The Social Security Disability system in the United States is very complicated. Whether you are a recently disabled father trying to provide for your family, a single mother who can no longer work because of an illness, or the parent of a child who needs extra help because of a challenging condition, obtaining benefits is not easy. The “system” involves a complex set of rules and requirements that make it very hard for the average person to successfully receive payments.

There is hope, however, and we appreciate you looking for help here. Our law firm provides unique benefits to clients just like you, which include:

  • A singular focus on representing the injured and disabled.
  • Having all important work performed by an experienced disability attorney.
  • A guarantee that you pay no fees unless you obtain social security disability benefits.
  • A proven track record of success in both routine and difficult cases.

Regardless of whether you are considering filing for benefits for the first time, or have been denied numerous times in the past, please call our office at (404) 255-9838. We will discuss your options free of charge, and help you make an informed decision about what to do next. We look forward to talking with you.

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The World Federation of the Deaf celebrates September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages.  The organization promotes sign language among deaf communities, governments and public gatherings to recognize and promote sign language as an essential human right.

American Sign Language is a non-spoken language with the same linguistic properties as spoken languages.  ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face.  The earlier a child is exposed to and begins to acquire language, the better that child’s language, cognitive and social development will become.  Newborns are tested for hearing before they leave the hospital.

More than 90 percent of deaf children have hearing parents.  Most users of ASL learn language from ASL teachers, not their parents.  For those who are not deaf or hearing impaired our exposure to sign language usually comes when government officials hold press conferences and a sign language interpreter  presents ASL for the audience.  The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public communicate effectively with people with communication disabilities.  This is particularly critical when information relayed pertains to public safety.

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Every September 21st each year is recognized as World Alzheimer’s Day.  Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects memory and impairs daily functions.  Alzheimer’s is the 7th most prevalent cause of death in the United States.  There is no cure although medications do appear to slow the progression at the early stage.  While most sufferers are in the elderly population, there are individuals under the age of 65 who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s is included under the Compassionate Allowances in Social Security Disability.  With this diagnosis and an application for benefits, an approval will be fast-tracked.  Early Onset Alzheimer’s is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in a person under age 65.  Alzheimer’s Disease also meets a Medical Listing under Neurocognitive Disorders 12.02.  However, once a person reaches his/her full retirement age, the individual is no longer eligible for disability.

Alzheimer’s Disease onset usually begins with memory impairment, followed by learning and language deficits.  A person with Alzheimer’s may also exhibit depression, agitation, changes in personality and behavior, restlessness and withdrawal.  A diagnosis is made by clinical and family history and neuropsychological testing.  A clinical diagnosis can only occur post-mortem with a brain biopsy.

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The World Federation of the Deaf recognizes the Week of September 19-25 as International Week of Deaf People.  This year’s theme is Building Inclusive Communities for All.  Approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. are deaf or profoundly hearing impaired.   Approximately 11 million people in the U.S. are hard of hearing.

Studies show that the deaf population tends to be publicly insured, less likely to be covered by private insurance, have less education, lower family incomes and more likely to be unemployed.  There are two main types of hearing loss:  conductive hearing loss which is due to a blockage in the ear that stops sound from reaching the inner ear;  and sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or cochlea.  Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured.  Improvement in cochlear implants however have improved hearing for many with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.

A hearing loss that is not treated with a cochlear implants meets Medical Listing 2.10  if hearing tests meet or exceed the required hearing decibels.  For hearing loss treated with a cochlear implant (Medical Listing 2.12) disability will be considered for one year after the initial implant and subsequent years if hearing loss word recognition falls at 60 percent or below.   Cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but they do give a deaf person a useful representation of environmental sound.

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Recently one of my uninsured disability clients told me she was receiving healthcare at Wal-mart.  When I looked it up, incredulously, it turns out Wal-mart is in the healthcare business.  Wal-mart has 4000 stores located in medically underserved communities.  Recently, the retail giant sought to address the needs of those communities’ access to healthcare.

Wal-mart expanded into clinical care by opening centers in Georgia and Texas in 2019.  In September 2019, Wal-mart launched its first clinic, Wal-mart Health in Dallas, Georgia.  Customers who are uninsured pay a flat fee of around $50.  A variety of health care professionals allow patients to bundle services at one time.   Wal-mart Health provides primary care, dental exams, X-rays, hearing services, mental health counseling, pharmacies and optical centers.  Wal-mart Health now has locations in Newnan, Fayetteville, McDonough, Cartersville, Marietta and Woodstock.

In May Wal-mart acquired a telemedicine company MeMD.  Last year, it acquired digital medical management company CareZone.  Wal-mart contends it is focused on “value-based” care.   This week Wal-mart and United Health Group announced a joint program to provide preventative healthcare for millions over age 65.  Fifteen locations will open in Georgia and Florida next year.  The plan is to provide seniors with healthcare through Medicare Advantage plans.

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Centuries old downtown Atlanta hospital, Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center (formerly Georgia Baptist Hospital) is scheduled to close in November of 2022.  Wellstar claims it could not continue to operate the hospital at a loss.  Wellstar AMC claimed more than $262 million in uncompensated indigent care in the most recent years reported.  The national labor shortage also affected the hospital.  AMC has 460 beds, but could only staff 200.  Wellstar contends that closing AMC will allow it to fully staff other Georgia Wellstar hospitals.

Georgia remains a state that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  Under full Medicaid expansion, an estimated 500,000 Georgians would gain coverage.  Axios Atlanta reported last month that some Georgia Republicans are quietly changing their minds about Medicaid expansion.  Expanding Medicaid would allow for 90% federal health insurance coverage for low income residents.  Georgia is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA.  If passed, an estimated 500,000 Georgians would gain coverage.  Poll show that a majority of Georgians support expansion.

Two factors have influenced the shift in political thought on Medicaid expansion:  hospital closures and COVID-19.  Eight rural hospitals have closed in addition to AMC downtown.  Medicaid coverage would have added revenue for those uninsured requiring care.  Second, COVID-19 federal funds for hospitalized patients will end soon, causing a loss of coverage for over 250,000 currently insured.

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Despite earlier judicial arguments by Republicans that abortion is a “state’s rights” issue, Senate Republican Lindsey Graham just introduced a national abortion ban at fifteen weeks  The bill includes procedures that are medication only abortions.  Moreover, the national abortion ban does not prevent states from enacting more restrictive abortion legislation.

Conservatives and libertarians traditionally reject federal over-reach.  However, some make exceptions for heavy-handed federal legislation when it involves controlling women’s bodies.  The concept that men, and some women entrenched in the patriarchal traditions, have the right to control a woman’s body over her own consent is, in essence, rape culture.  Allowing that a pregnant woman does not have autonomy over her reproductive choices is analogous to a culture that violates, intimidates and fails to respect her right to consensual sex.   Thus, abortion bans are just codified American rape culture.

This bill, coming just months after the Supreme Court removed a fifty year precedent of a right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson, proves that far right activists never intended to stop at state autonomy.  Moreover, we should not expect that this bill will be the limit of further national restrictions on gestational time periods for abortions, consensual sexuality between adults, same sex marriage or right to use contraception by women.

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Recently, the Fulton County Daily Report  featured a story on legal deserts in Georgia where 60 of Georgia’s southern and rural counties have 10 or fewer lawyers.  Seven of those counties had no licensed attorneys.  Those counties without private legal representation are:  Baker, Clay, McIntosh, Schley and Webster.  The Georgia Legal Services Program, a state-wide non-profit that provides legal services for low income clients, reports that the number of counties without any representation is growing.  While rural populations are shrinking, access to justice still strains those remaining in these communities.  Many rural citizens represent themselves and have to travel outside their county for circuit judges to hear cases.  The Georgia State University Center for Access to Justice estimates that there are over a million unrepresented citizens in the current state legal system.

Some proposed solutions to legal deserts are hosted legal clinics and self-help centers to aid the unrepresented in legal cases; simplifying court forms; providing financial incentives for pro bono practice; and offering a series of videos with step by step instructions for family law cases.

Medical analysts define a medical desert as a region where access to medical centers and/or a hospital requires at least a 60 minute drive.  The Georgia Department of Health maps those medically underserved communities.  Rural counties consist of populations under 50,000.  Georgia has 118 rural counties.  Of those 37 have hospitals, 30 of which are critical access hospitals and 54 have no hospitals.  There are  92 rural health clinics located in 57 counties.  Ten counties have no rural health clinic.  One hundred and thirty-seven counties experience shortages in mental health professional staffings.

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Last week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a ruling that non-citizens who receive benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) will not be subjected to  harmful immigration consequences.  DHS will no longer penalize noncitizens applying for lawful permanent residence for accessing available government benefits such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits; disaster assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) from being considered likely to become a “public charge”.

The new ruling allows that healthcare is a right and people who qualify for programs should not fear utilizing healthcare programs for fear it will jeopardize their immigration status.  This is a reversal of a 2019 rule which discouraged non-citizens from seeking benefits, even health care benefits for their children.  In 2019, rules allowed that receipt of these benefits could be used as evidence of becoming or being a “public charge”.  Evidence of being or likely to become a “public charge” or someone likely to depend on the government for assistance would cause an application for citizenship or legal status to be rejected.  This chilling effect rule applied to refugees, aslyees, those applying for non-protected status, trafficking victims and juveniles.

The Urban Institute found that one in five immigrant adults in families with children avoided public benefits in 2020 due to concerns about immigration status.  They did not seek food assistance, Medicaid or CHIP benefits.  There are about 22 million non-citizens in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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This Labor Day marks the 128th national celebration of the American worker.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 22 million working age people with disabilities in America.  Yet, fewer than 1 in 3 persons with a disability has a job.  People with disabilities are more likely to work part-time.  For some this is the maximum potential given their medical impairment.  But for many, this is because they cannot secure full-time work.  Also, people with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 required employers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.  Yet, today barriers to employment still exist.

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August is Back to School Month for families with school age children.  The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that consumers were cutting back on non-essential items or shopping sales in order to afford back to school supplies with the current inflation rate.  For families with disabilities, subsisting on Social Security benefits, this can be especially daunting.  NRF calculates the average cost per family to be $864 this year, mostly owing to inflation.

The Social Security Administration provides income for children through two programs.  SSA pays benefits for minor children of disabled adults who paid into the Title II program through pay roll taxes.  Second, SSA provides direct benefits to disabled children of low income families through its Supplemental Security Income program.  These benefits provide for approximately 4 million children in this country.

For families with a disabled child, the family must be low income to be considered eligible.  Review this chart to see if your family meets the threshold requirements.  The SSI Program provides critical support for 1.2 million children in this country.  Fifteen percent of all SSI recipients are children.   Because eligibility for SSI depends on meeting both medical and financial criteria, the rate of SSI receipt varies geographically depending on local health, economic and demographic factors.  In 2020, Georgia had 42,750 children receiving SSI.

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