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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Archives

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income is a special program for disabled persons with limited income, which is managed by the Social Security Administration. SSI is available to people of limited financial means who are blind, disabled or 65 years of age or over. Children who are disabled or blind may also be able to qualify for SSI.

Do Foster Care Services Constitute SGA?

To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the first step for the adjudicator is to analyze whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) since his or her onset date. Substantial gainful activity typically involves significant physical or mental activity done for pay or profit (20 CFR §404.1572). In many cases, parenting a child can involve substantial activity, though typically not for pay or profit. However, claimants enrolled as providers in a foster care system will typically receive payments to cover the needs and/or difficulty of care for their foster children. In years past, courts have adopted divided approaches as to whether foster care services constitute SGA. For example, in Damon v. Secretary of Health Education and Welfare, (2d Cir. 1977), the Court of Appeals held that foster care payments are not to be treated as support to the child but as property of the foster parents. In response, Social Security issued an Acquiescence Ruling effective 5/20/86, applying at all adjudicative levels in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont (AR 86-16(2)). However, in Masink v. Astrue (D. Minn. 2012), the District Court distinguished Minnesota Statutes from Vermont law and affirmed the ALJ's finding that the claimant's foster care services constituted SGA under the three part test for self-employment set forth in 20 CFR §404.1575(a)(2). The most recent policy adopted by Social Security, effective 8/19/14, is generally that foster care payments made on behalf of a foster child are not income to the provider, though amounts paid to the provider in excess of the foster care payment are still income (POMS § SI 00830.410C1b) (emphasis added). Careful tracking and documentation of your payments and spending can help distinguish foster care payments from other income.

Hybrid Hypotheticals

In order to determine whether you are disabled under the Social Security Act, the adjudicator must determine your residual functional capacity (RFC) when applying the medical-vocational framework (SSR 83-10). Social Security Administration uses the criteria developed by the Department of Labor in classifying occupations ranging from sedentary to very heavy exertion levels. The exertion level table arranges the categories based on weight lifted and hours spent sitting or standing (C.F.R. § 404.1567). At times, the medical evidence may suggest an RFC which does not neatly fit into these categories. For example, where an individual could occasionally lift 25 pounds and frequently left 10 pounds, the exertional capacity falls in between the requirements for medium and light work. In cases where such hybrid hypotheticals emerge, your representative may refer to Programs Operation Manual System (POMS) DI 25025.015, effective 3/27/15. (Although not binding at the hearing level, the POMS rule maintains persuasive authority).

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an endocrine gland disorder affecting the production of insulin. It can be a debilitating and devastating impairment, as the overall risk of dying among people with diabetes is at least double the risk of their peers without diabetes worldwide.[1] Yet a mere diagnosis of diabetes does not necessarily equate with a finding of disability under the Social Security Act, and every day thousands of workers engage in substantial gainful activity despite a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.

Function Report

After you file your Social Security Disability claim, you may be asked to fill out an adult function report (Form SSA-3373), to aid a decision-maker in determining whether you are completely disabled. The function report should outline how your impairments interfere with activities of daily living (ADLs) according to your own words. Activities of daily living may include the ability to get dressed, groom yourself, prepare meals, clean your home, obtain groceries, and care for children or pets.

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is an inherited connective tissue disorder that interferes with the structure, production, or processing of collagen. The disorder typically affects the skin, joints, and blood vessels, with symptoms including easy bruising, ligamentous laxity, joint pain, and weak tissue. Many consider it to be an "invisible disability," as it is often misdiagnosed with hypochondriasis, depression, or chronic fatigue syndrome. While proving an "invisible disability" to Social Security Administration may be difficult, there are two main ways to establish disability from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome if your rheumatologist supports your claim.

Changes in Evidentiary Standards

The Social Security Administration has issued a final rule replacing the term "material" evidence with all evidence that "relates" to a claim in §404.1512(a) and §416.912(a), supported by reasoning that they are removing the need for claimants to make a legal judgment. This is clearly a broader standard, considering that "the meaning of 'relates' is broad and includes anything that has a logical or causal connection" to the claim. 79 FR at 9665.

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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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