DB Disability Law Ledger™ – March 2012
Just Because You’re Disabled, Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get Your SSD Benefits
Most people are under the impression that when you have a serious and obvious disability that prohibits you from working in any occupation that obtaining your Social Security disability benefits becomes a mere formality. In many instances, that could not be further from reality.
Take one of our clients, for example. He was severely disabled. Several years ago, he was assaulted, and as a result suffered several fractures for which he still experiences pain as well as physical limitations to this day. Also as a result of this brutal attack, he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), gradually making it near impossible to go out in public, no less to work a full time job.
In addition, to his handicap, our client was diagnosed with morbid obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and now requires insulin shots to regulate his glucose levels. He clearly is disabled and unable to work in any capacity. However, when he applied for Social Security disability benefits, he was denied. When his Social Security disability attorney appealed the adverse decision, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) once again denied his claim, even after hearing his testimony. Why? Among other reasons, the ALJ placed more weight on the opinion of the doctor hired by the Social Security Administration than on our client’s own treating doctor, even though the doctor working for the Social Security Administration only examined him once. According to the ALJ, our client did not treat with enough regularity to support his claims of pain. His treating physician for the last three years was a specialist in internal medicine and not an orthopedist. And, according to the ALJ, our client was not consistent enough with his psychiatric treatment to satisfy the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
For all disability claims, strong, substantive medical evidence is crucial. If you have an orthopedic impairment, in addition to your primary care physician, it is prudent to treat with an orthopedist. If you have a psychiatric impairment, you should at least consult with a psychiatrist or psychologist. The more medical proof you have of your disability, the better your chances of a successful outcome.
Keep in mind, though, that a qualified Plaintiff’s attorney very well might be able to have this decision reversed. However, because the review and findings of a Social Security Disability process are supposed to be non-adversarial, many people are unaware of complications they may face trying to obtain benefits regardless of how obvious their impairments are.
One way to decrease the odds of an adverse decision is to seek legal counsel at the outset.
NEWS FROM WASHINGTON . . .
HHS Announces Progress In Use Of Health Info Technology
In the last two years, the number of hospitals using information technology has more than doubled, that according to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health & Human Services. Over 2,000 hospitals and over 40,000 doctors received $3.1 billion incentive payments for insuring significant use of health IT, especially certified Electronic Health Records (EHR).
Says Secretary Sebelius, “Health IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Health care professionals and hospitals are taking advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to begin using smarter, new technology that improves care and creates the jobs we need for an economy built to last.”
While Health IT enables doctors and hospitals to obtain pertinent health information on patients, it also keeps information private and secure. In addition, federal laws require key persons and organizations that handle health information to have policies and security safeguards in place to protect health information—whether it is stored on paper or electronically.
Congress Pension Deal Better Than Other Federal Workers
According to the American Federation of Government Employees, members of Congress will fare better than other federal employees and receive more lucrative pensions, due to a provision in the bill that extends payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits.
Says AFGE President John Gage, “Thanks to Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, members of Congress appear to be on the same footing as federal employees but in fact they’re keeping a luxurious benefit that lets them retire years earlier than federal workers without any reduction in their pension.”
The deal that was voted on Friday, February 17, stated that federal workers who were hired after December 31, 2012 will pay 3.1 percent of their pay towards their pensions, a figure four times higher than the current rate. On the other hand, new members of Congress will pay the same rate as federal workers with one big difference: they will be able to retire years earlier and begin to receive their full pensions immediately upon retirement.