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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

Lymphedema patients may be eligible to collect Social Security

California residents who suffer from lymphedema may discover that filing for Social Security Disability Income could be a challenge since the ailment is not listed in the Social Security Administration Blue Book as a specific malady. However, those who are afflicted with lymphedema and similar diseases could possibly be able to collect SSDI.

The symptoms of lymphedema may mirror those of other disorders, such as impaired blood vessels in the legs, that can make walking painful and uncomfortable. If the lymphedema affects the upper extremities, it could mirror a musculoskeletal ailment, possibly increasing an individual's chances of collecting SSDI. Because of the blur in symptoms, applicants may ultimately be able to obtain their benefit under a similar disability that is listed in the Social Security Administration Blue Book.

SSDI rule will make it harder for non-English speakers

Disabled people in California who do not speak English may have a harder time qualifying for Social Security disability insurance under a new rule that was recently announced by the current administration. The new rule removes a lack of English-speaking ability from the factors that are taken into consideration when evaluating the education of applicants.

When people apply for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration assesses whether their disabling conditions prevent them from engaging in substantial gainful activity through employment. Part of this assessment includes an evaluation of an applicant's educational level. Before the new rule, that evaluation included considering whether the applicant could speak in English since it is more difficult for non-English speakers to find employment.

Applying for Social Security with back and spine disorders

Degenerative disc disease and the associated pain can make completing work difficult or impossible. As a result, California residents with this condition may apply for Social Security disability benefits to provide income for themselves and their families. According to the Social Security Administration, claims for disability benefits based on degenerative disc disease are assessed according to the portion of its manual dealing with various spinal disorders. This listing encompasses a range of spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis and vertebral fractures in addition to degenerative disorders.

To be approved for Social Security benefits, applicants must meet the guidelines specified in the listing. In particular, they must show that at least one nerve root, such as the spinal cord or cauda equina, has been compromised by the disease. Nerve root compression or compromise can be demonstrated through a range of medical reports, including limited spinal motion, pain distribution or loss of motor function, including muscle atrophy and weakness. In addition, applicants must also show proof of a positive straight leg test, showing that they experience pain while lying down and while sitting.

Understanding the SSA's evaluation process for benefits

The system of providing Social Security disability benefits involves a complex maze of rules, regulations and decisions regarding prior cases. By employing a sequential process to evaluate an eligible applicant's claim, the Social Security Administration will determine if there is indeed a "disability" that warrants benefits. For many California claimants, how their particular mental or physical impairment fits within the SSA's Blue Book, or Listing of Impairments, is crucial to the ultimate disability decision. However, even if a claimant's impairment is among those included in the Blue Book, it's not certain that disability benefits will be awarded.

It's important to note that a claimant will not receive benefits merely by having a certain, specific condition. The key issue is the extent to which that condition causes what are known as functional limitations. This requires an examination of the work history of the claimant to fully understand the types of activities they performed as necessitated by the nature of the job.

The process for obtaining a medical vocational allowance

California residents and others who have physical or mental impairments that make it impossible to work may be entitled to disability benefits. Typically, benefits are granted if a person meets medical vocational allowance criteria. This means that an individual cannot go back to any job that he or she has had over the past 15 years. It also means that an individual would not be qualified to do any other work that he or she could be mentally or physically able to perform.

Applicants are encouraged to provide as much information about their work histories as possible to an examiner when submitting their applications. This may make it easier for that person determine the exact tasks that an individual performed over the past 15 years. Detailed information can also help an examiner determine exactly how a physical or mental impairment makes it impossible to do those jobs again in the future.

Medical records may not be enough for SSD benefits

For people in California who cannot work due to a disability, Social Security Disability benefits can be crucial to making ends meet and surviving. However, in order to obtain SSD benefits successfully, many people must go through a lengthy, complex process, especially following an initial denial. In order to make a successful claim for disability benefits, people must often submit a substantial amount of documentary evidence that backs up their claims about their limitations. Medical records are a key area of required documents for applicants because they indicate a professional diagnosis as well as the onset of the disability.

However, in most cases, medical records alone do not illustrate the types of limitations often considered by the Social Security Administration when determining disability benefits. They refer to conditions, treatments and symptoms, but they are less likely to discuss functional limitations such as difficulty standing or walking for a specific period of time. In most cases, however, the SSA relies far more on those types of documented limitations than on the diagnoses recorded. This information can help disability examiners determine whether a person can return to previous work or perform a different job.

Overview of the Social Security Disability appeals process

Many people in San Diego who have some knowledge of how Social Security disability works, including those who read this blog, may have figured out that many applicants for benefits will at some point in the process need to appeal the Social Security Administration's decision. Appeals of denied claims for SSDI benefits or SSI benefits can be thought of as a three-step process, although these three steps do not account for the fact that applicants can also ask for a field office to reconsider the initial application for benefits.

The first step in the process is for an applicant to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Although these judges are committed to acting independently and to giving a full and fresh look at every application, this is still technically an internal process of the Social Security Administration. The hearing proceeds a lot like a trial, except there is no lawyer advocating for the Social Security Administration. The administrative law judge will, on a relatively informal basis, hear evidence and decide whether the applicant qualifies for benefits.

Proposal could make medical reviews more frequent

A pending proposal which the Social Security Administration is floating may mean that San Diego residents who are currently drawing disability benefits will be subject to more frequent eligibility reviews to see if they will be allowed to continue receiving their monthly payments. How often a resident of Southern California on SSD benefits will be subject to a review depends on their medical condition.

To give a couple of examples, a person with a condition, like ALS, which is permanent or tends to get progressively worse will usually have a review only every 5 to 7 years, as medical improvement is not expected. The more likely it is that a person could recover, the more often the Administration will check to see if the person remains disabled.

Disabled young adults have options for benefits

Many people in the San Diego area and throughout Southern California may have struggled with an illness or injury for all of their lives. Oftentimes, as he or she approaches adulthood, a person suffering under this sort of condition, or the person's caregivers, will realize that the person will not be able to find meaningful work because of the condition.

In these sorts of situations, our law office can help families explore a number of options for obtaining financial support through the Social Security Administration. For instance, if the young adult is of limited means and has never worked, he or she may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Without regard to a person's work history, SSI can provide an important source of monthly income.

How can you obtain benefits for an intellectual disability?

Experts estimate that one out of 100 people suffer from what the mental health community now refers to as an "intellectual" disability. In practice, this means that hundreds of thousands of California residents have limited intellectual functioning, to the point of having their professional and personal lives affected significantly. In many cases, someone with an intellectual disability may have a hard time holding a job or even performing basic life tasks.

The Social Security Administration recognizes intellectual disabilities as a condition which can qualify a San Diego resident for disability benefits. However, proving that an intellectual disability actually prevents a person from earning a living is not always easy, particularly in light of modern psychology's take on this condition. The modern mental health community, for instance, does not rely exclusively on an IQ test to determine whether a person has an intellectual disability. While an IQ score of under 75 is a potential flag, a doctor who is evaluating a patient for a possible intellectual disability will consider other questions.