Category: Helpful Hints SS

Meso-Benzene

MESO-Benzene

The Side Effects of a Healthy Local Industry: Cancer

According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce a large portion of West Virginia’s industry is chemical manufacturing. West Virginia is home to about 140 different chemical-related companies that provide over 12,800 jobs to the state. This makes West Virginia the location of one of the largest number of chemical manufacturing companies in the world.

If you’ve worked in the chemical industry, here are some facts you need to know about the potential of developing cancer.

Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer

Caused by asbestos, applications include insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring and many other products. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and highly deadly form of cancer that can take 20 to 60 years to become symptomatic.

Often by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, the disease is advanced. The five-year survival rate is 5% to 10%. Most patients with mesothelioma of the lung die as a result of respiratory failure or pneumonia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Among the 20 most widely used chemicals in the U.S., benzene is used mainly as a starting material in making other chemicals, including plastics, lubricants, rubber, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides. It’s also the cause of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The five-year survival rate for people 20 and older with AML is about 25%. For people younger than 20, the survival rate is 67%. Although AML is a serious disease, it is treatable and often curable with chemotherapy with or without a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or AML likely as a result of asbestos or benzene, you deserve highly experienced, compassionate representation. Please don’t hesitate to contact Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, at 877-526-3457 or jandils.com. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly. We don’t take “NO” for an answer ®.

COVID Summer Trip Ideas

COVID Summer Trip Ideas

While some might say Summer 2020 is cancelled, there has never been a more optimal time to explore our natural world. With restaurants all but closed and the need for social distancing, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get outside and have an adventure – alone or with loved ones! We just need to rethink and do a little more research in order to discover the best trips to stay safe and have fun. And I’m happy to tell you, we’ve done some of that research for you.

In most cases, it might not be comfortable or practical to take trips that might lead to a flight or cruise where it’s difficult to properly socially distance. Fortunately, gas prices remain at record lows and there’s never been a better time for a road trip. Whether you pack up the family car or rent an RV, this country is packed full of incredible sites to see.

State and National Parks

How many parks can you visit in a week’s time? Hop in that car or RV and knock out as many as you can over 7 days. According to the National Park Service website, the parks have expanded access and services over the past couple months. However, they encourage you to visit each park’s website to ensure you are up-to-date with their current operating status.

You can view all available national park pass options here: America The Beautiful Passes.

Bonus: all current U.S. Military members and their dependents are eligible for FREE annual passes.

*If you decided to go this route, we recommend you take a first aid kit, camping gear (just in case), and entertainment for the kids, if you have them.

Looking for adventures closer to home?

You might be surprised, but West Virginia is home to six national parks that are scenic or historically significant. These areas are designated by the federal government to preserve the natural beauty and wildlife of the region.

The Monongahela National Forest which celebrated its 100th birthday this year, is home to some of the most diverse ecological features in the country. It boasts Spruce Knob – sitting at 4,863 feet making it the highest point in the Mountain State – along with the rock-climbing haven of Seneca Rocks, the breathtaking ridgeline of North Fork Mountain, the high elevation plateau of Dolly Sods Wilderness and the wetlands of Cranberry Glades. All inside the nearly 1 million acre national forest. As someone who has experienced this firsthand, I highly recommend.

Some of the different trails require different skill sets and tools, you will want to plan accordingly.

While it’s not in West Virginia, Hocking Hills State Park is roughly an hours drive into Ohio, and reopened to the public on July 2nd. It is home to tourist attractions like Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls. Generally, all of the trails are family-friendly and don’t require a lot of skill or tools. Just take a water bottle and the right shoes (no flip flops)!

If you’re looking for other things to do, Hocking Hills offers canoeing, ziplining, and cabin stays as well.

Need more convincing to get outside?

Did you know that getting outside has major health benefits? According to this TIME article, even just 20 minutes of outside time can make you happier.

Immersing yourself in nature is proven to improve physical and mental health. Both WebMD and Harvard Health Publishing posted articles that listed some additional benefits including:

  1. It’s an easy, enjoyable way to get exercise
  2. It helps you get Vitamin D
  3. It lessens anxiety (that sunshine helps keep serotonin levels up which keeps you calm, positive, focused, and boosts your energy)
  4. It improves your sleep
  5. Just 5 minutes of outdoor time can boost self-esteem!
  6. It gives you better immunity
  7. It boosts your creativity
  8. It may help you heal faster

Just remember to wear sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and take the right safety precautions (i.e. having a small first aid kit, letting people know where you are, and staying on trails that are at your skill level.)

Summer of 2020 is not cancelled – it’s just giving us an opportunity to slow down, get outside and explore, and improve our physical and mental well-being all at the same time. Happy exploring!

Doctor Role

Doctor Role

The Role Your Doctor Plays in Your Disability Claim

Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement that you have to be off work for six months or a year before you can apply for or collect disability benefits. You don’t have to be disabled for any length of time before you apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You are eligible to apply for SSD or SSI benefits as soon as you stop being able to do a substantial amount of work. In most cases, Social Security defines substantial work as making $1,260 per month (in 2020

Also know that the Social Security Administration (SSA) receives more than two million applications for Social Security Disability benefits each and every year. Of these applications, a mere 30% are approved during the initial stage of the application process. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of applicants do not provide the SSA with enough evidence to prove the extent of their disability and how that disability prevents them from being able to work. Your doctor’s evidence will be crucial.

Meeting with Your Doctor

If you get to the point where you cannot perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), see a doctor. Be very clear about your symptoms and limitations. When filing a claim with the SSA, they will request a written statement from your treating physician. If you want to increase your chances of receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you will want your doctor to be prepared for this request.

It is advisable that you and your doctor review the Blue Book listing for the condition(s) you are experiencing. Your doctor needs to understand the extent of your disability if he or she is expected to relay the information properly to the SSA when providing them with a written statement.

Don’t hesitate to be direct with your doctor as to whether or not he or she agrees that you qualify for disability benefits. If your doctor supports your Social Security Disability claim, your chances of receiving a favorable decision from the SSA are significantly increased.

What Is Needed from Your Doctor?

Your doctor will need to provide the SSA with a written statement regarding the extent and circumstances of your disability. This statement should be detailed and informative and supported by objective medical evidence. A simple statement from your doctor claiming that you are unable to work will not help your claim if there is no objective evidence to support that claim. Your doctor’s statement must be supported by objective medical findings, such as laboratory test results and X-ray images.

When meeting with your doctor, explain that he or she will need to provide the SSA with information about your diagnosis, the physical restrictions your condition places on you, the prognosis of your condition, and how your condition prevents you from being able to participate in gainful work activity. Your doctor should be both aware of the medical evidence needed and amenable to providing a comprehensive report.

If Your Claim for Benefits Has Been Denied

If you have already filed an application for Social Security Disability benefits, it is still not too late to get help from your doctor. When you reach the later stage of the disability appeal process, you will need to attend a hearing before an administrative law judge. This judge should place great weight on the statement provided by the doctor who has been treating your condition, as long as your doctor’s statement is supported within your regular treating notes and objective testing.

If your doctor has not yet provided the SSA with a complete and accurate statement regarding your condition, it is crucial that he or she do so before the date of your hearing. Contact your doctor, either in person or by phone, to discuss your concerns and to request the statement be completed before your hearing date.

Consult with an Attorney

Disability attorneys are very knowledgeable about the process and can assist in contacting your physician to gather the necessary documentation. If you have already been denied benefits, it can be beneficial to hire an attorney. Proper legal representation will significantly increase your chances of winning your appeal at the hearing stage.

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, has represented countless clients for more than 25 years. We are experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate. For more information about our award-winning firm, visit jandils.com, or call us at 877.526.3457. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly.

Sources:

https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/how-to/get-physician-help-disability-claim

https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/page7-16.html

Elmiron

Elmiron

Have You Taken Elmiron for Chronic Bladder Pain? Here’s What You Should Know.

Interstitial cystitis (bladder inflammation or irritation, also known as IC) is a painful condition that affects more than 1 million people in the United States, mostly women. Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) is the only drug approved in the United States for the treatment of IC. Elmiron is a weak blood thinner which also works as a bladder protectant, used to treat bladder pain and discomfort caused by cystitis (bladder inflammation or irritation). Recent findings show that one-quarter of patients who have taken large amounts of Elmiron had clear signs of eye damage.

Elmiron lawsuits claim the drug causes an eye disorder called maculopathy and other disorders of the retina that may lead to blindness. People who took Elmiron and suffered maculopathy or other serious vision problems may be eligible to file an Elmiron lawsuit.

Claimants in Elmiron lawsuits accuse Janssen Pharmaceuticals of failing to properly warn the public about the risk of ocular toxicity and irreversible vision damage.

Research presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2019 revealed that patients taking Elmiron showed clear signs of toxicity.

The drug has been on the market since the late 1990s, and it is the only drug approved to treat pain associated with interstitial cystitis IC.

At Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, we have been fighting for victims’ rights for more than 25 years. We are knowledgeable, experienced, and successful in taking on Big Pharma for the clients we serve. If you or a loved one has taken Elmiron and is experiencing vision problems, please do not hesitate to contact us at 877.526.3457. Or if you’d prefer to contact us online, please fill out this form and we will respond right away.

 

Social Security & Medication

SS & Medication

Can You Be Denied Disability for Failing to Take Medication or Follow Treatment?

If you’re applying for disability benefits but not complying with the medical treatment prescribed by your doctor, Social Security may be able to deny your claim for “treatment noncompliance.” Social Security may be able to make the case that treatments could reverse the outcome. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it is important to follow your physician’s prescribed course of treatment to the extent possible so that you can avoid this matter entirely.

Denial of Disability Benefits for Noncompliance with Treatment

If you fail to follow prescribed treatment, take prescribed medication or undergo recommended surgery, this may prevent you from getting Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but only when the following four criteria are met:

  • Your impairment prevents you from doing any substantial gainful activity (SGA).
  • Your impairment has lasted or will last at least 12 months or can be expected to end in death.
  • Your treating doctor has prescribed treatment that would clearly restore your ability to perform full-time work.
  • You have refused to follow your treating doctor’s prescribed treatment.

There are several important points to remember here. First, the treatment or medication in question must be prescribed by the doctor who treats you, not by a consulting examiner or a physician for Disability Determination Services (DDS). Also, the treatment instructions must consist of something more specific than general lifestyle advice. If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, and exercise more – and whose hasn’t? – this advice does not constitute prescribed treatment. If, however, your doctor advises you to stop using drugs and alcohol, failure to follow this advice could certainly impact your claim.

Also note that the treatment or medication your doctor has prescribed must be clearly expected to restore your ability to do full-time work. It literally must be able to make the difference between whether or not you can work. For this reason, a minor deviation from your doctor’s prescribed treatment is usually not a sufficient basis for Social Security to deny your claim.

Possible Justifications for Failing to Follow Treatment

If Social Security determines that you meet the four criteria above, the agency can deny your disability claim unless you can show that you were justified in failing to follow treatment. Here are several situations in which your failure to follow treatment will not be held against you:

  • The prescribed medical treatment violates your religious beliefs. To use this excuse, Social Security will require you to state your religious affiliation and provide evidence that you are a member of that church. In addition, you must show that the medical treatment in question goes against the teachings of your church, which can usually be done by obtaining a statement from a church authority.
  • The treatment prescribed by your treating physician conflicts with the advice of another treating source. If you have more than one treating source, sometimes your doctors will disagree on, for example, whether you should undergo a particular surgery. This is generally considered good cause for refusing treatment.
  • You cannot afford the prescribed treatment or medication, and there are no free or low-cost clinics reasonably available to you. Disability claimants are often unable to afford medications or treatments prescribed by their doctors. Social Security will not find this excuse compelling unless you show that you’ve exhausted all your options, including free and subsidized clinics, charitable care, and public assistance programs. If you don’t have health insurance, Social Security will want to see that you’ve applied for Medicaid in an effort to obtain treatment.
  • The prescribed treatment involves the amputation of one of your extremities.
  • You have an extreme fear of surgery. This justification is rarely accepted by Social Security, but you may have a chance if your fear is well documented by a mental health professional.
  • The doctor prescribed an unusually risky surgery. To be effective, the level of surgical risk must be above and beyond the ordinary, unavoidable risk of undergoing surgery. Operations such as open-heart surgeries, organ transplants and experimental procedures are often extremely risky, and refusing to undergo such a surgery will likely not harm your disability case.
  • You have a mental illness, and failure to follow treatment is a symptom of the disease. This argument will be much more persuasive coming from your treating mental health provider. Ask him or her to give an opinion to Social Security on this point if noncompliance with medical treatment is an issue in your case.

While these are some of the most common justifications, this is not an exhaustive list. If you haven’t been compliant with the treatment recommended by your doctor but can provide evidence that your refusal is justified, Social Security may still approve your claim.

At Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, we know what to expect and can help you present your very best case. We are experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate. For more information about our award-winning firm, visit jandils.com or call us at 877.526.3457. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

Defining Medicare vs. Medicaid

Understanding the difference between Medicare vs. Medicaid

A lot of people have a difficult time understanding the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. They are both health insurance programs run by the government. Understanding each program, as well as how the two differ, can help you find the right healthcare program for you or a loved one.

Let’s start with Medicare.

Medicare is the earned-benefit program for Americans aged 65 or older or disabled. Workers pay into Medicare throughout their working years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the agency in charge of both Medicare and Medicaid, but you sign up for Medicare A (Hospital) and Medicare B (Medical) through Social Security.

You can apply for Medicare online from the convenience of your home on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website. If you’re already receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 65 or are in the 25th month of receiving disability checks, you will be enrolled automatically.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (Prescription Drug) plans are available for purchase in the insurance marketplace. Social Security administers a program called Extra Help to assist people with low income and low resources pay for premiums, co-pays and coinsurance costs for Part D plans. If you think you may qualify, visit Extra Help. Each year, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services publishes Medicare and You, available online at their website. This publication is a user’s manual for Medicare.

Each state runs its own Medicaid program under guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicaid offers care for the most vulnerable among us. While it does not require paying taxes while working, it does have guidelines about how much income and resources you can have to qualify. Medicaid provides coverage for older people, people with disabilities, and some families with children. Each state has its own eligibility rules and decides which services to cover. The names of the Medicaid program may vary from state to state. To learn more about each state’s Medicaid program, click here.

Sadly, disability denials are common. Statistically, initial claims have a denial rate of approximately 67%. Reconsiderations (the first step of appeals in most states) are denied at an even higher rate (up to 87%). A denial means that you’ll need to file an appeal and hope Social Security changes its mind.

At Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, we know what to expect and can help you present your very best case. So, whether you have read this article and think you may qualify for Social Security disability or have been denied coverage, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Consultations are always free. For more information, visit jandils.com or call us at 877.526.3457. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly.

4th of July in the Mid-Ohio Valley

4th of July in the Mid-Ohio Valley

Despite COVID-19’s best efforts to cancel our summer, the July 4th holiday is expected to make a bang in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

While social distancing is still just as important as ever, plans to go ahead with area celebrations are in full effect. The outdoors have proven to be a safer environment than indoors, but guidelines should still be followed.

Of course, masks and distancing from large crowds are still two key components to ensure our safety from the virus. And if you’re showing any signs of illness, STAY HOME!

So what’s going on in the MOV, and where can you catch some fireworks?

Well earlier this month, the American Legion Post 15 announced the cancellation of their annual carnival during the 4th of July celebrations in Parkersburg, West Virginia. However, the city of Parkersburg still plans to hold the fireworks display on July 4th from Fort Boreman Park.

While things might be different this year, the new location will allow those in Parkersburg and across the river in Belpre, Ohio to practice social distancing while providing a spectacular view from the hilltop of Fort Boreman.

Where else?

Roughly 40 mins down Interstate 77, “America’s Largest Small Town Independence Day Celebration,” plans to push forward with some changes in place to reflect social distancing guidelines. With the carnival nixed, the celebration will be shortened to two days, starting on Friday, July 3rd.

Parades, drive-in concerts and fireworks are still on the agenda. Sidewalks will be marked to reflect social distancing during the parade. The concert stage will be located on the West Side Plaza on Academy Drive. Spectators will be able to enjoy the concert from the safety of their own vehicles, “drive-in” style.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating our nation’s independence.

Be cautious. Stay safe. And have fun!

For more details on Independence Day celebrations in the MOV and where to find them, click here.

Happy 4th, everyone!!!

Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

No one-size-fits-all answer exists. Every state has time limits, called statutes of limitations, and the time within which you must file a lawsuit varies according to the type of claim, even within the state. For example, in West Virginia, you have two years to act on a case involving injury and/or property damage.

For example, rules in one state might allow a plaintiff with a personal injury claim (such as a broken leg) one year from the date of injury to file suit, and a plaintiff with a breach of contract claim (such as failure to make good on a promissory note) four years from the date of breach to sue. In another state, plaintiffs could have two years for personal injury cases, and five years for breach of contract claims. In West Virginia, you have two years to act on a case involving injury and/or property damage.

Consider consulting a lawyer if you might have a claim or someone might have a claim against you; the rules can be complex.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Work?

All states have passed statutes of limitations, which set strict deadlines for the filing of different kinds of lawsuits in the state’s civil court system. Most states have a statute of limitations that specifically applies to personal injury cases (or to lawsuits alleging negligence). Whatever statute of limitations applies to your potential case, if the deadline has passed and you try to file a lawsuit anyway, your case will almost certainly be dismissed. There are exceptions that could effectively extend the filing deadline, but they’re fairly rare.

In a personal injury case, the statute of limitations usually begins running on the day you were injured. For example, in a car accident case, it’s the date on which the crash occurred.

Coronavirus and Your Case

The COVID-19 outbreak is having a severe impact on the operations of civil courts across the country, forcing courts to prioritize criminal matters over less urgent civil cases. Some courts are tolling – stopping temporarily – civil statute of limitations periods during the coronavirus pandemic to help reduce case backlog.

Personal Injury cases have always been complex, but now more than every you may need legal advice. Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, is here for you. Learn more about us at jandils.com or call us at 877.526.3457. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly.

Should I wear a mask

Should You Wear a Mask?

To mask, or not to mask.

It’s been roughly 6 months since the Coronavirus started making headlines in the US, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Many of us downplayed it at first. Then it got serious. People scrambled to find N-95 masks to protect themselves from the virus.

Then we were told to stop buying masks – only first responders and healthcare workers needed that protection, and supplies were running thin.

Now the message has changed. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone should at the very least, wear a cloth mask while in public places.

Simply put, the use of a mask is just one of the steps in a series of small adjustments we can make to protect ourselves – along with following proper social distancing guidelines. According to WHO, masks help reduce the spread of infection when both healthy AND infected persons wear them simultaneously.

However, the use of a mask alone is not enough to prevent the spread. Continuing to follow proper hand hygiene, social distancing and other infection prevention is critical in preventing the spread of the virus.

Equally as important, is knowing exactly when and how to wear each type of mask.

How to Safely Wear a Cloth Mask.

How to Wear a Medical Mask.

Medical Masks Vs. Fabric Masks – Who wears what and when?

For a deeper dive into the proper use of masks, check out WHO’s advice on wearing masks.

Hearing Tips

Social Security Disability Hearing Tips

How to Answer Questions at a Social Security Disability Hearing.

How should you answer the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) questions at a disability hearing, and how many questions can you expect to be asked? Sometimes the judge will not ask the disability claimant any questions; at other times the ALJ will ask several questions. But since most hearings will normally be concluded under an hour (some hearings can actually be as short as 15 minutes), you can count on not having to answer questions for an extended time period.

The prospect of answering an ALJ’s questions at a disability hearing can be daunting, no matter how well prepared you are. However, there are some important guidelines you should follow that will make the process go more smoothly and increase the chance of a successful claim.

Answer the Question.

Believe it or not, one of the most common mistakes a disability claimant can make during a hearing is failing to answer the question asked by the ALJ. To avoid this, pay attention to what the ALJ has specifically asked you, and try to answer only that question in a sentence or two. It may be helpful to take notes on a piece of paper or, if you didn’t understand or hear the question, ask the ALJ to restate or explain the question for you.

Don’t Ramble or Go Off Subject.

For most claimants, the hearing process is a nerve-racking experience. If, like many of us, you are prone to ramble on when under pressure, it’s important that you be especially prepared to provide succinct answers to the ALJ’s questions. When a claimant answers questions with long-winded explanations that stray from the ALJ’s question, the ALJ may stop listening and miss important statements you make, or he or she may become irritated and interrupt you.

It may be helpful to practice answering questions with your attorney or a friend. If you find yourself digressing from the topic of the question, stop, take a deep breath and refocus your answer. If you have an attorney, he or she should either practice the questions with you or provide you with a copy of the questions you are likely to face well before the hearing date, giving you plenty of time to familiarize yourself.

Be Specific About Your Symptoms and Limitations.

Specific answers give an ALJ a clear picture of your impairment. For example, if you suffer from back problems and the ALJ asks you to describe the pain, use descriptive words like “burning,” “tingling,” “aching,” “shooting” or “dull.” Also clearly describe the location of any pain. This will help paint a picture in the ALJ’s mind about your disability and how it affects you. It will also help the ALJ know if your symptoms are consistent with the recognized symptoms of your medical condition, which can help your credibility.

You must also be specific when describing your limitations. For example, if the ALJ asks you how long you can sit, don’t say “for just a little while”; state “30 minutes,” or “one hour,” or however long it is you can sit without pain. If the ALJ asks whether you can drive and you are in fact able to drive short distances (for example, to your doctor’s office), a good answer would be “I can drive to my doctor’s office, which is about three miles away.”

Be Ready to Explain Gaps in Your Medical History.

Sometimes, a disability claimant will have periods of time during which he or she received little or no medical treatment. An ALJ will question a claimant about these gaps in care. Be prepared to give an honest answer as to why you didn’t seek treatment. If you were without insurance, state this. If your symptoms briefly improved during that time, it is better to state and explain this than to give an untruthful answer, as once you lose credibility with the judge, you risk losing your disability claim.

Be Prepared to Explain “Bad” Facts.

Medical records sometimes contain “bad” facts. “Bad” facts can hurt your case if they are not handled properly. For example, one common problem with people who suffer from chronic pain is overreliance on pain medication. In these cases, medical records may state that the claimant suffers from narcotic dependency or is suspected of abusing pain medication. Here, the worst thing a claimant can do is to deny the problem or try to blame the medical provider. The best answer is the truthful one – for example, that there was a problem with pain medication, and you are receiving (or plan to get) treatment for the dependency, or that you switched or reduced medications to minimize the possibility of addiction.

Paint a Picture of Your Daily Living.

ALJs often ask disability claimants how their lives have changed since the onset of your impairment. A detailed and descriptive answer to this question can be quite helpful in winning your claim, especially if the ALJ is on the fence about how to decide your case. For example, if you used to go to church every weekend, garden, walk the dog or play cards with friends, and you can no longer enjoy these activities, tell this to the ALJ. You should also describe how your disability has affected activities like reading books or newspapers or watching television. Chronic pain frequently interferes with concentration to the extent that people are no longer able to do even sedentary activities. This is important information for an ALJ to know as it gives insight into how you would probably function in a work setting.

Whether you need help in your day-to-day life is also important information for the ALJ. If you require assistance from a family member or friend with grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, bill paying or any other activity of daily living, describe the assistance you receive, how often you receive help, and why you need the assistance. For example, if your disability has affected your memory, focus or concentration, you may need help handling your finances. This information would be vital to the ALJ because it would indicate that you would have extreme difficulty performing many types of jobs.

It can also be helpful to ask a family member who assists you to be a witness at your hearing or write a letter on your behalf. Ask your attorney.

Don’t Be Embarrassed.

Regardless of your impairment, the ALJ and the vocational expert will discuss information that is highly personal at a disability hearing. Frequently, disability claimants feel understandably embarrassed by symptoms of their disease, tests, procedures, or by treatments they have undergone. Embarrassment is especially common with people who suffer from mental illness or who have impairments that can stem from lifestyle choices, such as HIV or certain types of hepatitis.

However, it is important to remember that ALJs hear hundreds of testimonies a year from disability claimants with every imaginable disability, and that the ALJ’s only role is to decide whether you meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of disability. Try to set aside any embarrassment so that you can provide the ALJ with accurate answers so that he or she can determine your claim fairly.

Be Honest and Don’t Exaggerate.

The most important way to answer an ALJ’s question is with honesty. Some claimants feel that if they make their symptoms sound worse than they really are, they will have a better chance at winning their claim. However, exaggerating your disability usually has the opposite impact. Remember that ALJs hear hundreds of cases a year. They are well trained in recognizing when a claimant is magnifying the truth. If the ALJ believes you are exaggerating your symptoms, you will lose credibility with the ALJ, and if an ALJ doesn’t believe you, you will likely lose your claim for disability benefits.

For example, if the ALJ asks you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten on an average day, it would be unwise to answer that your daily pain is at a ten. Daily pain that’s a five, six, or seven is more believable. However, if there are times when your pain escalates, you should state this (you can say there are times it goes up to a nine or ten) but provide an explanation as to what worsens your symptoms (for example, sitting too long, walking upstairs, cleaning or grocery shopping). Also, when describing your symptoms or pain, avoid phrases like “all the time,” “always,” “every day,” or “constantly” unless they are absolutely accurate.

If you have multiple impairments, be particularly careful about accuracy in your descriptions of your symptoms. If you allege that all of your impairments are extremely severe and you exaggerate pain for one impairment, the judge may note that you have a tendency to exaggerate pain, and this can undermine the validity of other, truly severe impairments whose diagnoses rely wholly or partly on self-reported pain.

Representation at Your Hearing

Having an experienced disability lawyer can help you answer the questions in a way that will help support your disability claim rather than possibly undermine it. A disability advocate can provide you with pre-hearing preparation, which will help you avoid answering the judge’s questions in a way that may hurt your case and can allay any fears you may have. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, a disability representative can answer many of the judge’s questions that arise at a disability hearing.

At Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, we are experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate. For more information about our award-winning firm, visit jandils.com or call us at 877.526.3457. You can also fill out this form and we will respond to you shortly.

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