disabled worker

How Does the SSA Determine If I Can Do My Past Work?

In order to qualify for social security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must first find that you are disabled. SSA will only pay for total disability which means that you cannot do the work you did before because of your medical condition, you cannot adjust to another kind of work because of your medical condition, and your medical condition is expected to last for a minimum of one year or be terminal. There is a lot to unpack here and so it can be helpful to break things down into parts. Here, we will focus on how the SSA works to determine whether you are unable to do your past work.

How Does the SSA Determine If I Can Do My Past Work?

In order to decide whether you can or cannot still do your past work, the SSA will need to know about your past work. This means that the SSA will need to know details about how you did your job and any skills you acquired on your job. In order to remain potentially eligible for SSA disability benefits approval, the SSA will need to be able to determine whether your injury, illness, or other conditions prevent you from engaging in your past work.

The analysis will involve examining the responsibilities and demands of your recent past jobs. Recent past jobs will usually involve the work you did in the 15 years running up to your disability benefits application. Jobs will include any activities involving physical or mental exertion that was done for pay or profit or done with the intention of receiving payment or profit. Furthermore, a job will be something that you engaged in long enough to receive the necessary training to fulfill the requirements of the job.

After sifting out what past jobs are relevant to the analysis, the SSA will work on detailing how you engage in this past relevant work as well as how others generally engage in such work from a national economy perspective. As you can probably tell, the descriptions of your past jobs will be incredibly important as these will be looked at against the SSA’s evaluation of what your remaining abilities are to still engage in basic work functions.

Once the SSA sizes up your remaining abilities to engage in work functions as you previously did, a decision will be rendered. If it is determined that you can still engage in past work as you used to or as it is generally done in the national economy, the SSA will determine that you are not disabled for purposes of qualifying for social security disability benefits. If the SSA determines that you are unable to engage in past relevant work either as you engaged in it or as it is engaged in on the national economy level, then the SSA will proceed onto the next step of the disability determination process. This next and last step of the determination process will be whether you can engage in any other types of work despite your injury, illness, or condition.

Arizona Disability Attorney

Do you have questions about the social security disability application and determination process? Talk to our team at Roeschke Law. We have the answers you are looking for. Contact us today.

doctor in ssd process

The Importance of Your Doctor in the Disability Claims Process

When you apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to provide medical records as well as statements from your treating doctors. These are critical elements to a successful disability benefits application. In fact, one of the most common reasons for the denial of applications for disability benefits is not providing the right or enough medical evidence to support the claim. It is also often the case that the objective medical findings held within medical records are not sufficient to really demonstrate the extent of a person’s disability. This is where a written statement from your doctor can be invaluable in adding insight as well as perspective on your disability. Here, we will continue to discuss the importance of the role your doctor can play in the disability claims process.

The Importance of Your Doctor in the Disability Claims Process

First, your doctor will be important in the process of getting the right medical evidence to the SSA. You can work with your doctor to go through the SSA bluebook disability guide to see what information and testing you need in order to submit your claim with the strongest possibility of having it approved. Talk to your doctor about the fact that you are submitting a disability claim and have them elaborate on any opinions they may have as to whether your condition is severe enough to merit Social Security disability benefits. It is important that your doctor is supportive of the process because they can play such a large, supporting role in it.

As you go through the process of treating and testing for your disabling condition, continue to discuss with your doctor concerning the impacts your condition has on your daily activities. Be clear with your doctor about any increase in the severity of your symptoms and whether or not the current course of treatment is working for you. These types of discussions will not only help you receive the treatment you need for your disabling condition but will also assist your doctor in providing a clear and comprehensive statement to the SSA regarding your disability.

A written statement from your treating physician can provide unique insight into your disability claim and give it a clearer form for those reviewing your claim at the SSA. The SSA gives significant deference to those statements and opinions of treating doctors because of the unique insight they can provide. A doctor’s statement to the SSA about a patient’s disability can note the severity and extent of the disabling condition as well as its duration. Furthermore, the statement can detail how the disabling condition impacts your ability function in everyday life as well as how you may be responding to treatments. The statement can also provide insight into how your disabling condition prevents you from performing activities that may be necessary to retain substantially gainful employment.

Disability Attorney

Having a supportive team of professionals to lean on as you go through the disability benefits application process can be invaluable. At Roeschke Law we are here to support you throughout the process and answer any questions you may have along the way. Contact us today.

How Is My Disability Claim Evaluated When I Have Multiple Medical Conditions?

It is not uncommon for someone seeking Social Security disability benefits to have multiple medical conditions, and not just one. There may be one central condition that is disabling, or multiple conditions may all play a contributing role in preventing a person from engaging in substantially gainful activity. When applying for disability benefits, be sure to detail all of your medical conditions, including the ones that may be more minor to the more serious conditions.

The SSA will consider the combined impacts of all of your medical conditions, from the more severe to the non-severe, when rendering a decision on whether to approve your application for benefits. The combined effects of your multiple medical conditions will be assessed by the SSA in a multi-step, sequential evaluation process. Here, we will explain more about how your disability claim will be evaluated should you have multiple medical conditions.

How Is My Disability Claim Evaluated When I Have Multiple Medical Conditions?

In evaluating your disability claim, the SSA will begin by asking whether you are currently engaging in substantial gainful activity. This will be evaluated based on the number of your monthly earnings. Should you not be engaging in substantial gainful activity, the SSA will move onto the next step in the application evaluation process where the medical evidence you provided to them is evaluated. The SSA will use this evidence to decide whether you have a severe impairment or whether you have a severe combination of impairments.

A severe impairment is considered to be one that substantially impacts your ability to perform either physical or mental work tasks. These tasks can range anywhere from lifting and bending to focusing and the ability to follow directions. On the opposite side of things, a non-severe impairment is considered to be one that has no more than a minimal effect on a person’s ability to work.

If you have a severe impairment or a severe combination of impairments, your claim will proceed to the next step in the evaluation process. If you are not engaging in substantial gainful activity and it is found that you have a severe impairment or a severe combination of impairments, the SSA will go on to determine whether your condition meets the requirements set forth in the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book outlines serious medical conditions that, when the criteria stated in the Blue Book are met, will automatically qualify an applicant for disability benefits.

Should you not automatically qualify for disability benefits by meeting the Blue Book requirements, you can still be approved for benefits, but the SSA will go on to assess your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). RFC refers to the most work activity a person can do. It includes the ability to do both mental and physical work activities despite the symptoms caused by your medical conditions. The SSA will evaluate whether your RFC would prevent you from performing jobs you have held in the past and whether your RFC would prevent you from retaining other occupations. Listing all of your medical conditions can greatly increase your chances of being approved for benefits based on your RFC.

Disability Attorney

Disability applications are complicated. Having multiple medical conditions is also complicated. Navigating the disability claims process can be extremely complicated. Get the help you need at Roeschke Law. We are not only here to help you understand the Social Security disability process, but also to successfully navigate the process. Contact us today.

SSD attorney sitting with client in wheel chair

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.