How To Complete An Appeal For Social Security Denial in NC

There are many different reasons that you may need to appeal a Social Security denial in NC. Many of these reasons can be easily corrected through the appeal process, provided you know what documents and records can help you prove that you quality.

Common Mistakes on Applications

Some common reasons for a denial that triggers the appeal process are a lack of medical treatment, lack of records, and omissions on the application. Often updating medical records or submitting missing records corrects this. If you have sought treatment or had ongoing treatment since submitting the original application this needs to be reflected in the records. Sometimes the forms and application have been completed inaccurately or areas have been left blank by the applicant. This can also cause the claim to be denied. Sometimes SSD applicants have a hard time finding treatment and have a lack of medical records.

Receiving a Denial Letter

It is important not to assume that a denial letter means that you will not qualify for Social Security benefits based on your injury, illness or condition. Instead, the denial gives you an opportunity to appeal the social security denial. NC attorneys that specialize in the appeals process need to be involved in your appeal to ensure that all information, records and documentation is presented in a timely manner for reconsideration.

Time is Important

After receiving the denial letter you have 60 days to file your appeal. The Social Security denial and appeals process in NC follows a standard process that allows you to provide additional information, particularly ongoing medical records and treatment information, which will help prove your inability to work.

In the event that the reconsideration is denied you still have other options. You can appeal and file a Request for Hearing. Your attorney can help ensure that you have as much documentation as possible to support your appeal.

After filing a Request for Hearing appeal, you will appear before an Administrative Law Judge in a hearing. This process can take 12-18 months to complete, but it is the way to appeal a Social Security denial in NC, and many cases are eventually approved for benefits at the hearing.

PTSD Can Arise from Trauma Not Associated with the Military

PTSDEver since the United States has been at war – first in Iraq and more recently in Afghanistan – more attention has been paid to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  According to the National Institutes for Health, PTSD is characterized as follows:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death.

The NIH web site goes on to identify several different types of trauma which can give rise to this disorder, including:Assault

  • Domestic abuse
  • Prison stay
  • Rape
  • Terrorism
  • War

Many people, however, do not understand that combat and stress associated with military service are but one cause of PTSD.  Interestingly many of the men and women who experience symptoms of debilitating stress themselves do not know that they have been afflicted. Continue reading

How I Use my Client’s Work History to Win Disability Cases

work history + credibilityMany of my clients Many of my clients are curious about why my staff and I spend so much time learning about their work history.  After all, Social Security seems mainly focused on medical problems.  They want to know who your doctors are and they will even send you out for consultative evaluations with physical medicine doctors and psychologists.

It turns out that when your case gets to a Social Security administrative law judge, your work background takes on added significance.  Here’s why and here’s what you can do to make your case stronger using this knowledge:

First, understand that Social Security’s definition of disability focuses primarily on your capacity to work.  SSA defines the term disabled as the inability to perform substantial gainful activity because of a medical condition or conditions that has lasted or is expected to last 12 consecutive months, or result in death.

Substantial gainful activity is defined by Social Security as work or work-like activity.  From your judge’s perspective, he is trying to determine if you could perform a simple, one or two step, entry level job.

Second, judges base a lot of decisions on whether they conclude that you are credible and believable.  Remember that your judge may see 15 to 20 claimants each week and each and every one of those claimants is asserting the same thing – “I do not have the capacity to perform even a simple, unskilled, entry level job.”  How do you stand out from that crowd?

Who is the Vocational Witness and Why is He Testifying at my Hearing?

Social Security hearing witnessImagine this situation: you arrive at the Social Security hearing office in Durham, and after waiting 15 minutes in the waiting area, a young lady walks out and announces to you and your attorney that the judge is ready and to follow her.
You follow the hearing assistant into the private, back part of the hearing office and enter the hearing room.  There you see the judge and some other person sitting in a chair directly opposite you.  The judge opens the hearing by introducing himself and he introduces the other person sitting there as the “vocational expert” who will testify in your case.
Who is this vocational expert that you have never met and why is she going to testify in your case?
In Durham and throughout North Carolina, Social Security judges use vocational witnesses to help them understand your medical problems in terms of the work limitations that arise from those medical issues.  Remember, the issue in any Social Security case is whether you have the capacity to perform even a simple, unskilled job.  Social Security law presumes that judges do not have independent knowledge about the physical and mental requirements of jobs that exist in the local and national economy, so judges will rely on independent expert witnesses to help with this analysis.
Vocational experts (also called VE’s) are supposed to be unbiased, independent witnesses, and usually they are.  In my experience this is usually the case, although there are occasional exceptions.  I have attended seminars about how to attack the VE’s and their credentials, but over the years I have found that it is generally a better use of my time to focus on convincing the judge that our evidence is compelling, as opposed to attacking the VE. Continue reading