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 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.

  • How common is SSDI fraud?

    Reports of Social Security Disability fraud seem to come almost weekly these days.

    These reports have increased attention to the disability program and led to claims that the Social Security Administration’s program is rampant with fraudulent claims.

    A recent story about New York firefighters making fraudulent claims has helped fuel the debate over SSDI fraud and claims that fraud is the only reason why disability claims have increased in the U.S.

    Despite the media’s claims that the disability program is rampant with fraud, that is simply not the case according to a recent report by the executive director of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and a vice president of Easter Seals.

    The report points out the exacting requirements necessary to prove that a person is disabled under SSA.

    To win an SSDI claim, a person must first have worked enough to qualify for benefits, have a severe medical condition that limits their ability to function proven by extensive medical records and reports, and must be so limited that they cannot perform their past work or other available work.

    To say that obtaining Social Security disability benefits is hard would be an understatement.

    According to the report, less than four in 10 (or 40%) SSDI claims are approved.

    And, those that do receive SSDI benefits receive only a modest monthly benefit which averages only $1,130.

    These funds must be used to pay for living expenses, medical care, food, and other basic necessities of life.

    While the overall number of Social Security disability applications has increased over time, according to the report, the reasons for the increase are many and varied but mostly result from three things:

    1. Overall population growth
    2. Baby-boomers reaching the age where disability is more likely
    3. Entry of a greater number of women into the workplace in the 70s and 80s.

    That is why the claim and reporting that the disability program is full of fraudulent claims is so disheartening.

    I see sick and disabled individuals every day that need the benefits that they paid for throughout their working life.

    Having these individuals cast into the same light by the public and the media as fraudsters only serve to further marginalize and stigmatize people at their lowest point.

    Does fraud exist in the SSDI program?

    Yes, that cannot be denied and they should be rooted out and face the consequences of their actions.

    But, fraud is not as widespread or endemic as some would have you believe.

    A few outliers that receive all the attention does not make the entire program a sham.

    The small number of fraudulent claims should not be used to justify wholesale changes or further limit access to the necessary and vital benefits.

    How Social Security Disability Fraud Hurts Everyone

    A recent news article about an ex-postal worker sentenced for worker’s compensation fraud caught my attention and bears mentioning in this blog.

    First, let’s talk about the ex-postal worker. She was a Florida resident and reportedly injured her back during the annual Letter Carrier’s Food Drive in 2009. Due to her injuries, she alleged that she could no longer deliver mail. She was relieved of her mail carrying duties and placed on “light duty” work. During this time, she collected worker’s compensation benefits since her pay was reduced due to the lessened responsibilities.

    However, evidence—including videos and photographs—showed that this allegedly injured worker competed in 80 long-distance races including marathons and triathlons following her injury. According to news reports, her times improved after her injury. A federal jury convicted the allegedly injured ex-postal worker of health care fraud and making false statements to collect benefits. She faces up to 15 years in prison and will be sentenced on July 25.

    While this case was a worker’s compensation case, its message and repercussions will be felt throughout many other programs.

    As a Social Security disability attorney, cases like these are disheartening to me for a number of reasons.

    Mostly because I know that most benefit recipients (whether worker’s compensation or disability) are truly in need of the benefits.

    They are not stealing from the system, but relying on the system.

    But cases like these are used by those in power to make it much more difficult for truly injured or disabled people to get benefits.

    Can you Turn Someone in for Social Security Disability Fraud?

    I know that in every system there will be those who abuse and steal from it for their own personal gain, and I am in full favor of rooting out such fraud and punishing those who abuse these much-needed systems.

    To report suspected fraud, you can fill out an online form here.

  • Can I Get Social Security Disability After A Stroke?

    A stroke recently struck 53-year-old U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R.–Ill.). Many have mentioned that strokes do not usually occur in people as young as Kirk.

    According to a recent Associated Press article on strokes, up to 25% of strokes nationally occur in people younger than 65 years old. However, in Louisiana and other southeastern states, the figure is much worse. For example, in North Carolina, the article reports one facility measured 45% of strokes in young and middle-aged individuals.

    While strokes are devastating at any age, when a younger or middle-aged person is affected with a stroke there is more chance of survival according to the article. But the recovery may take a long time. And you may experience loss of certain functionality.

    As a result, you may need to apply for Social Security disability benefits for stroke. The residual effects of stroke often involve memory difficulties and problems with motor coordination and function, and for this reason, a stroke victim may have difficulty performing an occupation.

    There are a few things to note when applying for disability benefits related to a stroke. Initial claims for disability benefits usually take several months before a decision is reached. However, stroke cases can take even longer because the evaluation is often delayed over a longer period of time to see if there is any improvement. The residual effects of a stroke can be nearly impossible to measure in the short time following a stroke. Doctors simply do not know enough to allow for a reliable projection as to how a stroke victim may recover from a stroke.

    Your recovery can be influenced by factors such as age and the existence of other medical conditions and risk factors. Also, not all individuals will recover at the same rate. The Social Security Administration (SSA) needs to see how your recovery progresses before making a determination on your claim.

    WHAT IS A STROKE? 

    A stroke is a condition in which the brain cells suddenly die because of a lack of oxygen.

    A stroke can be caused by an obstruction in the blood flow or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain. You may suddenly lose the ability to speak, or have memory problems, or one side of your body can become paralyzed.

    The two main types of stroke are ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Both types of stroke result in a lack of blood flow to the brain and a buildup of blood that puts too much pressure on the brain.

    Ischemic stroke – Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and occurs when a blood clot, or thrombus, forms that blocks blood flow to part of the brain. If a blood clot forms somewhere in the body and breaks off to become free-floating, it is called an embolus. This wandering clot may be carried through the bloodstream to the brain where it can cause ischemic stroke.

    Hemorrhagic stroke – A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel on the brain’s surface ruptures and fills the space between the brain and skull with blood (subarachnoid hemorrhage) or when a defective artery in the brain bursts and fills the surrounding tissue with blood (cerebral hemorrhage).

    The outcome after a stroke depends on where the stroke occurs and how much of the brain is affected. Smaller strokes may result in minor problems, such as weakness in an arm or leg. Major strokes may lead to paralysis or death. Many patients are left with weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, incontinence, and bladder problems.

    WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STROKE?

    Can you get disability benefits after a stroke?

    Within a few minutes of having a stroke brain cells begin to die and symptoms emerge. Recognition of the symptoms is important, as prompt treatment is crucial to recovery.

    Common symptoms include:

    • Trouble walking, loss of balance and coordination.
    • Speech problems.
    • Dizziness.
    • Numbness, weakness, or paralysis.
    • Blurred, blackened, or double vision.
    • Sudden severe headache.
    • Confusion.

    Smaller strokes (or silent strokes), however, may not cause any symptoms, but can still damage brain tissue.

    A transient ischemic attack (TIA) may be a sign of an impending stroke – TIA is a temporary interruption in blood flow to part of the brain. Symptoms of TIA are similar to those of strokes but last for a shorter period and do not leave noticeable permanent damage.

    WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF STROKE?

    Strokes can range in degree of severity, and the type of damage done depends on where in the brain they occur and how long they last. Strokes can cause death immediately, or cause little limitation. Some of the common and lasting effects caused by strokes include:

    • Weakness, paralysis, numbness. This refers to limitations in movement or motor ability, such as weakness and paralysis in an arm and leg on the same side of the body as a result of the blockage.
    • Speech and language problems. Strokes sometimes produce some degree of loss of ability to understand or express certain aspects of written or spoken language in various combinations (known as aphasia).
    • Personality changes. Strokes may produce personality changes if it is large enough and in the right area of the brain.
    • Vision problems. Usually to one eye only and can affect depth perception, peripheral vision, and cause other vision issues.
    • Balance problems. Strokes can affect balance and ability to walk without producing any actual weakness. Strokes may also cause unilateral neglect, or where the brain does not recognize one of the limbs, which makes it functionally useless.

    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR STROKE?

    A stroke can cause symptoms, limitations and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you have suffered a stroke and have residual symptoms.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to a stroke and the effect of residual symptoms, 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 a stroke as a medically determinable severe impairment, you should provide:

    • Objective medical testing establishing the CVA (i.e., MRI or CT); and
    • Treatment records detailing your initial hospitalization and ongoing therapy or residual effects.

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing.

    The SSA does have a listing for strokes. It is Listing 11.04, vascular insult to the brain. The listing for stroke is fairly short and requires the following:

    • Stroke residuals will be evaluated at least 3 months following a stroke (meaning a case may be deferred).
    • To be approved on the basis of the stroke listing, a claimant must demonstrate:
      • 11.04A. Ineffective speech or communication that results from sensory or motor aphasia (the loss of ability to speak or comprehend due to brain illness or injury) OR
      • 11.04B. Persistent, significant motor function disorganization in two extremities (this could be two legs, two arms, or an arm and a leg) that results in a sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or in gait and station.

    These effects, if present, should be described in your medical records by your treating provider. It is important to note, that they must exist at least three months following the stroke and be expected to last at least 12 months total.

    A knowledgeable social security attorney can help you determine if your residual effects meet the listing.

    Even if your condition does not rise to the listing level, you may still be found disabled if the limitations resulting from the stroke prevent you from performing your past relevant work and other work available in the national economy. In such cases, you should consult with a disability attorney for help with proving your limitations.

    As with any impairment, your level of impairment (or residual functionalality/RFC) will be determined by a review of your medical records, including treatment notes, admission and discharge summaries, lab and imaging studies, and also supporting statements from one’s treating physician(s). It is important to get these records into SSA as soon as possible for a complete evaluation of your disability claim.

    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 STROKE

    1. Make sure that the medical records diagnosing the stroke are included. This may be an MRI, CT Scan, or 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 stroke, they should include your physical therapy, speech therapy or other therapy you have undergone. You need to let your doctor 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 stroke and recovery by a neurologist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis from a family physician or internist professional.
    5. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try what is recommended.
    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 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 non-medical 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.  For a free case evaluation, call Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773

  • Can You Get Disability Benefits for Coronary Artery Disease?

    WHAT IS HEART DISEASE?

    Heart Disease generally refers to coronary artery disease (CAD) also known as ischemic heart disease (IHD). Heart disease occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries). Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, which can accumulate in your arteries. When this happens, your arteries can narrow over time. This process is called atherosclerosis.

    Plaque buildup can cause angina, the most common symptom of CAD. This condition causes chest pain or discomfort because the heart muscle doesn’t get enough blood. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can’t pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, can also develop.

    For some people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart. It also can happen if a plaque deposit breaks off and clots a coronary artery.


    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR HEART DISEASE?

    Heart Disease can cause symptoms, limitations, and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you have suffered from heart disease.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to heart disease 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 heart disease as a medically determinable severe impairment, you should provide:

    • Objective medical testing establishing heart disease (i.e., EEG, EKG, stress test results, etc.); and/or
    • Evidence of consistent and repeated attacks despite treatment

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For heart disease, SSA will determine if your condition meets Listing 4.04. This is a complex listing that requires substantial medical evidence and knowledge of your specific type of heart disease and objective testing results.

    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 residual effects 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 heart disease), 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 HEART DISEASE

    1. Make sure that the medical records diagnosing the heart disease are included. This may be an EEG, EKG, stress test, nuclear test, or 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 heart disease, 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 heart disease by a cardiologist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis and treatment from a family physician or internist.
    5. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try what is recommended like 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 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 disability lawyer, Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773 or submit an online case evaluation. Claim.

  • Can I get disability benefits for my digestive disorder?

    Digestive Disorders are a class of illnesses that affect the stomach, intestinal tract, and related organs. Digestive disorders include illnesses such as:

    • Chronic liver disease
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Short bowel syndrome
    • Crohn’s disease

    In minor cases, your condition may cause unpleasant urges and general discomfort. In more severe cases, your condition may cause you severe pain — pain that impacts your ability to work, and in some cases can prevent you from working altogether, fatigue, concentration problems, frequent trips to the restroom, and other severe symptoms.

    Can I Receive Social Security Disability benefits for a Digestive Disorder?

    Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes many types of digestive system impairments as giving rise to eligibility for SSDI benefits. As a New Orleans SSDI lawyer, I have helped individuals obtain benefits for digestive tract disabilities.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to a digestive disorder 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 a digestive tract disease as a medically determinable severe impairment, you should provide:

    • Objective medical testing, establishing the digestive tract disease (such as CT scans, MRI, blood testing results, colonoscopy/endoscopy results, etc.); and/or
    • Evidence of consistent and repeated symptoms despite treatment

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For digestive tract diseases, SSA will determine if your condition meets any of the Listing 5.00 requirements. This is a complex listing that requires substantial medical evidence and knowledge of your specific type of disease, objective testing results, and a longitudinal medical history discussing your treatment, effects, responses, and prognosis.

    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 Louisiana Social Security Attorney can help you determine if your residual effects 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 digestive disease), 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 Digestive Tract Diseases

    1. Make sure that the medical records diagnosing the digestive tract disease are included. This may be a CT Scan, MRI, blood chemistry, colonoscopy/endoscopy report, or 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 digestive disease, 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 digestive tract disease by a gastroenterologist will carry more weight than the same diagnosis and treatment from a family physician or internist.
    5. Comply with your doctor’s orders and try what is recommended like diet and exercise, 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 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 is knowledgeable in Social Security Disability.  Call Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773

  • Can I Get SSDI for Asthmatic Bronchitis? Tips for Application

    WHAT IS ASTHMATIC BRONCHITIS?

    Chronic asthmatic bronchitis refers to an underlying asthmatic problem in patients where asthma has become so persistent that clinically significant chronic airflow obstruction is present despite anti-asthmatic therapy.

    Bronchitis and asthma are two inflammatory airway conditions. Bronchitis is inflammation of the airways that is usually caused by viral or bacterial infections. Chronic bronchitis can be triggered by long-term exposure to environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, or chemicals.

    Asthma is an inflammatory condition that leads to tightening of the muscles around the airways and swelling, which cause airways to narrow.

    When the two conditions coexist, it is called asthmatic bronchitis.

    Symptoms include wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath. Distinction between these three disorders is clinically difficult.


    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR ASTHMATIC BRONCHITIS?

    Can you receive SSDI benefits for Asthmatic Bronchitis?Asthmatic Bronchitis can cause symptoms and restrictions that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you are diagnosed with Asthmatic Bronchitis.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to asthmatic bronchitis, 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 Asthmatic Bronchitis as a medically determinable severe impairment, you must show:

    • Objective medical testing establishing pulmonary insufficiency; and/or
    • Consistent and repeated attacks despite treatment

    At step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the SSA determines if your condition meets a listing. For asthmatic bronchitis, SSA will determine if your condition meets either Listing 3.02 or 3.03

    • 3.02 can be met if your asthmatic bronchitis causes chronic pulmonary insufficiency as indicated by a pulmonary function study with an FEV1 less than or equal to the value on a chart provided in the listing
    • 3.03 can be met either by meeting Listing 3.02 or by establishing attacks  in spite of prescribed treatment and requiring physician intervention, occurring at least once every 2 months or, at least, six times a year.

    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.  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 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 asthmatic bronchitis), 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 ASTHMATIC BRONCHITIS

    1. Make sure a pulmonary function study establishing the severity of your asthmatic bronchitis or pulmonary insufficiency 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. Your medical records should not just document your shortness of breath. Let your doctor how often you feel the symptoms, how severe each episode 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. Make sure any side effects of medication are noted in your records.
    3. See a specialist. Treatment of asthmatic bronchitis by a pulmonologist, allergy specialist or asthma 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 problems and inability to participate in life, see a mental health professional to diagnose, treat, and document these conditions.
    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 non-medical 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 specializes in Social Security Disability.

    9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim Book Offer If you're preparing to apply for Social Security disability or appeal a claim denial, I've written a book 9 Mistakes that Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim.   This is a helpful and informative guide that will guide you through some of the common mistakes and errors that lead to unfavorable Social Security Disability decisions.  Don't make a costly mistake that could cause you to lose the benefits that you need to survive! I'd love to send you a copy.  Just click here to receive your free copy of my book 9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim.

  • Can I Get Social Security Disability for Degenerative Disc Disease?

    WHAT IS DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE?

    Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to dehydration and shrinkage of the spinal discs that cushion the vertebral bodies of the spine. Spinal discs are soft, spongy discs that separate the thirty-three vertebrae that make up your spine. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers for your spine and allow your spine to move with comfort and ease. The outer portion of a spinal disc is a tough elastic cartilage called the capsule. It surrounds and protects an interior jelly-like material called the nucleus. Spinal discs change naturally as you age or they may change as a result of an injury. This process is called DDD. Degenerative disc disease can lead to chronic pain and seriously impact your ability to function daily.

    DDD is not technically a disease but rather a condition that describes changes to the spinal discs located between the 33 vertebrae of your spine. DDD can be seen on X-rays, MRI, and CT scans of the spine. It appears as narrowing of the space between vertebral bodies. Symptomatic DDD usually occurs between the 5th lumbar vertebra and the 1st sacral vertebra (L5-S1).

    CAUSES OF DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE

    As you age, your spinal discs will naturally degenerate and change. Aside from the aging process, an injury from something like an auto accident or from playing sports may also impact one or more spinal discs and start the degeneration process. The changes and the type of degeneration typically include one or both of the following:

    Reduction in Spinal Disc Thickness: A spinal disc gradually becomes thinner as a result of fluid loss in the jelly-like interior of the disc. When spinal discs do become thinner, it narrows the distance between vertebrae and reduces shock absorption and flexibility of the spine.

    Tears or Cracks in Spinal Discs: Small tears or cracks may develop in the outer portion of spinal discs. When this happens, the jelly-like interior may leak into these tiny tears or cracks causing them to bulge or rupture.

    The development of DDD can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves causing pain and abnormal function.

    SYMPTOMS AND TYPES OF DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE

    The symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary depending on the location of the spinal disc degeneration. If a spinal disc or multiple spinal discs in the neck region of the spine become degenerated, it may cause neck or arm pain. This is commonly referred to as Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease.

    If a spinal disc or several spinal discs in the low back area of the spine become degenerated, it may cause low back pain or pain in the hips, buttocks, and legs. This is commonly referred to as Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease.

    The degree of pain may also vary from numbness or tingling to intense pain that increases with movement.

    Initial treatments may range from medication to physical therapy or epidural injections. Sometimes DDD may become severe enough to require surgery. Surgery is performed with hopes of stabilizing the spine and decreasing pain.


    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE?

    CAN I GET SSDI FOR DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE?

    Degenerative Disc Disease pain and associated symptoms 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 Degenerative Disc Disease, 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 Degenerative Disc Disease as a medically determinable severe impairment, you must show:

    • Objective medical imaging establishing degenerative disc disease;
    • 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 DDD, SSA will determine if your condition meets any of the Listing 1.04 – Disorders of the Spine. There are three parts to this listing that you may meet. They are as follows:

    • 1.04A can be met if your DDD
      • Results in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord
      • 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.
      • There is evidence of nerve root compression characterized by–
        • neuro-anatomic distribution of pain,
        • limitation of motion of the spine,
        • motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss, and
        • if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).
    • 1.04B can be met if your DDD
      • Causes spinal arachnoiditis confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, and
      • Is manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours.
    • 1.04C can be met if your DDD

    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. 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 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 DDD 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 DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE

    1. Make sure an imaging report (MRI, CT, X-ray) diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease 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. 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 DDD 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, call disability attorney Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773. At Louisiana Disability Law, we have experience obtaining disability benefits for clients with degenerative joint disease.

    9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim Book Offer If you're preparing to apply for Social Security disability or appeal a claim denial, I've written a book 9 Mistakes that Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim. This is a helpful and informative guide that will guide you through some of the common mistakes and errors that lead to unfavorable Social Security Disability decisions. Don't make a costly mistake that could cause you to lose the benefits that you need to survive! I'd love to send you a copy. Just click here to receive your free copy of my book 9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim.

  • Can I Get Disability For Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease?

    WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS (OA) OR DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE (DJD)?

    Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), is a group of mechanical abnormalities involving degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and subchondral bone.

    Primary OA is a chronic degenerative disorder related to but not caused by aging. As a person ages, the water content of the cartilage decreases as a result of a reduced proteoglycan content, thus causing the cartilage to be less resilient. The water content of healthy cartilage is finely balanced by compressive force driving water out & swelling pressure drawing water in. Collagen fibers exert the compressive force, whereas the Gibbs-Donnan effect & cartilage proteoglycans create osmotic pressure which tends to draw water in. However, during the onset of OA, there is an increase in cartilage water content. This increase occurs because while there is an overall loss of proteoglycans, it is outweighed by a loss of collagen. Without the protective effects of the proteoglycans, the collagen fibers of the cartilage can become susceptible to degradation and thus exacerbate the degeneration. Inflammation of the surrounding joint capsule can also occur, though often mild (compared to what occurs in rheumatoid arthritis). This can happen as breakdown products from the cartilage are released into the synovial space, and the cells lining the joint attempt to remove them. New bone outgrowths, called “spurs” or osteophytes, can form on the margins of the joints, possibly in an attempt to improve the congruence of the articular cartilage surfaces. These bone changes, together with the inflammation, can be both painful and debilitating.

    OA/DJD symptoms may include joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, locking, and sometimes an effusion. The main symptom is pain, causing loss of ability and often stiffness. “Pain” is generally described as a sharp ache or a burning sensation in the associated muscles and tendons. OA can cause a crackling noise (called “crepitus”) when the affected joint is moved or touched and people may experience muscle spasms and contractions in the tendons. Occasionally, the joints may also be filled with fluid. Some people report increased pain associated with cold temperature, high humidity, and/or a drop in barometric pressure.

    OA/DJD commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and the large weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, although, in theory, any joint in the body can be affected. As OA progresses, the affected joints appear larger, are stiff and painful, and usually feel better with gentle use but worse with excessive or prolonged use, as distinguished from rheumatoid arthritis.

    In smaller joints, such as at the fingers, hard bony enlargements, called Heberden’s nodes (on the distal interphalangeal joints) and/or Bouchard’s nodes (on the proximal interphalangeal joints), may form, and though they are not necessarily painful, they do limit the movement of the fingers significantly. OA at the toes leads to the formation of bunions, rendering them red or swollen. Some people notice these physical changes before they experience any pain. OA is the most common cause of a joint effusion of the knee.


    CAN I RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS/DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE?

    Can I receive SSDI for Osteoarthritis?

    Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease can cause pain and other symptoms that can impact your ability to work. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to you if you are diagnosed with OA/DJD.

    If you are not engaging in gainful activity due to OA or DJD, the Social Security Administration must determine if you have an impairment that is “severe.” This is step 2 of the sequential evaluation process.

    Generally, to establish Degenerative Joint Disease as a medically determinable severe impairment, you must show:

    • Objective medical imaging establishing osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease;
    • 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 OA/DJD, SSA will determine if your condition meets any of the Listing 1.02 – Major Dysfunction of a Joint or 1.04 – Disorders of the Spine.

    • 1.02 can be met if your OA/DJD is
      • Characterized by gross anatomical deformity (e.g., subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis, instability) and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s), and
      • There is involvement of one major peripheral weight-bearing joint (i.e., hip, knee, or ankle), resulting in inability to ambulate effectively, OR
      • There is involvement of one major peripheral joint in each upper extremity (i.e., shoulder, elbow, or wrist-hand), resulting in the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively.
    • 1.04A can be met if your OA/DJD affects the spine and
      • Results in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord
      • There is evidence of nerve root compression characterized by–
        • if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).
        • motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss, and
        • limitation of motion of the spine,
        • neuro-anatomic distribution of pain,
    • 1.04B can be met if your OA/DJD affects the spine and
      • Causes spinal arachnoiditis confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, and
      • Is manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours.
    • 1.04C can be met if your OA/DJD affects the spine and
      • Causes lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, and
      • Is manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, resulting in inability to ambulate effectively.

    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. 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 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 OA/DJD 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 APPLYING FOR SSDI WITH OSTEOARTHRITIS/DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE IN LOUISIANA

    1. Make sure an imaging report (MRI, CT, X-ray) diagnosing OA/DJD 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. 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 OA/DJD by an orthopedist or neurologist or rheumatologist 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 non-medical 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 the requirements for obtaining Social Security Disability for degenerative joint disease.  At Louisiana Disability Law, we have experience obtaining disability benefits for clients with degenerative joint disease. To discuss the details of your case, call disability attorney Loyd J. Bourgeois at 985-240-9773.

    9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim Book OfferIf you're preparing to apply for Social Security disability or appeal a claim denial, I've written a book 9 Mistakes that Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim. This is a helpful and informative guide that will guide you through some of the common mistakes and errors that lead to unfavorable Social Security Disability decisions. Don't make a costly mistake that could cause you to lose the benefits that you need to survive! I'd love to send you a copy. Just click here to receive your free copy of my book 9 Mistakes That Can Disable Your Social Security Disability Claim.

  • Will you have to testify at a hearing for your social security disability claim?

    I’m often asked by clients if they will have to testify at their Social Security disability hearing. In many cases, the answer is yes.

    Will I have to testify at my SSDI hearing?An administrative law judge (ALJ) will decide cases based on the medical evidence in the file – this includes x-rays and other imaging exams, lab panels, treatment notes, and written statements from the claimant and the claimant’s treating physicians, and likely your testimony.

    Your testimony is offered with the intent of allowing the ALJ to better understand your specific medical conditions and how it affects your ability to function and perform basic work activities (including your past work) and your life in general.  The ALJ may also ask about apparent inconsistencies between your medical records and your statements or testimony.

    Many of my clients relay to me that the disability hearing is anxiety-provoking.  

    For this reason, it is especially important to have an experienced attorney or advocate by your side.

    Your attorney can help you prepare for your hearing by discussing many of the questions to expect at your hearing, and can provide responses to some of the important issues that may arise at your hearing.

    If you are asked to testify before an ALJ, your responses should be honest and detailed, but not to the point of exaggeration (i.e., “I cannot get out of my bed at all” or “I cannot do anything anymore”). 

    You also need to avoid being modest or showing how strong you are by not complaining about how your impairment(s) impact your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Being modest about your medical condition is a mistake many claimants make at their hearing.

    If you are applying for disability and have questions about testifying, it never hurts to talk to or retain an experienced Social Security attorney who can help you properly prepare your case. 

    A good disability attorney will help calm your nerves by explaining what to expect at your hearing.

    If you have questions about what to expect at your hearing in the Houma/Thibodaux or Greater New Orleans areas, then give us a call at 985-240-9773 or fill out our contact form.  We have experience at all of the local offices and can prepare you for what to expect.