Monday, August 08, 2005

DISABILITY BLOG Review #1: Disability Law "Blawg"

One of the resources that I want to provide for you is a critique on other Disability Blogs out there. As I research them, the ones that I think will augment the information that I provide to you in this blog, will be first critiqued here, and then, a link to that blog will be provided also.

The Disabilitykey Blog's (this one that you are reading right now) primary functions are threefold:
1) To educate, by surfing the Internet and finding information that interests me, a disabled person, thereby doing the "research" for those who are becoming disabled; who are disabled; who provide care for those who are disabled.
2) To encourage, push, cajole, and use whatever means at my disposal (except for bribe, as I can't afford it) folks who are becoming and who are disabled to take primary responsibility for becoming an Expert Patient; for learning how to become proficient in Chronic Disease Self-Management; and, for insisting that your health care support team practice what is called "patient-centered" health care. (Blogs about this subject to be forthcoming, I promise!)
3) For learning as much about your condition and its symptom impairment impacts on your normal daily living activities that you become more empowered to accomplish whatever you set out to do (i.e., apply for and qualify for SSDI the first time around), thereby increasing the quality of your life. To assist readers to achieve a condition where they consider themselves a valuable "alternatelyAbled" person who just happens to have a chronic disease, but is NOT defined by that disease!

Now, it has taken me 38 blogs (yes, this is my 38th blog!) to figure out what this blog is all about (who said you had to have it all figured out ahead of time!). The blog is an adjunct to the website.

Now, some of you might just think that the purposes of this blog are VERY broad, and they are. AND, I am supremely confident that what I cannot think up to write about, you people reading these blogs will someday become unshy (is that really a word) and start asking questions for me to research!

HOWEVER, there are some subjects that, while I can tell you a little about them, I cannot do them justice. That's why I am soooo happy to be able to critique for you, and to recommend to you, other disability blogs.

The first one I want to critique for you is a "Disability Law Blog", called a "blawg" (I kid you not, those legal folks do have a sense of humor, and MUST get the word LAW into blog to turn it into blawg!) The Attorney's name is J. Kevin Morton.

Why do I like this blawg? For a number of reasons.
1) First of all, even though the author is located in NORTH CAROLINA, his information covers the whole US. For example, he just doesn't stick to commenting about the legal cases coming out of his court of appeals (I think that it would be the Fourth) he has all of them, even my dreaded Ninth. I say dreaded, as I just can't forget over 35 years as a practicing Human Resource Executive, and the opinions coming out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used to give me nightmares. Anyway, he addresses them all, so you can read about precedent-setting cases in your jurisdiction.
2) I just love his topics. For example, on the right side of his blog, he lists "Navigations". One of the subjects listed there is "Social Security Facts". So, you have read my website, and you are considering just what level of detail you must provide to Social Security, the first time around. Or, you have been denied SSDI the first time around, and you see from my blogs that I RECOMMEND an Attorney to be in your corner, but you want another opinion. Here's what he has to say:

" 15. Do I have to have a lawyer to represent me in my disability claim?
No. You can represent yourself, but statistics show that claimants who are represented are more likely to win their cases than those who are not. Social Security is the largest bureaucracy known to mankind so it helps to have someone representing you with the knowledge and experience to navigate the system.
There are also many non-attorney representatives who handle these cases. They cannot take your claim to federal court if the Social Security Administration wrongly denies your claim. If you were not represented by an attorney at the administrative level, you'll have to change horses midstream and hire an attorney if you want someone to represent you in federal court.

16. How are you paid?
In most cases, most attorneys charge a contingent fee which is the lesser of $5300 or 25% percent of your back benefits. A contingent fee means that if your claim is denied, no attorneys fees are owed.

17. What should I do if Social Security denies my claim?
Appeal!. Only 30-40% of all disability claims are approved initially. About 10-20% of reconsideration requests are approved. So your best chance of winning your case is when you request a hearing. More than half of claims heard by Administrative Law Judges are approved when claimants are represented by an attorney. (See
SSA's chart illustrating porgression of cases through the appeals process in FY 2002.)You should give serious thought to hiring an attorney to represent you at any stage of the appeal process." (I find this chart fascinating. When I first did my website, where I copy this chart, the approval rate was 40%; it appears to have dropped to 38%, indicating all the more the need for an attorney.)

3) If you are the type of person who wants to read an attorney's comments about a case, you can search the left side of this blog and check out decisions in your area. Here's an example of how Attorney Morton discusses an Eighth District case:

" July 29, 2004
Forte v. Barnhart, No. 03-2111, __ F.3d __ (8th Cir. July 29, 2004)
The Eighth Circuit, in an
opinion by Judge Theodore McMillian, affirms an ALJ decision in which appellant had argued that the ALJ (1) improperly discounted allegations of disabling pain, (2) failed to give appropriate weight to the treating physician's opinion (3) did not consider his obesity in assessing his residual functional capacity (RFC) and (4) failed to correctly frame a hypothetical question to the VE:
This court has stated that “‘[a]n arguable deficiency in opinion-writing technique is not a sufficient reason for setting aside an administrative finding where . . . the deficiency probably had no practical effect on the outcome of the case.’” Id. (quoting Benskin v. Bowen, 830 F.2d 878, 883 (8th Cir. 1987)).

Seems like the ALJ made enough of an effort to explain himself to pass muster, and the Court was unconvinced that had error occurred, it would have affected the outcome. For example, the ALJ "reviewed the progress notes and pointed out, among other things, that in June and August 1999, Dr. Ketcham had reported that Forte was walking six to eight miles a week, had denied that pain was radiating down his legs, and had not displayed chronic pain behavior." "

4) Attorney Morton explains, and provides links to, the Social Security Appeals process (something that I am not famaliar with, not having had to experience the process myself, thankfully). For example:

About a new aproach to the SSDI appeals process, Attorney Morton says:

" The devil is in the details, and this overview is limited to the COSS's summary explantation of the details as contained in the preamble to the regs. Actual proposed regs to be reviewed later. Here again is the flowchart for the new approach."

Now, you might wonder why I didn't just give you the link to this Disability Law Blawg early on in this blog. Well, I wanted to critique it for you, and to provide you examples of just why I liked it, and thought it might provide you with information that can help you. At any rate, this is the pattern I will continue to use when critiquing future blogs.


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