Tag Archives: fatigue and ssdi

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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Springfield Disability SSDI Attorney

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BLANK 48.216038, 16.378984

The Law Office’s of John T. Nicholson’s Springfield office is located at 150 North Limestone Street #217, Springfield, OH and is by appointment only. We are located on the second floor of the post office building downtown Springfield. Please call (937) 325-8500 for a free consultation or to schedule an appointment today. 

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Springfield Disability Lawyer 39.926403, -83.808176

 

Ohio Office Locations:

 

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All other states call 1-800-596-1533

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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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Receiving SSI or SSDI for Chronic Pain.

I Have Chronic Pain, Can I get Disability?

If you suffer from chronic pain you understand just how variable the condition can be. For some the pain is continuous, for others it is intermittent, some suffer terribly while others live with less severe pain. Chronic pain is broadly defined as pain that cannot be eliminated by standard medical treatment, pain that persists after an injury or illness has resolved, or pain for which no origin can be determined.

Though the suffering is real, many with the disorder have trouble convincing the Social Security Administration that their pain prevents them from working. The difficulty of quantifying pain presents unique difficulties for those with chronic pain seeking to receive disability benefits. Given this, it is important to note that simply telling the SSA that you have disabling chronic pain is not enough, it must be clearly demonstrated through testimony and medical evidence.

It may surprise some to know that chronic pain is not a listed disorder in Social Security’s listing of impairments that may automatically qualify you for disability benefits. This does not mean that hope is lost, as there are many other diagnoses that are often related to chronic pain, including:

• inflammatory arthritis;
• somatoform disorders;
• back injury;
• chronic renal disease; and
• inflammatory bowel disease.

If you do not qualify under another a listing category, then you will have to qualify for disability benefits through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment. An RFC assessment mean that the process for deciding whether disability benefits will be awarded boils down to two important questions:

1) Do you have objective evidence that demonstrates a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be the source of your pain?

AND


2) If you are able to demonstrate such an impairment, how intense and persistent is the pain and how does it limit your ability to perform basic work activities?

For an impairment to be “medically determinable” it must be an anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormality that can be shown through clear evidence from reliable medical sources. Such sources include testimony from doctors, medical records and lab results. Without these tangible sources, your testimony alone will not be enough to prove your disability before the SSA.

When determining the level of pain, the SSA evaluates both the intensity of the pain and how the pain affects the individual’s ability to do basic work activities. An individual’s statements are important here as the SSA knows that some pain is more severe than can be demonstrated through medical evidence alone. Testimony describing the pain and how it impacts your daily life is considered with the rest of the relevant evidence in the case record when making a decision.

The SSA also considers the following factors when assessing your pain:
• The location, duration, frequency and intensity of the individual’s pain;
• The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain;
• Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain;
• Any measures, other than treatment, the individual uses or has used to relieve pain.

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

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What questions will the ALJ ask in my disability SSI / SSDI hearing?

What kind of questions will I be asked at my disability hearing?

ALJ questionsMany people are interested in knowing details about their disability hearing. For instance, how many and what kind of questions can you expect? Most hearings will be over in under an hour and some even less than that. As a result, you should not have to answer questions for an extended period of time. No matter how short, this hearing is many people’s first experience in such a formal setting and can be quite nerve-wracking. The following is some background information on the process and tips for how to effectively handle the hearing. Whether your hearing is in Dayton, Ohio, Dallas, Texas or Gary, Indiana, the questions asked by the judge will fall into four broad categories: 1) background information; 2) work history; 3) medical conditions and symptoms; and 4) activities of daily living.

As the name implies, background questions provide the judge general information about you. These questions can include your educational history, marital status, income, military service or even past criminal charges. Drug and alcohol use could also conceivably come up, though certainly not always.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) might ask for additional information about your job including your responsibilities, the requirements of the job and how your condition has affected your job performance. This last item is the most important. Giving the judge specific examples of problems your condition has caused meeting performance standards, as well as attendance issues that result from your disability can help convince the judge that you are indeed prevented from working.

Although your medical records are on file the judge may want to ask some clarifying questions to make sure he has all the necessary information to make a proper decision. The judge will almost definitely ask you how your medical condition affects you. What type of pain do they cause you? How do you try to relieve the pain? Are your medications effective? How much can you lift and carry? How long can you stand, sit, and walk? This is your chance to explain how your condition affects your life and your work so think through these questions prior to going to the hearing.

When answering medical questions it is important to give clear answers that paint a picture of your level of impairment. If you suffer from back problems and the judge asks you for a description, use words like “burning,” “tingling,” “aching,” “shooting,” or “dull.” Also clearly describe the location of any pain. This will help the judge know decided whether the symptoms are consistent with the recognized symptoms of your condition.

You may also be asked about your activities of daily living. These include normal things like bathing and dressing yourself, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and grocery shopping. If you have children the judge will likely asking for details about how the children are cared for. This provides yet another good opportunity to showcase how your disability impacts your life. It is crucial to explain that even if you are able to help out around the house, your medical condition creates limitations.

With all the above-mentioned categories it’s important to be honest and avoid the temptation to exaggerate. Some may feel that it will help to make their symptoms sound worse than they actually are. This kind of dishonestly usually has the opposite effect. The judges are very experienced and hear many similar cases every year. They are experts at recognizing exaggerations and you do not want to lose credibility in their eyes.

Having an experienced disability attorney help prepare you for your hearing is a wise decision. If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call Nicholson Disability at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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