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July 2020 Archives

What are the most disabling injuries soldiers suffer at war?

Wars can leave behind many battle scars, especially for the soldiers that fight them. Data compiled by researchers at Brown University shows that there are nearly one million veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars receiving disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Do I automatically qualify for disability benefits for my burns?

Suffering from burn injuries does not automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. Just as with any other disability, there are criteria that you must meet to have your application successfully approved.

Veterans could have 'invisible scars'

Many veterans come back with serious physical injuries that leave substantial scars even after they heal. For some, though, these scars are "invisible" and internal. They are the product of serious emotional and mental damage done by time served in a war zone, and they can be debilitating.

Can I qualify for disability benefits due to asthma?

The short answer to this question is "yes". However, depending on your age and clinical findings, it may be a major obstacle. Individuals who are under the age of 50 must generally show that they are unable to perform any and all full-time employment due to their disabilities in order to qualify for disability benefits. Generally, individuals over 50 must show that they are unable to perform their past work that was performed on a full-time basis in the last 15 years and must show that they are limited to "at best" sedentary work (i.e. sit down work) or, if over 55, light work (generally standing or walking for 6 hours total and/or lifting 20 lbs. occasionally). Thus, it would be much easier to qualify for disability on the basis of asthma for someone 55 and older with past work involving heavy lifting or exertion or pulmonary irritants that would trigger asthma symptoms.

COVID-19 and the Disabled

Although anyone can contract COVID-19 (coronavirus), some individuals are particularly more likely to become severely ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people at increased risk for severe illness include older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.

Certain military roles bring greater TBI risks

People often talk about the risk of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and other serious injuries for members of the military as if that risk is the same for everyone who is in the service. However, while you could argue that many military jobs are inherently more dangerous than civilian jobs just because of where they take place, that doesn't mean all is equal.

What is Past Relevant Work: Why is it Important in a Social Security Disability Hearing?

When an individual files for Social Security Disability benefits it is likely they have either stopped working or have been unable to work full-time due to their conditions. However, even though an individual may no longer be working, their past work is still an important consideration. In fact, determining past work is extremely important both prior to a Social Security Disability hearing as well as at the hearing. Prior to the hearing, an individual will have to fill out forms often times called "work history reports." These forms will require the individual to fill out all jobs they have done in the past fifteen years. These forms also require other specific information such as the employer name, hours worked per week, hourly wage or salary amount, and physical requirements of the job. It is crucial for an individual to be as detailed as they can when filling out these forms. It is crucial because the judge will have looked at these forms prior to the hearing and/or refer to these forms at the hearing. At the hearing the judge will also ask the individual several questions regarding any past work. The judge will likely confirm whether a specific jobs were full-time or part-time. The judge will also ask how long the individual was employed at that job, their job title, their job duties, how many hours out of the day they performed the job standing versus sitting, and how much they had to lift at that job. At the end of the hearing, the judge will then ask the vocational expert to list all past relevant work. The judge will pose several hypothetical questions to the vocational expert to basically see whether the individual could perform any of their past relevant work based on their disabling conditions and/or specific physical (or mental) limitations they have based on their disability. Overall, past relevant work is an extremely important piece to any social security disability claim and therefore it important to be accurate and specific when answering these questions prior to and during the hearing.

The Fourth Step in a Social Security Disability Case

The definition of disability is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medical determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months (The Social Security Act). Judges deciding disability cases must follow a strict 5 step sequential evaluation to determine whether an individual is disabled or not. In this blog post we will be focusing on the fourth step of the evaluation. Step four basically focuses on whether an individual can perform any of their "past relevant work." It is important to note that just because an individual cannot perform their current work due to their disability does not necessarily mean they are automatically disabled. The judge must also determine whether the individual's "past relevant work" can be performed based on their residual functional capacity. Therefore, the judge will first determine what is past relevant work and what the specific demands (both physical and mental) those jobs have. Past relevant work generally includes all full-time jobs the individual has performed in the past 15 years. After determining what jobs are past relevant work and what demands each of those jobs has, the judge will determine whether the individual can perform any of those jobs based on their residual functional capacity. Residual functional capacity basically determines what limitations, if any, an individual may have due to their disabilities. For example, a judge may find an individual cannot climb ropes or ladders due to the neuropathy in their legs/feet. If that individual had past work as a tree cutter then they would be unable to perform that work due to needing to the climb ropes/ladders. At step four it is important to eliminate all past work to proceed to step 5. Therefore, filling out any work history reports prior to the hearing and discussing these past jobs with your attorney is critical.

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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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