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Social Security Considering Changes to Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis Listings

April 15, 2014 by Randy Zeldin

The Social Security Administration has proposed several changes to the "listed" impairments, which can qualify an individual to receive Social Security Disability Income.

The listing for "epilepsy", under section 11.02 and 11.03. Currently, non-convulsive epilepsy requires a seizure pattern occurring more frequently than once weekly in spite of at least 3 months of prescribed treatment. The proposed listings describe seizure frequency depending on the type of epilepsy, in terms of "occurring at least once a month for at least 3 consecutive months, at least once a week for at least 3 consecutive months or at least once every 2 months for at least 4 consecutive months. This would appear to be more limiting than the current listing, which allows for "averaging" seizures during a 3 month period. The proposed changes seem to require that the seizures occur on a more regular basis.

The proposed changes to listing 11.09 regarding multiple sclerosis would rely on two categories, rather than the current three. Current listing 11.09A deals with "Disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B," and Significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements or gait and station. In contrast, the proposed listing 11.09 would provide for extreme limitation...in the ability to stand up, balance, walk or perform fine and gross motor movements.

Ft. Lauderdale Social Security Disability Attorney Randy Zeldin, Esq., assists individuals with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis to obtain Social Security Disability benefits.

Expedited Social Security for Veterans

March 27, 2014 by Randy Zeldin

The Social Security Administration has announced that effective March 17, 2014, it will expedited disability claims for veterans receiving VA service-connected compensation benefits and who have a rating of 100% "permanent and total" disability from the Veterans Administration. According to a recent press release, the VA rating can only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an allowance for Social Security Disability benefits. Veterans must still meet Social Security eligibility and entitlement requirements fora disability allowance

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Veterans Receive Expedited Social Security Processing

February 27, 2014 by Randy Zeldin

The Social Security Administration has announced that it has instituted a new policy aimed at speeding up applications of wounded warriors. The new process applies only to Veterans who were injured after October 1, 2001.

Veterans may still be eligible for Social Security disability, even if they are still actively receiving military salaries. This is particularly true when a Veteran is in active medical rehabilitation or on limited duty.

The website for application by Veterans for Social Security Disability is
www.socialsecurity.gov/wounded warriors. Applications can be done via telephone or at the Veteran's local Social Security Disability office. Social Security Disability attorney Randy Zeldin, Esq. of Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is available to assist U.S. Veterans in the application or appeal of a Social Security Disability claim.

Under the current regulations, a Veteran may remain on active duty, yet receive Social Security Disability. If there is a permanent change of station for a Veteran, it is important to notify the Social Security Administration.

Obesity as a Disability for Social Security

December 9, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

It is not well known, but "obesity" can be a disability and form the legal basis for entitlement to Social Security Disability benefits. Claimants may not recognize themselves as "obese" and not realize that it is a medical condition. Several years ago, the formal Listing 9.09 for obesity was deleted from the law. Since that time, assessments of obesity are "hit and miss" and lead to inconsistent findings by Social Security Disability adjudicators and Administrative Law Judges.

There are several ideas brewing to reform and standardize the obesity standard, which include the following:

1. A new medical listing should focus on the Body Mass Index (BMI) and particularly target individuals with a BMI greater than 48.

2. The adoption of stricter guidance as to when obesity must be evaluated as a severe impairment and must be specifically addressed by a Social Security Judge.

3. Use of other measures if BMI does not capture the composition of a claimant's weight. The BMI is not considered a perfect measurement and is more problematic with females.

Randy Zeldin, Esq. is a Social Security Disability Attorney representing Claimants in Ft. Lauderdale; Boca Raton; West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida.

"Intellectual Disability" as Basis for Social Security Disability

November 13, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

Beginning September 2013, the Social Security Administration replaced the outdated term "mental retardation" with the term "intellectual disability" in it's regulations. The change is consistent with the modern adoption of the concept of intellectual impairment as a recognized disability, rather than a stigma or slur. The term has been adopted by the U.S. Congress, many government agencies at the State and Federal level and a myriad of public and private organizations. SSA recognized that the term "mental retardation" has negative connotations and is offensive to many people, not unlike a racial or ethnic slur. The original Congressional change of the term originated with "Rosa's Law' in 2010.

The adoption of the term, "intellectual disability" in no way amends the substantive law regarding the administration or granting of Social Security Disability benefits. It is only a change in terminology. Notwithstanding, these basic changes go a long way with the widely expressed desire of people with intellectual disability for usage of respectful language. The change was praised by many national organizations representing professionals practicing in the field, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Social Security Disability Attorney Randy Zeldin, Esq., of Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Lake Worth , and West Palm Beach, Florida, also lauds the Social Security Administration for respect of the intellectually impaired.

Social Security Explores "Symptom Validity Tests"

October 21, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

There are many controversial psychological based tests, utilized allegedly to determine whether an individual seeking Social Security or other government benefits is presenting a valid medical claim. Put another way, these psychological tests, including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or the Test of Memory Malingering, are designed to spot malingering or outright fraud.

Initially, the Social Security Administration frowned on these tests as being a waste of money and time. More recently, there appears to have been a reversal of that policy. The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration has issued a report that generally supports the use of Symptom Validity Tests in determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits. The Inspector General cited that the Veteran's Administration and the Railroad Retirement Board utilize this type of testing.

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Missing the Social Security Appeal Deadline

October 16, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

After an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, a claimant is afforded 60 days to file a written appeal, for either a "Reconsideration" of the original claim or a "Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge." Unfortunately, there are many claimants, largely due to psychiatric or other disabilities, who miss the 60 day deadline and are often forced to re-apply for benefits from "square one."

A relatively new ruling, Social Security Ruling 91-5P, can extend the deadline to appeal based on a "good cause." This means that the Social Security Administration will not automatically dismiss the appeal and that proper consideration will be given to a claimant who presents evidence that mental disability, may have prevented the claimant from understanding the 60 day deadline to obtain review.

The Social Security Administration is to consider the following factors, in determining whether "good cause" exists for an untimely appeal beyond the 60 day deadline:

* Inability to read or write
* Lack of facility with the English language
* Limited education
* Any mental or physical condition which limits the claimant's ability to perform activities of daily living.

According to the rule, all doubts are to be resolved in favor of the claimant. Thus, the rule is to be interpreted and implemented in a liberal and caring manner.

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Social Security and Obamacare

September 30, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

With the implementation of health care reforming proceeding under the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), the Department of Health and Human Services recently published a Federal Register notice of a computer match with SSA to obtain certain information. Obtaining this information may lead to more Social Security disability beneficiaries becoming eligible for health insurance coverage, especially during the 24-month waiting period.

The Affordable Care Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program for determining eligibility for certain Insurance Affordability Programs and an online system for verification of eligibility. The date provided by the Social Security Administration to the Health and Human Services Centers, will be used to make initial eligibility determinations and other eligibility determinations. These include:

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Elimination of 5 Month Waiting Period for Social Security

September 19, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

A new Bill introduced in a Senate Committee, would eliminate the 5 month waiting for Social Security Disability benefits, for those individuals deemed to be "terminally ill." This would apply to tragic situations in which the claimant has a medical prognosis that his or her life expectancy is 6 months or less. At least 2 physicians who are not related and not in the same practice must certify that the individual is terminally ill. The benefits would not become 100% until the 3rd to 12th month. Similar Bills have been introduced with little success, except for two serious conditions, end state renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Individuals often endure extreme financial hardship during the 5-month waiting period and may have to rely on SSI, if eligible. The Medicare 24-month waiting period causes even more onerous burdens for beneficiaries.

Social Security Disability Attorney and Lawyer Randy Zeldin, Esq., represents claimants pursuing Social Security Disability Benefits in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Telephone Testimony More Common in Social Security Disability Hearings

August 12, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

At hearings before Administrative Law Judges, telephone testimony by Medical Examiners and Vocational Experts has becomes far more common. Interestingly, until recently, there was no formal rule by the Social Security Administration as to this practice.

The Social Security Administration has recently revised regulations that specifically allow Administrative Law Judges to schedule telephone testimony by expert witnesses, so long as there is advanced notice given to the Claimant and his/her attorney representative. The new regulation is effective on June 20, 2013. The regulation is more or less consistent with previous court decisions on the matter.

The new rule will also allow the claimant or any other party to request an appearance by telephone. However, permission for telephonic testimony by the claimant or other parties will only be allowed in "extraordinary circumstances." The hearing notice must state whether a witness (or the claimant) will appear in person, by video conferencing or by telephone. If the claimant objects to a witness appearing by telephone, the Administrative Law Judge will have the discretion to determine whether the appearance may be by telephone or in person. Thus, the Administrative Law Judge in the end, has the final say and discretion.

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Senate Ponders Reducing SSD by Unemployment Benefits

August 2, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

An issue that has come up at recent Congressional hearings is the concurrent receipt of unemployment insurance (UI) and Social Security Disability Income Benefits (SSDI). A group of Senators recently introduced a bill that would reduce SSDI benefits for any month in which unemployment benefits were received. The bill is still in the Senate Committee on Finance.

The current proposed bill provides that for any month in which in an individual is entitled to unemployment insurance, the SSDI benefitshttp://www.zeldinlaw.com/lawyer-attorney-1303795.html for that month shall be reduced to zero. The Social Security Administration's long-standing policy has been that receipt of UI benefits is a factor to be considered, but is not determinative of an individual's ability to perform substantial, gainful activity. Another Memorandum from the Chief Social Security Administrative Law Judge similarly states the policy that a person may qualify for SSDI benefits, even though he or she remains capable of performing some work.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in 2012, in which it concluded that under certain circumstances, individuals can legitimately receive SSDI and unemployment insurance at the same time. However, the GAO also indicated that receipt of both benefits could be an indicator of improper payments.

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Social Security's New Rules on Creditor Garnishments

July 22, 2013 by Randy Zeldin

As a Social Security Attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, I am frequently asked whether Social Security Disability Benefits may be "garnished" or seized by creditors. Currently, one receiving Social Security Disability Benefits is protected from creditors. A new rule was published in the Federal Register, which became effective on June 28, 2013.

Prior to this rule, creditors could obtain garnishment order in secret, without the creditor or the court having knowledge as to whether the account contained protected federal benefits. To comply with the order, financial institutions might temporarily freeze the account. Until the matter was resolved in Court, Social Security beneficiaries might temporarily lose access to their SSD funds.

The new rules set forth procedures and rules for financial institutions to follow, to protect recipients of Social Security Disability, including those who receive their benefits on a prepaid card.

Following is a summary of the new procedures:

1. The financial institution must determine whether the garnishment order was obtained by the United States or a State child support enforcement agency (who are not impacted).

2. Next, the financial institution must must notify the account holder within two (2) days regarding the protection from garnishment that applies to the exempt funds.

An account holder must have "full and customary access" to the protected amount of funds in an account

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