Social Security is still open during the shutdown…

However, expect delays. Social Security is open, but not operating at full staff. Those that are working are doing their best, and we all have to be patient right now.

From NY Daily News:

“Social Security and Medicare benefits continue to be paid out, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. The Social Security Administration is also delaying the announcement of the size of next year’s cost-of-living adjustment, which was supposed to come out on Oct. 16. Unemployment benefits are also still going out.”

Read more:

South Carolina ALJ Statistics

The majority of my cases are in the Columbia, SC Social Security office, though I also have many in the Charleston office. The Pee Dee Region is predominantly handled by one of those two offices.

According to, the average hearing wait time for the Columbia office is now 14 months from the date you request a hearing (not the date you initially apply)>. That is actually faster than it has been for the past few years. Greenville and Charleston are a little faster at 12 months.

The website also has the approval ratings of specific judges. Each judge has a different approval rating. That means that some judges approve more or less cases than others. There is no way to control the judge you are assigned. One of the things that is important to me is preparing your case for the specific judge assigned to hear the case. Each judge has a different way they want information prepared, and we work hard to make sure that you are properly prepared before you step foot in the hearing room.

Currently, the Columbia office has 5339 cases pending and EIGHT judges. You can see why it is such a long process when you see how many cases one office is processing!

SC Needs More Free and Reduced Medical Clinics

US Representative Jim Clyburn highlighted this issue at the opening of a new clinic near Hilton Head according to an article by SC Now.

I think this is a huge problem facing citizens and residents of the Pee Dee. In Florence County, we are TRULY blessed to have Hope Health. So many of my clients are now able to receive routine, basic health care that they were not receiving before. They are able to establish themselves as a patient, get medication refills, and they receive quality health care. As an attorney, I can actually see the difference in a client’s health once they are receiving regular health care.

Unfortunately, my clients in the outlying rural counties still struggle. Their only real options are paying cash (Which is difficult when unemployed and out of work) or the emergency room.

Your Social Security case depends on medical evidence. We have a list of free and reduced clinics around the state and encourage you to utilize every bit of health care you can. We are continually researching options available for clients. There are also prescription drug programs through the drug manufacturers that you can apply for if you can not afford the medication.

There are also some steps that we can take as your attorney to request a consultative evaluation through the Social Security Administration. Those exams are not guaranteed, but when the judge will agree to order one, it at least helps us establish the medical problems and diagnosis.

I encourage clients that are NOT getting the health care they need to call me immediately so we can discuss the options available. It will benefit your health now, and also helpt the ALJ to determine if you are disabled and unable to work.

Wonderful News!

Social Security has done away with the “Secret ALJ Rule”. This rule kept representatives from knowing who the ALJ would be– sometimes until we walked in the hearing room. There were many reasons that I disliked this rule, but primarily because I could not adequately prepare my clients for what to expect from the ALJ.

We will now go back to knowing who our ALJ is prior to the hearing. This is really a win for Claimants, because they deserve to be given the chance to know what the particular ALJ will be expecting.

Free Medical Treatment in Columbia this weekend

So many of my clients would benefit from this! There will be free medical treatment at the State Fairgrounds this weekend. What is sad– is the number of people expected. They expect it to overwhelm the workers.

That is because so many people can’t afford adequate healthcare. The dental cleanings is truly an added benefit!

SC Mission 2012
Free medical care will be offered during the two-day event.
Where: State Fairgrounds, enter at Gate 6 off Assembly Street

When: 6 a.m-6 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

What: Patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis

Types of care offered: Urgent medical care, diagnosis of acute and chronic medical conditions, preventive health screenings, comprehensive eye care, eye exams, glasses and dental cleanings, fillings and extractions

Information: or or @SC_Mission on Twitter

Read more here:

Alternative therapies and medicine

I’m fascinated by this article about alternative therapies. While the Social Security administration doesn’t put much credence in alternative therapies, this article shows how the medical community is beginning to embrace alternative therapies.

These statistics are fascinating:

At Regional’s three-year-old Center for Health and Healing, clients attend an eight-week mind-body program to learn proper breathing, meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis and more to reduce stress, fatigue and pain and improve sleep and mood, says manager Hunter Mahon. And three-quarters of those who have attended reported a benefit, she says.
Nearly 100 Michelin employees have gone through the program, said Jim West, manager of employee life services for the company, which contracts with Regional to provide the service. And as reported by the employees, anger and hostility were down 54 percent, depression and anxiety were reduced by 45 percent, and fatigue had declined by 33 percent, he says.

I do think there is a valid role of alternative therapy in testimony. I usually ask claimants “what other things do you do to manage your pain?” Most respond with heating pads, hot showers, ice packs, etc. I don’t see a downside to answering that you get a massage, do yoga or practice meditation and deep breathing exercises. It shows a commitment to trying to find a pain free life.

Alternative medical treatment that is doctor prescribed will be more helpful in your case. Social Security prefers hard medical evidence. Unfortunately, they don’t give much weight to chiropractic care or other forms of alternative medicine. If your doctor prescribes it and you follow through, that will help your case more.

I recently had a client that had done a lot of research and was self treating with herbs and supplements. Not only can that be dangerous, it will not be persuasive to the judge.

The best course of action is to talk through these things with your lawyer and consider how to best present them at your hearing.

(This post and all posts on this blog are intended to generate thought and discussion and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your state for further assistance.)

DLAC seeking complaints about Goodwill

Disability Law & Advocacy Center of Tennessee, a non-profit legal center advocating for the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities, together with the national civil rights law firm Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian are investigating complaints of discrimination against shoppers with service animals at Goodwill stores across the United States. In particular, we are investigating complaints that shoppers have been asked to provide “credentials” or documentation for their service animals; have been barred from entering or have been thrown out of Goodwill stores because they do not have documentation for their service animals; or have been asked questions about their service animals even when the handler’s disability or the service provided by the animal is obvious.

If you have been denied access to Goodwill stores or have been asked inappropriate questions by Goodwill employees because you use a service animal, we want to hear from you.

To share your stories, please call Scott Grimes at Goldstein, Demchak’s toll free number: 1-800-822-5000, or email , or Shelia Odusote at . All communications will be kept confidential.

Sedentary jobs and your back

Sitting all day at a desk can be bad for you physically. I was on the Washington University School of Medicine Web Site and found this “At your desk Exercise Manager.” I have it on my computer and so far and am enjoying it. It reminds me to stretch at certain intervals throughout the work day and even gives me examples of good stretches. Even if you don’t do the recommended stretch, it is a good reminder to stand up and move around. I am emailing it to my office as law firms tend to be sedentary in nature.

Complicated cases

I just received notice of award in what was a very complicated case. My client, his family and I have worked together very closely for the past two years. His case was actually approved by an attorney with the Social Security Administration and after much conversation and research we made the choice to proceed to a hearing.

We needed an earlier onset date than the attorney was able to give. My client knew that if he took the onset date he received a sure thing in SSI. However, we all believed that the case was one that warranted regular Social Security disability.

It was a hard fought case and receiving the Notice of Award was one of the best feelings I have had this year!