Many people in the state of Florida and across the country apply for Social Security and Disability benefits. Whether an individual applies to the Social Security Disability (SSD) insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, certain requirements must be met before benefits are paid out. There is a specific process to abide by in applying for benefits, and an experienced Social Security and Disability attorney can help his or her clients navigate the process and take any steps necessary to reach a positive result.
If your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a claimant sixty days to file an appeal. In filing the appeal, a claimant can either request a reconsideration of their claim or to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If a claimant misses the sixty day deadline, they may have their claim dismissed and be forced to file another application for benefits and restart the entire process. Fortunately for some, the SSA has issued a policy ruling setting out certain exceptions to the sixty day deadline rule.
The venerable news program 60 Minutes has been investigating the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSD) and aired its report on October 6, 2013. Reporter Steve Kroft reported on the increase in individuals who receive SSD benefits and the looming 2016 estimate of when the SSD trust fund will run out of money. He notes that SSD “serves nearly 12 million people — up 20 percent in the last six years — and has a budget of $135 billion.”
The 60 Minutes report
Steve Kroft interviewed a number of individuals, starting with Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, the Ranking Minority Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation. Senator Coburn states the statute says “If there’s any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability. That’s pretty clear.” A physician by training, Coburn had his staff review a couple hundred of SSD files to determine if any should not have been approved for benefits. They determined “that 25 percent of them should never have been approved — another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable.”Read More
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What are the symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease?
Due to the crescent shape of the red blood cells, individuals with Sickle Cell Disease tend to suffer from anemia, which leads to “weakness, tiredness, pale appearance, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, and shortness of breath, especially when active.”Read More
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What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that affects an individual’s motor controls. “Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person’s movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.”Read More
Hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and suffering episodes of vertigo, can lead to a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease.
What is the cause of Meniere’s?
The specific cause of Meniere’s is not fully understood. It appears that an imbalance of the fluid in the inner ear may cause Meniere’s. But “no single cause has been identified.”
How is Meniere’s disease diagnosed?
Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo — a sensation of a spinning motion — along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. In many cases, Meniere’s disease affects only one ear.
A doctor will take a complete medical history and then order a hearing assessment, a balance assessment, and possibly other tests to rule out other conditions.
The “hearing test assesses how well [a person] detects sounds at different pitches and volumes and how well [the individual] distinguishes between similar-sounding words.” This test looks at a person’s quality of hearing and may also tell the doctor whether the source of the hearing problems is in the inner ear or the auditory nerve.
Meniere’s disease throws off a person’s balance. While balance commonly returns to normal between episodes of vertigo, there may be continuing balance difficulties. To check a person’s balance, a doctor may order a videonystagmography (VNG) that evaluates balance by watching eye movement. To perform this test, “warm and cool water or warm and cool air are introduced into the ear canal. Measurements of involuntary eye movements in response to this stimulation are performed using a special pair of video goggles. Abnormalities of this test may indicate an inner ear problem.”
Another balance test is the rotary-chair test where the chair movement is controlled by a computer and eye movements are measured again. There is vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) testing where “sensors detect variations in neck or eye contractions” that measure inner ear function. Another balance test is posturography where an individual wears a safety harness and “stands in bare feet on a platform and keeps their balance under various conditions.”
To rule out other conditions, a doctor may order an MRI or a CT to rule out a brain tumor. There is also auditory brainstem response audiometry that looks for tumors on the auditory nerve.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability
Meniere’s disease is considered a disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function. These disturbances are “characterized by a history of frequent attacks of balance disturbance, tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss.” While there are ranges of balance and hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease, the SSA requires a showing of balance problems and hearing loss through vestibular tests and audiometry. To assess vertigo, the “disturbances of balance are characterized by a hallucination of motion or a loss of position sense and a sensation of dizziness which may be constant or may occur in paroxysmal attacks. Nausea, vomiting, ataxia, and incapacitation are frequently observed, particularly during the acute attack. It is important to differentiate the report of rotary vertigo from that of “dizziness” which is described as light-headedness, unsteadiness, confusion, or syncope.”
The SSA Bluebook notes that “Meniere’s disease is characterized by paroxysmal attacks of vertigo, tinnitus, and fluctuating hearing loss. Remissions are unpredictable and irregular, but may be long-lasting; hence, the severity of impairment is best determined after prolonged observation and serial reexaminations.”
If you have been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and it has progressed to where you cannot work, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to help you apply for Social Security Disability.
The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA., Attorneys & Counselors at Law will provide a free, no obligation consultation at our South Florida offices located in Dade, Broward and Monroe County. If you are unable to travel, we can see you at your home, hospital, or other location which is convenient for you. Contact us at (305) 653-5555 to schedule your free consultation today.
Q: Which agencies administer DI and SSI?
A: Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), which assesses the severity of a disability, determines eligibility, and issues monthly checks. Initial determinations are made by state agencies under contract with SSA. The cost of administering DI is financed from Social Security payroll tax revenues; the cost of administering SSI is financed by general revenues.
Q: How long do you have to be disabled before you can apply for Social Security disability benefits?
A: If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take three to four months to process an application. If your application is approved, the Social Security Administration will pay your first Social Security disability benefits for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.
Q: What is the Social Security disability insurance (DI) program?Read More
When your claim comes up for hearing, the Social Security Judge will go through a 5 step “sequential evaluation process” to decide whether you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.
- Whether you are working and, if so,
- Whether the work the claimant is doing constitutes substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial Gainful Activity is generally work that brings in over a certain dollar amount per month. In 2013, that amount is $1,040 for non-blind disabled applicants, and $1,740 for blind applicants.
If you are working, your claim will be denied. If you are not working (SGA), the Judge will go to Step 2.Read More
You have the right to appeal any decision Social Security makes as to your entitlement to Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.
The first step in the appeals process is called a reconsideration determination. You will receive a new decision by someone who had no part in the first decision. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a letter explaining how they made the decision. It is very difficult to get SSA to change their minds in a reconsideration request unless there is substantial medical information that was not received or considered during the initial determination.
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