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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_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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b2ap3_thumbnail_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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Dallas County Social Security disability attorneyThere are many types of impairments that can affect a person’s ability to maintain gainful employment. A person who has experienced an injury that makes it difficult or impossible to perform work-related activities may qualify for disability benefits through Social Security, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Carpal tunnel syndrome is one issue that can affect people in multiple industries, including those who regularly type on computers or people such as auto mechanics who use their hands to complete work-related tasks. Those who have experienced these types of repetitive stress injuries can take the correct steps to apply for Social Security disability benefits by working with an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases.

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Considered a Disability?

To qualify for SSD benefits, an applicant must meet a number of requirements, including showing that their health conditions have lasted or are expected to last for at least one year. A person must be unemployed or working at a level below substantial gainful activity. An applicant will also need to provide medical evidence showing that their condition is severe enough to be considered a disability.

A person will usually qualify for disability if their condition is defined in Social Security’s Listing of Impairments. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is not included in this listing. To prove that they are disabled, a person will either need to show that their condition is equivalent to a condition in the listing, or they must demonstrate that carpal tunnel syndrome has made it impossible for them to do work they had done in the past or find other jobs.

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Plano TX Social Security disability attorneyThose who suffer from serious injuries, chronic illnesses, or other health conditions may be unable to support themselves financially, and they may apply for Social Security disability benefits to receive assistance with their ongoing needs. However, many Social Security disability claims are denied. By understanding some of the most common reasons for the denial of these claims, applicants can avoid issues that may affect their ability to receive benefits.

Denial of SSD Applications

A claim for Social Security disability benefits may be denied based on:

  • The length of time a condition has lasted - To qualify for disability benefits, a health condition must last for at least one year. If an applicant has not been affected by a disability for at least 12 months, or if their condition is not expected to last for a total of 12 months or more, they will not be able to receive disability benefits.

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Dallas County SSDI attorneyThose who experience health issues that prevent them from being able to maintain gainful employment may be able to receive disability benefits through Social Security. There are multiple different types of health conditions that are recognized as disabilities by Social Security, but an applicant for disability benefits will need to meet specific requirements to demonstrate that they are disabled. People with hearing impairments will need to understand how these disabilities are addressed in the listing of impairments used by Social Security.

Hearing Loss Without Cochlear Implants

For those who have not had surgical implants to correct hearing loss, the determination of whether they are disabled will depend on the results of medical examinations and hearing tests. An otologic examination must be performed by a licensed physician, and it will look at a person’s medical history and the ways hearing loss has affected their life. A doctor will examine the person’s external ears, the eardrum, and the middle ear to look for abnormalities or issues that may affect the person’s hearing.

Audiometric testing must be performed by a licensed audiologist or otolaryngologist. A person’s hearing will be evaluated without the use of hearing aids. These tests will include pure tone or air conduction testing that measures how well the inner and outer ear can register sounds through the air and bone conduction testing to determine how well a person can register sounds transmitted through vibrations of the bones in the skull. Speech reception threshold (SRT) testing will be used to determine whether a person can recognize at least 50 percent of the words on a standard list at certain decibel levels, and word recognition testing will determine the maximum amplification level needed for a person to identify spoken words.

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Dallas TX Social Security disability attorneyPeople in the United States who are unable to work may be able to receive benefits through the federal government. Social Security offers disability benefits to those who experience physical or mental conditions that prevent them from earning enough income to support themselves, as long as a person’s condition has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more. There are two different types of Social Security disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Understanding the differences between these two programs will help a person with a disability understand the types of benefits they may be able to receive.

Qualifying for SSDI With Work Credits

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, provides benefits based on a person’s work history. To qualify for SSDI, a person must have earned sufficient work credits throughout their career. A person can earn up to four work credits per year, and these credits are based on the amount they earned in a particular year. For 2021, earnings of $1,470 will constitute one work credit, and a person will earn all four credits for the year once they make $5,880.

Generally, a person must have 40 work credits before they can receive SSDI benefits, and they must have earned 20 credits within the past 10 years. However, younger workers may be able to qualify for SSDI with fewer work credits. In these cases, a person will generally need to meet the requirements for recent work.

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Collin County SSDI attorneyThose who suffer from health conditions that affect their ability to work may be able to receive disability benefits through Social Security. To qualify for Social Security disability, a person will need to demonstrate that they have a disabling condition that has affected their ability to earn enough income. When evaluating a disability claim, Social Security uses a specific process to determine whether an applicant’s condition is considered a disability. By understanding this process and working with an attorney to provide the proper evidence and documentation, a person can ensure that they will be able to receive the benefits they need.

The Five-Step Evaluation Process for Assessing Disability

After a person applies for Social Security disability benefits, their claim may be approved or denied. Following a denied claim, an applicant can appeal this decision, and an administrative hearing will be held in which their case will be reviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will use what is known as a “sequential evaluation” process to determine whether the person is disabled. This process includes five steps:

  1. Is the applicant currently working? To be disabled, a person must currently be earning income less than what is considered to be “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). For those who apply for disability in 2021, SGA is $1,310 per month, or $2,190 if a person is blind.

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Dallas SSDI attorneysThere are a variety of conditions that can affect a person’s ability to maintain employment and earn enough income to support themselves. Fortunately, Social Security disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are available for those who suffer from debilitating conditions.

In addition to serious physical conditions that limit the types of work-related activities a person can perform, there are multiple types of mental illnesses that may allow a person to qualify for disability benefits. However, proving that a person’s condition is severe enough to be considered a disability can often be a complex process, and those who are applying for Social Security disability benefits will want to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that they provide the correct information to demonstrate the need for financial assistance.

Mental Health Conditions That May Qualify for Disability Benefits

To be considered a disability, a person’s condition must prevent them from participating in substantial gainful activity (SGA), and it must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year. The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” lists several categories of mental disorders that may cause a person to be disabled.

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Dallas SSDI attorneysWhile any injury can be traumatic, it's hard to overstate the difficulties that follow from an injury that prevents you from performing the job you've done all your life. Fortunately, the federal government can help by providing monthly benefits through its Social Security Disability Insurance ('SSDI') and Supplemental Security Income ('SSI') programs. However, to qualify for these benefits, you must show that your inability to work results from a specific injury or illness.

At Coats & Todd, we want you to know how to identify if you qualify for SSDI and SSI benefits so that you can move forward without the added financial stress that follows from being unable to work. Our team is here to help you every step of the way.

Some of the common injuries that may qualify for SSDI/SSI benefits are:

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Dallas SSDI attorneysWith only a few weeks left, the Trump Administration has upended a number of rules to make it harder to receive (and even keep) Social Security disability benefits. The White House announced a number of sweeping changes to reduce the number of people on Social Security and to save about $2.5 billion a year.

Some of the biggest new changes to Social Security are:

  • Stricter requirements for back impairments: One of the most prevalent disabilities we see are disabling back impairments, particularly those involving the lower ('lumbar') spine. But under new rules effective starting April 21, 2021, the government will no longer grant benefits to people who are unable to walk effectively due to low back impairments. Now, you have to prove you have to use some prosthetic device that prohibits you from using either arm. So a one-handed walker or cane apparently isn't enough. What's more, the rules say that all of the necessary medical findings have to be documented within a 4-month time period-despite a court of appeals ruling that rejected that position! See Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288 (4th Cir. 2013). Although the Administration used to abide by that appeals court ruling, they've changed their mind. Understandably, several people have objected to these changes. However, the Administration responded that, 'even if in some cases (although not all) the revised rule results in more [denials], we still have a statutory obligation to ensure the listings are up to date... ' Despite the White House's focus on achieving 'progress,' we suspect this will have a devastating effect on millions of Americans for decades to come.
  • More continuing disability reviews: As hardas it now is to receive disability, keeping those benefits is not getting easier. The program has, for some time, conducted ongoing disability reviews to verify SSDI recipients are disabled. That makes sense. But it doesn't make sense why the Trump Administration has decided to increase the frequency of those reviews, particularly when the Administration freely admits that disability fraud is so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. Increasing the frequency of these reviews will increases the chances the SSDI recipients have their benefits suddenly taken away. And once taken away, the individual has a very short window of time to appeal. And if they miss the deadline, they'll probably have to reapply-under standards that are unimaginably more stringent then when they were first awarded.
  • Judge replacement: Previously, if you applied for disability and you were denied twice by the local State agency, you had the right to present your case before an Administrative law judge, or 'ALJ' who provided a full hearing for you to present your case. This was beneficial for a lot of people because the ALJ was often familiar with the local community, including the local health resources (or lack thereof), and he or she knew what kind of hardships the community faced. Well, that's not necessarily the case anymore. The Trump administration has now decided that far-removed appeals judges (who have no familiarity with the community) can now, apparently at whim, step in and conduct the hearing instead of the ALJ. And if that Appeals Council judge deprives the applicant of a fair hearing, guess who gets to decide the appeal? That's right, another Appeals Council judge! Does that sound unfair? Well, the government assures us that they'll be fair-'trust us.' Call us skeptics, but when the Appeals Council's stated goal is to deny over 80% of every disability appeal it receives,we're a little doubtful.

With both of these program changes, it can be assumed that thousands – if not millions – of Americans with disabilities will have a more difficult time obtaining and keeping SSDI benefits. The decision also comes in the midst of a global pandemic, making it all the more worrisome. COVID-19 complications have already been proven to have a chance of causing new and permanent disabilities among people who recover from the virus, including but not limited to asthma and an increased risk of stroke.

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Dallas SSDI attorneysFibromyalgia is a fairly common incurable health condition that is still being researched by medical sciences. What causes fibromyalgia is not completely understood, but it is believed to be rooted in complications of an overactive nervous system, an overabundant amount of blood vessels near the skin, and possibly immune system deficiencies. A study in 2013 shed some light on the theory of nerve and blood vessel complications, but more work needs to be done.

What is understood is that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be persistent and troubling, most often manifesting as chronic pain that cannot be remedied with painkillers and full-body fatigue that does not go away after a good night's sleep. It is also common for fibromyalgia patients to experience hypersensitivity to touch, numbness in extremities, and joint stiffness.

For many fibromyalgia patients, the symptoms are so consistent and problematic that continuing to work is difficult or seemingly impossible. If you have found yourself in the same situation, then you should know that you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits because of your fibromyalgia diagnosis. Every case is different, though, so getting benefits is not guaranteed.

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Posted on in Uncategorized

Dallas SSDI attorneysCan you work and collect disability? That's a question we often get, and the answer isn't as easy as you might think. This topic gets complicated quickly and it's impossible to provide a comprehensive answer in a single blog post. However, this should help to provide a basic overview of how working can affect your disability application.

It's not about 'work'; it's about 'substantial gainful activity.'

To keep this as simple as possible, the government will not award disability benefits to those who are gainfully working. In fact, that's the very first question Social Security asks itself when it receives a disability application. Except instead of referring to 'work,' it refers to 'substantial gainful activity,' or SGA. This SGA concept is so significant, in fact, that Congress specifically defined disability as the 'inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity. . . .'

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A lot of people get confused about the difference between SSI and SSDI, and some of our clients have spent years applying for disability without any grasp of the two programs. If you're wondering about the difference, then this is for you.

Let's start with how the programs are similar. SSDI and SSI both provide monthly benefits for those who are disabled, and the standards for what is a 'disability' are virtually identical. Both apply a five-step analysis that grants disability if you are not working, so long as you have a severe impairment that either:

a) meets/equals the medical criteria the government set in its Listing of Impairments, or else:

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