Social Security Disability:

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Disability According To Social Security

Congress has defined disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. To meet this definition, you must have a severe impairment, which makes you unable to do your previous work or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the national economy. To determine whether you are able to do any other work, we consider your residual functional capacity and your age, education, and work experience."

From this definition has emerged a standard set of questions which must be asked of each claimant (the person who is applying).

1. Is the individual gainfully employed? The answer to this must be "no."

2. Is there a severe impairment (or group of impairments) which exist?

3. Will the impairment(s) last at least 12 months or result in death?

4. Does the impairment meet any of the standards set by SSA as being severe enough to grant disability?

If questions 2, 3, and 4 above can be answered "yes," then that person will be awarded benefits. If all of the above questions, except number 4 can be answered "yes," then several more questions must be asked. If the answer to number 4 is "no," then SSA must ask:

5. Can the individual perform any of the work s/he has done in the last 15 years? If the answer to this is "yes," then that person is considered not disabled. If the answer to number 5 is "no," then SSA must ask:

6. Given the limitations of the individual's impairment, are any of the skills s/he learned in past work able to be used in another occupation that would require very little retraining? If the answer to this last question is "yes," then that person is not disabled. If the answer is "no," then s/he must be found disabled.

All of the above is based on certain definitions, assumptions, and conditions which pertain to age,education, work experience, and residual functional capacity.

Age

In general, SSA operates on the assumption that the older one gets, the less able s/he is to learn new skills. An individual under the age of 50 is referred to as a "younger individual." Ages 50 to 54 are called "closely approaching advanced age;" 55 and over is "advanced age," and ages 60 to 64 are called "closely approaching retirement age."

Education

SSA makes the assumption that the more education one has, the better able s/he is to make adjustments in jobs. Conversely, the less education, the less able one is to adjust. So if one has a severe impairment, and cannot read or write, s/he should be found disabled.

Education through the 6th grade or less is termed "marginal;" 7th grade through the 11th is "limited." If one has a 12th grade education or a GED, then the question remaining is whether or not s/he has done work which permits entry into another group of jobs which require many of the same skills as s/he was doing before, or less.

If there are jobs in the economy which are related in skills to the one(s) s/he was doing within the last 15 years, and which s/he is determined capable of doing given the limitations imposed by the impairment(s), then s/he will not be found disabled.

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Disabling Conditions, Effects and Symptoms

SSA is quick to point out that it is not the disease itself which is disabling. Disease affects people different ways; what one individual finds devastating, another may find a minor inconvenience. We have all seen what looks like courage of enormous proportion: the paralyzed teen who refuses to give in and struggles every minute of every day to regain control of his limbs; a Steven Hawking who, despite being able to move only his eyelids, has made brilliant contributions to man's knowledge of physics.

Children especially seem to be undaunted by deformities and deficits. Most likely this is because they have not known what it is like to be whole. They learn quickly how to adapt and cope and go on with their lives.

For the adult who has had only the usual childhood diseases of measles and mumps, along with a few broken bones and cuts, to be suddenly incapable of moving freely without pain, and unable to go to work and do what s/he has been doing for 20 to 30 years, is like a train wreck.

For the vast majority of people, work is a source of pride from which a considerable amount of their self esteem comes. To have that suddenly taken away is usually devastating.

The result is often depression with anxiety, disrupted sleep schedules, irritability, and sometimes alcohol abuse. Often, there is a loss of one's ability to focus and concentrate on a subject because of a preoccupation with discomfort and pain.

These reactions are common in this context, but they also can work to your advantage and help you win disability benefits.

Situational depression is frequently referred to as a "functional overlay" and can be identified and measured with the right testing by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

Pain - its intensity, duration and frequency - can also be measured. If depression and pain are a part of your symptomatology, then you should have them identified and measured by a competent psychologist or psychiatrist. This will go a long way toward convincing an Administrative Law Judge of your disability.


Anxiety

Everyone has experienced anxiety at one time or another. It can range from a vague feeling of fear, nervousness, and apprehension to profound dread. It can arise from something that is real or imagined. From an SSA disability standpoint, it does not matter whether the anxiousness is real or imagined. What does matter is the fact that it causes a preoccupation with oneself, crowding out purposeful, directed thought that is required in a work setting. It shortens one's attention span and disrupts the ability to concentrate, which would tend to preclude the singleness of purpose required for most all jobs. This is especially true if the anxiety is chronic, which it usually is when there is a physical or mental disability. The degree of anxiousness can and should be measured by a psychologist.


Bladder Problems

In two cases where the claimants were found able to do sedentary work, and had to void once an hour, the court ruled that this would not prevent these claimants from per- forming sedentary jobs. However, frequency of urination is disruptive, and I would not hesitate to bring it out either before or during the hearing.


Thinking/Concentration Deficits

The ability to think and concentrate is the basic requirement in any job - even those which seem mindless (such as watching a monitor for 8 hours a day.) Preoccupation with one's symptoms undercuts one's ability to perform any required tasks. If your symptoms can reasonably be expected to interfere with thinking and concentration for 20% to 30% of the time, with the result of a 20% to 30% drop in productivity, then there is no job you'll be qualified to do. Pain, depression, anxiety, chronic sleep disturbance, and prescribed medications can all produce an inability to concentrate. While preoccupation with pain and anxiety can be measured with an MMPI or IPAT, usually it's not necessary to be tested because, in general, SSA rules most often accept what can reasonably be expected.


Colostomies and Ileostomies

When combined with diarrhea, few jobs would allow the time it takes to maintain a colostomy and ileostomy.


Confusion

Confusion, when there has not been a stroke, Alzheimer's disease, or a concussion, is most often caused by medication. Antihistamines, appetite suppressants, muscle relaxants, painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers, anticholinergics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can all cause confusion.

If a prescribed drug you are taking is causing any of these side effects, then it should be documented by your doctor and submitted as evidence to SSA.

Aside from drugs, confusion can be a symptom of diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.


Depression

Much that has been said about anxiety can also be said about depression. Here we are talking about the impact of simply not being able to do the things one used to do because of an impairment, along with the fact that improvement often is doubtful. Depression here is not meant to be that found in bipolar syndrome and other mental disorders, although some of the same symptoms occur in both. Such as feelings of worthlessness, impaired thinking and concentration, and loss of energy or fatigue. As with anxiety, depression can and should be measured by a psychologist or psychiatristwith a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), or a combination of a Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), Personality Assessment Inventory (IPAT), a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), and a Rey Auditory Memory Test.


Diarrhea

Whatever the cause, chronic diarrhea is important simply because it is disruptive and prevents one from working at a consistent, steady pace.


Dizziness

Many things can cause dizziness, such as heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and drugs. Unless it often throws you off balance, though, it is better to stay away from leaning on this very hard simply because there is no way to measure how much it effects someone. One way to document it would be to simply keep a diary. Date each entry and note how the dizziness affects you. Do you have to lie down to avoid losing consciousness? You should also have a significant other testify at your hearing about your behavior when dizzy. If a drug is known to have that side effect, this should be noted by a physician and included in the evidence.

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Social Security Disability Self-Evaluation

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Here's a short quiz that will help you determine what your chances are of being found disabled.

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    Record 100 Dystonia Cases Won; No Losses


    On December 12th, Frederick A. Johnson, President of Disability Income Associates for 23 years, won his one hundredth dystonia case. He has never lost a dystonia case.


    He is expert advisor to the American Dystonia Society, providing immediate answers to questions about Social Security disability programs and procedures to its 500 plus members. The American Dystonia Society is dedicated to research as a non-profit organization, and established in 2009. http://dystonia.ning.com/main/authorization/signUp?


    Johnson has spoken on 3 occasions at the National Spasmodic Torticollis Association, a cervical dystonia patient support organization headquartered in Fountain Valley, CA.


    Since 1990, Johnson has represented over 1,000 patients who were not able to work because of the severity of their medical problems.


    He is author of "How To Apply For & Win Social Security Disability Benefits," and created specialized proprietary residual functional capacity forms for every major condition. The forms integrate the symptoms Social Security looks for in making its awards with the most basic legal standards.


    Johnson was a member of the medical corps in the Navy, working in the ICU, emergency room, recovery room, and surgical wards at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. Additionally, he was a medical worker in the private sector for 2 years.


    Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, or torticollis, is the most common of the focal dystonias. In torticollis, the muscles in the neck which control the position of the head are affected, causing the head to involuntarily twist and turn to one side. In addition, the head may be pulled forward or backward. Though of different etiology, dystonia is treated in the same ways as Parkinson's. Neurologists, however, frequently misdiagnose the condition. A gene has recently been found for dystonia; however, there is strong evidence to show that it can be originated by trauma.


    Dystonia can effect other body parts or the entire body. It can be constant or episodic and sporadic. It is usually treated with botox injections at 3 month intervals.




    What a Few Clients Say



    I gladly write you a check today for our fully favorable SSDI win.


    For long years and NC didn't do anything quickly or easy, but you stayed the course, kept me informed and most important-were my champion. I never spoke to anyone at SSA because you were on the front line for me.


    I am proof positive that you can win your benefits with a skilled professional by your side. Dystonians rejoice for Fred Johnson!


    D.Brinkley Snead Ferry, NC
    2/2/11



    Thank you for the untiring support given to me in obtaining my Social Security Disability claim. I would not have been able to do all the hard work that you have put into this case. You will be greatly rewarded for the work you do for Disabled population. I will keep you always in my prayers. Again, thank you.!!!


    E. White
    Randallstown, MD 21132
    4/23/08




    I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for successfully navigating us to a favorable decision with regard to my case. If one ever has any concern or doubt about hiring a representative over an attorney, I can assure them that this notion can be set to rest. You very capably guided me through a maze of obstacles designed to confuse and bewilder even the well educated.


    Because Spasmodic Torticolllis is considered somewhat of a rare disorder and is not listed on the Department of Social Security's "listing of impairments:, it created a challenge, but it was one you were more than able to handle. Everything happened as you predicted with respect to the denials, but it was your expertise and perseverance that prevailed somewhere between the reconsideration denial and the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, which was very unusual. You spared me the great anxiety and further depletion of my savings by cutting through the labyrinthine bureaucracy at the hearing level and winning benefits without have to go to a hearing. Needless to say, I am very pleased and would highly recommend you to anyone who may be considering you as their representative.


    Not only were you always available to answer my questions and concerns on a professional level, but equally as important, was the way in which you took this case on personally. I really admired the way you actually fought for me. Your heart was in it and I could tell. You know the system so very well Fred, and people who attempt to take on this giant on their own are at a tremendous disadvantage from the beginning.


    If your assistance will help level the playing field and helps them decide on the proper representation they truly need, then it is my honor and pleasure to be of service to you.


    Thank you so much!


    G. Beaubien, Jr.
    Osprey, FL
    2/19/05