Florida Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Disability Lawyer
Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 y ears before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of ALS are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy L. Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with ALS. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program,
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing for ALS, or
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
ALS, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body.
What Are The Symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?
The initial symptoms of ALS can vary and change over time. The average survival time with ALS is three to five years.
Typical symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness in the hands, arms, legs or the muscles involved in speech, swallowing or breathing;
- Twitching and cramping of muscles, especially in the hands and feet;
- Impairment of the use of arms and legs;
- Thick speech; and
- Shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
Muscle weakness, seen in 60% of patients, can result in tripping, dropping things, fatigue of the arms and legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps and periods of uncontrollable laughing or crying.
Hands and feet initially may be affected, which can cause problems with walking and the use of hands.
The Compassionate Allowances Program and ALS
ALS is one of the fast-tracked medical conditions in the Compassionate Allowances program. Your claim for Social Security disability benefits should be approved in a matter of weeks.
If you qualify for SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period after the onset of your disability before you can collect benefits. If you will qualify for SSI, those benefits are paid immediately.
When Your ALS Meets A Listing
If you don’t qualify under the Compassionate Allowances program, ALS is included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your ALS to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for:
- A specific ALS diagnosis,
- A history of your symptoms,
- Neurological findings on physical examination that are consistent with an ALS diagnosis, and
- Results of electrophysical and neuroimaging tests that rule out other conditions.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your ALS Makes It Impossible to Work
If your ALS doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your ALS.
Residual Functional Capacity For ALS
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, which will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work.
SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that will explain:
- How far you can walk,
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight- hour day,
- Whether you have to alternate sitting and standing,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on an ALS RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you could do or learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve?
To be entitled to benefits, your ALS cannot interfere solely with your daily activities, it must interfere with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy L. Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
ALS can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today. Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.