The goal of this blog is to help navigate our clients through the complicated process of applying for Social Security disability benefits.Whether you need to apply or even if you were turned down already, we may be able to help you. Watch this blog for the latest updates on disability law from the United States Social Security Administration and other important information from our office to help ease the process of handling your unique case.

I Applied, Was Denied, Now What?

I recently discussed how long it takes to get a decision once a SS claim is filed.  Short answer: about 3 months.  Statistically, one third of those applicants will be awarded (i.e, determined eligible for benefits) at the first stage, and two thirds that apply will be denied.  If denied, most people will (and should) appeal the denial and request a hearing with a judge.  So how long does it take to get a hearing?  The answer, unfortunately,  is typically about 16 months from the time of the appeal.  Why so long?  Essentially, the huge delay is because there are more cases  than there are judges to handle them.  In Missouri, there are approximately 40-50 judges to handle the cases, and there are thousands of people appealing their denials.  The individual case files can be large with several hundred pages of medical records.  So it takes time for the judge to review all the evidence, conduct the hearing, and then issue a written decision explaining their conclusions.  There is little that can be done to speed up the process on any individual case.  But the waiting can be very difficult emotionally and financially.


The Things You Tell Your Doctor

The things you tell your doctor about how you are doing (and what you are doing with your time) frequently end up in your medical progress notes. These progress notes provide your doctors with context and information about your condition.

Anyone applying for disability needs to know that those medical notes become part of the record for your disability claim. These notes are read carefully by the people making decisions on your claim, whether that person is a disability examiner or an administrative law judge.

I hate to say that you have to be careful what you tell your doctor, but you have to be careful what you tell your doctor. Because those statements made to your doctor are considered when your credibility is assessed by a decision maker.

I had a hearing for recently for a claimant disabled by chronic pain. The record contained a treating doctor’s progress note stating that the patient “was helping a neighbor build an addition to his house.” Now it turns out that the claimant was knowledgable about construction, and was simply walking next door to give his neighbor advice about how to proceed. He never picked up a tool or lifted a board. There is nothing inconsistent with that activity and a finding of disability due to chronic pain; people in pain still socialize, and carry on their lives as best they can.

But even when the actual facts are explained to the judge, credibility questions can remain. As a result, a case can become more difficult to win when doctors’ notes contain statements about the patient’s activities.

So be careful what you say to your doctor, because it may end up in your medical notes in a way that can raise questions about your claim.

For credibility analysis, be sure to read Social Security Ruling 96-7p.

This article was first posted by The Law Offices of Gordon Gates. 

What You Need To Know: Medical Examinations


After you apply for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, sometimes you need to have special medical examinations or tests before we can decide whether you qualify.


  •  The exam or test requested is intended to provide additional information  needed to help the state agency make a decision in your case.
  •  If you cannot keep the appointment, you must let the state agency know right away. If you do not, the state agency may decide that you are not disabled.


Read the complete PDF from the

Listen to an audio version of the publication

Disability Awareness: Facts About Social Security

The Social Security Administration recently launched “The Faces and Facts of Disability,” as education and awareness initiative to help educate the public about Social Security Disability and dispel common misconceptions.

Social Security touches the lives of nearly every American, often during times of personal hardship, transition, and uncertainty. Social Security programs  serve as a vital financial protection for working men and women, children, the disabled, and the elderly.

SSDI is coverage that workers earn by paying Social Security taxes on their earnings.  Nearly 9 million disabled workers receive disability insurance.  These 9 million individuals make up a diverse group of individuals with mental impairments, sensory disabilities and physical disabilities.

Watch this video on Social Security Disability to learn more.



In Honor of Take Your Dog to Work Day

service-dogThis Friday is take your dog to work day, a day wear canine lovers of all types bring their beloved four legged friends to the daily grind.  For service dogs, they go to work everyday helping people who are disabled manage their day-to-day lives.

Here is a great story from the Kansas City Star celebrating these furry friends.  Enjoy the story here.



A Little History, Celebrating Fathers


On July 19, 1910, the governor of the U.S. state of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first “Father’s Day.”  However, it was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official, that the day became a nationwide holiday in the United States.

There are more than 70 million fathers in the United States.



Social Security Administration Publishes Rulings Regarding Disability Evaluation of Endocrine Disorders

endocrinedisordersThe Social Security Administration (SSA) published two rulings in the Federal Register on June 2, 2014. Social Security Ruling (SSR) 14-2p provides guidance on how the agency evaluates diabetes mellitus (DM) in claims for disability benefits, and SSR 14-3p does the same for endocrine disorders other than DM. Social Security Rulings (SSR) are decisions by SSA based on analysis of legal or administrative decisions, or other interpretations of the law of regulations. SSRs do not have the same legal effect as statutes, regulations, or case law, but they are binding upon all components of SSA. Therefore, SSA decision-makers are required to follow the guidance and instructions in SSRs in administering SSA’s benefit programs. Both SSRs had an effective date of June 2, 2014.

On April 8, 2011, SSA removed endocrine disorders, including DM, from the Listing of Impairments (listings) based on the premise that the disorders as described there “no longer accurately identified people who are disabled.” The listings are impairments considered so severe that if an individual meets or equals the medical criteria set forth in a listed impairment, they would qualify for disability benefits from SSA. When SSA rescinded the listed impairments for endocrine disorders, they asserted they would still consider the disorders a potential cause of disability and would issue further guidance on analyzing claims based on endocrine disorders. Hence, SSRs 14-2p and 14-3p.

SSR 14-2p describes the different types of DM (Type 1 and Type 2), hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, and the medical complications that can result from DM, such as retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, nephropathy, and neuropathy. The ruling sets forth that DM will be analyzed in the five step sequential evaluation process to make a determination of whether someone is disabled. In essence, a determination must be found whether the medically determinable DM is “severe” (has a significant impact on the claimant’s ability to do work activity), whether the DM, alone or in combination with other conditions meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments, and if not, the impact the limitations have on the claimants ability to do their past work or other work considering their age, education and work history.

SSR 14-3p addresses the endocrine disorders other than DM, such as pituitary gland disorders, thyroid gland disorders, adrenal gland disorders, pancreatic disorders, and gonadal disorders. The ruling then sets forth evaluation criteria for adults with these disorders, very similar to the assessment to be given to DM as outlined above. Both rulings also set forth an analysis of the determining disability in children with endocrine disorders.

This is the second and third ruling this year, following SSR 14-1p which addressed how chronic fatigue syndrome is assessed in the disability determination process


Social Security Disability for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

ptsdPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) happens after seeing or going through a traumatic event involving injury or death, such as as accident, rape, abuse, killings, natural disasters or even a heart attack.  According to the MAYO Clinic PTSD symptoms may start within months of s traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event.  These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships.

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changed in emotional reactions.  PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time.  Treatment for post traumatic stress disorder can involve counseling,  therapy, psychotherapy or a combination of many treatments.

Disability claims for PTSD can be approved by disability claim examiners in two separate ways.  The first route for approval is for individuals whose medical records satisfy the requirements of Social Security’s disability listing on anxiety-related disorders.  The second means of approval is t get a “medial-vocational” allowance.  This may sound like it’s an exception but it’s actually the manner in which the great majority of SSD and SSI disability claims are approved.

Not sure if you qualify?  Call Russ at 888-836-3898 or click here form more information.  Have some questions?  Take a look at our FAQ page.


10 Things You Should Know About Chronic Migraines and Applying for Social Security Disability

migraine1. Focus on how your health issues prevent you from working.  

Social Security does not care how sick you are; rather, they need to know why and how you are prevented from working.

2. Kill them with details.  

3.  Get your doctors on board.  

One of the biggest obstacles people face in the application process is care providers who do not respond to Social Security Administration inquiries.  It is very important for you doctors to cooperate with the process.  Talk to them early on in your application process.

4.  Make Copies of Everything

5. Start Collecting Information

You should gather:

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors who have treated you.
  • Chart numbers and insurance numbers.
  • Dates you were seen by your doctors and dates you were treated.
  • Names of medications
  • Information about medical tests, you will need to know where you were tested.
  • Medical records
  • The jobs you worked in the 15 years before you became disabled, the dates you started and ended those positions.

6. Brainstorm your answers

Brainstorm answers to the questions listed on the forms before you start filling them out.  It’s a bit like writing an essay for school: Think about what you want to say before you start writing.

7.  Ask people who know you well to review your answers and make suggestions of things you might have overlooked. 

8.  Comply with all deadlines. 

9.  Realize the wait time you can expect depends on where you live. 

10.  Consider hiring a lawyer.  It is possible to apply for and receive benefits without assistance, but having help from someone who know the process well is valuable.

The Law Office of Russ Swanigan offers a FREE EVALUATION of your disability case.  Take a look here.  

Still have questions?  Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions page.  

This blog post comes from see the full article here.