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Appealing a Disability Claim in Pennsylvania Recently Became More Complicated. What You Need to Know About Reconsideration.

There are four stages in the administrative disability review process: initial application, reconsideration, ALJ (administrative law judge) hearing, Appeals Council review. Until recently, Pennsylvania was a part of a ten-state program initiated in 1997 that allowed claimants to bypass the second stage, reconsideration. Last summer, SSA announced plans to reinstate the reconsideration process in these ten prototype states citing a 2001 detailed study of the prototype program as well as a need for uniformity amongst all states. The announcement to end the prototype program drew sharp criticism from legislators and advocacy groups. Our own Senator Bob Casey called the reversal...

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Beware: SSA Phone Scam

There is a phone scam that has been going around for a few years but seems to be happening more and more. In fact, it just happened to OBL Partner Lindsay Osterhout the other day! Lindsay said the call says it’s from “United States” and tells you to “press one” and then has an automated message that says “This call is from the Department of Social Security Administration. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspended your SSN because we found some suspicious activity. If you want to know...

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Is It Okay to Post on Facebook While Applying for Disability?

Lately, there seems to be a lot of buzz about social media and disability claimants. This is likely because of a Social Security Administration proposal to evaluate whether social media can be used by disability examiners and judges to assess consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case. The full SSA FY2020 Budget Request can be found HERE, the paragraph about social media is on page 26. What does this mean for disability applicants? While we at OBL completely oppose this measure and find it unfair, ultimately, not much has changed. Social media has always been problematic for disability applicants. Even...

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Preponderance of the Evidence Standard is Killing SSD Claimants

Now, of course, I don’t literally mean that, but in this case the Social Security ALJ’s failure to understand or apply the standard of proof in SSD cases ended up simply being tragic. Our client, we will call her Brenda, filed her claim for benefits in January 2012; about a month ago we finally received a favorable decision, and last week we received the Notice of Award indicating the amount of her past due benefits (quite a bit, actually) and monthly benefits. The date of this Notice is the same date Brenda died. In Social Security disability cases an ALJ is...

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Case Update: Another Reversal With Award of Benefits – Karl’s Hot Streak Continues!

I recently went 32 straight hands at blackjack without losing (ok, there were several pushes, and two times when I luckily bought insurance against the dealer having blackjack); I may never have run like that again. I also may never have another run again of reversals with award of benefits in Social Security federal court appeals like I’m having now. You may have noticed I recently posted two items regarding other cases where I had been able to obtain this rare result. And, now I get to report it AGAIN! In this case, my client, who was over 60 years old at...

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Cash Assistance Has Been Reinstated in Pennsylvania!

Not being able to work can be financially devastating and some applicants even become homeless while waiting on a disability hearing. The General Assistance program has been reinstated and we think it may be able to help some of our clients while they are waiting for disability benefits to be approved. The program offers $205 per month for one person and $316 per month for two people to help provide for basic needs. Pennsylvanians can qualify for General Assistance if they are in one of the following situations: have a temporary or permanent disability; are a child who is not...

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House Bill 335 Would Eliminate Services and Negatively Impact the Health of 2.9 Million Pennsylvanians and Their Families

Recently, Lindsay Osterhout, OBL Managing Partner Administrative Division, met with case management staff at Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, Inc (SPHS) in Charleroi, PA. Among other local news, they discussed new proposed state legislation, HB 335, and the devastating effects it would have on our community. HB 335, sponsored by Representative Seth M. Grove, would eliminate the current Behavioral HealthChoices (BHC) program thereby making it difficult for counties to provide coordinated and integrated human services and negatively impact the health of 2.9 million Pennsylvanians and their families. BHC is the statewide program through which every county delivers mental health and drug and...

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New Rule Makes it Easier for Military Spouses to Find and Keep Jobs in the Law

On January 29, 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Board of Law Examiners adopted the Military Spouse Licensing Rule, which allows military spouse attorneys who accompany active duty service members to Pennsylvania to apply for a temporary license to practice law in the state. Historically, because service members are subject to frequent military-ordered relocations, attorney spouses were presented with the difficult choice of remaining in a jurisdiction where they were licensed to practice without their spouse or incurring the significant costs of obtaining a bar license in the relocation state. Osterhout Berger Disability Law is very excited to hear that Pennsylvania...

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Very Recent Decisions from Three Separate Circuit Courts Clarify ALJ’s’ Obligations Under SSR 00-4p

As we know, SSR 00-4p, among other things, obligates an ALJ to identify and resolve any inconsistencies between the DOT and a VE’s testimony. Cases evaluating this issue have typically set the bar fairly low in terms of the nature of the ALJ’s obligations under 00-4p. In particular, courts have tended to find that unless the inconsistency was very obvious and/or was brought to the attention of the ALJ (usually, what the court means here is that the Claimant waives this issue if it is not brought to the ALJ’s attention), the ALJ does not have any, or much, obligation...

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The “Social Security 2100 Act,” championed by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), is getting a hearing in Congress!

The "Social Security 2100 Act," championed by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), which was the subject of another recent OBL News post, is getting a hearing in Congress! Social Security 2100 proposes to shore up this benefit program for 62 million beneficiaries while ensuring the program's financial stability. Among its proposals are that any increase in benefits under its provisions wouldn't affect eligibility for other key federal programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.   https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/427835-a-bill-to-boost-social-security-will-finally-get-a-full-and-fair-hearing  ...

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