Thursday, June 09, 2016

Sometimes you get bad advice even from the Social Security office

A friend of mine contacted me a few days ago. A long-time friend of hers was looking into filing for disability benefits. Actually, he had been considering filing for about three years, which was part of the problem (if your condition is severe enough that it makes it difficult for you to engage in and do work activity, "thinking" about applying for disability may simply amount to a very huge waste of time since, during that time of consideration you might have navigated through several layers of the system, such as the initial claim and reconsideration appeal).

He had finally gotten up the nerve to contact a local security field office and asked the person on the other end of the line "Will I qualify for disability?". This, of course, was mistake number two. The individuals who answer the phones at social security offices are SRs, or service representatives. They do not take claims but are clerical support personnel. As such, they are not qualified to answer questions like this.

Despite this fact, the service representative responded to the man's question by asking him "Can you work at all?". He told her he had been involved in programming for most of his working career. The absolute truth is that he was a cobol programmer. I don't think they even teach this language anymore and most leftover jobs for cobol have to do with very old systems in institutional settings that have not managed to creak into the 21st, you can certainly see that there's a lot of forward job opportunity associated with being a cobol programmer.

After informing her of his computer background, he told her that, though his condition impaired him in such a way that he could not focus and concentrate enough to do his old job, he could still "probably flip burgers". To which the service rep replied "Then you're not disabled".

This was the the point at which my own friend, who is a friend of the cobol programmer, called me. Upon hearing the story, I told her that service reps are not qualified to answer such questions. However, there really isn't anyone at the social security office who is. That's because even the CRs, or claims representatives, who take disability and retirement claims, only take the claims. They don't actually work on them. That duty is left to disability examiners and the medical and mental consultants who provide case support to them (an M.D. physician and a Ph.D. psychologist, both of whom work in the same unit as the examiner).

Disability examiners work at a state agency that is entirely separate from the social security office. After a claim for disability is taken at a social security office, it is sent to DDS (disability determination services, or whatever serves as the equivalent agency in a particular state) agency for decision-processing, where it may stay for weeks or months while evidence is being gathered and evaluated.

More to the point, though, this particular social security employee arguably "did a bad thing". Because in their complete ignorance of how the Social Security Disability and SSI process works, they left this individual with the clear impression that, if he could work at any job and at any level of earnings, he could not be found disabled by SSA. Which is completely untrue. The system administered by SSA takes into account whether or not a person can return to their past work, but also whether or not they can do some type of other work. And that "other work" part is highly mediated by a number of considerations such as a person's age, transferable skills, and current and anticipated functional limitations which may be mental or physical in nature.

The process for making a disability determination can seem fairly complex. And in some ways it is, and in others it isn't. But one thing certainly stands out as true. There are no individuals manning the phone lines at the social security office who are qualified to answer the question "Am I disabled?". So, one point of advice to individuals who are considering filing an application for disability would be...don't ask that question, because the uninformed answer that you get back will only serve to disappoint and perhaps lead you astray.

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Tips for requesting a disability hearing

There are several pages on on the various aspects of social security disability hearings. However, this post will be a bit different and will focus on the steps to take in filing a request for a disability hearing, such as 1. When are appeals filed, 2. What is the deadline for filing an appeal?, 3. Submitting the appeal, 4. Doing followups, 5. What happens after a hearing is requested?, and 6. Preparation for the hearing.

Link to page: The steps to take in filing a request for a disability hearing

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

I Never Met With My Disability Attorney before my SSD Hearing

This happens more than you might think. For the most part, Social Security business between claimants and their attorneys or representatives is handled via telephone and mail.

That is not to say that all disability claimants lack the opportunity to meet their attorney prior to their disability hearing. But it does occur frequently that a claimant's first meeting with an attorney is at the hearing location.

And, in fact, if you have decided to have a national firm represent your disability claim, the chances of your meeting your attorney prior to your hearing are even more remote. However, even if you choose to hire a local attorney or representative, the truth is that you will most likely not meet them more than once. Reason: the honest truth is that there is no need. After all, Social Security disability decisions are based upon the objective medical findings in the file, your education, work history, functional limitations (that result from your disabling conditions), and your age.

Not meeting your disability attorney personally does not mean that the attorney will not be familiar with your disability case file. As long as your attorney knows your case and is able to present the merits of your claim at the time of your administrative law judge hearing, you may receive proper representation regardless of whether or not you have met your representative prior to the hearing.

And, actually, many would argue that reviewing your social security file, the records contained within, and the medical record updates is all your attorney needs to do in order to win an approval for you.

It may even be true that as many disability claims are approved for individuals who have only met their representatives for the first time at a hearing as those who have met their representative several times before a hearing has been held.

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Will Trump try to privatize and dismantle the Social Security and Social Security Disability systems?

This is not a political page. However, this page is about the disability process and system which makes this relevant. This story is not being played up in the media yet, and it is very interesting.

Background: Privatization has always been the goal of certain members of Congress who would like to get the U.S government out of the retirement and disability business. Unfortunately, that means turning the system over to other interests. In the case of Social Security retirement, that means turning it over to Wall street (because, obviously, getting rid of regular retirement plans and replacing them with 401(k)s was such a wonderful idea). In the case of disability, it would probably mean turning things over to the individual states, many of which have a long history of being hostile to such programs. As an example, statistics are very clear that in many southern states the denial rates on disability claims are significantly higher.

What makes this story especially interesting is that Mr. Trump has openly run on a promise not to attack the Social Security system. He has even gone so far as to say that he would like it expanded.

From the article:

"At last week's 2016 Fiscal Summit of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clovis walked back Trump's pledge to leave Social Security and Medicare untouched. "After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Clovis said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way." Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks disputed that Clovis' words even "remotely" hinted at cuts. But he has argued strongly in the past for privatizing Social Security and Medicare as a way to cut their costs. In 2014, while running in Iowa for the U.S. Senate, Clovis told the Des Moines Register that he was "a strong believer in bringing private models to both Medicare and Social Security." For those "below the age of 45 .... we need new systems for both." He also favored block-granting Medicaid -- an "easy step," he said, that would allow "states to administer the program based on state needs." Medicaid experts have observed, however, that some states have taken advantage of flexibility in Medicaid eligibility to cut off all but the most destitute families. Alabama and Texas, for example, limit Medicaid to families earning less than 18% of the federal poverty level, or $3,629 a year for a family of three. Mashburn long has been an advocate of cutting social programs. In a 2012 interview with Ben Domenech of the right-wing Heartland Institute that Jilani unearthed, he also plumped for block-granting Medicaid. Notably, he also took a swipe at disability recipients, particularly children on the Supplemental Security Income disability program."

Link to page: Trump and Social Security

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

Improving the chance to Social Security Disability or SSI benefits

From the page:

Obviously, the medical records establish the existence of your condition or conditions. However, they also prove A) whether or not you are currently disabled (which is why SSA needs current medical records, not older than 90 days) and B) how far back you may have been disabled---which can have an immediate and dramatic effect on how much back pay you are entitled to and whether or not your waiting period for certain benefits (such as medicare, or the start of monthly payments) will already have been served.

For those who are unaware, Social Security Disability has a five month waiting period for benefits while medicare has a 24 month waiting period. Establishing through the medical records that your condition began long ago can effectively eliminate these waiting periods.

Link to page: Improving the chance to Social Security Disability or SSI benefits

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog).

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Medical records are helpful to a disability case, but which medical records?

Not all records are helpful to a case. And, in this regard, I mean records from non-medical sources such as chiropractors, naturopaths, or anyone who is not licensed to practice medicine. Usually, this means anyone who does not have the professional privilege of writing prescriptions. This is why even though a nurse is a medical professional, they cannot supply records that by themselves that are especially useful to a disability case.

On the subject of chiropractors, Chiropractic medicine helps alleviate the pain of many thousands of patients. However, chiropractors are not considered medical treatment sources by the social security administration (they cannot write prescriptions) and their records are not used in deciding social security disability and SSI disability cases.

Tip: if you have back problems and are receiving treatment only from a chiropractor, you should, for the benefit of your case, consider seeking treatment from an M.D., possibly an orthopedist, and, perhaps, a pain specialist if you have ongoing and debilitating levels of pain.

On this subject, here are a few pages:

Medical Evidence Used on a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim

What happens if the Social Security disability examiner cannot find all the needed medical records?

How are medical records and work history used to determine a social security disability claim?

If You File For Social Security Disability How Far Back Will They Look At Your Medical Records?

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

On Cheating people out of a fair disability hearing

This article deals with several things. First of all, with the backlog in disability claims, which is extreme and immoral. It is immoral IMO when elected representatives allow their constituents to needlessly suffer because they refuse to adequately fund a federal agency to a level that is necessary for the agency to do its job. What I am saying is that the problem for the last 20 years has been Congress. This article also points out that there are too few administrative law judges (this has been true for well well over a decade). Finally, It also points out that the attempt is being made to cheat claimants out of a fair remand hearing. For those who are unaware, a remand hearing is a second hearing by the same judge after the appeals council has determined that there was something wrong with the decision of the ALJ when he/she denied the case.

Social Security Administration Seeks Shortcut Through Massive Disability Backlog

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

How Social Security decides claims, xrays, symptoms, filing a second claim

How Social Security decides claims

Social Security will base its decision to award medical disability benefits on an individual’s ability to engage in past work or "other" work activity. This decision is made by reviewing both a claimant's work history and a claimant's medical history--which is done by gathering a claimant's medical records. Note: Past work may potentially include any job done by the claimant in the fifteen year period prior to becoming disabled, as long as the job was performed long enough for the person to actually learn the duties of the job. "Other work" is potentially any type of job that a claimant may be thought capable of doing based on their education and job skills, and mediated by their current limitations.

When should you File for Disability benefits with the social security administration?

Social Security Disability and sending copies of XRAYs

Over the course of many years, I've had disability claimants send me their xrays. Not the xray reports, mind you, but the actual films. This has happened to me while I worked as a disability examiner and also in the course of disability representation.

Should you ever send your disability representative your xray films? No. Should you ever send the disability examiner who has been assigned to make the decison on your case your xray films? No. Should you take your xray films to the social security office when you go to apply for disability? Once again, the answer is no. Here's why---

When you apply for social security disability should you send copies of your xrays?

Put down all symptoms when filing for disability A person who is trying to win Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits should list their various symptoms they have. They may also wish to list the effects of each condition they have. This would include any difficulty they have in certain physical areas such as the ability to sit, stand, walk, reach, bend, lift, carry, see, or hear. It would also include any difficulties they have in cognitive areas such as difficulty in concentrating, difficulty in remembering, difficulty in adhering to work schedules, etc.

When you apply for disability, mention all your medical symptoms

Filing a second disability claim

If your initial disability claim is denied, the best course to take is to file an appeal. The goal in filing a disability claim is to win your disability benefits, and you cannot do that if you are constantly filing initial disability claims that are denied. Despite this fact, there are many claimants who never utilize the appeal process and, instead, simply file new claim after new claim after new claim.

What Happens When You File A Second Social Security Disability Claim?

I am a former disability examiner and I publish the website Social Security Disability Resource Center, or SSDRC for short. I also maintain a facebook page for SSDRC (Social Security Disability Blog.

Archives for this blog.

Neither this blog, nor the facebook page, nor my website are affiliated with the Social Security Administration.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Invisible disabilities and fools

This reminds me so much of the very many idiots who think their neighbors are committing Social Security fraud simply because these idiots don't see their neighbors confined to wheelchairs. To these legions of idiots, most medical conditions are not overtly obvious to the eye, and this is doubly so with individuals who have zero medical training (meaning practically everyone).

From the article:

"I was diagnosed with a chronic joint disease in high school that has progressively worsened over the years, causing a major health issue for my right leg. I’ve had a series of invasive, painful medical procedures, but the exterior signs of my trauma are reduced to a series of scars on my ankle. When I’m wearing long pants, it’s impossible to distinguish me from anyone else — which is why I get horrible looks, and even overt hostility, from onlookers when I use my handicap placard. The battle between disabled and non-disabled people is one that is not highly publicized. But the manner in which general society perceives disabled people, specifically people who show no visual signs of their disability, is an ongoing issue that needs addressing."

To read the article and comments by others on the facebook page: Invisible disabilities

Social Security Video hearings

This is a post from attorney Charles Hall's blog. It leads off with the statement "In an effort to make it more difficult for claimants to object to video hearings..." Video hearings are conducted because SSA is trying to deal with the issue of hearing backlogs and how long it takes to get a hearing in each state (and it can vary considerably between states as well as between hearings offices within states) without adding more judges to the payroll. Of course, the budget of SSA is left to the discretion of Congress, not the agency and not the executive administration (the White House) which can only submit budget proposals. Purse string powers belong to Congress.

Claimants need to understand that it is their right to have an in-person hearing if they so choose and that means they can reject a video hearing. In an earlier post this from Mr. Hall's blog, he stated "over 220,000 claimants opted out of video hearings when they were given the chance in October and November of 2014. That's more than one in five pending requests for hearing. I'm surprised that the number opting out isn't even higher. Some claimants and attorneys are more willing than others to tolerate video hearings but nobody likes them."

What's interesting is what a couple commenters on that particular blog post had to say.

Commenter 1: "the VTC (video hearing) is the lesser of two evils when compared to the harm of even more months for the claimant waiting for a hearing".

Commenter 2: " is my opinion that VTC hearings are wholly detrimental to my claimant simply because of the impersonal and removed nature of the things".

Looks Like This Plan Didn't Work

Thursday, November 19, 2015

New entries on the SSDRC facebook page

Postings on the SSDRC facebook page

On this page, I'll list recent and older posting for the Facebook page for, the Social Security Disability Resource Center. For those who are unaware, I am a former disability examiner who worked at the DDS agency in Raleigh NC and who made decisions on SSD and SSI claims.

Here is an excerpt from my "about me" page on "As a disability examiner, I adjudicated Social Security Disability and SSI claims, which is simply another way of saying that I reviewed the medical and vocational evidence of a case in order to determine whether it should be approved or denied. This background gave me particular insight into how cases are determined, how the system actually works at the ground level, as well as certain commonly made mistakes that are often made and which should be avoided.

Finally, I have taken and passed the federal written examination that is administered by the Social Security Administration and which is authorized under Public Law No. 111-142, "The Social Security Disability Applicants' Access to Professional Representation Act of 2010". The purpose of this exam is to test knowledge of the relevant provisions of the Social Security Act and also knowlege of the most recent developments in SSA including court decisions that affect titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act."

Individuals who have questions about filing for disability benefits, or have filed and have questions about the process, appeals, or specific issues may want to visit or the facebook page ( where they can ask questions and share their experiences with other individuals. My hope is that, over time, that page will become a community where individuals can support each other in their fight for disability benefits.

Social Security disability requirements

Qualifying for disability with anxiety and panic attacks

When should you check on your disability case

Do you automatically get Medicare with Social Security disability?

Why and when does Social Security send you to a medical exam?

Getting a statement from the doctor for a disability claim

How to file for disability

Judges and decisions on disability claims

The Social Security disability DDS doctor

The chances of winning disability benefits

Social Security disability reconsideration appeal

Getting a disability lawyer or representative

How hard is it to get disability?

Applying for disability with carpal Tunnel

A statement from a doctor for Social security disability or SSI

What your doctor needs to state to help you win disability

How severe must your condition be to get disability?

About Social Security Mental Exams

The Social Security definition of disability

Social Security Disability and Pain

What to prove to qualify for disability benefits

Social Security Disability and Fibromyalgia

Texas disability hearings

Bad Social Security Disability Advice

Social Security Disability SSI and contacting your congressman to speed things up

You may apply for Social Security disability for any medical condition

When should you file for disability

Social Security Disability and Continuing to Work

Are Social Security Disability Exams Bogus?

Social Security Disability, SSI, and Traumatic Brain injury

You can certainly apply for disability with no history of treatment

What can I expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?

Why does Social Security send people to medical exams?

Will Social Security decide you can do your old job?

Why does Social Security send people to medical exams?

What can I expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?

Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI with Multiple Sclerosis MS

Social Security Disability and Statements from Doctors

Why do you have to go to a Social Security Doctor?

Social Security Disability approval rate

Social Security uses mental consultative examinations to evaluate a variety of mental disorders and conditions

Does everyone need an attorney or non attorney to win a disability case?

Stroke is often listed on a disability application

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ruby's Bequest - A story-telling Project

I was recently contacted by Patrick Tutwiler of United Cerebral Palsy. He mentioned a site I might be interested in, and, as it turns out, I am. I have an aging parent myself and I also recognize that all of us are inevitably headed toward some degree of disability. It's simply the nature of the human condition. However, I told Patrick that I really couldn't explain the site, Ruby's Bequest, better than he already did in his email. So, with his permission, I have reposted his email here:


So I’ve been reading your blog for a bit here, and I think I have a project you might be interested in posting about. Basically it’s a virtual-reality project called Ruby’s Bequest, sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), AARP, and the Institute for the Future (IFTF) which seeks to develop solutions to the imminent care-giving crisis.

I’m sure you and your readership are familiar with the problem:

There will be, in the near future, shortages of paid care-givers and direct service providers, shortages in government resources to assist people who use care services, and an influx of people who will need said services as more Boomers with disabilities start aging, and as more Boomers start aging into disability.

Ruby’s Bequest is a story-telling project which aims to provoke a massive brainstorming session amongst all its participants. During the course of the project, participants will be presented with various future scenarios containing various care-giving related problems. They will then have to put their heads together and imagine creative solutions to those problems.

The end result of the project will be a compendium of novel ideas and solutions to the near-term problems associated with care-giving and caring in general.

Hopefully it also serves as the beginning of a conversation about a new, more holistic and sustainable way to look at the role of caring in society.

Anyway, thanks for looking it over and let me know if you have any questions.


Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Friday, February 02, 2007

We move along

The GoldFish gave me permission to quote from her disability blog and so I'd like to present a few lines (quite a few actually) from one of her recent posts. Her post concerned moving, leaving a place...but so much more than that.

The post made me think of a few things and reminded me of others. Things I've read. Things I've thought. Places I've left. And people I've known who, living or not, have become inexorably removed from me as I am carried along, not always willingly, on the conveyor we call linear time.

I can see these people and places in my mind, as a still picture, or, in very reflective moments, as a short, personal movie clip. If the moment is right, I can hear sounds from long ago, and if I conjure hard enough I can grasp shadowy incarnations of an old scent or a past touch.

Any post on any blog that evokes such feeling is one that I highly recommend.

Here's the quote, followed by a link to the full post---

"I am fine, somewhat tearful. No reason; we have nothing to lose. I think there are only a handful of things in life anyone can claim that they have actually lost. We have both had a great time in this place and nothing can ever take that away from us. Only it moves into the past tense and can only be revisited in the imagination. We never get to revisit the great times in any case; even if their locations have been frozen in time, we have not. And that's not a bad thing. There are other great times, new adventures to be had ahead of us, new places which will become special to us further along the road. There are friends out there who we don't even know yet, perhaps a few who are not yet born, let alone all those who exist who we are only going to get to know and love better with time.

Nobody has died; nothing to mourn.

But saying goodbye, even to a place, even when you know that it's time to go..."

That was then

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sometimes the pages outlast us - An Internet journal on caring for an Alzheimer's parent

In the last few weeks, I've come across at least 2, perhaps 3, websites that are still operating despite the fact that their creators have passed away (yes, I prefer the euphemism, passed away, to die, though I will use die occasionally). And each time I do, I get the same feeling accompanied by my own staring off into the window behind my desktop monitor. What is that feeling? Well, as with so many feelings, it's difficult to translate. But...I just find it really neat that webpages that have expressed the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and sentiments of their creators can continue to live on the net, providing valuable information and sometimes needed insights to those who find them. And when that happens, the experience is not only a testament to the webpage writer, but a way for that writer's life experiences to be transmitted to others and passed on.

Unfortunately, it's not always the case that a person's pages will continue after they're gone. For most sites (some free sites may not fall into this category), hosting fees need to be paid every now and then and there's also the issue of domain registrations that need to be kept up. So, I would suggest to those who are aware of a family member's writings online, try to keep them going if you can after the person is gone.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if, oneday, someone decides that this is a good business idea; that is, for a small fee, ensuring that someone's pages will be maintained on the net. Though, this may already exist at the site, (however, there is no guarantee that will always be around).

Here's a link to one of the three sites I found recently. Her name was Denise Cooper and according to a short message at the top of the screen, she died in 2002. The journal she kept may be helpful to anyone caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease.

Coping with Alzheimer's disease by Denise Cooper

(It's sites like this that show the real potential of the web)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Forrest Landry and the Blog super highway

I came across Forest Landry's blog a moment ago and I was struck by several things he said on his 4pm, April 14th 2006 post (Forrest Landry).

" They automatically turn everyone down the first time, because they know that a good 80% will not appeal the decision. And then they turn down almost all the ones who appeal the first time, and they know there's a high percentage who won't go to the judge."

I wouldn't debate the statistic, but, for the most part, of course, Mr. Landry is right. And I've heard these sentiments espressed many many times. But seeing it in print on a blog "feels" a little different and, perhaps, a bit depressing.

"So I had to face the "retirement" demons early. It's not an easy process. There are layers of guilt about not working, not getting up and going to work, not being productive, not making a living, etc. that keep coming up like layers of the world's largest onion...Because we're taught from early childhood that going to work is the whole purpose we have in life."

I think I may have echoed this in another post I made. Or perhaps a comment on someone else's blog. And my sentiment was this: few people would really want a disability check versus having the ability to work. Why would you? Working pays more and it gets you out of the house and into the world. Yet our citizens who are legitimately disabled, who have lost the ability to remain employed at the level of SGA (substantial gainful activity) are made to feel guilty about their condition, circumstances, and are made to feel less worthy as individuals. Definitely a flaw in our society.

"I predict that there'll be millions of Boomers who will start up new companies and get part time jobs and do consulting and open hobby shops and just DO stuff to keep from idling in retirement."

I think he may be right about this. And I'll be very curious to see if it does happen.

Oh, well, that's the end of this post. That's the nice thing about blogging. You don't have to necessarily tie things up neatly. Just as you wonder about in the blogosphere you can drift about in each post.