There Will Be No More Updates

Thank you for visiting the Social Security Disability Law Blog.

This will be the last blog post as I no longer will be practicing Social Security Disability law.

I will leave the blog up because I think there is a lot of valuable information on here for anyone who is currently applying for either Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income.

As I wrote about previously, in addition to the information available on this blog I published a Book that is available on Amazon in the eBook format for the Kindle and in paperback through Createspace. The Book is titled "Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? 33 Commonly Asked Questions Answered."

The book provides very detailed answers to 33 commonly asked questions related to the SSD and SSI processes by an experienced disability lawyer. 


My Book Now Available For Kindle & Paperback via Amazon

Buy The eBook
I published an eBook through Amazon titled "Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? 33 Commonly Asked Questions Answered."

A long title, but it leaves no doubt for the reader what the book is about.

If you have a Kindle then you can get the book at this link and in paperback through Createspace.

About The Book:

Have you applied for or are considering applying for either Social Security Disability Benefits (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? If so, then you likely have many questions that need answering. This book provides very detailed answers to 33 commonly asked questions related to the SSD and SSI processes by an experienced disability lawyer.

The following questions are answered in detail:

1. What Social Security Disability Benefits Are There?
2. What Is The Difference Between SSD And SSI?
3. What Is Social Security's Definition Of Disability?
4. What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?
5. What Is The Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process?
6. What Can A Social Security Attorney Do For Me?
7. What Is Sheltered Work?
8. How Far Back Can I Receive Back Payment?
9. What Does Date Last Insured Mean?
10. How Do I Find Out My Date Last Insured?
11. How Long Does It Take To Receive A Decision?
12. Are There Any Disabilities That Social Security Awards Benefits Faster To?
13. If I Don't Have Enough Work History Credits, Can I Still Get Benefits?
14. I Have A Private Long Term Disability Policy, Should I Also Apply for Social Security Disability?
15. How Important Are Medical Records When Applying For Social Security Disability?
16. What Is Reconsideration?
17. Do I Have To Pay Taxes On Social Security Disability Benefits?
18. I Was Recently Awarded SSD, When Do I Get Medicare?
19. I Was Recently Awarded SSI, Do I Get Medicare or Medicaid?
20. How Long Are Doctors Or Hospitals Required To Keep My Medical Records?
21. Social Security Sent Me A Direct Express Card, What Is It?
22. What Is A Common Mistake Claimants Make That Is Easily Fixed?
23. Where Is My Local Social Security Office?
24. I Received Mail From Social Security, What Should I Do?
25. Can I Receive SSI If I Leave The United States?
26. I Worked On The Books, Why Does Social Security Say I Don't Have Enough Work History Credits?
27. My Doctor Is Not Willing To Cooperate With Social Security or My Lawyer, What Should I Do?
28. I'm A Veteran and Receiving Veterans' Benefits, Do I Also Get Medicare If I'm Disabled?
29. My Doctor Says I Am Disabled, Why Did Social Security Deny Me?
30. What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?
31. If I Inherit Money Will That Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?
32. Can I Apply For Both Early Retirement And Disability Benefits At The Same Time?
33. What Questions Does The Judge Ask At The Social Security Hearing?

How Facebook, Twitter & Social Media Can Affect Your Social Security Disability Application

Administrative Law Judges are not allowed to google the name of clients and find out information about them. But, just because they are not allowed to do it, doesn't mean that they don't do it. Maybe that's just the cynic in me. But, I don't assume that just because it's been banned that Social Security judges and disability examiners that work for Social Security don't ever use the internet to look up a claimant's name.

This Delaware Disability law firm has some useful advice:
What I suggest that you do if you are applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income payments is do a Google search for yourself and know what is viewable if you aren’t logged into any websites. If you are not sure if information you have posted would be viewed negative, then you probably should not have it publicly available. After you have deleted (or made private) anything you think could be viewed negative, ask a family member or close friend to view your public page to determine if they think anything is still negative. Even consider removing information from your private page that could be viewed negative. You would be shocked how often friends or family report possible fraud in disability claims because of things they see or hear.
Just because you are applying for disability doesn't mean you have to live like a hermit or that you have to be miserable 24/7. But, it's all about perspective. You don't want to somehow give someone the wrong impression based on a comment or picture you post on a social media website.  Especially if that person is responsible for deciding whether or not you get disability benefits.


Social Security Makes $24,000 Mistake

A Buffalo woman has an interesting story about a mistake with her Social Security disability monthly benefits. According to WIVB.com:
Cheryl Smeal's monthly disability benefit is about $400. So when Social Security sent a letter saying her next month's benefit would be more than $24,000... it got her attention. So did another letter she received the same day, saying it was a mistake.

"I'm like, 'Oh my God! I've got some moolah coming to me and things will be a little bit better.' But I opened the next letter and it said that, 'we overpaid you $24,760,'" Smeal recalled.
And the correspondence says Smeal would have to pay the money back. But the money is electronically transferred to her government debit card and Social Security won't take it back.
It's important to always pay attention to how much Social Security has sent you and compare that to what you are supposed to be receiving. In this instance it was obvious with the huge amount of money involved that it was a mistake. However, there are times when the mistakes are much smaller amounts of money but over a period of months the money can add up. If Social Security notices the error, which they likely will, they will be asking to be reimbursed for the overpayment.

Trust me, it's better to let Social Security know as soon as you are aware that there's a mistake. If they pay you $100 per month more than you are supposed to get and they don't notice for three years, you're going to owe them $3,600.  That's a headache you'll want to avoid if at all possible.


What Questions Does The Judge Ask At The Social Security Hearing?

Chances are that if you are reading this, you currently are waiting for your hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to be scheduled or your hearing was recently scheduled. You've applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and have been denied at least once or possibly twice (if your state has the Reconsideration stage).

In general Social Security hearings are pretty informal, nothing like you're accustomed to seeing on Court TV or the news. Typically, the only people in the hearing room are the judge, a court reporter who types what is being said, the claimant and if you are represented, your representative. It's also common for the Administrative Law Judge to request that a vocational expert and/or a medical expert testify at the hearing.

The main purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to testify. The majority of the time spent in the hearing room is spent with the judge asking the claimant questions and if you are represented by someone, having your representative ask you questions to inform the judge of important details.

Typically the judge will ask questions in order to better understand your case and obtain the required information to determine if you meet Social Security's definition of disability.

For the most part the the questions you are asked by the judge will fall into four categories:

Background Information
The judge will ask you questions about your education, who you live with and where you live. Basically, the simple questions that you shouldn't generally have to think twice about.

Work History
You will be asked about your work history from fifteen years prior to your alleged onset date up to the last job you held. You should be able to briefly explain where you worked, what you did on a daily basis, be able to explain what you were responsible for doing, whether the job was a physical job, whether you spent most of the day sitting down/standing up, whether you interacted with customers or the general public and what if anything you were responsible for lifting. If you have any earnings since your alleged onset date you may be asked to explain what this money is for.

Medical Condition(s)
Obviously you will be asked many questions about your disabilities and how they affect you on a daily basis. You will be asked what doctors you have seen, how often you visit the doctor, what medications you've been prescribed, what body parts are affected, how often you are in pain, how often you feel the side effects of your disability, what causes your pain or symptoms to get better or worse.  You may be asked if the medication helps your problems, if the medication has side effects or if you have ever been hospitalized. You should also be prepared to explain any gap in medical treatment (for instance if you no longer had medical coverage).

Be prepared for the one question that I believe every single judge I've ever appeared in front of has asked -- "In your opinion, what prevents you from working?"

Daily Activities 
This may be the most important portion of the hearing because it gives the judge an idea about into how you are affected on a daily basis by your disabilities. It gives them insight into what your limitations are. It's here where the judge will typically be able to determine whether he/she thinks you are a credible person or whether he/she believes you are exaggerating.

It's important to make sure the judge understands your limitations and how your disability prevents you from doing daily activities. But, at the same time, you do not want to lie or exaggerate. The judges who appear at Social Security disability cases hear hundreds of disability cases each year and literally thousands of cases in their lifetime. They can usually tell if someone is lying to them or if the person testifying in front of them is exaggerating their limitations.

The judge will ask questions about what your typical day consists of, what you do from when you wake up in the morning until when you go to bed at night, what chores you are able to do, whether you can drive, whether you can go out by yourself, whether you can cook/shop/do laundry. 

If you are preparing for your Social Security Disability hearing then you may want to read my blog post "What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?" and "common Social Security disability mistakes that are easily fixed."


Can I Apply For Both Early Retirement And Disability Benefits At The Same Time?

If you are between 62 and 65 years old and currently have either a physical and/or mental disability that is preventing you from working you may want to consider Social Security Disability. Many individuals who have reached 62 or are approaching 62 years old never even consider applying for disability benefits. They know that they have to stop working due to their disabilities so they simply apply for early retirement through Social Security.

If you want to know your full retirement age, then you can view that on the Social Security website.

According to Social Security:
You can retire at any time between age 62 and full retirement age. However, if you start benefits early, your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.
It's important to note that if you receive early retirement, the reduced monthly benefits that you receive are the benefits that you will receive for the rest of your life. So, if you receive 25% less benefits than you would at full retirement age, you will receive 25% less until the day you die. Some people think that the penalty is removed once they reach full retirement age but that is not the case. 

Those who are between the ages of 62 and 65 years old have the ability to file for Social Security early retirement benefits and also apply for Social Security disability benefits at the same time. What happens is you start receiving the reduced monthly benefits through early retirement and if you are eventually awarded Social Security Disability benefits your monthly benefits will be increased to your full retirement amount. (If your Social Security Disability application is denied however you are stuck receiving the reduced early retirement benefits).

If you apply for early retirement while waiting for your disability application to be processed then if you are eventually awarded disability you may be able to recover the difference in benefits retroactively for the months that the disability application was being processed by Social Security.