US Representative Seeks Review of Processing Delays in Tampa

In a story dated February 7, 2018 The Tampa Bay Reporter states that U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, D-Tampa is calling for an investigation into the delays currently being experienced in the Tampa Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (currently Office of Hearings Operations).  Claimants are reportedly waiting over 20 months to get a hearing with an average processing time of 653 days.

Our clients throughout the State of Florida continue to experience similar delays.  We certainly hope that the investigation will take place and lead to a decrease in the Social Security backlog so that claimants will receive the benefits they so desperately deserve in a timely manner.

Of course, if you have any questions about a Social Security Disability claim, please feel free to contact us at 352-402-0444.

Medicare Open Enrollment for 2018 Begins

For anyone receiving Medicare benefits through Social Security Disability or Social Security Retirement, open enrollment began on October 15, 2017 and lasts until December 7 2017.  During this period you are able to make changes to your coverage.  You may wish to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.  You are also able to switch your Medicare Advantage plan or your prescription drug plan.    It is always a good idea to speak with a representative at the Social Security Administration regarding specific questions about which plan is best for you.  You could contact them at 800-772-1213.  For additional information regarding the open enrollment period, you may wish to visit

In 2018 new Medicare cards will be issued that do not include Social Security numbers.  Instead, the cards will have randomly generated numbers to help protect against identity theft.  You should receive your new card in 2018 and it will have instructions about what to do with your old card.

Of course, if you have any questions about a Social Security Disability and/or Supplemental Security Income claim, please do not hesitate to contact us at 352-402-0444 or email us at


COLA Increase Announced for Social Security Recipients in 2018!

Millions of those receiving Social Security Disability benefits and Social Security Retirement benefits will get a 2% cost of living increase in 2018.  Although it only amounts to an average of $25 per month, this is the large increase since 2012!  The Social Security Administration announced the cost of living adjustment on Friday.

If you have questions regarding a Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim, please give us a call at 352-402-0444 or contact us via email at

We want to help!!

SSA Delays following Irma

For some of our clients, the storm affected their Social Security Disability hearing date.  After waiting over 2 years for a hearing to be scheduled, the Social Security office had no choice but to cancel and reschedule the hearings.  It is our understanding that Social Security is working to reschedule as soon as possible, but for at least one of our clients, the hearing will not proceed until January of 2018.  I am sure that there are many other claimants who are experiencing the same delays.  Our attempts to contact some of the local offices have resulted in the calls being forwarded to the National Calling Center.  We hope that hearings will continue to be scheduled and that claims will continue to be processed, but it appears that further delays are to be expected.

If you have any questions about your Social Security disability claim, please feel free to give us a call at 352-402-0444.  Or feel free to emails us at

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.