability payment?

    A recent caller to the office – let’s call him Al – asked an interesting question.  Here is our exchange:

    "Al, let me see if I understand your question correctly,” I asked. 

    “You have been receiving long-term disability payments through an insurance plan and that LTD insurer reduced your benefits by the amount of your Social Security Disability.  Correct?”

    Al said, “Yes.”

    I continued, “Now that you have reached full Social Security Retirement age, your Social Security Disability is now Social Security Retirement.  And, you want to know if the LTD insurer can continue to offset the LTD benefit by what you now receive as Social Security Retirement. Correct?”

    Al said, “Yes.”

    “Great!” I exclaimed.  “I just like to make sure I am understanding what you are asking.”

    “Al,” I said, “Here is my lawyer answer – I don’t know.”

    I explained to Al, and now to you – how and whether any Social Security Retirement payments affect your LTD payment will be a function of the specific language of your LTD policy.  And, each policy is slightly different.  You will need to obtain a copy of your policy and read specifically what it says about receipt of any Social Security benefits.  How SS Disability and/or SS Retirement benefits are construed and/or offset are policy specific.

    In most ERISA plans that I have reviewed, the LTD policy only pays benefits until you reach your Social Security Retirement age.  If this is the case, the effect of receiving full SS Retirement benefits will be that you are now aged off of the LTD benefit. 

    In private LTD plans, the policy period varies and how each policy handles offsets for SS Retirement differ.

    So, as I told Al – “You need to get a copy of the policy and review it. And, if you don’t understand what you are reading or what you are looking for, give my office a call to schedule an appointment where we can review it together.”

    Al set off to find a copy of his policy.  If you have this question, you should do the same!

    Do Social Security retirement benefits affect my Long-Term Disability payment?

  • PTSD and Social Security Disability – What Do I Need To Show To Get Disability for PTSD?

    Michael is a client of mine.  He admirably served our great country in some very brutal and hostile territory.  The horrors he described experiencing have clearly left a mark on him.  While a decorated soldier and a certified tough guy, Michael struggles to deal with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder his service left him with.  He attends counseling sessions at the VA clinic in Reserve, Louisiana, meets with a psychologist and psychiatrist at VA New Orleans, and has trouble in his everyday life as a result. Michael called us looking for help obtaining Social Security disability benefits due to his PTSD.

    PTSD is characterized by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a close family member or close friend, and the psychological aftermath of clinically significant effects on functioning. Symptoms and signs may include, but are not limited to, distressing memories, dreams, and flashbacks related to the trauma or stressor; avoidant behavior; diminished interest or participation in significant activities; persistent negative emotional states (for example, fear, anger) or persistent inability to experience positive emotions (for example, satisfaction, affection); anxiety; irritability; aggression; exaggerated startle response; difficulty concentrating; and sleep disturbance.

    PTSD can be seen in our military veterans, in crime victims, and survivors of other traumatic or stressful events – such as car crashes, physical and verbal abuse, and similar events.

    SSA recognized the seriousness of this disease in its most recent mental health listings.  Listing 12.15 recognizes the severe effects of PTSD on survivors and others and provides a pathway to a favorable decision.

    To meet the requirements of Listing 12.15, a person must show the following:

    1. Medical documentation of all of the following:
      1. Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
      2. Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
      3. Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
      4. Disturbance in mood and behavior; and
      5. Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).

    AND

    1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
      1. Understand, remember, or apply information.
      2. Interact with others.
      3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
      4. Adapt or manage oneself.

    OR

    1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
      1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
      2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.

    If a person’s PTSD does not specifically meet the listing, a skilled and experienced Louisiana Social Security Disability attorney can help present a PTSD case in a strategic way to make sure all of the severe symptoms and limitations caused are taken into account by SSA. 

    For Michael, and others like him, SSA’s recognition of this debilitating disease in a specific listing is tremendously beneficial. 

    If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD and needs help with obtaining Louisiana Social Security Disability benefits, give our team at Louisiana Disability Law a call today: (985) 240-9773.

    Please note that names are changed and circumstances may be combined for illustration purposes!

  • Can I get Social Security Disability benefits for epilepsy?

    Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by unusual nerve cell activity in the brain. The hallmark symptom of epilepsy is a seizure.  Statistically, 1 in 26 people is diagnosed with epilepsy and each year about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed. with the central nervous system disorder that causes seizures.

    Seizures can cause a range of symptoms, from momentarily staring blankly to loss of awareness and uncontrollable twitching. Some seizures can be milder than others, but even minor seizures can be dangerous if they occur during activities like swimming or driving.

    Our Luling office is often contacted to help evaluate disability claims for those with epilepsy.  When we speak with you about your epilepsy disability claim, we will evaluate whether you can meet the Social Security Disability listing for epilepsy or if your epilepsy causes impairments that are not compatible with any work that may be available. 

    To meet the listing for epilepsy, we will need to have a good description from your medical provider of a typical seizure plus one of the following:

    • Generalized tonic-clonic or Dyscognitive seizures occurring at least once a month for at least 3 consecutive months despite adherence to prescribed treatment. OR
    • Dyscognitive seizures occurring at least once a week for at least 3 consecutive months despite adherence to prescribed treatment. OR
    • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures occurring at least once every 2 months for at least 4 consecutive months despite adherence to prescribed treatment PLUS a marked limitation in one of the following:
      1. Physical functioning; or
      2. Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
      3. Interacting with others; or
      4. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
      5. Adapting or managing oneself.

    OR

    • Dyscognitive seizures occurring at least once every 2 weeks for at least 3 consecutive months despite adherence to prescribed treatment PLUS a marked limitation in one of the following:
      1. Physical functioning; or
      2. Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
      3. Interacting with others; or
      4. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
      5. Adapting or managing oneself.

    If your epilepsy is not severe enough to meet these stringent requirements, it may still qualify you for disability benefits.  We will have to work to accurately define how often you have seizures and experience problems with physical functioning; understanding, remembering and applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace; or adapting or managing yourself.  Your specific limitations, including any caused by your medications or side-effects, must be taken into account and may be limiting enough to prevent work.

    To help define your limitations, a seizure diary may be helpful.  This can be done by keeping a notebook where you write down the specifics of your seizures such a date, time started, time ended, effects (loss of consciousness, absence seizure, etc.), the cause of the seizure, and how long after the seizure it took you to return to normal functioning. 

    If you have a epilepsy and need help with your Social Security Disability claim, give us a call immediately at 985-240-9773 to see how we can help you prepare the best case possible for you!

  • What does 'DSM-5' or 'DSM-V' refer to when discussing Social Security Disability for Mental Disorders?

    What is DSM-V? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the most recent update to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. The DSM is the universal authority for psychiatric diagnoses. Treatment recommendations are often determined by DSM classifications. In most respects DSM-5 is not greatly changed from DSM-IV-TR but there are some notable changes including dropping Asperger syndrome as a distinct classification; loss of subtype classifications for variant forms of schizophrenia; dropping the "bereavement exclusion" for depressive disorders; a revised treatment and naming of gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria, and removing the A2 criterion for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because its requirement for specific emotional reactions to trauma did not apply to combat veterans and first responders with PTSD.

    If you or someone you love have a mental disability and are fighting for Social Security disability benefits, give us a call at Louisiana Disability Law.  We have the experience to guide you through this difficult process.

  • How do I get to the Social Security office in New Orleans, LA for my hearing?

    The New Orleans Social Security hearing office is located at 1515 Poydras Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

    • Coming from the Westbank, cross the Greater New Orleans bridge, exit at O'Keefe Avenue.
    • Stay on O'Keefe until you get to Poydras Street.  It will be 4 red lights.
    • Take a left onto Poydras Street.
    • The building is at 1515 Poydras Street, just past Lasalle Street.  To get to the parking garage, pass up the building and proceed to Freret Street.
    • Take a right on Freret.
    • The parking garage will be on your right.
    • Proceed up the ramp and press the button to get a parking ticket. Bring this ticket with you into the building.  Do not leave it in your car.
    • Once you have found a parking space, follow the signs to the elevators.
    • Take the elevator to floor 1.
    • Exit the elevator and cross the lobby to the second bank of elevators which go to floors 16-27.
    • Take the elevator to floor 16.
    • When you exit the elevator, you will see the Social Security Hearing Office.
    • Have your picture ID and hearing notice with you.
    • Remember that you cannot bring weapons such as guns, pocket knives, fingernail files or chemicals such as pepper spray or mace into the hearing office.
    • After your hearing, by the parking garage elevators, there will be a pay kiosk to pay for your parking.  It accepts cash and credit cards.
    • Taking your ticket and receipt with you.  You will need them to exit the garage.

    If you have more questions about your upcoming hearing and what to expect, check out our blog post What to Expect at an SSDI Hearing.

    If you need legal help or have specific questions about your case, give us a call at 985-240-9773 or fill out the contact form to the left.

  • Can I apply for Social Security if I was hurt in a car accident?

    As a Louisiana Social Security Disability attorney and a disabling injury attorney, I am often asked: “I was hurt in a car wreck; can I apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?”

    Can I apply for SSDI if I was hurt in a car accident?The answer to this simple question is – it depends.

    It depends on your injuries.  It depends on your symptoms.  It depends on your treatment. 

    If your disabling injuries keep you from being able to work for 12 or more months, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. 

    If your injuries heal in less than 12 months, you are not eligible for Social Security Disability benefits in all likelihood. 

    If you or someone you love suffered an injury in a car crash and have questions about Social Security Disability benefits, give us a call at Louisiana Disability Law.  We have the experience to guide you through this difficult process of figuring out whether or not you may eligible for Social Security or other injury-related benefits.

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  • How can I best present my case at my ALJ hearing?

    Having handled hearings for many New Orleans and other Louisiana Social Security disability claimants, I am often asked – how can I present my case most effectively at my Social Security disability hearing?

    At your hearing, your testimony should focus on the following:

    • Your physical symptoms, including your pain, its severity, and the resulting restrictions;
    • Your functional capacity: ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, manipulate, and travel;
    • Your current daily activities and any changes to your activities and life due to your disability;
    • Maybe the requirements of the jobs you held in the last 15 years – exertional, skill, and stress levels; and
    • Your current medical treatment: length, frequency, medication, etc.

    Sometimes having friends, family or co-workers testify can help, but usually, the ALJ is more interested in your specific testimony.  Plus, new regulations do not require ALJs to even comment on this witness testimony. 

    As a Louisiana Social Security disability lawyer, I have developed and polished many effective techniques for winning benefits. If you or someone you love is fighting for Social Security disability benefits, give us a call at Louisiana Disability Law.  We have the experience to guide you through this difficult process and present the best possible case for you before the Administrative Law Judge.

  • How do I get to the Social Security office in Metairie, LA for my hearing?

    The Metairie Social Security hearing office is located at 1 Galleria Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana. 

    • To get to the office, take Causeway Boulevard to Galleria Drive which is located just South of Interstate 10 between the Holiday Inn and Circle K.
    • Once you turn onto Galleria Drive, proceed down to the end.  It will be 2 stop signs.
    • Take a left onto Galleria Boulevard and proceed to the building.
    • Pass up the Contract Parking Garage.
    • If you need to be dropped off, you can be dropped off in the pullout in front of the building entrance.
    • Park in the Visitor Parking Garage.  Take a ticket.  Handicap parking is on the left by the elevators.
    • Go through the double glass doors to the elevators.  Take the elevators to floor 7L.
    • Exit the elevator and follow the brown walkway across the lobby to the building elevators.
    • Take a building elevator to floor 20.
    • Exit the elevator and you have arrived at the Social Security hearing office.
    • Proceed to security for your screening.
    • Have your picture ID and hearing notice with you.
    • Remember that you cannot bring weapons such as guns, pocket knives, fingernail files or chemicals such as pepper spray or mace into the hearing office.

    If you have more questions about your upcoming hearing and what to expect, check out our blog post What to Expect at an SSDI Hearing.

    If you need legal help or have specific questions about your case, give us a call at 985-240-9773 or fill out the contact form to the left.