Tag Archives: chronic fatigue disability lawyer

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of ALJ Decisions

A recent article in the Washington Times discussed the increasing stress that the Social Security Disability system is operating under and how that stress has led to troubling problems affecting millions of Americans.

Investigators working for a Senate subcommittee examined hundreds of cases in which disability benefits were approved and found that those making the decisions frequently ignored warning signs such as incomplete or inconsistent information. Senators have said this review demonstrates the need for an overhaul of the existing system. One Senator said that the decisions from some administrative law judges (ALJs) were so bad that the final verdict seemed almost entirely arbitrary.

Though the first phase of this investigation involved looking over applications that were approved but should not have been, the Senate committee says it will next turn its attention to those cases that were denied and may have been denied wrongfully. Those in charge say they worry that they will discover the system is not helping many of the people it was designed to protect.

For its part, the Social Security Administration says it has work to do to fix problems in the system. However, they claim that outlier decisions occur far less often than they used to and the decisions of many ALJs are affirmed with much more regularity then ever before.

That may sound good, but problems still abound. The massive report showcased one ALJ from Oklahoma who has issued more than 1,000 decisions each year since 2006. Judge W. Howard O’Bryan Jr. peaked in 2008 with 1,846 decisions and regularly approved 90 percent or more of the claims. This compares to an average ALJ approval rate of about 60 percent. The investigation revealed that his decisions were notable only for their “poor quality” and how Judge O’Bryan often regurgitated the same boilerplate language in each case decision.

One case that apparently prompted the investigation, involved a man living as an adult “baby,” meaning he slept in an adult-sized crib and wore diapers. The man was collecting disability benefits despite having demonstrated carpentry skills and his ability to work with a reality TV show and a website for other adult “babies.”

The case of the adult “baby” highlighted another problem according to the Senate subcommittee and that is how out of date the list of jobs given to ALJs are. The list has not been updated since the 1970s and excludes many computer-related jobs that some people (possibly other adult “babies”) with disabilities might be able to perform.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Will I lose my disability when I go to prison or jail?

How Will Prison Affect My Disability Benefits?

When a person is facing incarceration there is surely a lot on their mind. If the person is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, one of the questions might be whether or not they can keep their disability benefits. The following information will help you better understand exactly what will happen to your Social Security Disability benefits if you are sent to jail.

The rules for suspending Social Security payments for people who are in jail are different based on which type of assistance you receive. The following is an explanation for how each system works:

• Supplemental Security Income

You can receive SSI payments until you have been in jail or prison for a full calendar month from the first of the month through the last day. For example, if you went to jail or prison on July 4, your SSI would continue during July and all of August. If, on the other hand, you went to jail prison on on July 1 then benefits would cease on August 1.

• Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI rules are different from those for SSI. You will be permitted to receive SSDI benefits until you have been convicted of a criminal offense and spent 30 days in jail or prison. This means that your disability payments will stop on the 31st day you are incarcerated after a conviction.

• SSI and SSDI

If you receive both an SSI and an SSDI check each month, your SSDI payments will stop after 30 days of incarceration following conviction, but your SSI will continue until you have been in jail or prison for a full calendar month, as in the description for SSI above.

Once you are released from jail, it is possible to have your Social Security Disability benefits reinstated. Your benefits can begin the month after you have been released from jail as long as you still qualify for the benefits you had been receiving. If your condition has improved and you no longer qualify, your Social Security Disability benefits will not resume.

To have your benefits reinstated after your release from prison, you will need to visit your local Social Security office and notify them of your release. You will need to bring proof of your release from jail before they can begin payment.

The exception to this rule is if you are in prison for more than 12 months. If you are in prison for more than 12 months, your benefits will not automatically be reinstated after your release. Instead, you will need to re-apply for benefits and go through the lengthy application process all over again.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Can I get disability for my chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Social Security Disability

chronic_fatigueAccording to information from the National Institutes of Health, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause severe and ongoing tiredness that cannot be improved by simply resting and that does not result from another underlying disorder. The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery, but some have theorized that exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus might be to blame. Age, gender, prior illnesses, and stress are also believed to play a role. Symptoms of CFS can be wide ranging and include sore throat, headache, low-grade fever, painful joints, memory or concentration problems, swollen glands, and generalized muscle weakness.

According to the Social Security Administration’s Fact Sheet, you must prove that the symptoms of your CFS prevent you from working in order to qualify for disability benefits. To make this determination, the SSA will use the medical evidence you have provided in support of your claim to evaluate whether your symptoms reach the level of severity necessary to qualify for disability.

The diagnosis of CFS requires that you experience at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months:

• memory or concentration problems that cause a serious reduction in your level of activity;
• frequent sore throats;
• tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm;
• muscle pain;
• pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling;
• headaches of a different magnitude then those that you had prior to the onset of CFS;
• sleep that never leaves you feeling refreshed; and
• a general feeling of being unwell that lasts at least 24 hours following a period of exertion.

Your medical records must contain documentation that satisfies the above criteria for a diagnosis of CFS and that shows these symptoms did not begin prior to the onset of your chronic fatigue. If your medical records show that the symptoms predate your CFS then your disability claim will likely be denied given that something else may be to blame for your condition.

CFS can be an especially tricky disease to document clinically. Medical tests don’t always capture the severity of the illness and how terribly it can impact a person’s quality of life. It is important to understand going into the process that the SSA will not approve a disability claim based on the description of symptoms alone, though how symptoms affect your daily life is considered in the decision.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Can I get Social Security disability for having sleep apnea?

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by moments during which a sleeping person is unable to move their respiratory muscles or maintain airflow through the nose and mouth. In short, this means a person stops breathing for short periods of time. Generally those suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they sleep. These short periods without air can happen up to 400 times ever evening.

Those who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, as fat deposits can develop in the neck and then block the airway. Those suffering from the disorder, perhaps unsurprisingly, sleep very badly and wake up most mornings still feeling tired.

There are two types of sleep apnea, first and most common is obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when something blocks the windpipe. Central sleep apnea, by comparison, is rare. Central sleep apnea is related to the central nervous system, and occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles used for breathing. Sleep apnea can be treated or improved by wearing a positive airway pressure device at night. These devices are masks worn over the face to assist with breathing.

While many people who have sleep apnea will have a hard time qualifying for disability, those who have suffered complications from sleep apnea are more likely to qualify. For instance, if you have pulmonary vascular hypertension, or heart trouble such as cor pulmonale, or a severe cognitive impairment that resulted from your lack of sleep, you may be eligible for benefits. The SSA lists certain criteria for sleep-related disorders, and if you fulfill the requirements, you will be approved for disability benefits.

The first thing the SSA looks for is a sign of cognitive impairment. Chronic sleep disruptions caused by apnea can affect daytime alertness, intellectual ability, memory, and mood. But to qualify for disability benefits, your symptoms must be severe. The SSA requires that your sleep apnea has caused cognitive or mood changes that limit your activities, your ability to function socially, or your ability to focus and keep up with work. These can include severe personality changes, memory problems, delusions or hallucinations, emotional instability or a loss of more than 15 IQ points.

Another way that those suffering from the effects of sleep apnea can receive disability benefits is if they have cor pulmonale. This is an enlarged right heart ventricle caused by hypertension which can result from years of sleep apnea. To prove that your cor pulmonale is severe enough to keep you from working, your doctor must have evidence of either: high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery or extremely low oxygen levels in your blood.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Which medical records are the best for winning my disability claim?

What kinds of medical records do you need for your disability claim?  Before you can begin collecting disability benefits, the Social Security Administration requires that you prove that you are unable to work. The best evidence of this is, obviously, medical documentation. Medical evidence can take many different forms. These can include notes, mental health records, blood work, imaging studies, as well as a multitude of other reports. If you have timely, accurate, and sufficient medical records that come from your treating physician, you will greatly increase your chances of being approved for disability benefits. Each of these qualifiers – timely, accurate, and sufficient – has specific, SSA definitions.

Timely records are those that are relevant to your current medical condition. If you are attempting to claim disability for something that occurred last year, medical records from ten years ago would not be considered timely. Deciding what is timely falls within the purview of the treating physician. The nature of the ailment or condition is one factor in determining the timeliness of the records. If the condition is recurring or continuous, older records regarding the ailment or condition may be timely. If, on the other hand, the condition is one that resolves itself quickly or one that changes, older records may be less relevant and therefore not timely. The doctor knows best in these kinds of situations.

Accurate records are those that properly describe your condition according to acceptable medical sources. The Social Security Administration only accepts medical opinions from certain types of health care providers: (1) licensed physicians; (2) osteopaths; (3) optometrists; (4) podiatrists; and (5) speech pathologists. If the records or opinions do not come from one of these five kinds of health care providers, it may not, in many cases serve as acceptable medical source of evidence to the Social Security Administration. It is important to keep in mind that evidence from lay-persons, chiropractors and the like will be considered by the administration, however, these records will likely not carry as much weight as opinions from the aforementioned sources.

Finally, sufficient records are those that contain enough information for the disability judge to make a determination about your eligibility from those records alone. To be frank, the Administration wants to see that you have been treated for this condition prior to filing for disability. The treating physician’s notes and opinions carry the most weight with the Administration.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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