Social Security to increase in 2017

It will be a small increase, but it IS an increase!

According to a USA Today report, there will be a 0.2% increase in Social Security benefits in 2017.

The small increase in Social Security next year — which equals an extra $2 for someone getting a $1,000 monthly check — would come after retirees got no increase in Social Security benefits in 2016 for the third time in four decades.The final COLA figure is typically not determined until the fall.

While we wish we could see a larger number for those struggling to get by on their benefits, hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

Update for Pee Dee Area Disability Applicants

Historically, my Pee Dee area disability applicants have all been through the Columbia, SC ODAR office. This means that although you may have applied for Social Security disability in Florence, SC, the judges were actually headquartered in Columbia. We recently underwent a major change and were switched to the Charleston, SC ODAR office. It has meant there has been a delay in pending hearings but I am happy to report that hearings now appear to be moving along in scheduling.

Here is data about all of the South Carolina offices:

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As you can see- the average HEARING wait time is 15 months. That does not include the time from the time you apply, get denied, ask for reconsideration, get denied. It is from the time you ask for a hearing after your second denial. This is a long and difficult process!

We look forward to this change and working with the Charleston judges even more than we were before. If you have any questions about applying for disability in any area of South Carolina please call Rangeley at 843-667-0400 or (843) 900-6LAW or email at any time. Thank you!

handicap key

Pass 62 at Florence School District One

I thought this was good information for Florence disability clients as well as those older than 62:

The PASS 62 allows senior citizens, 62 years of age and over, as well as totally disabled persons, to attend district athletic, choral, and drama events (except the Football Jamboree, post-season play, and fundraisers) free of charge. It also provides the cardholder the opportunity to eat lunch at the elementary school in cardholder’s attendance zone for the current adult lunch price. The PASS 62 is non-transferable, and does not expire.

More information here.

Disability for Migraine Sufferers

As a person that suffers from chronic migraines, I understand all too well how disabling this can be. However, it is not easy to get disability based on migraines alone. Frequently claimants have chronic headaches, which is not the same as migraines. If you are able to take over the counter medicine and have a headache resolve, it is unlikely it reaches the severity of an actual migraine.

There is not a listing for migraines in the SSA rules. The ALJ would have to look at your residual functional capacity, your medical records, and consider your testimony in making a decision. Further, a Q and A by Social Security states “Under our general policy, you cannot establish the existence of any MDI (Medically Determinable Impairment) based solely on a diagnosis in the evidence or on a claimant’s reported symptoms. There must be clinical signs or laboratory findings to support the finding. A diagnosis of migraine headaches requires a detailed description from a physician of a typical headache event (intense headache with more than moderate pain and with associated migraine characteristics and phenomena) that includes a description of all associated phenomena; for example, premonitory symptoms, aura, duration, intensity, accompanying symptoms, and effects of treatment.”

Certain things the ALJ will be looking for:

— Emergency room or urgent care visits for migraines that won’t respond to recovery medicines (generally triptan medicines)
— CT Scans or EEG
— preventative meds such as topomax, elavil, depakote, etc.
— headache journal documenting the days you would be unable to work from symptoms or occurences, as well as the time you would be considered “Off task”
— a pattern of headache events

Listing 11.03 for non-convulsive epilepsy is somewhat instructive in how the ALJ will review your migraines. In this Listing it states: 1) Documented by detailed description of a typical headache event pattern 2) Including all associated phenomena (ie: permonitroy symptoms, aura, duration, intensity, accompanying symptoms, treatment. 3) occurring more than once weekly and 4) with alteration of awareness and 5) significant interference with activity during the day (ie: need for darkened room, lying down without moving, sleep disturbance that impacts daily activities)

I see many claimants that claim that a pain medication that is for their back or other body part is also being used for their headaches. Narcotics are generally not the first line of defense for migraines, a whole other class of drugs are used. Should you wish to hire me as your attorney, I will review your treatment and medical history to see if it accurately depicts migraines.

Hearing Wait Times

Here is a link to the average wait time for a Social Security Hearing. Keep in mind these times are calculated from the day you ask for a hearing- not the day you first apply for benefits. Requesting a hearing happens after you apply the first time, wait, then if denied you request reconsideration, wait, THEN if denied you request a hearing. Columbia, SC has a wait time of 16 months currently. Charleston, SC is 14 months. Greenville is 16 months.

Resources when you are applying for Disability

Many of our clients in Florence and the surrounding areas struggle while they wait for a disability hearing. I talked about this in a prior post titled “SC needs more free and reduced medical clinics.” As a follow up, Dillon, SC now HAS a free medical clinic that has greatly benefited our clients!

Hope Health and Mercy Medicine continue to serve Florence and CareSouth is another great resource in the surrounding areas.

Listing of providers:
Hopehealth, Inc. (many locations in the Pee Dee)
Location: Florence, SC – 29506-2851
Contact Phone: 843-667-9414

Mercy Medicine Clinic
Location: Florence, SC – 29501
Contact Phone: 843-667-9947

Dillon County Free Clinic
310 East Washington Street, Dillon, SC 29536
(843) 774-4243

Care South (Many locations in the Pee Dee)

Also don’t forget these resources:

SC Commission for the blind
SC Autism Society
Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs
Pee Dee Speech and Hearing
SC Office on Aging
SC Brain Injury Association

(I will continue to update this post!)


That is how many cases behind the Social Security Administration is behind according to this article in the Washington Post.

I often have clients that NEED their case moved faster. I WANT to move cases faster– I would be happy to move them faster. Unfortunately, there is little that we can do to make this happen. Currently, Columbia is ranked 139 out of 163 in processing time for cases with an average of 502 days. (The Columbia office covers a lot of the Pee Dee area including Dillon, Florence, Darlington, Sumter, Clarendon, Bennetsville, Chesterfield, Marion, Kershaw, etc.) Greenville Office is ranked 151 and the Charleston office is ranked 73. (Source: NOSSCR Volume 36, Number 10; November 2014).

While we can file a dire need request in the most serious of circumstances, that can only be filed once a hearing has been requested. Sadly, many clients get sicker as they wait for a hearing. Some clients even die as the hearing approaches. Many can not afford medicine or medical treatment. It is truly a sad situation.