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TX disability lawyerApplying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits does not automatically guarantee automatic approval. If fact, more than 50 percent of all claims are initially denied, leading many people to wonder what their next steps are. If you have been denied SSDI benefits, you should contact a qualified Social Security attorney before you do anything else. Your attorney can help you manage the appeals process, including a potential hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with the Social Security Administration. As you prepare for your hearing, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First Impression

Although you are not required to retain legal counsel, it is almost certainly in your best interest to have an attorney by your side. From a practical standpoint, plan on arriving early. First impressions absolutely matter, and by appearing polished and ready, you can show the ALJ that the case is important to you. In addition, your manner of dress should be conservative, so avoid suggestive or informal attire.

Mindful Manners

Remember that you are appearing before a judge, and it is important to be respectful and polite. When addressing the ALJ, the use of “Your Honor” is expected. Also, be ready to stand when the ALJ enters the room, as this indicates a sign of respect.

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TX disability lawyerLiving with Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating—and not just for the affected patient. The person’s family and loved ones often have a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the person’s new reality as well. Also known as “younger-onset” Alzheimer’s, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was added to the list of disabilities and diseases covered by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) just a few years ago.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is considered under the Compassionate Allowance Initiative of the Social Security Administration, which gives the same access for early-onset patients to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as traditional Alzheimer’s patients. The intent of the Compassionate Allowance Initiative is to allow patients with an extremely fast-moving degenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s) to be fast-tracked through the approval process.

Important Considerations in Getting the Benefits You Need

There are specific guidelines meant to regulate the Social Security Disability application process for early-onset Alzheimer’s patients. The medical information that is needed to prove that you have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s includes, but is not limited to:

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TX disability lawyerHeadaches are among the most common ailments people suffer, but for many with chronic headaches or migraines, it can be a debilitating condition. Many people with severe migraine problems have difficulty working or carrying on in the same capacity before the migraines increased to such severity. If this describes your situation, it might be possible for you to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and a qualified disability attorney can help you through the application process.

What You Should Know About Chronic Headaches

Those who suffer from migraines know how painful and distressing they can be. Common symptoms of severe migraines include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, dizziness, fever, blurred vision, and an intense sensitivity to light. All of these, of course, can impact a person’s ability to work.

A migraine, however, is just one of three types of severe headaches that a person can get. Others include tension headaches and cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are “described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant.” These usually last a short time, but many patients report that the cluster headache returns periodically throughout the day. A tension headache tends to increase and wane over prolonged periods of time and can affect a person’s ability to fall or stay asleep and result in general achiness and weariness.

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TX SSDI lawyerQualifying for Social Security benefits can be a long and complicated process, no matter what your specific situation may be. If you or a loved one is a dependent—either under 18 years old, under 22 years old and attending school, or require full-time care—the process is different than for independent adults. As a result, the application process is different and requires a different set of considerations.

Important Considerations for Minors Seeking SSI Benefits

For a child to qualify, according to the Social Security Administration, he or she must be either blind or disabled. The child can begin to receive Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits as soon as he or she is born, and the child does not have to be of a certain age before he or she is able to begin receiving benefits. Once the child is 18, the SSA can reevaluate the circumstances to determine whether or not the child should continue to receive SSI benefits.

Disability Concerns

For a disability to qualify for SSI benefits, the impairment must be expected to last at least 12 months or have existed for 12 months. Unlike the standard requirement for SSI disability benefits, there is no duration requirement for SSI blindness. If the child lives at home with parents who do not receive SSI benefits for themselves, the parents’ income and finances are considered when determining whether or not the dependent will qualify for SSI. If the child lives away from home—at a special school, for example—the time that the child is home is considered differently, as the child will be subject to his parents’ finances during that time. The process of considering a parents’ income is called “deeming.”

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TX disability lawyerApplications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have maintained an award rate of around 35 to 45 percent since 2001, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, the rate of applicants who are awarded benefits at the reconsideration level is significantly less, which makes it important to understand reasons why a claim might be denied and what can be done to have the application reviewed again.

If your SSDI claim has been denied, you or your legal counsel will receive a certified letter from the SSA detailing the reason for denial. You do have a right to file suit within six months of the mailing date if you are not in agreement with the decision, but first, you or your attorney must file a request for reconsideration.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

The SSA has a list of disabilities and impairments that fall under the scope of approval. An applicant may receive benefits if he or she:

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TX injury lawyerHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common heart diseases in America. About one in three U.S. adults, roughly 70 million people, have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For some, the condition is manageable with lifestyle changes and prescription medications, but for others, hypertension can affect their entire lives. In situations like this, Social Security disability benefits may be available, and a qualified disability lawyer can help you determine your eligibility.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure simply means that the pressure of blood in your blood vessels is more than it should be, causing your heart to work overtime. Risks of hypertension include heart disease and stroke, two of the most common causes of death for Americans. Hypertension is often referred to as a “silent killer,” because there are little to no warning signs of the disease. The only way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

There are several conditions and many lifestyle factors that can contribute to hypertension—the most common being a poor diet and lack of exercise. If a person gets little to no exercise, has a poor diet, is obese, or elderly, he or she is at higher risk of high blood pressure, though the exact cause of the condition cannot be traced to a single factor for most patients. High alcohol consumption (more than one or two drinks a day) and smoking can also contribute to the risk of high blood pressure. Genetics also plays a role.

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plano criminal defense lawyerWhile there are many different types of health conditions that may cause a person to be disabled, issues related to a person’s senses are some of the most well-recognized disabilities. A person who is blind is understood to have significant limitations that will affect their ability to maintain gainful employment, and an inability to hear will also limit a person’s ability to perform different types of activities at work or at home. Those who suffer from these types of disabilities will often be eligible for benefits through Social Security, and they will need to understand the qualifications they will need to meet to demonstrate that they are disabled and receive financial assistance.

When Is Vision or Hearing Loss Considered a Disability?

Social Security’s Listing of Impairments details specific conditions that are considered disabilities. If a person meets the requirements detailed in the listing for a certain condition, they will typically be considered disabled, allowing them to receive benefits. The listing for vision loss details the types of tests that may be performed to measure a person’s visual acuity and visual efficiency. Generally, if a person is considered to be statutorily or legally blind, meaning that their vision in their better eye is measured at 20/200 or less even with corrective lenses, they will qualify as disabled.

To evaluate hearing loss, Social Security may use audiometric testing along with examinations by a doctor or audiologist to determine how a person has been affected by these issues. A doctor will need to evaluate the eardrum and middle ear to determine if there are any abnormalities, and testing will determine the extent of a person’s hearing loss. Different types of testing may be used depending on whether a person has a cochlear implant. These tests may measure a person’s ability to recognize words, as well as their ability to hear sounds at different frequencies when they are conducted through the air or through the person’s bones.

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shutterstock_2104132220.jpgWhen a physical or mental condition causes a person to be unable to work, they may rely on Social Security disability benefits to help meet their ongoing financial needs. The application process for these benefits can be complicated, and a person will need to demonstrate that they suffer from ongoing issues that have prevented them from maintaining gainful employment and that their condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year. Even after a person is granted disability benefits, they may experience issues related to the continuation of benefits, since Social Security will conduct regular reviews to ensure that they still meet the requirements to be considered disabled.

When Does Social Security Perform Disability Reviews?

While disability benefits will be paid for as long as a person has a disability, Social Security is required by law to review cases on an ongoing basis to ensure that people who receive benefits still meet all applicable requirements. The frequency of these reviews will usually depend on the severity of a person’s condition, and reviews may be conducted as follows:

  • If a person’s condition is expected to improve in the near future, a review will usually be performed between six and 18 months after the date when the person first became disabled.

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shutterstock_1585711024-1.jpgFor those who suffer from physical or mental conditions that prevent them from working full-time, Social Security disability can provide essential financial assistance. However, the process of applying for these benefits can sometimes be complicated, and applicants will need to provide extensive documentation demonstrating that their condition is severe enough to be considered a disability by Social Security. If a claim is denied, a person can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The testimony of medical and vocational experts can play an important role in this type of hearing. By understanding the types of issues these experts will address, a person can make sure they are taking the correct steps to receive the benefits they need.

Testimony of Medical Experts

A medical expert (ME) who testifies at a hearing will serve as an independent, impartial source who can review evidence and offer an opinion about a person’s limitations that may affect their ability to work. An ME will not physically examine a person; instead, they will review medical records and testimony provided by an applicant or other witnesses and answer questions asked by the ALJ and the applicant or their attorney. 

A medical expert will not offer opinions about whether a person is disabled or the specific types of work they can perform. Their testimony may address whether the person’s symptoms meet or are equivalent to the requirements detailed in Social Security’s Listing of Impairments. They may also offer their opinion on the limitations that may apply to a person while working, such as their ability to perform physical actions like lifting or carrying items, their ability to meet the mental demands of the workplace, their ability to maintain concentration and consistent pace, and how issues related to their sight, hearing, or other senses will affect the work they can perform. The information provided may be used to help the ALJ establish a person’s residual functional capacity (RFC).

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plano social security lawyerWhen a person has a significant disability that prevents them from working at a level that will allow them to support themselves, they may be able to receive disability benefits through Social Security. However, the process of applying for these benefits can be complicated, and multiple types of information will need to be provided to demonstrate that the person has what is considered a “total” disability. During the Social Security disability (SSD) claims process, a person may be required to receive an examination from a medical provider that will be used to determine whether their health condition meets the qualifications for disability. This is known as a consultative examination or CE, and an applicant will need to understand how this type of exam may affect their claim.

When Will Social Security Order a CE?

In some cases, the information a person provides when applying for disability benefits will be sufficient for Social Security to make a determination. However, there are many cases where Social Security will seek out additional information about a person’s diagnosis and treatment plan and the effects their condition has had on their ability to work. A consultative examination may be ordered if:

  • There is an inconsistency in the evidence provided by an applicant, such as contradicting opinions from multiple medical providers.

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shutterstock_575524987.jpgThere are multiple different types of health conditions that may cause a person to be disabled. Among these, conditions that result in severe back pain can be very difficult to deal with. Injuries that affect the muscles in the back or the bones, nerves, and other tissues in the spinal cord can affect a person’s ability to stand, walk, reach for and carry objects, bend over, or even sit in one place for an extended period of time. Because of these issues, those who suffer from back injuries or disorders affecting the spine will often struggle to hold down steady employment, since they may be unable to perform work-related tasks and maintain a consistent pace of work throughout the day. Fortunately, people with these conditions may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, they will need to understand the qualifications that they will need to meet to show that their back pain or spinal injuries are severe enough to be considered a disability.

Requirements for Musculoskeletal Disorders Affecting the Back and Spine

Many back injuries will fall into the category of musculoskeletal disorders of the back and spine that affect nerve roots, including by placing compression on the spinal cord or otherwise causing these nerves to be inflamed or irritated. These disorders may include degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal osteoarthritis, or dislocated or fractured vertebrae. Social Security will consider this type of disorder to be a disability if all of the following are true:

  • The person experiences symptoms radiating from the point where nerves have been affected, including pain, tingling sensations, or muscle fatigue.

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plano social security lawyerDebilitating injuries or serious illnesses can play a major role in a person’s life, affecting their ability to work and support themselves and their family. For those who suffer from conditions that are severe enough to be considered a total disability, Social Security disability benefits can provide essential financial assistance. However, these benefits may not fully address a person’s needs, and they may wish to supplement them by finding ways to earn an income. However, a person who is disabled may be concerned about whether returning to work will affect their ability to continue receiving benefits. By understanding the restrictions that apply and the options that are available, a person can ensure that they will continue to have the financial resources they need.

Working While Receiving Disability Benefits

To qualify for Social Security disability, a person will need to demonstrate that they are not currently working, or if they are working, they are earning less than what is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2022, SGA is defined as $1,350 per month, or $2,260 per month for a person who is blind. A person who receives disability benefits may work part-time or in a low-wage position, and if they earn less than the amount that is considered SGA, this will not affect the benefits they receive.

Any changes in a person’s work should be reported to Social Security, including starting a new job, stopping work at a current job, or changes in hours, duties, or wages. Social Security also encourages those who receive benefits to return to work, and it offers some incentives to assist in the transition. These include employment networks, vocational rehabilitation agencies, and other organizations that offer education and job training, career planning, assistance with job placement, and other benefits.

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shutterstock_1937889325-1-min.jpgWhen a person suffers from disabilities that are severe enough to limit their ability to maintain employment, they may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. These benefits can be crucial, ensuring that a person will have the financial resources to provide for their needs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits based on the income a person earned in the past. To qualify for SSDI, a person will need to meet a variety of criteria, and Social Security will look at the severity of their health condition and whether they are able to continue working. During this process, one issue that is considered is whether a person can do work they have performed in the past. By understanding how Social Security defines “past relevant work,” an applicant can be prepared to answer questions about their status, their ability to work, and their need for disability benefits.

Determining the Relevance of Past Work

During the five-step evaluation process used by Social Security, step number four looks at whether an applicant can do work that they had performed in the past. At this point, Social Security will examine a person’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), or their ability to perform different work-related tasks that fit within the limitations of their health conditions. RFC will be used to determine whether work the person had done in previous jobs will fit within their current limitations. However, only “past relevant work” will be considered. To be relevant, work must meet criteria for:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) - A person must have been able to earn enough money while working to sufficiently support themselves. Social Security adjusts the amount of monthly income that is considered SGA on an annual basis. By looking at the amount of income a person earned while working a past job, Social Security will determine whether it was equal to or greater than the SGA level at that time. Part-time jobs, volunteer positions, or other work for which a person earned a low income may not be considered during this step of the evaluation process.

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dallas disability lawyerA physical or mental disability can be a serious issue that affects a person’s health, well-being, and quality of life. In addition to causing pain and discomfort and affecting a person’s relationship and home life, a disability may make it impossible for a person to maintain employment. This can put a person and their family in a difficult financial position, especially if they have additional expenses related to medical treatment or assistive devices and other accommodations in their home and vehicles. Fortunately, those who suffer from disabilities that affect their ability to work may be able to receive disability benefits through Social Security. 

There are two types of disability benefits offered by Social Security: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Of these, SSDI is often the preferable option, since it provides benefits based on the income a person has earned in the past, while SSI provides assistance on a needs-based basis for people without a significant work history. To qualify for SSDI, a person must have earned sufficient “work credits” throughout their career. By understanding how these credits are calculated and the number of credits that will qualify for disability benefits, a person can make sure they will be able to receive the financial assistance that will address their needs.

Calculating Social Security Work Credits

Most people pay Social Security taxes on the income they earn, and by doing so, they earn work credits that count toward their eligibility for Social Security benefits. A person can earn up to four work credits each year. The amount of income required for a work credit is adjusted each year in accordance with changes to average income levels in the United States. For 2021, a work credit is equivalent to $1,470 in income.

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shutterstock_1711076632-min.jpgThere are multiple types of disabilities that can prevent a person from pursuing or maintaining gainful employment. If you have serious and ongoing health issues, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. In addition to disabilities related to physical conditions such as injuries or illnesses, these benefits may also address mental health issues that affect your ability to work, including depression. Since mental illnesses are not always as outwardly obvious as other types of disabilities, it is important to understand the requirements that must be met in order for a person to receive benefits through Social Security.

When Is Depression Considered a Disability?

Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that can drastically affect a person’s ability to perform work, complete daily tasks, and maintain relationships with others. A person may be diagnosed with a condition such as major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder if they experience symptoms such as irritability, extreme sadness, a lack of interest or ability to take pleasure in activities they had previously enjoyed or participated in, decreased energy, difficulty maintaining body weight, problems with concentration, social withdrawal, or suicidal thoughts or actions.

Social Security will evaluate the symptoms a person has experienced due to depression. To be considered disabled, a person will need to provide medical documentation showing that they have experienced at least five of the following symptoms:

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Dallas County Social Security disability denial attorney prescribed treatmentThere are many different types of health issues that may cause a person to be disabled. For those who suffer from serious health conditions, government benefits can be an essential resource that will allow them to cover their ongoing expenses. Social Security disability benefits can provide much-needed assistance, but to qualify for these benefits, a person will need to demonstrate that they meet Social Security’s standards for disability. One issue that can affect eligibility for benefits is whether a person has followed the prescribed medical treatment for their condition.

When Social Security May Consider a Failure to Follow Prescribed Treatment

If a person does not follow the treatment plan prescribed by a doctor, this may affect their ability to receive disability benefits. However, Social Security will only consider a failure to follow prescribed treatment in certain situations. This issue may be considered when determining whether a person’s condition is included in or is functionally equivalent to an entry in the Listing of Impairments. If a person would not meet the criteria for a listing if they had followed a doctor’s prescribed treatment, disability benefits may be denied. This issue may also be considered when determining whether a person has the residual functional capacity to perform work that is available. If Social Security determines that a person would be able to work if they had followed a doctor’s prescribed treatment, they may be denied disability benefits.

In these situations, only certain types of prescribed treatment may be considered. Social Security will look at a failure to follow prescribed treatment if all of the following conditions are met:

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Dallas County Social Security Disability Attorney

People who experience serious injuries or illnesses may rely on government aid to meet their needs. Social Security disability benefits may be available to a person who has suffered from a disabling health condition that has affected them for at least one year or is expected to last for 12 months or more. To demonstrate that they qualify for disability benefits, a person will need to provide medical evidence, and in some cases, Social Security may also require them to be examined by an independent medical professional. In some cases, these professionals may come to different conclusions, and applicants should understand how Social Security will consider opinions from different sources.

How Social Security Weighs Medical Opinions

Social Security may look at reports provided by multiple different types of medical professionals. A professional must be considered an acceptable medical source, meaning that they can provide reports that are relevant to a person’s disabling health conditions. These sources may include medical or osteopathic physicians, licensed psychologists who can assess a person’s mental health issues, optometrists who can address visual impairments, podiatrists who can assess disorders affecting the feet or ankles, speech-language pathologists who can address language disorders and related impairments, audiologists who can assess hearing loss, physician assistants who can assess impairments within their licensed scope of practice, and licensed advance practices registered nurses (including nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists).

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Dallas County ssdi attorney

While there are multiple types of health conditions that can affect a person, issues affecting the skin may seem to be relatively minor. Rashes, bumps, or irritated skin can be troublesome, but these issues do not significantly affect most people. However, there are some cases where skin disorders are severe enough that they affect a person’s ability to work and their overall health and well-being. In these cases, a person may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Social Security Listings for Skin Disorders

As with other types of disabilities, a skin condition must be severe enough to limit a person’s ability to maintain substantial gainful activity before they will be able to receive disability benefits through Social Security. The Listing of Impairments, which details conditions that are severe enough to be considered disabilities, includes a section for skin disorders, and it notes that a person’s condition is evaluated based on the frequency and severity of the skin lesions a person experiences, while also considering factors such as how a person reacts when exposed to toxins or allergens, whether there is any seasonal variation in their condition, and whether they need to remain in a protected environment.

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Dallas County Social Security RFC attorneyWhen applying for Social Security disability benefits, a person will need to provide multiple forms of medical evidence. To determine whether a person is disabled and qualifies for benefits, Social Security will evaluate their residual functional capacity (RFC). Understanding what is meant by this term and how it is determined will ensure that a person can demonstrate that they are disabled and need SSD benefits to help them meet their needs.

Determining Residual Functional Capacity

A person’s residual functional capacity refers to the maximum amount of work they are able to do with the physical or mental limitations they are experiencing. To determine RFC, Social Security will look at a person’s medical records, including those provided by a person’s own doctor as well as reports from medical examinations from independent doctors. Social Security may also consider a person’s own explanation of their limitations and how their conditions have affected them, as well as statements from family members, friends, or others who may be able to provide insight into the case.

An RFC determination will address a person’s abilities in the following areas:

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Dallas County Social Security Disability attorneyFor those who suffer from physical or mental conditions that affect their ability to work, Social Security disability benefits can provide much-needed assistance. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of disability claims are denied. However, a denial does not mean that it will not be possible to receive SSD benefits. An applicant can appeal the decision to deny a claim and provide additional medical evidence or other information showing that they qualify for disability benefits. During these types of cases, an applicant can work with an attorney to ensure they meet all of their requirements, and they will want to understand the process that will be followed during their appeal.

Steps in a Social Security Disability Appeal

When appealing the denial of a SSD claim, a person will generally proceed through the following steps:

  1. Reconsideration - Within 60 days after the denial of a disability claim, a person can file a Request for Reconsideration. During a reconsideration, Social Security may perform a case review in which a person will look at the information provided in the initial application and any supplemental information provided by the applicant. In some cases, an applicant may request an informal or formal conference where they can speak to the person reviewing the case and witnesses can be questioned. The person reviewing the case will issue a decision on whether to grant or deny disability benefits.

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