Have Questions About the Disability Claims Process for Social Security or Veterans? Check Out Our FAQs

Dealing with the disability application or appeals process always comes with plenty of questions. Whether your questions are about Social Security or VA Disability, here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.

  • Page 1
  • What are the deadlines for filing a denied SS appeal?

    If you applied for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and you’ve received a notice of denial, you have 60 days to appeal the denial. This means you must get your appeal on record with the SSA within 60 days from the date stamped on the envelope of the denial letter.

    There are multiple levels of appeal, and because the process can be complex and time-consuming, it’s important to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with a denied claim, regardless of what level you are in the process.

    Understanding the Appeals Deadlines

    Denied SS appeals deadlineIn the appeals process, there are various levels of appeal: reconsideration, hearing by an administrative law judge, review by the Appeals Council, and filing a lawsuit with the Federal District Court.

    However, no matter what level your appeal is in right now, you always have 60 days to file your next appeal.

    But there are some important things to note about this 60-day window:

    • Usually, individuals filing claims get an extra five days to ensure their appeal gets through the mail process and reaches the SSA by the deadline. However, the SSA doesn’t go out of its way to communicate this additional time.
    • To meet the deadline, the SSA must receive your appeal paperwork by the deadline date. This does not mean your paperwork must be postmarked by the deadline date; rather, it must reach the SSA by the date. Because neither you nor the SSA has any control over the speed of the mail or if your appeal might get hung up in transit, you need to get your disability appeal paperwork mailed to the SSA as soon as you get your denial letter.
    • Don’t assume because you’ve hired a lawyer, you can forget about these deadlines or that your lawyer will also receive a denial letter from the SSA. While the SSA sends a copy of the denial letter to both you and your lawyer, it’s possible the agency might fail to send a copy to you both. When you receive a denial letter, you should immediately contact your attorney to ensure that the appeals deadline doesn't get overlooked.

    Call Cuddigan Law

    If you need help with the appeals process after your claim is denied, call Cuddigan Law. We’ve assisted thousands of clients with this process by filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing the appeals process through each of the four levels. Having an attorney on your side can ensure you don’t miss any deadline in this process.

    Contact us for a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal. 

     

  • What to expect when you meet with your attorney to prepare for your hearing

    The administrative hearing is the level at which most disability cases are successful. Preparation for the hearing is important .We like to meet with our clients, face to face, in the office if it is possible.The meeting generally occurs a month ahead of the hearing date We set aside one and half to two hours for this meeting. Because the meeting is so important you must attend. In the meeting we will discuss the location of the hearing office, the time of your hearing, the security at the hearing office and the layout of the hearing room.  We will discuss proper attire for the hearing.

    In this meeting, we will explain what Social Security definition of disability is and why it generally means more than not being able to do your last job. We will ask you when you last worked and why you stopped working, We will ask you what is it about your physical and mental condition prevents you from working now. We will ask you about the work you have done in the last 15 years and why you can't perform that work now

    Before we meet with you, we will have reviewed your exhibit file which includes: social security forms, any forms you have completed and your medical records. We will review with you the medical timeline and any medical records that concern us We will discuss with you any of your providers that it might be helpful to get a report from. We will ask you if there are any other providers that have records. We ask you to bring: a current list of your medications; all pay stubs if you have worked since applying for disability; and any workers compensation documents that you have not already furnished us.We will discuss witness statements or work performance assessments

    We will discuss your physical and mental symptoms. We will review your physical and mental limitations that prevent you from working.We will discuss your daily activities and any side effects from medications

    We will discuss the role of the vocational witness and questions from the judge to the vocational witness. Finally,what we are trying to accomplish with our questions to the vocational witness.

    Because we like to review everything one last time we ask our clients to be at the hearing office 30 minutes before their scheduled hearing. If you need directions to the hearing office ask us.

  • What happens when my Social Security claim goes to the Appeals Council?

    If your denied Social Security (SS) disability claim was denied after a hearing by an administrative law judge, you can ask for a review by the SS Appeals Council. You have 60 days to ask for this review.

    If your claim reaches this level, it’s important to have legal representation by a skilled SS disability attorney. Although you can file the appeal with the Appeals Council on your own, the process will be easier and less complicated with legal counsel. 

    Your Claim at the Appeals Council Level

    Social Security claim in appealThe SS Appeals Council processes many requests for reviews each year—over 160,000 requests in 2017 alone. The Appeals Council reviews whether the administrative law judge made his decision according to the law. This Council is allowed to grant, deny, or dismiss a request for review. If your request is granted, the Council will either make a decision in the case or “remand” it to the administrative law judge for a new decision.

    It’s important to note that it’s difficult to win your appeal at this level of the process. Most often, the Appeals Council sends claimants a letter denying the appeal and upholding the decision made by the administration law judge.

    It’s possible, however, that the Council will find the judge made mistakes in your case. For example, the judge may have:

    • Failed to look at all legitimate medical evidence
    • Made a technical error during the review process

    If any of these takes place, the Appeals Council can demand a “remand case,” and your claim is sent back for a second hearing usually with the same administrative law judge. It’s also possible but not likely the judge’s determination will be overturned by the Council because the decision was totally erroneous. If so, the Council may simply move forward with an approval.

    Call Cuddigan Law

    If you need help appealing a denied disability claim, or your claim was denied by the Appeals Council, call the attorneys at Cuddigan Law for help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients, filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing their cases through the four levels of the appeals process.

    Contact us for a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal.

     

  • What should I know about my Social Security appeals claim when it’s in Reconsideration?

    If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your disability claim and you wish to appeal the decision, you’ll follow the steps outlined in the letter sent to you by the SSA which advise you on how to do this. After you request an appeal in writing, you’ll move to Reconsideration, the first step in the appeals process. 

    Because the appeals process can be time-consuming and complex, it’s helpful to hire an experienced SS disability attorney who can assist you with a denied claim and start the appeals process at the Reconsideration step.

    Understanding the Reconsideration Process

    Social Security claim deniedDuring a Reconsideration appeal, your claim is reviewed by someone in the SSA who wasn't involved in the initial denial of your claim. She'll examine all evidence you submitted originally, as well as any new evidence you might have.

    It’s important to note that even though a new person is reviewing your material, she is bound by the same guidelines and rules as the person who reviewed your claim initially. Ultimately, over 85 percent of claims are denied at this level.

    What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied at Reconsideration

    The SSA denies claims for a variety of reasons, but by far the most common is because there's a lack of medical evidence submitted proving that you suffer from a disability. This is often true at the Reconsideration level as well. Thus, if your Reconsideration request is denied and you’re still unable to return to work, you have 65 days from the date of the denial to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. 

    It’s important to note that you have a much better chance of success at this appeals level if you are represented by a Social Security disability attorney. He'll assist you in preparing for the appearance before a judge by helping you collect as much new medical evidence, lab results, doctor opinion, blood tests, and additional medical data to help your case. 

    Call Cuddigan Law

    If you need help with the appeals process after your claim has been denied at the Reconsideration level, Cuddigan Law can help. We’ve assisted thousands of clients—filling out their paperwork, collecting their medical records, calling doctors, and managing their claims through the four levels of the appeals process, including Reconsideration.

    Contact us for a free consultation, and we’ll evaluate your case and let you know how we can increase your chances of receiving an approval on your appeal. 

     

  • How is my service-connected PTSD linked to panic attacks?

    Veterans who suffer from panic disorder (PD) may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The two conditions are known to be comorbid—the presence of one or more disorders co-occurring with a primary disease.

    According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately six million Americans are impacted by PD, and nearly eight million will be affected by PTSD.

    If you’re a veteran who suffers from either or both of these conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But it’s important to hire a skilled VA disability lawyer to help with your claim.

    Understanding PTSD and Panic Disorder

    PTSDPanic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks that happen unexpectedly and cause people to have feelings of fear and terror when there's no evidence of real danger. Individuals may feel weak and dizzy, have difficulty breathing, and feel they're losing control.

    PTSD, on the other hand, is a mental health condition often triggered by memories of a traumatic or life-threatening event.

    People may suffer flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme anxiety about what they experienced, and these symptoms may not present for years after the event.

    Most individuals are able to cope with memories of terrible things that happened to them, but those who aren’t often find their anxiety interferes with daily routines and functioning in occupational and social environments.

    Although both PD and PTSD sufferers have” heightened sensitivity to threat,” the anxiety felt by those suffering from PTSD isn't a panic attack, even though for many it can feel the same. Instead, the anxiety occurs because the dreams and flashbacks cause them to re-experience the trauma. However, sufferers of either disorder may use “avoidance” as a way to cope and survive.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    For veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or PD, it’s possible to qualify for financial help. If your mental health condition is service-connected and you want to file for disability, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.

     

  • As a veteran, what should I know about panic attacks?

    Veterans who suffer from panic attacks often experience sudden feelings of apprehension, terror, nervousness, and/or fear. These symptoms can occur unexpectedly for no reason, or because of a known “stressor,” with an attack usually peaking within the first 10 minutes.

    panic_attackOften, the symptoms are so extreme that an entire day can be disrupted, and individuals may feel stressed out or “keyed up” for many hours following the attack.

    Your Questions Answered About Panic Attacks

    If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected panic disorder, you may have many questions about what causes this condition, how to cope with it, and if you can get benefits from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Here are answers to frequently asked questions about panic attacks

    What mental illnesses qualify for VA benefits, and are panic attacks included?

    If you can provide the VA with a diagnosis in one of the following categories and give evidence that shows your mental illness is service-connected, you may be eligible for benefits. These categories include:

    • Anxiety—this includes post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder. 
    • Amnesia
    • Mood disorders
    • Chronic adjustment disorder
    • Cognitive disorders
    • Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia
    • Somatoform disorders, including mental disorders that present as unexplained physical ailments
    • Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia

    What if my panic attacks were a preexisting condition? 

    If you were diagnosed with panic disorder before you went into the military, you could qualify for VA benefits if you can prove that your service worsened or aggravated your condition beyond what would be considered its normal progression.

    If the VA agrees that your mental illness has worsened due to your military service, it will classify your condition as “service-connection based on aggravation by such service.”

    What does it mean if I receive a 0 percent rating for my panic disorder?

    Your panic disorder is rated by the VA based on its severity. If your mental illness impacts your daily life and interferes with your ability to manage a normal routine, the VA gives you a higher rating. For example, if you receive a rating of 100 percent, the VA believes you have complete and total impairment on the job and in a social environment.

    However, if you receive a 0 percent rating, the VA still recognizes your mental illness but believes your symptoms don’t interfere with work or social functioning, and you don’t require ongoing medication. While you won’t receive financial benefits for this rating, you may be eligible for health care. 

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’re a veteran with service-connected panic attacks, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.

     

  • How do I get disability for PTSD secondary hypertension related to my time in the service?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after someone witnesses or experiences a life-threatening, traumatic, or terrifying event.

    Veterans who suffer from service-connected PTSD may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to vision loss, kidney and heart disease, and stroke.

    hypertensionAccording to research cited by the American Heart Association, soldiers in the U.S. military who were severely injured during the Afghanistan or Iraq wars or diagnosed with PTSD are at a greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure.

    Additionally, researchers have found that soldiers who suffered from PTSD were up to 85 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn't have PTSD. The more severely injured the soldier, the more likely she was to have hypertension.

    The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes hypertension as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your hypertension is related to your service-connected PTSD, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help file your claim for compensation.

    VA Disability for Secondary Hypertension

    To receive a disability rating for PTSD secondary hypertension, your doctor needs to document your diagnosis of high blood pressure. Additionally, to file your claim, your doctor needs to fill out the Hypertension Disability Benefits Questionnaire. It’s important to note that you can’t fill out this form yourself—the VA won’t accept the form submitted by a veteran. It must come from a licensed physician.

    When filling out the form, your doctor needs to include two important pieces of information:

    • A detailed medical history about your condition, your symptoms, and any other relevant information that affect the decision by the VA.
    • A professional opinion about how your hypertension impacts your ability to perform on the job.

    The claims examiner reviews this information and assigns a disability rating for your high blood pressure.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’re a veteran suffering from hypertension due to PTSD and would like to submit an application for hypertension as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law.

    Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.

     

  • How does the VA rate PTSD?

    Many people experience a traumatic, terrifying event in life, and they may face difficulty handling memories of that event. But with time and treatment, they're often able to adjust and overcome the incident.

    solider_in_officeHowever, others may experience symptoms that last for months or years. If a person continues to have flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety about the event; and these issues interfere with day-to-day life, she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental condition can prevent a person from living a normal life.

    For veterans, PTSD and depression are the most common mental health problems.

    How the VA Rates PTSD

    If you’re a veteran diagnosed with service-connected PTSD, the VA will give your condition one of the following percentage ratings:

    • 100: To receive a 100 percent disability rating, you must present complete occupational and social impairment. This might be due to any number of symptoms, including ongoing hallucinations, extreme inappropriate behavior, danger of self-harm, inability to perform daily maintenance and personal hygiene tasks, disorientation, and memory loss.
    • 70: To receive a 70 percent rating, you must present impairment with deficiencies in ability to work, go to school, and think clearly. Detailed symptoms may include suicidal thoughts, illogical speech, difficulty managing stressful situations, and inability to maintain family or friend relationships.
    • 50: To receive a 50 percent rating, impairment must present reduced productivity and reliability. Symptoms may include panic attacks that occur more than once a week; problems with long- and short-term memory; flawed judgment; and mood disturbances.
    • 30: To receive a 30 percent rating, you must demonstrate a decrease in work efficiency and periods when you can’t perform certain work tasks. Overall, however, functioning is satisfactory. Symptoms may be depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
    • 10: Veterans who receive a 10 percent rating present mild symptoms that decrease their ability to perform work tasks when they’re under extreme stress or need to take medication to control their symptoms.
    • 0: The VA will give a veteran a 0 percent rating who is formally diagnosed with PTSD, but doesn't have symptoms that interfere with social or occupational functioning. 

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’re a veteran with service-connected PTSD and want to file for disability; want to understand how to increase your rating; or believe that the rating your received is inaccurate, contact Cuddigan Law.

    Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today.

     

  • Why does OSA cause depression, and can I get VA disability for this secondary condition?

    Veterans who suffer from service-connected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may also suffer from secondary medical conditions, including depression. OSA is a sleep disorder that causes the throat muscles of a sleeping person to relax and ultimately, block the airway—reducing the oxygen reaching her lungs. Because a veteran with OSA never gets the chance to fully rest at night, she may experience problems staying awake and face extreme exhaustion.

    The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes depression as a ratable illness, and you may be eligible for disability benefits if you suffer from this as a secondary condition. If you can prove your OSA is service-connected and believe you’re suffering depression because of it, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to help appeal your claim for compensation.

    The Link Between OSA and Depression

    vet_insomniaA variety of studies report the link between OSA and depression. People who suffer from OSA are much more likely to experience depression than those who don’t have OSA. Reports show that patients who suffer from OSA are 21–39 percent more likely to have depression.

    It’s been debated whether there’s a direct link between OSA and depression, or whether there’s simply a correlation. There are a number of thoughts on this issue:

    • One theory suggests that because patients with OSA suffer a lack of oxygen, it may cause problems in the brain and body that can lead to depression. Additionally, OSA may cause inflammation in the body and affect “neurotransmitter activity,” which could contribute to the symptoms of depression.
    • A second theory suggests that because OSA causes fatigue, exhaustion, and daytime sleepiness, managing the requirements of a normal routine becomes increasingly more challenging. The difficulty in handling daily life can trigger depression. There are clinical studies to support this, as OSA and extreme drowsiness and fatigue are linked with depression.

    Depression and Qualifying for Benefits

    Your chances of receiving an approved claim for secondary depression depends on if you can prove your service-connected OSA is the cause. It’s important that your doctor write a letter of opinion about your condition with:

    • A diagnosis of depression—either major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder
    • Evidence that your sleep disorder likely caused your depression

    It’s also important that you provide the appropriate documentation—medical reports and test results that show the link between your depression and OSA.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to OSA and would like to submit an application for depression as a secondary condition, call Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys will examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.

     

  • How do I service-connect my OSA for VA benefits?

    Veterans who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may wake in the morning feeling drained and exhausted, and then be extremely fatigued all day long. OSA occurs when an individual is sleeping and throat muscles continually relax, blocking the airway and reducing the amount of air that makes it into the lungs. This causes the breath to stop and start throughout the night.

    OSAOver 90 percent of veterans who submit claims for OSA were on active duty in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, as well as Gulf War I. It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 veterans who receive disability benefits for OSA from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are rated 50 percent disabled by this illness. And veterans who suffer from service-connected OSA may also have secondary medical conditions, including depression.

    Proving Service-Connected OSA

    It’s not easy to prove your OSA is service-connected. In 2013–2014, the Board of Veterans Appeals denied over 70 percent of sleep apnea appeals by veterans. This means approximately three of four veterans will be denied their sleep apnea claims and appeals.

    Thus, you need to provide strong lay evidence about the symptoms you experienced while in service such as:

    • Interrupted breathing at night
    • Loud snoring
    • Gasping for air
    • Dry mouth
    • Extreme daytime exhaustion

    Additionally, you need your doctor’s medical opinion that explains how these symptoms are “more likely than not” linked to sleep apnea during your service. If your doctor can establish a direct connection between your symptoms and your time in the military, you may be able to prove service-connected OSA.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’re a veteran who wants to prove your OSA is service-connected, call Cuddigan Law. Our VA attorneys have years of experience handling veterans’ claims, and we're happy to handle yours. We'll examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.