Something to look forward to if you are 55 or older – easier to win disability

Individuals who are 55 and older are treated differently under Social Security’s rules for disability than younger individuals. Essentially it becomes easier to win a disability case for an older individual. This is because Social Security recognizes advanced age as an adverse vocational factor. Social Security defines “advanced age” as someone who is 55 or older.  When looking to see if there are other jobs that a person can perform, Social Security recognizes that the older you are, the harder it is to learn new skills.

There is a special medical – vocational profile for a person of 55. If a person is aged 55 and meets other requirements discussed below, he or she will be found disabled. I have not had a client fit this profile until today. I am going to write in some detail about this type of case because as our national age gets older (or at least as I get older), it seems to me there will be more people who may fit this profile and not know it. The rule is found in SSR 82-63

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The fastest and (soon only) way to obtain verification of SSI/SSDI benefits

I have often sent my clients to the local Vallejo Social Security field office to obtain a benefit verification letter.  It is no longer necessary to go in person to obtain a letter and in fact, by October 2014, it will no longer be possible to obtain it in person.  One can access this information and obtain a statement immediately by going  online and creating an online account at My Social Security.

It is a shame that the local office will no longer be providing letters to people who come in.  It disadvantages those people who are not computer literate.  For those people in that situation, Social Security will continue to take requests by telephone.

As a result of this policy, I will now help my clients set up an online account so that they may access their information after they have been awarded benefits.

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A strategy to win SSI for someone with Williams Syndrome

I am currently working on a case for an individual with Williams Syndrome.  According to the Williams Syndrome Association, Williams Syndrome is  “a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone.  It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.”

I have not come across this disease until now and indeed it appears pretty rare.  According to the Association, “Williams Syndrome affects 1 in 10,000 people worldwide – an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States. ”

Williams Syndrome is not a “listing” impairment.  This means that you cannot obtain SSI automatically  if you have it.  Indeed, it appears to be a struggle to win it.  I was reviewing the Williams Association Facebook page and in 2011, there was comment after comment about folks being denied SSI.  It appeared then that the Social Security Administration did not understand the Syndrome and given the denial my client received, they still do not.

My strategy will be to show that while my client does not meet a listing (because there is none), her condition is as severe as an analogous  impairment that appears in the Listings.   In other words, I am going to try to show that she medically equals a Listing.  There are several listings that may be applicable.  The first is Listing 12.05D, Intellectual Disability.   One can meet this listing by showing:

D. A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70, resulting in at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or

2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or

3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or

4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

People with Williams Syndrome may not have the low IQ that is required by this listing but they may have some deficits in learning.  There are also likely going to be difficulties with activities of daily living such as getting dressed, bathing, eating, taking medication.  Maintaining concentration, persistence or pace is also difficult for people with Williams Syndrome.

I plan to show that my client meets this listing by an evaluation from a psychologist and  IQ testing.  I also plan to obtain school records to show her developmental delays.  I will have Declarations from family members who can talk about her activities of daily living.  Finally, I will obtain a Declaration from my client’s employer (a supportive work environment) which can address her difficulties with concentration, persistence and pace.

Another listing applicable in my case is 11.07 Cerebral palsy.   In order to meet this listing, one has to show the existence of cerebral palsy with:

A. IQ of 70 or less; or

B. Abnormal behavior patterns, such as destructiveness or emotional instability; or

C. Significant interference in communication due to speech, hearing, or visual defect; or

D. Disorganization of motor function as described in 11.04B.

Again, the goal is to make Williams Syndrome equivalent to cerebral palsy using this Listing.   In my particular case, I plan to use IQ testing to show the IQ.  I will have a psychologist address her behavioral patterns.  People with Williams Syndrome have difficulty with fine motor functions and I plan to show this through Declarations and medical records.

Although not applicable in my case, you should also review the cardiac listings as many people with Williams Syndrome have cardiac difficulties.

I think it is possible to win a case for someone who has Williams Syndrome.  It requires more explanation perhaps because individuals with it are communicative and social.  A Social Security adjudicator may not understand what the problem is.  If you have a similar case, I would recommend obtaining a psychological evaluation, IQ testing, school records and Declarations from family members and employers.  Do not rely on Social Security’s psychological exam; obtain your own.   And, do not assume that simply being diagnosed with Williams Syndrome will be sufficient.  Do the extra work and I believe you will prevail.

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