Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Veterans Disability Conference
Next week I will be attending a conference on Veterans Disability. I will post on my blog anything I learn that may
be of any value to those pursuing VA benefits. The main reason I am attending the conference is to learn the ins and
outs of the VA process. Many Lawyers who handle Social Security Disability claims like myself will start representing
Veterans due to the new law that was passed that allows Veterans to hire attorneys for these claims. The new law goes
into affect in June so the conference could not come at a better time. I will also be posting some additional things
that I learned last week at the conference for Social Security Disability.
9:40 pm edt
Monday, April 23, 2007
What I learned at NOSSCR conference.
At the conference for Social Security Disability lawyers run by NOSSCR I learned a few things that may be of interest to you.
Robert Emrick spoke, he is the Associate Commissioner, OMVE/SSA. He spoke of many changes coming to the medical
listings. Some of the medical listings are out dated and SSA appears to be making an effort to change many of the
listings. They are reaching out to medical groups and other organizations to try and come up with new listings that
are both up to date and more workable. I was impressed by his speech and hope SSA is able to accomplish these goals
in a way that makes the listings more understandable for SSDI and SSI claimants. Also speaking at the seminar was
Lisa deSoto, Deputy Commissioner, ODAR, SSA. She also had a very interesting speech. It appears that several
changes that were being talked about in regards to the new process that disability lawyers like myself were very much
against have lost some steam. SSA was talking about raising the ages in the GRID Rules which would have had a negative
impact on those applying for SSDI and SSI benefits and would have resulted in more denials. This appears to be dead
now and the ages in the GRID Rules will stay the same. There was also a concern of disability lawyers that SSA was going
to get rid of the Appeals Council. This would have left claimants with no option to appeal a decision of a ALJ
accept to sue in federal court. I am happy to say that it appears as if SSA will keep an Appeals Council in some way.
9:20 pm edt
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I will be attending conference of SSDI lawyers this week.
I will be going to the NOSSCR Conference this week and will report anything new or interesting I may learn. NOSSCR is
an organization of Social Security Disability lawyers and representatives. Make sure to book mark the site and check
back for any new information. I will be posting something on how the new process is going in the Boston area.
I will also be attending numerous other classes on a variety of different topics and will share it with you.
8:38 pm edt
Sunday, April 15, 2007
What percentage of SSDI and SSI cases are denied?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is what percentage of Social Security Disability and SSI cases are denied.
At application 65% of cases are denied. At reconsideration 87% are denied. At the hearing level before the ALJ
24% are denied and another 14% are dismissed. At the Appeals Council level 71% are denied, 25% get remands (new hearing
before ALJ), and 2% are approved. In U.S. District Court 41% are denied, 44% get a remand and 5% are approved.
Note that some states do not have the reconsideration stage. So a question you may have is why is the allowance rate of
35% at application so much lower than the allowance rate of 62% at hearing? There is no way to know for sure but my
opinion is that there are a couple of reasons. Many people don't get a lawyer until they are the hearing
stage. Another reason is the files are much better developed by the time you get to a hearing. Lastly, sometimes
the file can not tell the whole story and a claimants testimony in person can make a significant impact. If you
want to give your case the best chance of winning at application you should make sure all your medical information is in the
file and consider getting a lawyer at application. Keep in mind the wait time for a hearing is anywhere from 1
to 2 years so the idea is to win as early as you can.
8:02 pm edt
Friday, April 13, 2007
Tips for a Social Security Disability Hearing
The first thing you should do is have an understanding of your case and what it is you have to prove to win. In other
words know the theory of your case. A lawyer can be helpful because if they have handled many SSDI and SSI cases
they will know what you have to prove for your particular case. Every case is different and many factors can play into
exactly what you will have to show at the ALJ hearing. You should also have some idea of the types of questions
that will be asked. See my page on the Social Security Disability hearing to get a general idea. Knowing the types
of questions that will be asked will also help relieve some of the anxiety of having a hearing. You should also
look at your notice of hearing and check if a medical or vocational expert will be there. If there will be an expert at
the hearing, and you don't have a lawyer you may want to consider one. This will allow for a proper cross examination
of these experts. I also would not dress up as if you are going on an interview for a job. Dress respectfully
of the court but if you come in to a hearing in a suit the ALJ may get the impression that you could work.
I have more tips and information on my page on the ALJ hearing.
7:36 pm edt
Monday, April 9, 2007
Is it harder to get disability in some areas more than others?
Your chances of getting Social Security Disability can be greatly influenced by where your hearing is located. I will
not name the ODAR offices that I find to be more difficult to win at since I still have to handle hearings in these places,
but I can tell you that were you live can make a big difference. I have found that word gets out on the street pretty
fast if the ALJs in your area are overly favorable or unfavorable to claims. There is one particular ODAR I am
aware of that has an earned reputation of not finding for deserving SSDI and SSI claims. Worse than that I have experienced
abusive ALJs at this particular office. I believe from my experience that Social Security is aware of these
offices and tries to offset what would be glaring statistical abnormalities by assigning ALJs from other areas to hold hearings
usually by video at these locations. I have no documented evidence of this it is just an experienced guess on my part.
So what can you do if you hear through the grapevine that the ODAR in your area is particularly difficult? You might
want to consider finding a good lawyer and don't give up. If you have a difficult ALJ you may be denied.
But if you know you can't work and feel you have a good case you should keep appealing even to the District Court if you
have to. When a case is sent back it will have directions from the appeal council to the ALJ which may include ordered
medical or vocational expert testimony. This can all help with a difficult ALJ. If you are denied again by the
same ALJ and you are able to get another remand on appeal you will be assigned a different Judge. So if you are assigned
a Judge you heard was difficult make sure your evidence is strong, get a lawyer and try and be patient.
10:07 pm edt
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Can you work while getting disability?
I am often asked if one can work while collecting Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a program for this called
the Ticket to Work. Before I get into the program I have a few warnings. If you are able to do some work and decide
to do so make sure to follow the program. The rules on being able to work while getting disability benefits are confusing
and not with out risk if you don't know the rules and follow them. The ticket to work program can help you free
of charge with vocational rehabilitation and job referrals. These services are provided by private organizations or
government agencies. For more information call MAXIMUS, Inc. at 1-866-968-7842.
8:43 pm edt