Tenacity in the Social Security Disability Appeal Process

Recent favorable outcomes demonstrate that Matthew D. Lane, Jr., has the experience and tenacity to prevail during the long and complex Social Security disability appeal process.

Matthew D. Lane, Jr. recently obtained long-overdue disability benefits for a client out of work since 2007 with multiple impairments, including bipolar disorder, who filed a disability insurance claim in 2008. We obtained a medical source statement (MSS) from client’s treating psychiatrist indicating his impairments precluded sustained employment, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) nonetheless denied the claim in 2011. We appealed, and in 2013, a United States District Court reversed the ALJ’s decision. In 2014, a second ALJ found our client disabled based on the opinions of the client’s treating psychiatrist.

In 2015, over seven years after leaving work and due to our diligent representation, the client received past-due Social Security disability insurance benefits (DIB) totaling over one-hundred thousand dollars.

Similarly, in late 2014, Matthew D. Lane, Jr. obtained a fully favorable ALJ decision for a client with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAI), lumbar disc problems, central canal stenosis, and lumbar radiculopathy. The client left work in 2010, and an ALJ issued an unfavorable ALJ decision in 2011. We appealed, and in early 2014, a U.S. District Court reversed the ALJ’s decision. The favorable outcome was again due in part to a MSS obtained by Matthew D. Lane, Jr.

 

In late 2014, Matthew D. Lane, Jr. helped a client with inflammatory arthritis in multiple joints obtain a fully favorable ALJ decision following a successful appeal to the Appeals Council. The client left work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) due to arthritis and filed a claim for benefits in 2011; an ALJ denied her claim in 2013, and we appealed. Key evidence in the case included a MSS we obtained from client’s treating rheumatologist.

When Matthew D. Lane, Jr. has a legitimate basis to believe an individual’s due process rights were violated and that SSA wrongfully denied a disability claim, we appeal for as long as it takes to obtain the benefits to which the individual is legally entitled. We have the required skills and experience to represent individuals at all levels of the administrative appeals process (ALJ hearings & Appeals Council) and in U.S. District Court.

 

The Federal government and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have nearly unlimited money, time, and resources to expend when denying your Social Security disability claim and oppose your appeal. When hiring a lawyer to handle your disability appeal, consider whether the lawyer has the ability to represent you at all levels of appeal, including in U.S. District Court. Also evaluate whether the lawyer has demonstrated the tenacity to stick with a case for as long as it takes because unfortunately, in some cases, applying for and obtaining Social Security disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income can take several years and multiple appeals.

Learn more about attorney Matthew Lane or submit a free claim evaluation.

 

Favorable ALJ decision under Grid Rules

In an application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) before the Social Security Administration (SSA), Matthew D. Lane, Jr. recently obtained a fully-favorable administrative law judge (ALJ) decision for a 53 year-old, female client with multiple spinal impairments, including a herniated lumbar disc contacting a nerve root and prior cervical fusion surgery, 

“Now, because of Matthew D. Lane, Jr., my life has meaning and I can . . . live and have money to live with.” she wrote.

Based in part on a medical source statement (MSS) we obtained from client’s treating orthopedic surgeon and a pre-hearing memorandum submitted on client’s behalf, the ALJ issued a favorable decision several days after client’s hearing finding her disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

“I was very pleased,” she wrote, “because of Matthew D. Lane, Jr., I was able to get my case settled very fast.” It was heartening to see the system work properly for a woman who spent the last 20 years laboring and paying for Social Security Disability Insurance coverage that she so desperately needed once injured.

SSA Critical Case Procedures Worked

Last week, just forty-two days after being retained as counsel, I obtained a fully-favorable, on the record decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for a client diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic lung cancer.

Our client originally applied, without representation, for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) due to a brain aneurysm, and after receiving an initial denial by the State agency, client was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our client was understandably overwhelmed by the diagnosis and consulted Matthew D. Lane, Jr. to see what could be done to get help quickly.

After meeting with the client, I obtained updated treatment records, payroll records, and an opinion letter (medical source statement) from the treating doctor. I submitted these materials to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, along with a letter requesting expedited handling of the case, including a request for classification of his case as a critical TERI case and for a compassionate allowance.

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) special procedures for handling of critical cases, such as advanced stage lung cancer, worked as intended in this case. Forty-two days after meeting the client, we received a fully-favorable, on the record decision from the ALJ.

Due to my experience and knowledge of SSA’s complex regulations, I was able to my client in obtaining an expedited decision and payment of benefits from SSA, and as a result, the client has been able to focus on matters of larger concern.

SSA and the ALJ’s handling of this case were extraordinary; I was very pleased to see the critical case procedures work as intended for a client who required rapid assistance.

To have your disability case reviewed by an experienced attorney familiar with SSA’s regulations and procedures, submit a claim evaluation.

 

2015 Social Security COLA Increase

On October 22, 2014, the Social Security Administration announced that a cost of living adjustment of 1.7% will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

The increase will apply to disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income (SSI) as well as retirement benefits.

The monthly maximum SSI benefit for an individual will increase from $721 in 2014 to $733 in 2015.

Another notable change on January 1, 2015, is an increase in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax from $117,000 to $118,500.

The Social Security tax rate is current 6.2%. Taxes for Social Security are part of FICA taxes deducted from each paycheck. Note: employees pay 6.2% and employers pay an additional 6.2%, for a total of 12.4%; self-employed individuals pay the entire 12.4%.

Remove Income Cap on FICA Tax

If you earn $117,000 per year or less, 6.2% of your paycheck is taxed and paid into the Social Security system (labeled FICA on your check). FICA taxes fund Social Security retirement and disability benefits. 

Any income over and above $117,000 is not subject to this 6.2% tax. Yet every citizen, regardless of financial status, is entitled to receive Social Security benefits. 

Taxing income above $117,000 would ensure that Social Security benefit levels are not cut in the future and will continue to help keep thousands of elderly and disabled individuals out of poverty.

As election day approaches (November 4), consider asking candidates for Congress the following question: 

What justification exists for giving high wage earners a tax break on their income above $117,000 when doing so will lead to future benefit cuts for workers who paid into the Social Security system their entire lives and who are depending on those benefits for a secure retirement (or to protect them in the event of a disabling injury or illness)?

 

my Social Security account week

The Social Security Administration is celebrating the first National my Social Security week from August 17 through 23, 2014, to expand awareness of my Social Security accounts, which are personalized online accounts individuals can establish at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

With a my Social Security account, you can access your online Social Security Statement to verify the accuracy of your earnings each year, which is important as earnings are the basis for determining future retirement benefits and for maintaining eligibility for disability insurance benefits.

Since Social Security stopped mailing statements, accessing and reviewing your online Social Security Statement is the only way to ensure your annual earnings are properly recorded.

Create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

National Airborne Day

A day in honor of those serving “at the very pointiest end of the American military spear.” (Capt. Dale A. Dye, USMC (Ret.) in the Huffington Post).

Happy National Airborne Day to the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1/509th Parachute Infantry Regiment as well as all active and former airborne personnel.

One of my favorite local discoveries remains the monument marking the Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center on Interstate-10 at Exit 121 (Butte La Rose). In 1989, the Acadiana Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association lobbied to have the bridge re-named and raised money to install the monument. Many thanks for their efforts.

Reduction of SSA Field Office Hours Delays Disability Decisions

On August 7, 2014, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an Audit Report regarding the effects of SSA’s reduction in field office operating hours. As of January 2013, SSA’s field offices, which are the primary locations for the public to obtain face-to-face services from SSA, closed to the public one hour earlier each week day and every Wednesday at noon. As a result, field offices are now open to the public 27 hours per week whereas they were previously open 35 hours per week.

As a result of the reduction in hours, the OIG found that “[a]verage public wait times increased.” The average field office wait time went from 14.4 minutes in July 2011 to 30.5 minutes in November 2013 – “more than double the wait time before the reduction in hours began. “In addition, reduced hours “created customer lines out the [field office] door because of insufficient lobby seating to handle the increased visitor volume per hour. At times, visitors waited outside in the rain.”

The OIG concluded that the reduction in field office hours led to a longer wait time for decisions on disability claims during fiscal year 2013.

I echo and support the sentiments of David Cox, Sr., the President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), who, in a recent Washington Post article, called for proper funding of SSA so that Americans who have earned Social Security benefits through a lifetime of work are fairly and timely served. Individuals of retirement age or with disabilities and who have paid FICA taxes out of every paycheck to fund the Social Security system deserve better treatment from their government. 

Social Security Act Turns 79

The Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and thus, today marks the 79th anniversary of its enactment into law. The Act has seen numerous expansions and revisions over the intervening decades, but it remains the single most effective step this Nation has ever taken to combat poverty. The Social Security system could be improved in many ways, but for the vast majority of working Americans, the current Social Security Act offers vital protections from “the hazards and vicissitudes of life.” (FDR on signing the Act).

For a brief history of the Act and how the United States came to embrace the concept of social insurance, see the Social Security Administration’s excellent summary and archives.

Lafayette Attorney Matthew Lane Teaching CLE Seminar

On June 12, 2013, Attorney Matthew Lane will serve as one of three instructors at the National Business Institute’s (NBI) Social Security Disability Bootcamp, a one-day continuing legal education (CLE) seminar in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Mr. Lane will present sessions on mental health impairments, attorneys’ fees, and appellate strategies in Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Insurance claims.

The CLE seminar is being held at the Baton Rouge Marriot and will commence at 8:30 a.m. on June 12, 2013. The seminar has been approved for 6.66 hours of CLE credit (including 1 hour of ethics). Register at Social Security Disability Bootcamp or by calling NBI at 1-800-930-6182.