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San Diego Social Security Disability Law Blog

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.

How can you speed up the review of a denied claim?

Even if San Diego residents have an illness or injury that prevents them from working, there is still a possibility that a claim for Social Security Disability benefits will get denied, at least in the initial stages. What this means is that California residents who are applying for SSD benefits should be fully prepared for the possibility that they will need to ask for a review hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The problem with these hearings is that they get scheduled weeks or even months out. Some people may even need to wait over a year for a hearing.

There are ways in which a person can try to speed this process up. As a caveat, though, none of these methods is a guaranteed means of getting a decision faster. Moreover, there are legal risks involved.

Cost of living adjustment will mean higher benefit in 2020

For the second year in a row, recipients of Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income will receive a slightly larger monthly paycheck starting in 2020. This increase is automatic, since it is already provided for under federal law. Basically, the law sets out a formula under which Social Security benefits automatically increase with the rate of inflation.

The increase, called a cost-of-living adjustment, or "COLA," will be 1.6% for the upcoming year. Last year, the increase was higher, at 2.8%. However, in many recent years, there has been no cost-of-living adjustment at all.

Obtaining Social Security disability for fibromyalgia

Many residents of San Diego may suffer from a medical condition called fibromyalgia. Generally speaking, fibromyalgia causes a person to experience pain throughout the body, especially in one's joints and muscles, as well as other soft tissues.

The condition can affect those of working age, and the pain that results can be so severe that it prevents the patient from being able to work. In such cases, a Californian may need to resort to applying for SSD benefits in order to get the income he or she needs to continue to make ends meet.

How do adult child disability benefits work?

While many people might not realize this, there are special benefits for young adult children who may be suffering from a disability. These Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are in addition to whatever benefits the child may qualify for on his own by filing for SSDI or, more than likely, SSI benefits.

To be eligible for this benefit, the child must not be married and must have one parent who has died or has begun to draw Social Security benefits, including retirement or disability benefits. Moreover, the child must also not earn more than $1,220 a month through her own work. The child must also be over 18 years old, as there are separate rules for disabled minor children who require financial assistance.

Social Security still available after worker's comp

Many residents of San Diego first start considering their eligibility for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits after they suffer a life-altering injury in a work accident. After all, it usually does not take too long for the victim to realize that she will need to find another source of income so she can support herself and her family.

In most cases, after a workplace accident, the victim will also be able to get benefits through California's workers' compensation program. However, these payments, helpful though they are, will not always cover all of an injured worker's losses. In cases in which the worker is permanently disabled, workers' compensation benefits may fall well short of meeting the worker's financial needs.