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Social Security

Social Security (12)

Childhood Disability benefits claim requires proving that the disability existed before age 22. The problem in one recent case was that the client was almost 45 years old when he applied. In order to be successful, we had to prove disability going back 23 years. By working with the client, we were able to develop a record that supported the claim. The Judge required two hearings, and finally awarded benefits.

I was able to be successful because of personal attention. I spend time with my clients to determine how to best assist the client with their claim. Every person and every claim is different. Trying to figure out the claim over the phone just does not work. I personally meet with clients. By getting to know my clients, I can advise them on what can be done to help their claim. This personal attention is crucial.

Social Security Disability Backlog of Claims is growing:

The backlog of Social Security disability claims is growing. The Social Security Administration had made great strides on shortening the appeal time, but all those gains have been lost in the last year. Why is this happening? People in the Social Security Administration, or perhaps politicians, have decided that Social Security disability cases need to be more closely reviewed. There was a view that too many people who are not truly disabled were receiving benefits. To address this misperception, two things have changed: first, up until about a year ago, if someone had a very strong case of disability, instead of requiring the person to wait for a hearing with the judge, an attorney in the Social Security Administration was able to write a favorable decision, and therefore get benefits to the person a lot sooner. That program has all but been shut down. Second, the Social Security Administration began a much more intense examination of all of the decisions being issued by their judges. The Social Security Administration has more actively criticized judges decisions when the Social Security Administration believed that the judge did not have adequate support to find someone disabled. What this means is that the judges are spending even more time holding their hearings, and writing their decisions, to avoid criticism from the Social Security Administration. Up until fairly recently, when the case appeared relatively strong, the judges were able to move to a decision quite quickly. That has all changed. The result is that in Albany, where the hearings were held about one year after the appeal was filed, they now are being delayed for about 15 months after the appeal is requested. The timeframe seems to be growing, especially in light of an increase in the number of disability claims being filed.

What does this all mean for someone considering applying for disability? First, a person who wants to seek Social Security disability should not delay in starting the application, because from the time of the initial application until a judge hears the case, and makes a ruling, can now approach two years. Second, because of the long processing time, a person seeking disability has to do everything they can to obtain proper medical documentation to give themselves the best chance possible to win their claim.

Social Security Blog

November 7, 2013

 The Social Security Administration is now processing claims for same sex couples following a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.  The Social Security Administration is accepting claims for couples who live in states where gay marriage is legal, as well as states where civil unions and domestic partnerships are legal.  Currently, the Social Security Administration is processing and approving claims for spouses of retired workers if the couple is married and currently live in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, which includes New York State.

Source: NOSSCR Volume 35, Number 8, August 2013.

Thursday, 07 November 2013 20:34

Misunderstanding of Mental Illness

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Reported in vol. 33, no. 10 criticizing an ALJ’s analysis and revealed an all too common misunderstanding of mental illness, “The very nature of bipolar disorder is that people with the disease experience fluctuations in their symptoms, so any single notation that a patient is feeling better or has had a ‘good day’ does not imply that the condition has been treated.”


cited: Scott v Astrue, 647 F.3d 734 (7th Cir. 2011)



In a case the district court found that an ALJ and fined the claimant not credible for failing to follow prescribe mental health treatment.  The court criticized the ALJ’s finding and rejected the medical complaints because mental illness is an unreported condition.  Cited Regennitter v Comm’r 166 F. 3d 1294, 1299-1300 (9th Cir. 1999), “it is a questionable practice to chastise one with a mental impairment for the exercise of poor judgment in seeking rehabilitation.”




Cited: August 2011 NOSSCR vol. 33 no. 8



Wednesday, 30 October 2013 18:00

Decision of ALJ Reversed Over Obesity Issue

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In the case Williams v Astrue the Northern District of Indiana reversed the administrative law judges hearing where the plaintiff had morbid obesity as a severe impairment and the district court considered the other impairments that the claimant had.  The claimant also suffered from a combination of bilateral knee impairments.  The court essentially said you have to take a combination of impairments as a whole in order to assess disability determination.


In the June issue of the NOSSCR Newsletter, Vol. 33 No. 6, It was reported that a claimant was allowed to reopen their appeal from 1978. The claimant showed “good cause” under social security ruling 91-5p and replied on “mental illness which prevented him or her from understanding the procedures to appeal and have good cause to file a late appeal.” This decision gives incredible hope to any claimant that has a mental illness or mental impairment; you can argue that good cause prevented you from filing an appeal within 60 days of your denial.

-James E. D. Doern

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 12:36

Pain, Neuropathy & Nerve Damage

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Social Security Blog

August 26, 2013

 Volume 35, Number 7, July 2013 issue of the Social Security Forum, put out by NOSSCR, a District Court reversed an ALJ in Pennsylvania, but the ALJ found that no medical source statement has found that the claimant’s pain was borne out by any diagnosis.  However, the medical records did have indications where treatment providers noted that the abdominal pain was likely caused by scar tissue, neuropathy, and nerve damage.  The District Court ruled that this meets the standard contained in Social Security regulations, which established that an impairment “could reasonably be expected to produce the pain”. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 13:36

Increase in social security cases

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Social Security Blog

June 6, 2013

 Volume 35, Number 4, April 2013 NOSSCR newsletter includes an analysis of Fact vs. Myth in social security cases.  One of the leading theories for the increase in social security cases is the alleged abuse of the process recounted in many media reports, including the Wall Street Journal.  The NOSSCR analysis tries to debunk the theory.  The number of disability cases has risen in part because of the aging of the baby boomer population, or people born between 1946 and 1964.  Older people are more susceptible to disabilities, and most baby boomers are now well into their 50s and 60s.  The comprehensive analysis also details higher rates of disability linked to lower education levels.  States with lower education standards have higher disability rates.  People who receive disability insurance benefits undergo a sharp drop in living standards, which contradicts the theory that people seeking disability insurance are seeking some kind of payoff.

Monday, 25 March 2013 15:45


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These cases reported in the February 2012 issue of NOSSCR, Volume 34, Number 2.

In a case involving residual functional capacity and medical issues, a District Court in North Dakota reversed the Administrative Law Judge for altogether failing to provide reasons why he rejected the opinion of the claimant’s treating rheumatologist.The court criticized the ALJ for improperly attempting to “play doctor” to reach his conclusion.The ALJ failed to provide any support for his finding that the doctor’s opinion was inconsistent with the record.

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