The Social Security Administration recently changed the disability criteria for depression cases. Listed Impairment 12.04 for Depressive, bipolar and related disorders states that, in order to be found disabled due to a depressive disorder, there must be medical evidence of five or more of the following findings:
1. Depressed mood
2. Diminished interest in almost all activities
3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight
4. Sleep disturbance
5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation
6. Decreased energy
7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking
In addition to meeting five or more of the above-findings, there must also be medical evidence of an extreme limitation in one, or marked limitation in two of the following categories of mental functioning:
1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (such as following instructions, memory loss, low IQ, etc.)
2. Interacting with others (with bosses, co-workers or the general public)
3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (ability to stay on task)
4. Adapt or manage oneself (ability to care for one's daily personal needs)
As an alternative to proving B, the C criteria may instead be met, if you are still able to provide evidence of the A criteria:
This criteria essentially states you must have 2 years of evidence of an ongoing "serious and persistent" mental disorder with evidence of medical treatment (from a licensed psychologist/psychiatrist), mental health therapy (counseling or support groups), and evidence that, despite these efforts, a person is unable to handle changes in routine or meet the demands required by a typical employer (i.e., would you require frequent breaks throughout the day in excess of the typical 15-minute break in the morning/afternoon and 60-minute break for lunch?).
On a more personal note:
In order to prove this listing it is vital to have your own treating psychologist or psychiatrist. Unfortunately, Social Security does not consider Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners experts and therefore any licensed doctor's opinion will "trump" that of a PA or NP. Even more unfortunately, often times this also means the opinion of the doctor hired by Social Security will have greater weight. In practice, I've found these physicians tend to be somewhat claimant unfriendly. For added strength, it's helpful to show evidence of regular counseling or therapy.
One thing to also keep in mind when attempting to prove any mental health listing: Social Security can deny your case if there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in your medical records, even if you meet the listing otherwise. If there is evidence of abuse, they will look to see if there were any periods of sobriety and whether or not not the mental health problems kept you from working during that time. In these situations it is extremely helpful to have a letter from your treating doctor with her/his opinion on whether or not your condition would still keep you from working even if there weren't evidence of abuse.
If you have any questions about Social Security's criteria for depression or any other mental health listing, feel free to call us at 1-844-WORKN4U (1-844-967-5648).
This is a question that I often receive before it's too late, and the honest answer is, "it depends." Remember, if you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, SSA has determined you are unable to perform a full-time job, and this is judged by how much you earn. If your condition improves or if you want to try to go back to work, be sure you understand SSA's rules about a Trial Work Period. This rule essentially states if an individual makes more than $840 (for 2017) in any 9 months (not necessarily consecutively) in a rolling 60-month period they will be considered to be gainfully employed and will therefore no longer be entitled to their Social Security Disability benefits. This is why you should actively communicate with SSA and always send them copies of your pay stubs if you try to return to work while receiving benefits. Something else I strongly encourage my clients to do is keep a Social Security journal where they can log the date, time, and who was spoken with at their office. Having this information will help protect your rights if there is ever a future dispute. Here's the bad news: if SSA doesn't know you are working and continues to send monthly payments, you will likely be issued an Overpayment Notice and asked to repay the funds. Unfortunately, sometimes SSA doesn't stop the payments for a long period of time so overpayments can be tens of thousands of dollars. If you are seriously considering returning to work, I strongly encourage you to speak with a legal professional to see how it could affect your benefits. If you have questions about overpayment issues please do not hesitate to contact my office at (801) 994-4918 for more information.
Representatives of the Social Security Administration recently discussed at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives Conference new ways the agency plans on speeding up Disability cases in an attempt to chip away at the massive backlog currently faced. These plans include things like issuing more decisions, hiring additional personnel, and increasing overall workflow efficiency.
In terms of issuing more decisions, SSA is now training more employees than ever to help issue decisions. At the Office of Hearing Operations (previously called the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review), Administrative Law Judges and Attorney Advisors wrote decisions, but it appears this will duty will now be extended to other employees specifically designated to write decisions.
The Trump Administration enacted a hiring freeze for SSA which lifted for the agency in September 2017 and top officials state this has been their largest challenge. SSA recently resumed hiring and is even in the process of training 100 new Administrative Law Judges. Reports indicate they are also in the process of hiring thousands of more employees to staff Field, Disability, and Hearing offices.
Lastly, SSA is implementing new policies which aim at increasing overall efficiency. The most notable has to do with changes at the Appeals Council, which historically reviewed decisions made by the lower appellate level Administrative Law Judge and would then remand the case back to that same Judge if an error of law was to be addressed. Now, those issues will apparently be dealt with directly by the Appeals Council. Other efforts include using word recognition technology to find strong cases in their database. We are hopeful these new changes will help our clients receive decision more quickly!
According to the Social Security Administration's Regulations, a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits is evaluated by what is referred to in the law as the 5-Step Sequential Evaluation Process. At Step 1, Social Security determines whether or not a claimant is working and making over "Substantial Gainful Employment," or a monthly gross income of $1,170 (2017) or higher. If the answer is "no" to both, the claim proceeds to the next Step. At Step 2, they evaluate the combination of medical conditions to determine whether or not a "severe impairment" exists. If a severe impairment is found, the claim proceeds to Step 3. At Step 3, SSA determines whether or not the medical evidence on record is substantial enough to satisfy one of their specific listed impairments (i.e., major depressive disorder, chronic heart failure, leukemia, etc.). If the medical evidence supports a finding of disability at Step 3, the claim is awarded and Steps 4 & 5 become unnecessary.
If Step 4 is necessary, SSA considers any and all physical/mental abilities, skills, and the level of education to determine whether or not a claimant is able to return to his/her previous work as it was performed (Note: a claim cannot be awarded at Step 4 so proceeding to Step 5 is always necessary). Finally at Step 5, SSA evaluates whether or not a claimant is able to perform any other jobs in the national economy on a competitive basis, taking into consideration all of the medical impairments. Generally speaking, for claimants who are "Closely Approaching Advanced Age" (50-55) or "Advanced Age" (55 and over), SSA may use the Medical Vocational Guidelines (GRIDS) to evaluate a claim at Step 5 to direct a favorable outcome. The GRIDS are a useful reference tool which direct a decision based on a claimant's residual functional capacity (physical/mental abilities), age, education, transferability of skills. For claimants classified as a "Younger Individual" (49 or younger), the GRIDS generally do not apply unless there is evidence he/she is illiterate or unable to communicate in English. Although this is the case, SSA still may use the GRIDS in cases of Younger Individuals as a template in evaluating Medical-Vocational issues at Step 5. The GRIDS can be viewed in Appendix 2 to Subpart P of Part 404 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or on Social Security's Website by clicking here.
The #SocialSecurityAdministration recently reported it will be partnering with all #VeteransAdministrationMedicalCenters in order to provide #disability decisions to #veterans more quickly. Specifically, #SSA launched a computer system which allows receipt of medical records electronically. This means collecting medical records from the #VA will take a few days rather than a few weeks.
#SSA reportedly collects over 15 million medical records per year, so this is a great effort to make the administrative appeals process more efficient and effective. The new partnership will positively affect over 7,000 #VA facilities in the #UnitedStates and our #veterans in need. These new policies are in addition to a recently implemented policy which allows for expedited claim processing in cases where a #veteran has received a 100% service-connected #disability rating from the #DepartmentofVeteransAffairs.
If you are a #veteran in need of #SocialSecurityDisability, call Ricks Disability Aid today at (435) 200-5352. We can help file a new application, or step in and help at any stage of the process.
The #SocialSecurityDisability application process is not quick, and many clients experience difficulty making financial ends meet in the meantime. When you file for #SocialSecurityDisabilityBenefits, you are trying to prove to the #SocialSecurityAdministration you are unable to work enough to pay for basic living expenses. Unfortunately this means any working may hurt the case.
While often times claimants filing for benefits are forced to work, making over what the #SocialSecurityAdministration considers substantial may result in a technical denial of the case ($1,130 for 2016; $1,170 for 2017). In difficult financial situations, in the alternative, I recommend clients attend vocational rehabilitation through their local #DepartmentOfWorkforceServices (DWS). DWS offers many programs, such as special job training for accommodated job placements, referrals and payment for some medical treatment, cash assistance, medicaid health insurance, housing assistance, and food stamps. These are great programs which help many people with basic living necessities.
If you have questions about working during the #SocialSecurityDisability application process, call us today at (435) 200-5352 for a free consultation. Ricks Disability Aid can help you file a new application or represent you at any stage in the process.
You've finally made it to the point of your Social Security Disability case where you will appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for a hearing to determine your eligibility for benefits. At the hearing, the ALJ will consider many different factors including your background, age, education, learning ability, past-work experience, medical history, physical/mental symptoms, residual functional capacity and general activities of daily living. It is important to have this information ready for the ALJ well in advance, so I always recommend my clients keep a daily journal. In your journal, it is a good idea to log any medical treatment you receive, how you feel on a daily basis and any difficulties you experience due to your disability.
The ALJ will also thoroughly review your medical records and work history. Prior to your hearing, it is important to make a list of all the jobs you worked 15 years prior to the date you are alleging disability. This list should include your title, type of industry (i.e., construction, general labor, retail, etc.), dates worked, dollars per hour, average hours per day, average days per week and the heaviest amount of weight lifted.
It is also important to make a list of all the medical providers (i.e., physicians, clinics, hospitals, counselors, social workers, physical therapists, etc.) you've seen after the date you are alleging disability. This list should include the name of the provider and/or clinic, condition(s) treated (i.e., back pain, headaches, etc.), approximate date first treated, approximate date last treated, treatment received (i.e., surgery, medication management, counseling, etc.) and any tests ordered (i.e., x-ray, CT scan, MRI, EKG, stress test, etc.).
If you need representation for your Social Security Disability Hearing, call Representative Cody D. Ricks at (435) 200-5352 today. I have experience in winning both physical and mental cases at all levels of the application process.
#SSA #SocialSecurity #SocialSecurityDisability #SocialSecurityDisabilityBenefits #SupplementalSecurityIncome #SSI #SocialSecurityDisabilityHearing #SSDisability #SocialSecurityDisabilityInsurance #SSDI #SocialSecurityBenefits
If your Attorney Dropped your Case before your #SocialSecurityDisability Hearing there may still be Hope!
Because of the way Social Security's laws are currently written, your representative may withdraw from your case at any point in time--even if your hearing is already scheduled. In my career I've even seen attorneys who drop cases the day before their hearing! I understand what an inconvenience this is, but it does not necessarily mean all is lost. Know that, unless your prior representative withdrew your entire application, your case should still be pending appropriately with the Social Security Administration. Generally speaking, a new representative can represent you where the prior representative left off.
However, if a prior representative dropped your case, it probably had to do with its overall strength. My recommendation is to immediately seek medical care, so there is accurate, up-to-date information about your current condition (especially if your hearing is scheduled).
If you find yourself in a situation where you are unrepresented for your Social Security Disability hearing, call me today at (435) 200-5352. I won't leave you hanging.
#SSA #socialsecuritydisability #socialsecurityadministration #disability #SSdisability #SSAdisability #medicare #socialsecurity #disabilityhearing #utahdisability #SSI #supplementalsecurityincome #socialsecuritydisabilityinsurance #ssdi #medicaid
This is a question I am often asked, and I always give the same answer, "as soon as you believe you are disabled." As you've probably heard, the Social Security process can be lengthy, so it is good idea to submit your application as soon as you are unable to return to work. This is important because, if your case is awarded later, Social Security may pay you back to the date you filed your application. It is also important because you can always withdraw your application if your health improves and will still be able to apply in the future, if necessary. Please keep in mind, your application may be denied if you are currently working and making more than what SSA considers 'substantial.' If you would like assistance in applying for benefits or the application process, call Disability Advocate Cody D. Ricks at (435) 200-5352.
As the Washington Post accurately states, the Social Security Administration currently has the largest backlog in the United States Government--more than 1 million cases waiting to be heard. According to public data, wait times to receive a scheduled hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in Salt Lake City alone have reached 18 months! This is due to many factors like understaffing, lack of funding, and the still unrecovered economy. In response to both this issue and public outcry, SSA has been working frantically on providing new solutions. This includes moving towards expanding the use of National Hearing Centers by using video hearings and also changing the way the Appeals Council (Social Security's highest appellate court) handles cases which are remanded. While these efforts are commendable, there has been widespread concern among Social Security Disability representatives who are worried these changes may infringe on a claimant's right to a fair hearing. While a video hearing may be scheduled more quickly, public data indicates, in many cases, National Hearing Center Judge approval rates are significantly lower. For these reasons, I always recommend my clients object to video hearings and retain the right to appear before a Judge in-person. If you have questions about your right to a fair hearing call Ricks Disability Aid today at (435) 200-5352 to ensure you go to your hearing with the best chances of winning. We will do everything in our power to make sure your hearing is scheduled as quickly as possible, without any unnecessary delays.