attorney explaining the ticket to work program to ssd client

What Is the Ticket to Work Program?

Are you on disability benefits and are wondering about the Social Security Administration Ticket to Work Program? While the Ticket to Work Program may not be right for everyone, it can be a valuable resource for some. Here, we will go into more detail about the SSA Ticket to Work Program and whether it may be a good fit for you.

What Is the Ticket to Work Program? 

Those found eligible for disability benefits must have shown that they were unable to earn enough money to support themselves. Sometimes, beneficiaries of Social Security disability benefits may wish to re-enter the workforce and improve earning potential. The SSA established the Right to Work Program for this group of people.

The intent of the Ticket to Work Program is to support career development for those disability beneficiaries from 18 to 64 years of age who want to work. The program claims to offer disability benefit recipients opportunities to engage in meaningful employment with the assistance of program service providers referred to as “Employment Networks” with the goal of achieving financial independence and no longer needing to rely on disability benefit payments.

Through the Ticket to Work Program, participants have access to employment support services, vocational and rehabilitation services, as well as the ability to gain work experience all while maintaining eligibility to keep receiving Social Security disability benefits. The program is free. You can get career counseling as well as job placement and training. The program service provider, either the “Employment Networks” or your State Vocational Rehabilitation agency, will essentially become part of your employment seeking and training team, assisting you as you look to work enough to gain financial independence.

To get started with the Ticket to Work program, you can call HelpLine to verify your eligibility. You will then select a service provider that is the right fit for you. You will then collaborate with your service provider in establishing a plan to help you achieve your goals. This may involve job training, career counseling, and more ways of preparing for and exploring the job market and how best to reenter the job market in the most competitive and competent way.

Disability Attorney

While the Ticket to Work Program offers an impressive list of free benefits to participants, it is not right for everyone. Not everyone is able to or best situated to increase earning potential or become financially independent from needing social security benefits and other forms of assistance. Are you curious about the Right to Work Program and other aspects of Social Security disability benefits? Talk to our knowledgeable disability benefits team at Roeschke Law. We are committed to providing trusted legal counsel to those who seek to receive disability benefits or who are currently receiving disability benefits but have questions about the program. Come to us with your questions and concerns. We are here for you. Contact us today.

disability hearing

What Will the ALJ Ask at My Hearing?

Has your application for Social Security disability benefits been denied? Now is not the time to give up, although it can feel very defeating to get that denial letter. Most people, in fact, are initially denied when applying for Social Security disability benefits. Many find more success in the disability benefits appeals process. One level of the appeals process is the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Now, the idea of presenting yourself in front of an ALJ for a hearing on your disability application may feel intimidating. Here, we want to go over some of the things the ALJ will likely ask you about at your hearing so you feel more prepared for it.

What Will the ALJ Ask at My Hearing?

The ALJ will start by asking you some basic questions such as your name, date of birth, where you live, and who lives with you.  Then, the ALJ will likely turn to the heart of matters, which is your disability. The questions will likely be extensive. You are tasked with presenting your claim to the ALJ in a way that shows him or her that you have a disabling condition that prevents you from retaining substantially gainful employment. This will involve answering questions regarding the nature and extent of your medical conditions.

The ALJ will want to know not just about the condition itself, but how it has impacted your life. Were you working before the condition became disabling? When did you stop working? What else has the disabling condition prevented you from doing? Have you tried to work since the disabling condition arose? If so, how did that turn out? So, as you can see, the ALJ will want to know about your medical condition, your work history, and how your medical condition has impacted your ability to work. Be prepared to be as specific as possible about the limitations imposed upon you by your disabling condition. If it prevents you from lifting a certain amount of weight, state that you are unable to lift a specified amount of weight or greater. If your condition prevents you from sitting or standing for an extended period of time, be specific about the amount of time you are limited to comfortably sitting or standing at a time.

If you are applying for Social Security Income (SSI), which is a needs-based program for disabled individuals, the ALJ will also be interested in learning about your financial situation. Questions will likely be asked about your living situation. Do you own your house? Are you renting? Do you live with a family member? What financial resources are accessible to you? What assets do you own? You may want to consider bringing documentation to provide to the judge and also for you to reference during the hearing.

Disability Attorney

At Roeschke Law, we understand that approaching the disability claims process and the legal system can be overwhelming and intimidating. We are here to assist you in any way we can. We are here to support you and help you succeed as you navigate the disability claims process. Contact us today.

prison and disability

Navigating Incarceration with Mental Disabilities

Q: How are prisons failing the disabled community? 

Adjusting to prison life would be difficult for anyone. Disability Attorneys of Arizona knows that for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, life in prison is much harder than regular life. 

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, those suffering certain mental or physical impairments which fit the government’s definition of being “disabled” must submit an application for disability benefits along with medical records to support the application. 

Very often, those with mental impairments need help not only applying for disability benefits but with daily activities – – from cooking, shopping, cleaning, bathing, and more–to managing finances, transportation, medication needs, and doctor visits. Many with intellectual or cognitive disabilities, like autism, have serious challenges in communication, behavior, and reading social cues. Those who have advocates or staff to help them navigate the world safely are fortunate. But family and caregivers cannot serve a prison term with a disabled person. 

How are intellectually disabled people identified in prison? 

Despite rules designed to identify and give support to prisoners with intellectual impairments, studies show that many prisons fail to adequately identify prisoners with developmental disorders either because they use outdated screening protocols or don’t screen for developmental disabilities at all. This is particularly troublesome especially in light of a 2015 Bureau of Justice Statistics report that states, “about 20% of prisoners mentioned having a cognitive disability”. And many couldn’t even express that thought if they are particularly low-functioning or non-verbal. 

What challenges do intellectually disabled people face in prison?

Because developmental disabilities “restrict one’s ability to learn, speak, behave or physically develop properly” those with autism, cerebral palsy, speech disorders, and more can face additional challenges in prison including:

  • Sensory overload from fluorescent lights, odors, unexpected and loud noises.
  • Unable to grasp the rules, leading to punishment.
  • Vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation and abuse because they’re more quietly compliant.
  • Stresses of all the above can add time for bad behavior. 

Parents struggle with being advocates for their adult children in prison.

If you need assistance with an initial application for disability benefits or an appeal of a denial of benefits or have any questions related to disability law, the Disability Attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we help disabled people and their families in all aspects of disability law. It’s all we do.  

ssd interview

What Questions Are Asked in a Social Security Disability Interview?

The Social Security Administration administers both the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs in order to provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities. Many come to rely on these benefits as their disability prevents them from retaining gainful employment. The application process for these programs can, however, be difficult to navigate. There are many moving parts. One such part is the interview.

When a person files an application for either Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits, the local Social Security Office will set up an interview at a future date. This interview may be scheduled to be in person at the Social Security office. In the alternative, the interview may be scheduled as a phone interview. Here, we will go into more detail about the interview and what questions you may be expected to answer at the interview.

What Questions Are Asked in a Social Security Disability Interview?

To get a better understanding of what to expect at a Social Security disability interview, it can be a good place to start by thinking about why the interview occurs in the first place. You see, the interview essentially acts as another level in the fact-finding process regarding your disability benefits application. The SSA is attempting to gain a better understanding of the nature of your disability and its impacts on your life and financial health in order to render a decision on your claim. It is important to note, however, that a decision on your claim will not be rendered at the actual interview.

When you go to your Social Security disability interview, the interview will be conducted by a claims representative who will ask you a number of questions. In all, the interview can take upwards of one hour to complete. The length of the interview will, however, vary depending on a number of factors. To help speed the interview process along, it helps to prepare as much as you can in advance which involves gathering documents and information regarding your employment and medical histories.

Some of the questions you can expect to be asked at your interview will relate to your employment history. You may be asked where you have worked in the past 15 years. The interviewer may also ask you about your job duties for your past jobs. There will also, of course, be questions pertaining to your medical history. The interview may ask about:

  • The nature of your medical condition(s)
  • The names and contact information for doctors you have seen
  • The medical treatment you have received for your disabling medical condition in the past year
  • The medication you are currently taking for your medical condition(s) as well as the dosage and the prescribing doctor

Questions about information beyond your employment and medical histories will also be asked. The interviewer will likely inquire as to your marital status as well as the number of children you have if any. You will also be asked whether you have ever served in the military and if you are currently receiving, or have ever received, workers’ compensation benefits for your disabling medical condition.

Should you be applying for Supplemental Security Income, there may be additional questioning that will occur at your interview. Supplemental Security Income benefits are intended for those disabled individuals with low income and resources who may not have paid enough into Social Security in order to be covered. Questions asked of these applicants may include who they are currently living with and what household expenses are incurred each month such as rent and utility payments. Applicants will also be asked about any sources of income, such as retirement benefits and any investments, as well as assets they own.

Disability Attorney

Navigating the Social Security disability process can be important, but difficult. Roeschke Law is here for you. Contact us today.

social security disability documents

What Documents Do I Need for Social Security Disability?

Applying for Social Security disability benefits is an involved process. The Social Security Administration will require extensive documentation in order for your claim to be effectively processed. Here, we will go into more depth about what documents you will likely be expected to produce as part of the Social Security disability application process. Remember, that thorough documentation is an integral part of seeing your claim succeed.

What Documents Do I Need for Social Security Disability?

It is all too common for a person to be denied Social Security disability benefits due to lack of documentation. In order to be granted Social Security disability benefits, the SSA will require extensive paperwork to be completed. This is true whether you plan to file your application via the telephone, in person, or online. The SSA will use the information provided on these forms and other supporting documentation in order to render a decision as to whether or not your application for benefits will be approved.

Documentation to provide to the SSA as part of your disability application will primarily relate to three things. They will require information about you. They will require information about your medical condition. They will require information about your work and your work history. Medical information and documentation is, of course, of central importance to any disability claim. You will need to be prepared to produce documentation regarding:

  • The terms of all of your medical conditions
  • The dates you were diagnosed with your condition(s)
  • Doctor reports
  • Test results
  • Medical records and any medical documentation regarding the injury or illness that led to your disabling condition
  • Contact information for your doctors, as well as any friends, family members, social workers, or people who can vouch for your disability and the impact it has had on your life

You will also need to provide documentation regarding your personal information and financial status. This means you will need to provide your Social Security number as well as your original birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship. If you were in the military prior to 1968, you will need to provide any U.S. discharge papers.

Regarding your financial status, you will need to provide your W-2 forms or your tax returns from the previous year. Additionally, you will be asked to provide pay stubs and settlement agreements as well as any proof that you have received temporary or permanent workers compensation or comparable benefits.

Disability Attorney

When you are disabled either due to an injury or illness, your financial security can feel unstable, to say the least. Your medical expenses can be significant and the added pressure that can come with not being able to work can be severe. Social Security disability benefits can provide crucial financial relief. In order to successfully navigate the benefits application process, however, you need to provide the necessary forms and thorough documentation. Roeschke Law can help you with this. Contact us today.

Is Fibromyalgia a Qualifying Condition for Disability?

Fibromyalgia has been a medical mystery in many ways. It is general characterized as a condition that can involve both widespread musculoskeletal pain as well as extreme fatigue and memory and mood issues. It can also impact sleep. The causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood and medical researchers continue to research the root cause of this sometimes debilitating condition. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you may have been prevented from retaining gainful employment due to your condition. If this is the case, you are likely very curious as to whether or not fibromyalgia is a qualifying condition to access disability benefits.

Is Fibromyalgia a Qualifying Condition for Disability?

The Social Security Blue Book does not have a listing for fibromyalgia among its list of other conditions that may qualify a person for disability benefits. The causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood and the symptoms are mostly subjective, or self-reported. Furthermore, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can greatly vary from one person to the next. These are all reasons why fibromyalgia claims are often denied by the SSA. This, however, is not always the case. Fibromyalgia can be a qualifying condition for disability benefits. If your claim is initially denied, you may see more success at the administrative law judge appeals level.

Due to the struggles associated with fibromyalgia cases, SSA has published a ruling about when the condition should be deemed a “medically determinable impairment.” This is the first threshold that needs to be crossed when applying for disability benefits. A medically determinable impairment means that your disabling condition needs to be established by more than your own reports about your symptoms. There must be medical signs of an impairment that could be reasonably expected to produce the symptoms you are reporting.

To strengthen the validity of your claim, you will need to have relevant medical records including laboratory test results and doctors’ evaluations. You may also want to submit statements from friends, family, and co-workers about your condition and its impacts on you, your job, and your relationships. Some of the more specific information that the SSA will be looking for in determining the validity of your disability claim will include:

  • Records supporting joint, muscle and surrounding tissue pain that is both severe and has continued for a minimum of three months
  • Documentation that excludes other medical causes and conditions of your symptoms
  • Supporting statements about restrictions on your ability to perform daily activities
  • Documentation that you exhibit six or more symptoms of fibromyalgia that may include things like fatigue, depression, anxiety, and memory problems

As you can see, supporting documentation is critical to the success of your disability claim. Your application for disability benefits should include a confirmed fibromyalgia diagnosis from a rheumatologist as well as the dates of your medical visits and the contact information for all of your medical providers. You should also submit a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment regarding your impairments that is completed by your doctor.

Disability Attorney

Fibromyalgia can have far-reaching impacts on a person’s health and wellbeing. The symptoms of the condition may be severe enough to make it disabling. A person suffering from fibromyalgia may not be able to work and, in that case, disability benefits may be critical to providing much needed financial support. For assistance with your fibromyalgia disability claim, Roeschke Law is here for you. Contact us today.

ssd

What Is the Social Security Administration Blue Book?

If you have filed an application to access Social Security disability benefits, your claim will be initially processed in a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office by Disability Determination Services (DDS). Appeals of claim denials may also be processed by DDS or by an administrative law judge in the Office of Hearing Operations of the SSA. How does DDS, however, determine whether a disability claim is valid? The determination lies mainly in the contents of the Social Security Administration Blue Book.

What Is the Social Security Administration Blue Book?

While the official title may be “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” the SSA listing of disabling impairments is far more often referred to simply as the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book lists both physical and mental impairments that may be considered disabling if the criteria set forth under the impairment listing in the Blue Book is met. Part A of the Blue Book relates to adults aged 18 or older. Part B of the Blue Book relates to children under the age of 18. Both Part A and Part B have a total of 14 categories of disability listings.

The intention of the Blue Book is to help provide physicians, health care professionals, and potential disability claimants with an understanding of what conditions may be considered disabling for purposes of SSA disability program benefits. With each impairment listing, the Blue Book explains what information and supporting documentation will be needed from the claimant and the treating medical providers to help ensure that the disability claim is successfully processed and a favorable decision rendered.

To find out if you have a qualifying condition, you look to the Blue Book listing associated with your specific disabling condition. Under the listing you will find the specific criteria that must be met in order for your disabling condition to render you qualified to receive Social Security disability benefits. Your best bet to successfully navigate the disability claims process is to follow the specific criteria set forth in the Blue Book. There are strict definitions for each qualifying condition set forth by the SSA. Additionally, in the Blue Book, you will find more information regarding both the Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Insurance programs. Both are SSA disability benefits programs.

It is important to note that you do not need to suffer from a condition specifically set forth in the Blue Book to ultimately be qualified to receive disability benefits. Furthermore, it is important to note that just because you have a condition that meets the criteria listed in the Blue Book does not mean that you are guaranteed to be approved for benefits. It merely means that you have a qualifying condition making your claim valid for consideration by the SSA. The SSA will need to review and determine the severity of your condition based on the information and documentation you have provided.

Disability Attorney

Are you having difficulty understanding the Blue Book and the SSA disability claims process in general? Reach out to Roeschke Law for help. We are here to support you in any way we can. Contact us today.

denied social security disability application

Why Are Social Security Disability Claims Denied?

Getting the paperwork together to file a Social Security disability claim can be an aggravating and stressful process. To go through all of this only to find out your claim has been denied can be upsetting, to say the least. Unfortunately, it is a common experience. In fact, it is estimated that the SSA denies around 60 to 70 percent of initial disability claims received every year. While more people have success upon appealing the initial denial of the claim, it can take almost two or more years to successfully navigate the appeals process. The best-case scenario is that your claim is initially approved. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent your claim from being initially denied. To find out how to accomplish this, it can be helpful to review some of the reasons why Social Security disability claims are often denied and work to avoid falling victim to these reasons.

Why Are Social Security Disability Claims Denied?

One common reason why Social Security disability claims are denied and a fairly easy one to avoid is improperly completing claim forms. There is a substantial amount of paperwork involved in the claims process. Be sure to take care, however, in completing these forms. Always be sure to review all forms prior to submission.

Lack of sufficient medical evidence to support your disability claim is also a common reason for claim denial. Medical evidence is critical to having your claim approved and it must be the right kind of evidence. Provide as much objective medical evidence of your disabling condition as possible. Go over the Blue Book with your doctor which outlines what tests and documentation you need for your disabling condition. Without concrete medical evidence, Disability Determination Services (DDS) will be forced to deny your claim.

Another common reason for claim denial and one that is easily avoidable is a failure to comply with a consultative exam. The SSA will sometimes request that a claim applicant undergo a consultative exam conducted by a third-party medical expert. Failure to attend this exam will likely lead to claim denial.

Sometimes, however, a claim is simply not strong enough to merit approval. The SSA may find that, while you may not be able to work at a job you recently held, there are other types of jobs you could still perform. To strengthen your claim and make your limitations clear to the SSA, it all goes back to giving enough of the right evidence. Again, medical evidence is critical. You can also complete the residual functional capacity form to detail how your disabling condition actually limits your ability to perform everyday activities as well as those tasks required of your current job. It can be difficult to adequately portray and encapsulate the full scope of your disability-related impairments, but it is also a critical part of successfully navigating the claims process.

Disability Attorney

For help successfully navigating the disability claims process, Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today.

mental impairment

Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty in Arizona

Q: Can an intellectually disabled person be executed in Arizona?

Phoenix disability benefits attorneys help those suffering from physical or mental impairments access the federal government benefits they deserve.

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) offers two different disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). While both programs’ qualifications criteria are very different, they do share the requirement that an applicant for benefits meet the federal government’s definition of being “disabled”. To qualify for disability benefits, the applicant must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that has lasted, or is expected to last, for 12 months or more or will result in death.

The SSA uses its guide, the Blue Book – – a comprehensive list of physical and mental medical conditions– – and the patient’s personal medical history when determining whether a client is “disabled”. The list is comprehensive but not all-encompassing as conditions not included may still qualify an applicant for benefits.

As the evaluation process of mental illness is more subjective due to fewer standardized assessment tests, it can be more challenging for these applicants to meet the “disabled” criteria than their counterparts with physical impairments.

Reasons disability claims for mental illnesses get denied

Depending on the particular impairment and the applicant afflicted, the symptoms of some mental conditions may present inconsistently, giving the false impression of improvement. Other reasons mental illness-based claims may be denied include:

  • treatment notes by health mental health professionals lack sufficient detail of the condition;
  • failure of the applicant to follow doctor’s orders, such as taking prescribed medication for the mental condition;
  • lack of duration–where the mental condition hasn’t yet lasted (or is not expected to last) for at least one year.

Having the right attorney and doctor in your corner is important not only in securing disability benefits but, in the case of intellectual disabilities, it could literally save your life.

Recently, sentencing procedures in a high-profile Phoenix murder case made headlines. The dispute involved whether prosecutors could seek the death penalty against an intellectually disabled man charged with the murder of a convenience store clerk.   

According to the Arizona Supreme Court, the lower court judge—who barred the prosecution from seeking the death penalty on intellectual disability grounds– needed to look beyond just the man’s “life skills” and must now also “assess how [his] intellectual deficits affected his ability to meet the standard of personal independence and social responsibility for a person of his age and cultural background”. Defense counsel reportedly expressed confidence that their client will also satisfy these additional criteria and be exempt from execution.

Loved ones of those suffering from intellectual disabilities and/or mental illnesses may understandably worry about whether they could be subjected to the death penalty for committing an offense that they lacked the capacity to fully, or even partially, understand. The fact that the execution of intellectually disabled people has been barred since 2002 by the United States Supreme Court offers these loved ones some comfort, provided assessment criteria is met, of course.

If you or a loved one needs assistance with an initial application for disability benefits, appealing a denial of benefits, or have any other disability benefits law questions, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled clients and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law.

special needs child doing schoolwork

How Fall School Options Are Challenging for Disabled Children

Q: What challenges may special needs children face this school year due to COVID-19 precautions?

The Social Security Administration offers two federal disability benefits programs – – Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). While both programs require applicants to satisfy the federal government’s definition of being “disabled”, each program has different qualifications beyond that. 

Applying for SSDI or SSI benefits

Generally, workers who become disabled pursue SSDI. SSI is a means-based program that does not require an applicant to have a work history, but rather requires them to be of extremely limited financial income and assets and to be of advanced age or disabled. Some people may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI. SSI benefits are often sought by those in the special-needs population. Examples of impairments that special needs applicants may suffer from include autistic disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disorders, and more. 

The special needs community has been particularly hard hit as a result of quarantine orders due to the novel coronavirus.

Those suffering from autism often have difficulty focusing on therapy, school, or work assignments without direct support to keep them or redirect them on task. They may be unable to sit and attend to a task without getting up and walking away. Many autistic children have sensory processing issues, focus issues like ADD or ADHD, OCD tendencies, oppositional or defiant behaviors and are known to have meltdowns when transitioning from a preferred activity to a less desirable one– and they often struggle and regress when their routines are disrupted. 

When many schools hastily switched to online learning last spring, many special needs students and their parents were stressed-out by the change. In-person services like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy were either no longer available or done over online platforms like Zoom– a poor substitute to live sessions. 

Parents, generally not teachers themselves, were trying to work from home and were charged with becoming special ed teachers and therapists for their children. Trying to adjust to their own new remote work situation while trying to support their children’s educational goals, was extremely stressful for many special-needs parents and their kids. 

School reopening plans for the fall differ not only state-by-state but school district by school district. Some schools will offer five days of in-person instruction while others are remaining remote and still others are offering hybrid options where children have in-person instruction two or three days a week and online for the alternate days.

How New School Safeguards May Challenge Special Needs Children

It is difficult for parents to know what to do. On the one hand, children need in-person services and the socialization that comes with in-person instruction. But many special needs children don’t understand or won’t comply with rules regarding facemasks and handwashing and social distancing. These are challenging times for special needs children and their parents as well as the general population. 

If you need help applying for SSI benefits for a loved one or yourself, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona in all areas of disability law.