Posts in:June, 2017

Pain as a Basis for a Disability Claim

Posted June 29, 2017 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

When people are asked what stops them from working, one of the most common reasons they point to is pain. As anyone who has experienced it knows, acute pain can take over every corner of your life, hindering physical ability, interfering with concentration and stamina, and causing fatigue. Many people with conditions as diverse as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibromylagia, migraines, and spinal impairments are in this situation.

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claimants, documenting and proving the severity and impact of pain is often the most critical element in winning their case. As common as pain may be as a symptom, it cannot be objectively measured. It can be very difficult to convince Social Security that you are disabled on this basis alone. However, Social Security has a rule ( which sets standards that decision-makers must follow when a claimant tells them that pain is a factor in disability.

In determining credibility, the adjudicator must consider the entire case record, including the objective medical evidence, the claimant’s own statements about symptoms, statements and other information provided by treating or examining physicians or psychologists and other persons about the symptoms and how they affect the individual, and any other relevant evidence in the case record. An individual’s statements about the intensity and persistence of pain or other symptoms or about the effect the symptoms have on his or her ability to work may not be disregarded solely because they are not substantiated by objective medical evidence.

The rule cautions that before any complaints of pain can be considered there must be an underlying condition – medical signs and laboratory findings establishing that the person has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment” – which could be expected to cause some degree of pain. Chronic pain of unknown origin cannot be the basis for a disability finding. The next step is showing that the pain interferes with your activity so much that it would prevent you from engaging in full-time work on a regular and continuous basis.

If you or someone you know if interested in applying for Social Security disability benefits, please contact us for a free case evaluation!

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Can I Work and still Receive SSDI?

Posted June 27, 2017 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Many SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) recipients run into financial issues while their benefits are active. Regardless of whether the bills are not being fully covered by the benefit, or if the recipient wishes to have some additional income, Social Security has laws that support the recipient in trying to work.

Social Security allows a “trial work period”, during which the SSDI recipient may attempt to return to work for up to nine months in a 60-month period while still receiving full benefits. A trial work period starts any time the SSDI recipient’s total earnings exceed $840 dollars (in 2017). Social Security will not count certain income against the recipient if they are making necessary expenses to maintain their job. For example, if the recipient cannot drive due to their disability, and has to take a taxi to work, Social Security will evaluate the expense and determine if it is necessary for the recipient to keep their job. As long as the recipient has a disability and they report their work to their local Social Security office, their SSDI monthly benefit will still come in full.

If the SSDI recipient wishes to return to work and needs additional help, Social Security has a “Ticket to Work” program, where they assist the recipient with job referrals, free vocational rehabilitation, training, and other employment support. To inquire more about the program, one can call the Ticket to Work hotline at 1-866-968-7842 or visit their website at

At the end of the trial work period, when the SSDI recipient has been working for nine months or more within a 60-month period, Social Security provides an extended period of eligibility for their SSDI payments. During said period, which lasts for 36 months, the SSDI recipient may still receive benefits as long as their earnings are not considered substantial. Monthly earnings of $1,170 or more is considered substantial earnings in 2017. If the recipient’s payments stop, Social Security allows the SSDI recipient to contact Social Security to reinstate their benefits if they are no longer able to work, for up to five years after the payments stopped due to substantial earnings.

If the recipient was receiving Medicare when their payments stopped due to substantial earnings, the free Part A coverage will extend for up to at least 93 months after the trial work period has ended.  After that, the recipient may retain Part A Medicare for a monthly premium.  If the recipient had Part B Medicare, then they must pay the premium as usual.

Please contact us if you feel you’re unable to work due to a medical condition for a free case evaluation.


By: Nick Hansen of Premier Disability Services, LLC

Updates from the NOSSCR Conference

Posted June 23, 2017 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Attorneys from Premier Disability Services, LLC recently had the pleasure of attending the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) conference in Washington, D.C. on June 7-10. As always, the NOSSCR staff did a great job putting together programs detailing key trends in the field of Social Security Law. Below are two important updates we learned at the NOSSCR conference.

The Five-Day Rule

Patrick Nagle, SSA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, spoke during the welcoming general session. One of the primary topics Judge Nagle spoke about was the new Five-Day evidence submission rule. This rule requires that a representative or claimant submit or inform the Judge about evidence five business days prior to the hearing date. If this deadline is missed, a show of good cause would be required. This rule clearly creates an “inform” option, where the requirements of the rule are met simply by notifying the Judge about evidence five days prior to the hearing. However, Judges have been inconsistently applying this rule nationwide. In many cases, Judges have interpreted the rule to mean they do not have to admit any evidence submitted within five business days from the hearing.

During the welcoming general session, Judge Nagle did confirm that representatives’ understanding of the “inform” option was correct. If a representative notifies the Judge about the evidence by the deadline then that is sufficient to satisfy the evidence rule. He also confirmed that Judges are receiving ongoing training on this rule so that their application will become uniform. Judge Nagle did suggest submitting any attempts to obtain the evidence with a letter summarizing the evidence. I would contend that this is even unnecessary as it would constitute a show of good cause. However, it may be a good practice to implement.

Addressing the Hearing Backlog

SSA’s Acting Chief of Staff Bea Disman also spoke during the general session. She addressed an interesting dilemma facing hearing offices nationwide. In addition to the significant backlog of cases awaiting a hearing date, there is also now a large backlog of cases that are decided, but need a decision put into writing. Unfortunately, to address this backlog, SSA has been required to pull resources from programs previously designed to reduce the hearing wait times. For example, the National Adjudication Team (NAT) is structured to screen cases to determine if they are good candidates for a favorable decision “on the record” (OTR). Many of the attorneys tasked with looking for OTR candidates are now writing decisions to assist with the backlog. Clearly, SSA will need to address both backlogs simultaneously, or else the pendulum effect will continue.

By: Premier Disability Services, LLC®