How Your Attorney Can Help With Vocational Experts

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs

Vocational experts are called by Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to testify about the type of work a disability applicant can do. As such, vocational experts are the most important witnesses that can appear at your benefits hearing.

This is what you should know about vocational experts before you consider taking on the task of interviewing one on your own.

What Does a Vocational Expert Do?

As witnesses, vocational experts are supposed to apply their unique knowledge and skills to each disability case in front of the ALJ in an independent, unbiased fashion. The testimony of these witnesses is supposed to be based on their knowledge of the skills required by each profession, each profession’s unique physical, mental, and emotional demands, and a claimant’s transferable job skills.

You need to understand that vocational experts work for Social Security. They are far from independent experts, and their testimony is not often neutral. In addition, their understanding of each job’s requirements is based on descriptions of a job — not actual experience. The description of a job can often vary considerably from the reality of the workplace.

During your hearing, the ALJ will ask the vocational expert to give his or her opinion about what type of jobs you can still do, despite the limitations imposed by your disabling conditions. The vocational expert will describe your past relevant work experience — anything that you’ve done long enough — and tell the judge what jobs you have available based on that experience.

If you can’t persuade the vocational expert’s testimony, your disability claim is going to fail.

How Do You Defeat a Vocational Expert’s Testimony?

You can generally expect a vocational expert to testify that there are at least a few jobs available that you can do, no matter how simple or menial. A significant amount of preparation and skill is necessary to defeat this testimony.

The first thing that your attorney can do is examine exactly what factors the vocational expert used in his or her determination. The vocational expert usually relies on the ALJ’s hypothetical questions about a claimant, which are frequently incomplete pictures of a claimant’s real limitations.

By rephrasing the hypothetical question to include all of your limitations, your attorney can oblige the vocational expert to reexamine the facts of your case.

For example, the vocational expert may testify that a claimant with a back injury (who cannot lift, stand, crawl, or carry anything heavy) can still work a telemarketing job. The back injury wouldn’t preclude sedentary work.

However, that scenario doesn’t take into account additional limitations caused by a claimant’s pain medication. Opioids and muscle relaxants that are necessary to control chronic back pain and muscle spasms can interfere with a person’s ability to concentrate, follow flowcharts, or even stay awake for an 8-hour shift.

A good attorney also knows to elicit testimony from the vocational expert about his or her understanding of a job’s actual duties. Whenever possible, an attorney can often get the vocational expert to admit that the description of those activities omits important information.

For example, a desk job may include a significant amount of standing and bending in order to file documents away or pull documents out of storage. A job described as uncomplicated, like janitorial work, may require a broad range of social skills, self-direction, and problem-solving that a claimant with mental disabilities can’t handle.

Cross-examining the vocational expert is one of the most important jobs a Social Security Disability attorney does at any benefits hearing. This cross-examination is an incredibly difficult thing for a layperson to do effectively because it requires both technical knowledge and the ability to subtly shift a question in order to draw out new testimony. For information about the role of a vocational expert in your own case, talk to the attorneys at Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law.


What Cancer Patients Need to Know About Social Security Disability

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs

Cancer could be considered one of the most serious conditions that an individual has to suffer in his or her lifetime. The disease itself can be incapacitating, and the treatments that are used to hopefully send the cancer into remission can negatively affect an individual’s health and life as a whole. Luckily, cancer is recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as an eligible impairment.

Cancer affects millions of people, with more than 1.6 million new cases being diagnosed each year, as well as almost 600,000 cancer deaths each year. Some of the most common types of cancer in the United States include breast, lung, prostate, colon, bladder, melanoma, thyroid, kidney cancer, among many others.


How Does the SSA Evaluate Your Application?

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits and list that you have been diagnosed with cancer, the SSA will look at particular factors to determine your eligibility. First, they will look at where the cancer originated and then look at the extent of the involvement of the cancer.

Next, the SSA will begin looking into the treatments that you have undergone. In regard to these treatments, the SSA will pay attention to the how long you underwent the treatments, how frequently you had to have treatments, and how your body responded to the treatments. Lastly, the SSA will consider post-therapeutic residuals and how they have affected you.

All of these factors will be applied to your individual case based on the specific cancer that you have been diagnosed with. Each person and their disease is unique. Therefore, the SSA approaches each case differently.

What Type of Evidence Is Required to Be Submitted?

While you need to make sure that you completely fill out your application, you also need to attach any and all additional information that is required of you by the SSA, including medical proof of your cancer diagnosis from your healthcare provider.

As a general rule, the SSA will require various types of medical proof, including:

  • Blood tests or other results lab results
  • Pathology report or biopsy results
  • CT scans or other types of imaging scans

You will also likely need a full medical report of any treatments that you have received, as well as the treatment’s results, including the side effects that you experienced while undergoing the treatment.

How Long Does Is the Process?

The SSA may take months to process your application for Social Security Disability to be approved. And if your application is denied and you have to go through the appeals process, you may even be looking at a year or more before your application is approved.

Thankfully, the SSA does have the ability to speed up the review process for some people. For example, if you have an illness that is listed on what is known as a Compassionate Allowance, which includes certain types of cancer, you may be able to have your application approved in less time. Some cancers that are on this list include breast, bladder, kidney, liver, ovarian, prostate, and thyroid cancers.

Should You Hire an Attorney?

Navigating the mound of paperwork that is involved in Social Security Disability applications can be extremely difficult, particularly because the language can be confusing. But the last thing you want or need is for your application to be denied because you accidentally wrote the wrong answer to a question on the application that you didn’t understand. Social Security Disability attorneys also know how to attempt to make the process much faster, especially if you unfortunately are terminal.

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you want to make sure that all of your paperwork is completely and properly filled out in its entirety the first time. A correct application increases the chances of a speedy approval. Therefore, you may want to consider hiring someone with experience, such as a Social Security Disability lawyer, to assist you in the process.

To ensure that you have everything that you need before submission and that the application process goes smoothly, contact Horn & Kelley P.C., Attorneys at Law and allow us to help you.


Can Your Facebook Profile Hurt Your Social Security Disability Claim?

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Typing in Laptop, Social Security - Horn and Kelly Atty at LawIn our increasingly fast-paced world, social media is being used to connect people with distant friends, family members, and acquaintances. Social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great ways to stay updated on the major milestones of people you care about.

However, social media is also being used in professional and legal settings. A lot of information that you would prefer to only be shared with family and friends is becoming public knowledge. Sometimes, the information that you put on Facebook and other social media outlets is used against you, affecting things like your job or legal claims like Social Security Disability.

Can Your Facebook Profile Be Used as Evidence?

Officially, your social media presence should have nothing to do with your Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration has passed rules making internet searches off-limits in determining an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Claims for Bipolar Disorder

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Mental Illness

Social Security Disability benefits are available for those who cannot work because of physical or mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder. Though some individuals can control their bipolar disorder with the appropriate combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and therapies, others are unable to get their disorder under control.

This leaves them unable to interact with other individuals or take care of themselves in a way that permits them to hold down a stable job.

If you cannot work due to your bipolar disorder, apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Here are a few important things you need to know about making a Social Security Disability claim for your bipolar disorder.

  1. Allow Time for the Process

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not enough to procure approval for Social Security Disability payments. Bipolar disorder has multiple levels of severity, some of which include symptoms of psychosis and extreme mood swings. You need to prove that your bipolar disorder is so severe that it renders you unable to work. This process takes time.

Be prepared to visit multiple doctors who can diagnose and attest to the severity of your bipolar disorder. The doctors should come to a general consensus that your mental illness renders you unable to function in a way that permits steady employment.

Some individuals with bipolar disorder are unable to function on their own but do have moderate success in completing the activities of daily life while living in a group home. You can still receive Social Security Disability benefits if this fits your situation.

Again, you need to show that other lifestyle changes and medications were ineffective at controlling your bipolar symptoms and that you cannot function outside of the highly controlled environment of your group home.

  1. Don’t Forgo Seeing Your Doctor Due to Financial Concerns

If you cannot work and are not currently receiving Social Security Disability payments, your budget is likely tight. You may start searching for expenditures that you can cut or reduce. However, make sure that you keep up with your doctor visits and continue to take any prescribed medication. Strong medical evidence of a disability is one of the most effective ways to secure Social Security Disability benefits.

One of the requirements for receiving Social Security Disability payments is that you have to be able to prove that approved treatments (such as medication or therapy) are unable to control or reduce your bipolar disorder to a level that permits you to hold a steady job.

By visiting your doctor regularly, you have objective proof that you have tried multiple treatment options. Your doctor will include documentation in your medical records as to what medications are unsuccessful and which ones you have tried. Your regular doctor visits also add an additional level of proof concerning the severity of your bipolar disorder.

  1. Make Your Claim or Appeal as Strong as Possible

Individuals who apply for Social Security Disability benefits often initially have their claims denied. At this point, you have the option to drop your claim or appeal the decision.

One way you can increase the chance of winning your appeal is to make your claim as strong as you can. Hiring an experienced attorney who specializes in dealing with Social Security Disability cases is an excellent way to strengthen your case.

Your attorney knows what it takes to win a case and can advise you of any elements that your case is missing. For example, you may need a strong written statement from your doctor that your bipolar disorder is unlikely to improve, even with treatment, over the next few years.

Dismiss any financial concerns you have about paying an attorney. An attorney is a worthwhile investment, and you do not have to pay unless your attorney wins your case for you.

Are you ready to build an effective appeal for your Social Security Disability case? Contact Horn & Kelley P.C. Attorneys At Law for your free consultation.

Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Qualify You for Social Security Disability?

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs

carpal tunnel diagramDo you feel a strange tingling or pins and needles sensation in your fingers? Does pain in your hand, arm or shoulder wake you up in the middle of the night? Have you noticed that your grip is weaker than it used to be or that your hands feel swollen even if they haven’t actually grown in size? If you experience any of these conditions, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

CTS typically starts out with mildly unpleasant symptoms but can worsen into debilitating pain that makes work difficult, if not impossible. If your CTS symptoms are severe enough to be considered a disability, you may be able to get Social Security Disability benefits.

However, be warned that having carpal tunnel syndrome does not automatically qualify you for benefits, no matter how severe your condition is. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not list CTS as a qualifying disability in the Blue Book and generally does not consider CTS severe enough to merit receiving benefits. That said, you may be able to receive benefits if you can meet the following conditions.

Psoriasis and Social Security Disability Benefits

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Doctor Speaking With PatientPsoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lives of nearly 7.5 million people in the United States alone. At first glance, psoriasis may only appear to be a surface-level, dermatological issue. However, in severe cases, the symptoms of psoriasis can prove debilitating — limiting a person’s ability to socialize and complete common, everyday tasks.

If you are currently living with severe symptoms of psoriasis, then it’s important to understand your options for seeking Social Security Disability benefits.

4 Ways to Create a Stronger Social Security Disability Claim

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Social Security disability signIf you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, you know the odds are against your initial application being approved. Nationally only one in three, or approximately 32%, of applications are approved at the initial stage and only 58% are approved after they have had a hearing.

Given this, it is important that you do as much as you can to ensure that your claim is as strong as it can possibly be from the beginning. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to create a strong claim. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

When to File for Social Security Disability Benefits | Horn & Kelley

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Attorney Consulting with Clients, Horn & KelleyWhen you are unable to work and provide for your future, it can be incredibly stressful. While Social Security Disability Benefits are designed to provide for people in that exact situation, there may be a larger gray area involved than you realize. Many people are concerned about being denied, so they may hesitate to file their initial application.

If you wait too long, however, you may lose benefits. Striking the proper balance can be a difficult challenge, but you need to make sure you’re focused on your needs and that you’re taking every possible step for your own security.

Below, you’ll find a guide to some factors you should keep in mind when deciding whether you should apply for Social Security Disability Benefits. Knowing all the variables can help you make the right decision for yourself and your family and can help you be confident in that choice.

Social Security Disability Appeals Council: Frequently Asked Questions

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Approximately 8.8 million Americans receive Social Security Disability benefits each year. If you’ve recently applied for disability benefits and were denied, you’re not alone. Only about one-third of Social Security Disability claims are approved after the initial application.


If you are denied, the first step is filing an appeal, a request for the reconsideration. If this is denied you must file a Request for Hearing. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, if the Administrative Law Judge denied your claim, you still have options: going to the Appeals Council.

Appealing your case to the Appeals Council can be a confusing process. If you’re at this step and aren’t sure how to proceed, here are a few frequently asked questions you might have.

What Is the Appeals Council?

After your appeal is denied by an Administrative Law Judge, you can ask to have your case looked at by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will take a thorough look at the judge’s decision, and based upon any evidence that you submitted during your claim, they will determine if the original ruling should stand, or if there was an error in your case.

You have 60 days after the Administrative Law Judge denied your claim to file an appeal with the Appeals Council.

Back Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs, Social Security Disability

Back painBack pain is extremely common, especially among middle-aged and senior citizens. While most people can function despite their pain, especially with medical treatment and healthy lifestyle choices, others find their pain disabling and cannot work.

The Social Security Administration receives many applications for Social Security Disability for back pain, but it only approves a few of them. Learn what conditions qualify you for benefits and how you can present the strongest case on your application. As always, you’ll get the best results if you both inform yourself and rely on the advice of an experienced lawyer.

What Causes Back Pain?

If you have back pain, your first chore is to figure out what is causing it. That way, you can attempt to treat it, and if that fails, you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

Many people experience back pain simply as a result of getting older. As people age, their bones and connective tissue wear down, causing pain. However, not all back pain is a result of aging, and even if it is, not all back pain can be dealt with without specialized help from doctors and financial help from organizations like the Social Security Administration.


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