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Avoid The Most Common Mistakes When Applying For Social Security Disability Benefits

Clients frequently ask what the most common mistakes people make when they apply for Social Security disability and how they can avoid them are. The two most frequently-seen mistakes are failing to appeal an unfavorable decision and failing to obtain appropriate medical care.

File An Appeal if You Were Denied

Many people apply for Social Security benefits and receive an unfavorable decision after 3 to 4 months. After a claimant receives the unfavorable decision, there is a 60-day time limit to appeal. However, many people with disabling impairments do not appeal that decision. The claimant can request a reconsideration if denied on the initial application. If a claimant is denied on reconsideration, they can request a hearing. All it takes is filing a written statement with Social Security stating that the claimant disagrees with the decision because they are disabled, and that will suffice to move the claim to the next level of appeal. Unless there is "good cause," however, if the claimant fails to appeal an unfavorable decision within 60 days, then that claim is closed, and, in the best case, the claimant would have to re-file from the beginning, causing lost time and benefits. In the worst case, the claimant may only be able to re-file if the date last insured has passed in Title II claims or if the claimant has acquired too many countable resources in Title XVI claims.

Seek treatment, even if you don't think you need it.

Another common problem made is failing to obtain appropriate medical care. Most areas of the state have some form of a low-cost or free clinic that provides some form of health care. Social Security is aware of this fact. When a claimant does not obtain medical care, even if they lack insurance, Social Security might conclude that their impairments are not severe enough to warrant treatment. Many claimants become frustrated that they suffer from a chronic condition and do not feel that doctor visits help them, so they stop going. This can be a mistake for their health and their claim. Those with chronic medical conditions are usually the ones who most need regular visits with their physician. And the medical records generated from doctor visits make up a vital part of a person's claim for Social Security disability. If there are few records, there is little evidence to support the claim.

When a claimant timely appeals their decision and regularly sees a doctor for treatment, that person has successfully avoided two of the most common problems when applying for Social Security benefits.

Setback In Your Social Security Disability Case?

Constructive Actions You Could Take

Few Social Security Disability (SSD) cases lack complications. Setbacks are part of the process, from outright claim denials to lengthy appeals. Unfortunately, they cause constant stress, which can further harm your compromised health. The better you can handle inevitable setbacks, the better outcomes you'll enjoy for your legal case and your health.

Expect Setbacks

A shocking 65 percent of SSD claims face initial denial. Many more people need help to obtain the evidence they need to win appeals. With such tough odds, the saying "Expect the worst and hope for the best" definitely applies.

Focus on the Big Picture

An immediate victory would be incredible, but that's different for many people. With SSD applications, it's all about persistence. You stand a strong chance of success if you work diligently with your attorney, but you can kiss benefits goodbye if you throw in the towel at this early stage.

Emphasize Next Steps

Stop worrying about your previous inability to secure SSD benefits; shift your focus to the road ahead. First, meet with your attorney to discuss a viable backup plan. Then, write a brief to-do list based on that plan, and tackle at least one task each day. If nothing else, prompt action will prevent you from ruminating on your latest SSD failure.

Determine a Plan B

You're dead set on securing SSD benefits, but what if that doesn't happen? You'll feel far more confident if you plan for the worst-case scenario. Outline the likely impacts of repeated claim denials, and draft a step-by-step plan for getting by even if you never achieve the benefits you deserve.

Being A Strong Self Advocate In The Medical System

Advocating For Yourself Assertively as a Patient—Do's and Don'ts

You may spend far too much time in clinics and hospitals as a patient with a chronic health condition. Nobody will hold your hand as you seek proper care; it's up to you to advocate assertively on your behalf. The following do's and don'ts should help you navigate medical endeavors more efficiently:

Do: Gather and Organize All Medical Records

From seeking a second opinion to disputing claim denials, documentation is essential. Collect all lab tests and diagnostic reports, and be prepared to present them when necessary.

Don't: Rely on the Advice of Just One Medical Expert

Medical professionals are far from infallible. If your gut tells you to seek a second opinion, don't hesitate to visit another physician or specialist. That different opinion could save your life.

Do: Ask Specific Questions About Symptoms and Treatment

Be honest about your symptoms and response to treatment. Speak up for yourself, and ask your primary care physician or specialist about all the options available, including those that don't require extensive physical therapy or surgery.

Don't: Arrive at an Appointment Without an Outline

Make the most of every minute by developing an outline and note page ahead of time. This should include every issue you intend to address with your physician.

Do: Take Advantage of Patient Technology

Online portals and smartphone apps make it easier to access much-needed information. If you suffer from limited mobility or struggle to discuss issues with your physician in person, advocate for yourself online.

Don't: Rely Exclusively on Patient Technology

Technology can make life as a patient easier, but it should be different from face-to-face appointments. Don't rely on an app to get you through severe physical suffering; schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

You can advocate for yourself when seeking treatment, but you don't have to in court; that's your lawyer's job.

How to use an SSDI Attorney to My Advantage?

The right attorney can make all the difference as you file for Social Security disability or appeal denied claims. Keep the following considerations in mind as you prepare for a productive consultation with your lawyer:

Pay Attention to What Has Your Attention About Your Case

If a burning concern about paperwork wakes you up at night, write down what's bothering you. Suppose you have insight into your lower back symptoms while in the shower; jot it down as soon as you dry off. Get in the habit of recording productive thoughts when you have them and then circle back to process them later. This process will make communication with your lawyer more efficient – fewer email strings and long voicemail messages. It should also give you insight into your symptoms and what relieves them.

Get As Organized As You Can Before You Meet with Your Lawyer

The Social Security Administration demands ample documentation of your condition. To prove eligibility for disability benefits, bring the following to your consultation:

Don't Exaggerate

Your Social Security disability attorney's chief goal is to help you secure the benefits you deserve while reducing the potential for a complicated appeals process. To accomplish this end, your attorney needs an honest picture. How are you suffering? What's your course of treatment? It can be tempting to exaggerate or downplay your symptoms, but this could lead to a smaller award than you deserve or an outright denial of your claim.

Be Responsive

Ideally, your attorney will get back to you promptly when you call or email. However, the attorney-client relationship goes both ways. Return calls and emails promptly to expedite the legal process.

How Are Social Security Disability Benefits Calculated?

Like many federal programs, Social Security Disability has many rules and regulations governing its administration. Knowing how the Social Security Administration calculates Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can save you time and stress if you need to apply.

Understanding Eligibility

The government uses the amount you have worked and the nature of your disability to determine SSD eligibility. If you are eligible for benefits, the government decides your monthly payments by your average lifetime earnings since the time of your disability. Typical payments range from $700 to $1,700 each month. The government may reduce your payments if you receive disability benefits from other sources.

Calculating SSD Payments

The Social Security Administration uses a complex formula to calculate each individual's benefits. Every case is unique, and so is the amount of money you may receive. The office bases the formula for your benefits on how much you have paid into the Social Security system. The payroll taxes that the government deducts are called "covered earnings."

The Social Security Office calls your average covered earnings over a set period your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). Then, the SSA applies a formula of fixed percentages to your AIME based on your income. This determines your primary insurance amount (PIA) – the amount you receive in Social Security benefits before retirement age.

To stay on top of your covered earnings history, check your Social Security Statement, which the SSA sends out every five years. The SSA's website also allows you to check your statement online. This is valuable information if you need to file for SSD benefits later.

Reduced Payments

Disability payments that you receive from private insurance companies for long-term disability will not have an impact on your SSD benefits. However, suppose you also receive government-regulated benefits such as worker's compensation or temporary disability from the state. In that case, you will not receive more than 80% of the average amount you earned before your disability from the combined benefits. In addition, the benefits you receive from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the VA will not affect your SSD benefits.

After your work injury, how can you move on with your life? You've mapped out your goals. You know precisely what you want and what it will take to achieve your ambitions. So why are you still stuck at step one?

Obtaining fair compensation can beat down even the most optimistic employees, but this is not the time to give up hope. Keep reading to learn more about overcoming everyday obstacles:

Considering Other Professions

Despite fully recovering, you may have discovered that you are no longer cut out for highly physical work. Refrain from stubbornly pursuing a career path that no longer makes sense. You can still fulfill your goal of feeling productive; you might have to pursue your dream in a different capacity. For example, instead of taking on the more physical aspects of construction, you could work in the office or try for a management position. In addition, your experience could prompt new endeavors, such as campaigning for better adherence to workplace safety standards.

Changing professions may prove necessary. Don't let a new career path scare you; take time to acquaint yourself with your new field. Seek training from community colleges or apprentice programs. Utilize the numerous transferable skills developed in your previous profession.

Only Equating Success With Your Job

Professional pursuits can deliver fulfillment, but a successful career is by no means the only hallmark of a satisfying life. If you can no longer resume your previous job, find new ways to define yourself. Hobbies, volunteer efforts, and strong relationships can fill the void left by a demanding career. Set goals outside of the work world and celebrate each new achievement.

Overcome legal and personal obstacles with assistance from Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP. Our team is here to help you succeed. Call or email us to set up a confidential case consultation.

After a Georgia Workplace Injury: Preparing to Return to Your Chosen Field

Despite having suffered an injury on the job, you are determined to return to your former profession. This is a wise choice, not only for your finances but also for your mental health and social life. As you recover, however, you'll encounter new challenges, both physical and mental. These challenges can make previously simple workplace tasks a lot more complicated. So keep the following in mind as you return to your chosen field:

Take it Slow

It's tempting to return full force and prove that you are as capable as ever, but that is a recipe for aggravating your injury. So be careful, and do not take on more than you can handle.

Many employers are surprisingly forgiving of workers who cannot fully take on their former duties after injury. Consider asking your employer for a different set of responsibilities as you continue to recover. Again, communication is vital — your employer will not know if a job is beyond your capacity unless you speak up.

Document Your Symptoms

Keep a careful record of your symptoms at work and home. If your condition worsens, take detailed notes and seek prompt medical care. Depending on your current situation and recovery, you may be eligible for ongoing benefits, such as intermittent lost time or reduced earning honors.

Use Good Judgment and Consider Switching Careers

Even the most determined employees often cannot return to their former duties after suffering a workplace injury. It is worth trying, of course, but if you cannot handle your former job, it may be time to consider working in a new field. Of course, only you know what you can take, so be aware of your post-injury abilities.

The mental burden can be considerable in the aftermath of a workplace injury. Keep the legal stress to a minimum with help from Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP.

Finding Work in a New Field After Your Georgia Work Injury

After suffering a workplace injury and undergoing a grueling recovery period, you believe you're ready to work again — but not for your former employer. Your injuries may be too severe, or your mental trauma too significant to handle the demands of your old job. Knowing your limits is good, but your workers' compensation will only carry you so far. So keep the following considerations in mind as you hunt for a new job in a new career field:

Think About the Physical Aspects of Your New Career 

Could you be trading one physically grueling field for another? Some jobs seem more accessible to outsiders than they are, so do your research and determine whether you can handle the physical demands of your intended career path. It may help to shadow somebody in the field so that you know exactly what a typical day on the job will entail.

Utilize Your Transferable Skills

Many of the skills you developed in your previous profession can be used to transfer seamlessly into a new field. As you search for a new career path, take stock of all you've accomplished thus far, and determine which skills new employers might value. For example, communication skills can be developed even in very physical jobs, and the teamwork you've demonstrated in your past work might impress a new employer.

Frame This Transition As An Exciting Opportunity

Transiting may prove difficult if you loved the job you had before your injury. Instead of viewing this career shift as a burden, consider the possibilities. What began as a devastating injury may end with you discovering the career of your dreams.

As you pursue work in a new field, Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP can help you obtain the workers' compensation you are owed. Call 770-214-2500 for more information.

The Road to Recovery After Your Georgia Work Injury

Recovery after a workplace injury can be frustratingly slow, but your ultimate goal is to get back to work as soon as possible. Minimal stress and a healthy lifestyle can accelerate the recovery process, so be sure to incorporate the following practices into your daily life:

Pursue Strength Training

Strength training can help your body bounce back from injury while reducing the potential for future injuries. If you're already working with a physical therapist, complete all the exercises you've been instructed to do at home. In the future, it may also help to work with a personal trainer.

Eat a Healthy Diet

The proper nutrients can make a huge difference as you embark on the recovery process — and foods that lack nutrients can bring your progress to a standstill. Of course, fruits and vegetables are essential, but healthy protein sources are equally crucial for muscle repair. Likewise, keep refined carbohydrates to a minimum. Keeping all food groups in moderation will result in a balanced diet and a healthier body.

Tackle Stress

The mental aspects of recovery are often more challenging than the physical pain and discomfort. It's easy to get discouraged, especially if the recovery process doesn't go as quickly as you anticipated. However, the last thing you need right now is additional stress, so tackle it head-on through prayer, meditation, yoga, or regular visits with a therapist.

Documentation

Certain behaviors and practices may worsen your condition, but documentation makes it easier to identify patterns. For example, record your diet, strength training regimen, and any symptoms you observe during the day. Then, make adjustments accordingly, based on the advice of your physician or physical therapist.

As you tackle the mental and physical aspects of recovery, let Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP handle the legal side of your case.

Getting Back to Work After Your Injury

In your vision of life after your work injury, you've returned to work following a lengthy recovery period. You may carry out the same daily tasks that occupied your time before your injury. Another possible outcome: your injury convinced you to take stock of your career and what it could be. Rather than return to your former job, you now enjoy a better position for an employer who values your health and safety. Either way, you earn enough to get by and enjoy complete professional satisfaction.

Work-Life Balance After Your Work Injury

There is more to life than work. While the right job can deliver fulfillment, many people with seemingly miserable occupations find happiness. Be realistic about your job prospects; if a total return to work isn't in the cards, envision a satisfying life away from the daily grind. Your injury may keep you from your previous position, but you can still make the most of your talent as a part-time employee or volunteer.

Allow Yourself to Mourn

Denying reality will only make you feel worse. If your injury destroyed your career trajectory, take some time to feel bad about it. Set a limit on your mourning, however. In special situations, Georgia workers' compensation covers mental health treatment; take advantage of counseling opportunities.

Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP can help you navigate your workers' compensation settlement and achieve your dream life. Get in touch today to learn more.

Avoiding Reinjury After Your Georgia Work Injury

A workplace injury has left you unable to complete your typical job duties. Reinjury could result in a much more extended leave and may even call the legitimacy of your earlier workers' compensation claim into doubt. At this point, avoiding additional injury should be your chief priority. Speak with your doctor and therapist about the following potentially innovative ideas:

Yoga After Your Injury

A limber body and a good balance are crucial to injury prevention. Consider enrolling in an easy yoga class at a local studio, or better yet, one specifically targeted at people dealing with illness and injury. Avoid the temptation to challenge yourself with an advanced course such as vinyasa or ashtanga, as overdoing it could lead to the exact afflictions you're trying to prevent.

Take it Easy

There are better times to try strenuous new activities such as water skiing or snowboarding than the aftermath of a workplace injury. Recreation-related reinjury is not eligible for compensation, and it could even call your previous injury into doubt. Consult a physician before trying any potentially strenuous activities.

As you recover, look to Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, for assistance with your Georgia worker's compensation claim.

Resources for After Your Georgia Work Injury

Knowledge is power in the aftermath of a workplace injury. These resources will provide valuable insight and inspiration as you recover from your injury and prepare for your return to the workforce:

Workers' compensation varies significantly from one state to the next. Learn more about regional disparities in this report from NPR and ProPublica, which shines a much-needed light on problematic issues with workers' comp and the treatment of injured employees.

Over time, the failure to provide proper coverage for injured employees leads to significant financial hardship. This Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) report highlights workers' compensation (or lack thereof) 's role in income inequality. It also offers suggestions for better protecting workers in the future.

As an employee, you may have little control over your employers' safety standards and adherence to OSHA regulations. However, you can avoid joint issues like carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain. This Howcast video is most applicable to office workers but offers advice for those who regularly move heavy loads.

You'll instantly relate to this story of woe from injured worker Bill Bowman. Bowman details how he and his family were impacted by workplace injury in this free podcast. Although he hails from Canada, his story offers valuable insight for anybody injured on the job.

The more you know about workers' compensation and its role in your recovery, the better. So get educated; contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, for more information on workers' comp in Georgia.

A monthly podcast from the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards (IAIABC), Accidentally offers compelling insights into workers' compensation: its history, how it stands today, and anticipated innovations.

WCRI is committed to providing the public with accurate, up-to-date information on workers' compensation and its role in the United States economy. The organization offers extensive benchmark information.

Although created in Australia, this YouTube video applies to injured workers in the United States who struggle to overcome unfortunate stereotypes of laziness and lethargy. In These Are Our Stories, Australians recovering from illnesses and conditions incurred on the job speak of their suffering, their recovery, and their hopes for lives free of pain and negative judgment.

Thousands of workers are killed yearly, and many more are injured due to safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to release violation information for 2017, but the 2016 list is in keeping with long-term trends. Ongoing issues include a complete lack of protection against falls, poor hazard communication, and minimal respiratory protection. A thorough understanding of these issues and their role in your injury (or could play in future injuries) could impact the capacity in which you eventually choose to return to work.

Once you've finished looking through the resources outlined above, contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, to learn about workers' compensation.

What Are the Psychological Costs of Being on Worker's Compensation For an Extended Period?

In the short term, worker's compensation allows you to step back from a dangerous workplace setting and recover from injuries sustained on the job. Over time, however, a lack of meaningful work may leave you feeling socially and mentally unfulfilled, placing you at greater risk of depression. If you're currently on worker's compensation, look out for the problems detailed below:

Lack of Social Connection

One of the most underrated benefits of working a full-time job is spending significant time within a close social network. You might not always like your coworkers, but you have a great deal in common with them — and they can provide a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, you may feel lonelier and less connected to your once solid social group if you spend your time away from work while receiving worker's compensation. This sense of disconnection could ultimately lead to depression.

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness occurs when a victim or perceived victim develops a mindset of powerlessness. This is the brain's way of dealing with traumatic situations, but unfortunately, it can make it very difficult to move forward. For example, employees injured on the job may develop learned helplessness and rely on their worker's compensation as a crutch, thereby failing to reclaim the sense of accomplishment that once accompanied a successful day on the job.

As you strive for a worker's compensation claim that aligns with the severity of your injury, keep in mind that there could be a downside to taking long breaks from work. However, this understanding should allow you to take advantage of the compensation you're owed. Instead, help you avoid mental health problems that commonly strike employees who spend extended periods away from the workplace.

Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at your earliest convenience to learn more about the legal aspects of worker's compensation.

Adapting to a Different Lifestyle After Your Injury

There's no denying it—your workplace injury changed everything. Whether you currently suffer physical pain or anxiety about your future, life no longer looks quite like it did before your accident. The key to moving forward in peace? Acknowledging and accepting what's true now. As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu eloquently said, "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

Follow these suggestions to get your life back on track:

Determine What's Different Now

Take a few minutes to think carefully about your day-to-day life and how it's changed since the accident. Examples may include:

Clarify Your True Feelings and Needs

Once you've determined how life differs today, delve into your true feelings about the situation and your plans to move forward. Then, in your journal, reflect on the following questions:

A little reflection can make a big difference as you determine how to proceed. Life might not look exactly like it did before your workplace accident, but there's still plenty to accomplish and plenty to celebrate.

No matter how your life has changed—whether a lower back injury has made it impossible to lift your young child without pain or whiplash from a construction accident has caused you to rack up thousands in chiropractor bills—you can count on Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP for support. Call (770) 214-2500 today to learn how we can assist you with your Georgia workers' compensation case.

Social Security Disability Resources

There is no such thing as too much support for Social Security Disability Insurance recipients and their valued caregivers. From FAQs and blogs to YouTube videos, everything helps. So take some time to browse the valuable resources highlighted below—you’ll be glad you did!

Social Security Disability: Frequently Asked Questions

The official FAQ page of the Social Security Administration answers common questions about retirement benefits, returning to work, Compassionate Allowances, and more.

The Faces and Facts of Social Security

The SSA maintains a blog that provides a wealth of information on the everyday applications of the disability system. The articles contained therein cover everything from the pioneers of Social Security to the role of mental health in disability claims.

A Day in the Life of a Caregiver

Do you feel as if your efforts as a caregiver are rarely recognized? Then, watch this YouTube video from AARP, and share it via social media to let your loved ones in on your caregiving struggles and triumphs. The video captures what it’s like to care for a disabled individual.

Kalispell’s SSDI YouTube Videos

YouTube user Kalispell has ample experience with the SSDI program. Her channel details the complications of applying for SSDI and life after approval, including why she continues to work and how she coordinates her schedule to make the most of her benefits.

How to Live on Disability Even If You Are Broke

SSDI benefits are typically modest; many claimants receive less than $1,000 per month. This detailed article from Confined to Success offers excellent insight into budgeting for SSDI recipients. You’ll learn to stretch each dollar further and pursue greater financial security.

Powerful Social Security Disability Resources

Fantastic Resources For People on Social Security Disability and Their Caretakers: Part 1

Since its founding during the Great Depression, the Social Security Disability Insurance program has made life more bearable for millions of Americans who would otherwise face crippling poverty or a complete lack of independence.

Unfortunately, if you’re injured or disabled, the difficulties don’t stop upon approval of your SSDI claim. Whether you receive benefits or care for a loved one on SSDI, you can use continual help and support, which you’ll find with these valuable resources:

Ticket to Work Program

Are you interested in returning to work but worried about losing your benefits? Then, join the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work Program, a free and voluntary opportunity for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries. You can safely explore various work options while enjoying protection from continuing medical disability reviews. Visit the program overview at the SSA’s website to learn more.

NAIDW’s Social Security Disability Support

Sometimes, when your disability gets you down, all you need is a little encouragement from somebody who has been in your position. That’s precisely what you’ll find at the Social Security Disability Support forum maintained by the National Association of Injured and Disabled Workers (NAIDW). Stop by the chat room or check out the links posted by the site’s administrator.

Telling Our Disability Stories: The ATC Podcast

If you ever feel alone due to disability, listen to the ATC Podcast for an instant sense of belonging. The program features heartening stories from individuals with disabilities.

Can I Get Paid…As a Caregiver?

This AARP guide provides extensive insight into the role of caregivers and the potential for receiving compensation. In addition, it offers a valuable reminder of the importance of taking care of your financial and emotional health as you also care for loved ones with disabilities.

Budgeting While Waiting for Social Security Disability

Living Well and Getting What You Need With a Slimmed-Down Budget [for Social Security Disability Claimants]

A reduced disposable income may prevent you from previous pursuits. Still, with careful budgeting and a better spending assessment, you can live a full and rewarding life on a minimal income. In a two-part series, we’ll explore life on a slimmed-down budget.

Budgeting 101

Before you can live your best life on a slimmed-down budget, you need to know just how slim it is—and where you have room to cut back.

Budgeting doesn’t come naturally for most of us. In a 2015 Bankrate.com survey, 82 percent of Americans claimed to keep a budget—but most of their methods were suspect. Mental budgets won’t cut it, nor will scrawling numbers on an old receipt. Thankfully, a variety of smartphone apps and online budgeting systems make things easier to manage. For some, however, pencil and paper suffice.

Begin by taking stock of all fixed income and expenditures. These could include Social Security benefits, income from a part-time job, rent, or student loan payments.

Finally, estimate variable costs. These include food, entertainment, and transportation. After you’ve constructed your initial budget, continue tracking these expenses to determine the accuracy of your original estimates.

Choose Goals and Assign Costs

Outline your financial and personal goals, and determine where they overlap. Next, highlight your top aspirations and estimate their cost. For example, a frugal beach vacation might cost you $1,000 for lodging, flight, and food. Now that you’ve established your budget, you can determine how many months it will take to save up for this goal while maintaining your current income.

Determining How You Want to Spend Your Budget: Spending on Things or Experiences?

Ample research indicates that people derive far more satisfaction when they spend their money on experiences rather than material objects. You may have little cash available for either, but some of life’s most exciting experiences are surprisingly affordable. So when tempted to splurge on items you previously would have deemed essential, think carefully: do you actually need these material goods? How long will you enjoy them, or how soon will they collect dust in the closet?

Empowering Books for SSDI Applicants and Recipients

Read These Books While Pursuing Your Social Security Disability Benefits Case

Chronic illness and injury sufferers complain nearly as much about boredom as they do about the physical symptoms of their maladies. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits may be appreciated, but it’s tough to replace that sense of purpose that accompanies a regular workday. Instead of sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself, tackle this reading list:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants — Malcolm Gladwell

Whenever you feel defeated, grab this inspiring ode to the underdog, which reexamines stereotypes about advantage and disadvantage.

Not Broken: Making the Transition to Living With Physical Disability — Andrea M. Orsini

Don’t let disability define you. “Not Broken” features valuable strategies for handling the mental, emotional, and social challenges associated with physical impairments. This valuable read will help you reclaim your personal power and momentum.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life — Bill Bryson

Sitting at home isn’t so bad, as you’ll discover while paging through one of Bill Bryson’s most underrated works. You’ll learn more about the common household items you take for granted.

Gilead — Marilynne Robinson

The deserved recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, “Gilead” tells the somber tale of Reverend John Ames, a small-town pastor with a devastating heart condition. The book demonstrates why faith is an integral component of daily life, even (or especially) for those dealing with terminal illness.

Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life — Nick Vujicic

You won’t feel bad about your malady after reading “Life Without Limits.” Written by a man who lacks limbs, the book shows how anybody can lead an extraordinary life, regardless of disability.

If you need a social security disability lawyer in Georgia, call SWS Accident & Injury Lawyers today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.

Spine injuries are not to be taken lightly; if you have been injured at work, you may need to seek workers' compensation for your back injury. Back injuries involving severe trauma frequently lead to spinal cord damage. Ensuing problems could be life-changing, with victims suffering partial or complete paralysis. Immediate treatment is imperative, so it's essential to understand the condition and recognize symptoms.

What Is the Spinal Cord?

The spinal cord comprises a bundle of nerve fibers enclosed within the spine. This critical group of threads connects most body parts to the brain. Together, the brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system.

Spinal Nerves

Dozens of spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord, appearing in short branches known as roots. Sensory roots carry information from all over the body to the brain. Motor roots deliver commands from the brain to various body parts, including skeletal muscles.

Common Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most permanently debilitating of all back problems. These injuries are defined based on where they occur and the severity of the damage. These factors also determine how much patients can control their limbs following injury. A complete injury occurs when the patient loses nearly all feeling and motor function below the site of damage. Those with incomplete injuries retain some motor or sensory function.

If the injury impacts the arms, legs, trunk, and internal organs, it may be referred to as quadriplegia. Paraplegia occurs when the legs, trunk, and internal organs are affected, but not the arms and hands.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

Top spinal cord injury symptoms include loss of motor function and feeling in the affected areas. Additionally, spinal cord damage could lead to loss of bladder control, difficulty breathing, exaggerated spasms, lack of coordination, or an intense stinging sensation.

In the aftermath of a spinal cord injury, getting in touch with a trusted workers' compensation attorney is essential. Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at your earliest convenience at (770) 214-2500.

Getting Workers' Compensation For Back Injuries

The back is a surprisingly complicated structure, making it difficult to ascertain the specific cause and solution to chronic pain. However, as a back pain sufferer, it behooves you to gain a thorough understanding of the damage you may have endured. Read on to learn about the vertebrae, which play a critical role in numerous injuries:

What Are Vertebrae?

Vertebrae consist of a series of nearly three dozen interlocking bones. Together, these make up the spinal column. Each vertebra features a load-bearing body, an arch that protects the spinal cord, and attachment points that ensure flexible movement.

Classifying Vertebrae

Experts classify vertebrae based on their position. For example, the spinal column's upper portion features cervical vertebrae, while thoracic vertebrae offer attachment points for the ribs. In addition, the sacral and caudal vertebrae are fused into the sacrum and tailbone.

Common Vertebral Injuries

Various injuries strike the vertebrae; most are serious enough to cause severe pain. Vertebral compression fractures may occur in response to osteoporosis but can also result from excessive pressure or a hard fall. Severe compression fractures are known as burst fractures; these occur when the bone shatters, with bone fragments possibly piercing the spinal cord.

Although less severe than burst fractures, vertebral dislocation can prove quite painful. A dislocation occurs when one or more vertebrae are displaced, typically in response to a traumatic neck injury. Occasionally, dislocation and fractures occur at the same time, damaging both soft tissue and the spinal cord.

Symptoms of vertebral injuries vary somewhat based on the severity and whether a burst occurs, but sufferers can expect to experience intense pain, which worsens while standing or walking. Many also suffer a reduced range of motion.

If you suspect you've suffered a vertebral injury on the job, contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your options.

Connective Tissue Injuries and Workers Compensation

When picturing back injuries, people typically imagine fractures or other acute issues. But, some of the most common—and debilitating—conditions involve chronic connective tissue damage. Keep reading for a brief overview of need-to-know terms and other valuable information about connective tissue-related pain.

Tendons and Ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are fibrous bands of connective tissue that link two or more structures (typically bones or cartilage) together. These tissue bands are often to blame for work-related back pain; employees may twist or pull tendons or ligaments while completing everyday work functions—the result: strains and sprains, which involve muscle cramping and significantly decreased range of motion.

Fascia

Often compared to sweaters due to their densely woven structure, fascia cover bones, muscles, nerves, and internal organs. They also protect the spinal cord.

An oft-forgotten element of spinal injuries, fascia remains poorly understood. Fascia injuries typically follow repeated strain, such as heavy lifting or frequent bending. As a result, patients may experience dull pain or more intense sensations that worsen while completing essential workday tasks. Over time, fascia injuries may lead to trigger points (and further pain) or reduced strength and range of motion.

Synovial Membrane

A protective layer of connective tissue responsible for protecting tendons and joints, the synovial membrane (also known as the synovium) can become inflamed or damaged by traumatic joint injuries. This may lead to pain or swelling. In addition, synovial cysts often result from spinal degeneration. Although uncommon, this condition can cause back pain, leg pain (known as sciatica), and sometimes, muscle weakness or cramping in the legs.

Whether you've suffered a workplace injury to your fascia, tendon, or ligament, seek experienced counsel. Reach out to Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn about the next strategic steps in your workers' compensation for your back injury.

Taking Care of Your Back After a Workplace Accident

A shocking 80 percent of Americans experiences back pain at some point. While many witnesses gradual onset with age, others suffer acute pain due to workplace accidents. Quick recovery hinges on prompt medical attention and proper care at home.

Eager to eradicate back pain? This is not a medical blog. And you should never change your exercise or dietary regimen before speaking with your doctor—but you might find these insights valuable.

Rethinking Bed Rest?

Medical experts once prescribed rest as a cure-all for back problems, but recent research suggests prolonged rest could hurt more than it helps. So today, authorities recommend gently resuming physical activity soon after an accident. A daily stroll can make a difference, as can recovery-oriented yoga classes.

Take Regular Breaks

Instead of committing to long, uninterrupted periods of bed rest, talk to your doctor/therapist about taking regular breaks to avoid overloading your back. Breaks may prove necessary for both physical and sedentary activities. For example, instead of sitting at your desk all afternoon, stand up and move around at least once every half hour.

Be Diligent About Physical Therapy

Occasionally visiting your physical therapist is not good enough; honor all appointments and complete any recommended exercises. Be honest with your physical therapist about your routine and current pain. Avoid underplaying or exaggerating what's happening to you.

Don't Expect an Immediate Recovery

Moderate your expectations. Anticipate weeks, possibly even months, of difficulty following your back injury. Stay calm if your back heals more slowly than you initially hoped. You could suffer even worse injuries if you push recovery and try to return to your routine before you're ready.

Let Smith, Wallis, and Scott handle the legal aspects of your workers' compensation for your back injury. Then, call us at (770) 214-2500 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.

DON'T INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING POSTS. I DON'T THINK A WORKERS COMP LAWYER SHOULD BE GIVING MEDICAL ADVICE ON HIS WEBSITE. IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE CORNERSTONE CONTENT THAN LEGAL ADVICE. WE CAN STILL REDIRECT THESE PAGES TO THIS BLOG, BUT I DON'T THINK IT WOULD BE WISE TO USE THEM.

Hurt Back At Work? What To Make Of The Ideas Of Dr. John Sarno

An influential, yet controversial figure, Dr. John Sarno hypothesized a psychosomatic condition known as tension myositis syndrome. Also referred to as tension myoneural syndrome (TMS), the condition characterizes a variety of nerve issues that lack an obvious physical trigger, including, most notably, chronic back pain. His research provides an alternate perspective for those suffering chronic pain months, even years after a workplace injury.

Is Back Pain Physical or Mental?

In "Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection," Dr. Sarno claims that pain not relieved by typical medical treatments can be blamed on repressed emotional problems. He doesn't suggest the pain is inside your head; he argues that it's real and it results from an intense battle within your mind. It's a controversial theory, but his allegedly successful treatment of over ten thousand patients indicates that psychosomatic issues may indeed play a role in ongoing back pain.

The Link Between TMS and Workplace Injuries

Your workplace accident may be to blame for initial back pain, but per the TMS hypothesis, post-traumatic issues could be at fault for at least some ongoing symptoms; Dr. Sarno believes psychological struggles can manifest as physical pain. He argues that your pain will continue until you unearth and deal with repressed emotions.

Blogger Paul Ingraham offers a more in depth review of Dr. Sarno's work in this series of posts. This obituary in the New York Times offers another valuable perspective. Notably, the Times writes: "Some of [Sarno's] ideas, like his assertion that there is no correlation between chronic back pain and herniated discs, have been validated by research published in The New England Journal of Medicine."

Healing the Body With the Mind

Irrespective of what you think about the TMS hypothesis, workplace victims can take the following away from Dr. John Sarno's books: Mental attitude can have a huge impact on physical recovery. Although your current pain likely originated with a legitimate injury, it might now be treatable. If you have a clean bill of health but lingering pain several months after your accident, it may be time to explore what mental triggers could be impeding your success.

Regardless of the nature of your workplace injury, it is imperative that you seek counsel from a lawyer you trust. Look to the team at Smith, Wallis and Scott for exceptional representation. We're available for a private, confidential consultation at (770) 214-2500.

Trigger Points And Back Injuries: The Basics

Whether you wrenched your back in a lifting accident—a single moment of agony—or hurt yourself through repetitive work over months or years, you'd like to understand the root cause of your discomfort. Why does your pain fail to correspond directly to the injured point? Why do your muscles feel tight and/or tender to the touch? Why does the right massage—done in just the right way—give you so much temporary relief?

The answer could be that your back injury has been caused by (or exacerbated by) myofascial trigger points.

Defining Trigger Points

In 1942, Dr. Janet Travell coined the term "trigger point" in hopes of describing and treating a phenomenon with the following attributes:

Although they can appear in numerous locations, trigger points are most commonly seen in the shoulders, neck, pelvis, and hips.

Referred Pain

Trigger points share some attributes with tender points, but their defining characteristic is referred pain. If pressure is placed on one point, it may refer, or transfer some of the pain to another location. For example, a trapezius-based trigger point can refer pain up the side of the neck and all the way to the head. This referred pain may ultimately lead to a severe headache.

What Causes Trigger Points to Activate?

Many factors prompt trigger point activation, including:

If trigger points activate in one region of the body, other areas may also activate in response.

Once you've identified the source of your pain and the cause, you can take steps to address and eliminate it. In our next blog, we'll explore pain relief options—stay tuned!

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your legal options as a trigger point patient.

Trigger Point Therapy To Treat Workers' Compensation Injuries: An Overview

Opinions of myofascial trigger point therapy vary wildly depending on who you ask. Some people tout this alternative approach to pain relief as a miracle cure; others refer to it as bogus science or even actively harmful. The reality, however, probably lies somewhere in the middle: trigger point therapy does not benefit all pain sufferers, but it possibly holds plenty of promise.

What are Trigger Points?

Trigger points are small focal spots found on taut bands of muscle. When improperly activated, they supposedly cause severe, localized pain, or in some cases, immobility. However, in applying direct pressure to problem areas, afflicted individuals instead experience a dull ache, which eventually gives way to relief. This concept is known as referral pain.

What are the Purported Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy?

Advocates claim that applying pressure to localized spots of pain can effectively spur alleviation, freeing sufferers of the need for drug therapy and accompanying side effects. Additionally, advocates claim that myofascial therapy delivers prompt results, with chronic pain sufferers experiencing desperately-needed relief after just one treatment.

Are There Any Downsides?

According to skeptics, trigger point compression does not solve underlying problems, and it is therefore nothing more than a Band-Aid preventing pain sufferers from seeking a more permanent solution. This approach can be downright dangerous if conducted in a DIY manner or by an inexperienced therapist.

What the Science Says

Researchers remain skeptical of trigger point therapy, but there are signs of hope for advocates who require empirical evidence. In a notable study published in BMC Medicine, those prescribed myofascial therapies showed marked improvements over the control group after twelve weeks of shoulder-based intervention. More research is needed, however, to determine whether this is an effective treatment for other sources of pain.

Trigger point therapy may or may not become your go-to solution for chronic or acute pain—speak with a physician before engaging in any self-therapy or treatment like this. But you can count on the qualified Georgia workers' compensation attorneys at Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP to help you obtain fair benefits.

Treating Trigger Points After A Work-Related Back Injury

Myofascial trigger points (TPS) remain a mystery; while recent research has uncovered many possible causes and treatment approaches, no one solution applies to all TPS sufferers. Some patients may be forced to try several approaches before finding one that works consistently. The following are a few of the best options for trigger point relief. (Please note that this is not a health blog, and we are not attempting to diagnose or treat you here! See your physician if you're in pain and before you start any medical treatment.)

Strength Training

Many patients suffer TPS due to muscle overload. Strength training prevents new trigger points by reducing the risk of overexertion. However, to be effective, strength training generally must be undertaken on a gradual basis. An overly ambitious regimen could lead to far worse trigger point pain.

Soft Tissue Massage

In the short-term, self-massage can often provide significant relief. However, a certified massage therapist can better target problem areas. Look for a therapist experienced in trigger point therapy.

Dry Needling

Sometimes referred to as intramuscular stimulation, dry needling stimulates myofascial trigger points, allowing physical therapists to reach areas that cannot be manually targeted.

Acupuncture

Not to be confused with dry needling, acupuncture has relieved both acute and chronic pain for thousands of years. Acupuncturists focus on meridians, where the energy, or Qi, may be concentrated. A study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain found a high degree of correspondence between trigger points and acupuncture points.

Myopulse

A sophisticated non-invasive therapy, myopulse treatment involves application of low voltage micro-currents, which, when sent through injured areas, promote quick pain relief and long-term healing.

Trigger point sufferers typically begin with non-invasive therapies such as strength training or massage, switching to more advanced approaches if necessary. No one strategy will work equally well for all TPS patients; be open to trying unfamiliar treatments (with your physician's careful guidance).

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about obtaining workers' compensation benefits in Georgia.

Trigger Point Resources For Injured Georgia Workers

If you suspect trigger points (TPS) are responsible for your current work-related back pain, the following resources offer useful insight:

The Concise Book of Trigger Points

A classic in the growing trigger point field, this essential guide has been translated into over twenty languages. Although published over a decade ago, the manual has been updated on numerous occasions with the latest research. Detailed information and illustrations will help your (and your doctor) navigate TPS and referred pain.

Trigger Points Explained With Animation

Looking for a simplified explanation of trigger points, accompanied by easy-to-understand visuals? Check out this YouTube video, which breaks down all the terminology you struggle to keep straight.

What Is a Trigger Point? Trigger Points Explained

Wizard of Health offers a simple trigger point 101 video on YouTube. The four-minute clip provides a basic definition of trigger points, along with a break-down of the confusing terms included in the typical medical definition. The video also provides a valuable analogy involving an adapter plugged into a socket, which makes it easier to grasp confusing concepts.

Needling Therapies in the Management of Myofascial Trigger Point Pain

Interested in dry needling or acupuncture? This notable study explores the expanding role of these therapies in TPS pain management. Further insight into dry needling can be found in an additional study from the APTA's Physical Therapy journal.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Support Group

Finding social support for your condition can be a real struggle. Thankfully, multiple support groups exist online. This group from DailyStrength is especially valuable. Browse existing threads or ask the group's 200+ members for input. (Of course, do not engage in any therapy without first consulting a qualified physician.)

The better you understand trigger point-induced pain, the better you can advocate for yourself as a workers' compensation claimant. Smith, Wallis, and Scott can help you every step of the way; contact us today to learn more.

What Happens When You Get a Social Security Disability Overpayment?

Social Security disability benefits allow you to make ends meet, but just barely. Unfortunately, if the Social Security Administration (SSA) claims that your payments are too high, you may suffer garnished tax returns or even be forced to write a check for the overpaid amount.

What Causes Overpayment?

Several circumstances prompt higher SSI or SSDI compensation than anticipated. Examples include:

What Happens If My Payment Is Too High?

If the Social Security Administration discovers that you’ve received benefits beyond what you’re entitled, you may receive notice, along with a request for repayment within one month. The message may also include a plan for withholding future disability payments and the date on which the proposed withdrawal will begin.

What If You Don’t Think You Received Excessive Compensation?

If you feel you were paid correctly, request a reconsideration within ten days of hearing from the SSA. If you believe, however, you were overpaid but not due to any wrongdoing on your part, request a waiver. If granted, this will allow you to avoid repayment. First, however, you must demonstrate that you were not at fault, and that paying the SSA back would cause severe financial hardship. Be prepared to submit bills indicating that your monthly expenses approach or exceed your income. Consider seeking feedback from the SSA on the criteria used to determine whether you received more benefits than warranted.

What If Your Request Is Denied?

You have the right to appeal denial of your waiver request. However, if the SSA continues to insist that you were overpaid, withholdings from your monthly benefits payments may occur. If you no longer receive benefits, you can petition for monthly payments. Your overpayment may also be withheld from your federal tax return.

What Is Request For Reconsideration, and How Can You Boost Your Chance of Success?

If your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) gets denied, don’t despair. Only about one-quarter of applicants in Georgia receive SSDI approval on their initial application. You may file a Request for Reconsideration – also known as the first appeal – to overturn the Social Security Administration’s denial of your claim. The reconsideration request must be filed within 60 days of the initial claim’s denial, but the sooner it is filed, the better. Miss this deadline, and you must start the entire application process from square one.

Only about 12 percent of reconsideration requests are approved in Georgia, but there are a few ways you can boost these long odds in your favor – for instance, you can hire a qualified SSDI lawyer to guide and advise you.

Request for Reconsideration

The Request for Reconsideration is the first appeal a denied claimant may file in Georgia. It is conducted the same way as your first application, except that another disability examiner and physician evaluate your case.

Refuting Denial

You can get a copy of your claim file from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and review it. While the SSA will not necessarily release all of the doctor’s reports, your lawyer should be able to get this information. If you and your attorney believe the reasons for the denial are in error, you can refute them for the Request for Reconsideration.

New Material

Provide relevant new material to your reconsideration request. For instance: updates about your doctor’s visits, medication, and new treatments.

Look over your initial application carefully, and ensure you did not leave out any pertinent information regarding your medical condition or work history. An unintentional omission could have made the difference in the original denial, and it could affect the Request for Reconsideration.

Another Step

It can take eight or nine months for a reconsideration decision. However, if your Request for Reconsideration is denied, there are more steps you can take. For example, the next phase could involve an appearance before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

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