The Social Security Disability Benefits Appeals Process

How many levels of disability benefits appeals are available to applicants?

As Arizona Social Security disability attorneys know, persistence can pay off—especially in the world of Social Security benefits appeals.

Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits is a complex, often difficult, and time-consuming process. Not only must an applicant fit the federal government’s definition of being “disabled” by suffering from a recognized physical and/or mental disability, but their application must pass muster or it will be denied. In fact, 2/3 of all initial Social Security disability benefits applications are denied, which is a primary reason many people trust their application to an attorney that specializes in these matters.

Hiring a skilled disability benefits appeals attorney is wise especially since the current wait time for an appeal hearing is averaging two years in many states. Sadly, applicants are literally exhausting their savings, becoming homeless, and even dying from their injuries or conditions while their appeals are pending. There are many levels of appeals, each more complex than the others, ending with an appeal on the federal court level.

An inspiring story that perseverance and persistence can pay off involved an Army veteran reportedly suffering from Type 2 diabetes and diabetic neuropathy and a history alcohol abuse who filed his initial disability benefits claim in November, 2012.  He filed appeals that were denied in December 2012, March 2013, and August 2014.

Undeterred, the applicant pursued an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals on the basis that in the August hearing, the “administrative law judge failed to meet his obligations to identify, explain, and resolve an apparent conflict between the testimony of the vocational expert and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles” regarding what if any work the applicant could still perform in light of the limitations of his disability. This time, the court agreed and granted the applicant a new hearing for disability benefits.

If you or a loved one need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits, or appealing the denial of benefits at any stage, the Arizona disability benefits attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

With offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent clients throughout Arizona in applying for Social Security disability benefits.

Source: https://flarecord.com/stories/511625266-army-veteran-granted-new-hearing-in-dispute-over-social-security-disability-claim

Navigating Housing on Disability Benefits

Q: Do disability benefits recipients have a right to accessible housing?

Applying for disability benefits can be a long and complex process, complicated further by the extremely high incidence of initial denials of applications and the subsequent extended waiting for an appeal that denial.

With 2/3 of initial applications being denied and a backlog of up to two years for an appeal hearing, hiring a skilled Arizona Social Security disability benefits attorney may increase the likelihood of that either an initial application or an appeal will be successful. It doesn’t cost anything out-of-pocket to do so.

When a gainfully-employed individual becomes disabled mentally or physically as a result of an illness, accident, or injury and is suddenly unable to continue to work, their and their whole family’s life can be turned upside down. In addition to the possible pain associated with the disabling condition, there’s the financial stress of losing an income – – and the long wait before benefits kick in. During this time, it’s not uncommon that applicants will blow through their savings and possibly lose or need to sell their homes and find affordable apartment housing.

Even with Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), it can be challenging to afford housing, much less housing that is designed to accommodate particular disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, (“ADA”) mandates that public places where people work be handicapped-accessible, but it doesn’t apply for residential housing beyond the public spaces of a residential housing building – such as a clubroom, gym, leasing office and a public bathroom. This leaves cash-strapped disabled people at a disadvantage in accessing an apartment suited for their needs.

There is some protection for the disabled under The Fair Housing Act which provides that prospective landlords can’t discriminate based on a tenant’s disability. It also bars a landlord from renting a disabled tenant an inaccessible unit or “refusing reasonable requests to make modifications that make it more accessible”.

But unfortunately, the landlord is not required to pay for those modifications or to pay the cost of returning the modified apartment to its original state when the disabled tenant vacates.

While it’s not a guarantee of suitability, newer complexes, with four or more units, built after March 31,1991 are required to meet “certain accessibility requirements”. In addition, societal pressure to make accessible apartments has led to newer apartment buildings “being designed with accessibility in mind”.

If you have questions regarding Social Security disability benefits, or need help applying for or appealing a denial of disability benefits, the disability experts at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled individuals and their families throughout Arizona.

 

Disability Benefits and the Compassionate Allowances Program

Is there a way to expedite my disability benefits application?

Arizona Social Security disability benefits attorneys know all too well the obstacles and delays that disabled people face when trying to access federal government disability benefits like Social Security Disability (“SSDI”) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits, both of which are administered by the Social Security Administration.

Applying for SSDI benefits is a complicated process as evidenced by the fact that nearly 2/3 of initial applications are denied. Add that grim statistic to the fact that most applicants who appeal a SSDI denial have to wait as long as two years for an appeal hearing, and it becomes obvious that many suffering people could die before getting approved for SSDI benefits.

While many of the mental or physical conditions qualifying for Social Security disability benefits are chronic and/or long-term, other applicants may be suffering from conditions that are expected to take their lives extremely quickly. They are arguably the most vulnerable and needy recipients and they especially don’t have time to wait for the usual slow processing of their claims.

Fortunately, the government has a fast-track process for those with certain severe health conditions who are applying for SSDI benefits. It’s called the Compassionate Allowances Program (“CAL”) and it allows for the approval of SSDI benefits “within weeks of medical confirmation of a diagnosis, versus months or years”.

In order to be considered, the medical condition must fall within the CAL program’s list of 233 qualifying impairments, many of which are “brain disorders or types of cancers”.

Recently, five new health conditions were added to the CAL: Fibrolamellar cancer; Megacystis Micro Intestinal Hypoperistalis Syndrome (“MMIHS”); Megalencephaly Capillary Malformation Syndrome (“MCAP”), Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System; and Tetrasomy 18p.

If you or a loved one needs assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we help disabled clients throughout Arizona access the disability benefits they need and deserve.

Swanny (Goes Up The) River in Disability Fraud Case

Q: Can I go to prison for lying about being disabled?

Because applying for Social Security disability benefits is a complicated process and up to two-thirds of initial applications are denied, many people choose to hire a skilled disability benefits attorney to handle the process. Doing so may not only improve the chances of an initial application or a subsequent appeal being successful, but it can also help keep the applicant out of serious legal trouble.

Fisherman have a reputation for spinning tall tales about the one that got away, but one man apparently got caught downplaying his physical abilities in an effort to try to obtain Social Security disability benefits. And now he’s in hot water.

The man, Swann, filed an application for disability benefits claiming a workplace accident left him so disabled and restricted that it “interfered with his ability to stand, sit or walk, and that he had difficulty carrying on a conversation because of his in ability to concentrate”. When his initial application was denied, he reportedly told an appeal judge that he was only a “temporary volunteer” at an Alaskan summer fishing camp.

After that level of appeal was denied, he continued, but allegedly never disclosed that all along he was operating the profitable “Swanny’s Guided Fishing, a year-round guide service and led as many as 300 excursions a year” throughout several northeast states for which he reportedly earned over $92,000 in 2012. He also allegedly made radio, television, and seminar speaking appearances as a professional fishing industry representative and reportedly did not pay income taxes.

While Social Security fraud and perjury are punishable by up to five years in prison, he was reportedly sentenced to serve “a year and a day” in federal prison.

Attempting to apply or appeal a denial of Social Security disability benefits can tempt even honest suffering people to unwittingly exaggerate the extent of their disabilities in attempting to qualify. Don’t risk making a bad situation worse. Contact an expert.

If you need assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roethke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

With offices in Tucson, Phoenix, and Tempe, we represent residents throughout Arizona in their quest to obtain federal disability benefits.

Couples Consider Divorce to Obtain Benefits for Disabled Child

Q: Should I divorce to get disability benefits for my child?

Qualifying for disability benefits in Arizona is a very confusing process.

That’s why many people choose to hire a skilled Social Security disability benefits attorney to help them navigate the process.

In order to qualify for disability benefits, and an applicant must satisfy the government’s definition of “disabled”. The Social Security Administration requires the individual to 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 result in death.

There are two federal disability benefits programs and people may qualify for one, the other, both, or neither. If an initial application for benefits is not granted, applicants can appeal a denial of benefits, but the process and backlog is complicated and time-consuming. Appeals are taking up to two years for a hearing date.

Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) may be awarded to those who, prior to becoming disabled, were employed and paid into the social security system through payroll deductions for the requisite number of work credits and years. SSDI is merit based and awarded based on these work credits regardless of the applicant’s financial situation. But Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits are different– – it is only available to qualified disabled people with extremely limited financial resources.

Sadly, some couples with disabled children who have been denied disability benefits because they earn too much to qualify are considering getting divorce – – not because the legitimate stress of caring for their disabled child may have taken a toll on their marriage, but because they believe it may be the only way to obtain needed benefits for their disabled child.

Some couples divorce, others leave jobs or move to another state, and others divest assets or impoverish themselves to qualify for aid. As state laws differ, divorcing for this purpose may cause a couple legal trouble. Seeking the guidance of a skilled disability benefits attorney prior to taking such drastic action is encouraged.

If you are disabled, or have a disabled child, and need assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you apply for the appropriate benefits, appeal a denial, and navigate the bureaucracy. Contact us today to request a free consultation.

With offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we represent clients throughout Arizona.

When Social Security Disability Benefits are Mistakenly Paid

Q: Do I have to repay disability benefits Social Security paid in error?

Applying for disability benefits is more complex than the public is led to believe.  Unfortunately, this leads many people to apply without legal counsel and is likely the reason that two-thirds of all initial disability benefit applications are denied.

Hiring a skilled Social Security disability benefits attorney with experience in the process may increase the odds of a faster and or more favorable decision. And with disability benefits appeals taking as long as two years before for a hearing, anything that could expedite the process is worth consideration. Especially when the consultation is free.

Sometimes, additional personal circumstances exist that further complicate receiving Social Security disability benefits. One little boy learned that the hard way.

Federal government workers who process disability benefits paperwork aren’t perfect, but their mistakes can, unfortunately, result in red tape, delays, and significant financial hardship for innocent benefits recipients. That’s because in instances where Social Security pays benefits to people by mistake–even if it’s entirely their mistake– it’s treated as the recipient’s mistake and the benefits must generally be returned.

Social Security disability benefits do not only benefit the recipient whose work record they are based on. Sometimes, the recipient’s child can receive a child benefit based on their parent’s disability benefits.

In one unfortunate case, a young boy who was reportedly receiving child benefits based on his living father’s Social Security disability benefits also started receiving child survivor benefit checks based on his deceased mother’s work record shortly after her death and while he was being cared for by his mother’s cousin. After about a year, Social Security apparently noticed the mistake and demanded repayment of the overpayment claiming the boy was only entitled to receive “the larger of the child benefit and the child survivor benefit” but not both. The cousin is attempting to challenge the repayment demand.

Whenever a change of circumstances can impact Social Security disability benefits in any manner, hiring a Social Security disability attorney can help prevent and/or resolve potentially costly mistakes.

If you are interested in applying for disability benefits, appealing a denial of benefits, or have any other questions regarding Social Security disability benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona.

Good News For The Social Security Disability Benefits Program

Q: WHAT POSITIVE CHANGES ARE IMPACTING THE SSDI PROGRAM?

No one knows when a disability that will impact your ability to work may strike and for the majority of Americans who don’t likely have long-term disability insurance benefits, the fear of being disabled and financially-vulnerable is real.

Experienced Social Security Disability benefits attorneys can help the disabled through the initial Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) application process as well as the more-lengthy appeals process if the initial application was denied.

Even when everything goes as well as can be expected, and benefits are granted, they will still be less than the recipient was used to living on. Financial pressures, coupled with the stress and possible pain associated with the disability can be difficult. Coupling all of that with the grim statistics that approximately two-thirds of initial applications for SSDI benefits are denied– and that the wait for an appeals hearing is approximately two years—it’s easy to get discouraged.

But there is finally some good news for those who need Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

The number of applicants for SSDI benefits in 2017 “plunged” significantly – – to the lowest levels since 2002. And this year’s numbers are projected to be even lower.

Why has the number of applications dropped so drastically and what does the plunge mean? For one thing, it means a dramatic improvement in the projected future solvency of the Social Security disability benefits program.

A “much stronger economy”, has reportedly caused a “startling reversal of a decades-old trend that threatened the [SSDI] program’s solvency”. Only two years ago analysts warned that the program could be insolvent by 2023, but just pushed the date back to 2032.

Evidence of a stronger economy has reportedly drawn more workers back to the workplace as hiring on many levels is up—including various areas of work that might be suitable even for those with disabilities. In addition, disabled baby-boomers’ disability benefits are converting to regular Social Security retirement benefits in larger numbers they hit retirement age.

Another reason for the drop is that Social Security Administration has “tightened the approval process” by:

  • making qualifying for Social Security disability insurance benefits more difficult
  • making the application process more arduous and
  • making the appeals process for rejected applications harder as well.

While these reasons unfortunately penalize legitimately needy applicants, they may help root out the deceitful and fraudulent applicants.

Still, the dramatically improved financial solvency of the program can only benefit those fortunate enough to be receiving benefits now and those who qualify for benefits in the future.

If you need assistance applying for disability Social Security disability benefits, or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona.

Employment Roadblocks for the Disabled

Q: What is disability discrimination?

As disability attorneys in Arizona, our practice is exclusively devoted to helping the disabled get the benefits they deserve.

The first step is qualifying for disability benefits from one or both disability benefits programs administered by the federal government. With respect to disability insurance, both programs define being “disabled “as suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that his lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more or result in death.

There are multiple disabilities and combinations of disabilities that satisfy this definition. Some of the qualifying disabilities include physical diseases such as heart, liver, and kidney disease, Chrohn’s disease, COPD, multiple sclerosis, blindness, cancer, and more. Some of the mental impairments include anxiety disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, intellectual disability, and more.

Applying for disability benefits is a complicated process best left to attorneys with experience. This is because two-thirds of initial applications are denied. While an applicant can appeal a denial of disability benefits, the backlog of cases waiting for an appeals hearing is continually worsening and is pushing a two-year wait.

Waiting on disability benefits when you are disabled and unable to work is understandably frustrating. But those able to work despite a disability often face a different kind of frustration– and even discrimination– based on their disability.

Recently, an obese woman in California with a stellar 20-year employment history as a manager in a fitness center filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired by a new supervisor as a result of disability discrimination. In support, she claimed her obesity was a disability with a physiological cause as it was genetically predetermined.

In the context of employment discrimination under her state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, obesity may be a disability if it is proven to have a physiological cause. Employers cannot discriminate based on any worker’s physical disability. To prevail, the employee needs to prove the following:

  • she suffered from a disability
  • she was able to perform the job’s essential duties (with or without reasonable accommodations) and
  • she suffered an “adverse employment action” due to her disability.

If an employee can prove those three things, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate a “legitimate nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse action which the employee can then refute.

Clearly, disabled workers and those no longer able to work can benefit from the assistance of attorneys dedicated to protecting their rights.

If you or a loved one needs assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of those benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona.

Physician Assisted Suicide and Its Impact on the Disabled

Q: Does physician-assisted suicide devalue disabled people’s lives?

Arizona Social security disability attorneys are devoted to helping disabled people obtain benefits when a physical or mental disability strikes through unexpected illness or injury.

Qualifying for disability benefits is the first step in accessing them. The federal government offers two different disability benefits programs that, while different in many ways, are similar in recognizing that those who meet the government’s definition of “disabled” are entitled to benefits to ease the financial burden their disability may bring. The government considers a person disabled if they are suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activity and the impairment has lasted or is expected to last a year or more or result in death.

Applying for disability benefits can be a complicated process with denials and appeals dragging it out further. For that reason, many people seek the help of a Social Security disability attorney whose experience may help avoid pitfalls and expedite the process. The whole philosophy behind disability benefits is to help support those with disabilities and contribute to a better quality of life through this government safety net.

Currently, there are only a handful of states that allow physician-assisted suicide. New York is currently considering legalizing the practice. Disability rights activists are understandably, strongly opposed to the idea.

The major arguments against physician-assisted suicide range from philosophical to practical. First, the suggestion that acquiring a disability at some point in life is a reason to end your life “devalues” disabled people’s lives.

In addition, there is the worry of “external influences” that might pressure disabled people or their caretakers into physician-assisted suicide. Many so-called “able-bodied” people fear that an illness or injury may make them have to rely on others for their basic care or they worry about the financial impact their long-term care may have on their loved ones, especially in the absence of long-term disability insurance.

So far, at least in New York’s debate, the current law against physician-assisted suicide seems safe with its highest court ruling that legalizing physician-assisted suicide “would induce undue pressure on terminal patients to end their lives”.

Disability rights advocates say the focus should be on making support and services more accessible so disabled people can live a better quality, dignified life, rather than providing an option to end it that’s based on fear and financial pressures.

If you or a loved one needs help applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona.

Improving Accessibility for the Disabled on Airplanes

Q: Are changes coming to improve flying conditions for disabled passengers?

One of the ways that the federal government assists people with disabilities is financially–by offering two different federal disability benefits programs. One is Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) and the other is Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Qualifying for disability benefits in either program requires meeting the government’s definition of being “disabled” and satisfying other qualifying factors that differ for each program.

Many people seek help from a skilled Social Security disability attorney benefits attorney when applying for disability benefits because approximately 2/3 of all applications are initially denied and the appeals process is extensively backlogged.

In addition to financial assistance, there are other ways that the government tries to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

In 2016, an Access Advisory Committee was assembled by the U.S. Department of Transportation for the purpose of “ensuring that air travelers with disabilities have equal access to air transportation”. The committee recommended changes to onboard entertainment policies including “adding captioning and audio descriptions” so blind and deaf people can enjoy the entertainment.

In addition, the committee recommended “incremental improvements and an eventual requirement that single-aisle planes include accessible lavatories” for those in wheelchairs– since they were only mandated in double-aisle planes. With many longer domestic flights utilizing single-aisle planes, a significant and unfair burden is placed on disabled people who need accessible bathrooms but have had to fly without the ability to use the bathroom if needed.

In 2016, the committee couldn’t decide what changes, if any, should be made regarding service animals on flights. Now, the U.S. Department of Transportation is asking for the public’s feedback in order to shape possible amendments to airline service animal regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act.

People interested have approximately 45 days to weigh in on issues such as whether airlines can or should be:

  • treating different types of service animals (emotional support animals, psychiatric service animals and other types) differently when flying

  • limiting the species of service animals that can fly

  • limiting the size of service animals that can fly

  • limiting the number of service animals that can fly

  • requiring proof of a service animal’s training

  • requiring that service animals be leashed or harnessed.

Seeing-eye dogs are no longer the only service animals around. A “significant uptick” in the use of various types of service animals coupled with problems with “biting, urination, and other misbehavior” have led several airlines to seek ways to “deter the fraudulent use” of unqualified service animals while maintaining “seamless access” to air travel for people with disabilities and their qualified service animals.

If you have any questions regarding applying for Social Security disability benefits or appealing the denial of your application, or any other disability law matter, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, Arizona, we represent disabled clients throughout Arizona.