Washington Post Article: “Closed Social Security offices, furloughed staff under GOP cuts, agency warns” by Joe Davidson

I read a troubling article in the Washington Post by Joe Davidson.  Effects on SSA processing of disability claims would be devastating if Republican cuts to proposed SSA budget are approved.

” Since 2010, its operating budget has shrunk 10 percent after inflation while the number of beneficiaries rose by 12 percent. President Obama has proposed an $11.1 billion administrative budget for fiscal year 2017, $522 million more than this year. House Republicans have proposed $772 million less than the president’s budget, according to SSA figures, while Senate Republicans would reduce agency spending by $582 million. The administrative budget is separate from the trust fund that pays benefits to recipients.”

Set Up MySocialSecurity Account

Social Security has added new step to protect identity when creating or logging into MySocialSecurity account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/

Starting in August 2016, Social Security is adding a new step to protect your privacy as a my Social Security user. This new requirement is the result of an executive order for federal agencies to provide more secure authentication for their online services. Any agency that provides online access to a customer’s personal information must use multifactor authentication.

When you sign in at ssa.gov/myaccount with your username and password, we will ask you to add your text-enabled cell phone number. The purpose of providing your cell phone number is that, each time you log in to your account with your username and password, we will send you a one-time security code you must also enter to log in successfully to your account.

Each time you sign into your account, you will complete two steps:

Step 1: Enter your username and password.
Step 2: Enter the security code we text to your cell phone (cell phone provider’s text message and data rates may apply).
The process of using a one-time security code in addition to a username and password is one form of “multifactor authentication,” which means we are using more than one method to make sure you are the actual owner of your account.

If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.

5 Tips for Completing the Function Report Form SSA-3373

5 Tips for Completing the Function Report Form SSA-3373

The Disability Determination Services (DDS) sends a claimant a Function Report Form to complete at both the Initial Application and Reconsideration Stages.  This Form is critically important for explaining how your disability affects you.  Your answers on the Function Report Form are used to show how you would function in a workplace and also are used at the Hearing Stage to show that your answers to how your disability affects you are consistent.

The Function Report Form is lengthy and detailed and can seem overwhelming for most claimants.  Here are 5 tips for making the process easier and more effective for your claim.

  1. Take Your Time and Give Detailed Responses

DDS sends the claimant the Function Report Form with a cover letter from the DDS Adjuster asking that the Form be returned within 10 days.  Unfortunately, the letter is often sent out well after the cover letter date and the 10 day deadline can come up very quickly.  While it is important to return the Function Report within the 10 days if possible, it’s more important to complete the Form with as detailed information as possible.  If you need an additional few days, call the DDS Adjuster on the cover letter and let him/her know that you need just a few more days.  This is generally not a problem and calling the DDS Adjuster lets them know that you are working on the Form.

  1. Answer this Question Last

Describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed.

This question appears on the first page of the Function Report and should be viewed as a summary of your answers to all the questions contained in the remaining pages.  This question tends to be the most overwhelming for claimants to answer so it makes things easier if you answer the shorter, easier questions first and return to this question afterwards.

  1. Don’t Feel Limited to the Spaces Provided in the Form

The last page of the Function Report Form provides additional space called the “Remarks” section.  You should feel free to provide more detailed information in the “Remarks” section referencing the question in the Form you are answering and even providing Additional Sheets with even more information if the space provided for each question is too small for your answer.

  1. Be Consistent

Ask someone else to review your answers to the Form, if possible, or take an extra hour or more to review your answers to make sure there are no inconsistencies.

  1. If Everyday is Not the Same, Write This in Your Answers

For many people with disabilities, each day and what happens and how you feel are not the same.  If this is true for you, write this in your answers to the Function Report Form.  One approach is to describe what a good day and bad day are like.  Then, estimate how many good days or bad days that you experience per week or per month.  Again, if you need additional space to explain the difference between good and bad days, take this extra space in the “Remarks” section or with Additional Sheets.

How the Lawyer Can Help

Our office has over 10 years of experience helping claimants complete the Function Report Form.  When you work with us, we complete the Form with you to make sure your answers can be fully understood by Social Security.


All About Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Filing the Initial Application

First, you must complete two Documents: (1) the Disability Application and (2) the Adult Disability Report

These documents can be filed online at www.ssa.gov or you can visit your local Social Security office and make an appointment to complete these documents with a Social Security staff person.

These documents are filed with a signed Form SSA-827, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration. This Form SSA-827 is used to obtain your medical records and educational records for children.

After receiving the application documents, Social Security staff will forward your case to the Office of Disability Determination Services (DDS). In Massachusetts, DDS is also known as Mass Rehab.  DDS will assign an Adjuster to your case. You will receive a cover letter, usually within 4-6 weeks after filing the application documents, signed by the DDS Adjuster and enclosing additional forms. These DDS forms are most often the Function Report and the Work History Report. Sometimes, additional DDS forms are sent for you to complete, such as a Pain Questionnaire.

The Function Report is a comprehensive form that contains questions about how your disability affects your ability to perform your daily activities.

The Work History Report requests information about your work history for the last 15 years. Information including Job Title, Industry, Dates of Employment, Rate of Pay, Job Description, and Physical Requirements of the Job.  Even though some of the questions on the form do not seem relevant, it is important to complete this form fully and accurately because this could affect your eligibility for benefits.

After receiving the DDS forms and your medical records from your providers, the DDS Adjuster will send your case to DDS examiners who make a decision about whether you meet the standards for disability.

In Massachusetts, the entire process from filing the Initial Application forms to receiving the DDS decision is taking approximately 6 months.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete all the application documents and DDS forms with you. We know how Social Security reads these forms and what information is necessary to show you cannot work at this time. We communicate with the DDS Adjuster to make sure they have received all the pertinent medical evidence to prove your case. We keep in regular contact with you to make sure you know that your case is progressing through the process.

The Reconsideration Stage

Unfortunately, many people are denied at the Initial Application Stage but it is critical not to give up. Many people ultimately receive a favorable decision.

If you are denied after the Initial Application, you must file an appeal within 60 days of the denial. You can file the appeal online at www.ssa.gov or in person at your local Social Security office. In the appeal, you can let Social Security know if there is anything new and different about your disability since filing the Initial Application documents.

You have a right to request a copy of your file on CD to review what documents were used in making the Initial decision.  Also, the DDS examiners have listed specific reasons why your application was denied.  This can be found in the Disability Determination Explanation in your file.  This reason is more detailed than what is written in your denial letter, and it is best to review the Explanation to correct any wrong assumptions that the examiners made.

Your case will then be re-sent to DDS and assigned to a different DDS Adjuster. The DDS Adjuster will send you a cover letter with a Function Report or any other DDS forms needed to describe how your disability has been affecting your daily activities since you first filed the Initial Application. Upon receipt of these forms from you and your updated medical records, the DDS Adjuster will send your case to a new set of DDS examiners to make a new decision about whether you meet the standards for disability benefits.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete the appeal documents and DDS forms with you. We request a copy of your claims file to review the detailed explanation of why you were denied and assist you in correcting any discrepancies in your file to provide you with the best possible chance to receive an award. We communicate with the DDS Adjuster to make sure they have received all the pertinent medical evidence to prove your case. We keep in regular contact with you to make sure you know that your case is progressing through the process.

In Massachusetts, the Reconsideration stage also takes about 6 months to receive a decision. It is important to note that most people are denied at this Stage and will need to appeal their denial to the Hearing Stage to present their case at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

The Hearing Stage

If you are denied at the Reconsideration Stage, you have 60 days to file an appeal to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You can file the appeal online at www.ssa.gov or in person at your local Social Security office.

After you file your appeal, your case will be forwarded to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in about 4 weeks. In most situations, you will have an opportunity to request that a Social Security judge review your case to decide whether the Judge can grant a favorable decision based on your medical evidence alone and without the need for a hearing. This is called an On-the-Record request. If the Judge is unable to grant a favorable On-the-Record decision, the Office will schedule a hearing. You generally receive about 75 days advance notice of the hearing date and time.

How Can the Attorney Help

When you work with our office, we complete the appeal documents with you. We thoroughly review your file once it is sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. If necessary, we obtain additional medical evidence and/or opinion evidence from your doctors. In many cases, unless we determine that the Judge will require a hearing, we assist with the On-the-Record review and present written legal argument. Once your hearing is scheduled, we make sure all the updated medical evidence is obtained and filed with the Judge. We will prepare you completely for the hearing so that you know what to expect and what information will be asked of you.

Appeals after the Hearing Stage

Please know that most applicants are approved after the Hearing Stage; however, there are instances where it is necessary to take further appeals. Our office is experienced in successful appeals at the Appeals Council and in Federal Court and can work with you during these stages as well.

Contact Boston, Massachusetts, Social Security Disability Lawyer Jennifer Leahy: 781-964-6593

Our law firm represents people at every stage of the disability process, including the administrative hearings process. Call 781-964-6593 our law firm to schedule your free initial consultation.