Working Part-Time With Social Security Disability

When you file an application for Social Security disability benefits, you are alleging you are unable to work due to limitations from mental or physical impairments. Social Security must find that you are unable to engage in any full-time work for a period of 12 months or more, or that your condition will result in death. The phrase “full-time” is used a bit differently by the Social Security Administration (SSA) than other agencies. If you continue to engage in work while your application is pending, the SSA will examine your work activity to determine whether it meets substantial gainful activity, the agency’s equivalent of full-time work. Per the SSA, the monthly SGA amount in 2019 is $1,220 for non-blind and $2,040 for statutorily blind individuals. Therefore, if your income is over this amount, your application for benefits will likely be denied. This amount changes every year, for example, in 2018 the amounts were $1,180 for non-blind applicants and $1,970 for blind applicants.

Once you are approved for benefits, you may continue to work and earn income, however the SSA will be more strict in terms of how much you can earn. Any earnings will flag your account and you will be evaluated for a trial work period. In 2019, if you earn more than $880 per month, you may be in danger of losing your disability benefits. If you exceed the earnings limit for longer than nine months, this can be evidence to show that your disability has ended, and your benefits may stop. This can also cause you to be overpaid, as the SSA can find that you received benefits during months where you were not eligible due to work activity.

Returning to work during the application process could also change the way your benefits may be paid to you. If you have a period of at least 12 months where you were not engaging in work, but your condition improves and you return to work, this is called a closed period of disability. This means you would not be entitled to ongoing benefits, but you may be eligible for a lump sum payment for the period of time you were actually unable to work.

If you intend to work part-time while applying for Social Security disability, it is imperative that you keep track of your earnings in the form of your W-2s, 1099s, or weekly paystubs. You must also inform your attorney representative helping you with the claim so they can keep you abreast of any changes in the rules regarding working part-time while filing.

 

By

Madelyn Adamission


Can My Minor Child Receive Their Deceased Parent’s Disability Benefits?

If a minor child has a deceased parent, they can receive up to half of that parent’s full retirement or disability benefit. If there are multiple children in the family, they can each receive a benefit, as long as the total amount does not exceed the Social Security’s family maximum payment. In some situations, benefits may also be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and adopted children. The parent must have paid Social Security taxes or had been receiving benefits prior to their passing. Grandchildren can receive benefits if they were adopted by the deceased grandparent, living with them, or both of the child’s biological parents are deceased.

Typically, you should not need a lawyer to assist you in the application for child survivor benefits. You should only need proof of the parent’s death, the Social Security numbers of the parent & child, and the child’s birth certificate. The child must be unmarried, either under the age of 18, under the age of 19 and still in high school, or if they are over 18, they must have a disability that began before the age of 22. In order to prove disability, you must be able to provide medical documentation of their physical or mental impairments. In this situation it will benefit you to hire a Social Security disability attorney, as they can guide you through what is required to help prove disability and help defend your case by gathering medical evidence with you for your claim.

The benefits will stop when the child reaches the age of 18, unless they are enrolled full time in high school. In that case, the benefits will stop when the child graduates, or two months before they turn 19 years old. If the child is disabled, the benefits will continue after age 18, and they may be eligible for Social Security benefits as a disabled adult.

If you are the caregiver for the minor child, you may also be eligible for benefits as well. These benefits end earlier, at age 16, unless the child is disabled, and you take care of them exclusively.

In addition to ongoing child benefits, if the deceased parent does not have a surviving spouse, a one-time death benefit can be paid to the child, in the amount of $255.

If you have any questions about your child’s eligibility for survivor benefits or disability benefits, feel free to contact Hoglund Law, your Social Security disability attorneys.

 

By

Madelyn Adamission


How Much Is Social Security Per Month?

In Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases we often hear the question, “How much is social security per month?”  There is no easy answer, as there are two basic disability programs, Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) also known as SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Under the SSI program the maximum monthly benefit currently in 2019 is $771 per month for individuals and $1,157 for couples.  This amount may be different depending on other wages or income.  Social Security does not count the first $20 and does not count the first $65 of wages, but then considers the wages and divides by 2 and subtracts that amount from the possible $771.  Social Security also considers if someone is allowing you to stay with them for free and may reduce the monthly benefit amount.

The other disability program of DIB is based on your work history, your recent work credits and the taxes you paid into social security out of each paycheck from when you were working.  The amount of the monthly benefit will depend on those factors.  The DIB program

SSDI benefits..

It can be a confusing process, consult with an attorney for more information about social security disability and your potential benefits.

 

By

Jonathan Breyfogle

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Can I Work While On SSDI?

A common question I get from my clients is can I work while applying for or while receiving Social Security? The short answer is of course yes but it is important to understand the rules and how they may impact your benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance is only concerned with substantial gainful activity- or SGA. If your income is passive or unearned income such as that from a retirement plan or annuity it will not be counted against you. Supplemental Security Income is a different matter however, any income will affect SSI benefits.

So, what is SGA anyway? SGA is the set amount of income you’re allowed to earn in a month before it will affect your benefits. For the year 2019 SGA is set at $1220 per month minus any disability related work expenses. If you are working and earning above this amount it will have some effect on your claim. A single month of earnings over SGA will have little impact but consistently working above this amount will preclude benefits or lead to your benefits being discontinued. This does not just happen abruptly but in stages. Frist a trial work period would be triggered. A trial work period actually has a lower threshold than SGA. Earned income over $880 will count as a month of trial work and up to 9 such months in a 60-month period are allowable.  During a trail work period you can still receive benefits as you would normally.

If you work over your 9-month trial work period you are not eligible to receive benefits for any months you are working and earning over SGA- $1220. There is however a 36-month extended period of eligibility when you are eligible of benefits any month you are not able to work over SGA. For these reasons it is important to contact Social Security and update them with any changes to your work or income. You may be surprised by how much more eligibility you may have! A useful reference from the social security administration can be found at https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf or contact an attorney for help understanding your claim.

 

By

Joshua Millard

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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The Difference Between Social Security Disability And Supplemental Security Income And Attorneys Who Can Help

Social Security Disability is eligible to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits and are considered “insured” for the disability benefit. Supplemental Security Income is eligible to low-income individuals who have never worked or those who haven’t worked enough to earn the work credits necessary for SSDI.

 

Supplemental Security Income is a need-based benefit based on the income and assets of the individual. It is strictly based on financial need. To meet the income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets and a very limited income. These figures may adjust depending on marital status and those with legal dependents.

 

Social Security Disability Insurance is paid through payroll taxes. While working, an individual can make contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. Individuals are “insured” based on the length of time they have worked and how much they have paid into this benefit.

 

If you are having questions about the difference between these two benefits or have been turned down for social security benefits, you can contact an attorney in the area of Social Security Disability. You have the right to have an attorney represent you at all levels of the administrative process. Statistics have shown that claimants represented by social security disability attorneys have been much more successful in obtaining benefits than people who chose to represent themselves.

 

By

Jacklyn Zappa

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Disability Attorney

People with disabilities may wonder what kind of attorneys are available for them in their disability case.  There are social security disability attorneys who specialize in only this area of law.  A social security attorney can help file a claim, appeal the decision and represent them at a hearing.  Hoglund, Chwialkowski, and Mrozik, P.L.L.C. specializes in social security law.  Our firm can guide a person through the entire process from the initial application to the hearing.  We request medical records at no cost to the client and submit them to the judge.  We submit the required paperwork at each level of a claim and assist our clients through each step.  In addition, we have attorneys available to answer questions and concerns throughout the entire process.

Written by Deborah Bensch

Deborah Bensch graduated from Southern Illinois University Law School in May of 2006. She has been with Hoglund Law since the fall of 2011 practicing solely in Social Security Disability. Prior to joining Hoglund Law, she practiced in public interest law.

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How Does Social Security Disability Work?

The disability program through social security is funded by workers and set up to support individuals that become unable to work due to physical or mental limitations.  As an individual is working and paying into social security they are paying into retirement but also disability “insurance”, should they become unable to work.  “Insurance” meaning, Disability Insurance Benefits, aka your benefit amount and the time frame for which you qualify.  There are two disability programs, Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II and Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI) under Title XVI.

The DIB program is based solely on an individual’s past work and how much that person paid into the system.  Social security will look back 20 years and determine the amount a person qualifies for and for how long they qualify.  How long a person qualifies is called your Date Last Insured (DLI).  An individual must be found disabled prior to the expiration of their DLI in order to collect on those benefits.  The SSI program is based on household income and assets.  This program pays out on the same household basis.  A person may qualify for either program individually or both programs concurrently.

For help understanding which programs you qualify for or any other questions related to social security disability please contact us at Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik.

 

By

Lyndsey Sharpe

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Mental Health Problems And Social Security Disability

Many people suffer from a wide array of Mental Health impairments that could create an inability to maintain employment.  This blog will focus on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if you are disabled due to a mental health impairment.

At any level, the SSA must complete a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) based upon the degree of limitation of functioning you might have in various areas.  All areas are rated on a 5 point scale: no limits, mild limits, moderate limits, marked limits, and extreme limits.  The objective of the mental RFC is to produce an assessment where the decision maker can determine whether you can perform skilled, semiskilled, unskilled, or no work at all.  The most important aspect of a mental RFC is usually determining whether someone with a mental impairment is still capable of performing unskilled work.  A claimant must be incapable of performing any work to be disabled for mental impairment reasons alone, inability to perform past work is not as relevant.

The SSA evaluates one’s ability to understand, remember, and apply information.  This refers to abilities to learn, recall, and use information to perform work activities.  Examples include understanding and learning instructions, following 1 to 2 step tasks, using judgement to make work-related decision among others.

The SSA also evaluates one’s ability to interact with others.  This refers to how one relates to supervisors, coworkers, and the public.  Examples include cooperating with others, handling criticism, understand social cues among others.

The SSA also evaluates one’s ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.  This area refers to the ability to focus attention on work activities and stay on task at a sustained rate.  Examples include working at an appropriate and consistent pace, completing tasks in a timely manner, ignoring or avoiding distractions while working among others.

The SSA finally evaluates one’s ability to adapt or manage oneself.  This refers to abilities to regulate emotions, control behavior, and maintain well-being in a work setting.  Examples include responding to demands, managing psychologically based symptoms, maintain personal hygiene and attire appropriate to the work setting among others.

No matter the mental impairment, if it causes some work-related limitations then the SSA must use these areas to evaluate how much of a functional limitation the impairment causes.  Many people who apply for Social Security due to mental health problems will be turned down.  It is important to have an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney to help guide you through the process, make sure all relevant and important information is submitted, and provide logical arguments in support of you being found Disabled.

 

By

Matthew C. Garner


What Are The Qualifications For Being Eligible For social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) decides who is eligible for disability payments under rules established in the Social Security Act by the US Congress.  This blog will cover two main programs that administer disability payments: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  When you apply for Disability the SSA makes a determination as to whether you are eligible for either program and, in many cases, both programs.

SSDI provides payments to workers who have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund through Social Security tax on their earnings.  You must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify.  The law requires you to earn a certain number or work credits in a specific time being you are eligible for benefits.  You can earn up to 4 credits in a year and the amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise.  In 2019, you must earn $1,360 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $5,440 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.  Most people need at least 20 credits earned over ten years, ending with the year they become disabled.  However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.  Essentially you count backwards from the year you alleged you became disabled in order to see if you’re eligible.  Credits earned from many years in the past ultimately expire which can lead to situations where people who haven’t worked for many years before becoming disabled are not eligible.  The date in which you lose your eligibility is called the date last insured or DLI.  You can find out how many credits you have by contacting your local SSA office or searching on its website.

The SSI program provides payments to an adult or child who is disabled and has limited income and resources.  If your income and resources are too high, then you will not be eligible for SSI benefits no matter how Disabled you might be.  To qualify for SSI, your monthly income cannot exceed something called the federal benefit rate (FBR).  The FBR for a married couple is approximately 33% more than for an individual.  The FBR is set my law and increases annually as dictated by cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).  In general, in 2019, the eligibility limit is $771 per month for an individual and $1,157 per month for a couple.  The SSA does not count the following income and benefits when calculating your income level: $20 per month of most income; $65 per month of wages and one-half of wages over $65; food stamps; and some types of home energy/housing assistance.

In addition to income limits, your resources must also not exceed certain limits.  A resource is cash or another asset that can be converted to cash and used for support.  The resource limits are set by law and are $2000/single person and $3000/married couple.  The SSA will exclude certain resources with some of the more common exclusions being homes, wedding rings, necessary health aids like a motorized scooter, one automobile, various types of schooling assistance, life insurance up to $1500, and burial plots up to $1500.

This is a general guide as to whether you qualify for Social Security Disability under the 2 main programs.  There are other lesser known programs as well as other circumstances in which you may be eligible.  You can contact an attorney for more specific guidance or the SSA directly.

 

By

Matthew C. Garner


Social Security Disability Q & A: Offsets

Q: Can I receive Social Security Disability and my pension at the same time?

A: If you receive a private pension, you can still receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI). If you receive a government pension, you might not have contributed enough to Social Security through income tax withholdings to be eligible for SSDI. If you did, your eligibility may be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision, which could result in a reduction of your SSDI. Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are often confused with SSDI and would be reduced or precluded by any pension income.

Q: Can I receive Social Security Disability and Long Term Disability at the same time?

A: It depends on the Long Term Disability policy and the Social Security Disability monthly benefit amount. First, in order to receive Long Term Disability benefits, most policies require you to file for Social Security Disability. If you don’t, your Long Term benefits could be reduced based on what you would receive from Social Security, so there is no reason not to file for Social Security. If Social Security is denied, Long Term benefits will continue based on the policy. If Social Security is approved, the Long Term benefits could be reduced by how much you receive in Social Security.

Q: Will my Worker’s Compensation settlement affect my Social Security Disability benefits?

A: Maybe but probably not. Worker’s Compensation (WC) settlements are prorated into a monthly amount based on your life expectancy. That amount, combined with your monthly SSDI benefit, cannot exceed 80% of your Average Current Earnings. If it does, either the WC or SSDI benefits will be reduced, depending on your home State. This usually doesn’t happen unless the settlement is quite large.

Q: Will an inheritance affect my Social Security Disability benefits.

A: No. Social Security Disability benefits will not be reduced due to income such as an inheritance. However, the inheritance could affect how your SSDI income is taxed that year. Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are often confused with SSDI and would be reduced or precluded by an inheritance.

Written by Charles Sagert

Charles A. Sagert is a Social Security Disability attorney in Roseville, MN.

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Do You Get Back Pay For Being On Social Security Disability?

The simple answer to the question: yes. You can get back pay depending on when Social Security finds you to be disabled. After being found disabled, Social Security will determine the date you were disabled and whether you qualify for backpay. To receive backpay, you must be found to be disabled for at least five months. If you were disabled for five months before being approved, you have possibility to receive backpay.

 

If you have any further questions, please contact our office to speak with an attorney. (855-513-4357)

 

By

Brady Cysiewski

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Social Security For Mentally Disabled Adults

There are multiple areas that fall within the mental disorder category for Social Security Disability. Each category has a listing relevant to the cause of the impairment.  For this blog post, we will focus on four listings – intellectual disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

 

First, we will go through what is required to meet the listing for an intellectual disorder. This listing requires that an individual meet one of two sections of conditions. The first section’s conditions are that an individual is (1) unable to take standardized testing due to significantly subaverage intellectual function, (2) deficits in the ability to perform personal needs, such as dressing, bathing or eating, and (3) the evidence for the first two sections began prior to the age of 22.

 

The second section of this listing that can be met by meeting each of the following three requirements. The first requirement is the below average intellectual functioning that is shown by an IQ score lower than 70, or an IQ score between 71 and 75 along with a verbal or performance below 70. The second requirement is the extreme limitation of one of the following, or the marked limitation of two or more of the following: (a) ability to understand, remember, apply information, (b) interact with others, (c) concentrate, persist, or maintain pace, (d) adapt or manage oneself. The final limitation is that the evidence and history show that the impairment began before turning 22.

Meeting either of the paragraphs above would meet the listing for an intellectual disorder.

The next listing that we will go into is schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. To meet this requirement, an individual must have medical documentation of hallucinations, disorganized thinking or speech, or grossly disorganized behavior. The second requirement for this listing requires one of two conditions to be met. The first is either the extreme limitation of one of the following, or the marked limitation of two or more of the following: (a) ability to understand, remember, apply information, (b) interact with others, (c) concentrate, persist, or maintain pace, (d) adapt or manage oneself. The second condition is evidence that the disorder was serious and persistent for at least two years, with evidence of medical treatment, mental health therapy psychosocial support, or a highly structured setting that diminishes the symptoms, as well as a marginal adjustment showing that there is minimal capacity to adapt to changes in the environment that are not a part one’s daily life.

 

The next listing that we will be going over is regarding autism spectrum disorder. To meet this listing, an individual must satisfy both requirements. The first is either the extreme limitation of one of the following, or the marked limitation of two or more of the following: (a) ability to understand, remember, apply information, (b) interact with others, (c) concentrate, persist, or maintain pace, (d) adapt or manage oneself. The second is the medical documentation of qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication and social interaction, as well as having restrictive, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.

The final listing that will be examined within this post is regarding neurodevelopmental disorders. To meet this listing two conditions must be met. The first is either the extreme limitation of one of the following, or the marked limitation of two or more of the following: (a) ability to understand, remember, apply information, (b) interact with others, (c) concentrate, persist, or maintain pace, (d) adapt or manage oneself. The other condition is the medical documentation of one of three sections. The first is the significant difficulties learning and applying skills. The second is significant difficulties with recurrent motor movement or vocalization. The final section is either having frequent distractibility, or hyperactive behavior.

 

After meeting a listing, Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at how the mental disabilities affect the functioning of the individual. The functionality of a claimant will be determined using documented medical opinions, including the symptoms, medical history, diagnosis, and observations from the medical professionals. In addition, they will look at people who have observed the daily functioning of the claimant, and school records and accommodations made for the student while attending school.

 

It is important to your claim to contact social security or an attorney regarding your claim. Our office can be contacted at 855-513-4357.

 

By

Brady Cysiewski

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Can A Person Be Awarded Social Security Disability Benefits For Multiple Sclerosis?

Individuals who suffer from multiple sclerosis experience many difficulties due to their condition. At times, these difficulties are significant enough to prevent those individuals from working. There are essentially two ways that an individual can be approved for disability due to multiple sclerosis. Assuming the individual is not working over the earnings limit, a person with multiple sclerosis can be approved using Listing 11.09 or if the person’s residual functional capacity prevents competitive employment.

The Listings                                                                                                                                                                                        

Certain conditions are singled out, by law, by the Social Security Administration for special consideration. These conditions, if they manifest in specific, quantifiable, and medically documented ways, will result in medical approval for disability benefits if the sufferer in question is not working over the defined earnings limit. Multiple sclerosis is evaluated using Listing 11.09. The text is as follows:

11.09 Multiple sclerosis, characterized by A or B:

  1. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities (see 11.00D1), resulting in an extreme limitation (see 11.00D2) in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.

OR

  1. Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:
  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or
  2. Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or
  4. Adapting or managing oneself (see 11.00G3b(iv)).

While there are some terms used in the text of the Listing that are defined elsewhere, they are legal terms of art that can be best understood with the help of a Social Security Disability attorney. In a nutshell, meeting Part A of the Listing requires medical documentation that the individual in question either experiences significant difficulty arising from a seated position, standing and walking upright, or has limited use of his or her arms in specific, quantifiable terms.

Part B also uses specific terms of art, but focuses on the mental difficulties associated with multiple sclerosis. Documented, significant issues remembering and applying information, interacting with others, focusing, and managing the stress and change of work would result in meeting Part B of the listing. If the Social Security Administration finds that the requirements of Part A or B of the Listing are met, the individual is medically disabled per the rules.

Residual Functional Capacity

If the individual does not meet the requirements of Listing 11.09, it is still possible to be found disabled. The analysis continues as the Social Security Administration determines the individual’s residual functional capacity. This analysis attempts to quantify what an individual can do in terms of work activity based on any physical and mental impairments the individual has. With the help of vocational experts, the Social Security Administration will determine what, if any, work an individual is capable of. If a person’s limitations due to multiple sclerosis preclude competitive employment, they are medically disabled per Social Security’s rules.

Multiple sclerosis is a serious illness that requires careful evaluation and treatment by doctors. If an individual is considering applying for disability benefits due to multiple sclerosis, we strongly advise consultation with a Social Security Disability Attorney.

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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How Relatives On Social Security Disability Living With You Can Affect Your Benefits

People often wonder if their monthly benefits are affected if they have a Loved One move in with them who is also collecting Social Security Disability.

The first thing to ask yourself is, “Which program am I receiving benefits from?”  If you are receiving SSDI benefits, you never have to worry about other assets or income in your home.  SSDI benefits are awarded based on your work history and how much you paid in to the program while you were working.  As long as your medical condition prevents you from working, you are entitled to these benefits.

However, if you are receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, there are limits.  SSI is funded by general tax revenues and not by Social Security taxes, so it’s only available for the most needy.  Therefore, your monthly SSI benefits will be reduced if you have other assets, income or assistance.

SSI benefits are calculated using the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) which is tied to the Consumer Price Index.  Basically, as the cost-of-living goes up, the FBR is adjusted.  For 2019, the FBR is $771 for individuals and $1157 for married couples.  If you and your spouse are both disabled, this is the largest total amount you will receive as a couple.  If your spouse still works full-time and you have no dependent children, it is unlikely that you will qualify for SSI benefits.  (But remember, you may still qualify for SSDI benefits.)

Your monthly SSI benefits will be reduced dollar-for-dollar for any income you receive from things such as employment, annuities, child-support and other monthly insurance payments.  (The first $20 of unearned benefits and $65 of earned benefits are not counted toward your financial limits.)  Your monthly benefits will also be reduced if you are receiving assistance such as living with a family member who is providing you with free or low-cost housing.  If you are living in your own home and a family member (such as a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle) lives with you but is not contributing to your household expenses, your monthly assistance will not be affected but his/her benefits may be reduced by the value you are providing for his/her housing.

You can always contact your local social security office to address how any income or housing changes may affect your monthly SSI payments.  And a good attorney can also help you navigate the application and benefits process.

 

By

Tyler Rasmussen

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Can You Get Social Security Disability For Chronic Arthritis?

Is arthritis a disability under Social Security’s rules?  It can be.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether someone meets the criteria to receive disability benefits under their program.  The first step is to determine whether someone is working, and if they are, if they are working too much or earning too much to receive disability benefits.  This is called substantial gainful activity, or SGA.  In 2019, SGA is about $1,200 (gross, before taxes) per month.  If you are earning over that, your case fails at step one, you are not eligible for disability benefits under Social Security’s rules.

At step two, SSA will determine whether someone has medical impairments that are “severe.”  If your arthritis is affecting your ability to work or engage in your daily living activities, it can be considered severe under Social Security’s rules.

At step three, SSA determines whether your disability meets or equals a “listing” under their listings of covered impairments.  Arthritis is a condition that is included in Social Security’s defined listings of disabilities.  But, just because you have a diagnosis, that does not meet you automatically meet the listing.  In order to fulfill the criteria of the listing, your arthritis must be severe enough to meet certain requirements.  The listing includes requirements such as: persistent inflammation or deformity of your joints that either impairs your ability to walk effectively or severely inhibits your ability to perform both gross and fine movements in both of your hands.  If you have arthritis in your spine (back or neck), you must prove fixation of your spine to a specific degree.  These things must be supported by objective medical evidence from doctors or other medical professionals.

If you cannot prove that you meet the specific criteria of the listing for arthritis, you can also be found disabled at the next two steps if your medical records indicate that you cannot do your past work and you meet certain age, education and past work-experience criteria.  This involves SSA’s medical-vocational guidelines or “grids,” which are covered in more detail in separate blog articles.

Finally, at step five, if your arthritis is so severe that it keeps you from doing any job in the national economy on a continuing and sustained, full-time basis, you may also qualify for disability benefits.  Contact an experienced attorney at Hoglund Law to discuss your options.

Written by Tracy Kinney

Tracy is an associate attorney at Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik. She practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability law.

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Can I Get Temporary Or Short-Term Social Security Disability?

Most people who apply for social security disability benefits know that they will never be able to return to work. However, many people with medical impairments want to know if the can apply for benefits if they are only going to be off work for a few months, or if they are planning to go back to work at some point in the future.

Unlike many other benefits programs, such as workers’ compensation or private disability plans, the Social Security Administration does not offer short term or temporary benefits. To be entitled to social security disability, a person must be disabled for at least 12 consecutive months. Disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medical impairment or combination of medical impairments (in layman’s terms, inability to work any job, on full time basis, due to medical conditions).

As the above implies, a person can apply for a “closed period” of benefits if they do return to work, if they are disabled for at least 12 months or more. For example, take a person who is in a car accident, and is unable to perform any kind or work due to injuries suffered in that accident. They apply for disability, but, after 12 months (or more), they recover and can return to work (again, any work). That person could get a closed period benefits for the 12 months (or more) that they were unable to work.

Please note that not all work done after someone alleges disability precludes entitlement to benefits. Only work that is “substantial” (i.e., earning more than $1220/month, gross in 2019) will preclude entitlement to benefits. Furthermore, if a person claiming to disabled does work that is substantial but has to quit after 6 months or less due to their conditions, this may be considered an “unsuccessful work attempt,” and not considered substantial work. Lastly, even if a person engages in substantial work, it may not preclude benefits if they have “income related work expenses.” These are out-of-pocket costs for items related to a person’s medical conditions that enable them to work (for example, medical goods such as equipment, supplies, or medicines, and services such as special transportation to and from work or home care to help get ready for work).

The bottom line is, social security requires you to be unable to work any job full time for 12 consecutive months or more. However, due to the various exceptions to work rules, which can be complicated, hiring an attorney to get advice specific to your circumstances is often your best option.

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

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Working Part-Time On Social Security Disability

This blog article will address how part-time work is generally defined and if an applicant is allowed to do so while filing for Social Security Disability.

 

First off, the term “part-time” can mean a lot of different things.  Social Security uses more of an earnings-based definition for they typical W2’d employee.  When it comes to the allowable limit of earnings per month Social Security defines the limit and calls it “Substantial Gainful Activity.”  Generally speaking, when there is a pending claim for Social Security Disability and the Claimant decides to work, they are limited from earning anything more than the monthly Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount.  For the year 2019 that amount is $1220 per month, gross.  To clarify, this is not a take home amount or amount after any deductions be they taxes/medical/voluntary/judgments/etc.  For example, if a person is making $10 per hour and works 10 hours in a week their gross earnings for that week are $100.  If they get a bonus of $50 that week as well, that will put their gross earnings at $150 for the week.  That is what Social Security will count earnings as.

 

There are a couple of exceptions to the rule above.  One, if a person is blind and that is the reason they are applying for disability the SSA allows them to earn more.  For 2019 that SGA amount is $2040 gross earnings per month.  This applicant needs to be careful, though, as the blindness rules are fairly strict.  If the Claimant is not found blind by the SSA at any point in their claim and they earned at a level greater than $1220 per month, they will be likely to have eliminated the possibility of a claim based on other impairments for that application/time frame.

 

The other exception is self-employed individuals.  Self-employed individuals allowance for earnings while a case is pending is a different topic.  While the SGA amount of $1220 per month may come into play for some self-employed claimants, they also will compare what you made prior to filing for disability versus what that person is making while their claim is pending.  This topic will be addressed in a later blog article.

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

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Medicaid And Dental Insurance

A common question people having regarding their Social Security Disability benefits is if they are eligible for dental coverage. Under Medicaid, dental benefits for adults are not covered under federal law except for minors and young adults age 21 or younger, but it is optional under some state programs.

 

  • In Illinois, preventive dental care services are covered.
  • In Michigan, the dentist must participate in Healthy Michigan plan for dental coverage.
  • In Minnesota, dental services are covered.
  • In Missouri, dental coverage is available including examinations, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, and extractions.
  • In Ohio, dental coverage is quite extensive including checkups and cleanings.
  • In Wisconsin, dental services are covered.

 

It is recommended that if you receive Medicaid coverage that you speak with your state’s Medicaid program to determine the exact benefits you are eligible for.

 

Under Medicare, dental benefits do not cover most dental care; however, some Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) do offer extra benefits.

 

By

Deborah E. Bensch

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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How Long Can I Receive Social Security Disability Benefits Based On My Parent’s Earnings Record?

A child, under the age of 18, may qualify for benefits as their parent’s dependent.  These benefits usually end when the child turns 18, or 19 if they are still in high school.  However, if the child is disabled before the age of 22, they may be eligible for further benefits.

An adult who is found disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits.  Requirements of this include the parent being deceased or currently receiving Social Security retirement or Social Security disability benefits.  This is still considered a child’s benefit because they are paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.

When being evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) an adult child may include a stepchild, an adopted child, and even a grandchild or step grandchild.  This adult child must be age 18 or older, not be married, and have a disability that started before age 22 that meets the definition of disability for adults.

If an adult child receiving benefits gets married, the benefits may be discontinued.  However, there are exceptions to this rule.  Also, the SSA can perform continuing disability reviews (CDRs) to determine if the disabled beneficiaries still meet the medical requirements for eligibility.  If the adult child continues to meet the medical requirements, then benefits will continue.  However, if medical improvement is found, these benefits may be terminated.

In summary, children 18 years of age or older who have been disabled before they turned 22 and continue to be disabled, may be eligible for Social Security benefits if their parent is retired, disabled, or deceased.  These Social Security disability benefits for the child may continue as long as they are unmarried (some exceptions), and  as long as they are unable to work due to their disability.

 

For more information, please contact one of the attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik.

Written by Beau Chinn

Beau became an associate attorney with the firm in 2009. His practice focus is in Social Security Disability Law where he advises and represents clients throughout the many stages of the Social Security process. Beau is licensed in the state of Ohio as well as Federal District Court, Southern District of Ohio. He mainly works out of the firm's Columbus office, but practices throughout the state.

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Postponement Of A Hearing

This blog article will address some of the reasons for a postponement of a hearing that a Claimant or attorney has no control over.  These are in no particular order and not meant to be an exhaustive list.

 

One of the main reasons that a hearing is postponed is because of sickness or injury to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that presides over the hearing and makes the hearing decision.  Unfortunately, there typically is not much notice given in these situations.  Occasionally a substitute ALJ will be found either in the same office or sometimes a different location and appear via video teleconference (VTC).  If a substitute cannot be found the hearing will be postponed for obvious reasons.

 

Another reason a hearing is postponed is because an expert (either medical or vocational) that is scheduled to appear and testify may be sick or a no-show.  In those situations if the ALJ does not want to cancel, they will typically take as much testimony as possible and conduct a semi-complete hearing, but may have a supplemental hearing to take that testimony or send interrogatories in a written format to the expert to answer some questions that will help them render a decision.  The Claimant has the right to respond to these interrogatories and may at times request a supplemental hearing.

 

A third reason is the absence of a hearing monitor or security guard.  In these situations, again, substitutes will be searched for.  However, if none can be found, the hearing will be cancelled.  A hearing monitor is like a court reporter and is charged with making an audio recording of the hearing to preserve the record.  If that cannot be done the hearing will not happen.  A security guard with proper government clearance is necessary to complete a hearing as their role is to ensure safety in the federal government controlled facility, even in places where they are leasing space.

 

A forth reason a hearing is delayed is equipment failure.  For example, if the recording equipment used by the hearing monitor does not work the hearing will be rescheduled.  Or, if a hearing is scheduled to be completed by video, that equipment is down, and the ALJ does not wish to proceed by another means (i.e. telephone or driving to the hearing location if possible) the hearing will be postponed.

 

Finally, the most common reason a hearing is delayed is for weather.  If the SSA decides to close a particular hearing office or remote location (SSA local office where hearing is being co-conducted) the hearing will be cancelled and rescheduled.

 

If any of the above scenarios occurs a Claimant and attorney can usually expect to be rescheduled within about 3 months.

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

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What Do I Need For Social Security Disability Benefits?

To qualify for social security disability benefits you must have worked for a job that was covered under social security. You must have worked long enough, and recently enough, to build work credits under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year[1].

If you have paid into social security and you are eligible for its benefit, then you must also have a medical condition that falls under socials security’s definition of disability. Social security only pays for total disability; there are no benefits for partial or short-term disability. The social security’s definition of disability is as follows: Your condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remember- for at least 12 months[2]. Social Security will find you disabled if you cannot do the work that you did before, that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition, and that it has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

[1] https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html

[2] https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html#anchor3

 

By

Zacklyn Zappa

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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Applying For Social Security

Signing up for social security disability benefits is a simple process in concept but can lead to a few complications. To begin you must apply either over the phone with the Social Security Administration(1-800-772-1213) , online at https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/, or by visiting a local office.

To complete your application, you may be asked to provide information, such as your birth certificate, proof of citizenship, U.S. military discharge papers, if applicable, W-2 forms or self-employment tax forms, pay stubs, award letters or other documentation showing payment of worker’s compensation benefits. In addition to these forms, you may be asked to provide any medical evidence you have and an adult disability report[1]. These are necessary to show the extent of the disability. When applying, there are a list of questions that you may be asked to answer. The questions that social security asks are as follows: “

  • Your name, gender and Social Security number;
  • Your name at birth (if different);
  • Your date of birth and place of birth (State or foreign country);
  • Whether a public or religious record was made of your birth before age 5;
  • Your citizenship status;
  • Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf (if so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied);
  • Whether you have used any other Social Security number;
  • Whether you were ever in the active military service before 1968 and, if so, the dates of service and whether you have ever been eligible to receive a monthly benefit from a military or Federal civilian agency;
  • Whether you or your spouse have ever worked for the railroad industry;
  • Whether you have earned Social Security credits under another country’s Social Security system;
  • Whether you qualified for or expect to receive a pension or annuity based on your own employment with the Federal government of the United States or one of its States or local subdivisions;
  • Whether you are currently married and, if so, your spouse’s name, date of birth (or age) and Social Security number (if known);
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and Social Security numbers (if known) of any former spouses;
  • The dates and places of each of your marriages and, for marriages that have ended, how and when they ended;
  • The names of any unmarried children under age 18, age 18-19 and in elementary or secondary school, or disabled before age 22;
  • Whether you have or had a child under age 3 living with you during a calendar year when you had no earnings;
  • Whether you have a parent who was dependent on you for 1/2 of his or her support at the time you became disabled;
  • Whether you had earnings in all years since 1978;
  • The name(s) of your employer(s) or information about your self-employment and the amount of your earnings for this year and last year;
  • Whether you received or expect to receive any money from an employer since the date you became unable to work;
  • Whether you have any unsatisfied felony or arrest warrants for escape from custody, flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, or flight-escape;
  • The date you became unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions and if you are still unable to work; and
  • Information about any workers’ compensation, black lung, and/or similar benefits you filed, or intend to file for. These benefits can:
    • Be temporary or permanent in nature;
    • Include annuities and lump sum payments that you received in the past; and
    • Be paid by your employer or your employer’s insurance carrier, private agencies, or Federal, State or other government or public agencies. ” [2]

 

After completing your application, Social Security will review the application and decide whether you qualify for benefits. It may be helpful to obtain an attorney even while applying.  An attorney can help with completing the application, help you avoid common mistakes and even ask for opinions from current doctors.  The Social Security Administration will not do any of these things.  For any questions, please contact our office at 1-855-780-4357 for further assistance.

[1] https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3368.pdf

[2] https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-16.html

 

By

Brady Cysiewski

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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What Makes Good Social Security Judges?

I recently wrote about why some Social Security administrative law judges (ALJ’s) deny so many more people for disability benefits than other judges (“Why Do Some Social Security Administrative Law Judges Deny So Many More People than Others?”).  Public records show widely varying approval rates here.  In this blog, I will write about what attributes make good Social Security judges.

 

Hearings are at the third step of the Social Security disability appeals process.  Expect a denial when applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at the application and reconsideration levels.  At the next level, your Social Security benefits hearing, you speak with a judge either in person or by video about what medical problems keep you from working full-time.

 

ALJ’s approval rates at these Social Security hearings vary widely with the same kinds of cases.  In my prior blog, I wrote a few reasons why some ALJ’s deny so many more people.  These ALJ’s can:

 

  1. Misunderstand (purposely or out of inexperience) objective medical evidence.
  2. Discount the true impact of pain on functioning (lacking objective empathy).
  3. Want a reputation that they deny claims (personal motivations that are not objective).
  4. Overprotect the system, denying valid claims (while rooting out “fraud”) in the process.

 

On the other side of the coin, some attributes—in my experience—are common to good ALJ’s.  They are below.

 

Good ALJ’s investigate facts.  Law school teaches law students how to think critically.  We are taught to sift through facts and select those necessary to resolve legal issues.  Intelligent problem solving, however, requires investigating ALL facts rather than jumping to conclusions.  Social Security claims involve sifting through medical facts in medical records—something NOT taught in law school.  Good ALJ’s take time to look at ALL medical facts and weigh them in light of the medical evidence.  Good ALJ’s research what they do not understand.  The result?  Good ALJ’s have a better understanding of medical evidence.  Better hearing decisions come from a deeper understanding of the evidence.

 

Good ALJ’s have open minds.  Open minds allow good ALJ’s at hearings to actively listen at disability hearings.  Hearing testimony gives a personal perspective to medical conditions.  ALJ’s with closed minds, however, make hearings irrelevant and unproductive.  Rather than listening to other points of view, closed minds prejudge select facts—blocking a full perspective on the medical evidence.  For example, I know of a case in which a woman’s medical record included a comment from a treating doctor along these lines:  “Patient is a homemaker for her children.”  This ALJ decided this comment meant that the woman “chose” to stay home and was not disabled.  This simplified inductive reasoning prejudged her claim for disability.  I have known other ALJ’s who consider the hearing irrelevant because they read the medical records.  You cannot know a person from paper.  Such is the thought process of a closed mind.  Good ALJ’s, though, know that a full perspective on other people’s life experiences is key to judging well, quite like surveilling unfamiliar land is key to good map making.  By “surrounding” the evidence, good judges can map out a person’s medical conditions more truly and accurately.  Better hearing decisions come from a broader perspective on the evidence.

 

Good ALJ’s have patience.  People are different.  Medical conditions are unique.  Everyone describes medical problems differently.  Good judges know this, and listen.  They recognize that hearing rooms are not assembly lines of people to “get through.”  Good judges also recognize that people are vulnerable.  Hearing rooms are not courtrooms.  They are “non-adversarial.”  In my experience, impatient judges tend to upset clients at hearings.  This is unnecessary and reflects an inability on some level to empathize.  People with anxiety, for example, tend to get upset easily.  It is easy to upset a person under the stress of a Social Security hearing when you know their vulnerabilities.  You have their medical records!  Good judges, on the other hand, are patient and respectful at hearings.  Respectful discussion at hearings is productive, and leads to more informed hearing decisions.

 

Choosing good Social Security ALJ’s is a matter of gauging social IQ.  Grades are a poor indicator of the ability to relate to people.  Being a good tax lawyer, for example, has absolutely no bearing on being a good Social Security ALJ.

 

Advice for SSA:

 

  1. When reviewing existing ALJ’s, listen to hearing audio. Contentious ALJ’s have patterns of raising voices and disrespectfully cutting off answers.  Such behavior is entirely unnecessary.

 

  1. When hiring ALJ’s, hire smart attorneys who can demonstrate REAL LIFE client experience. Lawyers in government back rooms are not the ideal showcases for talent interacting with people.  Good ALJ’s have been on the front line in life, and can relate to other peoples’ reality.  The right people doing a job well leads to less burnout.  Good Social Security judges can relate to people fairly and respectfully.  Good ALJ’s, in my experience, help the Social Security Disability program immeasurably.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

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Testimony of family members/friends/significant others at SSDI hearings

This blog article will address some questions that I get when representing Claimant’s at SSDI hearings and can be used to set expectations of family members.

In almost all cases the only person to testify on the Claimant’s behalf is the Claimant. The reasons are fairly simple as to why. First, as a family member and someone that has assisted the Claimant in their quest for benefits you will be assumed to have a vested interest in the Claimant getting their benefits and as such your testimony could be deemed skewed or one sided. As an empathetic family member who probably knew the Claimant prior to the deterioration of their medical condition, there is naturally an emotional aspect of having watched them deteriorate that could potentially overstate what they witness of the Claimant in daily life.

SSDI Administrative Law Judge

Second, these cases generally will have progressed over a period of a few years and will have medical records covering issues such as physical activity, mental health limitations, etcetera that do an excellent job corroborating the testimony of the Claimant. I like to tell clients that their medical records give the best insight into what a “typical day” is like when they are attending their regularly scheduled appointments. When a patient visits their clinic/hospital for any reason it is common for the medical provider to write in their observations of a person’s mood, gait, pain, alertness, attitude, etc. These notes assist (Administrative Law Judge) or ALJs, in their analyses of what a person is capable of.

Third, the ALJ is most interested in what a Claimant thinks of their own capabilities and struggles. Often when family members actually do testify they have a tendency to state how difficult the Claimant’s situation is on them personally, not the Claimant. The hearing is the Claimant’s time to tell their story in a limited timeframe.

Occasionally there are valid reasons for outside testimony from a family member. When there are traumatic brain injuries or severe memory issues to the point where a Claimant cannot articulate AT ALL what they experience medically on a daily or weekly basis. These situations are extremely rare. Another more common situation is when the Claimant is a child. In these situations, depending on the age of the child the parent/guardian will be expected to complete the picture for the ALJ.

 

By Robert Tadych

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

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Can I Work While I Receive Social Security Disability?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can work and still receive disability benefits. As you might imagine, however, there are several limitations and caveats. The first major thing to consider is what type of benefits are you receiving, i.e., disability insurance benefits (“DIB” or “SSDI”) or supplemental security income (“SSI”). Let’s start with the first.

If you are receiving SSDI benefits (disability paid to those who have worked enough to be eligible), you can earn up to $880 per month in 2019 (that’s gross, or before taxes, insurance or any other deductions). If you earn more than $880 in a month, that counts as a “Trial Work Month.” There is no limit to how much you can earn during a trial work month. You get 9 trial work months in the 60 months (5 years) after you are found disabled. These do not have to be consecutive (meaning you could earn over $880 one month, then under for 1 or more months, then over again, and that counts as 2 months). Once you have used your 9 months, you have 36 months (3 years) of an “Extended Period of Eligibility.” During these 36 months, you can still receive benefits, if your earnings for that month are not “substantial” (defined as not over $1,220 per month, gross). There are exceptions/modifications to the substantial earnings rule, such as if your work is done under special conditions (i.e., you receive special assistance, or are given extra breaks, etc.). Another exception is if you have “income related work expenses (i.e., you have to pay out of pocket expenses to get to work, for things like special transportation, etc.).

If you are receiving SSI benefits (disability paid to those with limited income and resources), social security will reduce your benefits by your earnings. They will not count the first $85 you earn in the month, but will then reduce your benefits by 50 cents for every dollar you earn. For example, if you earn $500 in a month, they don’t count the first $85, which leaves $415. They then reduce your monthly benefits by half of that, or $207.50. Moreover, if your income, when added to any other resources, exceeds Social Security’s limits, your benefits stop altogether. The resource limits vary from state to state, but generally you cannot have more than $2,000 if you are single, or $3,000 if you are married (they do not count 1 car and they do not count your residence, i.e., house, apartment, trailer as a resource).

Whatever the case, be sure to always contact social security and inform them of the start, end or change related to any work you do.

by Scott Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

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Widow Benefits

When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse may be entitled to benefits.  If the surviving spouse is over the age of 60, he or she is eligible to receive their spouse’s benefits.  However, if the surviving spouse is disabled, they are entitled to these benefits at the age of 50.  The disability needs to occur during the prescribed period that is the disability started within seven years of the spouse’s death and the disabled spouse reaches the age of 50 during that seven-year time span.

If the living spouse does not have children collecting benefits from the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive 71.5% of the decease’s SSDI benefit amount.

To be found disabled, the surviving spouse must provide medical evidence that he or she has a physical or mental health impairment.  The impairment must prevent the individual from earning substantial gainful activity and be expected to last at least 12 months or until death.  In 2019, substantial gainful activity means earning $1220 or more before taxes in a month from employment.  In addition, the impairment either must meet a listing or that the impairments limit the individual from doing any work in the national economy.  However, at the age of 50, Social Security considers the individual’s age and it may be easier to qualify for disability.

If a person believes he or she is unable to work due to a medical condition, is 50 or older, and their spouse is deceased, they can contact Hoglund Law 1-855-513-4357 to have an attorney review their claim.

Written by Deborah Bensch

Deborah Bensch graduated from Southern Illinois University Law School in May of 2006. She has been with Hoglund Law since the fall of 2011 practicing solely in Social Security Disability. Prior to joining Hoglund Law, she practiced in public interest law.

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What will my Social Security Judge ask me at my Disability Hearing?

Q & A with 25+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

 

Q:  What will my Social Security judge ask me at my Disability hearing?

A:  While each Social Security hearing is different, there are two main kinds of questions your Social Security Disability judge may ask you:  Questions about your physical limitations and questions about your mental limitations.  Questions about your physical limitations can include:

  • What physical problems limit your ability to work?
  • What chores do you do at home? How do you do them?
  • Have any of your doctors asked you to do exercises? If yes, do you do them?
  • How long can you stand at a time before you need to sit? Why?
  • How long can you sit before you need to stand? Why?
  • How long can you walk in blocks before you need to stop? Why?
  • How much can you lift at a time?
  • Do you drive? How far?
  • Do you shop for groceries? Do you go alone?

Questions about your mental limitations can include:

  • What mental problems limit your ability to work? Why?
  • Do you see a psychiatrist or psychologist for your mental health? If yes, who?
  • What medications do you take for your mental health? Do they have side effects?
  • What mental health symptoms do you have despite taking medications?
  • How well do you get along with other people? Who do you keep in contact with?
  • Can you care for your basic needs?

Q:  How should I prepare for these kinds of questions at my Social Security hearing?

A:  While it is important to know what kinds of questions you will be asked at your hearing, I recommend that my clients simply pay attention to the judge’s questions and answer them directly and simply.  Do not write out answers ahead and try to read the answers.  Do not ask your attorney in the hearing about how to answer the judge’s questions.  Do not be defensive about your answers.  Also, think of examples of limitations you have day-to-day that will help the judge picture your limitations.  For instance, when asked about how well you get along with people, you may answer the question, and then add how often you may need to be alone in your room, and then comment on a specific time this recently happened.  Your attorney should be ready to ask you for examples of how your physical or mental issues have actually impacted your life.

Q:  How should my Social Security attorney prepare me for the questions at my hearing?

A:  Every Social Security hearing is different depending on unique combinations of medical problems.  Your attorney should go through your medical records and ask you about any discrepancies between what you and your doctors think is wrong.  This way, you can think through what the judge may need to understand about your medical issues and treatment.  Also, your attorney may need to ask you about how often you have your symptoms and how long they last.  For example, if you have migraines or seizures, the judge at your Social Security hearing will need to know how often your experience these issues and how long each episode may last.  Finally, your attorney should help remind you of the basic timeline of events in your medical record, such as injuries or surgeries.  This will help you answer questions about how you have felt over time leading to your hearing.

Q:  How do my answers at my Social Security hearing help the Social Security judge?

A:  After speaking with you at your hearing, your Social Security judge will ultimately decide whether your physical and mental limitations would allow you to return to your past kind of work or other work full-time.  Based on your age and medical problems, your attorney at your Social Security hearing can explain to you what factors may allow you to be approved for Social Security disability benefit.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

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How Can my ALJ Misunderstand my Evidence at my Social Security Hearing?

REAL EXPERIENCE SERIES:

Q & A with 25+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

Q:  What can my Social Security ALJ misunderstand about my evidence at my Social Security Disability benefits hearing?

A:  ALJ’s, as your Social Security judge is called, will form opinions about you based on your employment history and medical treatment record.  These opinions, right or wrong, can influence how your hearing goes even before you walk into the hearing room.  Unfavorable hearing decisions are created by templates that attack weaknesses in claims—even if they are merely assumptions.  Unfair or not, you need to be aware of the kinds of assumptions your ALJ may make about you.  Fight errors!

Q:  What might the ALJ assume about me?

A:  Here is a list of different scenarios that occur in Social Security hearings, assumptions that may arise from them, and how to combat them at your hearing:

  1. When your medical treatment is sparse or nonexistent, your ALJ may assume you are healthy. In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ at your hearing understands that you may have lost your insurance, been homeless, lacked physical access to treatment, or that chronic conditions do not require the need for ongoing care.  In the last case, conditions such as cerebral palsy or low IQ may not warrant annual treatment or medications.  So, once you apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, treat regularly for ALL your medical conditions that limit your ability to work.  Retesting for chronic conditions may be necessary as well.  Also keep in mind your ALJ is not a doctor.  He or she may make assumptions about your remote treatment history for your chronic medical problems.  For this reason, touch on your remote medical history at your hearing!
  2. When your work history is poor, your ALJ may assume you are simply not motivated to work. In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ understands that you may have remained at home to care for children, care for a sick family member, or had unreported work.  SSA can see your work history.  It is difficult to prove you cannot work if it appears you have never tried.  Speak with your Social Security attorney about this.
  3. When you currently do not take medications, your ALJ may assume you are either healthy or non-compliant (failing to follow your doctors’ treatment). In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ understands that you may have had: (1) an addiction history that precludes you taking pain medications, (2) no access to insurance, or (3) a history of adverse reactions to other medications you are expected to take.  Make sure that the ALJ, and your doctors, understand your reality.

In my experience, Social Security hearings are error-prone because assumptions are made all the time about what is NOT in the evidence.  While your claim is pending, find trustworthy medical providers who follow through on treatment, make timely specialist referrals, and order the right testing.  You deserve the best medical treatment, and the best treatment gives you a better odds of either returning to work or proving disability.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

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Child Support and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

Some Social Security Disability applicants have child support obligations. Those obligations do not go away when an individual is forced to stop working due to his or her medical conditions. If those obligations are not paid on time, it is quite possible that the arrearages can add up over time while an individual fights for his or her disability benefits. If and when benefits are awarded, those benefits can be garnished depending on the program he or she is approved for.

There are two different disability programs. One, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on financial need. The other, Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI), is based on an individual’s work history and how much he or she paid into the system. By rule, SSI benefits cannot be garnished for any reason or by any entity. RSDI, though, may be garnished to pay past-due child support. This includes any backpay an individual receives, not just ongoing monthly benefits.

Those who receive RSDI often also get auxiliary benefits for their minor children. Those benefits are sent to the adult who has majority-custody of the children in question. These are not a substitute for child support obligations that must be paid.

In situations such as these it is prudent to consult an attorney for assistance in petitioning the court to lower your child support obligations. This will not reduce an individual’s past-due child support obligations, but may reduce your future obligations due to a significant change in his or her circumstances.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

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I have epilepsy, Am I Eligible for Social Security?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which may also be called a seizure disorder. This means that you experience seizures, which are not caused by another medical condition. There are multiple types of seizures, and the symptoms vary to mild, infrequent episodes, to multiple daily episodes. You may experience behavior or vision changes before a seizure comes on. The seizure itself might be a grand mal episode, which is the type more people are familiar with, where the person experiences full body shaking. Another type of seizure are absence seizures, or staring spells, where the person doesn’t move or twitches only one body part.

Epilepsy is usually diagnosed by neurological examinations, laboratory tests, imaging such as an MRI of the brain, and by EEG tests, which look at the electric waves of the brain to help diagnose epilepsy. In some cases, people experience frequent seizures without epileptic activity of the brain. These types of seizures may be best treated by a combination of neurological and psychological methods. Epileptic seizures are mainly treated by medication with close monitoring.

There are two main ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) can find you disabled because of your seizures. There are rules called the Listings of Impairments, and epilepsy is defined very clearly in Listing 11.02. The SSA recognizes the two main types of seizures, and calls them generalized tonic-clonic and dyscognitive seizures. For generalized tonic-clonic, you must prove you have episodes at least once a month for three consecutive months while compliant with treatment. For dyscognitive seizures, you must prove you have episodes for at least once per week for three months, while compliant with treatment. If you are unable to prove this frequency, they will consider fewer episodes, however you must prove you have severe limitations in your physical functioning, ability to remember and understand information, your ability to interact with others, maintain appropriate concentration and persistence with your functioning, and that you have an inability to take care of yourself because of the seizure episodes.

The best way to provide proof of this is to have consistent treatment with a neurologist or other epileptic specialist. They would ideally be involved in monitoring your medication and encourage you to keep some sort of diary or journal of the frequency of your episodes. It would be important to keep track of all the symptoms related to the seizure, including any warning signs, length of the episode, any post seizure symptoms, and details regarding your compliance with prescribed medications.

Another way that the SSA can find you disabled is if they find that despite your condition, you are so limited by your seizures that you would be unable to perform any work in the national economy. If your condition doesn’t quite meet the Listing, then the SSA will consider whether your seizures make it unlikely that you would be able to sustain working at least eight hours a day, or if your seizures would affect your concentration so much that you would be unable to learn any position, you would be excessively distracted, or you would be a hazard on the job.

Filing for disability can be a lengthy process, but people with epilepsy can certainly qualify as long as you are treating consistently, compliant with medications, and have well-documented episodes.