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 long do SSDI benefits last?

    You will receive Social Security Disability Benefits for as long as you remain disabled under the Social Security laws. However, if you remain disabled at the normal Social Security Retirement Age, you will be converted over to Retirement Benefits instead of SSDI.  

  • Do I need a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

    I am sure you have heard that you do not need a Louisiana Social Security Disability Lawyer to win your disability case. Well, you heard right. Except of course, if you are one of the over 62% (based on the 2009 Social Security Statistical Report) of people who have their social security disability claim denied initially. The statistics show that once your Louisiana Social Security Disability claim reaches the hearing level (or above), you have a significant increase in the odds of being found disabled. Why is this? While I do not know for sure, I suspect it is because this is the stage that Metairie Social Security attorneys (and New Orleans Social Security Attorneys, and other Social Security Attorneys) get involved and help their clients get benefits. In 2008, at the hearing level or above, greater than 80% of claimants were awarded social security disability benefits. So while you may not need a Social Security Disability Lawyer, you may want to get one to help you navigate through the system and improve your chances of obtaining benefits

  • How long does it take for Social Security to make a decision on my SSDI claim?

    In Louisiana, the first decision is usually made within four to six months after you initially file for disability benefits. If you are denied at the initial application stage and request a hearing to appeal the decision, Social Security statistics indicate that a final decision will take an average of over one year in Louisiana to get that decision. As of April 2015: the New Orleans Social Security Disability/Houma Social Security Disability average processing time was 402 days; the Metairie/Kenner/Baton Rouge Social Security Disability average processing time was 308 days; the Shreveport Social Security Disability average processing time was 335 days; and the Alexandria/Lafayette/Baton Rouge Social Security Disability average processing time was 293 days. For more information, see blog posting: How long does it take to get SSDI benefits after I am approved?

  • What is an elimination period for disability?

    An elimination period is the amount of time you must be disabled under a disability insurance policy after filing the claim and prior to receiving benefits.

    It is the length of time between the date of the beginning of a disabling injury or illness (also known as the onset date) and the day you can begin receiving benefit payments from an insurer.

    It can also be known as the waiting period or deductible period.

    Elimination Period for SSDI

    The elimination period for Social Security Disability is 5 months.

    Elimination Period for Short-Term Disability

    For a short-term disability policy, the elimination period is generally 0-14 days.

    Elimination Period for Long-Term Disability

    Many long-term disability policies have a 90-day elimination period, but other periods do exist. Some are 180 days, and others can be much more. 

    Generally, a long-term disability policy with a longer elimination period will cost less.  However, if you should become disabled, you will have to go a longer period before payment can begin.

    The length of your elimination period can be found in your policy.

    Remember, you will not get any benefits for the duration of the elimination period, even though you are disabled.

  • Can I get Social Security Disability for Spinal Stenosis?

    WHAT IS SPINAL STENOSIS?

    Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal stenosis is most often the result of degenerative arthritis or a result of the aging process, but sometimes a bulging or ruptured disc may be the cause. Spinal stenosis usually occurs in the neck or lower bank.

    The most common types of spinal stenosis are lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis. While lumbar spinal stenosis is more common, cervical spinal stenosis is more dangerous because it involves compression of the spinal cord whereas the lumbar spinal stenosis involves compression of the cauda equina.

    Symptoms, if they occur, include pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, loss of motor control, loss of balance, and impaired bladder or bowel control. Treatment options for spinal stenosis can be surgical or non-surgical.


    CAN I GET SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FOR SPINAL STENOSIS?

    Spinal Stenosis pain and associated symptoms can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you.

    Can I get Social Security Disability for Spinal Stenosis

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to Spinal Stenosis, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the evaluation process. (Visit my prior blog post explaining the steps of Social Security’s Sequential Evaluation Process.)

    Generally, to establish Spinal Stenosis as a medically determinable severe impairment, you must show:

    • Objective medical imaging such as MRIs or CT Scans establishing spinal stenosis;
    • Consistent complaints of pain or other symptoms for a period of time and which is not controlled through conservative treatment modalities

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, SSA will determine if your condition meets Listing 1.04C – Disorders of the Spine – Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. 

    • 1.04C can be met if your condition
      • Causes lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudiction established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging,
      • Is manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness,
      • Results in inability to ambulate effectively, which is defined as
        • The inability to walk without the use of a walker, two crutches or two canes,
        • The inability to walk a block at a reasonable pace on rough or uneven surfaces,
        • The inability to use standard public transportation,
        • The inability to carry out routine ambulatory activities, such as shopping and banking, and
        • The inability to climb a few steps at a reasonable pace with the use of a single handrail.

    The key to meeting the listing is to have the appropriate objective medical testing including MRIs or CT Scans which show lumbar spinal stenosis.  In most cases, in my experience, the medical listing will not be met, but having a good knowledge of what you have to prove can help you discuss your case with your doctor.

    If your condition and/or related symptoms do not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your stenosis and pain), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.


    TIPS FOR SSDI APPLICATION FOR SPINAL STENOSIS

    1. Make sure an imaging report (MRI, CT, X-ray) diagnosing Spinal Stenosis is in your medical records. It is important that you “know your medical records.”
    2. Make sure your medical records document ALL of your symptoms and limitations including, but not limited to, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, loss of motor control, loss of balance, and impaired bladder or bowel control. Your medical records should not just document your pain. Let your doctor how often you feel the symptoms, how severe each symptom is, and how long each episode lasts. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms.
    3. See a specialist. Treatment of spinal stenosis by an orthopedist or neurologist or a chronic pain specialist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis from a family physician or internist professional.
    4. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try various modes of conservative or less invasive treatment, if recommended.
    5. See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the chronic pain and inability to participate in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions. Pain is often accompanied by or is the cause of mental health conditions. Treatment of the depression can help with the pain.
    6. See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
    7. If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
    8. Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity.
    9. Include information from nonmedical sources to support your medical claims. Gather Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time.  These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
    10. Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
    11. If you need assistance with your claim, contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in obtaining Social Security Disability benefits for spinal stenosis.

     

  • Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for Lupus?

    WHAT IS LUPUS?

    Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues. It can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus. There are many kinds of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affects many parts of the body.
     

    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR LUPUS?

    Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for Lupus

    Lupus health problems, pain, and fatigue can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you.
    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to Lupus, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the evaluation process. (Visit my prior blog post explaining the steps of Social Security’s Sequential Evaluation Process.)

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. Systemic lupus erythematosus is listed under SSA Medical Listing 14.02, the category of impairments known as the Immune System Disorders – Adult(14.00). To qualify as disabled under this listing, your medical records must show that you meet the following requirements:

    A. Involvement of two or more organs/body systems (such as kidneys and brain or heart and lungs), with:

    1. One of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity
    2. At least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue or exhaustion, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss)

    OR

    B. Repeated manifestations of SLE, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:

    1. Limitation of activities of daily living.
    2. Limitation in maintaining social functioning.
    3. Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.

    To determine if an individual has been correctly diagnosed with SLE and that the listing has been “met,” Social Security follows the guidelines set out in the current Criteria for the Classification of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, by the American College of Rheumatology. An individual must meet four criteria of the established eleven to be diagnosed with lupus. The criteria include:

    • Malar Rash
    • Discoid rash
    • Photosensitivity
    • Oral ulcers
    • Nonerosive Arthritis
    • Pleuritis or Pericarditis
    • Renal Disorder
    • Neurologic Disorder
    • Hematologic disorder
    • Immunologic disorder
    • Positive Antinuclear Antibody

    Medical evidence proving these symptoms may include doctor observations, electrocardiography, and blood tests, but is also dependent on the type of maladies suffered.

    If your diagnosis does not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your lupus), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.

    TIPS FOR SSDI APPLICATION FOR LUPUS

    1. Make sure a lupus diagnosis is in your medical records. We’ve mentioned this before for long-term disability, but it is also true for SSDI, “know your medical records.”
    2. Make sure your medical records document ALL of your constitutional symptoms and limitations. Let your doctor how often you feel the symptoms, how severe each symptom is, and what limitations they cause. Lupus may cause you to have fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, vision problems, headaches, and abnormal heart rhythms. These symptoms could make it difficult to stand or walk. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms.
    3. See a specialist. A lupus diagnosis from a rheumatologist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis from a family physician or internist professional.
    4. See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions. SLE is often accompanied by or is the cause of mental health conditions. However, it is important that the actual lupus diagnosis comes from a specialist and not your counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. (see above)
    5. See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
    6. If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
    7. Do not exaggerate your symptoms or limitations.  Keep all of your statements consistent and truthful.
    8. Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity.
    9. Include information from nonmedical sources to support your medical claims. Gather information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time. These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
    10. Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
    11. If you need assistance, contact an attorney with experience in Social Security Disability.  Give us a call at 985-240-9773 or take our quick disability eligibility quiz.

  • Do I Need A Witness For My Louisiana Disability Hearing?

    As a Louisiana disability attorney, I am often asked this question by my clients. My usual response is probably not, but this is a case by case determination.

    Do I need a witness for my disability hearing? A sincere, straightforward person talking about how you are affected by your condition can result in a favorable decision.  Witnesses can be a husband/wife, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, co-worker, supervisor, or anyone else that can provide information on the extent of your limitations.In most cases, the medical records are available and provide a good picture of your medical impairments. And, you are usually the best person to relay how your medical impairments impact your daily life and talk about the limitations that you deal with as a result of your impairments.

    However, in some cases, if either the medical records are not sufficient or if you are unable to adequately explain how you are affected, a witness can be important.

    A sincere, straightforward person talking about how you are affected by your condition can result in a favorable decision. Witnesses can be a husband/wife, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, co-worker, supervisor, or anyone else that can provide information on the extent of your limitations.

    When deciding whether or not you should use a witness at your hearing, you need to choose only one or two of the best people to help you present your story. As an attorney, I would never call a witness who I had not at least spoken with in advance of the testimony to see what their impressions are.

    Your witness can provide testimony that supports your testimony and may add to your testimony. I often find if I ask a spouse to share how their husband or wife is impacted by the disability, the spouse often relays much more difficulty than the claimant, having a different impression of the impact. You need to know before calling a witness whether the witness’s testimony will help your case.

    If possible, the best witness is someone who an ALJ can view as more objective about your claim as opposed to someone close to you, who is likely to be viewed as less than objective and more willing to help you. Good objective witnesses are more likely co-workers, supervisors, neighbors, social workers, etc. as opposed to family and close friends.

    Regardless of the witness chosen, the witness should provide observational testimony and not conclusory testimony. What does that mean? An example of observational testimony is, “I have seen Mary return from the store and need to get her son to unload the groceries.” Another example is, “While at work over the past few months, I have noticed John needed to get up from his work station and go lay on the floor for about 20 minutes each morning and each afternoon.” Conclusory testimony is more like, “I know Mary is disabled because I see her come from the store and need help getting inside the house.” The conclusion is that Mary is disabled. Statements like that can hurt a witness’s credibility.

    If you think a witness may be necessary to help prove your claim, you may need an attorney as well. A Houma disability attorney can help you prepare your case and your witness to give you the best chance of success.

  • Can I receive Social Security disability payments for bladder cancer?

    July 17 is Bladder Cancer Awareness Day. Social Security offers expedited disability case processing for over 225 qualified conditions under their Compassionate Allowances program – bladder cancer is one of them.

    Compassionate Allowances are a way for the Social Security Administration to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards. Individuals with bladder cancer may receive a decision on their claim in a matter of weeks instead of months or years. Being diagnosed with a Compassionate Allowance condition does not provide additional money above what an individual is eligible for under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability programs. The Compassionate Allowance program simply speeds up the receipt of a decision on the claim. 

    There is no special application or form. Individuals with bladder cancer or any other Compassionate Allowance condition apply for benefits using the standard process. SSA will expedite the applications of those with a qualifying condition.

    To qualify for Social Security Disability with bladder cancer, SSA will determine if your condition meets Listing 13.22 for Urinary bladder – carcinoma. To meet this listing, you must show in your medical records that you have carcinoma of the urinary bladder that meets one of the following conditions:

    • With infiltration beyond the bladder wall.
    • Recurrent after total cystectomy.
    • Inoperable or unresectable.
    • With metastases to or beyond the regional lymph nodes.

    If your related symptoms do not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your bladder cancer), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.

    Tips for SSDI Application for Bladder Cancer

    1. Know your medical records.
    2. Make sure your medical records document ALL of your symptoms and limitations and the residual effects you experience. Your medical records should not just document your bladder cancer, they should include notes on your symptoms like how often you feel symptoms, how severe each symptom is and how long each symptom lasts. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms. Make sure any and all side effects of treatment and/or medication are noted in your records.
    3. Have someone assist you with your claim if your memory, concentration, etc. prevent you from completing the forms yourself.
    4. See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the chronic problems and inability to participate fully in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions.
    5. See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
    6. If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
    7. Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity, if applicable.
    8. Include information from nonmedical sources to support your medical claims. Gather Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time.  These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
    9. Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
    10. If you need assistance with your claim, contact an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability

  • How long do I have to wait for a SSDI hearing after I appeal my denial?

    wait times for SSDI hearing in LouisianaA question I am often asked is “How long will I have to wait for my Social Security Disability hearing?

    The wait time can vary greatly from one Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) to another.

    The national average for February 2014 was 11.7 months between the request for an appeal hearing and the hearing date.

    The good news for Louisiana claimants is that all Louisiana ODARs have wait times below the national average.

    The wait times for Louisiana offices in February 2014 were:

    Metairie   7 months
    New Orleans   11 months
    Shreveport   6 months
    Alexandria   8 months

    Shreveport actually had the shortest wait time out of all offices in the nation at 6 months.

    Data on all ODAR offices can be found at ssa.gov

    If you have questions about your Social Security disability appeal or hearing, call New Orleans area disability lawyer, Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773 or submit an online case evaluation.

     

  • How can I qualify for SSDI benefits with Multiple Sclerosis?

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms). Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely; however, permanent neurological problems often occur, especially as the disease advances.

    While the cause is not clear, the underlying mechanism is thought to be either destruction by the immune system or failure of the myelin-producing cells. Proposed causes for this include genetics and environmental factors such as infections. MS is usually diagnosed based on the presenting signs and symptoms and the results of supporting medical tests.

    There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatments attempt to improve function after an attack and prevent new attacks. Medications used to treat MS while modestly effective can have adverse effects and be poorly tolerated. Many people pursue alternative treatments, despite a lack of evidence. The long-term outcome is difficult to predict, with good outcomes more often seen in women; those who develop the disease early in life; those with a relapsing course; and those who initially experienced few attacks. Life expectancy is 5 to 10 years lower than that of an unaffected population.

    Some common symptoms of MS include almost any neurological symptom or sign; with autonomic, visual, motor, and sensory problems being the most common. The specific symptoms are determined by the locations of the lesions within the nervous system, and may include loss of sensitivity or changes in sensation such as tingling, pins and needles or numbness, muscle weakness, very pronounced reflexes, muscle spasms, or difficulty in moving; difficulties with coordination and balance (ataxia); problems with speech or swallowing, visual problems (nystagmus, optic neuritis or double vision), feeling tired, acute or chronic pain, and bladder and bowel difficulties, among others. Difficulties thinking and emotional problems such as depression or unstable mood are also common. Uhthoff’s phenomenon, a worsening of symptoms due to exposure to higher than usual temperatures, and Lhermitte’s sign, an electrical sensation that runs down the back when bending the neck, are particularly characteristic of MS.

    Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for Multiple Sclerosis?

    Multiple Sclerosis can cause symptoms, limitations, and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you suffer from MS.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to MS and its symptoms or limitations, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the evaluation process. (Visit my prior blog post explaining the steps of Social Security’s Sequential Evaluation Process.)

    Generally, to establish MS as a medically determinable severe impairment, you should provide:

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For multiple sclerosis, SSA will determine if your condition meets Listing 11.09.  To meet this listing, you must show:

    The key to meeting the listing is to have the appropriate objective medical testing and a longitudinal medical history that addresses each of the requirements.  A knowledgeable social security attorney can help you determine if your MS meet the listing.

    If your related symptoms do not equal a listing, the Social Security Administration will next assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) (the work you can still do, despite your multiple sclerosis), to determine whether you qualify for benefits at steps 4 and 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do. In determining your RFC, the Social Security Administration adjudicator should consider all of your symptoms in deciding how they may affect your ability to function.

    • Objective medical testing establishing MS (i.e., MRI results, etc.); and/or
    • Evidence of consistent and repeated symptoms despite treatment.
      1. Disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B; or
      2. Visual or mental impairment as described under the criteria in 2.02, 2.03, 2.04, or 12.02; or
      3. Significant, reproducible fatigue of motor function with substantial muscle weakness on repetitive activity, demonstrated on physical examination, resulting from neurological dysfunction in areas of the central nervous system known to be pathologically involved by the multiple sclerosis process.

    Tips for SSDI Application for Multiple SclerosisTips for your Social Security Disability application for Multiple Sclerosis from Louisiana SSDI attorney Loyd Bourgeois

    1. Make sure that the medical records diagnosing the Multiple Sclerosis and its progression are included. This is usually done by MRI results but may include other appropriate testing. It is important that you “know your medical records.” 
    2. Make sure your medical records document ALL of your symptoms and limitations and the residual effects you experience. Your medical records should not just document your MS, they should include notes on your symptoms like how often you feel symptoms, how severe each symptom is and how long each symptom lasts. Make sure that all your medical problems are adequately documented by your doctor, and that you are receiving the appropriate medical attention for all of your disabling symptoms. Make sure any side effects of medication are noted in your records.
    3. Have someone assist you with your claim if your memory, concentration, etc. prevent you from completing the forms yourself.
    4. See a specialist. Treatment of MS by a neurologist is important.
    5. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try what is recommended like physical therapy, cognitive training, diet and exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, etc.  The key is that you want your records to show that you are concerned about your health and are working with your doctor to improve.
    6. See a mental health professional. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety as a result of the chronic problems and inability to participate fully in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions.
    7. See your doctor regularly and keep your appointments.
    8. If you can, provide evidence of a long work history.
    9. Provide examples of unsuccessful attempts to return to work and/or unsuccessful attempts to work in a decreased capacity, if applicable.
    10. Include information from nonmedical sources to support your medical claims. Gather Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, clergy, and/or past employers about your impairments and how they affect your function. Have them document changes that they have seen in your ability over time.  These are not given nearly as much weight as testimony from a medical professional, but they don’t hurt.
    11. Keep a journal. Make regular notes about your impairment, level of function, and treatments.
    12. If you need assistance with your claim, contact an attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability. At Louisiana Disability Law, we have extensive experience with obtaining Social Security Disability benefits and have successfully obtained benefits for clients with Multiple Sclerosis.