Midwest Disability, P.A.'s Blog

Veterans may have hearing damage

Hearing damage often cannot be reversed. Those who suffer from it may have tools they can use to cope, such as hearing aids, but the actual ability to hear at the previous level may not return, even with time.

This is one of the challenges faced by veterans who return from a war zone. They often have to work around heavy machinery and weapons that can cause severe hearing damage. Examples include:

  • Jet engines
  • Aircraft taking off and landing
  • Gunfire from nearby soldiers
  • Gunfire from the weapon the soldier is holding
  • Nearby explosions
  • Rocket fire and heavy weapons
  • Engines running constantly
  • Alarms going off

Does asthma count as a disability?

You have struggled with asthma all your life, but it has become worse in recent years. It's now so bad that you cannot work in your chosen profession. Does this condition count as a disability?

Yes, it certainly can. Even though you may have times when the condition seems better and times when it seems worse, and even though it clearly flares up and does not impact you in the same way at all times, it still counts as a disability. It can still be a life-changing condition and, as noted above, it still makes it so that you cannot work.

Facial Pain and Trigeminal Neuralgia

According to the Mayo Clinic, trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from your face to your brain. Mild stimulation to the face, such as brushing your teeth or putting on make-up may trigger a jolt of excruciating pain. More specifically, symptoms can include episodes of severe, shooting or jabbing pain that feel like an electric shock, bouts of pain lasting from a few seconds to several minutes, and a constant aching, burning feeling that may occur before it evolves into the spasm like pain of trigeminal neural. Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more often than men, and it is more likely in individuals over age 50.

If you are suffering form this condition and are unable to work, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits.

What Will the Judge Want to Know About My Mental Health Symptoms?

Although some applications for disability are approved based on their initial application and medical records, most individuals who are approved for benefits will ultimately need to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. The Administrative Law Judge that hears your case is a Social Security Administration employee who hears nothing but cases involving disability benefits. Different judges have different styles. Some judges will allow the claimant's attorney to elicit all or most of the testimony from their client, while other judges will ask many, many questions.

If you suffer from one or more mental health conditions and have a disability hearing coming up, or are just at the stage of considering applying for disability, you may wonder what you will be asked about at the hearing. I would argue that the types of questions you will be asked break down into two broad camps- 1) questions about your past work and 2) questions about the symptoms of your mental health condition(s).

Post-traumatic stress disorder strongly linked to nightmares

Most people do not frequently have nightmares. When looking at the public as a whole, for instance, those who complain about the influence of nightmares on their lives make up just about 5% of the total population. In another study, it came in at 3%. No matter how you look at it, it's not that common.

Until, that is, you look at people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and who have been through some type of major trauma. These individuals have nightmares far more often. In the same study that found out that only 3% of civilians suffered from nightmares, the majority (52%) of combat vets who had PTSD claimed they experienced nightmares "fairly often." Experts say there are 17 signs that someone has PTSD, and these frequent nightmares are one of them.

Obesity

It is nearly impossible to live in the United States today without taking note of the extreme increase in the rate of obesity across the population. Today, over 39% of the adult population qualify as obese, as defined as a BMI of > 30. (This equates to a weight of approximately 186 lbs. for an individual who is 5'6"). Over 6% of the population are morbidly obese, with a BMI of > 40, which would correlate to a weight of 248 for that same 5'6" individual. The increasing prevalence of obesity among adults is particularly striking when noting that it was only 33.7% a decade earlier.

Under SSR 19-2p, obesity is not a listed impairment with Social Security Administration, though the functional limitations of obesity alone or in combination with another impairment many medically equal a listing. Morbid obesity often precedes or coexists with severe medical impairments and is considered a risk factor for many others. Rates of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver, and gastroesophageal reflux disease ("GERD") are some of the conditions that are best understood to be directly correlated with obesity. However, a wide variety of other diagnoses, including depression, osteoarthritis, gout, back pain, chronic fatigue and heart disease are also directly linked, and obesity is understood to be a risk factor for many cancers as well. Indeed, many conditions for which one might apply for disability could be improved or prevented through the maintenance of a healthy weight.

How to stay positive when you have a disability

A disability that happens suddenly can be very hard to adjust to. Maybe you got injured in a car accident; in the course of one day, your entire life changed. That's not something you can get your head around immediately.

As you move forward with your life, it's important to stay positive. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Every situation is different. Don't assume you will have some negative outcome just because someone else did. You are unique. Your situation is unique.
  • Other people's expectations do not matter. Maybe they think you won't be able to do things that you know you'll be able to do. Forget about their expectations. Focus on yourself.
  • You are far more than your condition. It doesn't define you. This change isn't the only thing that makes you the person you are. Instead of thinking about what you have lost or how things have changed, think about who you really are and what you still have.
  • Great friends go a long way. That support system is so important. Hopefully, your family can provide it as well. Seek out those people who prop you up and make you feel happy, positive and loved.
  • Do not blame yourself. Don't play the "what if" game. Just focus on the future and do all you can to make it into exactly what you want it to be.

Medical Sources

Understanding the term "medical source" might seem self-explanatory, but Social Security Administration does not recognize every type of provider as an approved medical source (AMS) for the purpose of determining whether a claimant has disability.

SSA has long accepted a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) as an approved medical source for establishing a severe medical impairment. Notwithstanding, to establish a mental impairment, many adjudicators will need to seek treatment with a psychiatrist or a licensed or certified independent practice-level psychologist. Mere medication with antidepressants or anxiolytics from a primary care provider alone will often not be enough to establish a severe mental impairment without evidence from a specialist. Likewise, allied health professionals such as a doctor of optometry (OD) or doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) are approved by SSA to provide evidence of impairments within their respective specialties.

Hearing Testimony: Tips and Tricks

When an individual is denied social security benefits at initial and reconsideration, their case is then set for a hearing before an administrative law judge. Having to attend a hearing is very common. In fact, a hearing is set in majority of social security disability cases. Hearings help a judge understand how disabling an individual's physical and/or mental conditions are. At the hearing, most judges will directly question the individual before their attorney has a chance to question them. Basically, the judge wants to understand how these conditions affect the individual's ability to work. Many judges will start off by asking the individual the all-encompassing question of: "In your own words, what prevents you from working at this time?" It is important to be detailed with the symptoms of your diagnosis that affect your ability to work, however stay away from just listing diagnosis. For example, an individual should not just say "I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia" Instead, saying something along the lines of "the constant aching pain in my shoulders, neck, and back cause me to have issues with sitting/standing/walking as well as cause me fatigue throughout the day" is more helpful. Remember, the judge has access to all of the medical records prior to the hearing so he/she will be aware of the all of the specific diagnosis. Therefore, what the judge really wants to know is how these diagnosis affect the person's everyday life as well as their ability to work a full-time job. The judge may also ask several questions regarding the individual's ability to do chores, sit, stand, walk, and lift. The judge may also have questions regarding an individuals ongoing treatment. For these questions, it is important to not exaggerate, but to be truthful. Overall, the questions asked will differ in each case and an experienced attorney will be able to advise and prepare an individual for their hearing.

Proposed Change in Disability Rules Could End Benefits for Millions

Critics of a proposed change in how Social Security conducts continuing disability reviews say that if a new rule is enacted, it could result benefits being terminated for millions of people.

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In Minnesota, we handle Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Throughout the nation, we handle SSDI applications and appeals for people from Ohio to Kansas, North Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between.

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