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Category: Social Security Disability

Update on the SSA Using Electronic Medical Records

Here’s an article from an Indiana newspaper that gives an update on Social Security’s advancement into using electronic medical records. This National Health Information Network is gradually rolling out across the country and this article tells of the ways it will speed up the process.

This article was written by Chip Permar

Living the High Life on Disability

Social Security Disability

Afternoon naps, limited household chores, and unscheduled days lounging around the house. Looking from the outside, being a Social Security Disability (SSD) recipient seems a like a great deal. Receive income without working? Fantastic!

What some people do not know is that those afternoon naps may be required because of chronic fatigue or negative side-effects of a prescribed medication. Household chores are limited because the disabled person is physically unable to bend/stoop/push/pull/lift without excruciating pain. Lastly, staying at home may be the only option if driving causes intense pain or being in social situations induces paralyzing panic attacks.

Some people believe the current SSD program encourages able-bodied people to stay out of work. While this dream-world might be true for a very small percentage of cases, if we look a little closer, a different picture begins to appear.

As of November 2015, the average monthly benefit for a Disability recipient was $1,165.76. That makes for a yearly income of $13,989.12, which is only $2,219.12 above the 2015 Poverty Guideline for a one-person household. Looking at these numbers, it becomes clear that Disability payments do not provide for luxury goods.

Just in case you’re curious – in 2014 the average able-bodied American’s salary was $46,481.52 a year.

Aside from the limited financial aspects, it is also important to remember that the majority of individuals receiving Disability payments are battling severe medical problems. Health dominates their thoughts, controls their actions, and affects their relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.

Lastly, did you know that 1 out of every 5 males and 1 out of every 7 females on Disability will die within 5 years of getting approved? This dire statistic supports the idea that those individuals would not have been active within the workforce, regardless of if they were on disability or not.

The Social Security Administration’s Monthly Statistical Snapshot can be found at: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/

Social Security Disability and Unemployment

Social Security Disability

When we speak with new clients my office goes through a list of questions that, at first glance, seem unrelated to a disability claim. Have you received unemployment? What is your education level? What do you do on a typical day? We don’t do this boring version of the “20 Questions Game” to be nosy or wastea client’s time. Instead, the answers to these questions can sometimes make or break a claim.

Let’s be clear: A Social Security Disability (SSD) case cannot be won without strong medical evidence. But a good representative knows that it is important to show that the claimant as a person, not just a stack of medical records. In this mini-series, we’ll look at a few of the non-medical factors that can impact a claim.


Receiving unemployment benefits after the date you say you became disabled (“alleged onset date”) can be big issue. There is a conflict between saying “I am disabled” while certifying for unemployment. In order to receive Unemployment benefits the worker has to be *able* to work and *actively seek new employment.* Certifying that those statements are true for Unemployment while alleging, at the same time, that a person is disabled and *unable to work* doesn’t always add up.

There are long delays associated with disability applications and appeals; how are claimants supposed to survive when they cannot work? This is a tough question the Social Security Administration does not clearly address. In 2006 the SSA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Honorable Frank Cristaudo, issued a memorandum that stated that receiving Unemployment benefits did not make a aclaimant ineligible for SSD benefits. However, in 2011, a federal court case, Roberts v. Astrue, affirmed that a Judge was correct in using an application for Unemployment against the claimant.

Social Security judges are not consistent with how they approach unemployment. Some do not focus on the issue and leave it up to the State of North Carolina. Others will not award benefits for the time period when a claimant received unemployment; an amended onset date may be required.  Changing the onset date may impact the amount of retroactive benefits (“back-pay”) and the date of Medicare eligibility.

In short, when it comes to Unemployment, honesty is the best policy. If you decide to apply for Unemployment be truthful about your Disability application status. Also be sure your SSA Disability representative knows if you received unemployment benefits.

Social Security Disability and Activities of Daily Life

Social Security Disability

“Trying to get Disability is like going out to dinner with a nosy person who asks rude questions. It gives me the creeps!” My client called after receiving a package from the Social Security Administration (SSA) questioning her daily activities, pets, eating habits, and chores. In my client’s mind the SSA had gone too far. They already knew her age, weight, and personal medical details. Why did they need to know what she had for lunch?

At the initial and reconsideration stages the SSA often mails lengthy questionnaires (“Adult Function Report”) to both the claimant and the claimant’s contact person. While it is unlikely that the intent of these questionnaires is to be sneaky the SSA does consider the claimant’s answers to get information not always directly asked.

My experience is that the SSA is not looking at if the claimant had a chicken salad sandwich versus pizza for lunch. What the SSA is looking at is if the claimant regularly chops, stirs, and stands for three hours slaving over a tricky recipe. Does the claimant say he cannot walk more than five minutes but takes his Labrador for a 20 minute job every day? Or, does the claimant say she cannot be around people but is an active member of her church or local Girl Scout troop?

The best way to answer the questionnaires is truthfully. Did you dust the living room but then spent the next three days in bed? If you go to the store once a week but your son carries all the groceries to and from the car, tell the SSA! If, on the bad days you can’t get out of bed, but on the good days you might eat dinner with your family, let the SSA know! It is important to not exaggerate your problems – but it is equally important to not put on a falsely brave face. The Social Security Administration can only make a fair decision if they know the whole story.