Social Security Disability Attorney In Los Angeles

This is NOT legal advice. This blog provides general information about Social Security Disability cases. To discuss your particular

circumstances and claim, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please feel free to contact Disability Advocates Group at (800) 935-3170

or online if you have any questions regarding your Social Security Disability claim.

Getting Both SSI and SSDI

You may be eligible for both SSI and SSDI benefits if you meet certain qualifications. This is known as concurrent benefits. If you are a disability recipient who is currently getting a low monthly payment (which typically happens if you have made low wages or haven't worked in recent years), you may be eligible to get concurrent benefits.

To receive SSI on top of SSDI, the applicant's unearned income must be less than $721 per month. The income limits can be very complex, and that's why it's so important to retain a disability attorney with experience in the field. In addition to income limits, SSI has asset limits. If you have worked in a job that paid taxes into Social Security which qualified you for SSDI and your assets and income are low enough to get SSI, it's likely you will be able to receive concurrent benefits.

Bear in mind that to calculate your eligibility for SSI, your monthly disability payment is factored in. In some cases, that payment is high enough to disqualify you from getting concurrent benefits. If you are getting a disability payment less than $721 a month, however, you can get both benefits at the same time.

The application and evaluation process for getting benefits is the same whether you are applying for SSI, SSDI, or both. Your income and assets will be reviewing in the same manner and the category of your claim has no impact on the claim processing. The definition of disability remains the same for both programs.

There are a few benefits to getting concurrent payments. If you are receiving disability less than $721 a month, your benefit could be increased up to this amount. You also may be eligible for Medicare as an SSDI recipient, but you should know that taking advantage of this requires waiting two years after you became eligible for SSDI. Most SSI recipients are only eligible for Medicaid. Although Medicaid tends to cover, on the surface, more services than Medicare, more doctors are open to taking payments from Medicare, making it easier to find a health professional. As you can tell, the process can be complicated. Obtain an SSDI attorney sooner rather than later to get your questions answered.

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Some Same Sex Couples Can Now Get Widow or Widower’s Benefits

The Social Security Administration has announced that they will now begin processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages.  The program is still currently being worked on so there are no definite guidelines at this time.  In a statement, the Social Security Administration announced the following: "I am pleased to announce that, effective today, Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due. In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses. As I stated shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, our goal is to treat all Americans with dignity and respect.”

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Brain Injury Awareness Month

The month of March signals raised awareness of brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control, brain injuries have been on the rise in the past decade. If you have suffered from such an injury, you are likely looking for additional sources of financial support to help you adjust to your new life.

A traumatic brain injury refers to any incident where the brain suffers an acute injury. Unlike other medical conditions, which may have some level of predictability, brain injuries can be unique based on the patient. As a result, you might find certain symptoms or events that affect you in ways different from another patient with a similar injury. One of the hallmarks of TBIs is that they may start off mild, with symptoms that get worse the longer you suffer. 

You might find that the extent of your injuries makes it impossible to work. When this happens, it doesn't take long for bills to pile up and for your to feel the financial struggle. The Social Security Administration does recognize the influence that such an injury can have on your life, and that's why the agency offers support through disability payments. The two programs supported by the agency are Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. To get SSDI benefits, you will need to have pain into Social Security. SSI benefits are for elderly or disabled people who have little to no resources. 

Qualifying for SSDI with a TBI requires a specific diagnosis. In order to get benefits, you will need to meet with one of four SSDI listings: 11.02 (Convulsive Epilepsy), 11.03 (Non-convulsive epilepsy), 11.04 (Central Nervous System Vascular Accident-Stroke), or 12.02 (Organic Mental Disorders). Common symptoms of these issues include seizures, difficulty in handling changes in the workplace, issues processing directions, or difficulty with walking, sitting, lifting, or pulling. 

You will need medical documentation to back up your claim, but it's also a wise idea to retain an SSDI attorney to help you. This often prevents delays and surprises by making the process easier for you. If you are suffering from a TBI, help may be available to you through SSDI. 

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Increase in Video Hearings Before Administrative Law Judges In SSDI or SSI Claims

There is an increase in the amount of video hearings Social Security claimants are attending.  Using video hearings has become essential to help decrease the backlog in SSDI and SSI claims.  Not only are the individual hearing offices using video conferencing capabilities more frequently, the Social Security Administration is also increasing its use of video conferencing through the National Hearing Centers, located in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, Falls Church and St. Louis.  If you or a loved one is going before a judge for your SSDI or SSI claim, it makes sense to speak with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.  Attorneys can help you better understand the hearing process and prepare you for your hearing before the Administrative Law Judge.
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New Bill Proposed in the Senate to Raise SSI Asset Limits

Under a new bill proposed in the U.S. Senate, the amount of money that a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient can save without losing access to their benefits would rise from the current $2000.00 to $10,000.00.  The bill also proposes eliminating restrictions that disallow friends and family of SSI recipients from providing additional support to those receiving SSI benefits.   This would encourage SSI recipients to save additional money and for friends and families to assist SSI recipients with living expenses.

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The Importance of Documentation

In previous posts, I have mentioned the importance of documentation in submitting a claim for SSD benefits. While documentation is important for SSD claims for physical disabilities, it is even more vital for claims based on mental disabilities like depression. For physical disabilities, most documentation needs to come from the notes of a treating physician, imaging studies, and labs. For SSD claims based on mental disability due to conditions such as depression, however, the medical record is only part of the documentation necessary. While results of psychological testing and the impression of a medical professional are important, information from non-medical sources are also critical to a successful claim. For example, information from the claimant himself, family members, friends, and coworkers can substantially supplement the record and verify the findings of the medical record. Equally important is to present this evidence from various sources over as long a period of time as possible. Such longitudinal evidence will better establish the severity and extent of your functional impairment. Much of this information needs to be properly and effectively presented in the initial application. Many of my clients have come to me after being rejected for an SSD claim despite actually meeting a medical listing for depression solely because they did not include all the appropriate evidence in their applications. As I mentioned before, including all the appropriate evidence from the beginning can mean the difference between receiving SSD benefits and dealing with a frustrating rejection from the SSA. If you are not sure what to include in your application, seek the assistance of a knowledgeable, experienced attorney in your area.

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Are your Social Security Disability benefits taxable?

The truth is there is no simple answer as to whether you must pay taxes on your Social Security Disability benefits.  Here are some tips for figuring out whether your Social Security Disability benefits will be subject to taxation.

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SSA Considers Changes to Cancer Disability

The Social Security Administration is considering making some changes that would affect individuals applying for Social Security Disability Benefits for cancer conditions. Some types of cancer make an individual eligible for SSDI benefits right away, although other forms of cancer will depend on the grade and stage. Typically, you'll be eligible for SSDI benefits in cases where your treatments and condition mean that there are no jobs you are capable of doing. In many cases, cancer that has spread or been determined "inoperable" could be eligible for benefits, but you should consult directly with an SSDI attorney about your medical records and diagnosis to learn more. 

Making a departure from a listing that was last updated in 2009, the changes would influence the Malignant Neoplastic Diseases Listings of Impairments. 

The following changes are what has been proposed thus far: 

  • Altering the terminology of the body system from "Malignant Neoplastic Diseases" to "Cancer". 
  • Changing the way that cancer is evaluated when treated alongside multimodal antineplastic therapy. Deferred adjudication may happen if the treating source intends to receive multimodal therapy but has not yet started the process of getting it. 
  • New procedures for evaluating some cancers. Cancers included are primary breast cancer (and secondary lymphadema), central nervous system cancers, recurrent prostate cancer, malignant melanoma, chronic leukemia, and primary peritoneal cancer
  • New procedures for evaluating cancers in which treatments include stem cell or bone marrow transplants. 
  • Altering the definition of several terms, including "persistent", "antineplastic therapy", "unresectable", and "progressive. 

If you have been affected by cancer and it has eliminated your potential to work any job, you need to consult with an SSDI attorney about applying for benefits. These benefits can be crucial for helping to support you while you are suffering from the impact of cancer. Contact an SSDI attorney today to learn about how you can receive supporting benefits for your cancer. 

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Getting SSDI For Fibromyalgia

A recent study in Arthritis Care and Research highlighted the experience of fibromyalgia patients applying for Social Security Disability Income. Although diagnostic procedures have increased in specificity, it has been a slow road for fibromyalgia patients to receive SSDI benefits. 

The study looked at 2,321 patients over a period of four years, finding that approximately 35 percent of those patients were currently receiving disability benefits. Those patients with rheumatoid arthritis with concomitant fibromyalgia, were, on the whole, more successful at obtaining benefits: nearly 56 percent of those patients were on disability at the time of the research study. Researchers determined that the strongest predictor of receiving disability benefits for fibromyalgia patients was their level of functionality. 

Some patients might apply for disability benefits and simply get frustrated with the red tape surrounding them after an initial denial. If your condition prevents you from working, you need to speak with a disability attorney to have your case evaluated. As more research comes forth about the impacts of fibromyalgia, you need to count on legal representation that knows the ropes. Don't give up on your claim if you have initially been denied. An experienced disability benefits lawyer will work with you to complete your appeals paperwork, answer your pertinent questions about the disability application process and receiving disability, and can even represent you at hearings. 

Entering into the world of applying for SSDI benefits can be overwhelming and confusing. Too many patients give up after they have gone through the application process, possibly losing out on important disability benefits that could make their life and their family's life much easier. If you are looking at a denied claim and wondering about your options, contact an SSDI attorney to discuss your individual case. You may be eligible for disability benefits and should consult with an attorney about the best way to get them. 

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How will drug and/or alcohol addiction affect my Social Security Disability case?

A common question I get asked by my clients is how alcohol or drug addiction can impact their application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Alcohol or drug dependence is a major issue facing millions of Americans. For some, alcohol or drug addiction, itself, can be debilitating to the point of creating a disability. For others, alcohol or drugs can lead to other medical problems (such as liver disease) which, in turn, can cause disability. For still others, alcohol or drug dependence can be a part of a disabling mental illness such as depression or anxiety. In this post I will review how the Social Security Administration (SSA) approaches drug addiction when evaluating claims for SSD benefits. I will do this by separately addressing three different scenarios in which alcohol or drug addiction may play a role in creating a disability.


Can you receive Social Security Disability benefits solely based on your addiction to drugs and/or alcohol?

No. While, alcohol or drug addiction, itself, can certainly disable people to the point of preventing normal functioning and the ability to work, the SSA will not grant SSD benefits solely based on an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. This policy is due to the Right To Work Act. Through this law, enacted in 1996, Congress eliminated alcoholism (and drug addiction) as a basis for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. So does that mean that drug or alcohol addiction will prevent you from getting SSDI benefits? This is where things get a little more complicated.


If you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, can you still receive Social Security Disability benefits?

The answer to this question is that it depends. While the Right to Work Act prevents the SSA from granting SSDI benefits specifically for alcohol or drug dependence, it does not necessarily disqualify people with other disabilities from receiving SSD benefits just because they are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. In other words, the SSA is not supposed to penalize you for being addicted to drugs or alcohol.


 If the Social Security Administration determines that you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, they must determine whether the drug addiction or alcoholism significantly contributes to your disability. To determine this, SSA will first consider whether all of your other medical conditions qualify you as disabled per their guidelines. If SSA determines that you are, indeed, disabled based on your medical condition(s), the next step is to determine whether you would still be disabled if you stopped using drugs and/or alcohol. If SSA determines that you would not be disabled once you stopped using drugs or alcohol, then SSA will determine that you are not disabled and not eligible for SSD benefits. If SSA determines that you would still be disabled even if you stopped using drugs and/or alcohol, then they will award you Social Security Disability benefits. For example, lets suppose that you suffer from both depression and alcohol addiction. If you can demonstrate that you would be disabled from depression even if you overcame your alcohol dependence, the SSA would grant you SSDI benefits.


My use of alcohol and/or drugs caused a disabling medical condition. Can I receive Social Security Disability benefits for this condition?
If your disability was caused by alcohol and/or drugs, the SSA will first determine whether you are disabled per Social Security’s regulations using the same method as discussed above. That means if you would still be disabled if you stopped using drugs and/or alcohol then you will be considered disabled and would be awarded SSD benefits. For example, lets suppose that you developed alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver from an alcohol addiction and this condition has disabled you. When you apply for SSD benefits, SSA will first determine whether the cirrhosis is severe enough to classify you as disabled. If you are deemed disabled, SSA will then determine if the disability caused by the cirrhosis would persist if you were to stop drinking. If they determine that your cirrhosis is advanced to the point that the disability it causes cannot be reversed even if you stop drinking, you will be granted SSD benefits.


Take Home Message
While alcohol and drug dependence, in and of itself, does not qualify you for SSD benefits, it also does not preclude you from these benefits. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must demonstrate that your medical condition disables you independent of any concurrent drug or alcohol dependence. It is also important to note that while this is the process for determining whether a claimant is eligible for SSD benefits if he/she is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, in reality many judges do not like to see that a claimant is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol in the time period they are applying for SSD benefits. If you do have medical records which state that you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, you should consult with an attorney experienced in Social Security Disability regarding your particular claim.

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What If I Have Been Denied Social Security Benefits?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) are federal programs to help support individuals who are unable to work as a result of a medical condition. If you find yourself affected by a disability, you may be facing difficulty meeting your basic needs if you cannot work. Most people who are eligible for SSDI have very little resources and are struggling to make ends meet. 

To be eligible for these payments, you must have held a job that paid into Social Security and you must have been unable to work for 12 months or longer as a result of your disability. If you or your family have resources totaling more than $2,000, you can be denied benefits under Social Security. 

If you have been denied on medical grounds, you need to file an appeal right away. You will need to provide medical documentation about your condition and the names and contact information of your medical providers. While there are specific forms you can use to appeal, it's in your best interest to hire an experienced SSDI attorney to manage your case. There are time limits for filing your appeal and you need to file it as quickly as possible. Receiving SSDI benefits could have a significant impact on your future, so should should seek out the services of a qualified SSDI attorney to handle your case.

The process of filing an SSDI appeal can seem overwhelming especially if you were counting on receiving benefits sooner rather than later. Your next step after being denied should be to speak with legal counsel about the best way to proceed. Your attorney can help answer questions, assist you with filling out the paperwork, and represent you at any hearings if that becomes necessary. Having a dedicated attorney at your side makes the process much easier and gives you confidence about your claim. 

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Some Veterans Now Eligible for Expedited Processing of their Social Security Disability Claim

It is now going to be easier for veterans to apply and receive Social Security Disability benefits.  The Social Security Administration just announced that veterans with a disability compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total will soon have their applications for Social Security disability benefits processed faster.

This expedited process is expected to begin in March 2014. 

 “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and it is only right that we ensure they have timely access to the disability benefits they may be eligible for and deserve,” Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin said in the news release.

In order to receive expedited service, veterans must inform the Social Security Administration that they have a 100 percent Permanent and Total disability compensation rating and show proof of this disability rating with their VA notification letter. 

This rating, however, is not a guarantee that the application for Social Security Disability benefits will be approved.  It only allows the veteran to have his/her claim processed in an expedited manner. 


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Waiting for Social Security Disability….

There are so many stories in the news that focus and highlight the people who abuse the Social Security Disability system.  While I am confident that such abusers exist, the news should also show the other side of the story.  So many individuals face so many difficulties while waiting for their Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI or SSI) to be awarded and paid to them.  They face foreclosure, bankruptcy, mounting medical bills.  These individuals are forced to take loans from family and friends, sell all their property, move into their cars just to feed themselves or their family.  This is the side of the story that we see in our offices so often but so rarely on the news.

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What You Need To Know About 2014 Changes to the SSDI Program

It's a new year and the Social Security Administration has made some changes to the disability program. Some of the most important changes that might influence those applying for or receiving benefits include alterations in listings and the qualification grid used to determine whether someone is eligible for benefits. 

When you apply for disability benefits, the agency reaches out to vocational experts to determine if there are any jobs in the local area for which you might be a good match. These experts are to reference a dictionary of job listings that dates all the way back to 1991 with minimal changes, meaning that there are outdated vocations inside. The lack of updates means that many more recent jobs linked to improved technology aren't included in the dictionary, either. The Social Security Administration believes that some of these more sedentary positions might be a good fit for applicants who cannot stand for long periods. Although it will likely take years for the dictionary to be revised to delete old jobs and incorporate more modern types of employment, this will undoubtedly have an influence on how vocational experts analyze applicants in the future. 

Social Security administrative law judges use a grid to evaluate the likelihood of a person receiving benefits. When an applicant has multiple compounding factors in their history, such as older age and serious medical conditions, this can be a good sign that the applicant qualifies for eligibility. A younger applicant with a less serious medical condition is less likely to receive disability benefits without the help of an experienced SSDI attorney. This grid, much like the vocational dictionary, hasn't been updated in many years and the agency hopes to revise the grid to more accurately reflect trends and conditions. 

As you can see, the process of obtaining disability benefits can be complex and is subject to change. When you need assistance, you need the insight of an experienced social security disability attorney to help you with your application. Entrust only an experienced SSDI attorney with your case. 


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When will the Administrative Law Judge hearing my Social Security Disability case tell me that my case is approved?

One of the more frequently asked questions from my clients is – “Will the Administrative Law Judge tell me that my Social Security Disability (SSDI or SSI) case is approved at the hearing?”  Unfortunately, this is not a question I can answer until the end of the hearing for my client's Social Security Disability claim.  Some Administrative Law Judges will tell you at the end of your hearing that they are going to approve your Social Security Disability case.  Many will not.  If an Administrative Law Judge does not indicate that they are going to approve your case, you will have to wait to receive the decision.  In my practice this means waiting anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months.  It is important to note that just because the Judge does not approve you for Social Security Disability benefits at the hearing does not mean that he/she will deny your claim.  There are some Judges that never approve cases verbally at the hearing.  There are also some Judges that will approve some cases at the hearing and some cases after the hearing.

If you are represented by an attorney at the hearing that is experienced in handling Social Security Disability cases, they can often give you some indication as to how they believe the judge will rule.  This is however just an educated guess as it is impossible to predict with complete certainty the way a judge will rule on your particular case - unless, of course, they state their decision at the hearing on the record.


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Disabled Workers and Social Security Disability in 2012

The Social Security Administration has released a breakdown of the most common impairments for which disabled workers were awarded benefits in 2012.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • 35.4% of awardees suffer from Muskoloskeletal system and connective tissue disorders
  • 18.0% of awardees suffer from Mental disorders
  • 10.6% of awardees suffer from diseases of the circulatory system
  • 9.5% of awardees suffer from neoplasms (commonly referred to as Cancer)
  • 8.0% of awardees suffer from diseases of the nervous system and sense organs


The remaining 18.5% of awardees had other impairments.

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What is the process for determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI or SSI) benefits?

Many people applying for Social Security Disability benefits are confused about the process the Social Security Administration (SSA) goes through in order to determine whether someone is eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. The Social Security Administration has actually laid out specific steps that they follow to determine if someone is disabled and therefore qualifies for SSD benefits. In this post, I provide a simplified description of the sequence of steps the SSA takes to evaluate whether you are disabled per Social Security’s regulations.

1.    Did you earn more than a specific amount of money since your alleged onset date of disability (the date that you claimed you became disabled)?
In this first step, the SSA will obtain a report of your earnings to determine if you have earned money since the day you claimed you became disabled. If you have earned money since the day you claim you became disabled, the SSA will look to see if the average monthly amount you earned is more than the SGA or the Substantial Gainful Activity amount for that year. This is the maximum monthly amount of money you can earn while still being eligible for SSD benefits during that period of time. This amount changes from year to year. For 2012, for example, the SGA amount is $1010 per month if you are not blind and $1690 per month if you are blind. As I mentioned, the SGA amount differs each year and you can determine the SGA amount for each year by going to the SSA.GOV website (

In general, if your average monthly earnings exceed the SGA amount for that particular year, then the SSA will determine that you are not eligible for SSD benefits. There are certain exceptions that apply to this rule and if you have been denied on this basis, you should contact an attorney experienced in handling Social Security Disability claims. If you have not earned more than the SGA amount, then SSA will move your claim to Step 2.

2.    Is the claimant’s condition “severe”?

The second step is to determine if your condition is “severe.” SSA defines a condition as “severe” if it has more than a minimal effect on your ability to do basic work activities. This is a very low threshold to meet as most impairments will have some effect on a person’s ability to perform basic work-related activities, even if the condition does not completely prevent work activities. If your condition is considered “severe”, then the SSA will progress your claim to Step 3.

3.    Does your condition meet a medical listing?

The third step in the process is to determine if your medical condition meets a medical listing. In order to meet a medical listing, specific criteria must be met which deem the condition (in and of itself) severe enough to automatically warrant SSD benefits. The SSA maintains a list of such medical conditions for each major body system, all of which can be found on the SSA website. If your condition meets a medical listing then you are considered disabled for purposes of SSD benefits. In some cases, people applying for SSD may not see their condition(s) specifically acknowledged by the SSA as a potential medical listing. In such a situation, the SSA will determine if your condition is equivalent in severity to a related medical condition that is actually on the list.
Even if their condition is listed, however, most people applying for SSD do not have a condition(s) severe enough to automatically qualify for benefits via a medical listing. If your condition does not meet a medical listing all is not lost. If your condition does not meet or equal a medical listing, the SSA will move to Step 4.

4.    Can you perform past relevant work?

If your condition does not meet or equal a medical listing, the SSA will then determine whether you are capable of performing “past relevant work.” “Past relevant work” is work performed within the previous 15 year period, assuming that it lasted long enough to be learned and was substantial gainful activity (SGA). If the answer is no (you cannot return to any past relevant work) the SSA will proceed to Step 5.

5.    Can you perform other work?

If it is determined that you cannot perform your past relevant work, the SSA will try to determine whether there is any other work you could reasonably do based on your age, education, and transferability of job skills. This decision will also be based on your residual functional capacity. This term refers to what tasks and skills an individual can still perform despite the functional limitations and restrictions caused by the physical and/or mental impairments stemming from a documented medical condition. The types of jobs that SSA can determine you are capable of performing diminishes with older age, less education and less previous work experience. That means that the older you are, the less education you have and the less previous work experience you have, the more difficult it is for the SSA to determine that there is other work that you can do. If you are unable to perform any past relevant work or any other work (based on your age, education and work experience), then you should be approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

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Disability Advocates Group is a law firm dedicated to serving individuals who have become disabled and are seeking to obtain the benefits they need and deserve. At Disability Advocates Group, we specialize in representing disabled clients in their claims for Social Security Disability Benefits.

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