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When a claimant applies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in Massachusetts, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) will only approve an application if they are convinced claimant is eligible for SSDI benefits by having paid into the system through enough years of working and has subsequently become disabled. Disabled means unable to engage in substantial gainful activity, which is defined as one’s ability to earn more than approximately $1,120 in any given month.  SSA will look at all medical evidence and opinion statements, or testimony should there be a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), to determine a claimant’s residual functioning capacity.

Residual Functioning Capacity in Boston Social Security Disability Claims

Boston SSDI CaseA claimant’s residual functioning capacity or “RFC” as it is often called by ALJs and Boston disability attorneys, is one’s ability to work despite having one or more serious medical conditions. The way this is supposed to work is SSA reviewers look at all evidence and then look to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).  The Dictionary of Occupational Titles contains a long list of many different jobs in the local (Boston area) or national economy, and includes a list of the requirements needed to obtain and keep one of these jobs. If the claimant cannot lift, bend, crouch, squat, stand or sit, for example, a job may not be appropriate for this claimant. If SSA determines claimant can work one of these jobs, even if it pays much less than claimant’s previous type of employment, SSA will likely deny any disability benefits via a finding of no disability. Continue reading →

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Once an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits has been rejected by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), the next thing which will happen in the appeals process is claimant must complete and submit what is known as a Request for Reconsideration. This is done by filing form SSA-561, and there is a very decent chance this written request for reconsideration will also be rejected as nearly all of them are.  At this point in the long process, claimant can request an hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  While it may take a year or even two for this hearing to occur, ALJ will likely hear testimony from a Vocational Expert or “VE” as they are often called by SSA.

SSDI Cases BostonA Vocational Expert is an employee of SSA who is supposed to be an expert on what jobs people are capable of working when they have various disabilities or a combination of disabling conditions. The VE becomes an expert by being trained in how to use and interpret a guide book called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.  This book, which was written decades ago and not updated all too often contains what the drafter believed to be nearly every job in Boston and the rest of the nation (they use the terms local or national economy), and whether people with mental and physical disabilities can attain and hold those jobs, with or without accommodations.  Continue reading →

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As 2017 ended and another year began we found ourselves watching congress fight over the federal budget to the point of months without a finalized budget, a series of temporary continuing resolutions and at least one relatively short partial government shutdown and the possibility of future shutdowns to come. Many people are wondering what happens if the government is shut down and whether they will be paid Social Security disability benefits during a time when the government is far less than fully operational.

SSDI and SSI Benefits During A Government Shutdown

Boston SSDI Cases While people often use the term government shutdown, what we really have is a partial government shutdown. This means while most federal employees will be on a furlough, others will be required to work as they are considered essential employees. This may sound like good news for those employees still on the job, but since they do not get paid until after the government reopens, it’s not all great news. These essential employees work on essential functions and this includes the military and some aspects of the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  Continue reading →

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Applying for Supplemental Security Income, or “SSI,” seems like it should be a quick and easy process. The reality is most cases involve a long, drawn-out process during which an unrepresented claimant is at a major disadvantage. Seeking help from a dedicated SSI attorney in Boston can give you an edge and help guide you through what is often a confusing bureaucracy.

The process begins with filling out an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).

SSI BostonThe requirements for applying for Supplemental Security Income are that you must fit into one of the following categories:

  • A disabled adult
  • A disabled child
  • A person over the age of 65

In the case of a disabled child, it will be a parent or other guardian who actually completes the application and handles the matter on the behalf of the child during the entire process.  This does not mean that they cannot not also obtain an attorney, which is a good idea and there is no reason no to do so. Continue reading →

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The Need for Strong Medical Evidence in Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Cases

Medical evidence often plays a crucial role in disability cases. Most Boston Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants will not be successful when they initially apply for benefits.  This has less to do with whether claimants are  disabled and more to do with how the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) runs the program due to political reasons and budgetary constraints.

Following the initial application is summarily rejected as is the next step in the process, which involves a written request for reconsideration, the claimant will have to do have hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). It is in this hearing when a claimant must prove they are actually disabled within the meaning of the SSA regulations, and this is where the use of medical evidence by the claimant is of utmost importance.

The Weight of Medical Evidence During Boston SSDI ALJ Hearings

Boston SSI casesIn Wellington v. Berryhill, a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, claimant applied for SSDI benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI benefits are a different type disability benefits under a program also administered by SSA.  In some cases, there is little chance of obtaining SSI benefits, but claimants who are often unrepresented when they first file the application will check every box in hopes of obtaining some much needed benefits. In other cases, such as this one, they are relevant to the matter at hand.  Continue reading →

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Proving you are disabled is not always as easy at is should be. even when your treating physician agrees you cannot work due to your disability.  The reason it’s often such a challenges is it is not your doctor, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) has the power to decide. The ALJ can overrule the opinion of treating physician based upon other evidence. While they are able to do this, they are technically only able to do this when the evidence on record fully supports the decision.  In some cases, an ALJ may fail to establish there was sufficient evidence detailed in the record of benefits to justify denial. In these cases, an appeal is often necessary. The first appeal can be made the SSA Appeals Commission. However, that appeal is discretionary, so commissioners can decide not to hear it.

SSDI Claims BostonIf this happens or a commissioner hears claimant’s appeal and affirms the denial of benefits, the claimant can either submit a new application (starting the process all over again) or appeal to the U.S District Court.  In cases that originate in Massachusetts, the proper court is the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which is located on Boston’s waterfront.  This will be a hearing before a federal magistrate.  If that does not go in the claimant’s favor, the next appeal would but the U.S Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Continue reading →

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The Republican Party made it a major priority to pass the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” before the end of 2017 to show a legislative win for the GOP and President Donald John Trump.  For better or worse, they have accomplished this goal, but it looks like one of the consequences to this bill, aside from ending Obamacare as Mr. Trump acknowledged, is it will also likely result in large cuts to other public benefits such as Social Security disability benefits including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, as well as major cuts to Medicaid.

SSDI lawyerWhile many many do not realize this, Medicaid, is a major benefit to those on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, because under the complex web of federal regulations such as Section 1902 of 42 USC 1396a, states are allowed to give Medicaid benefits to anyone who was qualified for SSDI as long as they have been receiving the benefits for more than one year.  Most states have decided they do not even want to handle Medicaid on their own, so they have delegated the  Medicaid signup process to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), which is the federal agency that runs the SSI and SSDI programs, as well as the Old Age and Retirement benefits program with which most Americans are more familiar.  This is the program that provides money for any working American when they reach the age of federal retirement. This age goes up from time to time as a way to save money, but eventually you will age into the system if you live long enough.  It is also possible to get these benefits earlier if you give up some of the total benefits. Continue reading →

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been without an appointed commissioner for around two years.  The previous commissioner stepped down at a time when there were many issues being reported about the federal agency, the operations at some of its locations around the nation, and the problems pertaining to the agency’s administrative law judges (ALJs).

SSDI lawyerSSA is the federal agency that administers the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program, as well the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The agency also administers the Old Age and Retirement benefits program.

Continue reading →

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For a court to hear any case, it must have what is known as subject matter jurisdiction. This is the authority of the court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to certain subject matter.

This is as true in a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) case as it is in an auto accident lawsuit. In an SSDI case, the process begins by filling an application at the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). This application will probably get denied so this will require filing a request for reconsideration with SSA. Following a denial of a request for reconsideration, claimants must request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the SSA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. If claimant is not successful at this point, he or she can appeal to the SSA Appeals Council. This is a discretionary review, meaning the council can deny to hear the appeal from an ALJ.

Boston SSDI LawyerIn most cases, however, SSA will agree to hear the appeal of a denial from an ALJ since it can save them money in the long run.  Many people will drop off along the way in what has unfortunately become a long and difficult process to get SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits,  so the more steps that are put in place, the more denials there will be and this means that an unrepresented claimant may see things as even more of an uphill battle.  When a claimant decides not to continue with the process. They can always file another application process all over again, and sometimes this is the only option, but that also starts the clock over again. Currently, it is taking those who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston two years or more to get benefits if they are eventually successful.   Continue reading →

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A Disability Rating from the VA Does Not Guarantee Social Security Disability Benefits

There is little question that going to war as U.S. service member can have lifelong consequences for those who return home.  One major health condition that affects our veterans is known as post-traumatic stress disorder or “PTSD.”

SSDI Attorney Boston This is certainly not a new issue.  During WWI and WWII, they used the term “shell shock,” derived from the perception that returning soldiers were  “shaken up,” sometimes permanently, from having shells and other types of explosive ordinance blowing up all around them and watching friends suffer serious traumatic injury or death.

However, even though we have known about this issue for many decades, we have made little progress when it comes to ensuring these brave soldiers are adequately compensated when they return with these profound psychological traumas and are unable to re-enter the workforce.

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