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St. Louis Legal Issues Blog

Permanent vs. nonpermanent impairments in an SSD review

Missourians who are approved for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits should be aware that in most cases, the benefits have a time limit. Since the basic premise behind SSD benefits is to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves due to an illness, condition or injury and many of these problems will eventually improve sufficiently so the person can get back to work, there will be periodic continuing disability reviews to ensure that the individual remains sufficiently disabled to keep getting benefits. Understanding permanent impairments vs. nonpermanent impairments is critical when preparing for a review.

For those whose impairment is permanent, the review is generally not a problem and their benefits will continue. For those whose disability is nonpermanent, it is possible their benefits will stop. A permanent impairment generally means there will be no expected medical improvement. The condition is so severe that the Social Security Administration believes it will stay the same or will worsen progressively or due to complications associated with it. Factors like the person's age, the current labor market and whether they can do substantial gainful activity (SGA) will be important. Examples of conditions that will be labeled as permanent are Parkinson's Syndrome of sufficient severity, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), diffuse pulmonary fibrosis for those 55 or older and an amputation of the leg at the hip.

Did I work long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability?

Missourians who are injured and facing an inability to work will understandably try to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits for injury. With SSD benefits, however, there are certain federal requirements as to the amount of work they did and whether they qualify to be approved. Understanding the system and how Social Security credits are accrued to get SSD benefits is an important first step before even applying. This and any other issue with SSD benefits should be discussed with an experienced disability attorney.

The credits are considered the foundation for the Social Security Administration and the Disability Determination Services to determine if the applicant has enough work to get SSD. In most cases, 40 is the minimum number to get benefits. For those who have stopped working prior to having the required number of credits to qualify, they do not lose their benefits. They will be on the record so credits can be added if they go back to work.

Understanding why the SSA denied your disability request

You may have a vivid recollection of the time and effort it took to apply for benefits from the Social Security Administration for your disabling condition. You filled out paperwork, gathered documentation, submitted to an interview and waited. To your dismay, the SSA rejected your claim for benefits. While this can be frustrating, the letter the agency sent should have explained why they denied your request.

It is not unusual for first-time claimants to receive a denial of benefits. In fact, the SSA accepts only about one third of all initial requests. If you disagree with the reasons the SSA stated for your denial, you may have more success on appeal. Meanwhile, it is important to understand the common reasons why the SSA rejects so many claims for disability benefits.

How are limitations assessed for SSD benefits with obesity?

Obesity is a problem that afflicts many people in Missouri and across the nation. With it come a variety of health issues that can render a person ill and unable to work. People can get approved for Social Security disability benefits if they are obese, but it is just like any other medical issue, illness or condition in that there are certain requirements that must be met. With the five-step sequential evaluation process, a key point is residual functional capacity (RFC). Understanding how obesity is assessed in this context is imperative when seeking Social Security disability benefits for illness.

Functionality can be hindered when a person is obese. The level of limitation can hinge on myriad factors. That includes the location of the excess weight. People who are obese could have a problem with basic requirements related to exertion such as being able to stand, sit, walk, lift, carry, push and pull. Other functions could be prevented because of the obesity-related limitations like being able to climb, stoop, crouch or maintain balance. This will negatively impact whether the person can do certain jobs or not. In addition, excess fatty tissue in the fingers and hands can keep the person from effective manipulation of objects. Weather could be problematic with heat and humidity being intolerable for them.

Can licenses be suspended for failing to pay child support?

Missouri parents who are ordered to pay child support can face a variety of penalties if they fail to do so. While it can be difficult to make the payments in full and there are alternatives to have the amount modified if there is justification to do so, noncustodial parents who have a support order cannot simply decide not to pay the custodial parent for the support of the child. Most might be aware that a driver license can be suspended for failure to pay child support. However, it is also possible that a professional or occupational license can be suspended for it too.

It is important to know when there can be this level of suspension and how to avoid it. The court can order that these licenses be suspended and tell the supporting parent that he or she cannot take part in the activity related to the license until the support is paid. This can happen if the supporting parent - the obligor - has not made the child support payments according to the order and owed back support that comes to greater than three months of support or $2,500, whichever is less, when there is a notice of intent to suspend the license. It can also happen when the supporting parent, after being notified that the suspension is possible, does not comply with a court subpoena regarding the establishing of paternity, or to establish, modify, enforce support orders, or an order to have a genetic test.

Consultative examinations for SSD benefits and failing to appear

While the best-case scenario for Missourians who are suffering from an illness, injury or condition that they believe warrant an approval for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is that they will get the benefits and the process will go smoothly, that is not always the case. For many, it is necessary that they have a consultative examination to provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with sufficient evidence to decide on the case. Failing to appear can be problematic. Understanding the rules for failure to appear at a consultative examination is important to a case.

When an applicant is asked to take a consultative examination and does not without good reason or through a simple act of refusal, the SSA can decide that the person is not disabled. For those who are already getting benefits and are asked to take a consultative examination to decide if their issues are still of sufficient severity to continue receiving them and they do not do so, the benefits might stop. When a person is unable to attend a scheduled appointment for a consultative examination, it is important to tell the SSA so another examination can be scheduled. There are many factors that meet the criteria of "good reason."

Can my SSD case be decided using fast-track processes?

For many Missourians who have an illness, injury or condition that renders them unable to work and in need of medical care, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are a critical factor in making ends meet. Understanding the different processes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses when making its decisions is important to any case. Some have issues that are so clearly disabling that they are eligible to have their case "fast-tracked." This can be a critical factor in a case as people who are suffering from a disability that falls into these categories will frequently need their benefits as quickly as possible.

Knowing how a fast-track case is defined and when the criteria is met is imperative to use this process. For those who are seeking SSD benefits or have faced a denied claim, having legal advice is a must. There are two fast-track processes: Compassionate Allowances (CAL) and Quick Disability Determinations (QDD). With these processes, those who are suffering from impairments that are clear and overwhelmingly likely to be approved will have their cases expedited.

Are you a veteran dealing with mental issues? You have options

When you signed up to serve in the military, you knew there were certain risks involved. You probably assumed that any injuries you experienced would be physical, not mental. However, there are many veterans who struggle with unseen emotional and mental scars as a result of their military service. 

If you are dealing with mental issues as a result of something you experienced while serving in the military, you may find your condition keeps you from working. Even if your military career is over, you may not be able to hold gainful employment due to a mental disability. If this is your situation, you may be hopeless and unsure of what to do next, but you could be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

What are the evidentiary rules for SSD benefits when appealing?

It can be upsetting and worrisome when a Missouri resident is suffering from an illness, condition or injury and they seek Social Security disability benefits only to be denied. There are many reasons why an SSD claim might be denied and not all are linked to the medical issue. There might have been a clerical error, the evidence might not have been deemed sufficient, or there could have been a mistake. Fortunately, there are four levels of appeal based on the federal regulations. The Social Security Administration is not biased against anyone and wants to make certain that those who warrant disability benefits get them. However, that does not mean those who are appealing should shun legal protection when appealing.

An important consideration when appealing at the initial level is presenting evidence to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). When there is a hearing before an ALJ, the person has the right to appear and provide evidence to bolster their case. This can be done in person, via video or on the telephone. A designated representative can make the appearance. The person can waive his or her right to appear. This will be done by sending the ALJ the statement or waiver saying they do not want to appear. This can be withdrawn at the person's behest.

How does Social Security disability help wounded warriors?

Missourians who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces should be aware of what benefits they can receive if they are injured. The Social Security Administration has certain benefits that are specifically in place to help wounded warriors. Understanding these benefits is critical to getting them. When there is an issue or confusion with being approved, having legal help is a must.

Those who are seeking disability after military service can get their case expedited. If the person became injured and disabled when they were serving on active duty on Oct. 1, 2001 or thereafter, they can have this expedited process no matter where and when they became disabled. There are two programs that provide for wounded warriors. They are the Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
225 South Meramec Avenue, Suite 426
St. Louis, MO 63105

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Phone: 314-925-0242
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