Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability Cases in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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Does my back pain have to be caused by physical impairment to qualify for SSDI?
Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability and is one of the most common reasons for missed work, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Back pain can be agonizing and incapacitating, but unless there is a medically determinable impairment, you will not be likely to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Getting the right diagnosis for your back pain is the key to qualifying for the benefits you need.
Causes of Debilitating Back Pain
Chronic back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which are temporary, such as muscle strains and minor fractures. In order to qualify for SSDI, your condition must be caused by an impairment that is expected to last for at least a year. The condition must also involve a physical abnormality of the spine or spinal column that is documented by an x-ray, MRI, doctor’s notes, or another acceptable medical test. Some back conditions that may qualify for SSDI include the following:
- Degenerative disc disorder
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated disc
- Nerve root compression
Even if you are diagnosed with one of these conditions, you will not automatically qualify for disability benefits. You will have to provide medical records proving that your symptoms match the requirements in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of impairments for spinal disorders and you will have to demonstrate that your condition prevents you from performing tasks required by your job.
How Keller & Keller Helps People With Debilitating Back Pain
The SSA sees more applications citing back pain than any other condition, so it is vital that you work with an experienced disability attorney to present the most complete application possible. The attorneys in our Indianapolis and Granger offices will make sure that your back pain has been properly diagnosed, that you have the required medical documentation, and that you have proof that your functional limitations prevent you from working. If you are suffering from back pain and are unable to work, contact us for a free case evaluation. If we can help you, we will.
What is an Administrative Law Judge Hearing?
If you have paid into the Social Security system for at least five of the last ten years, you should be considered fully insured and, if you become disabled and are unable to work, you should qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It may sound simple enough, but it is unfortunately not often that simple. An estimated 65 percent of first time SSDI benefits are denied. This is not the end of the road, however, and a qualified SSDI attorney from Keller & Keller can help you through the appeals process. One step along the way is the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing.
What Happens at an ALJ Hearing?
If your original application is denied and you have good cause to file an appeal, your case may be reconsidered. If it is denied again, you may be able to file another appeal and be granted a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. Here is how this works:
- This is an informal hearing with a judge in a conference room, not a courtroom. Hearings generally last about an hour and a half.
- Attending the hearing will be you, your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge, and a hearing monitor to record the proceedings. The judge may also want to hear from vocational and medical experts. Your attorney may also call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- You will be asked questions about your work history, education, medical history, symptoms, perceived work limitations, daily activities, and more. The judge’s goal is to determine your level of disability.
- Your attorney will prepare evidence of the emotional and physical pain you have experienced and how the injury or illness has affected your ability to work.
- In Indiana, roughly 45 percent of these hearings find in favor of the claimant.
Indiana has hearing offices in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville, and Valparaiso, and remote meetings can also be scheduled.
Do Not Go Through the Appeals Process Alone
While you are not required to have an attorney representing you for the SSDI application and appeals process, it is highly recommended that you do. Fill out our free case evaluation form to find out how the Indianapolis office of Keller & Keller can help you through this difficult and frustrating process to get you the benefits you have earned.
What is the Compassionate Allowances program?
When a person has been diagnosed with a rapidly progressing or fatal condition, getting help quickly is essential. The average waiting time for a decision about a Social Security disability application can be as long as two years, so if you are in need of immediate assistance, you would be out of luck, even with retroactive benefits. However, under the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program, certain conditions can be approved almost immediately to ensure you get the benefits you need when you need them.
What Conditions Qualify for CAL?
Through the Compassionate Allowances program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) identifies claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets their statutory standard for disability. To qualify as disabled by the SSA, you must demonstrate all of the following:
- You cannot do the work you did before your illness or injury.
- You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition, according to the SSA’s assessment.
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
The SSA understands that certain conditions, just based on the diagnosis, will inevitably meet these standards and expedites the decision-making process so the applicant can begin receiving their monthly benefits right away. There are over 250 conditions currently on the CAL list, including the following:
- Many forms of metastasized cancer, including bladder, breast, esophageal, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, ovarian, and more
- Childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma, lymphoma, and leukemia
- Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
- The ALS-Parkinsonism Dementia Complex
- Various heart conditions, including awaiting a heart transplant
A complete list of conditions currently approved for CAL can be found on the SSA website.
How an Indiana Disability Attorney Can Help
While the SSA says that their cutting-edge technology quickly identifies claims that qualify for CAL, mistakes can be made. You may also have a serious diagnosis that is not listed as an approved condition, but which should qualify you for expedited benefits. When you don’t have any time to spare, make sure your SSDI application is not overlooked. Call our Indianapolis law office to get an SSDI attorney working on your claim from your initial diagnosis. We are here to help!
Do I need a lawyer for my Indiana disability claim?
The Social Security disability application process is confusing and difficult. In fact, nearly two-thirds of initial SSDI applications are denied every year, often simply because information is incomplete or missing. While you don’t technically need a lawyer to apply for benefits, your chances of approval are significantly better if you work with one. Find out how an Indiana disability attorney can help with your initial application or your appeal and whether it is worth it for you to hire one.
What Our Indianapolis Attorneys Can Do for You
If you have paid into the Social Security system and will be unable to work for at least a year due to illness or injury, you may think your disability application will be easily approved. Unfortunately, it’s often not that simple. In a free consultation with our disability attorneys, we will discuss helping you with the following:
- Determining eligibility. Many people are denied because they were not eligible to apply for benefits in the first place. Our attorney will review your claim for free and let you know if you should apply for benefits or not. This can save you significant time and trouble. If you have already been denied, we will let you know if you have grounds for an appeal.
- Preparing the application. If you decide to hire us, we will help you fill out and submit the application, ensuring that it is complete and that you meet all of the criteria.
- Arguing for eligibility. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must show that your condition is included in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments or that it is as serious as one of the conditions listed. This can be difficult to prove without an experienced disability attorney.
- Filing an appeal. Wherever you are in the application process, our attorneys can step in and help with the next step. If you are appearing before an Administrative Law Judge, we will prepare a detailed brief to argue your case.
The earlier in the process you hire an attorney, the more we will be able to help. Our initial consultation is always free, and we don’t charge a fee until and unless you are awarded benefits. Attorney fees for SSDI claims are regulated by federal law, so you can be sure our fees are fair.
Call Keller & Keller Today
So, should you hire an attorney to help with your SSDI application? Schedule your free consultation with us and find out. You have nothing to lose by meeting with our attorney, and you could have everything to gain. Fill out our free case review form and we will be in touch with you soon.
What is the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments?
Nearly 70 percent of initial Social Security disability applications are denied. There are many reasons for these denials—from an improperly filled out form to a missed deadline—but a common reason is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes the determination that you are not actually disabled. The SSA provides various tools to help applicants determine if they meet disability qualifications. One such tool is the Listing of Impairments, also known as the Blue Book.
What Is the SSA's Blue Book?
While the listing is now completely electronic, it was once published annually with a blue cover, giving it its nickname. On the SSA’s website, you will see a listing of 14 categories of disability. Each category provides a detailed explanation of what the SSA considers to be a disabling form of the particular conditions that fall under that category. Currently, the following body systems and functions are listed:
- Musculoskeletal system
- Special senses and speech
- Respiratory disorders
- Cardiovascular system
- Digestive system
- Genitourinary (kidney) disorders
- Hematological disorders
- Skin disorders
- Endocrine disorders
- Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems
- Neurological disorders
- Mental disorders
- Immune system disorders
It is not enough to just have your medical condition listed here; you must also meet the standards of severity, duration, and debilitating effects that are listed in each subsection. For example, the skin disorder psoriasis is listed under section 8.05 Dermatitis, but your psoriasis must produce extensive skin lesions that persist for more than three months despite continuing treatment as prescribed and your symptoms (including pain) must limit your ability to perform work. The Listing of Impairments also provides examples of the kinds of evidence you will be expected to produce in order to prove your disability.
Just as having your condition listed here does not automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), NOT having a condition listed does not automatically disqualify you. If you can prove that your condition—despite not being included in the Listing of Impairments—has the same effect on you as another listing, you can qualify for benefits.
Our SSDI Attorneys Can Help
The SSA’s Listing of Impairments is a detailed, complicated document. It is very difficult for a non-medical person to understand all of the requirements for qualification included here. When you work with one of Keller & Keller’s Social Security disability attorneys, however, you will get the help you need to determine your eligibility and secure the evidence you need so that your application is accepted the first time. Call our Albuquerque office to schedule a free consultation today.
What are Social Security Disability Back Pay Benefits?
Social Security disability back pay is the amount of money owed to an applicant from the date you first applied for disability benefits and the time it takes the Social Security Administration (SSA) to approve your claim.
What's the definition of disability used by Social Security?
Social Security follows the five-step sequential evaluation process:
The first step is to determine whether or not the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. If so, the claim is denied.
If not, the second step is to determine whether the claimant has an impairment which significantly limits ability to do basic work activities. If not, the claim is denied.
If a severe impairment is present, the third step is to determine whether the impairment meets or equals one of Social Security's listed impairments. If it does, a finding of disability is directed.
If not, the fourth step is to determine whether the claimant's severe impairments prevent the performance past work (the jobs you used to do). If not, the claim is denied.
If so, the fifth step is to determine whether the claimant's severe impairments prevent the performance of all other work in the national economy considering your remaining physical and mental abilities, age, education, and work experience. If not, the claim is denied. If so, a finding of disability is directed.
How many different types of Social Security disability benefits are there?
There are at least five major types of Social Security disability benefits.
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) is the most important type of Social Security disability benefits. It goes to individuals who have worked in recent years (five out of the last 10 years in most cases) and are now disabled.
Disabled Widow's and Widower's Benefits (DWB) are paid to individuals who are at least 50 and become disabled within a certain amount of time after the death of their husband or wife. The late husband or wife must have worked enough under Social Security to be insured.
Disabled Adult Child benefits (DAC) go to the children of persons who are deceased or who are drawing Social Security disability or retirement benefits. The child must have become disabled before age 22.
(For Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow's or Widower's Benefits and Disabled Adult Child benefits (DAC), it does not matter whether the disabled individual is rich or poor. Benefits are paid based upon a Social Security earnings record.)
Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), are paid to individuals who are struggle financially and who are disabled. It does not matter for SSI whether an individual has worked in the past or not. SSI child's disability benefits are a variety of SSI benefits paid to children under the age of 18 who are disabled. The way in which disability is determined is a bit different for children.
Child's Disability Benefits (CDB) are paid to children under the age of 17. CDB is another form of SSI, however, the Social Security Administration takes into consideration different factors when considering a child's claim versus an adult's claim. Children who may qualify for CDB are those that have severe or limiting physical and mental conditions. Additionally, there are also limitations with regard household incomes. Those households that exceed a certain amount are excluded from consideration.
How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
We believe having one of our disability attorneys help you with your application helps to ensure no mistakes are made when you file for benefits.
However, you can also visit your local Social Security field office in person, or file online by visiting the section of SSA's website that deals with applications.
How long do I have to wait after becoming disabled before I can file for Social Security disability benefits?
If you're disabled and not working, you can file for disability benefits immediately.
To prevail in a claim though, there must be medical proof that you meet the standard. There is no reason to file a Social Security disability claim if one has only a minor illness, or one which is unlikely to last a year or more. However, an individual who suffers serious illness or injury and expects to be out of work for a year or more should not delay in filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits.
How does Social Security determine if I am disabled?
The Social Security administration bases their disability determination on your report of symptoms, medical evidence, and opinions from physicians.
Who decides if I am disabled?
At the initial application stage and the reconsideration stage (in states that have reconsideration), the Disability Determination Bureau ("DDB") in the state in which you live determines whether or not you are disabled. At the hearing level, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in an Office of Disability Adjudication and Review ("ODAR") determines whether or not you are disabled.
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