Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Mobile Social Security Disability Law Blog

Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income

Most Americans are familiar with Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and how an individual might apply for and qualify to receive those benefits. However, there is another form of financial benefit that some people may be eligible for: Supplemental Security Income.

Is one eligible for Supplemental Security Income, also known as "SSI"? To answer that question, Alabama residents will need to know the eligibility criteria. For starters, it is important to know that qualifying for SSI benefits, unlike SSD benefits, is not tied to a person's work history. In fact, SSI benefits are actually intended to help those who may not have any work history at all, or who may have a limited work history. SSI benefits recipients have very limited financial resources -- which is actually part of the eligibility criteria.

Consultative Examinations

Our office has been advised that due to low funds, no consultative examinations will be scheduled by the Disability Determination Services of Alabama through September 15, 2019 through September 30, 2019. A consultative examination (CE) is an examination by a physician that is ordered by Social Security for Claimants to help decide whether they meet the criteria for Social Security disability. CEs are usually ordered by either the Disability Determination Services or an Administrative Law Judge at the hearing level when the Claimant's own medical sources are inadequate to determine if the Claimant is disabled. A CE is not conducted in order to provide the Claimant with medical advice or treatment. Rather, it is an examination that is supposed to assess the severity of a Claimant's medical impairments as well as any limitations that are a result of these impairments. The examination can either be a physical examination or psychological examination. It can also be blood work, x-rays, or a nerve conduction study.

Do I need an attorney to file for disability?

There are certain events for which you might contact an attorney for advice or assistance. A divorce, a lawsuit or an accusation of committing a crime are times when you generally have an attorney by your side. You may not think of seeking legal advice when you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration is not the same as applying for a job or a credit card. If you have a disability and can no longer work, your financial situation may quickly become dire. The benefits for which you may qualify can help you pay your bills, obtain the medical care you need and live a life as close to normal as possible. If the benefits from SSDI are critical to your wellbeing, you may wish to consider having a legal advocate during the process.

The information sought in Childhood Disability Interviews

As readers in Mobile, Alabama, and the rest of the country know, children with disabilities are entitled to Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. In order to determine the eligibility, the Social Security Administration (SSA) conducts Childhood Disability Interview and generates a Child Disability Report. This method is applicable to those children for whom the Child Disability Report is not created online.

In order to make sure that the Child Disability Interview is fruitful, there are certain important pieces of information that a parent needs to have ready. Broadly, the information sought can be divided into two categories: medial information related to the child's disability and other information related to the child.

Function Reports for Social Security Disability

When you apply for Social Security disability, one of the first things you receive in the mail from the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a function report. A function report will ask you various questions regarding your activities of daily living. For example, what do you do from the time that you wake up until you go to bed? Other questions ask how your medical impairments affect your ability to dress and bathe yourself, prepare your own meals, perform household chores, shop, travel, and perform any other activities of daily living.

Appeal process for VA decisions made before Feb. 19, 2019

Last week, a post on this blog discussed how an applicant can appeal a disability decision made by the Department of Veterans' affairs on or after February 19, 2019. The earlier appeal process will continue for decisions made before February 19, 2019. As there may be many people in Alabama, and elsewhere, who had their claims disallowed before February 19, 2019, it will be prudent to discuss the old appeal process as well since those applicants have one year to file an appeal against their decision.

A VA benefits applicant, whose claim was turned down before February 19, 2019 must file a Notice of Disagreement within one year of the date on the letter through which the claimant was notified of the decision. After filing the notice, a Decision Review Officer will review all evidence, including any new evidence. If the Officer's decision is negative, the applicant will receive a Statement of the Case.

Lawsuit Filed Against VA Secretary Over Blue Water Benefits Delays

On January 29, 2019, a 9-2 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned past court opinions and stated that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot deny disability benefits to Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants merely because those veterans served in the waters off the coastline of Vietnam and not inland. This is a major victory for "blue water" Navy veterans who have fought for years over these denials.

Will I Continue to Receive my Social Security Disability Benefits forever?

After being award Social Security disability benefits, many clients ask how long they will be able to keep receiving their benefits. The simple answer is that if your medical condition has not improved, you can receive disability benefits for a lifetime. However, all recipients of Social Security disability benefits are subject to periodic continuing disability reviews. During a continuing disability review, Social Security will ascertain whether you have had any improvement in your medical condition that would allow you to return to work. If there has been no improvement in your medical condition, you will continue to receive disability until the next review. Although there is no set length of time for Social Security to review your case, typically Social Security conducts either a 3 year or 5 to 7-year review. However, reviews can be quicker depending on the nature of your medical condition and/or whether or not an Administrative Law Judge expected you to improve with medical treatment.

Changes to the VA disability review process (Feb. 2019 update)

There are many veterans in an around Mobile, Alabama who have had their U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs disability claims either outright rejected or granted but with lesser benefits that one ought to have received. In either case, the applicants have the right to appeal the VA's decision, either themselves or with the help of a representative such as a claim agent, a veteran's service officer or an attorney.

For claim decisions made by the VA before February 19, 2019, the earlier appeal process continues. However, for decisions made on or after February 19, 2019, there are certain changes to the decision review process. Per new rules, applicants have to choose one of three available decision review options.

  • The first of those options is to file a Supplemental Claim wherein the applicant needs to submit new and relevant medical information that supports the original claim. This review process can take four to five months before the VA reaches a decision.
  • The second option is to request a Higher-Level Review, which is the second review of the claim application by a senior reviewer. This process can take four to five months, and even longer if the VA needs to conduct additional medical examinations to correct an earlier error.
  • The third option is to file a Board Appeal in which the claim application is taken up for review by a Veterans Law Judge. This review process can take up to one year, provided that no new evidence has been submitted and no additional hearings are required.

YOUR RIGHTS TO REPRESENTATION

Did you know you have the right to representation before the Social Security Administration (SSA)? When you appear for a hearing for Social Security disability if you do not have a representative, the first thing the officer or judge SHOULD do is ask you if you want a representative. If you or someone you know has a learning disability, you should be sure and understand this right or make sure you are with them to help them understand this right. The officer or Judge has a legal obligation to advise you of this right and allow a onetime postponement of the hearing for you to obtain such representation.

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