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 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.

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In a recent report by the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, Georgia earned a “D” on mental health and addiction treatment equal to that for physical health. This corresponded to a score of 60/100, an evaluation based on Georgia’s statues that ensure equality of physical and mental health treatment. The report stated that more than 1 in 6 Georgians have a mental illness, and nearly 1 in 5 of these individuals is uninsured. Recent data shows that there are on average 4 drug overdoses every day in Georgia. Many people suffering from mental health issues are denied care when they need it the most. Neil Campbell, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, emphasized that there is a “need for the quality and amount of coverage that is afforded physical health conditions.”

The report recommends that patient co-pays and out-of-pocket costs be adjusted to be equal for mental and addiction services as for physical illnesses. It emphasizes that greater access to recovery for mental health and addiction issues will save insurance companies in the long run, because those with their substance problems under control live healthier lives. A decade after the passing of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, a federal law which mandated equity in care for those with mental health issues, there is still much work to be done.

If you are suffering from a mental health condition that impairs you from working, contact this law firm about filing a Social Security disability claim.

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In the last month, I have received two very threatening calls on my cell phone from a person purporting to represent the Social Security Agency.  The caller threatens me with criminal prosecution if I do not hang up and call another number.  Admittedly, I did not not call the number because I do not want to engage with fraudsters.  Even before these calls, SSA had sent out an alert about fraudulent calls.  In the last few months, there have been many reported spoofed calls from people claiming to be Social Security Administration (SSA) employees. In these calls, the number on your caller ID may show up as the actual Social Security toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. The scammers on the phone are not actually calling from the SSA, but are spoofing the number to try to make the call look real.

However, there are some warning signs that can alert you to a spoofed call. The SSA will never offer to increase your benefits in exchange for information. The SSA will also never threaten to cut off your benefits if you do not give them the information they are asking for. If a call sounds suspicious, you should hang up on the call immediately. You should also report the call by calling 1-800-269-0271 or by clicking here. If you are in doubt whether a call is actually from the SSA, hang up and call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213. By calling this number, you are guaranteed of reaching an actual SSA employee — or if you  are put on hold for 45 minutes then you know you have reached the Social Security Administration!

If you have any questions about filing a Social Security disability claim, contact this law firm.

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Early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s is a relatively rare type of dementia that typically strikes people below the age of 65. Approximately 5% of people currently diagnosed with dementia in the United States are believed to be suffering from early onset dementia. In most cases of early onset dementia, symptoms begin when the person is in his 40s or 60s. It’s not clear why some people develop symptoms so much earlier than others. Obviously, symptoms like forgetfulness, memory loss, and subtle speech changes at a young age can be very traumatic and confusing. Going to work can be an overwhelming affair because of the frequent disruptions caused by memory loss and cognitive malfunctioning.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has added early onset dementia to the list of programs covered under its Compassionate Allowances program. Filing under the Compassionate Allowances program can be very beneficial to someone suffering from early onset dementia because so many of these claims are rejected initially based on the person’s age. This can also allow for expedited processing.

If your loved one is showing signs of forgetfulness or language difficulties, don’t automatically attribute these to the aging process. A neurologist will use blood tests, brain imaging, and other tests to diagnose early onset dementia.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines your name as a combination of your first and last names. The agency does not consider middle names or suffixes. Typically, the agency will consider your legal name to be as it appears on your US birth certificate. If you were born in a foreign country, then the name provided on your immigration documents will be used on your Social Security card.

Sometimes, situations do arise that require a person to change his or her name. For example, a person may get married or divorced. Whenever there is a change in name for any reason, you must inform the SSA. There is no online provision for changing the name on your Social Security card. You must provide legal identity documents which can include your driver’s license, state-issued non-driver identification card, or a US passport. If these documents are not available for any reason, you may provide your employee, student, health insurance, or US military cards.

You must also prove documents as evidence of your legal name change. These documents may include your marriage certificate, divorce decree, Certificate of Naturalization with your new name, or a court order accepting the name change. Remember that these must all be original documents, not photocopies or notarized documents. File your application form, take a print of it and mail it to the Social Security office with the documents. Once all documents have been verified, the agency will mail you your new card with the new name.

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A woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy can lead to extreme fatigue, and gainful activity is usually impossible during this time. Certain types of breast cancer, including unresectable or inoperable breast cancer, qualify for expedited processing of disability claims under the Compassionate Allowances program. When a cancer is as serious as this, it is important to make sure that your claim is filed with all relevant documentation and evidence to ensure that the claim is processed quickly.

Keep in mind that if the documentation, lab reports and pathological evidence you have provided is not deemed sufficient, the agency may deny your claim. Talk to an attorney and get your claim reviewed thoroughly before you submit it to maximize your chances of a successful claim.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to Lisa Siegel, Georgia Disability Attorney, and discuss how you can begin the process of filing a claim.

 

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently added Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System to its Compassionate Allowances program. This is a neurodegenerative condition that causes bleeding in the brain. Those with this condition suffer from deposits of hemosiderin in their brain or spinal cord, which can cause chronic bleeding. This often results in loss of hearing and progressive gait ataxia, the loss of full control over one’s gait.

Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System is not a genetic disease and can occur as a result of surgery, trauma, or other factors. An aneurysm, for instance, can result in this condition. Patients who suffer from this condition often complain of multiple ailments, and diagnosis is often tricky because this is one of the most rare neurodegenerative conditions.

Typically, processing of a disability benefits claim can take between 6 and 12 months. However, when a claim involves a condition or disease that is included in the Compassionate Allowances program, the amount of time required to process a claim is significantly reduced. In many cases, just a diagnosis of the disorder will allow the claimant to qualify for disability benefits. Typically, a claim may be processed within 2 to 3 months after being filed under Compassionate Allowances.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not require you to schedule an appointment to file for disability benefits or to appeal a disability case. However, an appointment can help save time on the processing of your claim. To cancel or reschedule an appointment, you can contact the SSA by calling 1-800-772-1213. Their hours of operation are weekdays between 7 am-7 pm. There is no online scheduling available for the agency.

You can also reschedule or cancel your appointment by contacting your local Social Security office. The Atlanta Region alone serves more than 13 million Social security beneficiaries. The agency maintains 243 Social Security offices across the Atlanta region. Find an office close to you and their hours by clicking here.

Remember that if you have missed your Social Security appointment for any reason, you will have to contact the agency again to reschedule a new appointment. The agency will not get in touch with you to reschedule. Failure to contact the agency or reschedule a new appointment could mean that you miss out on months of disability payments. If you are eligible for retroactive benefits payments, then you stand to lose a substantial amount of these payments if you miss your appointment with the Social Security office.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently added Megalencephaly-Capillary Malformation Syndrome to the list of disorders and conditions included in its Compassionate Allowances program. This program allows expedited approval of disability benefits claims.

Megalencephaly is a condition that is characterized by overgrowth of tissues in the body and abnormalities of the tiny blood vessels in the skin. A person who suffers from this condition will have an unusually large head. He may also suffer severe brain abnormality and have excessive brain fluid. There may also be abnormalities in brain development, which can lead to cognitive and learning difficulties as well as a general intellectual disability.

The condition is also associated with speech and language delays, poor muscle tone, and difficulties in swallowing. In some cases, the excessive growth can be seen in other parts of the body, and sufferers may have a limb that is excessively sized compared to the other one, or oversized fingers or toes. The condition is caused by genetic mutations. There is no complete cure for this condition, and management may involve a number of approaches, including neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology, and physiotherapy.