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July 2011 Archives

NOSSCR

The National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives was formed in 1979 by a small group of lawyers who regularly represented claimants in their appeals for disability benefits. Through NOSSCR the lawyers were able to exchange information in regard to changes in Social Security law and hone their legal skills in this very narrow area of the law. In the late 1970s NOSSCR began to have national conferences in different parts of the country every 6 months. Since 1983 almost every conference has had at least one attendee from Harlan, Harlan & Still. Since 1984 Tim has been an invited speaker at several seminars from coast to coast.

Substantial Gainful Activity

Social Security regulations provide specific definitions in regard to what constitutes "disability" within the Social Security statute. One part of that definition deals with the inability to perform "Substantial Gainful Activity" within the legal definition. A presumption that the activity is "gainful" in that it amounts to more than $1010 a month for the calendar year 2011. Although the definition of "gainful" is not as clear, the term is used to decide whether someone is engaging real work.

Columbia Hearing Office

The second step of the Social Security evaluation (in Missouri) is an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. For more than 25 years Missouri's Hearing Offices have been located in St. Louis County (Creve Coeur), Downtown St. Louis, Springfield and Kansas City. Recently a National Hearing Center has been opened in St. Louis. The term "national" hearing center means that they hold video hearings at various other locations around the country. Soon Columbia will have a Hearing Office for the central part of Missouri. The only "official" information is that a lease is signed, remodeling is underway, and that the venture will proceed. So far the stumbling block has been the authority to hire staff, which will come as soon as federal budget issues are worked out. The word on the street is that the office still hopes to open in August and begin having hearings in September. The areas expected to use the Columbia Hearing Office will be Kirksville, Columbia, Jefferson City, Rolla, and Sedalia.

Vocational Expert (VE)

Vocational experts are frequent witnesses at Social Security hearings. The decision as to whether to have a VE is made by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Some judges have a VE at almost every hearing, others rarely use a VE. The VE is trained in rehabilitation and has experience in the area of job placement. Specifically the VE is expect to know what is required, both on a mental and physical basis, for any job in the United States. During the hearing the VE is expected to testify about the claimant's past work. Then the Administrative Law Judge will question the VE by the use of hypothetical questions. "Please assume that she can stand for 2 hours, sit for a total of 6 hours, etc." Based upon the ALJ's questions the VE will respond that the claimant either could or could not do certain jobs.

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