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Disability Benefits for Disabling Condition: What If You Are Denied?

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Lawsuits on April 27, 2017

On August 14, 1935, Congress established the Social Security Administration (SSA). In almost eight decades, the SSA has become the largest governmental program in the world and accounts for almost 25 percent of the federal budget. Despite how long Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have been in place, the agency’s disability application and claims process still provides frustrating hurdles for many disabled workers, including 37-year-old MaryJo Rudd.

Almost two years ago, Rudd was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a rare disease of the connective tissue that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks tissues and organs. Symptoms can include spasms of the arteries linked to Raynaud’s phenomenon, sores, hair loss, skin calcifications, esophageal disease and skin thickening. Rudd’s symptoms included pain, circulation issues, fatigue and dramatic weight loss.

Because she was a mother of two, Rudd’s condition undermined more than her physical health. Having worked as a dispatcher for a county fire and EMS organization for five years, Rudd had to give up her job and has relied of the aid of her community for financial support. Support from her estranged husband ended after he was injured in an auto accident and lost his job. While struggling to take care of her family, Rudd filed a Social Security claim that was eventually denied.

There is no cure for Rudd’s condition, and according to the Mayo Clinic it can be life-threatening. In Rudd’s case, it has worsened in the last two years. She can no longer get out of a chair unassisted, and stiffness has frozen her fingers in place. While she continues to get assistance from the community, she is appealing her Social Security claim.

Generally, when applying for SSI benefits, a claimant must establish that he or she is a legal adult, has worked, has paid Social Security taxes and has a medical condition that prevented the individual from working for 12 months or will prevent them from working for 12 months. For those with systemic scleroderma, the SSA weighs evidence of the involvement of two or more body systems, as well as other signs or symptoms, including manifestation of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Of the millions of Social Security claims filed each year, only about 30 percent are initially approved. Reasons for denials range from lack of adequate paperwork to receipt of part-time earnings. When a claim is denied, the claimant can participate in an established appeals process, which can result in an evidentiary hearing. Following the denial, disability applicants should be sure to obtain all necessary documentation needed to prove not only their conditions but also their vocational limitations.

The SSA provides crucial support to the elderly, the disabled and their families. Given the high number of initial applications that are denied, it is often helpful for disabled workers to seek assistance from a lawyer for help filing their Social Security claim.

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