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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Military members and veterans may qualify for SSD benefits

As a city with a military base, San Diego residents know that the brave men and women in our nation's armed forces put their lives on the line to protect not only our country, our freedom, and our democratic rights, but those of others, too. The least we can do to pay back these service members is ensure that they are taken care of when they return home. This is especially true when they are wounded while serving our country.

Fortunately, injured veterans are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, just like everyone else. Additionally, those who are deemed to have a 100 percent permanent and total compensation rating are eligible to have their SSD claims expedited. Whereas it may take a year or more for civilians to have their initial claim adjudicated, disabled members of the military and veterans may have their claims decided in a matter of months. This can help them get the money they need quicker so that they don't have to worry about how they are going to make ends meet when they are unable to work.

We fight for those whose SSD claims have been denied

Our last blog post discussed the Social Security Disability (SSD) reevaluation process. Being prepared to enter this process is critical, as the outcome could drastically affect your benefits. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that your disability no longer affects your ability to work, then your benefits may cease altogether. Similarly, if it is discovered that your condition has improved, then your benefits may be diminished. This can wreak havoc on your finances and threaten to throw you into money woes. This is why you may need to consider protecting yourself and your claim when facing reevaluation.

The best way to do this is to gather as much supporting evidence as you can. You should speak with all of your medical providers and gather all available paperwork documenting your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Then, you need to apply the law and the SSA's policies to figure out how to craft a compelling legal argument for the continuation of benefits.

The SSD claim reevaluation process

Successfully claiming Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a long, drawn-out battle. Initial claims are often denied, and appealing a claim oftentimes requires close attention to detail, strong legal arguments, and patience. Although recovering these benefits can provide significant financial relief to those who are unable to work on account of their disabilities, the truth of the matter is that the fight for these benefits may not be over. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will, from time-to-time, reevaluate an SSD claim to determine if an individual still qualifies for SSD benefits.

The SSA spells out the review process pretty clearly. Depending on one's disabling condition, his or her claim will be reviewed within six to 18 months of the disabling condition's onset. However, if improvement of the condition can't be predicted but is possible, then the claim may be reviewed only every three years. Those individuals with disabilities that are not expected to improve will have their claims reviewed every seven years. When one's case comes up for review, a hearing will be set.

Disability claim backlog means claims need to be strong

Many Californians inaccurately believe that Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are easy to receive. After all, one need only prove that he or she meets the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled, satisfy work requirements, and prove that the disability is to last for at least a year or result in death. But the truth of the matter is that most SSD claims are denied. In fact, one recent report indicated that as many as 77 percent of all initial claims are denied. Even on appeal, less than 50 percent of claims are granted.

This knowledge can be worrisome, especially since approximately 2.3 million disability claims were filed in 2016 alone. As disheartening as that may sound, it's worth noting that about 10.5 million individuals are currently drawing SSD benefits after successfully pursuing their claims. So, being armed with a claim that is supported by strong evidence can result in a favorable outcome for an individual who is suffering from a disability.

Social Security disability's Ticket to Work program

Californians who have suffered a disability know the challenges they can face when their injury or illness renders them unable to work. Sure, these individuals may have extensive physical pain as well as physical limitations, but for many people with disabilities the financial damage is truly debilitating. This is why the federal government created the Social Security disability system. While SSD benefits can be a financial lifesaver for those with a disability, they may not last forever. Claims undergo periodic review, and the Social Security Administration tries to incentivize individuals to return to work.

How is this done? Primarily through a program called "Ticket to Work." This program, available to those between the ages of 18 and 64, seeks to give disabled individuals access to employment opportunities in hopes of weaning them off of the SSD system. Participants in the program often have access to free educational and career services that can help them find a job that is right for them.

SSDI benefits for amputations

Loss of a limb is a catastrophic event, regardless of the cause. Many people in Southern California who have suffered amputations if they can obtain Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. This post will review the essential requirements for proving the existence of a Social Security disability caused by loss of a limb.

An amputation is generally a definitive injury; it can be diagnosed and proved by a simple visual inspection. Medical and employment records are nevertheless required to prove the existence of work limitations thatresult in the inability to work. The loss of limbs must include, at a minimum, the loss of both hands, the loss of one or both legs above the ankle accompanied by the inability to use a prosthetic device to ambulate, loss of one hand and a lower extremity above the ankle, or the loss of use of the hip joint. The inability to use a prosthetic device to walk properly must have lasted or expected to last at least 12 months.

Termination of SSDI benefits

Most people in Southern California who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits do not stop to consider an unpleasant outcome: will the benefits ever be terminated? The answer is "maybe." The Social Security Administration has strict requirements for periodically reviewing benefit awards and determining whether a recipient is entitled to a continuation of benefits. This post will review the conditions under which SSD disability benefits may be terminated.

All disability recipients are required to inform the SSA of any change in their medical condition and ability to work. Failure to provide this information can, without further findings, lead to a termination of benefits. Disability benefits can also be terminated if the recipient's medical condition improves to the point where the recipient is able to return to work.

Obtaining SSD benefits for chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease afflicts many people in southern California. If the disease seriously interferes with the patient's ability to perform the ordinary functions of his or her employment, the patient may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

The Social Security Administration includes many different types of kidney disorders under the term "chronic kidney disease." According to the federal regulations promulgated by the SSA, the term includes chronic glomerulonephritis, hypertensive nephropathy, diabetic nephropathy, chronic obstructive uropathy and hereditary nephropathies. A reduction in the filtering capacity of the kidneys is perhaps the most important indicator of kidney disease. Physicians use the patient's glomerular filtration rate to determine the filtering capacity of the kidneys. Kidney disease can often be diagnosed using blood and urine tests. An applicant for SSD benefits based upon chronic kidney disease must submit evidence of impaired filtering for a period of at least 90 days. Once diagnosed, the medical and employment evidence must demonstrate that the impairment of kidney function has caused the applicant to become disabled.

Can I get SSD benefits for an anxiety-related disorder?

Many people in Southern California suffer from a variety of mental disorders that manifest themselves as periods of intense anxiety that raise emotional barriers that interfere with working and social functioning. The Social Security Administration has adopted regulations that provide Social Security Disability benefits for anxiety-related disorders that prevent persons from carrying out the routine functions of their jobs.

SSD benefits are available for anxiety disorders that are either the principal disturbance or the result of attempts to master other symptoms such as a phobic disorder. Proving the existence of an anxiety-related disorder can be especially difficult because the illness is almost entirely diagnosed using the subjective accounts of the victim. Unlike many illnesses and injuries, the presence of an anxiety-related disorder cannot be detected by an object test or procedure, such as an X-ray, blood test or CT scan. The reports of examining mental health professionals are therefore an essential part of the application for benefits.

Social Security benefits for blindness

Blindness is one of the most debilitating conditions that a person can experience. Because the loss of vision can be so disruptive, the Social Security Administration has two programs that provide income benefits for its victims: Social Security Disability Income Benefits or Supplemental Security Income.

For the purpose of both programs, blindness is defined as either (a) a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction or (b) a reduction in the field of vision for the better eye so that the widest diameter of the field of vision is 20 degrees or less. Blindness must be verified by an acceptable medical professional, but because vision is susceptible to precise objective measurements, this burden is usually easy to meet. To qualify for SSDI benefits, the vision limiting condition must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months. SSI benefits do not require any minimum duration. The blindness can be caused by either illness or injury.