Big Arroyo Creek and Eagle Scout Peak Sequoia National Park, California

If you are applying for SSDI benefits in Fresno, you may be curious how much weight your treating doctor’s opinion is given. In a recent Social Security Disability case in the Southern District of California, the plaintiff sought judicial review of a Social Security Commissioner’s denial of his application for disability insurance benefits.hospital bed

The plaintiff argued that the administrative law judge had made a reversible error by not properly weighing a non-examining doctor’s opinion, among other things.

The case arose when the plaintiff was 47. He had been working as a sheet metal mechanic and stopped working in 2013 because of various health conditions, including degenerative disc disease, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, and anxiety. A tumor had been surgically removed from his neck in 1991, and then he went through back surgery.

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If you are trying to obtain SSI or SSDI benefits in Fresno, it can be important to retain an experienced attorney who can work to make sure the Social Security Administration understands the impact of all of your impairments on your case.  In a recent case in a court in the Central District of California, a plaintiff asked for review of the Commissioner’s denial of his request for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. The parties filed consents to go before a magistrate judge in 2017.doctor's equipment

The claimant was born in 1956 and had previously worked as a caterer and a car rental manager. He applied for a period of disability benefits, claiming he hadn’t been able to work since 2011. His applications were denied initially, and he requested a hearing in front of an administrative judge.

At the hearing, the claimant testified, as did a medical expert and vocational expert. The administrative judge decided against him. The claimant asked the court to review.

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alcoholIn a recent district court case that sheds light on how courts view the approval of California disability insurance benefits, a plaintiff asked for review of the Commissioner’s denial of his request for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The plaintiff had completed 12th grade and worked as a security guard. His date of birth was in 1951.

He applied for disability insurance benefits claiming disability since 2008 due to bipolar disorder, lymphadenopathy, hyperlipidemia, arthralgia, hepatitis B, and dermatitis. His application was denied at first and then reconsidered. He asked for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The hearing was in 2015, and at that time both the plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. In his decision the administrative law judge determined he wasn’t disabled because he had a substance abuse disorder that was a contributing factor that was germane to determining his disability.

The district court reviewed the denial to determine whether it was based on substantial evidence — evidence that was enough for a reasonable person to accept it as sufficient to support the conclusion drawn.

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eraseIn a district court decision that may give those seeking supplemental security income in California some sense of the process, a plaintiff sought judicial review of an administrative law judge’s decision denying his request for supplemental security income under Title XVI. The plaintiff had filed his first application for benefits in 2013, and he was denied in 2014, and then denied reconsideration.

He had therapy four times with a particular licensed clinical social worker. He next had weekly therapy at a counseling center. In 2015, he started to take psychiatric medication and began to see a psychiatrist. He had an exam with a state agency psychologist in 2014, and also had a psychological evaluation.

By law, someone claiming social security disability benefits need to prove he is unable to do any substantial gainful activity because of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 or more months. The administrative law judge is supposed to evaluate a claimant in five steps performed in sequence to decide whether the claimant is disabled such that he should receive benefits.

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Who is eligible to receive veterans’ survivor benefits?

Our brave military men and women put their own lives on the line to protect our country. Entering the military comes with risks in all branches. Since our founding as a country, the United States has fought in at least 11 official wars and many other domestic and international military conflicts. Over 7,000 U.S. troops were killed, and thousands more injured, over the last decade. Losing your loved one to military service is devastating, and for many families, it also means financial struggle. To assist the family members of fallen or disabled soldiers, the Social Security Administration and the Veteran’s Association offers both veteran and survivor benefits.

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Q: How do I know if my representative payee is honest?

California disability benefits attorneys are devoted to helping society’s most vulnerable citizens determine which of the two available federal disability benefits programs they may be qualified for and then handling the application and/or appeals process necessary to secure those benefits.

The two federal disability benefits programs offered through the Social Security Administration(“SSA”) both require that applicants meet the federal government definition of being “disabled”. In general, Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) apply to disabled people who have previously worked for a requisite number of years and paid into Social Security through their payroll deductions. The other program, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is available to disabled people in an exceptionally low-income situation. Sometimes people may qualify for both programs.

While the road to being awarded disability benefits can be long and difficult, especially without assistance from a skilled disability benefits attorney, the difficulties don’t always end when the award is granted.

What assets count towards SSI eligibility?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that assists people with disabilities in paying for basic necessities like food and shelter. SSI and SSDI are often lumped together, but the two programs have some major differences. SSI is not limited to those who have a certain number of work credits, unlike SSDI.  The program is open to individuals with a disability who have limited assets and income. Our SSI eligibility lawyers explore the eligibility requirements for SSI and what assets will count towards your asset limit below.

SSI Eligibility

To receive SSI benefits, you must demonstrate that you are disabled and have limited financial resources. Various medical conditions may allow you to qualify to receive SSI benefits. Check the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments to determine if your condition may qualify. You will need to include strong medical evidence of your disability, which must prove your inability to earn a living.

Once you have substantiated your disability, you must meet the income and asset limits. To be eligible for SSI benefits, you must have no more than $2,000 in assets or $3,000 per couple. However, not all assets will count towards this limit. Assets excluded from consideration include:

Can my child with autism receive SSI benefits?

It is estimated that one in every 68 children today are on the autism spectrum, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings. Autism is a multi-system developmental disorder that can affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact with the world around him or her. Autism varies significantly in severity. Children with severe autism may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to assist in daily living expenses.

Qualifying for SSI Benefits Due to Autism

The Social Security Administration includes “Autism spectrum disorder” among its listings of impairments. The definition of autism disorders was updated in 2017. To be eligible to receive benefits, you must provide documentation to support that your child with autism suffers from:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication deficits

What standards does the SSA use to determine whether I am disabled?

For the millions of disabled individuals across the United States, Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide much needed financial assistance.  Qualifying to receive disability benefits can be challenging and many applicants are denied the first time they apply. To receive SSD or SSI benefits, you will need to prove that you are disabled per the Social Security Administration’s definition. Our Fresno, California Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer discusses the SSA’s definition of disabled below.

The Listing of Impairments

The easiest way to meet the SSA’s definition of disabled is to satisfy a condition set out in the Listing of Impairments.  This SSA manual includes dozens of medical conditions that range from cancer and heart failure to asthma and bipolar disorder.  Your condition will need to be severe to meet the criteria set out in the Listing of Impairments.

Substantial Gainful Activity

Alternatively, you can prove you are disabled by demonstrating that your physical or mental limitations prevent you from being able to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA).  Substantial gainful activity is defined as making over $1,180 per month before taxes as of 2018. In evaluating whether you can perform SGA, the SSA will look at your work history in the past few years.  The Administration will take into account your age, level of education, limitations, and work skills. It is not enough to show that you cannot continue working in your current job; rather, all potential jobs will be considered.

Q: Are SSDI recipients really disabled or just lazy?

Some critics of the current Social Security disability benefits system are asking: Is the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“SSDI”) program a safety net or a hammock?

As Fresno and Madera SSDI attorneys committed to helping the disabled get the benefits they deserve, the long-standing myth that people receiving SSDI benefits are just lazy and don’t want to work is offensive. So, with a caveat that recognizes there will always be some who are in fact milking the system, let’s examine the disability benefits process and dispel the myth.

Applying for SSDI disability benefits is a long and difficult process. Two-thirds of initial disability benefits applications are denied. As far as the appeals process goes, the backlog for hearings on appeal is averaging more than two years. Yes, two years. Imagine becoming disabled, being unable to work and provide for your family, and having to wait possibly for years for that first disability check–if it comes at all. People are literally wiping out their life savings, losing their homes, and even dying while waiting for an appeals hearing for disability benefits.

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