Author Archives: Betty Herrera

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) is a broad term that describes conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both illnesses have one strong feature in common. They are marked by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune cells protect the body from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign substances and it attacks the cells of the intestines. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines where they produce chronic inflammation. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms of IBD.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects the motility (muscle contractions) of the colon. Sometimes called “spastic colon” or “nervous colitis,” IBS is not characterized by intestinal inflammation and bears no direct relationship to either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Sufferers of IBS, however, may experience the same or similar symptoms and limitations.

Symptoms include persistent diarrhea (loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements), cramping abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and, at times, rectal bleeding.

It is important that you let your doctors know about each of your symptoms and how you are limited by your illness. Social Security will consider the objective evidence that documents your illness as well as the subjective symptoms (such as pain and fatigue) It is also helpful to keep a log of your symptoms, how often you experience symptoms, how long such symptoms last and the intensity of your symptoms. Social Security will consider how often a claimant with IBD would miss work or be away from work because of the need to use the bathroom. Statements from former employers may be helpful to establish disability as well. As with other chronic illnesses, one’s mental health can be affected: Treatment for depression or other associated mental/emotional conditions is recommended.

To read more about inflammatory bowel diseases, see:

http://www.cdc.gov/ibd/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001295/

Back pain is a common impairment that often interferes with one’s ability to work and may be the basis for disability. The severity and limiting effects of back pain, however, is often difficult to prove. In general, it is more difficult to be approved for disability based on back pain at a younger age. Back pain may be caused by any number of conditions as noted below or by unknown causes.When evaluating back pain, the Social Security Administration looks for objective signs and symptoms.It is important, if possible, to have reports of tests such as MRIs, discograms or at least x-rays as well as reports of examinations by specialists.Social Security looks for the following in a doctor’s examination report:

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. The Social Security Administration will consider post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), obsessive compulsive disorder (“OCD”), and panic disorder under the heading of anxiety disorder.

Although it is often difficult for those suffering from severe anxiety disorders to seek treatment or remain in treatment, support from a treating source is the best way to ensure your claim is approved.

For more information about anxiety and anxiety related disorders, see:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/index.aspx

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program makes payments to people with low income who are age 65 or older, or who are blind or have a disability.  The basic SSI amount is the same nationwide. However, many states add money to the basic benefit. Whether you can get SSI depends on (1) your income, and (2) your resources.

For Social Security purposes, “disability” is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” The determination must be based on medical evidence that describes the severity of the impairment. Sometimes the claimant’s work history is relevant evidence in a “disability” determination as well.

Absolutely not. The entire application process can be completed from your house (using the phone or internet).

How do I apply for Social Security Disability benefits?

One way you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits is to go to the Social Security District Office and file the claim in person. Alternatively, you can call Social Security at (800) 772-1213, where they will arrange a telephone interview with your local office and mail all necessary forms to you. Applications can also be filed partially online; just follow the straight-forward instructions on www.ssa.gov.

When can I file for benefits?

You can apply at any time. You can even file on the day you become disabled if you believe you’ll be unable to work for one or more years.

Do most claims get denied?

Unfortunately yes. Most claims are denied on initial review, and around 90% of those denied claims are then denied again on Reconsideration (the second stage of review).

But don’t be deterred! Most appealed claims with legal representation at the Hearing (the third stage of review) are ultimately approved. Be persistent!

There are several types of Social Security benefits for which an individual may be eligible. Individuals may be eligible for more than one type of disability benefit, and are not required to choose only one disability benefit. You must be “disabled” before you can qualify for any type of benefit, and there may also be additional non-medical requirements depending on the benefit.

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