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Columbia MO Social Security Disability Law Blog

Understanding the disability application and appeals processes

Social Security disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are important for many disabled individuals but the process can be complex. Helping to understand the process, however, can make it less intimidating which can be important for many disabled individuals and families approaching the SSD and SSI application process. SSD claims, and how they work, are important to understand.

Understanding the different parts of the SSD and SSI application and appeals process can be helpful for many applicants and their families. Step-by-step guidance can also be useful and the process can sometimes seem complicated, confusing and challenging. Being familiar with the process, however, can help. Applicants must first fill out an initial application and it is helpful to provide complete, thorough and solid medical evidence supporting the claim for benefits that has been carefully prepared.

Obtaining SSD benefits for blindness

As many Missourians have learned, determining whether a particular illness or injury qualifies a person for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits can often be difficult. One exception to this generalization is blindness, or limited vision. If a person submits an SSD claim predicated on blindness or limited visual acuity, and if the person's visual test results meet the SSA requirements, the person immediately qualifies for SSD benefits.

The Social Security Act defines blindness as either loss of visual acuity or a reduced field of vision. To qualify for disability benefits based on statutory blindness, one of the two conditions must be satisfied.

Social Security disability benefits for heart disease

Heart disease is a general term that includes many different conditions. As most Missourians realize, chronic heart disease can interfere with many functions, including a person's ability to work. In this post, we will summarize the Social Security regulations that govern Social Security Disability claims for different kinds of heart disease.

Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, and heart defects that interfere with the heart's ability to pump blood through the arteries and veins. The Social Security Administration uses the term "cardiovascular impairment" as its catch-all term for these diseases and impairments. A person seeking disability benefits for a cardiovascular impairment must first provide a statement from a qualified medical consultant that the impairment is both persistent and recurrent. A persistent condition is one that has been present or is expected to be present for a continuous period of 12 months or more. A recurrent condition is one that appears at least three times during the 12-month period. The SSA relies heavily on tests that measure heart function, such as electrocardiograms (ECG) and stress tests.

Bipolar Disorder and SSDI benefits

The mental condition known as bipolar disorder - formerly called manic depression - afflicts many people in Missouri and elsewhere. The symptoms - alternating moods of severe depression and euphoria - can often be controlled with medication, but severe cases do not always respond to drugs. If the disorder is not effectively controlled, it can severely interfere with a person's relationships and ability to work. In this post, we will review the aspects of bipolar disorder that may allow a person to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

The Social Security Administration categorizes bipolar disorder as an affective disorder characterized by "a disturbance of mood accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome." The condition must affect the person's "whole psychic life" and involve either elation or depression. The SSA regulations define the required level of intensity for the disorder. It must be medically documented as persistent, either continuously or intermittently, and must involve a depressive syndrome, a manic syndrome, or a bipolar history including both manic and depressive episodes.

Do I need a lawyer to get SSD benefits?

For most people in Missouri, the process of applying for and obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can seem more than a little intimidating. A common question that potential applicants ask is whether they need a lawyer to get them through the SSD claim process. The answer depends in large part upon the nature of the process itself.

The Social Security Administration publishes pamphlets and information sheets that explain the SSDI claim process. These documents are also available on the SSA web site. In fact, many claims can be filed online. So where does a lawyer come in?

Amputations and Social security disability benefits

for injury

For most Missourians, the loss of a limb is one of life's most feared injuries. Even with the advances in the technology of prosthetic limbs, the prospect of losing a hand or a foot (or worse) is genuinely terrifying. Nonetheless, the regulations for Social Security Disability claims do not provide benefits for every kind of amputation. In this post, we will summarize the Social Security Administration requirements for obtaining SSDI benefits for an amputation.

What are some qualifying mental conditions for SSDI benefits?

Many Missourians suffer from a mental disorder or illness. Some of these diseases, if they are severe, can interfere with a person's ability to work. In such cases, the illness may support a successful claim for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits. In this post, we will provide an overview of the mental illnesses and symptoms that may qualify for SSDI benefits.

As with most diseases, the Social Security Administration requires documentation of a medically provable mental impairment, verification of the disease's limitation on a person's ability to work, and proof that the condition will last or has lasted for 12 months. The specific diseases are arranged in nine diagnostic categories: organic mental disorders; schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders; affective disorders; intellectual disabilities; anxiety-related disorders; somatoform disorders; personality disorders; substance addiction disorders; and autistic disorders and other pervasive developmental disorders.

How does the "Blue Book" affect a claim for SSD benefits?

Most Missourians who are contemplating a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are aware that they must prove they suffer from an illness or injury that prevents them from working. Some may also be aware that the Social Security Administration has adopted regulations that guide its decisions on SSD claims.

The compilation of regulations defining qualifying medical conditions is called the "Blue Book," and it contains detailed descriptions of those injuries and illnesses that qualify for disability benefits. If an applicant for benefits can demonstrate that he or she suffer from one or more of the conditions described in the Blue Book, and that the condition precludes them from substantial gainful employment, his or her claim will likely be approved within a few months or sooner (assuming the claimant also satisfies the non-medical eligibility requirements).

SSDI benefits for liver disease

Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") provides benefits to Missourians for a number of diseases and conditions that affect the digestive system. In this post, we will focus on diseases of the liver.

SSDI benefits are available for eight separate liver conditions: hemorrhaging, accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity, bacterial peritonitis, hepatorenal syndrome, hepatopulmonary syndrome, hepatic encephalopathy and end stage liver disease. The SSA Red Book establishes laboratory benchmarks that are used in evaluating the seriousness of the disease or condition. As with any of the diseases in the Red Book, the SSD claim must be supported by medical evaluations and laboratory test results. If the objective medical evidence satisfies the prescribed thresholds, the benefits application will most likely be approved.

SSDI benefits for drug addiction and alcoholism

In Missouri and many other states, alcoholism and drug addiction afflict thousands of people. Each condition is considered to be a disease, with well-established diagnostic criteria and treatment regimens. In this post, we will discuss the extent to which persons suffering from either of these two diseases may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits.

The Social Security Administration's list of qualifying conditions places alcoholism and drug addiction under the category "substance addiction disorders." A substance addiction disorder is a condition that causes "[b]ehavioral changes or physical changes associated with the regular use of substances that affect the central nervous system." The severity of the illness must be evaluated according to the criteria that are specified for other mental disorders, including organic mental disorders, depressive syndrome, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, peripheral neuropathies, liver damage, gastritis, pancreatitis and seizures.

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