Increase In Social Security Disability Benefits For 2014

Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a cost of living adjustment of 1.5% for 2014.  As a result, monthly benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will rise next year.

With the increase, the maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving SSI will rise from $710 per month to $721. The benefit for a couple on SSI will grow from $1,066 per month to $1,082. Many states add to SSI benefits for their residents meaning that actual payments could exceed these caps.  Massachusetts is one of the States that adds a supplemental benefit.

Disability For Chronic Migraines

A migraine is a severe headache that often causes debilitating pain.  Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a listing specific for migraine headaches, you can qualify for disability benefits if your headaches are severe and impact your level of functioning to the point you cannot work.   Migraines are often accompanied or preceded by:

  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

As migraines are subjective and cannot be detected by standard medical tests, you should document the migraines you have, noting the frequency, severity and intensity.  A good way to document your headaches is to keep a headache diary.  This diary will not only assist you with your application for disability benefits or potential hearing, but may also assist your physician in treating you. [Read more…]

Qualifying For SSI and SSDI Disability

If you are disabled and can’t work, there are numerous programs and assistance to help you.  Two of those programs at the federal level are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Although there are several differences between the SSI and SSDI disability programs, there is one similarity.  The definition of disability is the same and medical disability is assessed the same way under both programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the disability program for those individuals that have not worked or have not worked enough recently to be insured for benefits. It pays monthly cash benefits to people who are age 65 or older, those who are blind, or those who have a disability and have $2,000 or less in assets and have no or limited income. Both adults and children can apply for SSI.

[Read more…]

Can You Work After Qualifying For Disability Benefits?

The simple answer is yes.  Social Security has several programs to assist disability beneficiaries in their attempt to return to work.  One program is the trial work period.  A trial work period allows a beneficiary of disability benefits to test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled and receive his or her benefit.  Any month in which you work and your earnings are greater than $750 (for 2013) will trigger a trial work period.  Your trial work period ends when you have nine months with earnings greater than $750 (for 2013).  The nine months do not have to be consecutive, but there must be nine months total in a rolling 60 month period.

After your trial work period ends, you have 36 months to work and still receive disability benefits for any month in which your earnings are not “substantial”.   Any earnings over $1,040 ($1,740 for blind beneficiaries) will be considered substantial.

Can I Work With Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which may be caused either by diseases of the nerve or from the side-effects of systemic illness.  Peripheral neuropathy often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet, but it may also occur in other areas of your body.  Some forms of neuropathy involve damage to only one nerve and are called mononeuropathies. More often though, multiple nerves affecting all limbs are affected-called polyneuropathy.

Can you get disability benefits for peripheral neuropathy?  Like any other condition or impairment, the peripheral neuropathy must severely limit a claimants ability to work. The listing that applies for  peripheral neuropathy is found at listing 11.14 under neurological disorders.  To meet the criteria, there must be significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.

[Read more…]

Qualifying For Disability Benefits With ADHD

A diagnosis for ADHD, like other conditions and injuries, does not mean a child will automatically qualify for disability benefits.  Children under 18 diagnosed with ADHD will be granted benefits if the severity of their condition meets the Social Security Administrations (SSA) impairment listing, or functionally equals the listing.   The applicable listing for ADHD can be found at 112.11 of the children’s listings.

To meet listing 112.11, your child must have all three (3) symptoms of ADHD:  marked inattention, marked impulsiveness and marked hyperactivity.  For children 3-18, the claimant must have severe difficulty in at least two (2) of the following four (4) areas:

[Read more…]

Redetermination For Children’s Disability at 18

Many parents have asked what happens to their child’s disability benefit when they turn 18.  Do they automatically lose the benefit?  The answer is no.

At age 18, the child must go through a process called a redetermination of benefits to determine whether or not their benefits should continue.  The reason for this process is because the standard to determine disability is different for adults as it is for children.  As a child, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines limitations based on functioning over six domains of function.  When the child turns 18, SSA must examine the child’s limitations and how it affects their ability or capacity to work.

So how does SSA determine a child’s ability to work at age 18 with little or no work experience.  SSA will assess the child’s ability to work or enter the workforce based on limitations observed in school, part-time work or volunteer position, and discussing the child’s limitations with persons that may have made observations regarding the ability to work.

Documentation will be needed to show these limitations and may include:

  • Medical records
  • School records
  • Teacher statements
  • Counseling records
  • Statements by employers, charities, internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Statements by family

Medical Source Statements In Disability Cases

Medical Source Statements are very important in your disability case.  A Medical Source Statement is a statement or opinion by a physician or other medical provider detailing the functional capacity of a disability claimant.  While your medical records will document diagnoses, tests, medications and communication or statements between you and your doctor, most likely your medical records will be lacking as to how your disability affects your ability to work on a sustained basis.  These statements are most effective if they are carefully drafted to meet or satisfy the applicable regulation specific to your medical condition.  Even persons with the same condition/disability may need different medical source statements edited to their specific needs.  This should be done on a case-by-case basis.   Please contact my office to discuss medical source statements in further detail.

Can I have family or a friend testify at my disability hearing?


I was asked by a client recently if they could bring someone to their disability hearing to testify on their behalf. The answer is yes and this type of witness is often called a “lay witness”.

The most appropriate person to testify would be someone that sees you regularly and can testify as to your limitations and what you are going through on a daily basis. It is critical that this witness testify as to observations made of you, not just what you tell them. In addition, your lay witness must be able to describe the pain you experience, if any, and any other limitations you have that prevent you from working.

Your lay witness should have a basic understanding of the disability hearing. Your lawyer will discuss and let you and your witness know what to expect. Testimony during the hearing should not be prepared or memorized. There is nothing that can hurt your case more than testimony that is exaggerated or that is not considered credible by the Administrative Law Judge.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your case further, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Am I Eligible For Social Security Disability – Part 5

In our final part of our 5 part series, we are discussing the process you must go through to be approved for social security disability benefits.  We’ve already discussed the first four steps, which address working, the severity of your impairment, if your medical condition meets or equals a listed impairment by the Social Security Administration, and whether you can perform your past work.  In this series, we will discuss step 5 of the sequential evaluation process which addresses if you can perform any other type of work.  The 5 step sequential evaluation process is noted below for reference:

  1. Are you currently working?  Does your impairment prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity?
  2. Is your condition severe?
  3. Does your medical condition meet or equal a listed impairment?
  4. Can you perform your past work?
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

Step 5

Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process analyzes whether you are able to adjust to other types of work.  The work must be of the type that exists in significant number in the national economy.  The analysis will factor in your past work, your age, remaining work capacity and education level.  If the SSA finds that you cannot adjust and take on other types of work, the SSA will likely find that you are disabled.  If you were denied at any step, please contact Sharry Law Office for a free case evaluation and discuss your appeal.