Social Security Disability for Brain Injuries

Posted August 14, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are becoming a more common diagnosis for claimants needing Social Security disability benefits, with advances in testing and imaging as well as more publicity from injured veterans and athletes. These disabilities are not always easy to prove.

Many of the symptoms of TBI are subtle. Also, because most of the patients are not good historians due to their brain injuries and often lack self-insight, proof of total disability is challenging. The involvement of family members and friends is helpful for reporting symptoms to the treating physicians.

It is not uncommon for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury to experience physical difficulties as well as a change in cognitive abilities, the ability to concentrate, personality, mood changes, or social functioning. Others also have trouble with language, which can result in ineffective speech or communication. Some impairments may heal over time, and some functions may be regained some through therapy, while other impairments will not improve—or they may actually get worse over time.

Until October 2016, the Social Security Administration evaluated traumatic brain injuries under disability listings for other types of medical conditions. Now, the regulations cover brain damage caused by skull fracture, a closed head injury, or penetration by an object into the brain tissue.

If Social Security does not find that your limitations are so severe that you are disabled under the listing (see below), it then must evaluate whether your limitations are legitimately keeping you from working. Social Security will assess your physical and mental limitations using a physical residual functional capacity (RFC) form and a mental residual functional capacity (MRFC) form. These forms note a wide variety of limitations that can affect your ability to work, such as problems concentrating, standing, walking, and so on.

Multiple moderate limitations across several areas may make you unable to work, even though you don’t have marked or extreme limitations in any one area. An inability to return to your previous job, however, is not necessarily enough to get you approved for Social Security disability benefits. You must not be able to work any job, even one like a “surveillance system monitor,” which requires few skills and limited physical activity. Social Security will consider your age, education, and work experience when assessing your ability to do any work. Social Security recognizes that the older one is, the harder it is to learn a new job, particularly if an applicant has cognitive difficulties.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

See Adult Listing 11.18 (Traumatic Brain Injury):

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Can I Reopen My Previous Disability Claim?

Posted August 7, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

If you are denied benefits and decide not to appeal your claim – or if you miss the deadline for your appeal – then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will close your case. However, you may be able to have the claim reopened at a later date if you file a new claim and it is related to the original one.

Your entitlement to benefits is tied to your application date. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are entitled to benefits beginning on either the date of your application, or the date you became disabled (whichever is latest in time); if you are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you are entitled to benefits beginning either 12 months prior to your application date or five months after you became disabled (again, whichever is latest in time). If your prior claim is reopened, the SSA will use the date of your first application as the date from which you may be eligible for these back benefits. This means that you may be entitled to more back-pay if you claim is reopened.

To be reopened, a prior disability claim needs to be related to the current disability claim (for example, an initial claim for herniated disc and a second claim for herniated disc and spinal stenosis). The SSA will not reopen a prior claim that is based on a disability that is unrelated to the current claim. In addition, the onset date of your disability on your second claim must be within the timeframe covered by your first application. The SSA has not created a particular form or process for claimants who want to reopen a claim. To reopen a claim, you must file a new application for disability benefits and ask the SSA to reopen your old claim.

Whether Social Security will reopen a prior claim depends on how old it is:

  • Prior Claim Less Than 1 Year Old: A prior claim that became final after Disability Determination Services (DDS) or an administrative law judge made an initial determination can be reopened within 12 months of the date of the decision for any reason. After 12 months has passed, it becomes more difficult to reopen a claim.
  • Prior Claim 2-4 Years Old: The rules for reopening claims more than 12 months old are different for SSI and SSDI, but in either case, it is a difficult thing to do. The SSA can reopen a SSDI claim within four years if it finds good cause to reopen the old claim, and can reopen an SSI claim within two years if it finds that there is good cause to reopen the claim. For both SSI and SSDI, good cause is defined as having new and material evidence about the claim, finding a clerical error in the way benefits were calculated, or when the written DDS decision shows error “on its face.”
  • Prior Claim More Than 4 Years Old: The SSA will reopen a case that has been closed for more than four years only for a few very specific and rare reasons. SSI claims can be reopened at any time if there was fraud or similar fault. Examples are when someone knowingly made false statements or left out information that can affect the outcome of the decision. SSDI claims can be reopened at any time if there was fraud or similar fault, but also to correct a mistake in computing benefits, to correct an error that is evident on the face of the written decision, or for a few other unusual reasons, like if the denial was based on a criminal conviction that was later overturned.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Attack on Social Security Included in Coronavirus Relief Bill

Posted July 31, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

LA TIMES: Social Security advocates who breathed a sigh of relief when Senate Republicans rejected President Trump’s demand to place a payroll cut in the latest coronavirus relief bill may have exhaled too soon. The version of the bill unveiled Monday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell incorporates a provision even more menacing for Social Security. This is the so-called TRUST Act, which was crafted by Sen. Mitt Romney and has been bubbling along in Capitol Hill corridors since last year.

The TRUST Act is a device to tamper with Social Security behind closed doors and in a way that would allow senators and members of Congress to wreak havoc on the program without leaving fingerprints. It is now a provision of the larger HEALS Act — the Senate GOP’s opening bid on coronavirus relief. So it is now time to give it a close look.

We’ll start by pointing out that Social Security advocates are universally opposed to the measure, which they see as an expression of longtime conservative hostility to the program.

The TRUST Act — the acronym stands portentously for “Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts” — would work by ginning up a sense of near-term emergency about the finances of Social Security, Medicare and the federal highway trust fund. The crisis is largely imaginary, for the Social Security trust fund, by far the biggest of the reserves with $2.9 trillion today, is not in danger of exhaustion for at least 15 years. Nevertheless, the TRUST Act would require the Treasury to issue a report on the status of the funds within 45 days of the measure’s passage.

Congress would then appoint bipartisan committees mandated to “draft legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves each trust fund program,” as Romney has described the process. Whatever proposals these panels produced would be fast-tracked in Congress and not subject to amendment.

Romney has stated that his model for the TRUST Act is the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission empaneled by Barack Obama in 2010. That commission, which was headed by former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, an ex-investment banker claiming Democratic Party cred from a stint as President Clinton’s chief of staff, was a mess. Its goal was to produce some putatively bipartisan recommendations for deficit reduction, but it was unable to come up with any that could garner a majority vote, so it never actually produced any recommendations.

Since the TRUST panels’ deliberations will be offered to Congress on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, the process rather serves what the GOP refers to as the need to gut Social Security “behind closed doors,” to quote an unwittingly revealing line uttered last year by Sen. Joni Ernst.

One would think that if fiscal changes in Social Security are favorable for the broad public — say by raising payroll taxes on wealthier Americans who currently get a break on them — they don’t have to be crafted behind closed doors or outsourced to a committee that absolves most senators and representatives of responsibility. However, if they involve cutting benefits, a step that would harm the majority of retirees and rank-and-file workers, then it pays to do the work in secret.

It should not, therefore, come as any surprise that the biggest fans of the TRUST Act are water-carriers for richer Americans. They include the Committee for a Responsible Budget, which was supported for years by the late hedge fund billionaire Pete Peterson, by both Simpson and Bowles, and by the Koch-financed organization Americans for Prosperity.

One shouldn’t be fooled by these TRUST Act advocates’ assertions that Social Security needs to be “fixed.” Democrats on Capitol Hill should keep their wits about them, and “fix” the TRUST Act before it goes any further.

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