Monday, September 25, 2017

Puerto Rico Needs Your Help! The SSA Must Consider Accepting More On the Record Requests from Puerto Rico

I must take a break from my weekly Social Security Lawyer postings and ask all of my readers to donate generously to the people of Puerto Rico. The Island is going through a terrible humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Below, I will provide a list of some charitable organizations that are collecting funds for the victims of the disaster. 

In the next few days, I also would like to contact my Social Security Lawyer colleagues at the National level to see if we can lobby the Social Security Administration to consider accepting more on the record requests (OTR's) from the victims of Hurricane Maria. I believe that the disaster will increase the case backlog in Puerto Rico and that holding in-person hearings is going to be extremely difficult.  

Here is a list of organizations seeking donations for Puerto Rico:

Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico
P.O. Box 191914
San Juan, PR 00919
tel: (787) 728-8500
fax: (787) 728-7099

Caritas Puerto Rico
201 Calle San Jorge
Esquina Baldorioty de Castro
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902
P.O. Box 8812, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00910-0812
787 300-4953

Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico
1719 Ave. Ponce de León
San Juan, PR 00909-1905

Hurricane Maria Children's Relief Fund
Save the Children
501 Kings Highway East, Suite 400,
Fairfield, CT 06825

Maria & Irma: Puerto Rico Real-time Recovery Fund
1511 Ave. Ponce de León Suite K, La Ciudadela
San Juan P.R. 00909

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Social Security Ruling Regarding Sickle Cell Disease (SSR 17-3p)

Some Social Security Rulings (SSR's) can be of great assistance to Social Security Disability Lawyers when they encounter a case with a medical condition that is frequently misunderstood or difficult to understand.  This is the case with SSR 15-1p, which deals with interstitial cystitis, and SSR 12-2p, which deals with fibromyalgia

Just last week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published a new ruling regarding sickle cell disease (SSR 17-3p)  For a copy of this new ruling click here.  This ruling gives social adjudicators and judges important background information on sickle cell disease and sets forth how cases involving this condition should be evaluated.  Hopefully this ruling will provide a more consistency in the decision making process.

Sickle cell is the most common inherited blood disease in the U.S..  It is believed that approximately 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease.  Despite its prevalence, this condition is not always easy to evaluate due to its many different manifestations and complications.  

One of the important aspects of SSR 17-3p is that it instructs adjudicators to evaluate sickle cell disease under the following hematological disorder listing: 7.05, 7.17 and 7.18.  The new ruling also recognizes that sickle cell can impose exertional as well as non-exertional limitations on a claimant. For example, a person with sickle cell may have pain, fatigue and shortness of breath.  The condition may also cause difficulty in maintaining concentration or have difficulty completing tasks due to pain acute pain crises.

The Social Security Administration has indicated that the effective date of this ruling is September 15, 2017, and that the SSR will apply to new applications filed on or after September 15, 2017.  This means that SSA will use this ruling on and after 9/15/17 in any case in which SSA makes a determination or decision. SSA expects that Federal courts will review SSA’s final decisions using the rules that were in effect at the time SSA issued the decisions. If a court reverses SSA’s final decision and remands a case for further administrative proceedings, SSA will apply this SSR to the entire period at issue in the decision it make after the court's remand.

Monday, September 11, 2017

RamosLaw's Long Term Disability Lawyer Video Reaches 18K Views

At RamosLaw, we believe that disability lawyers should take full advantage of social media to inform and educate the community that they serve. 

Social media has given lawyers a platform to reach communities that historically have had very little access to legal representation.  In the past, disabled individuals who were denied coverage by disability insurers such as Cigna, MetLife, Unum, the Hartford and many others, didn't know who to turn to when their benefits were denied or stopped.  Many of them would go unrepresented and some didn't know how to, --or simply couldn't--, advocate for themselves.  Disability insurers were aware of this, and took advantage of claimants who were unrepresented or were represented by lawyers who didn't have any experience working in ERISA cases.  

Now, thanks to the availability of information on the web, disability claimants have much more information available to them.  Moreover, they know that there are lawyers throughout the Nation that can represent them without any up front legal fees.

These are just some of the reasons why our office's video has has had so many views on YouTube. Please take a look at our video, comment, like it and share it:

For more information regarding our practice please visit

Monday, September 4, 2017

Social Security Failed to Send Due Process Notifications

Last week, Social Security issued a message advising its lawyers and staff that due to an apparent gross error it had failed to notify claimants and beneficiaries of certain adverse decisions, such as denial and cessation of disability benefits notice letters.  For a copy of the "Emergency Message" click here.  According to the message, it looks as if the error in sending the notices happened between September 2016 and March 2017.

As stated in a previous post, a claimant generally has 60 days to file an appeal when he or she receives a letter from social security stating that benefits have been denied. If the claimant misses the 60 day appeal period it can only file a late appeal for good cause.

According the Emergency Message, the SSA failed to send notices in all or some of the following situations:
  • Cessation of benefits letters telling the beneficiary that he or she was no longer disabled. 
  • Denial of initial applications filed by disability claimants. 
  • Letters informing a beneficiary that there has been an over payment of benefits. 
  • Letters informing a claimant that there has been a change on the onset date of disability. 
Due to the failure to send these notices many beneficiaries have no idea that their benefits have been stopped or denied. Moreover, they have no idea that they have a right to appeal these adverse decisions.

In addition, the Emergency Message tells the SSA staff: "If the beneficiary alleges he or she did not receive a notice during the relevant period, technicians should take the allegations seriously, carefully review the case and provide due process as required by existing regulations and agency policy." Given the wording on the message, if any claimant did not receive notice of a denial or cessation of benefits, he or she would clearly have a strong argument of "good cause" to file a late appeal. 

Unfortunately, the Emergency Message does not state whether or not the claimant and beneficiaries who didn't receive notices will receive a belated letter informing them of their right to appeal. At RamosLaw we believe that sending new notices would be the right thing for Commissioner Berryhill to do. We will keep our readers informed if we receive any new information regarding this issue.

At RamosLaw, we have seen a lot of problems regarding the SSA's failure to provide claimants with notice letters. We weren't sure if this was a Connecticut and Massachusetts problem or whether this was an agency-wide error. We are glad that at least the agency is acknowledging that it has widespread problems with regards to the issuance of notices.