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Denman Law Office
Social Security Disability Attorney in Dallas Texas
5025 North Central Expressway; Suite 2004
Dallas TX 75205

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5 More Bad Answers to the Crucial Question the ALJ will ask: "Why Can't You Work?"

 

Several years ago (my how time flies) I presented a post entitled "Top Five Bad Answers to Question: WHY CAN'T YOU WORK?".  I thought I would do another post of 5 more, so take a look at that old post in conjunction with these additional statements that I have heard from prospective clients in response to that all important question in social security disability:  "Why Can't you Work":  

1. "I can't find a job that makes as much money as the old job I can no longer do"

Social security disability requires inability to do any work. It does not matter how much the work pays.  This is a very common problem in today's economy, as many workers are being laid off, and finding that high paying job is gone forever.  

2. "My wife told me she doesn’t want me suffering through work like I have been doing"

It can be very hard for spouses and loved ones to see us struggling with a health problem and having to continue to work.  Many Texas clients have reported to me over the years that their sympathetic spouse encougaged, or even demanded, that they quit work, or not seek employment knowing the hardships.  This fact (that a loved one does not want you to continue working due to your health) may indeed reflect a reality that you are in fact disabled and unable to work.  It is not, however, persuasive  proof of inability to work but rather proof of having sympathetic and kind loved ones.  

3. "No one will hire me because of my age"  Age discrimination is real, there is no question about it.  But it is not a basis for social security disability - pure and simple.

 4. "I don’t think that I am safe to drive"  Inability to drive is not a basic for social security disability benefits.  The reason you are unable to work, however, may be supportive of an inability to work.  What needs to be presented is how that symptom or condition that keeps you from driving would effect your job performance at the job, regardless of how you got to the job site.

 5. " No one will hire me because I have been to jail”.   Like age discrimination, discrimination against those with a criminal record is all too real.  It is not, however, a basis for social security disability benefits.


Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Social Security Disability & Diabetes

 

Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most serious diseases known to man, both in Texas and through out the world.  Often times, despite good medical care and patient compliance with treatment, diabetes prevents hard working Texans from working. Until June of 2011, the "Listing" for Diabetes Mellitus provided for disability benefits if the following criterion was met:

“A.  Neuropathy demonstrated by significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station (see 11.00C); or 
B.  Acidosis occurring at least on the average of once every 2 months documented by appropriate blood chemical tests (pH or pC02 or bicarbonate levels); or 
C. Retinitis proliferans; evaluate the visual impairment under the criteria in 2.02, 2.03, or 2.04”


The medical “Listing” for diabetes was removed from Social Security Disability regulations in June 2011, over the protests of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR) and the American Diabetes Association.


Does that mean that social security disability benefits are not available now for Diabetes?  Absolutely not.  The Listing for Diabetes Mellitus former found in the regulations was often difficult to meet anyway, and usually reflected a near life threatening case of Diabetes.  Good medical care usually precludes a listing level diabetes case.  A consideration of any disability listing is just one step in the process.  A social security disability Administrative Law Judge must still consider and determine the functional limitations caused by your Diabetes.
 Texas Social Security adjudicators and Administrative Law Judges see diabetic claimants frequently, and are familiar with the irritability, distorted vision, fatigue, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, as well as depression, that often come along with Diabetes.  It takes an experienced social security local attorney to marshal the evidence and present your diabetes disability in a convincing and persuasive manner.

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Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Thanks to New ODARS Policy - Now an ALJ Hearing is "like a box of Chocolates": you never know what Judge You're Gonna Get!

 

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The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODARS) is the social security administration office that conducts all administrative hearings on social social security disability appeals.  A disability claimant has an absolute right to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) once they timely appeal a reconsideration decision.  "Going before the Judge" is usually the most important event in a social security disability claim.

For the last several decades social security disability claimants would receive a Notice of Hearing at least 20 days before the hearing date signed by the Administrative Law Judge that would be holding the hearing.  In my practice area of North Texas the 3 ODARS offices had adopted the practice of providing case status reports to my office on a monthly or quarterly basis. These reports would indicate which ALJ was assigned to the case.

An attorney or claimant has no choice in what Administrative Law Judge they are assigned to. Yet, now the powers at ODARS have decided that allowing social security disability attorneys and representatives to know the identity of the ALJ on cases encourages "judge shopping".  Now hearing notices do not indicate what ALJ will be hearing the case: we will not know until arriving at the hearing.

For the life of me, I cannot see how under the existing policy "judge shopping" would happen.  My social security disability attorney collegues Charles T. Hall of North Carolina and Gordon Gates of Maine believe this "judge shopping" has been possible under the remote video hearing program: only certain ALJs are doing video hearings and an attorney can refuse a video hearing, at which time the case is reassigned to another ALJ.  In my area of practice in Texas I am seeing almost no remote site video hearings.  Attorney Hall correctly points out that the number of ALJ hearings conducted via remote site video is very small.   http://socsecnews.blogspot.com/2011_12_01_archive.html.

Attorney Hall is not particularly concerned about this new policy.  I agree, however, with attorney Gates that this unnecessary secretiveness will have a detrimental effect on efficiency.  http://www.socialsecuritydisabilitylawyer.us/blog/2011/12/alj-unknown.html.

Every social security disability attorney knows that there are wide differences in what each ALJ wants to hear about and emphasize in reviewing a disability claim.  They are of course applying the same laws and regulations, but I have learned over the years to be prepared on the key issues that my experience has taught me particular ALJs want to know.  Any time ODARS alters the manner in which they process claims there is a lose in efficiency as staff adapted to new policy. 

In my 20 years of handling only social security disability claims in North Texas, Dallas and Fort Worth, I have seen a fair number of boneheaded ODARs policies.  Since I know all the judges in the Dallas Fort Worth area, I will be able to adapt to this one to continue to provide high quality social security representation. 

 

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Binder and Binder Draws Unwanted Attention from Congress

 

Binder disabilityBinder and Binder is the largest social security disability advocate firm in the country.  I doubt there is a single TV viewer who has not seen attorney Charles Binder in his cowboy hat urging social security disability applicants to "let them take care of the government". 

The Wall Street Journal has written a recent article about attorneys Harry and Charles Binder titled "Two Lawyers Strike Gold in the U.S. Disability System". The article indicates that the Binders as attorneys earn more in social security disability attorney fees than anyone else in the nation, and that ex-employees have said that Binder and Binder routinely withholds medical records it deems unfavorable to their client's case.  The article can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096632862007046.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

I have commented before about the Wall Street Journals series of articles on the social security disability system, and the general poor journalistic standards these articles seem to be upholding.  This article is about the same as the prior ones.

The article suggests that there is something wrong with the Binder brothers making a lot of money in their disability practice.  Apparently the Wall Street Journal finds that Wall Street investment bankers making millions by churning money and selling worthless investments is an example of the free market system at its finest, but it is reprehensible for the Binder brothers to make a good living by helping disabled people!  Keep in mind those fees are not just lining the pockets of the Binder brothers, but pay for the substantial overhead, salaries, and advertizing of the Binder and Binder business.

Congressman Tom Coburn, the top Republican on a subcommittee on Social Security, is now calling for an investigation of Binder and Binder on the issue of withholding medical records.http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/12/23/Coburn-calls-for-Binder-Binder-review/UPI-98491324620881/#ixzz1hOT1v46m.  Coburn has been a long time critic of the social security disability system, and has opening called for social security to approve fewer disability claims.  It is naive to think he is just interested in reigning in the Binder and Binder firm.

Though some attorneys believe their ethical duty to "zealously represent" their clients may leave some wiggle room on what they choose to submit into evidence, one thing is clear:  ALL Administrative Law Judges believe it is wrong  for the social security disability attorney to withhold medical evidence.  In my 20 years of social security disability practice in Dallas Fort Worth I have never withheld evidence, and I have worked hard to make sure there is not even a suggestion that I have done so. Every medical file has some evidence that may not be supportive of a disability claim.  The social security disability attorney's job is to explain why that evidence is less credible than the favorable evidence - not try to bury it.

An experienced social security disability attorney must maintain high integrity before the ALJs that decide disability.  While I know of no ALJ that would deny a meritorious claim because she does not trust the lawyer, the tone of respect and trust your disability attorney sets in the court room is critical to your success in securing social security disability benefits.

I make no judgment as to what has gone on at Binder and Binder.  It is clear, however, that they now have a huge credibility problem with the ALJs.  It may be much easier for a national like Binder and Binder to make these kinds of errors giving their heavy reliance on non-attorney staff.  In my office, I personally handle the submission of medical evidence. You should expect no less from any social security disability attorney you hire.

As a national lawfirm with a bigfoot print, Binder and Binder makes a big target.  But I would submit the real target is their, and my, clients: disabled Americans.  

Binder and Binder, and I pursue a very different social security disability practice: they are nation wide, and I focus only on the Dallas Fort Worth, North and East Texas area. I believe, that social security disability claimants should hire a local, experienced attorney with whom they can have a more personal relationship. But that does not mean Binder and Binder handles disability cases in the ""wrong way", or that they are unethical.  

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Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Continued Chaos in Search for the Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 

Online magazine Slate has an interesting article about the search for answers about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2011/12/judy_mikovits_in_prison_what_does_it_mean_for_research_on_chronic_fatigue_syndrome_.html

Author Julie Rehmeyer, who acknowledges in the article that she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome herself, describes the apparent legal troubles of prominent CFS researcher Judy Mikovits at the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, a private CFS research institute. The article further describes the failure of government funded research to discover the cause of CFS over the years.  Author Author Julie Rehmeyer asserts that this failure is because the government research has primarily pursued theories that CFS is at its core a mental or psychological disorder.  

As you can see by the comments to the article, the issue of what role psychological factors may play in CFS is a raw nerve for many CFS sufferers, perhaps even author Author Rehmeyer.

As a social security disability in North Texas who has handled hundreds of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome cases over the last 20 years, my role is to develop all avenues of success in winning social security disability benefits for my clients who suffer from CFS.  The extent to which psychological factors may have in my clients inability to work is not a paramount importance in doing my job:  only that we develop both the physical and mental impairments to bring about a positive result.

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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"My Doctor says that I am Disabled: Why won't Social Security believe her?"

 

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In the past 20 years of social security disability practice in Dallas Fort Worth, I have heard this sentiment on countless occasions.  It can be a point of real frustration for social security disability applicants.   Here are a couple of key points to help understand this:

  1. Social security disability regulations provide that the decision as to whether or not you are "disabled" under the Social Security Act is "reserved" to the Social Security Administration.  A treating doctors opinion is important, and is to be considered, but it is not dispositive.
  2. Your treating doctor's opinion on your functional limitations is most important to your case.  This is why cursory doctor letters saying to the effect "my patient is permanently and totally disabled" do not win the day.
  3. You need a skilled and experienced social security disability to present your doctor's opinion on the functional issues that social security disability finds doctors competent to address, and present these opinions in a persuasive manner.
At the Denman Law Office, we have been working with client doctors for 20 years in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex to secure social security disability benefits for deserving claimants.  Talk to attorney Denman without charge about your case at 214-219-7288.

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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"When Should I File for Social Security Disability Benefits?"

 

I am frequently asked by Texans suffering from a disability when he or she should consider filing for social security disability.  Here's my simple answer:

1.   If you are still working and earning over $1000 a month, social security will not accept a claim for social security disability benefits.   In my experience as a social security disability lawyer in North Texas for the past 20 years, social security applies a much looser standard if part-time work is involved and income is less than $1000.  

2. Apply for social security disability benefits if you are unable to work in any capacity due to a mental or physician impairment for at least 12 months, OR you think that it is likely your inability to work will last at least 12 months.

If you are still working, but are struggling and believe the end is near, here is my advice:

1.   Work as long as you can stand it, slashing your expenses and saving money like never before.  If you are struggling with the job, and know the end is in sight, you should discontinue, at the minimal, cable TV, eating out other than special occasions, and that pricey cell phone plan.

2.  You must know if you have short-term and long-term disability benefits through you job.  Find out what the standard for short-term and/or long-term disability is, and have a frank conversation with your doctor.  Ask her if she would support you in a short-term/long-term disability claim.  If you have group disability benefits, don't let yourself get fired before you file a short-term/long-term disability claim.  

 If you live in Dallas Fort Worth and North Texas I will be happy to discuss your issues without charge.  Call me at 214-219-7288. 

 

 


Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Intentional Disability Hearing Slowdown?: Another WSJ Cheapshot

 

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It seems that every time I really know something about an issue, and I find a media story about that issue, I am absolutely amazed just how wrong the media can be.  Or at least in the case of Wall Street Journal writer Damian Paletta, how true facts can be twisted to create an inaccurate conclusion. I have seen several comments on the internet indicating just such an effect in which readers think that this article proves that the Obama administration is playing politics with the social security disability program and purposely slowing down disability claims (though it is not clear why a work "slowdown" at Social Security would be in anyone's political interest).

This article can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203405504576601243696313416.html.  It is not particularly well written, but apparently these are the facts.  The Office of Disability Adjudication & Reviews (ODARS) handles administrative hearings on social security disability claims.  Due to an ODARS fiscal calendar "anomoly" this year, there was one week that did not "count" in either fiscal year 2010 or fiscal year 2011.  Therefore, cases closed (i.e., case decided and sent out the door) in that week could not be a part of the determination of whether ODARS did or did not meet their goals for the fiscal year.  So ODARS would not get "credit" for cases closed in this "dead week".  The article implies that ODARS personnel "bonuses" are determined by these case disposition numbers.  I know of no bonuses paid at ODARS at all.

Apparantly ODARS administrative law judges in some regions were instructed to not close out cases during this "dead week".  No such instructions were alleged to have been issued in "Region 5" that includes 3 Dallas Fort Worth ODARS offices.   In an apparent response to word getting out to the public about these instructions,  ODARS chief judge Debra Bice sent a memo to all judges ordering them to close cases as normal.

The right hand side of above infographic comes from the WSJ article compares ODARS average daily case closings with the first day of the week this year that was "fiscally dead".

The clear implication of the WSJ article, and the "guilty behavior" of the ODARS' chief judge, suggests that social security disability claimants are being mistreated, and that government bureacrats had a free week off.  One can just almost hear the giddy whoops of the "Angry Birds" echoing down the halls of ODARS as government workers idlely entertain themselves on the clock. As a Dallas Fort Worth Texas social security disability attorney of 20 years experience, I certainly have seen ODARS mishandle many situations, but the allegations of this article are a bum rap.

Consider that at any one time an Administrative Law Judge has 100+ cases - all at different "stages" of development.  There are some cases in which she has to review the file before setting it for hearing, others she has new medical evidence that has been submitted that she has to review, other cases she has not yet decided the case, and others she has decided and has not written the decision yet.  So if she is instructed to not "close" cases for one week, do you think she is just sitting around that week?  Of course not!  She will turn her attention to any number of tasks that will lead to decisions getting out the door.  Isn't it just common sense that she would simply make a nice neat pile of the cases that ready to be "closed" until the next week?  So that the next week "two weeks worth" of cases get out the door.  "Closing" cases is just part of the job: the fact that for one week cases are not to be closed is hardly a noteworth event.

The worst that could have happened when ODARS suspends case closing for one week is that some claimants got their decision a week later than they would have.  And the infographic above showing this massive decrease in case closing seems designed to intentionally to inflame, if not mislead, the reader.   Wall Street Journalist Damian Paletta: was this article of yours really worth the ink you spilled? 

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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"Do I have to have back surgery to get disability?"

 

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Social security disability applicants are often in the process of considering various medical procedures that have been recommended by doctors.  For example, the back surgeon wants to do a lumbar fusion or the pain management doctor wants to implant a spinal stimulator.  Sometimes disability claimants can feel a little like the strawman in the Wizard of Oz when the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West jabbed the flaming broom his way saying "How about a little fire scarecrow?".

I am often asked about the implications that a decision to have or forego medical surgery or procedures will have on the pending social security disability claim.  There unfortunately is no easy answer.  Here, however, are a few guidelines:

1.  The social security disability assessment system looks at the ability to work inspite of medical efforts to return functioning to normal.  So the failure to secure medical treatment, the failure to take prescribed medications, and ignoring medical advise is not helpful to a social security disability case.

2.   Claimants are NOT required to undergo risky surgeries to be approved for social security disability benefits.  This is particularly true for claimants who have already had several surgeries that have not been successful.

3.  My experience is that claimants usually refuse surgeries such as spinal fusions out of fear:  they know someone who has not been successful, or have an unreasonable fear of dying in what are fairly routine procedures.  These are "fear-based" reasons to not have surgery, and will not help your disability claim.

4.   If you decide against a surgery that is offered, have (i) a well thought-out reason, and (ii) chart an alternative path to better functioning with your doctor(s). 

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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"We Win 8 out of 10 cases!" : Is this the Social Security Disability Attorney for You?

 

A well-known national social security disability firm runs a Google AdWords campaign claiming that they win 8 of 10 cases (an 80% win rate).  Most good social security attorneys have a similar win rate (as do I) but I think this ad is deceptive.  My colleague and fellow social security disability attorney Tomasz Stasiuk has written an excellent blog post on this issue found at  http://www.socialsecurityinsider.com/2011/08/social-security-lawyers-and-percent-won/.  

Tomasz rightly points out that win rates are a poor indicator of a good social security disability attorney: if a law firm can spend enough money on advertizing to attract only cases that are "lay-down hands" they can have a 90%+ win rate, and have very limited skills in social security disability representation.   I would also ad to Tomasz' points: flashing win rates is something most Bar Associations frown on, precisely because of the potential for clients being misled.  A law firm that uses aggressive marketing tactics may not be the wisest choice.  You also have no way to verify that the success rate a potential attorney brags about is accurate, current, or pertains to the medical condition and disability you suffer from.

In my opinion the best way to choose a social security disability is to talk personally with the lawyer, ask your questions, voice your concerns, and trust your instincts.

Dallas TX Attorney Stanley Denman has limited his law practice to social security disability since 1991.Google

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Dallas Fort Worth/DFW Texas attorney Stanley F. Denman serves disabled workers who have been denied social security disability benefits in North and East Texas, including Dallas, Texas, and the Metroplex, the following cities: Allen, Arlington, Bedford, Boyd, Carrollton, Corsicana, Denton, Denison, Decatur, DeSoto, Duncanville, Ennis, Fort Worth, Flower Mound, Frisco, Garland, Grand Prairie, Greenville, Hurst, Irving, Kaufman, Lewisville, Longview, Mesquite, McKinney, Murphy, Plano, Red Oak, Richardson, Rowlett, Sherman, Terrell, Tyler, Waxahachie, Weatherford, and Wylie, and the following counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Erath, Gregg, Grayson, Harrison, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro, Tarrant, Parker, Rockwall , Smith, and Wise.


 

NOSSCR Member Stanley Denman