January 2015

Strokes can have disabling effects

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Claiming SSD benefits for debilitating strokes

Stroke affects almost 800,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke is also a common cause of disability, as most Supplemental Security Income lawyers Waukegan know. Stroke can cause physical disablement, cognitive changes and shifts in mood or personality. While some strokes result in minor or temporary losses, other strokes may lead to debilitating changes that victims never fully recover from.

Complex long-term impacts

Strokes can cause various physical impairments. Some victims suffer from muscle weakness or paralysis, which may affect one side of the body or the entire body. Incontinence, pain, numbness and loss of vision are other potential outcomes of stroke. Some victims also experience difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking.

Strokes can also cause cognitive and psychological challenges. Victims may struggle to communicate, read or comprehend others. Stroke can also impact memory, concentration, judgment and reasoning. Some victims experience mood swings or depression, along with adverse associated symptoms. Behavioral changes, especially in social settings, may also be evident.
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Potential new treatment for Parkinson’s

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New therapy may support functional recovery

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative brain disorder. As most Elgin long term disability insurance attorneys know, the disease can be highly debilitating. According to the National Institutes of Health, Parkinson’s disease often causes motor symptoms, including tremors, stiffness and impaired balance. Changes in memory, emotions, behavior and energy may also result from Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s affects at least half a million Americans, and roughly 60,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. Due to issues such as delayed diagnosis, the true number of victims may be much higher. While there is presently no cure available to these individuals, research suggests stem cell therapy might reduce the impairing effects of Parkinson’s.

Promoting functional gains

The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. However, the loss of dopamine-producing cells may contribute to the disease, since dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter. The Center for Regenerative Cell Medicine states that past studies show the reintroduction of dopamine can improve symptoms of Parkinson’s. Many existing treatments for Parkinson’s involve dopamine therapy.
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How long do I have to wait for my disability claim to be processed?

Illinois Comp Form

Many factors can affect claim processing speed

One question that permanent disability attorneys Oak Lawn frequently are asked is how long Social Security Disability claim processing takes. According to the Social Security Administration, in the 2014 fiscal year, the average processing time for all SSD and Supplemental Security Income claims was 110 days. However, many factors can result in longer processing times for individual claims.

External factors

Administrative issues can slow the processing of an SSD claim. For example, if a claim is assigned to an examiner with a significant workload, the claim evaluation may be delayed. If a claims examiner has trouble finding necessary information or obtaining proper documentation, the examiner may also need more time to reach a final decision.
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4 Tips on financially surviving the disability application process

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Planning financially for the wait for benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits to people who suffer from disabling conditions that prevent gainful employment. As most disability Social Security Aurora lawyers know, many beneficiaries depend on this financial support. As a result, the slow SSD application process often proves financially challenging for people seeking benefits.

The Social Security Administration establishes a five-month waiting period between disability onset and benefit eligibility. Even after this period ends, claim processing can be slow, since the SSA must collect medical records and verify the information in the application. To stay financially solvent during claim processing, applicants should consider taking the following steps.
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Applying for disability after a work-related injury

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A Chicago Social Security attorney can help injured workers

Work-related injuries are a significant cause of disability in America, as any Chicago Social Security attorney knows firsthand. Some injuries result directly in disablement, while others contribute to gradual declines in functional ability. One report from the Office of Retirement and Disability Policy indicates that a workplace injury resulting in time lost from work doubles a person’s likelihood of needing Social Security Disability benefits during the following 15 years.

If a workplace injury causes prolonged disablement and prevents gainful employment, the victim may be eligible for SSD benefits. However, the workers’ compensation and SSD systems use very different criteria. Eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits does not ensure a worker will also qualify for SSD benefits.
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Is Lou Gehrig’s Disease eligible for SSD benefits?

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Support and expedited claim processing available

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that affects motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. As these neurons degenerate, victims lose the ability to control movement in the limbs and other systems. The disease can ultimately cause paralysis, respiratory failure and death, according to the ALS Association. As any attorney Social Security Plainfield is aware, Lou Gehrig’s Disease is severe enough to virtually always qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
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Should you seek SSI or SSDI for your disability?

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A Chicago Disability attorney can explain eligibility

The Social Security Administration provides two types of disability benefits for people who cannot work gainfully due to disablement. As any Chicago disability attorney can explain, some people qualify for benefits under both the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. However, many people only qualify for benefits from one program, since the criteria for each program are distinct.

Earned coverage

SSDI benefits are awarded to people who qualify as “insured” based on their earnings. The Social Security Administration requires SSDI beneficiaries to have a certain number of credits, which are based on personal income. In 2015, every $1,220 of income that an individual pays Social Security taxes on is worth one credit. Age determines the number of total credits an individual needs as well as the number of credits the individual must have earned in recent years.

Although SSDI benefits are not need-based, the SSDI program establishes income limits. People who earn more than $1,090 per month in 2015 cannot typically collect benefits because they are engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” The SSA makes an exception for statutorily blind individuals, who can earn up to $1,820.
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Disability and post-traumatic stress disorder

Depressed Man On Bench

Disability lawyers in Chicago can assist PTSD victims 

Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. As many disability lawyers in Chicago know, PTSD can be highly disabling. Victims may experience flashbacks, anxiety and emotional changes. They also may develop avoidance behaviors, addictions or systemic health issues. If severe PTSD prevents essential daily activities, including gainful employment, victims may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Evaluating PTSD

The Social Security Administration categorizes PTSD as an anxiety disorder in the “Blue Book” of impairment listings. If a person proves his or her condition meets Blue Book criteria, the person qualifies for benefits on a medical basis. To satisfy the requirements for the anxiety disorders listing, a person must establish one of the following:

  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Severe weekly panic attacks
  • Frequent, disruptive flashbacks resulting in emotional distress
  • Enduring, irrational fear of a place, activity or object that causes avoidance behaviors
  • Anxiety accompanied by all but one of the following: scanning behavior, motor tension, nervous system hyperactivity and feelings of fear or worry

Besides causing one of these symptoms, PTSD must prevent the victim from functioning outside of the home, or it must result in at least two of four limitations. These limitations are worsening episodes of decompensation; difficulty completing tasks because of poor concentration, slow pace or limited persistence; inability to function in social settings; and significant limitations in performing everyday living activities, such as self-care.

Many individuals suffer from PTSD yet fail to meet these terms. These people may qualify for medical-vocational allowances if a disability claims examiner determines the PTSD causes functional limitations that preclude gainful employment.

Documenting mental disorders

Disability lawyers in Chicago often stress the importance of documentation in claims involving mental disorders. People afflicted with PTSD should provide extensive evidence to prove the condition is disabling. Victims should furnish a full treatment record with a description of a typical episode. The SSA requires information on episode length and frequency, factors that trigger the episode and the resulting impairments the victim suffers.

People seeking SSD benefits for PTSD may want to ask a treating professional to complete a Residual Functional Capacity form. This form allows a detailed description of specific limitations the condition causes. For example, the professional could note whether PTSD affects an individual’s ability to work by causing issues with concentration, memory, decision-making or social behavior.

Applicants can further support their claims with statements from other sources. Disability lawyers in Chicago can explain that such statements are not substitutes for professional evaluations. However, descriptions of social or functional limitations from friends, co-workers and family members can strengthen a claim involving an anxiety disorder.

 

What is a Consultative Examination?

Using Digital Blood Pressure Gauge

Securing adequate evidence in disability claims

Medical evidence is decisive in Social Security Disability claims, as most Social Security lawyers in Chicago know. If a person seeking SSD benefits does not have an adequate medical record or documentation, the disability claims examiner may not be able to determine whether the applicant qualifies as disabled. To move the claim forward, the examiner may order a consultative examination, which is an independent medical examination.

Nature of exams

A consultative examination may be necessary if an applicant has not recently sought treatment for the disabling condition. The Social Security Administration requires current medical records to establish a medical condition. A consultative exam may also be ordered if information is missing from the applicant’s medical evidence.

When possible, the SSA contacts the applicant’s treating medical source for additional information or supplementary testing. However, in some cases, a consultative examination may be preferable. For instance, if the treating source appears unreliable or refuses to perform the necessary examination, the SSA may order a consultative exam. The SSA requires these exams and the resulting reports to meet the following requirements:

  • The report must be comprehensive enough to allow a third party to understand and evaluate the disabling condition. The report should discuss the applicant’s medical history and the results of the exam.
  • The report should address all of the applicant’s prior medical records and any complaints the applicant has made.
  • The examining physician should give an evaluation of the applicant’s ability to perform physical or mental job-related tasks. However, the physician cannot state whether he or she believes the applicant is disabled.
  • The report and its conclusions must be consistent with the existing medical evidence.

Social Security lawyers in Chicago are often asked what the consultative exam involves. The specific nature of the exam depends on the information the claims examiner requests. A consultative exam may be physical, psychological or psychiatric, and it may include various diagnostic tests.

Potential challenges

If a consultative examination is ordered, attendance is essential. Failure to attend the examination without good reason can be grounds for claim dismissal. Applicants who receive instructions to attend a consultative exam should notify the SSA as soon as possible of any scheduling conflicts.

Applicants should also recognize the inherent limitations of consultative examinations. These examinations are typically short, and the conducting physician is not familiar with the applicant’s medical history. Although physicians receive each applicant’s medical records prior to the exam, some physicians may not review them thoroughly enough.

These limitations may lead to an unfavorable decision for applicants. People who receive notice of claim denial after a consultative examination may want to speak with Social Security lawyers in Chicago about appealing the decision.

College football players at risk for long-term brain damage

Glowing brain with spine

Disability benefits may be available for brain injury

Concussions and other brain injuries are often complex and unpredictable. As any Naperville Social Security lawyer knows, these injuries can cause numerous debilitating physical, cognitive and psychological effects. Unfortunately, new research shows college football players may face a heightened risk of these complications, even when they suffer sub-concussive injuries.

Significant, lasting damage

The study, which was published online in PLOS One in 2013, followed 67 college football players during one football season. Researchers took brain scans, drew blood samples and administered cognitive tests before and after every game.

Although none of the players monitored suffered concussions, 40 suffered blows to the head and showed potential signs of brain injury or damage. These players exhibited brain scan abnormalities and high levels of a serum that promotes autoantibodies. These antibodies may be a risk factor for early degenerative changes in the brain.

Previous research has linked concussions and serious brain injuries, such as chronic encephalitis. This new finding indicates even football players who suffer sub-concussive injuries may face brain damage. This may cause irreversible changes to personality, memory, physical abilities and more. Sadly, some victims may lose the ability to work and perform other necessary activities of daily living.

Seeking disability benefits

Severe brain injuries or damage may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. As a Naperville Social Security lawyer can explain, victims may qualify in a few ways. The Social Security Administration includes cerebral trauma in its “Blue Book” of conditions that are considered disabling if they meet prescribed criteria. Cerebral trauma can be evaluated under various listings, depending on the effects it causes. These include:

  • Central nervous system vascular accident — a stroke with specific symptoms that persist after three months may meet this listing.
  • Epilepsy — the Blue Book includes listings for petit mal and grand mal epilepsy, which must occur at a certain frequency after three months of medication.
  • Organic mental disorder — cognitive, mood or personality changes affecting thinking, social functioning or other daily activities may qualify as disabling.

Other neurological disorders that arise in relation to brain damage, such as Parkinson’s disease, can be evaluated under their own listings.

If a brain injury or brain damage does not cause these effects, it may merit a medical-vocational allowance. If a person cannot reasonably work based on his or her functional limitations, age, relevant education and job skills, the SSA may grant a medical-vocational allowance.

Claim documentation

Understanding how a brain injury will most likely be evaluated can help an SSD applicant determine what evidence to provide. Before filing a claim, applicants may want to consult with a Naperville Social Security lawyer for advice on documenting the condition and meeting relevant SSA criteria.