For All of Us in Hurricane Irma’s Path – Please Stay Safe

The news reports clearly show that Hurricane Irma is likely to affect all of the State of Florida and beyond.  Attached is a list prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmostpheric Administration of hurricane preparedness guidelines!  Please be careful – things can be replaced – people cannot!

We wish you all the best – Lopez, Lopez & Stakenborg, PA





New Rules for Social Security Disability Hearings

If you are a Social Security Disability claimant who has filed a Request for Hearing that is currently with the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, you may have received notice of some new changes to the Social Security Administration’s rules which begin May 1, 2017.  The rules now require that the Administration provide you with 75 days notice before a hearing is scheduled in your case.  This new rule will help to ensure that you will have time to request and submit all medical evidence that is relevant to prove your claim.  You may be asked to sign a waiver of the 75 day requirement if your hearing was scheduled prior to May 1, 2017 (even though the hearing may not have been held prior to that date.)  Please also note that the rules further require that the claimant must advise the Administrative Law Judge and/or the Social Security Administration about all evidence at least 5 business days before the hearing.  There are certain exceptions to the 5 day rule, but if you fail to submit the evidence or to advise the Administration about the existence of this evidence, the Judge will not be able to consider the evidence.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding correspondence you may have received from the Social Security Administration or if you have questions about your Social Security Disability claim, please feel free to contact us at 352-402-0444 or 800-262-9410 for a free consultation.

Lopez, Lopez & Stakenborg, PA

We are pleased to announce that Lopez & Lopez, PA and Stakenborg Law, PA have merged!  We are extremely excited to say that our firm will now be known as Lopez, Lopez & Stakenborg, PA.  Our practice focuses in the areas of Social Security Disability Law, Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury.  As our firm grows and changes, we look forward to continuing to serve each one of our current and future Social Security Disability, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury clients with the best representation possible.  Please feel free to contact us if you would like a free consultation!


Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability

Crucial Facts about Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability Benefits You Need To Know

Fibromyalgia is a long term problem with a multitude of symptoms.  Fibromyalgia patients complain of chronic pain that affects multiple parts of the body.  Other debilitating symptoms associated with fibromyalgia may include intense fatigue, stiffness of the joints, disturbed sleep and difficulty swallowing. Still others may experience depression, anxiety and difficulty thinking or concentrating.

Those who suffer with fibromyalgia often complain of difficulty with everyday activities, maintaining a normal schedule, and getting along with others.  Many fibromyalgia patients report that stress makes the symptoms worse. For those who are unable to work due to their fibromyalgia symptoms, Social Security Disability benefits are often a last resort.

Detailed proof from a treating physician is necessary in order to prevail on a claim where fibromyalgia is the disabling condition.  The treating physician’s records should include physical examinations and should note the patient’s tender points.  The medical records should show that the patient has complained of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a period of at least 3 months, pain in at least 11 of 18 tender points in the body and proof that other diseases could not have caused such symptoms.The records should also indicate the length and severity of symptoms over a period of time and the response to prescribed treatment.  The medical records alone could make the crucial difference.

Although the Social Security Administration does not have a specific medical listing for fibromyalgia, the condition can be found disabling if the patient’s complaints and limitations have been documented and are consistent with the medical evidence.  Documentation that fibromyalgis affects the person’s ability to sit, stand, walk and lift would be necessary in such a claim.  Additionally, if the person also has problems with memory and understanding, that often will impact the ability to work under supervisioin, get along with co-workers or carry out instructions.  Such complaints need to be documented by the treating physician.

If you have any questions about a Social Security Disability claim, please feel free to give us a call for a free consultation at 352-629-0480.



Autism and Social Security Disability

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that can be delibitating for some. Though the degree of autism varies, it is typically characterized by lack of social interaction and poor communication skills. Other characteristics may include compulsive, obsessive behavior, limited attention span, unusual repetitive movement like head rolling, arm flapping and in some cases, inflicting self injury.  Autism is usually diagnosed in the child in the toddler years, however symptoms can appear when the child is an infant.  Although there is no cure for autism – early diagnosis and intervention can lead to better outcomes.

There are cases where the severity of the symptoms preclude the person from being able to function in either a school or work environment.  In such cases, an application for Social Security Disability benefits may be the only option. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists the qualifying conditions for various disabilities in the “Listing of Impairments.”  For a child the criteria is found at 112.10. If an individual meets these conditions he/she is eligible for social security disability or supplemental security income benefits.

Adults who have been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) may also meet the criteria for a listing for adults.  This is found in the Listing of Impairments at 12.10.  Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), part of the autism spectrum are usually observed in adults.  For the full listing information, please click on the link below.

Not everyone will fulfill the criteria to meet a listing.  Even if you are unable to prove that you meet a listing, it is still possible to prove that the condition is disabling using the medical/vocational rules.  For an adult, these guidelines take into consideration your work history, employment factors, educational background and other factors in determining whether you are disabled.  For a child these considerations will evaluate how the child fairs in various domains such as learning and acquiring information; attending and completing tasks; interacting and relating with others; moving about and manipulating objects; caring for yourself and social skills; and health and physical well-being;

If you have any questions regarding a Social Security Disability or Supplement Security Income issues, please give us a call for a free consultation.  352-629-0480.  Sims & Stakenborg has been serving Gainesville, Ocala and the surrounding areas since 1982.

Has Your Claim For Social Security Disability Been Denied – Do You Know What To Do?

Dealing with disability is tough. Apart from the physical pain, you also have to deal with the emotional trauma and impact on your family.  You probably did not want to file for disability, but that was your only option. When you get the news that your social security disability benefits have been denied, it seems like the last straw. Naturally, you are disappointed and feel like giving up.  This is possibly the biggest mistake you could make.

A majority of social security disability claims are denied at the initial level.  Don’t give up!

1.   Make Sure To Appeal Your Denial ASAP 

You have a specific time period (usually 60 days) within which you must your appeal.  Failing to appeal or missing the deadline for filing your appeal means you will need to file a new claim unless you have “good cause” for failing to appeal in a timely manner.   Additionally, you may lose valuable back benefits if you do not file a timely appeal.

2. Find out why your Application was Denied 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to provide information regarding your medical condition, your work history, your age and education, and how your conditions affect your ability to work in order to review your application and make a decision. If you forgot some information in your application because you did not have it, or did not know that it was important, your application could be be denied. Ensuring that your appeal has the correct information is important.  It is also extremely helpful for a social security attorney to know the reasons for the denial.

3. Know the Various Stages of Appeal 

After the first denial, most states (including Florida) require you to file a “Request for Reconsideration.” In this appeal, your case will be reviewed once again by a different set of social security examiners.  If your claim is denied at this stage, the next step is to file an appeal called a “Request for Hearing” in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  A hearing can be quite intimidating and if you are not familiar with the Social Security Disability rules and regulations, you may not understand why your claim has been denied and what is required in order to strengthen your claim.

4. Have an Attorney Who Practices in the Area of Social Security Disability Represent You 

An experienced social security disability attorney understands what is required in order to prove that someone is disabled under the Social Security Disability system.  Additionally, an experienced attorney can review the facts of your case and identify what may be needed in order to prevail on your claim.  A local social security disability attorney is familiar with the physicians in the area and the Judges who will hear your claim.  In many instances, an attorney will be able to communicate with your physicians, employers, and coworkers and obtain information that strengthens your case.

If you have any questions regarding a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim, please feel free to contact Sims & Stakenborg at 352-629-0480 for a free consultation.



Open Enrollment For Medicare ends December 7, 2014

If you are eligible for Medicare, make sure to choose your plan before December 7, 2014 when the open enrollment period ends.  If you are already enrolled, you may change your health care plan and your prescription drug coverage.  For additional information please check the following websites:


News for Those Experiencing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A new study reveals that those who have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome actually have similar changes in the brain.  The study revealed those with CFS have less white matter  in the brain and, using DTI, a relatively recent study, abnormalities are found in the frontal and temporal lobe as well.  This study is important to those who are filing for Social Security Disability benefits as objective medical evidence is required in order to prove that a disabling condition exists.    For additional information please visit:

If you have any questions regarding a social security disability and/or a supplemental security income matter, please contact us at Sims & Stakenborg for a free consulation at 352-629-4080.

The Social Security Administration Adds 25 New Compassionate Allowances Conditions

On January 15, 2014, acting Social Security Adminstration commissioner, Carol Colvin, announced the addition of 25 new compassionate allowances conditions.  The list includes 12 cancer conditions.  The Compassionate Allowance program is designed to help expedite the disability approval process for those social security disability applicants with the most serious disabilities.  The program identifies conditions and diseases which meet the agency’s criteria for disability allowing a decision to be made more quickly for those applicants.  The normal processing time from the date a person files for Social Security Disability benefits until the date of approval is often 18-24 months.  The Compassionate Allowances program is designed to significantly reduce that processing time.  For a complete list of all Compassionate Allowance conditions, please visit:

New Compassionate Allowances Conditions

  1. Angiosarcoma
  2. Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor
  3. Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction
  4. Coffin- Lowry Syndrome
  5. Esthesioneuroblastoma
  6. Giant Axonal Neuropathy
  7. Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome
  8. Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma
  9. Joubert Syndrome
  10. Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis
  11. Liposarcoma- metastatic or recurrent
  12. Malignant Ectomesenchymoma
  13. Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor
  14. Marshall-Smith Syndrome
  15. Oligodendroglioma Brain Tumor- Grade III
  16. Pallister-Killian Syndrome
  17. Progressive Bulbar Palsy
  18. Prostate Cancer – Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases
  19. Revesz Syndrome
  20. Seckel Syndrome
  21. Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome
  22. Small Cell Cancer of the Thymus
  23. Soft Tissue Sarcoma- with distant metastases or recurrent
  24. X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease
  25. X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy

If you have any questions about a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim, please feel free to contact us at 352-629-0480 for a free consultation.

6 Ways to Lose Your Social Security Disability Claim

#1 Exaggerating your impairments. If your complaints are not supported by the evidence in your claim, this will most often result in a denial of your claim. It is very important to be as straightforward as possible about how your impairments affect your every day activities. Sometimes it is difficult to remember how long you are able to do an activity before you need to stop due to pain, medication side affects, fatigue, etc. We suggest that you keep a diary (which you can find on our website) so that you are able to let your physician know how you are limited. In this way, hopefully your complaints will be documented in your medical records. If you can perform an activity, admit it, do not deny it.

#2 Failing to submit your medical records. It is extremely important that your medical records be submitted as evidence in your claim. It is important to check with the Social Security Administration to ensure that all of the relevant information has been submitted by your treating doctors. Occasionally, the Administration will request records from your physician and we will review the file only to find that the records were not submitted. Medical records cannot be hidden or altered and can result in criminal charges if you misrepresent your condition.

#3 Failing to obtain opinions from your treating physician regarding your physical and mental limitations. Your treating physicians opinion is given great weight in the Social Security proceedings as long as that opinion is supported by the medical records and objective medical findings. Your Social Security file will contain opinions from physicians who have not met or spoken with you regarding your limitations. It is very important for the Judge to know what your own physicians thinks you are capable of doing based upon your complaints and the treatment that you have received.

#4 Failing to mention side affects you may have from your medication. It is very important to remember that sometimes the side affects you may have from the medications being recommended by your treating physician, can be as disabling as the medical condition itself. Unfortunately, these medications are essential in providing the treatment that is necessary in your claim. Often the medications that are being prescribed can even adversely interact with each other. It is a good idea to speak with your doctor and pharmacist regarding the adverse affects your medications may have on each other that could result in those medications not being effective.

#5 Failing to address drug and alcohol addiction issues. If you have a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, your claim will be denied if that abuse is a material factor in your disability. Often people with depression and chronic pain will alcohol and/or drugs to help them cope with these conditions. Many times, the substances themselves actually contribute to the problem. It is important to seek treatment for any substance abuse issues that you may have, address these issues with your physician and make every attempt possible to seek treatment to help with the abuse. If your medical records indicate an abuse problem, it is your burden to prove that you would be disabled regardless of the substance abuse and this can be very difficult to do.

#6 Not complying with the Social Security Administration’s request for information. If the Social Security Administration asks you to complete forms (I know, there are sooo many forms), it is because additional information is necessary prior to a determination being made on your claim. Failure to complete the forms or to attend a consultative examination, will almost always result in a denial of your claim.

As always, if you have any questions about your social security disability or supplemental security income claim, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 352-629-0480