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Knoxville Personal Injury Law Blog

How is disability is defined for Social Security purposes?

"Disability" can mean different things to different people. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows strict guidelines outlining what it means to be disabled with regard to the receipt of benefit payments. Additionally, the SSA assumes that disabled people have access to other financial resources if they are unable to work. These may include unemployment benefits, workers' compensation, family resources, and the like.

The Challenges Of Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits

Mental illness does not discriminate and affects individuals of all ages, income brackets and education levels. National statistics indicate that as many as one quarter of U.S. adults suffer with a mental illness. Despite the prevalance of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder; those who suffer with these invisible disabilities often do so in silence.

For years, a general lack of understanding and awareness created a strong social stigma around mental illness. While that sentiment is changing, many with mental health conditions still resist seeking a diagnosis or help. In cases where a mental health condition interferes with an individual's ability to work, an already difficult situation can become even more desperate.

Fatal Tennessee car wreck may lead to charges

Charges may be filed against the driver of a pickup truck involved in an early morning accident on a recent Sunday morning in June. Tennessee authorities report that the car wreck, which involved a tractor trailer and a pickup truck, happened at approximately 8:00 a.m. The two deceased victims were passengers in the pickup truck.

The accident report indicates that the driver of the pickup truck, a 44-year-old male, side-swiped the semi truck after crossing over the white line. The pickup truck then left the road and struck several trees. At the time of the accident, the semi truck was stationary next to the road, as it had broken down earlier.

Injuries leave active 65-year-old bedridden after dog attack

All states across the United States, including Tennessee, have very specific laws stipulating requirements for dog owners. When owners do not pay attention to these laws and allow their dogs to run free, the results may be costly -- for owners, victims and animals. A dog owner may find that he or she has to pay for injuries inflicted by their dog, while the dog may have to pay with its life.

In this case a 65-year-old man has not been able to walk for a month after being attacked by a dog while out riding his bicycle. According to the victim, four dogs started chasing him as he was riding along. Before he knew it, the Great Dane mix grabbed him by the leg, severely injuring his calf muscles. He was thrown from his bicycle and had to call 911 for help.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) -New Information on Student Loan Discharges for Some SSDI Beneficiaries

In April of 2016, President Obama took executive action to notify approximately 387,000 Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries of the potential eligibility to have outstanding student loan balances discharged on the basis of "total and permanent disability" (TPD). The Department of Education will send out letters to beneficiaries of their possible eligibility and will continue to do so until all individuals identified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) have been notified. The only beneficiaries who will receive notice for total and permanent disability discharge are those who the SSA has deemed "medical improvement not expected." If the SSA determines that an individual is expected to have medical improvement, they will not automatically be eligible for TPD discharge. Those other individuals may be eligible for student loan forgiveness, but they would need to submit additional proof to request discharge and the process will not be streamlined.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - SSA Clarifies New Borderline Age Rules

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently revised the POMS and HALLEX that deal with borderline age situations for claimants seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. When adjudicators are evaluating a claim under the five-step sequential evaluation process, they must consider the claimant's age in combination with his or her Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), education, and work experience. SSA considers advancing age to be an increase in the limiting factor in a claimant's ability to make such an adjustment. See POMS: DI 25015.005. The important age brackets so to speak for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI claims are age fifty, fifty-five, and sixty. If a claimant is within a few days or months of reaching a higher age category, and using the current age category would result in a denial, the adjudicator should consider using the higher age category if it would result in a favorable determination after evaluating all factors. 20 CFR ยง 404.1563 states that the ALJ must not apply the age category mechanically in a borderline situation and the case law is clear that the ALJ must at least consider applying the higher age category.

The primary clarification in POMS DI 25015.005 notes that "if a claimant is within a few days to a few months of reaching a higher age category and using the chronological age would result in a denial, consider using the higher age category if it would result in a favorable determination, after evaluating all factors..." The phrase a few days to a few months does not have a precise programmatic definition and should be interpreted by its common meaning, which is usually a small number not to exceed six months.

Responding to a car or truck accident can be hazardous

The narrow escape of four Tennessee police officers during the first week of June has highlighted the dangers involved in their jobs. Traffic and police officers who respond to a car or truck accident regularly find themselves exposed and in real danger of being hurt while responding to accidents. To date in 2016, six officers across the country have been fatally struck by vehicles.  

In the recent incident reported, the four officers were walking to their vehicles, after responding to a call, when a driver deliberately swerved toward them. All four officers managed to avoid being hit. Tennessee law requires of drivers to move away from any emergency vehicle with flashing lights. If this cannot be done safely, a driver is required to slow down to ensure the safety of the responders.

Tennessee car wreck kills 1, injures 3

An accident between two vehicles during the early hours of the morning of the last Monday in May led to one fatality. The car wreck was reported to Tennessee authorities at approximately 2:40 a.m. on the specific Monday. Three people, including two children, were injured in the accident.

According to the traffic authorities, the 20-year-old deceased driver was speeding when he crossed into the northbound lane of the road on which he was traveling. He struck the second vehicle, driven by a 20-year-old female, head-on. She and both her passengers, a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old, were injured in the accident.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - New Social Security Ruling Regarding Evaluation of Symptoms

A new ruling has been published by the Social Security Administration (SSA) affecting claimants seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The SSA published SSR 16-3p - "Evaluation of Symptoms and Disability Claims" meant to supersede SSR 96-7p. The primary change in the new ruling is that it does not contain the word "credibility," except to state that the agency is limiting the use of that term. SSR 96-7p used the word credibility or credible more than fifty times and the agency's decision to change focus of the ruling from credibility to evaluating "statements regarding intensity, persistence, and limiting effect of symptoms." The SSA notes that the adjective "credible" is problematic because the evaluation of the claimant's subjective symptoms is not an examination of the claimant's character. The new ruling states that "adjudicators will not assess an individual's overall character or truthfulness in the manner typically used during an adversarial court litigation.

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims, the focus of evaluation of an individual's symptoms "should not be to determine whether he or she is a truthful person..." The thrust of the new ruling is that adjudicators consider all evidence in a claimant's record when evaluating intensity and persistence of symptoms after finding that the individual has a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce those symptoms. The evaluation leads to a determination as to how the symptoms limit the individual's ability to perform work-related functions. The new ruling directs adjudicators to explain fully their reasoning and no longer to offer vague and unsupported statements like "I find the claimant to be not entirely credible."

 

 

Workplace injury data soon readily available

As of August 10, many employers involved in industries considered high risk will have to change their ways when it comes to reporting on their workplace safety in order to comply with a new rule issued by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration. According to the federal agency, statistics indicate that in excess of three million workers in the United States suffer workplace injury or even illness yearly. The new OSHA rule focuses on modernizing data collection related to injuries and/or illnesses suffered by workers across the country, including Tennessee.

Employers, specifically those in certain high risk industries, will be required to electronically submit information pertaining to work-related illnesses and injuries. It will then be made available on the website of the agency. So far, this kind of data has not been available. Before, employers were required to keep the data for their own use, but they were not required to provide it to OSHA or make it public. Rather, it was purely to assist industries to improve their own safety.

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