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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  • 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

    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 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 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 that may come up, 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.

    For more information about testifying at your hearing, see this Special Report entitled “What To Expect At Your 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.  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.

  • Can abusing alcohol or prescription/illegal drugs affect my disability claim?

    Could abusing alcohol and/or prescription/illegal drugs cause you to lose out on your disability benefits? In a simple word – Yes.

    CAN ABUSING ALCOHOL AFFECT MY DISABILITY CLAIM?In most cases, your addiction will be used (rightfully so) to discredit your testimony and the medical evidence in your case. If you are suffering from a major depressive disorder and an addiction to alcohol, a judge may say that if you stop drinking and receive treatment for your addiction, you would no longer feel depressed and consequently, deny the claim. Similarly, if you suffer from a physical impairment like a heart condition, and admittedly abuse cocaine, the judge may rule unfavorably on the basis that cocaine is damaging to the heart.

    In some cases, your addiction may be immaterial to your disability claim. For example, if you have certain aggressive cancers but are addicted to marijuana, the addiction may not be material. The same holds true, for example, if your addiction has caused end-organ damage – like cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol consumption. The key to these cases is that your disability would still exist even if you stopped the addictive behavior.

    Regardless of the situation, if you have filed a disability claim and you are abusing drugs or alcohol, you should seek treatment for your addiction immediately and stop using. You should also obtain a letter from your treating physician or alcohol/drug treatment program stating that you are clean and the date you stopped using.

    If you are applying for disability and have addiction problems, you may need an experienced Social Security attorney who can help you properly prepare your case and defend your credibility. Give us a call today at 985-240-9773 or use our contact form.

  • How do you complete the Function Report received from SSA?

    Complete the Function Report questionnaire right away and provide truthful and specific answers!

    You only have a limited time to comply (10 days from the date of the letter) with Social Security’s request so don’t delay. But, don’t rush through your answers either.

    HOW TO COMPLETE THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUNCTION REPORTAs you complete the form, keep the following in mind:

    • Be honest.
    • Don’t exaggerate, but be specific about your limitations.
    • Don’t say that “you can’t do anything.” A better answer is to list the specific things you have problems doing and stating why you have problems doing them. For example, “I can do some laundry, but I can no longer lift the clothes from the dryer to the table. I need my husband to move them to the sofa, and then I can fold them. I may only be able to fold for 10-15 minutes at a time before I need a break.” This is a better (and usually more truthful response) than “I cannot fold laundry.”
    • Most importantly, comply with the request within the time Social Security has allotted. Social Security has closed disability claims based on a claimant’s non-compliance.

    One recommendation I usually make to clients is to answer the questions separately on another piece of paper first before transferring your response to the form. This will allow you to work on your answer without messing up the form.

    If you are applying for disability and have questions about the function report, it never hurts to talk to or retain an experienced Social Security attorney who can help you properly prepare your case. If you need help with your Function Report call the Offices of Loyd J. Bourgeois at 985-240-9773.

  • Can a vocational expert’s testimony predict the success of my SSDI case?

    At most New Orleans Social Security Disability Hearings and Metairie Disability Hearings, a vocational expert (VE) testifies about the occurrence of occupations for a person given your limitations. The VE will listen to the testimony and respond to questions from the judge and your attorney (or yourself).

    Can the Vocational Expert's testimony predict the outcome of my Social Security Disability case?

    Can you derive any clues from the vocational expert testimony about the ultimate success of your case? Unfortunately, my answer is not usually. VEs answer hypothetical questions from the judge about your work capacity. The judge will often pose a question like this:

    Assume a hypothetical person who is the same age as the claimant, with the same work history and education. Assume further that I find that this hypothetical person has the following limitations:

    • This person is limited to lifting 20 lbs. occasionally and 10 lbs. frequently;
    • This person can sit for up to 6 hours out of 8 hours per day;
    • This person can stand for 2 hours out of 8 hours per day;
    • This person can only occasionally climb stairs;
    • This person cannot perform overhead lifting with the dominant right hand;
    • This person can only grip occasionally;
    • This person can climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds occasionally;
    • This person should not perform work at unprotected heights;
    • This person should not work around dangerous machinery

    Based on these limitations, could such a person perform the claimant’s past work?

    Could such a person perform any other job in the local or regional economy?

    Many judges will ask several of these hypothetical questions of the vocational witness, some of which will elicit a list of jobs that a hypothetical person could do, while other questions will elicit (the desired response—“No Jobs”, from your perspective) the response that there are no jobs that a person with these restrictions can perform.

    In addition to the judge’s questions, either your representative or you can ask questions. The questions are usually designed to include significant limitations such that the response “no jobs” is given.

    The point here—even if you hear the response “no jobs” from one or more of the hypothetical questions, it does not mean that your case will be approved. The opposite is also true—just because a vocational expert says there are jobs to most of the hypotheticals, but “no jobs” to one hypo, the judge can determine that you are disabled. Unfortunately, in most cases, vocational testimony rarely generates reliable clues—you are going to have to wait a few more weeks to learn the outcome of your case.

    If you are worried about addressing the VE during your hearing, it never hurts to talk to or retain an experienced Social Security attorney who can help you properly prepare your case. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your appeal, call Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773.

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  • What is the best way to prepare an SSDI case for chronic pain?

    I get a lot of questions about fibromyalgia and other medical conditions that rely on subjective reporting by patients. These cases are more difficult to win due to a lack of objective medical evidence.

    A typical question I receive is as follows:

    "I’m 44 years old and have been suffering for many years with fibromyalgia and chronic pain. My life is falling apart because of my disabilities. I’ve applied for Chronic Pain & SSDI: How to best prepare your casedisability in the past and was denied. I’m applying again and wanting to know how do I prove my disability since it’s been denied in the past?  What evidence do I need to help win my case?"

    Social Security defines disability in terms of your capacity to work a simple, entry-level type of job. In order to obtain benefits, you have to prove that your medical condition or conditions are so intrusive, that you cannot work at any job, full-time.

    Generally, in a disability case, you attempt to prove your case by submitting medical records, and, even better, a functional capacity form completed by your doctor that identifies specific activity limitations. You may also submit third-party statements about your functional abilities.

    If there is no conflicting medical evidence about the extent of your disability or your limitations and your medical condition is well defined, the judge considering your case is bound by law to accept your doctor’s conclusions about your capacity to work.

    However, some medical conditions lend themselves more than others to work capacity limitations. Specifically, medical conditions in which severity can be evaluated with objective testing are more readily approved. Objective tests include MRI scans, CT scans, pulmonary function testing, heart pumping capacity testing, liver function testing, and other lab results.

    Some medical conditions are progressive, degenerative and debilitating, and can be diagnosed with specific tests. These diseases include multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, lupus, Type I diabetes, and others.

    However, there are some conditions that are difficult or impossible to measure, or their diagnoses rely on subjective reporting by the patient. These diseases include fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, and many mental disorders.

    While these conditions can produce symptoms and limitations that substantially interfere with your capacity to perform simple, entry-level work, evaluating the severity is difficult.

    The judge can listen to your testimony, but testimony is usually not enough to win the case on its own.

    The judge can look at your medical treatment records produced by your doctor, but most medical notes do not focus on work capacity—they focus on your complaints, the doctor’s treatment decisions and whether or not various treatment options have worked. So, in many cases, the doctor’s notes are not particularly useful except to show that you have gone to the doctor.

    Usually, the best evidence you can provide is a functional capacity form (or medical source statement) in which your doctor identifies specific work activity limitations experienced by you. The doctor’s opinion must be supported by treatment notes and not be contradictory to the notes. This form is more than a statement from your doctor stating that you are disabled. It is a detailed form that allows your doctor to identify your ability to perform a variety of activities relevant to work. These could be physical—such as how much you can lift or whether you can use foot controls, or non-exertional—such as whether you experience pain at a level that interferes with your capacity to maintain attention and concentration and for how long. A good functional capacity form is specifically tailored to the type of disability you have.

    These cases are usually difficult. In order to give yourself the best chance of winning, you should provide the following:

    • Records of ongoing medical treatment—showing that you are seeking a cure
    • At least one functional capacity form completed by treating doctors, it is best if it is a medical specialist—and these forms must show reliability limitations such as a need for excessive breaks during the workday
    • Clear and specific testimony from you about your limitations—no “I can’t stand very long” and “I can’t lift very much.”  Specifics are needed—“I can only sit for 20-30 minutes at a time before I have to change position.”
    • Evidence of unsuccessful work attempts or decreasing ability to work—when a disability claimant tries and fails to return to work, that work attempt enhances the claimant’s credibility; when a person tries to find lower exertional level jobs or their employer provides accommodations but you are still unable to work, your credibility can be improved.
    • Evidence of a long work history—here, too, a person who has worked continuously for many years will have more credibility than someone with a spotty work record
    • Compliance with the treating doctor’s treatment regimen, or attempts at different treatments without success.

    As far as letters of support from friends and family, they do not hurt but are generally not given much weight. Your friends and family are not disinterested, objective sources so judges often give these statements minimal credit.

    While these cases can be won, evidentiary requirements are strict and the cases are difficult. If your disability is one that is not objectively defined, it never hurts to talk to an experienced Social Security attorney who can give you intelligent answers that steer you in the right direction and help you properly prepare your case.

    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.

  • What do I do if my disability claim has been denied?

    Many Louisiana Social Security Disability applicants may be asking this question right now. A denied claim is not the end of the road; you have the right to appeal. Here’s how the process works:

    what should I do if my disability claim is denied?In Louisiana, upon receiving your denial letter, you have 60-days to file a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (SSA Form HA-501).  During the hearing, you will likely testify, you or your representative may call witnesses, and there may be governmental paid for experts that testify.  The testimonies and evidence in your claim file will be carefully reviewed, and a decision will then be made.

    If the ALJ’s decision is still not favorable, you may appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council.  Similar to the ALJ, the Appeals Council will review all evidence in your case and either reach a decision itself or refer your case back to the ALJ. It’s important to point out that although the Appeals Court considers every request for review, it may decide to not to consider your request and thus the ALJ’s decision will stand.

    If you still disagree with the decision up to this point, your final step is to submit your case to Federal District Court for review. Here, at this final step in the process, a district court judge will review the evidence in the case and order a determination on whether the SSA‘s decision should be overturned.

    Although this process may seem long and cumbersome, it’s important to note that you do have the right to appeal your case.  It is also important to note that you cannot skip any step.  That is, you cannot take your case straight to federal court if you are not happy with the initial decision.  You have to go to the ALJ first, then the Appeals Council, before getting to federal court.

    If your disability claim has been denied and you are curious about your options, it never hurts to talk to an experienced Social Security attorney who can give you intelligent answers that steer you in the right direction. Contact Loyd Bourgeois for personalized service and attention to your case from day one. Call today – 1-888-LJB-4-SSD or 888-552-4773.