Tag Archives: nursing home negligence or medical malpractice

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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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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Children Services Home Studies When Custody Is an Issue

home_study_ohio

If a person wants to take custody of a child that is alleged to be an abused, neglected or dependent child, either with Children Services filing a complaint, or a private party filing a complaint for custody, those prospective custodians must have a home study conducted before they can take the child.

Homestudies may also be conducted when a parent wishes to have custody changed from the original residential parent to him or her.  In this instance, the Court may want to learn more about the prospective residence.

Many people get nervous when the issue of a home study is raised, fearing that outsiders will soon be prying into their lives in ways that seem untoward or unfair.  However, homestudies are rather pro forma  and the items the investigators are interested in are very basic in nature.  When Children Services or a private organization conduct a homestudy, they are effectively looking primarily at the following:

1. Is the home structurally sound?

2. Is there adequate room in the home that would allow the custodians to take-in another child?

3. Is the home sanitary and safe in all respects?

4. Who lives in the home? And would any current resident present a danger to this particular child if he or she were to be brought into the home?

While this is not the entire list of factors the investigators will look at (according to the investigators themselves), the truth is that the above list consists of the primary factors the investigators will be interested in. Like most agencies, Children Services is overworked and is constantly having to place children in safe environments and no case can be investigated in the manner it would be in a perfect world.  Therefore, when investigators visit a home they are looking for basic and immediate red-flags that would caution against placing the children in this particular home, mostly because the lack of resources prevent the  sort of in-depth investigation that all of us would prefer.

As long as the home is safe, sanitary and well equipped to take in another child, the homestudy should be positive in the end.

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Can the Child choose which Parent they want to live with in Ohio?

It is one of the most common myths that people maintain when it comes to child custody: Once a child reaches a certain age, that child can choose which parent to live with, right? Well, that is actually incorrect. However, this myth is based in history and actually grounded is truth. Under former Ohio law, once a child attained the age of 12 years old,child_support_ohio_termination that child had the power to choose which parent was to be deemed the residential parent and legal custodian of that child. However, under current Ohio law, minor children no longer have the ability to choose which parent they want to live with on a permanent basis. In other words, when the Court issues its final divorce decree which, among other things, allocates parental rights and responsibilities, it is not the child that determines which parent is to be the residential parent, even if that child is a teenager. Ohio law treats a 14 year old in the same manner as a 4 year old when it comes to determining which parent with be designated as the residential parent. And, like almost all issues involving minor children, the determination is guided by what is in the “best interest of the child”.

So, divorcing parents, remember that your child will not be choosing for or against you when it comes to custody issues. Rather, the Court will decide and you need to focus your energy on convincing the Court that it would be in the best interest of the child to live with you … do not work on convincing the child that he or she should choose you. Which, in truth, is not fair to the child anyway.

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How to terminate my Social Security Representative Payee?

If you feel as though you no longer need a Representative Payee SSA.gov suggests the following:

budget social securityIn order to become your own payee, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself. You could provide:

  1. A doctor’s statement that there has been a change in your condition and that the doctor believes you are able to care for yourself; or
  2. An official copy of a court order saying that the court believes that you can take care of yourself; or
  3. Other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself.

Note: Be advised that if SSA believes your condition has improved to the point that you no longer need a payee, we may reevaluate your eligibility for benefits.

However, in my experience if your Representative Payee is an approved organization then your chances to be become your own payee are slim to none.  The main reason being, that SSA has likely already done extensive screening due to the fact that they will only allow an organization to be a Payee Representative as a last resort.  Most of these Organizational Payee Representatives charge a fee ranging anywhere from 25 dollars a month at some organizations here in Dayton up to 75 dollars a month in some larger cities such as Cleveland and Columbus.

Therefore, the best option in many cases for a person unhappy with their current Organizational Payee Representative is to simply request that the Representative be changed from to an Organization with lower fees or a family or church member that will agree to apply as a representive.  All of this can be handled through your local Social Security Administration Office without the aid of an attorney.

Posted in Social Security SSD/SSI | 7 Comments