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Economist says SSA disability not ‘out of control’

Although there has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the state of the Social Security Administration’s disability program, Chad Stone chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote on U.S. News and World Report that issues at hand can be quite manageable.

Stone said disability benefits are “vital” to workers who can no longer support themselves or their family due to injury or impairment. He said most of the growth has reflected the growing demographic of workers ages 50 to 64 where the risk of disability is at its highest.

“Disability insurance benefits also  remain hard to get, even in recessions, including the recent Great Recession,” Stone said. “While claims rose sharply, the number of approved claims rose much less. In other words, standards for approving benefits remained strict and a much higher share of applications were rejected.”

Stone said if policymakers don’t lose their head on this issue, it should be resolved simply by adjusting the balance of payroll taxes, which has been done in the past without controversy. A temporary increase in the share of payroll taxes going to disability insurance could help keep this program running until 2033, he said. This may be necessary to avoid a huge cut in benefits for the 9 million Americans receiving SSA disability benefits.

There is no doubt that the SSA is tightening their standards with regard to denying cases. Often, meritorious cases are denied by the more conservative judges. Additionally, the ALJ’s are routinely granting only “partially favorable” decisions in an apparent effort to “save” the SSA from paying back benefits to claimants.

In order to prevail in their case, it is imperative that claimants treat their conditions and secure all available medical evidence supportive of their disability claim.

Mental health screenings essential for veterans

Every day, we see more veterans come back home with mental illness. Unfortunately, post traumatic stress disorder, depression and alcohol misuse and more have been all too common. A new study from General Hospital Psychiatry has found that veterans who receive mental health care screenings during their primary care visits are likely getting better follow-up care. However, the study also found that getting this care via veterans benefits could be much improved.

Brian Shiner, staff psychiatrist at the White River Junction VA Medical Center, wrote as part of the study that intervention improves health outcome and the benefits outweigh the harm. They studied 20,682 patients at the hospital who did not previously have mental health disorder and found out 3,272 had at least one disorder. About 16 percent screened positive for depression, 12 percent PTSD and 84 percent for alcohol misuse. Shiner said alcohol misuse and dependence must be treated differently, as there are different levels of severity.

Rick Hafer, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and vice chairman of clinical services in the department of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in the study that early treatment is as important in mental health issues as other medical conditions.

“Early intervention leads to more effective, efficient care,” he said. “Since more than 60 percent of mental health conditions are treated in primary care, it is important to develop pre-screening tools to better evaluate mental health conditions and early intervention.”

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates has successfully represented hundreds of clients affected by mental illness. It is crucial for improved health and obtaining benefits that clients participate in ongoing treatment with their medical providers. The evidence provided by treating doctors is the basis adjudicators use to decide cases.

Epilepsy affects many; disability benefits may be available

Many who are not affected may not realize it, but epilepsy can be debilitating for those who suffer. More than 2 million people across the United States are impacted by this illness each year. In many severe cases, the sufferer can likely qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Although many people can live normal lives with epilepsy, many can experience multiple seizures that seemingly come out of nowhere, resulting head trauma and brain injuries. CNN recently posted an article which said that the cause is unidentifiable in half of the cases of epilepsy and said the symptoms can vary from a blank stare during a seizure to repeated twitching of arms and legs.

The Social Security Administration said in order to obtain SSA disability benefits, claimants must have the type, frequency and duration of their seizures documented, which must include at least one electroencephalogram and one detailed description of the pattern. When you are trying to apply for SSA benefits, it is important to have regular visits to the doctor who can show the courts just how debilitating this ailment is.

Our office has successfully represented numerous clients suffering from epilepsy in their effort to obtain SSA disability benefits. It’s important for clients to keep a seizure log, which can be helpful in documenting the frequency and severity of their seizures. Additionally, supportive medical records and taking the appropriate seizure medications can be critical in convincing the judge of the severity of symptoms.