Congratulations to Our Own Archie Blair!

We are very pleased to announce that Archie Blair has been voted the 2014-2015 Florida Association of Legal Support Specialists (FALSS)President Elect! This position leads to the presidency of FALSS in 2015-2016. Way to go Archie! This is quite an accomplishment and we are very proud of you!

Is my local politican able to help me with my Social Security Disability claim?

Should you contact a politician to help expedite your claim? Many of your congressional representatives have staff who assist in contacting the social security office to determine the status of claims filed by their constituents.  If you contact your local Congressman or Senator’s office, a Congressional Inquiry can be made into the status of your claim.

Such inquiries (which generally involve a telephone call or the writing of a letter) are made by an office holder’s staff member and may help to speed up an ALJ disability hearing, or help to resolve an outstanding issue with your disability claim.

How do you go about initiating such an inquiry? First you must determine who represents you.  Your local telephone book normally has a list of your congressmen and women and senators and contain their address and telephone numbers.  An internet search can also provide this information.

If you are being represented, your representative should have access to your electronic folder and will be able to determine the status of your claim through a simple inquiry.  If you have any questions about a social security disability or supplemental security income claim, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 352-629-0480.

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 


Social Security Disability and Dire Financial Need

Applicants for Social Security disability benefits are unable to work and therefore generally have no money coming into the household. Of course this creates a great financial hardship and many times results in the selling of possessions, loss of home or vehicle, eviction proceedings,  etc.  Unfortunately, a disability claimant’s financial situation generally does not affect how quickly the Social Security Administration will process that claim.  It is the disability aspect of the claim that the Administration focuses on.

However, there are certain instances in which a disability claimant’s financial situation may be considered.  If a Request for Hearing has been made, it is possible to request that the Administrative Law Judge expedite the claim.  The letter requesting that the claim be expedited is known as a “dire financial need” letter.

In a dire financial need letter, a social security claimant will explain how waiting for a hearing to be scheduled (often the wait can be 12 months or more) will have dire financial consequences.  Dire financial need most often involves the loss of a home or an eviction due to inability to pay rent.   The letters which receive the most attention are the ones that have the most detail.  If your bills are behind, mention this. If your car is in danger of being repossessed, certainly mention this. And if your home situation is in jeopardy, make this the first item that you address.  It is important to attach documentation of the need such as copies of past due notices, eviction threats, foreclosure proceedings, and the like.

Remember, if the claim is expedited, a hearing must generally still be scheduled and is based upon the availability of the Judge.  If the Judge schedules a hearing early, it is extremely important that you are available and that you have your evidence ready for the hearing as the Judge is unlikely to allow you time to procure such evidence.

As always, if you have any questions regarding a social security disability claim, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 352-629-4080.


Social Security Disability and Medication Compliance

If you are not taking your medications in accordance with your physician’s instructions, this could beome an issue in your claim for Social Security Disability and Supplementl Security Income claims.  Why?  Because, if the Administrative Law Judge assigned to your case or the disability examiner who reviews your claim sees that you are not taking your medications, there could be a question as to whether your disabling conditions are severe.

Physicians prescribe medications in order to help keep various conditions under control. If you fail to take such medications, your condition is unlikely to improve.   The Social Security Administration may look at whether your medications effectively control your condition (such as a seizure disorder) before approving your claim.

There are other conditions for which compliance is relevant as well. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one. Although the ADHD listing criteria does not require certain signs and symptoms to exist in spite of prescribed treatment, the ALJ will take into consideration whether the symptoms exist because the medication is not being taken.  If the Judge determines that medication non-compliance is an issue, the claim could be denied.

Claimants who are filing for Social Security Disability should take care to comply with their treating physician’s instructions when it comes to taking medication.  Failure to do so not only interferes with the physician’s ability to provide effective treatment, it can also make it impossible for a disability claim decision-maker to approve the claim.

If you have any questions about your claim for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, please call us at 352-629-0480 for a free consultation!



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Sims & Stakenborg

All of us at Sims and Stakenborg wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year!!  Our offices are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and we will be open on Thursday, December 26 to answer any social security disability questions you may have!

Social Security Disability Hearing Scheduled? Need information on your Administrative Law Judge?

Are you scheduled for a hearing? If you have received a Notice of Hearing sent to you by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, in addition to letting you know the date, time and location of your hearing, the notice will also provide you with the name of the Administrative Law Judge who will be deciding your claim.  The Social Security Administration has a site that allows you to see how many decisions each Judge has entered and, of those decisions, how many are favorable vs. denials.

You can obtain the ALJ’s Disposition Data by visiting the Social Security Administration at:

If you have any questions about an upcoming hearing, please contact us at 352-629-0480 for a free consultation.


Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income for 2014

The Social Security Administration has announced that the 2014 Cost of Living Adjustment (or COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (or SSI) beneficiaries will be 1.5%. Changes in payment amounts resulting from the COLA will be included in the SSI payment dated December 31, 2013 and the Social Security Payment beginning January 2014.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has announced that the standard Medicare Part “B” premium for 2014 will be $104.90 per month.

Please give us a call for a free consultation if you have any questions regarding a social security disability or supplemental security income claim.  We are happy to talk to you!  352-629-0480

What Should I Bring to My Social Security Disability Hearing?

This is a very common question for people who have a social security disability hearing scheduled.  You should receive a “Notice of Hearing” which will give you the date, time and location of your hearing.  The notice will also let you know which Administrative Law Judge will be hearing your claim and whether any expert witnesses will be called to testify.  It is extremely important that you bring a valid picture identification.  This may be a current and valid U.S. state’s driver’s license, a U.S. state issued identity card, a current passport or a U.S. military ID or military dependent ID.   You may be denied access to the hearing location if you do not bring a valid ID.

When you arrive at your hearing location there will be a security guard who will scan you and search your personal items for anything like guns, knives, mace, or anything which could present a danger.  Make sure that you do not bring any items which could pose a threat to your hearing.  Although the rules at the hearing locations differ slightly –  generally you will be asked to either turn off your cell phone (if you have one) or leave it in the car.  You will generally not be allowed to bring drinks into the facility.   It is best not to bring large bags – in some cases you will be asked to leave these in your car as well.  Some people want to bring all of their actual medication bottles – you may not be allowed to bring the bottles in to the hearing location so it is best to have a list of your medications, the dosage and what conditions the medications are being used to treat.

In general, the Judges ask that all evidence be submitted prior to the hearing.  However, there may be times when you have had recent medical treatment which you were not able to submit in advance for the Judge to review.   If you have evidence that could not be submitted prior to the hearing, you should bring it to your hearing and request that it be admitted as evidence.  In general, the most important thing to remember is your ID and to make sure that you know where the hearing will be held so that you are able to arrive at least 30 minutes before your hearing is scheduled to start.

If you have any questions about a Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income claim, please do not hesitate to contact us at 352-629-0480 for a free consultation.