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 Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the impact mental disorders have on many American’s lives and their potential to cause long-term disability. In order to be eligible for disability benefits for a mental disorder, the condition must be diagnosed by a doctor and meet the criteria required for any disability including:

  • The mental disorder must prevent you from doing any work which you have done until now.
  • The disorder must make you unable to reasonably train for another job.
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Preparation is key to the success of your Social Security claim for disability benefits. The agency will require verified information about your disability, including the date when your condition became disabling, the dates and addresses of your last treatments, and the date that you stopped working.  Prior to your interview, organize your medical records, making sure they are accurate and updated, and verified by a medical professional. A doctor’s summary of your condition, details about your treatment, and the kind of limitations the condition places on your ability to work must all be included and documented. Prepare for questions about when your condition became disabling.

Collect your worker’s compensation information as applicable to your claim. These documents must include the settlement agreement, date of the injury, as well as evidence of any other injury-related payouts you have received.  The agency will require information about your marital and family status, including the names of your spouse and children as well as dates of your marriage or divorce. It is important to have your bank checking account number available. Also, be prepared with an emergency contact in the event the agency is unable to get in touch with you.

For individuals unable to file the claim online, they must fill out the “Medical and Job Worksheet – Adult” document and bring it with them for the interview. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will also require Form SSA-827 “Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration” in order to obtain sensitive medical information required to determine whether you qualify for benefits. This is a medical release form, and the agency will require you to sign and date the form, along with a witness’ signature, and return to the agency as directed.

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In many cases, persons who apply for and receive Social Security benefits may also be eligible for and receive other forms of benefits payments. These can include pension payments and Worker’s Compensation benefits. Your recovery of these other benefits could impact the amount of Social Security disability benefits for which you are eligible.

Your Social Security disability benefits can be reduced if you receive benefits under the Worker’s Compensation program or retirement pension programs. For example, if you qualify for and are receiving Worker’s Compensation benefits, then the law places limits on the amount of the payment that you can receive. You may not be eligible to recover more than 80% of your disability benefits payments in Worker’s Compensation earnings. You may be required to pay the Social Security Administration (SSA) back any extra payments that you may have recovered while receiving benefits under other programs.

Typically, your pensions will not be affected by your Social Security Disability Benefits payments. If the pension payments that you made during your work tenure were exempt from Social Security taxes, then your disability benefits payments can be affected. However, this happens only in rare cases because most pension programs will attract Social Security taxes. If you are on a Long Term Disability plan funded by your employer, then you will have your Social Security Disability Benefits payments reduced or offset as a result of this.

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As many as 1 in 4 Americans are believed to suffer from hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Those with hypertension have high blood pressure levels, even when they are at rest. There are several challenges involved in applying for benefits for hypertension. First, the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer includes the condition in its impairments book that qualifies for benefits. Also, your condition may not meet the disability criteria of the agency.

However, you may still be able to qualify for benefits. In order to qualify for disability benefits for hypertension, you will be required to provide detailed and accurate medical information. Your doctor must provide a treatment summary or notes testifying to your condition, including any current treatment for your hypertension. If you have been admitted into the hospital any time in the past after a spike in your blood pressure levels, this information must be relayed to the SSA too. Blood test results, as well as the results of CT scans and MRI scans, if available, must also be presented as evidence.

Remember, you may be able to qualify for benefits if your Residual Function Capacity shows that you face restrictions on the amount of work you can do. For instance, if your hypertension causes heart dysfunction, and restricts your ability to work to just about two hours of physical activity a day, it can severely limit your ability to work and earn an income.

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First, some good news.  The Social Security Administration received its annual appropriation from Congress in September and that funds the agency through this February.  Second, even if that were not the case, funding for programs such as Title II (SSDI), Title XVI (SSI) and XVIII (Medicare) are funded through a combination of taxes and long-term investments.  The shutdown only affects funds annually appropriated by Congress.   So the checks still get delivered.

Core programs like disability claims or appeals over benefits continue to function.  But you would see a slow-down in non-essential programs.  Employees for non-essential services would be out on a furlough, meaning they do not work and do not get paid.  For Social Security, some non-essential tasks are issuing Social Security cards, applying for Medicare, getting benefit verification or correcting earnings records.  Some 10,400 SSA employees will be furloughed out of the 63,200 total employees.

That being said, if you have an appeal pending in the federal districts courts, your action has been stayed.  Yesterday, the Northern District of Georgia issued an order staying all cases involving federal government agencies.  The Department of Justice requested that all federal courts pause proceedings in its cases, including meeting court-ordered deadlines.  For those with appeals pending at the district court level, your case is on hold.

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December 1 marked World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of HIV/AIDS which has claimed more than 35 million deaths worldwide since it first came to light. There are currently 1.1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS. Southern states, including Georgia, accounted for more than half of the new HIV diagnoses in 2017. In 2016, there were 2,585 adolescents and adults with HIV living in Georgia.

HIV is no longer imminently fatal. With advancements in treatment as well as the easier availability of drugs to treat the condition, patients can expect to live many years with HIV. The anti-retroviral drugs that are used as a primary treatment for persons suffering from HIV are very effective in helping control the progress of the disease. The feelings of fatigue and listlessness that often accompany the use of these drugs can leave a person with HIV unable to lead a productive working life.

HIV severely compromises the immune system, leaving the person susceptible to a host of other infectious diseases. As a result, a patient is therefore at risk of tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer and other diseases. Recovering benefits for HIV is important because the costs involved in the treatment of this disease can be huge. With a lowered capacity to work as a result of the symptoms of the disease, a person may find himself or herself in financial distress. Recovering disability benefits for HIV involves providing strong evidence of the severity of the symptoms and their interference with your ability to work and earn a sustainable income.

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder, which affects motor functioning. The symptoms include shaking (tremors), rigidity of muscles, difficulty speaking, problems walking, and depression. Depression occurs as a direct result of Parkinson’s in 80% of those with the disorder.  While some of those suffering with this disease initially have relatively mild symptoms, which slowly progress over time, others degenerate rapidly.

Parkinson’s is currently not included under the Compassionate Allowance program, meaning that being diagnosed with Parkinson’s does not guarantee that you will win your disability benefits case. Thus, those with Parkinson’s must prove that their condition hinders them from doing any work they have done in the past 15 years or in another job for which they could be reasonably trained. It is generally not difficult for those with Parkinson’s to prove that they could not train for new employment. However, it can be more complicated to prove that you cannot do work you have previously done, depending on your prior work.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, contact this law firm for a free consultation on your eligibility for disability benefits. 

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists vision loss in its Blue Book of disabilities that are eligible for disability benefits. Persons who suffer from blindness, however, may have special rules that apply to them due to the severely limiting and restrictive nature of their disability. For instance, a person who suffers from even partial blindness may be eligible for disability benefits. The agency defines vision loss as vision that cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in the better eye, or involving a field of vision of 20 degrees or less, even after using corrective lenses.

However, you may qualify of benefits even if your blindness doesn’t meet these criteria. If your blindness or vision problems make it difficult to work or earn an income, we urge you to discuss your rights to disability benefits with an attorney. The SSA also has a higher income threshold for persons with blindness. If you suffer from vision loss, the monthly earnings limit that applies to you in 2018 is $1,970–which is higher than the limit for non-blind workers.

If you suffer from an eye disease or condition like cataracts, retinopathy, glaucoma or another disease that limits your vision significantly, talk to an attorney about your rights to a claim. Remember, however, that the SSA will not approve of your claim if you have good vision in at least one eye.

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The 2018 health rankings are out and Georgia is 39.  The United Health Foundation, a division of the World Health Organization publishes the yearly results.  The UHR looks at the 35 different criteria.  Some of these include:  children in poverty; prevalence of smoking; prevalence of obesity; prevalence of mental and emotional distress, immunizations, birth weight of infants, and percentage of available primary care and mental health doctors.  The model is built on the World Health Organization’s definition of health.  “Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The least healthy states are all in the south.  The bottom five are in descending order to unhealthiest:  Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  Where are the healthiest states?  Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah.

What are Georgia’s health strengths?  The state’s rate of children in poverty fell to 21 percent, down from 22.9 percent last year.  The national rate of children in poverty is 18.4 percent.  Georgia has increased its number of primary care physicians.  Georgia has 121.9 primary care doctors for every 100,000 individuals.  This is a 2 percent increase from last year.   Nationally, the number of primary care doctors has increased 5 percent.  In Georgia, there are 130.2 mental health providers for every 100,000 individuals.  This is up 6% from past year.  Nationally, the number of mental health providers has increased 8 percent.  Georgia’s number of immunized children is high; violent crime deaths are down; and even adolescent drinking is down.

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Yesterday the Regional Counsel’s office for the Social Security Administration Office of Hearing Operations invited disability attorneys and disability representatives downtown to its conference room at the federal building to roll out a new program.  As one of colleagues remarked, “this is a one way conversation.”  Nevertheless, anytime, SSA lets me peek behind the screen to see how things work, I am going to be there.  With a grand entrance and rousing cheer for its new program, Centralized Scheduling, SSA tried to get the claimant’s reps and attorneys on board with this initiative.  Cut to the chase, we all know this will not be in our interest.  The hearing offices will be scheduling cases without calling us first.  The burden is now on me to apprise the agency of my conflicts and hope they take that into account so I don’t miss my son’s graduation.  While I won’t miss a graduation, I am not complaining about this program – if that gets more cases scheduled then I will get on board.  I also will not complain that their Power Point presentation took an hour to upload because someone’s laptop was running an update.  While an unnecessary expenditure of time, the crowd was fairly patient.  But here is why I am writing this blog today.  Because underneath the purported rally for serving the public, was the percolating contempt for those of us working to help claimants get their benefits.

If a government program is going to work, it cannot be run by people who have contempt for it.  That’s true of Social Security, the justice system and the White House.   Those of us who showed up yesterday, taking time out of our schedules for the free invite, probably do not need a lecture on our ethical obligations as attorneys.  We do not need another layer of regulations placed on us that serve no purpose; and whose purpose cannot be articulated.  And if yesterday’s crowd started to balk at the presentation, it was probably because the three picture power point seemed to suggest that agency problems will be cured by placing more burdens on the claimant’s attorneys; and a not so veiled suggestion that they are routing out our fraud.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like fraud.  We should stamp it out; it ruins the program for good people with legitimate claims.  Although I can count on one hand in the last six years the times I met someone who has trying to scam the system.  But they exist.  Yahoos from Wall Street to Wal-mart will try to scam the system.  Good riddance to all of them.  But you know what else I hate?  I hate when hard-working people fall on hard times due to poor health; lose their jobs; lose their savings; apply for benefits from a disability program they paid into for years and then get kicked to the curb.  I hate the forty-five minute delay times on the SSA 1-800 number.  I hate the local offices that are being closed around the country.  I hate that the offices that remain open are closed at noon on Wednesday and Friday.  I hate that important paperwork that has a 10 day deadline for a return gets mailed out nine days after the printed date on the letter.  I hate that claimants show for consultative exams with SSA contract doctors and no medical records accompany the appointment.  I hate that claimants whose cases meet medical listings get denied on the initial application.  I hate that claimants who meet compassionate allowance listings get denied on initial applications.   I hate that legitimate cases get denied on reconsideration even when the treating doctors and the consultant SSA doctor agree on the severity of the claimant’s condition.  I hate that the wait times for hearings in Georgia have run between 12 and 15 months.  I hate that after a hearing, some judges take over 90 days to issue a decision (and that is even for cases that met a Dire Need request).   I hate that the Payment Office can take over three months to issue payment to the claimant after they finally get a Favorable Decision.  Here is one I really hate, I hate that the Payment Office routinely forgets to pay my fee.  I hate that it will take 9 months of my letter-writing appeals to the Payment Office to finally release it.