Because you are disabled.

File for disability benefits.

Appeal your case.

How you presented your initial application was the best you could do at that time given what you knew and were told.

But, if you were not successful, appeal (1) because you are disabled and (2) because you can improve on your presentation.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Getting Disability Book

HOW TO GET SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY & SSI DISABILITY was written by Patricia A. Petow, Esq. to help applicants succeed in their claims for disability benefits under Social Security and under SSI. 

HOW TO GET SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY & SSI DISABILITY is available from in paperback and on Kindle.

HOW TO GET SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY & SSI DISABILITY provides line-by-line guidance for applicants and their representatives for the major disability application forms. The book also includes templates for applicants to organize their medical and prescription records.

Attorney Petow notes that many disabled people have difficulty articulating how their disabilities affect them. She recommends that disabled claimants enlist the support of a “personal advocate” as well as an attorney or non-attorney representative.

Attorney Petow argues that properly completed Social Security forms can serve as a low cost “day in the life video.”

Here’s a look at the chapters in the book:


[According to a Social Security study:] “The final award rate for disabled-worker applicants has varied over time, averaging nearly 45 percent for claims filed from 2001 through 2010. The percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged 28 percent over the same period and ranged from a high of 37 percent to a low of 26 percent.”

Chapter 1

“In applying for disability, some of the issues for which you need an experienced representative’s help are: the materiality of drug and/or alcohol abuse, credibility determinations, pain determination, evaluation of symptom validity tests” [other issues are also identified in this chapter.]

Chapter 2

[A medical journal] “you should list chronologically every appointment or medical visit (such as to emergency rooms) you have with medical providers, including x-ray departments, lab offices, therapists and social workers and including any visits to Social Security consultative physicians or psychologists.”

Chapter 3

“The forms that you fill out when you first apply stay in your case file and may be looked at and relied upon during later stages of appeal, no matter how much time has passed since you completed the forms.”

Chapter 4

“Never request a medical report from your doctor ‘so that you can get on disability.’”

Chapter 5

“If your doctor or other authorized medical provider recommended that you take non-prescription medication, note that also—it may be that the non-prescription medication is the appropriate medication, and there is no 'better' prescription medication.”

Chapter 6

“It is important to keep in mind that Social Security has a particular legal definition of frequent and occasional, and that definition may not be the layperson or medical provider’s expectation when you are describing your job duties and when anyone else describes your functional capacity. Hours and minutes are more precise than saying frequently or occasionally.”

Chapter 7

“The answers to questions 5 and 6 are the basis of a successful disability claim.”

Chapter 8

“If pain is a major factor in why you cannot work, to persuade Social Security that you cannot work, you must explain how you experience pain.”

Chapter 9

“Simply put, if there have been changes, usually for the worse, in your illnesses, injuries or conditions, or any new illnesses, injuries or conditions, your medical records should reflect, at the very least, your complaining of these worsening conditions.”

Chapter 10

“At this stage, it is up to the claimant and representative to get the medical evidence in the file.”

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sleep, updated

The following reference has been added to the Nov. 8, 2014, post on Sleep:

See also, At Day's Close: Night In Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch, pp. 300-312, 405 ff., NY (2005).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Overturn the Thomas decision

“The ‘automation bomb’ could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States,” David Ignatius in the Washington Post stated this week, citing a study completed by McKinsey & Co.

Ignatius concluded:  “Politicians need to begin thinking boldly, now, about a world in which driverless vehicles replace most truck drivers’ jobs, and where factories are populated by robots, not human beings. The best way to cushion this future is to start planning for how Americans will be able to take care of their families — and find meaningful work — in a world where most traditional jobs have vanished.”

One way this “automation bomb” currently impacts Social Security disability claimants, the most fragile members of the workforce, should be corrected now.

Two of the five steps in the Social Security disability evaluation involve jobs.  The fourth step concerns the job(s) that the disabled claimant used to do, and the fifth step, the potential jobs that the claimant might be able to do.

Social Security finds that if you can do your prior relevant work, you are not disabled.  The Supreme Court has endorsed the Social Security administration’s position that even if your job no longer exists, you are not disabled.  See, Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20 (2003).  In that case Thomas had been an elevator operator (prior to the time her job was eliminated), and at the time her case was considered by Social Security (she applied in 1996), very few elevator operators’ jobs existed.  See

When the sequential analysis moves on to the fifth step, Social Security considers whether there are a “significant” number of other jobs the claimant can do.  Social Security projects a 2019 start date for a new system of jobs analysis.  See

Given the automation crisis, we are now experiencing and will experience in the future, Social Security law has to change to overturn the Thomas decision and provide that if a claimant can do his or her past relevant work, but that the job no longer exists, the disability evaluation must proceed to the fifth step, rather than there be an automatic denial at step four.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Our Stone Age Brain & Disability

Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics by Rick Shenkman discusses cognitive science, psychology and evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychologists argue, according to Shenkman (p. 116), that “our biases are not ‘design flaws,’ they are ‘design features.’”  The book’s conclusion (p. 247) is that citizens, with Pleistocene brains, have to work at reforming themselves to have a democracy that works.

Shenkman analyzes what he calls (p. 109) “some of the most common cognitive biases identified by social scientists.”  They are: availability bias, perseverance bias, source confusion, projection bias, self-serving bias, superiority bias, planning fallacy and optimism bias.

This is an interesting, “big picture,” work.  Sadly, in one respect, I would argue that the author suffered from some of the biases that he described.

Shenkman made overly broad statements on Social Security disability and put too much faith in an April, 2013, National Public Radio (NPR) series (pp. 210-211). 

Shenkman states:

“While the welfare rolls were going down [after 1996 laws], the number of people on Social Security disability was going up.” [p. 210]

“It appears plausible that after they left the welfare rolls, a lot of them simple moved onto the disability rolls.” [p. 210]

“It makes no sense for people who cannot find a job to go on disability if they are not really disabled.” [p. 211]

“According to NPR, the criteria by which people are designated disabled are arbitrary.” [p. 211]

Not only did Shenkman fail to provide independent evidence for his conclusions, innuendos and generalizations, he failed to note the objections to the NPR series and failed to include citations of organizations and individuals taking issue with the NPR series—see below.

The NPR series was criticized by many, including the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) and by eight former commissioners of Social Security, who said that “the series failed to tell the whole story and perpetuated dangerous myths.”


Additionally, Shenkman did not make clear that there are two Social Security disability programs.  One disability program is part of Social Security insurance; retirement and survivor's benefits are other parts--these three programs are based on workers’ contributions (FICA—the Federal Insurance Contributions Act).  The other program, a needs-based program that provides for disabled children and others who have not worked under FICA (or who have not worked recently or long enough under FICA), is Supplemental Security Income.

So on the one hand Social Security disability is a contributory insurance system and the Supplemental Security Income disability program is a welfare disability program.

Shenkman also did not describe the backlog of pending Social Security disability cases, the sequential evaluation process, the out-of-date vocational methodology used by Social Security, the reliance on state disability determination services to make medical determinations, and so many more factors that impact the ability to get approved.