Medical science in the Memphis Metro area has advanced by leaps and bounds since former President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. Doctors today in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana have access to treatments and facilities that would have seemed otherworldly to his treating physicians. Dr. Matthew Mann, a gynecological surgeon and the dean of the University of Buffalo Medical School, routinely probed McKinley’s open bullet wound with unwashed hands. Dr. Mann reportedly ridiculed people who claimed this practice was unsanitary and dangerous. Additionally, McKinley’s doctors used a rectal tube to feed him (hopefully it was washed thoroughly) and did other procedures that would be medical malpractice today. Heermans Social Security Law Firm Recognized as a National Top 250 SSDI Law Firm understands the importance of today’s healthcare standards that support their clients’ need for disability based healthcare.
Incidentally, an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, shot McKinley twice at nearly point-blank range. One bullet grazed off McKinley’s thick coat and the other went directly into his stomach. An angry mob descended on Czolgosz. Right before he lost consciousness, McKinley pleaded with the mob to “go easy on him, boys.”
Advancing medical technology is great for almost all purposes, but it can also complicate Social Security Disability determinations. Advanced drugs and treatment techniques may transform many disabling conditions into manageable conditions – as long as the patient follows prescribed treatment. But as outlined below, these advanced treatments and drugs aren’t always available or appropriate.
It is common practice for DDS officers to assume that these treatments are generally available and appropriate. Although this is not always the case. And if a disability claim is not resolved at the initial claims level and goes onto an Administrative Hearing, the Social Security Disability attorneys at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm work very hard to represent their clients so that an Administrative Law Judge hears both sides of the story, the SSA’s and the applicant’s, before s/he makes a ruling.
If you have a condition that is keeping you from work or being able to work consistently, then you might also have a disability. And if you are wanting to know if you might qualify for SSD/SSDI with a free Heermans Disability Evaluation, then we need to get down to basics and answer some of your questions; so let’s start at the beginning.
What is a Disability?
The medical treatment issue is irrelevant unless the applicant has a legal disability. Additionally, the applicant must have enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits. Some special rules apply in a few cases. The disability determination process is generally a four-step process.
- Not Self-Sufficient: Mr. Heermans, of Heermans Law Firm says that, “Contrary to popular myth, some small employment doesn’t derail a disability claim. In fact, most disability applicants are currently working. They just don’t earn enough to support themselves (incomes above the poverty line). Most applicants can earn a little more than $1,400 a month before taxes and still be “disabled” for SSDI purposes. The actual amount is usually higher. Many exclusions and exemptions may apply, so it is best to consult with an experienced disability lawyer.”
- Severe Condition: Usually, severity of the condition means an expected length of the condition. SSDI benefits aren’t available for broken legs and other temporary disabilities. These victims may have other legal options if an accident was involved, but SSDI isn’t one of them. A Disability Determination Services will deny benefits unless the applicant’s disability is terminal or if a doctor expects it to last more than a year.
- Listed Conditions: The maladies in the Social Security Blue Book are presumptively disabling and severe. A current diagnosis and some evidence of disability and severity can win the day. People who suffer from non-listed conditions may still qualify for benefits, if a disability lawyer proves the condition is substantially similar to a listed condition, or the condition is severe and disabling. This is where hope prevails. Note: Meeting a blue book listing is not very common, and most people who are approved for disability benefits are qualified by another method.
- Future Employment Prospects: The applicant’s medical condition must prevent current or future employment in the applicant’s current field or another field. This analysis is tricky. Fred’s medical condition might enable him to go back to school and become a teacher. But he might not want to do that. There’s often a fine line between work ability and career preference. More on that below.
Show Me The Money
Social Security Disability benefits average a little less than $2,000 per month. So, in most cases, they aren’t high enough to live on. But they can be higher than an hourly job that pays minimum wage and is less than full time employment. What is important to understand is that for some people, having a steady disability income is enough to build a life on…even if it is only a simple life, at least it is a financially stable one.
Following the Doctor’s Orders
We touched on the difference between preference and necessity above. This difference sounds black and white. But most situations fall into a gray area. Generally, a combination of preference and necessity prevents applicants from getting top medical treatment.
Assume Phil is schizophrenic. Unmedicated, his episodes are bad enough, and frequent enough, to qualify as disabling. Many antipsychotic drugs, Olanzapine, Quetiapine, Aripiprazole, and Chlorpromazine to name a few, tame schizophrenia symptoms. Specific kinds of therapy help as well. So, after a paper review, a DDS officer might deny Phil’s claim since a combination of medication and therapy could at least give him relief from his schizophrenia while properly medicated and seeing a therapist regularly.
However, that evaluation is speculative. No one knows if Phil will comply with the doctor’s orders or how Phil will respond to therapy and medication. DDS officers can speculate all they want. Administrative Law Judges, however, make decisions based on facts, not speculation.
Additionally, the aforementioned antipsychotic drugs have strong side effects, Moreover, these drugs usually address hallucinations, delusions, and other positive symptoms. They usually don’t address psychosis (lack of emotion), withdrawal, and other negative symptoms. These negative symptoms, by themselves, could be disabling.
Further, assume that Phil lives alone and has few friends. Because of his schizophrenia symptoms and because of his social isolation, he has no reliable transportation. He can’t physically attend therapy sessions. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. His symptoms don’t improve because he can’t get to the clinic or therapy.
Here’s where it gets touchy. Supposedly, if he really tried hard enough, Phil could take his meds and attend therapy. His doctor could manage the side effects and he could use public transportation. These are “perfect world conditions”. Just this month, Mississippi, and other mid-south states experienced terrible weather and tornadoes; electricity was out for more than a week in many locations. People lost hours on their jobs, cell phones were down, food in refrigerators and freezers were lost; it can take a heavy toll on a person’s state of mind and end up costing a lot of money to get a household up and running again. As they say, “life happens” and ideal conditions rarely do!
A recent Social Security Administration ruling addresses this point. Applicants need not move heaven and earth to obtain medical treatment. But, at the other end of the scale, they cannot do nothing and wait for their disability checks to arrive.
The middle ground, and the evidence to support it, is exploring treatment options (searching the internet), showing interest in them (asking the doctor), and looking into them (trying the medication and trying to get to therapy). All must be done to the best of a person’s ability.
A few final words about disability re-evaluations. The SSA could discontinue benefits if the applicant’s condition has sufficiently improved or new medical interventions are available.
Medical improvement doesn’t always alter disability status. If Phil’s hallucinations dissipate, but he still has psychotic tendencies, he’s probably still unemployable and therefore disabled. That’s especially true if a vocational expert supports this claim. Also, as outlined above, treatment breakthroughs don’t always help applicants. Independent medical experts usually weigh in on this point.
If you have an upcoming disability re-evaluation or been denied SSD disability benefits, or for more information about the disability claim process, contact the award-winning disability lawyers in Memphis at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. Call or text 24/7 at (901) 244-0057. More value added FREE information can be found in our online article library.
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