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Q&A: Filing for disability with the Social Security Administration

Filing for disability with the Social Security Administration isn’t a simple task. While some may take it as such, the initial filing may be just the beginning of a long process which could include appeals, hearings and doctor visits. Harold W. Conick, an attorney with more than three decades of experience, answered some questions about how claimants should file their claims for Social Security Disability.

Where do you start when filing for disability?

You start with the initial application which can be filed either by claimant or filed by the claimant’s attorney. The only time the claimant’s attorney can’t file is for the supplemental security income claim. This has to be filed by the claimant alone. Thereafter, attorneys can file for SSI or SSDI.

What should people expect after filing?

On average, 85 percent the claims are denied on the initial app stage for both Social Security insurance and Social Security disability.

Why is this such a high number?

The high number is because in many cases, the files aren’t worked up sufficiently to get an approval. Also, I think think there is pressure on Social Security administrative officials not to be too quick to prove cases. That’s my opinion.

Why is that?

I think the general rule is society wants people to work, if at all possible. The exception is if you are entitled to disability payments. The feeling is if applying takes longer, that should shake out any claims of people who are able to get back to work in less than a year’s time. The ones who are not able to get back after a year are taken more seriously.

That seems frustrating. Should people apply by themselves or with an attorney initially?

They need to understand it is a long process, unless they’re seriously and terminally ill. People which are terminally ill generally have a chance of getting approved earlier. The majority of people who apply that are less obviously disabled move on to the hearing stage in front of an administrative judge. This happens with most of the claims. At that point the case is decided by judge at an in person or video hearing.

What are some common things that get claimants denied?

Many people don’t have enough medical evidence initially to approve their case. It either doesn’t exist or has not been submitted to SSA at that point. That takes time. If people are more prepared from beginning, they have a better chance of approval. It is a frustrating process. People tell us that they’re very frustrated by the lengthy delays. They are discouraged by the delays weather they are intended by the SSA or not.

Any other issues to know about filing?

Claimants should definitely not go to a hearing without a lawyer. The earlier they have a lawyer the better chance they have of prevailings. The claims become more difficult to win after the hearing stage That’s our best chance of winning.

The critical thing for people to understand is the government isn’t looking to give them disability payments. They need to have records, doctors on board, witnesses to why they can’t work and have patience. Applying can be a lengthy process.

Congressional office suggests cutting veterans benefits to save money

Although there has been a lot of lip service paid to veterans being a top priority for the U.S. government, reported that at a recent Congressional Budget Office meeting it was suggested that veterans benefits could be scaled back to cut federal spending. Rolling back compensation for categories of veterans and raising TRICARE fees for military veterans were just two of the suggestions given by the CBO.

“To be fair, CBO is not singling out veterans here. There are options in the report to make nervous many segments of society dependent on federal payments, from Social Security recipients to drug manufacturers,” according to what the website reported on the  meeting. “But for select veterans’ programs, CBO makes some hard-edged points that lawmakers bent on cutting spending might find compelling, if not persuasive, to help address the nation’s debt crisis.”

Some ideas for saving money from the CBO included:
– Capping military pay raises, which could save $25 billion from 2015 to 2023 and have only a “minor effect” on force retention
– Raising TRICARE fees, which is for retirees, spouses and survivors ages 65 and up
– Narrowing eligibility for VA compensation; last year, The Department of Veterans Affairs paid 520,000 veterans $2.9 billion. CBO said $20 billion could be saved from 2015 to 2023, arguing that it may be helpful to make veterans benefits more like civilian systems where not all medical needs suffered from work are paid in full

Veterans must be aware that the VA is under pressure to minimize payment of benefits wherever they believe they can. Therefore, it is critical that veterans file all claims they believe they are entitled to as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick, & Associates are available to represent veterans at all levels of the VA appeals process.

What to know before applying for Social Security disabilities

Whether people want to think about it or not, disability is a very real threat. Elliot Raphaelson of the Tribune said the Social Security Administration reported that one quarter of current 20 year olds will be disabled by the age of 67. It is imperative for people of all ages to know what are considered disability qualifying benefits and figure out how they can apply with the Social Security Administration when they need to.

The SSA said in order to qualify for disability benefits, the illness must be considered medically “severe” will prevent the person from performing gainful work. The disability must either last a year or result in death, prevent the patient from doing the same work they did before its onset and not be able to adjust to other forms of work while affected by it.

“There is a further eligibility requirement: You must have sufficient work credits, based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income,” Raphaelson wrote. “Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years. Younger workers can apply with fewer credits.”

While it may seem like a complex process, the money that would come to those who are truly suffering can surely help pay medical bills and with other costs of living.

The Law Offices of Harold W Conick and Associates have over three decades of experience winning their clients’ SSA disability benefit claims. The law offices represent both children and adults with SSDI and SSI claims throughout the greater Midwest and U.S.

Sexual assaults overlooked by VA

Many veterans who struggle with mental health issues stemming from sexual violence have have a deaf ear turned to their concern by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A report by the Service Women’s Action Network, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School titled “Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma,” found that veterans benefits for those struggling after being sexually assaulted during service are harder to come by.

According to this report, VA expects survivors to submit documentation that often does not exist, such as official reports of rapes or the results of STD or pregnancy tests, according to the authors of the report on Slate. The report said each year from 2008 to 2012, the rate for granting claims of sexual trauma related PTSD was between 16 and 30 percent.

“This disparity is particularly disturbing because sexual assault is more strongly correlated with PTSD in veterans than any other trauma, including combat trauma,” the report’s authors said. “The numbers make clear that many military sexual trauma survivors who suffer from debilitating mental health conditions are not getting the disability benefits they need and deserve.”

The Pentagon said men made up over half the military’s sexual assault victims in 2012. However, they were only granted 37 percent of veterans benefits in 2011, compared with 49 percent of women.

PTSD is a serious and debilitating illness, regardless of how a veteran became afflicted. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates are experts in proving PTSD cases and are available to assist veterans with their claims.

Getting Social Security disability benefits for children with autism

Laura Schumaker, a writer and autism advocate, said in a blog post that one of the most frequent questions she is asked is whether or not someone’s child has disability qualifying benefits. No two cases are the same with the Social Security Administration, so each family will need to follow a process for procuring benefits.

The first thing that will be essential to figure out is whether the child meets the SSA’s criteria for autism, which will be characterized by qualitative defects in development of social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and imaginative activity. There must also be documented findings of these problems through copies of test scores, therapy results, lab results and other school and medical records.

The Age of Autism blog said before starting any application process, families should start by collecting the necessary medical and financial information to support a disability claim.

“You should also collect written statements from professional adults that interact with your child on a daily basis,” the website said. “These can be from teachers, coaches, therapists, or doctors and should provide details about your child’s condition and how it interferes with his or her daily life.”

The SSA will assess the child suffering from the symptoms associated with autism to determine if the child meets the listing. There will be close analysis of the level of impact the disease has on the child’s ability to perform routine activities of daily living. If the child has difficulties in at least two domains or one extreme of daily living, the court will likely make a finding of disability.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates have successfully represented numerous children affected by autism in obtaining disability benefits.