Topic: Administrative Law Judge Hearing

Hypochondria and the Social Security Disability Beneficiary: Part II — Strategies

March 12, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

As a hypochondriac who’s in desperate need of Social Security Disability benefits to pay for critical care, drugs and therapies, living expenses, and so forth, you face a peculiar bind.

On the one hand, you are sick — sick enough to qualify for government assistance and maybe so sick/disabled that you may never return to your former employment or quality of life.

On the other hand, you know your anxiety about your health is, at least in some sense, overblown — or at least unproductive. Even if you have something terminal, you want to be able to live your life without being constantly bombarded with negative thoughts and fears. In other words, you would like to increase the efficacy of your thinking and reduce the ambient noise and drama of it.

Here are a few ideas for how to think more constructively.

1. If you haven’t started journaling, start journaling, ASAP.

We’ve talked a lot on this North Carolina Social Security Disability blog about why people should journal and how people should journal. But the message needs repeating. Your minute to minute mental chatter can lead you into a kind of mental cul-de-sac. You wind up making the same observations and having the same thoughts again and again — and these observations and thoughts are neither pleasant, nor particularly constructive.

When you journal, on the other hand, you can spit these observations and thoughts out onto paper and manage them in a more objective fashion, much as you might manage the complaints and fears of a close friend who came to you for help. Journaling also helps you track your symptoms, feelings, and fears. By gathering data, you can begin to make resourceful choices.

First of all, you have a record to show your physician, so he or she can reassess or refine your treatment based on what’s working or what isn’t working for you. Secondly, you can adjust your own routines and behaviors to be more constructive. For instance, maybe you discover, through journaling, that you can stop the hypochondria by watching your favorite movie or getting on the phone with your mom or whatever.

2. Research and learn about the condition as something apart from your main illness/injury.

When you are legitimately sick or hurt, it’s easy to come to believe that your hypochondriacal thoughts are always legitimate because you really DO need to be vigilant about your health. But you might find it resourceful to conceptualize the problem differently. You might also benefit from getting psychological treatment to work on your anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, or whatever else may be stimulating the hypochondriacal response.

3. Get clarity on your SSD benefits situation.

When people endure uncertainty, they tend to feel stress and anxiety, and this strain can translate into somatic symptoms, which can provoke hypochondriacal responses and even cause physical damage due to the excess cycling of cortisone or other stress hormones.

When you work with an experienced Social Security Disability law firm, like DeMayo Law, you may gain clarity on your benefits situation, which can cascade down to relieve some of the stress and anxiety.

For help understanding what to do about your benefits, get in touch with us today at 1.877.529.1222 for a friendly and free consultation.

Surviving the Social Security Disability Journey: The Art of Creative Improvisation

February 28, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

As you move forward on your journey through the Social Security Disability process, you will encounter surprising obstacles, and, more hopefully, serendipitous opportunities to possibly improve your fortune and speed up your recovery from illness.

So how should you find these opportunities and surface these obstacles? What can you do to gain clarity on your situation and feel more in control?

One tool to use is creative improvisation.

Most Social Security Disability beneficiaries believe that their problems flow from a lack of resources — physical resources (e.g. you are too sick and tired); relationship resources (e.g. you don’t have enough of a social support network); or financial resources (e.g. you don’t have money to pay for your bills, house, medical care, etc.)

No doubt, you may have extremely limited resources. However, by cultivating your inner resourcefulness, you can often find solutions to challenges that currently seem intractable — perhaps impossible to break through.

Let’s talk through an example.

Let’s say you only have $200 a month to spend on food.

Until you get Social Security Disability benefits (if you can get them), you are strapped. You can’t afford to eat out, and you might feel compelled by your lack of resources to eat really low quality food because that’s the only stuff that you can afford.

However, if you get really resourceful and creative, you can find solutions. For instance, if your monthly budget for food is just $200 a month, that means you have just a little over $6 a day to spend on food. That’s not much, and the unresourceful person might be tempted to eat a lot of empty calories, like soda pop or boxed pasta and rice. Those foods aren’t very nutritious.

But you could get creative! For instance, maybe you could find a great all-you-can restaurant and make a regular habit of eating one very, very, very big meal a day — healthy foods, of course! (An added benefit: so-called “intermittent fasting” may have certain health benefits, especially with respect to insulin sensitivity).

Or… you could pitch a local restaurant owner on an arrangement, wherein your write very positive (but ethical) reviews of their cuisine in exchange for discounts on meals or something along those lines.

You can also tap into local food pantry programs… and on and on.

The point is that your inner resourcefulness is a powerful tool, and the more you cultivate this resourcefulness, the more you will feel back in control of your life and destiny, irrespective of what happens regarding your benefits. All that said, you probably do want to find a good Social Security Disability law firm. Please connect with the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation by calling us at (877) 529-1222.

Big Update to Social Security Disability Compassionate Allowance Program — 35 Additional Components Approved

February 26, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Big breaking news in the world of Social Security Disability law: the Social Security Administration (SSA) has expanded its popular Compassionate Allowances Program (CAL) to include 35 more conditions, bringing the total number of conditions to 200.

Depending on the nature of your ailment and its severity, you may qualify for benefits within just days as opposed to months or longer. If you qualify for the CAL program, you can bypass the typical detailed investigative process that the typical claims applicant needs to go through.

The CAL program dates back to 2008. At first, only 50 ailments qualified for this fast track approval. The initiative has been updated multiple times since then — last April, administrators added over 50 new conditions to the short list. The collaborative process that updates this program draws upon knowledge from medical professionals, scientists, and Social Security Disability beneficiaries themselves, along with research from the National Institutes of Health.

The new disease additions include Roberts Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome, aplastic anemia, adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and other serious cancers and neurological conditions. For a full catalog of conditions covered under the Compassionate Allowances program, please visit the CAL’s official website.

If you’re confused about whether you might qualify either for the CAL program or for Social Security Disability in general, connect with us for clearheaded and thorough insight into your case. The team here at The Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo would be happy to provide a smart, complete and strategic evaluation of your case and give you good guidance about what to do (and what not to do) to maximize your chances for getting your claim accepted and minimizing the stresses and often needless hassles. Call us now for assistance at (877) 529-1222.

Does It Feel Like Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Case is Taking Too Long? (Perhaps You Need to Slow Down!)

February 14, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

You are sick, injured, and finically desperate. You want your North Carolina Social Security Disability benefits to kick in right away — yesterday, if possible.

While a savvy and thorough social security disability law firm, like DeMayo Law, can help you with the process, including advocating for you at Reconsideration or an Administrative Law Judge Hearing, no law firm can work miracles. You may have to wait weeks or even months for clarity about your benefit situation.

Those words can sound harsh, but that is the reality for some claimants.

So what should you do to make the waiting period less agonizing and uncertain?

On this North Carolina social security disability law blog, we talk a lot about the importance of embracing uncertainty and of using various self-reflection tools to surface and eliminate sources of anxiety and frustration. For instance, in past blog posts, we have talked about using the Five Whys, journaling, and leveraging the insights of mentors to strategically address some of the “stuff” that makes would-be beneficiaries so anxious.

But if you really want to speed up time — to bypass the waiting period and press fast forward on your life — please stop and reconsider. Try this other strategy. It’s going to sound trite at first, but don’t dismiss it off hand.

Focus on your blessings.

What are the blessings in your present life? Forget about your pain, destitution, uncertainty, and anger for a minute, and contemplate all the joyous things in your life right now. If you’re pessimist, your first instinct might be to say “all my joyous things have been taken away by the accident/illness.” But if you’re comfortable, ask yourself to dig a little deeper. Your eyesight is good enough to read these words. Your brain is healthy enough to understand the concepts being presented to you. If you haven’t yet found a good attorney, the DeMayo law firm is just a click or phone call away. If your case hasn’t been decided yet, you have at least an ember of hope that you will collect benefits — and perhaps much more than that. Even if you have a fatal diagnosis, you can still give thanks for the air that you will breathe for the time that you have left on this planet. By focusing on what you have — instead of what you lack — and doing so repeatedly and consciously, you will slow down the pace of life and also enjoy the journey towards collecting benefits, even if this was a journey you never wanted to go on.

This counterintuitive advice is well worth repeating: when life feels too slow, slow it down EVEN MORE and smell the flowers.

3 Tips for Working Better with Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Law Firm

February 12, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’re on the verge of retaining a social security disability attorney to help you cut the Gordian knot that has become your SSD claim. You are just too tired, sick, and overwhelmed with the bureaucracy — trying to parse the “should’s” from the “should not’s” with respect to your claim — and you want a trusted, experienced entity, like the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, to lead you to clarity and protect your ability to collect benefits.

What “best practices” should you follow while working with a social security disability attorney or law firm? Here are 3 ideas:

1. Be honest, forthcoming, and fully disclosing.

You may have a checkered medical history or other issues regarding your past jobs, personal history, or whatever. You may feel reticent — perhaps even deeply ashamed — to reveal this information to anyone, even an attorney in confidence. But do NOT hide key information from your lawyer. If you fail to disclose key facts — for instance, maybe you were convicted of healthcare fraud as a young man or woman — and your lawyer doesn’t know, then you can accidentally crush your hopes of getting benefits. Protect yourself by being honest.

2. Got a question (or many questions)? Write them down!

Throughout the claims process, you will no doubt encounter dozens, even hundreds, of questions. Instead of calling the attorney’s office every hour in a haphazard fashion, write down the questions on a word document or in a notebook, so that you and your legal team can process them in an organized fashion. Document your journey — over document, if you need to. Doing so will keep you focused, give you peace of mind, and help you work more seamlessly with your team.

3. Ask for diverse help.

A good social security disability law firm can not only help you with the nuts and bolts of your claim but also with diverse and dynamic problems related to your claim.

For instance, maybe you’re having trouble finding a good doctor or financial advisor to see you through this difficult period. Maybe you don’t have any friends or family in the area to advise you. You’re not the first person who has gone through this experience, and your law firm should be able to connect you with many different types of resources in your local community (in Charlotte or wherever) to get clear headed answers.

Rebounding After Your Social Security Disability Claim Gets Rejected

January 31, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

No one likes to be rejected. We human beings have a deep drive to “belong” — to win acceptance and approval from other people. This is true, whether you’re a 6-year-old adapting to a new elementary school or an elderly adult filing a North Carolina Social Security Disability claim.

When we’re hit with a rejection, for whatever reason, we tend to take it personally. For instance, perhaps you suffer from a terrible intestinal disease that’s made it difficult for you to work and bring in an income. You’ve seen doctor after doctor after doctor. You now take a veritable truckload of medications. And you’re still in pain, confused and scared about your prognosis. Even though you’ve suffered tangible physical harm, and you literally cannot work, you may — to your great dismay — find that your Social Security Disability claim gets rejected, for whatever reason.

That hurts on a number of fronts.

First off, you need a cash flow to pay for your medications, buy food to eat and keep a roof over your head. Secondly, you may feel greatly aggrieved at the lack of empathy for your profound pain. How could anyone who understood “what it’s like to be you” possibly reject your claim? Lastly, you may feel resentful of other people who’ve successfully navigated the Social Security Disability maze. You wonder: what did those people do differently? You may get angry at the Social Security Disability bureaucracy… or even at the person who nixed your claim.

These are normal, human feelings. But they can get in your way. Right now, you need to think less about how unfair life has been and more about your optimal steps, tactically and strategically, to get benefits and to rebuild your life.

In other words, you need to cultivate a spirit of resilience.

That can be a tall order, especially if you’re physically and emotionally run down already. But you might be surprised by how even just a little help — and a little positive news — can turn your distress around. First of all, Social Security claimants get multiple opportunities to press for benefits. If your Administrative Law Judge hearing went badly, you can still win at Reconsideration.

Likewise, even in the worst case scenario — i.e. you get no benefits at all — odds are overwhelming that you’re missing “hidden opportunities” to leverage your current resources to make your situation somewhat easier. For instance, maybe you currently live alone. But you could — at least theoretically — sell your home and move in with your sister or with a close friend.

To make sense of your possibilities, and to fight back against a rejected Social Security Disability claim, get in touch with the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo today for a confidential and thorough consultation.

Creating a “Plan B” for your Social Security Disability Claim Quest

January 24, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

You hope to qualify for Social Security Disability to collect money to pay for your bills and medical care. It’s a difficult time for you, even if you have help. The stresses of the medical treatment alone can make you feel miserable and helpless. Furthermore, your quest for Social Security Disability benefits is by no means a sure thing, even if you cannot work and you have supportive medical documentation. Some claimants wait months, if not years, before they collect benefits. Others go through a traumatic rigmarole, only to find their hopes dashed.

Even if you prevail, the uncertainty during the intermediary weeks can lead to stress, which in turn can hamper your immune system and exacerbate your illness. You need some tools to help you deal with your situation. Here’s an idea for you. Create a Plan B.

What’s a “Plan B”?

A Plan B is an alternative, secondary method of solving a problem. You begin by assuming that your Plan A fails. Then you construct an alternative scenario that meets all or most of your critical needs. For instance, your Plan A might be to succeed with your claim and get cash flow ASAP. But your needs underlying the claim might be met in different ways. For instance, you need shelter from the elements. So you may want benefits to help pay your rent or mortgage. You could find alternative ways of shielding yourself from the elements, though — e.g. move in with a friend or relative; or sell your place and buy a smaller place.

Arming yourself with a Plan B gives you a greater sense of psychological freedom. Here’s how to construct one. First, make a list of all the things that you believe that the Social Security Disability money will do for your life – e.g. pay for your medical bills, keep you in your home, relieve your financial stress, et cetera. Next, brainstorm how to address these needs, if you don’t win your case. Get creative! Then edit the brainstorming and compile your plans in a “Plan B” document to review and update as need be.

Just having this document with you will give you a boost: you’ll know that, no matter what happens, your basic needs will be met.

For help with “Plan A,” get in touch with the DeMayo Law team today by calling us or connecting with us through our website.

Why Don’t My Friends and Family Understand How Hard It Is to Live on Social Security Disability?

January 22, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Social Security Disability claimants — or would-be claimants — are often greeted with a surprising lack of empathy from friends, colleagues, and even family members.

People close to you may intellectually appreciate that you’re struggling with a serious illness. But that intellectual understanding may not translate into loving or tender care. This is especially true if you suffer from a debilitating mental condition, such as schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety. When people can see that you’ve been injured — e.g. you can no longer walk; or your hair is falling out due to chemotherapy — they tend to be more understanding. But when they cannot see visible signs of your pain, they can become surprisingly impatient. This also happens to back pain sufferers. Back pain can be felt (excruciatingly), but others cannot easily “see” the injury.

This lack-of-empathy problem can be particularly devastating, if you have a history of ailments or other “issues.” For instance, perhaps you owe child support payments. Your ex-spouse may accuse you of exaggerating or even making up your illness to win sympathy and get out of paying your share. Or maybe you have a history of a drug and alcohol addiction. People in your life may believe that you’re “indulging” your injury/illness as a kind of side effect of your rehab or treatment.

Avoid getting caught up in other people’s expectations or judgments!

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Truth be told, you may find it very difficult to make active, accurate progress on your Social Security Disability case by yourself, especially given your lack of knowledge regarding “best practices” for filing a claim. Rather than start off at a disadvantage, get in touch with the DeMayo Law team today for a free consultation about your rights and potentially diverse remedies. Our team can provide the support you desperately need to get a handle on what you’ve been going through.

Persistence: A Magic Word for Getting Through Your Social Security Disability Crisis

January 10, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’ve been flabbergasted by the disorganization of the Social Security Disability system, you have company!

Sadly, more and more Americans every year apply for disability. Experts debate why. One factor is demographic: as the Baby Boomer generation ages and retires at a rapid rate, the social safety net feels more weight. Other problems lurk. For instance, rates of degenerative diseases of civilization, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes), have reached epidemic proportions. The spike in preventable chronic diseases has really taxed the Federal government’s infrastructure.

Other potential reasons for the Social Security Disability “mess” include:

•    Bureaucratic incompetence;
•    Insurance company shenanigans;
•    Bad doctors and hospital processes;
•    Undereducated patients

The theoretical dynamics may be interesting, in an academic sense, but you don’t have much time/interest in parsing theory. You lack the time, energy or wherewithal to figure out the “big picture” problems — you just want fair compensation, a simple procession through the system, and honest and clear communication.

The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo can help you gain clarity on your Social Security Disability situation. Whether you’re scrambling to prepare for Reconsideration or an Administrative Law Judge hearing — and you’re baffled by the process — or you’re still just investigation your diagnosis, our team can candidly, empathetically help you get clear and stay on course with a responsible strategy.

Persistence — hard-headedness even — can be a great weapon, as you face down your diverse Social Security Disability related problems. But you must combine persistence with intelligence. It’s great to “refuse to back down” regarding your health and welfare. But you also want to avoid reinventing the wheel. The DeMayo Law team possesses deep and practical knowledge of how to make the system work. Even if we can’t force the system to “play fair” instantly, we can introduce you to best practices and get you feeling a lot more confident about what your future might hold. Connect with us today for a complimentary consultation.

Is the North Carolina Social Security Disability Debate Poised to Move in a Radically New Direction?

January 8, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

Many policy wonks who study Social Security Disability in North Carolina and beyond believe that change to the SSD program will come glacially.

Yes, more people enter the queue every year. Yes, financial and bureaucratic problems persist. Yes, some extremely vulnerable people receive horrible care. But most experts still believe that the system will only change gradually. There will never be a lightning-quick “flash point” that will send the Social Security Disability system in a radically new direction.

But perhaps our confidence in such a gradual evolution is misplaced!

Here’s why. A bit of background, first:

In evolutionary theory, biologists recognize two discrete types of evolution: graduated and punctuated. In graduated evolution, species or other objects (e.g. memes or computer programs) change incrementally in response to selection pressures. Tens of millions of years ago, for instance, humans, dogs, and cats all likely had a common evolutionary ancestor. Over the glacial process of natural selection, our three species split off and gradually grew distinct. There was no moment in time where a dog-man gave birth to a dog, for instance, or something similarly extreme.

Punctuated evolution, however, also exists! It also explains many phenomena in nature, economics and beyond. Punctuated evolution is dramatic – like a lightning strike. For instance, according to author Julian Jaynes, human consciousness evolved via a punctuated evolutionary process. In the “Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,” Jaynes argues that human evolution had been proceeding along at a stately pace, when, all of a sudden, consciousness emerged, almost instantly. Something from nothing. Deux ex machina.

Getting back to the Social Security Disability system… perhaps we can find analogues to punctuated evolution in the world of policy. For instance, the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers radically and decisively altered America’s foreign policy. In an instant, everything shifted. Likewise, the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut may have already radically altered the national political conversation about gun control.

It stands to reason that an unforeseeable event may similarly radically change the Social Security Disability Program.

All this theoretical stuff may be interesting, but if you’re sick or injured, you want answers, not speculation. The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo would be happy to discuss your case and give you a step-by-step, guided strategy to maximize your quest for Social Security Disability benefits.

Waiting and Waiting and Waiting for Your Social Security Disability Claim

January 3, 2013, by Michael A. DeMayo

An illness rendered you sick and unable to work. You’re desperate for Social Security Disability benefits. How difficult will it be to make a claim? Will you ever get over the illness and move on with the rest of your life?

The Social Security Disability system is surprisingly complicated, and the queue for benefits seems to be getting longer each year. You can find ways around the traffic jam — such as the Compassionate Allowances program, which helps very sick people (e.g. those diagnosed with late stage cancers) “skip ahead” in the queue. But many people who desperately need benefits often do not receive attentive, empathetic care from the system. This lack of care can create all sorts of additional stresses and even worsen the primary illness/injury.

So what should you do?

First of all, consider obtaining allies on your quest to claim benefits. The team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo has tremendous experience helping people like you get Social Security Disability in North Carolina. We are ethical, effective, and resourceful. We can also hook you up with additional resources to make your situation significantly less challenging and scary.

Even with best care, and a great law firm on your team, you may find your situation perplexing at times. To gain clarity and calm, spend time thinking about what you want to achieve in your life regarding your health, finances and other goals.

What would “life success” look like to you?

Focus on images of what you want to bring into your life, and brainstorm shortcuts to reaching that nirvana. Obviously, your focusing on a pleasant outcome will not necessarily wish such an outcome into existence! But far too many Social Security Disability claimants (and would be claimants) spend far too much time focusing on what they don’t have or what they have lost.

That kind of pessimistic, “I don’t have enough” thinking can harm you and make you depressed. Understand that you have agency. The more that you exercise your sense of control over your environment — and future — the more empowered you will feel, and the better choices you’ll make.

Accepting the Uncertainty of Your Charlotte Social Security Disability Claim

December 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You want a resolution regarding your North Carolina Social Security Disability case – ASAP, if not sooner.

Although you’d really like to collect money, you’d almost (in a sense) welcome even a rejection of your claim, because at least then you’d have some clarity about your future. If you knew that you’d never collect benefits, for instance, you’d be forced to come up with a “Plan B” to pay for your living expenses, care, and so forth.

People hate to live in limbo. We want clarity. Without clarity and constraints, we find it hard to function. This is why we build guardrails on our roads and why we discipline our kids. Structure that confines us, appropriately, in some sense also frees us.

On the other hand, uncertainty is a fact of life: it’s fundamental to the human condition. Your life can be ordered and organized to the maximum, but a strange diagnosis, car crash, or even an asteroid landing on your house can destroy the game plan and force you to reassess everything.

The notion that we can “plan everything” is just not supported by reality. This isn’t to say that people should not strive for clarity — or take advantage of knowledgeable resources, like the law firm of Michael A. DeMayo. Quite to the contrary! Indeed, the quest for clarity, itself, can yield immense benefits. You can’t just sit there and let the forces of chaos bother you.

Ultimately, we need balance — we must embrace chaos and order simultaneously. Most people are far less comfortable with uncertainty than they could be. The degree to which you can find inner peace and balance — even as your quest for Social Security Disability remains in limbo — in many respects represents the degree to which you’ll be happy, no matter what happens.

For help understanding how to maximize your benefits, get in touch with the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo now for a confidential evaluation of your case.

What If Your Only Income Was North Carolina Social Security Disability… And You Had No Arms? How Would You Survive?

December 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’re exploring or fighting for social security disability benefits in North Carolina. Your situation is hard, complicated, and confusing. You’re stressed about what might happen if you fail to collect benefits (or enough benefits), an agitation compounded by your medical woes, overall financial problems, and the emotional strain.

Believe it or not, some people have it worse!

Consider the case of Ty Williams, a North Carolina social security disability beneficiary who collects $962 a month. That’s Mr. Williams’ only income. Oh, and he is a double amputee.

His base line situation could be no metric be considered “easy.”

Yet forces beyond his control have conspired to make his problems even worse. Social Security gave him a raise earlier this year – ostensibly a good thing – but the 3% raise bumped him over North Carolina’s Medicaid cap, which legally compels Mr. Williams to pay a $700 per month deductible to keep his (obviously very necessary) in-home care. In an interview with NBC Charlotte, Williams admitted that this added burden would essentially forced him into a nursing home.

The state ostensibly solved this issue earlier in the year, by untethering Medicaid caps from federal cost of living adjustments (COLAs). Problem solved? Not so fast. The firm that pays for Williams’ caregivers slapped him with a past due bill for over $1000 and informed him that if he failed to pay the balance by the end of November, “his contract … and care … would be terminated.”

Fortunately, there may be a happy ending yet to Mr. Williams’ North Carolina social security disability odyssey. NBC’s Charlotte I team has goaded both Mecklenburg County Commissioners and North Carolina Legislators to deal with this issue, so that Mr. Williams and others who are similarly positioned won’t be disastrously afflicted.

Williams’ situation illustrates how fights over SSD or SSI income can easily lead to dire outcomes. When your finances are literally hanging by a thread – and you are dependent on federal government largess for support – you lose agency, and small problems (such as an overdue bill for $1000) can metastasize into enormous, life changing events.

If you’ve been confused and scared about what might happen to your benefits, get in touch with the DeMayo law team today to explore possible avenues toward success.

Metastasized Breast Cancer? It Could Still Take a Year Before an Administrative Law Judge Hears the Case!

December 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

11 million people collect Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina and elsewhere every year.

The queue is long.

The process of securing success is littered with obstacles, both visible and invisible. We’d like to think that our benefits system is fair – that the most needy and sick get attended to first. However, that’s sometimes not the case. A recent Arizona Republic news piece highlights just how unfair the process can sometimes be.

A mother of two, Adria Howard, was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. The illness stopped her from being able to work. So she applied for Social Security Disability. Her application got rejected without an explanation. She sought an appeal, only to discover that she might need to wait up to a year before the Administrative Law Judge hears her case. Meanwhile, her chemotherapy has caused constant pain, and her bills continue to stack up and cause stress.

The Baby Boomers are graying. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic diseases, like diabetes, hypertension, and heart trouble. These two issues have stoked the horrifically long queue. Although the SSD program’s administrators have taken steps to expedite the claims process, many people still struggle. Part of the problem is, of course, the paperwork. You need to be super accurate. Even small errors, or lack of sufficient documentation of your disability, can lead to your claim getting stuck or rejected.

Getting Help Early in the Process Is the Key

Talk to an experienced Charlotte social security disability law firm about your options. A little accurate knowledge can inoculate you against problems that affect all too many beneficiaries. Getting clarity on your situation can reduce your stress. When we don’t understand what our future might hold – when we operate from a knowledge deficit – we stress more and make rash decisions that doom our quest. Clarity is the key to handling your claim and managing the diverse problems associated with your injury/illness.

The Importance of Considering Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Case from Multiple, Novel Angles

December 6, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’re vexed by a problem regarding your Social Security Disability benefits.

Maybe you’ve tried and failed to get on the Compassionate Allowances list. Perhaps your benefits have been denied – or they are on the verge of being denied. Alternatively, perhaps you have been able to collect some money, but you’re unsure how to protect those benefits and carefully follow all the rules, so that you maintain your safety net.

Most beneficiaries (or would-be beneficiaries) lack perspective on the depth and breadth of their medical and financial challenges. They also lack the time and energy to think effectively about them. As a result, they wind up defaulting into old patterns, which deliver old results.

As Albert Einstein and other great thinkers have pointed out, to get fundamentally different results from a system or process, you need to approach that system or process from a perspective that’s fundamentally novel.

Outsourcing to experts can be a way to break through.

For instance, say you’ve been struggling to collect benefits or understand even how the SSD process works. Consider outsourcing that task to a trusted North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm. Or maybe you’ve been having trouble budgeting your living expenses. Perhaps you could outsource that task to a personal financial advisor.

To get new solutions, you need not always solicit the services of outside experts, however!

You can also “work this process” yourself, but you need to do so in a very specific, structured way. The brain uses two different cognitive apparati to solve problems: the brainstorming brain “goes diverse” to generate options, and the analytical brain hones and tests these options.

If you mix brainstorming and analyzing, you are likely to get a muddle. To gain new perspective on your current problems, first spend some time just brainstorming. Focus your question before you start brainstorming. “How can I get my cost of living down?” is far less evocative than a more specific question like “How can I get my monthly fixed expenses under $5,000 a month?” The more specificity you add – and the most constraints you put on your goal – the easier it will be to come up with novel, innovative, and potentially hugely powerful solutions.

Of course, you need not go through this process by yourself. Connect with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo for detailed, compassionate assistance with your Social Security Disability problem.

3 Signs You Need Help from a North Carolina Social Security Disability Law Firm

November 15, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’ve been dazzled or confused about the Social Security Disability system, a specialized North Carolina law firm might be a great ally in your quest for justice and fairness. Certain people need legal help more than others.

Here are 3 signs that you likely should get legal help ASAP:

1. Your initial attempts to get compensation have backfired.

Maybe you failed to understand eligibility requirements. Perhaps your claim was denied because you poorly executed your paperwork. Or maybe there is a deeper, more subtle reason that a well-equipped law firm can surface and resolve.

2. You’re disorganized — unable to track critical calendar reminders.

Especially in tricky cases — involving claim denials and stringent eligibility requirements — you could be at risk of making a critical error or omission. Many Charlotte Social Security Disability claimants (or would be claimants) are exhausted, emotionally overwhelmed, physically, and even cognitively impaired. If you have any of those problems, you can benefit from talking to a strategic law firm.

3. You’re unaware of mission critical legal or filing guidelines, eligibility requirements, etc.

Unfortunately, in the “game” of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income, what you don’t know can hurt you. Theoretically, the system should be navigable even by uneducated, fatigued, and unsavvy citizens. But in practice, the SSD bureaucracy is complicated, and you may benefit hugely from good guidance.

Whether you retain the services of the DeMayo Law team or not, consider seeking legal help with your case, particularly if you face any complex or uncertain issues. “Complexities” often emerge only after you’ve started down the process.

Why It’s Important to Find Good Help Now — Not Later

Your ability to obtain appropriate benefits can have profound ramifications not only in terms of your ability to keep your house, get good medical care, and control over your finances, but also in terms of managing your overall state of mind during these challenging times.

What Reddit Can Teach You about How to Maximize Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Claim

November 8, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The online social community Reddit has ìup votedî its way into the zeitgeist. Whether you’re filing a North Carolina Social Security Disability claim or simply struggling to figure out what to do after an injury or illness that’s knocked you out of work, odds are that you’ve spent some time on Reddit (or similar sites) distracting yourself from your painful reality. It’s fun to laugh at cats doing odd things, trade conspiracy theories, and engage in needless banter (or trolling) with other anonymous Reddit users.

But can Reddit’s existence tell you anything meaningful about how to be a better Social Security Disability claimant?

Perhaps. Here are three takeaways.

1. Our problems are more alike than we realize.

The interesting thing about Reddit is how it exposes the hopes, fears, tribulations, etc of people from around the world. What makes people laugh? Well, according to reddit: cats and also weirdly doctored pictures of Nicolas Cage and the so-called overly attached girlfriend (OAG). What makes people really angry and impassioned? Debates about whether God exists or not. Etc.

You may think that your particular problems with Social Security Disability are so out there or unique that they are insoluble. But that’s almost uncertainly not the case. Almost certainly, your situation is more average – even boring – than you realize.

2. A team of impassioned individuals can often achieve far more than even the most committed single individual.

If you’ve ever checked out some of Reddit’s AMAs (Ask Me Anythings) – during which special guests answer a flurry of questions from the Reddit community – you will notice how wide ranging and passionate the discussion can become. When people are truly committed about a topic, they can often surprise even though the world’s foremost experts on it. That’s why it’s helpful to have a North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm, such as the team at DeMayo Law, to analyze your situation to come up with the new and better ways of approaching it.

3. The cream rises to the top.

Yes, sites like Reddit are full of ìinjusticesî – just like the Social Security Disability system isn’t always fair. However, in general, at least according to most observers of the social media site, ìgood stuffî gets up-voted to the front page, while ìbad stuffî gets down voted into oblivion. Likewise, legitimate Social Security Disability claims in general can succeed, while scammy or illegitimate or poorly assembled claims get denied.

To metaphorically “up vote” your claim, get in touch with the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo today for a free consultation.

Will Social Security Disability Be Affected by the Presidential Election?

October 25, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

It’s coming down to the wire here in the North Carolina and elsewhere, as Governor Romney and President Obama battle to become the 44th President of the United States. What will the election results mean for North Carolina social security disability beneficiaries? More specifically: Will the reelection of Obama — or the new election of Romney — in any way substantially change the federal benefits program in a way that impacts your life?

No one has a crystal ball, so we can’t conclusively say anything. However, it’s highly unlikely that the election will massively change the Social Security disability program, at least in the short-term, in a way that radically upsets your life, for better or for worse.

Obviously, pundits on both sides of the aisle will try to make the case that “their guy” will help the program, while the “other guy” will hurt it and thus cause you pain. There’s not enough space on this blog to even identify all the arguments and counter-arguments on both sides, let alone address them or refute them at any meaningful level of detail.

That being said, people who spend their time thinking about the Social Security disability program — and helping beneficiaries like you make the system work for them — understand that big federal programs are not easily changed or modified. That’s for better and for worst.

What it means is that, if the pundits have made you anxious about your benefits, you can breathe a little easier. In fact, if you get too distracted by political sideshows, you might miss out opportunities to take action in your own life to radically improve your financial outlook, medical situation, and even at level of happiness.

This isn’t to say that you should ignore your benefits issues. (And if you’re struggling to make headway with an Administrative Law Judge hearing, Reconsideration, or any other point of the process, the DeMayo law team can offer you tested guidance.) Just recognize that you have limited time and energy, especially now that you are sick or injured.

Use your energy and time wisely. Spend time doing things you love, improving yourself, understanding your condition better, reaching out to friends and family, etc. Don’t waste it worrying about whether events that you cannot control might have some incremental influence on your financial situation 5 or 10 years into the future.

Being Young and on Social Security Disability in Charlotte or Elsewhere

October 23, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Picture in your mind someone who’s on Social Security Disability in North Carolina.

Whether you conjured up a man or woman, you likely pictured an elderly person, likely struggling with multiple medical conditions, such as Type II diabetes and joint and back problems. Odds are, you did not picture an ill (but otherwise vibrant looking) 30-something or 20-something. But thousands of young people in North Carolina and elsewhere need and receive North Carolina Social Security disability benefits, and thousands more apply for these benefits every year.

After all, any worker at any age can get seriously sick or fall ill.

Sadly, however, the stigma of asking for help – particularly help normally associated with older Americans – can drive needy, perhaps even desperate young North Carolinians away from taking positive action.

It’s not a sign of weakness – rather a sign of strength.

You might fear that applying for benefits will lead you to be harassed, mocked, or otherwise humiliated. Or maybe you’re just worried about being further isolated from your peers, who are out cavorting at bars or raising families. Understand that seeking help when you’ve been waylaid by serious injury or illness is an act of courage, and you should be commended.

Also, understand that your challenges may be far less daunting than you realize.

The hardest part about getting help is accepting your current reality. The second hardest part is identifying how you want your world to change in light of this new information. You clearly want to obtain benefits, dispatch with your medical issues, and get your life “back on track” – whatever that means.

•    So what does your most positive outcome look like?
•    What resources do you need to get there?
•    Can a North Carolina Social Security disability law firm, like DeMayo law, help you deal with questions about your benefits or struggles with an insurance company?

Although you may feel victimized, now is the time for you to act in precisely the opposite way – act as someone who has agency, intelligence, independence and power to do what’s needed to change your life and circumstances.

The Charlotte Social Security Disability Puzzle: Where Do You Begin?

October 18, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Your mission to collect Charlotte social security disability is anything but simple. Indeed, the number of projects associated with your benefits quest alone could probably fill an Excel sheet or two. Let’s just review some of the personal crises that might be ìtop of mindî for you right now:

•    You are worried/scared about an upcoming verdict on your social security disability case at reconsideration or administrative law judge hearing or elsewhere in the process;
•    You are financially overtaxed and under supported, and you’re genuinely concerned about how you will pay the rent and keep the lights on over the winter;
•    You’re an emotional wreck because of all the financial and physical stresses – and because you haven’t been getting the kind of support that you hoped you would get from the system or even, frankly, from friends and family;
•    You’re fighting an important and very difficult physical battle against an illness or potentially debilitating medical condition;
•    You’re overwhelmed by the amount of information out there about social security disability in North Carolina and beyond, and you don’t know whom to trust or even how to move forward.

It’s easy enough for the team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMayo to recommend a simple strategy like ìjust call us, and we’ll take care of everything.” But you know that your problems are far too diverse and deep seated for any one person or one institution to solve immediately, even if that person or institution can provide excellent support.

So the question before you is: how can you begin to corral your problems and move in the right direction? In other words, you’re probably less concerned with solving everything right away than you are with making sure that you’re taking the necessary requisite actions.

So how do you get started, exactly? What’s the best way to organize your approach?

Schools of thought about this abound.

Some experts suggest that you should ìjust get started doing somethingî and then refine your approach as you gain experience and get feedback. Other experts suggest that you need to plan effectively, prioritize, and husband your resources. In other words: be strategic and focused.

1.    There is compelling evidence to support both general philosophies – the ìready, fire, aimî approach and the ìbe super strategicî approach.

You don’t necessarily need to choose between them!

You cannot strategize and dither forever, or you will never get anything done. Likewise, you cannot simply take action randomly and hope to achieve your goals. So combine these two methods through an iterative process that gives you feedback. In other words:

1.    Set a strategic course for what you will do next to deal with your social security disability problems;
2.    Then take some informed, responsible action forward.
3.    Engage in that action for a while.
4.    Then stop and assess your progress using objective measures and an independent review, if possibly. For instance, if you have a North Carolina social security disability law firm working for you, talk to the members of your legal team to assess how you’ve been doing.
5.    Then restrategize and go through the process again.

Alternate between taking decisive action and reflecting strategically, and you will pivot more effectively towards success.

North Carolina Social Security Disability Reform: Lessons from Greece, Part II

October 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Do we need to reform the social security disability system ASAP?

If we fail to do so, will we “wind up like Greece”? That is, will our inaction in the face of fiscal crisis decimate our economy, our credibility in the world market, and our capacity to right our own ship?

These questions intrigue, and they are pregnant with political implications. The debate over the reform of federal benefits programs, such as social security disability, Medicare, Medicaid, student loan programs, etc often devolves into partisan bickering. Frustratingly, this bickering gets couched in the language of science and policy. All the squabbling leaves the average North Carolina social security disability applicant confused and flustered.

What are we supposed to do, as individuals and as a society, to make the system “work”?

Sure, there may be parallels between Greece’s situation and ours, but how relevant are those parallels, and what practical lessons can they teach us? Even more importantly: if you’re struggling with an illness, should you pay attention to the broader political debate, at all? Or should you focus exclusively on your own situation and leave the “big picture thinking” to others?

Here are a few counterintuitive lessons from the “Greece situation”:

1. Most people believe what they want to believe and then shoehorn in “facts” to fit those pre-conceptions.

If you want to believe that Greece’s disaster portends a similar US disaster, you’ll find parallels that support that conclusion. Conversely, if you believe that there is no relationship between Greece’s economic turmoil and our own, you’ll find facts and experts who will support you.

When it comes to big picture political thinking – where your opinion doesn’t really matter that much – this confirmation bias is all well and good. But when it comes to your own health and wellbeing, you need to be very careful to avoid fooling yourself. That’s why it’s helpful for beneficiaries to speak with an experienced North Carolina social security disability law firm, like DeMayo Law.

2. Life is always pregnant with crises and opportunities: To handle yourself with grace, focus on what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.

Regardless of your thoughts on Greece’s relevance to our entitlements dilemma, understand that the nature of your focus can influence not only what you see but also what you do. When you focus on getting a positive result, you’ll be more attuned to resources and people who can help you achieve that reality. Conversely, if you’re struck in a cynical point of view, you might miss important help that could make all the difference.

North Carolina Social Security Disability Reform: Lessons from Greece (Part 1)

October 9, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In a two part series, the DeMayo Law North Carolina social security disability blog will examine a common “meme” in the political world. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been mulling over the “situation in Greece” and wondering what the situation in the Mediterranean might portend for the United States’ government benefits programs.

We won’t get into too much detail regarding the background: even a basic historical overview of what’s happened recently in Greece would take 20 to 30 pages. But suffice it to say that the Mediterranean nation — which was once the central powerhouse of the western world — is struggling mightily with debt accrued, at least in part, because of an overextended program of entitlements. The country’s economic productivity is not sufficient to pay off Greece’s committed obligations to protected groups, such as retirees, state pension owners, students, etc.

This budgetary imbalance is complicated by the fact that Greece belongs to the European Union, an economic and quasi political confederacy that maintains its own currency but lacks a cohesive nationality. Economically stronger nations in the European Union, such as Germany, are sort of being put in a position of having to “bail out” the economically weaker nations, like Greece and Spain.

To curry favor with the EU, governments in these nations have tried to impose so called “austerity measures” to clamp down on benefits and thus stop the downward economic spiral. But these measures have not gone over well, and some recent protests have turned violent.

Many pundits in Europe and elsewhere worry that the United States might be headed down a similar path to the one that Greece is on. These pundits want to enact reforms to Social Security Disability and other government programs to stave off the disastrous end game that we see playing out in the Mediterranean today.

•    On the one hand, advocates of this theory can draw many compelling parallels between our situation and Greece’s situation from several years ago.
•    On the other hand, we are taking about two very different kinds of economies, so it’s not just a simple apples-to-apples comparison – it’s more like apples-to-coconuts.

The differences between the two entitlement-related “crises” are important, potentially vitally so, if we want to make the most effective reforms possible.

In Part II, we will talk more specifically about what Greece can teach us about social security disability reform. Until then, if you need help with your case – getting benefits, fighting at Reconsideration or at an Administrative Law Judge hearing – get in touch with the DeMayo Law team to discuss your options.

A Fairytale North Carolina Social Security Disability Ending

July 17, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Who doesn’t like to believe in happy endings? If you or someone you care about has recently gotten a terrible diagnosis or has suffered an injury at work or elsewhere, you are probably hoping for a fairytale solution to your North Carolina social security disability problems.

It’s easy to understand why one might crave “bolt from the blue” assistance.

Practically nobody fully anticipates all the problems that come with being suddenly sick or injured. And even if your illness developed somewhat slowly – e.g. you’ve been struggling with fibromyalgia or chronic arthritis like symptoms for years before the pain got so bad that you couldn’t work — odds are that you’ve entered a new domain of intensity and diversity of problems.

These issues likely range all over the place and include budget problems, health issues, concerns about people under your care, worries about your career legacy and otherwise.

What the cynics will tell you.

The cynics will underline the difficulty of your journey and the potentially long odds against your success in various domains. For instance, if you are in your mid-60s, and you’ve had to quit your business due to a chronic condition like advanced diabetes, you will never reboot your career. So you need to play conservative with your money and time from here on out.

The cynics will use numbers and statistics to hammer home their points.

Why it’s important to believe in fairytales – but not to be a Pollyanna about it, either!

There is a reason why little kids love to imagine themselves as princesses, rock stars, and the like. It’s a very human reason. We need positive fantasies to fuel real world motivation. Even if we never reach the ideal – e.g. become an astronaut, win a noble prize, win first place in a marathon, etc – the positive vision fuels us to achieve self betterment.

What this means in a practical sense is that you can and should spend time envisioning a perfect, ideal solution to your North Carolina social security disability benefit situation. Taking the example we mentioned earlier … imagine that our 60 something year old developed a positive vision, in which he started his own company based on a hobby (e.g. woodworking) and started selling wares via the web.

Maybe he might not make a fortune doing it. He might not even succeed! But this positive vision would almost certainly spur him to take good action – to take better care of himself, to fight harder for his benefits, to live for something beyond that nihilistic vision of “play conservative from here on out.”

Getting the help you need to increase the likelihood of your fairytale coming true.

The team here at the law offices of Michael A. DeMeyo has a rich and diverse history of helping individuals who need benefits – and the caregivers of those individuals – solve, fight and win myriad battles. Find out more about us online, or call us today for a free consultation.

What Should Happen to a Same-Sex “Second Parent” Regarding His Or Her North Carolina Social Security Disability Benefits?

July 10, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

In May, voters in North Carolina approved a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. But the ban has not stopped six same-sex couples from striving to protect their civil rights and ensure North Carolina Social Security disability benefits (and other benefits) for their children.

The lead plaintiffs in the case, Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, have argued that the ban on second parent adoption is unfair to children involved, because it prevents these children from collecting benefits from the second parent – such as veterans, life insurance, health insurance, and Social Security Disability.

According to NC law, step-parents are afforded these rights – that is, they can adopt. But back in December 2010, the NC Supreme Court reversed unmarried second parent adoptions, despite the fact that Washington DC and 20 other states allow the gay or lesbian partner of a legal parent to adopt.

This is obviously a morally and legally hotly contested issue in the Tar Heel State and elsewhere.

It’s useful to bring up this situation, however, and because it illustrates a critical point that many other pieces on North Carolina social security disability miss – which is that SSD benefits (or lack thereof) are just a component of a larger package.

In other words, your quest for benefits does not exist in a vacuum. There are other financial, medical, and relationship-related issues that you’re managing simultaneously. To the extent you can view your financial situation as one big system – as opposed to getting obsessed with the discrete elements of that system – is the extent that to which you should be able to find shortcuts to success.

For instance, let’s say that, even after working with a trusted and experienced law firm, like the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, you’re still unable to secure the benefits you want.

If you can see your quest in context, perhaps you can find other ways to meet your financial needs. For instance, maybe you can reduce your expenses or rely on a relative or friend to help you manage some of your struggle. The broader and more diverse the context of your quest, the more opportunities you will have to succeed.

Shooting Down Stereotypes About Social Security Disability in Charlotte (and Elsewhere)

June 12, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

What does the life of a typical Charlotte-based social security disability beneficiary look like?

Stereotypes here abound. For instance, you may believe that most people who rely on government benefits are poor or elderly or both. Not the case! Many people who need benefits are relatively young, in the prime of life, and substantially above the poverty level.

In other words, the diversity of beneficiaries disputes the stereotype most of us hold.

Here’s another yucky stereotype: that people who utilize government benefits programs are somehow lazy or entitled or otherwise trying to “milk” the system.

Look: the United States is a fairly libertarian country. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with our spirit of frontiersmanship, independence, and “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. These are great and essential American values.

And it’s also true that there are definitely some people who DO take advantage of certain assistance programs… and even try to cheat or bend the rules to minimize the effort they need to do.

But the vast majority of people who need this kind of help, actually do need it!

If you or someone know has been rendered sick or injured – unable to work, unable to take care of life’s essentials, unable to even enjoy your time here – you should take umbrage at that stereotype.

Protect yourself against it! Tune out anyone or any “voice of authority” that generalizes or demeans you or your situation.

Stereotype #3: Smart, effective, will-powered-infused people can solve most of their social security disability problems on their own.

Yes, it helps to be smart and experienced. Yes, it helps to have willpower. Yes, it helps to be strategic in your goals.

But your problems may be diverse! And you may not have the skills or knowledge or relationships to get done what needs to get done, even if you’re smart, committed and experienced.

Fortunately, by reaching out to a seasoned and results-driven Charlotte social security disability law firm, like the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, you can take that courageous first step towards getting those resources. That way, you can maximize your chances of getting the benefits you need, and more broadly, of getting your life back on track.

Social Security Disability in North Carolina: Perils of Giving Up Control

May 31, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you’ve been frustrated by a bad experience at Reconsideration or at an Administrative Law Judge hearing; or you’re just “dipping your toe” into the social security disability process – understanding how it works and what the implications might hold for you – you need to be worried about a hidden danger.

That danger has to do with a loss of control.

When you get on a benefits program — whether government takes care of you, a friend, family member or a neighbor takes care of you — you can experience a subtle but very real loss of control regarding your own life and destiny. Since you no longer can “earn a living” or “pay your way on your own,” you obviously must find a means for support. Otherwise, how would you pay for needed services like medical care, food, housing, etc?
On other hand, psychology research clearly shows that people who lose control over their lives – who cede control to other people or systems – wind up feeling depressed, anxious, and less healthy.

If this research is correct, it creates a kind of paradox for North Carolina social security disability beneficiaries. You obviously need the money. But if you start accepting too much support – then you lose control – then you feel depressed, anxious, and sicker.

A way around the dilemma

The feeling of “being in control” is really subjective. You can be in prison or confined to a wheelchair and still feel control and in charge of your destiny. Conversely, you can “have it all” – be the CEO of a company, be in perfectly good health, etc – and feel out of control because you’re allowing yourself to be constrained by certain rules or societal explanations or beliefs that have been imposed upon you by friends or family members or society or what have you.

So in some ways, the situation is all about your mental outlook. How are you going to frame your frustrations and problems? Are you going to blame other people or blame your situation? Or are you going to accept your current reality and take responsibility for what you can take responsibility for – for what you’re physically and mentally able to do – and use this new frame to set the rules for your conduct and your mental health?

It’s a challenge, and the choice is obviously up to you. If you need help dealing with the logistics of collecting social security disability benefits, connect immediately with the team at DeMayo Law for a free and confidential consultation.

Flaws with the Social Security Disability Insurance Program Are Way Beyond Your Control

May 24, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you are a young, sick worker, who needs social security disability in North Carolina to pay for your rent and blossoming medical bills; or you are a baby boomer who needs supplemental security income due to a diverse basket of health problems (and their attendant medical bills!), you can be easily discouraged by news about the government’s benefits programs.

For instance, a recent report on social security disability insurance found that 10.6 million disabled Americans collected nearly $130 billion last year. This figure is astonishing. To put it into some context for you, the workers and their families were paid 25% more than the federal government collected through taxes on payroll. Why is this concerning? It’s concerning because, if we keep this behavior up, collectively, it will cause serious global financial ramifications. The spiking cost of disability insurance already sucks away nearly 20% of all the social security budget – that’s nearly 20 cents out of every dollar.

It’s an amazing amount. And that high figure combined with the fact that this figure is trending upwards has scared a lot of pundits and policy people. But while it’s good to have conversations about how to deal with this situation, if you or someone is sick or disabled or ill, there is really not much you can do by yourself to handle the social security disability crisis!

So when you do start getting distracted by it – reading news reports, blog entries, editorials, or what have you – know that you are ultimately stealing focus from more productive uses of your time.

We live in an attention deficit age – our attention is stressed and stretched more so than ever before in American history. Even healthy, “I can work easily” type people often find themselves spinning way too many plates. And if you are sick in need of disability benefits, you likely have even fewer productive hours in your day. Thus, you have a reduced ability to concentrate on the vital stuff that you need: to heal yourself, to deal with your bills, to manage the different problems in your life, and so forth.

The point here is not to tell you that we should ignore the grander problems of social security. Rather, the point is to get you to focus correctly! You need help. You need granular, “specific to you” help about how to get benefits, how to deal with a confusing system, how to ensure that you get paid on time, how to manage your out of control bills, how to get the appropriate medical care, and so on and so forth.

The focus has to be on you. (Or, if you are caring for someone else, it has to be on that person.)

Let the team here at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo help you understand what you might be up against and develop strategies and tools to get the maximum results from your benefits quest.

Getting Social about Social Security Disability in North Carolina and Elsewhere

May 16, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Going through the North Carolina social security disability process can be a very lonely and isolating experience, even if you have friends and family around who are supportive — and even if you have a great North Carolina social security disability law firm, like the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo, helping you with issues like an administrative law judge hearing or a problem related to your employer or physician.

In other words, even if you have support structures in place, you can feel pretty scared and isolated.

To that end, many beneficiaries – or friends and family members of beneficiaries – find themselves often going online to connect with other people who have similar plights. It’s difficult to understand the experience of being really sick and needing government benefits when you’re not in that situation yourself. People make assumptions about what happened and what you need to do next. Those assumptions may or not be correct. But they are based on ignorance of the situation.

On the other hand, other people going through this process – waiting for benefits, getting medical care, struggling to keep afloat financially – can validate your feelings and perspectives. They can give you insight into tactics and strategies to use to make life a little easier, communicate with your doctors a little better, make better use of your benefits, and on and on.

So there’s definitely a very positive aspect of “going social” – sharing your story, sharing your struggles, helping others, getting feedback, etc.

But there is also a very clear danger of the “the blind leading the blind.” You need to be careful when it comes to revealing certain information about yourself and your condition online for security reasons and also, potentially, for legal reasons. You also need to be careful to avoid following quackish medical advice. It’s useful to validate information you get online with outside sources to see whether it’s a legitimate source of information or idea.

Wielding the double-edge sword

Getting social about social security disability has serious pros and serious cons. To that end, just use the tool with care. Make sure that you talk to your medical providers about treatment options or diets that you want to try. Be sure to check with your law firm regarding steps to take.

That said, also be willing to expand your mind and listen to different points of view. There are so many different problems associated with being on SSD, supplement security income, or other government benefits programs. The “hive mind” is often very good at solving nitpicky details that other sources of help might not address or might not even recognize are causing you pain and problems.

More Web Resources:

Using social media wisely

Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Quest: Defining Your Values and Vision

May 12, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Earlier this week, we talked about how North Carolina social security disability beneficiaries (or would-be beneficiaries) can gain tremendous leverage by defining and understanding the purpose of their quest. If you know why you want benefits, you can be far more methodical and efficient in how you obtain them – and you can often tap into deep reservoirs of emotion to motivate you to push through obstacles.

Today, we’re going to talk about values and vision. What are the values that you want to govern your North Carolina social security disability push? And what’s your vision for success? Let’s take these questions one at a time.

Values

Here’s a quick, handy way to determine your values for any kind of activity, courtesy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. You simply think about outsourcing the entire task to another person or organization. Then you think about what kind of rules you would want that person or organization to abide by as they work for you. For instance, whether you outsourced a job to an experienced North Carolina social security disability law firm (like the Law Offices of Michael DeMayo) or a magical social security disability fairy, here are some values that might be important to you:

•    Stay ethical – don’t violate any laws
•    Give me the most money possible
•    Complete the process as quickly as possible – I don’t want to drag this thing on for months or years
•    Keep me involved at every step of the way, so I can correct the course if need be
•    Make the process as simple as possible.

You get the idea. Basically, you want to define the parameters that govern your quest. You can do this for yourself by imagining the rules of conduct that you would impose on someone else.

It’s very helpful to write down both your values and your purpose for any activity, especially a potentially long and involved process like the quest for North Carolina social security disability benefits.

Vision

Your next step is to get very, very clear and concrete about what you would like to achieve in the future. There are many different ways to define success for your quest. It could be to maximize your benefits. It could be to minimize your stress. It could be to just get some money, so you can get this whole thing “off your plate” and focus on recovering from your illness/injury. Every person is going to have a different vision for success. So the clearer you are about your vision, the more likely you will be to achieve what you want. You can then communicate this vision with people who help you. For instance, if you connect with a law firm and you tell your legal allies, “Success to me means getting as much money as possible, and I don’t care how long it takes or what I have to do to succeed,” then your attorneys will take certain steps to help you. On the other hand, you will take a different route if you tell your allies, “Success to me means getting this done with as soon as possible. I don’t care if I don’t get the maximum amount. I just want to over and done with.”

Getting clear about your purpose, values, and vision can give you a kind of magical clarity and reduce some of the uncertainty and stress you feel – which in turn can help you focus more on healing, dealing with your financial problems, and managing the injury/illness-related chaos in your life.

More Web Resources:

Defining your values, per David Allen’s Getting Things Done system

Coming up with a clear vision for your ideal outcome

The Romney-Obama Battle: Implications for Social Security Disability in North Carolina and Elsewhere

April 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Now that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Republican primary, the battle lines for the fall Presidential election are basically drawn – Mitt Romney versus President Barack Obama. And the fallout of the 2012 clash of the titans could have significant impact on the future of social security disability in North Carolina and beyond.

Of course, or at least the two camps would like you to believe that!

Will the election impact programs like social security disability? If so, how and why? You can find different experts – or so called experts – who will weigh in with savvy, intelligent sounding answers to these questions. They will make prognostications about how different presidential election outcomes will impact government benefits programs in different ways. There may be wisdom in these forecasts. But it’s important not to have too much faith in them! After all, programs like supplemental security income, social security disability, Medicare, Medicaid, et cetera are behemoth enterprises. It’s hard to see how even relatively “major” events – like a presidential election decision – will influence their trajectories.

Sure, you can speculate. Sure, you can say, for instance, that Mitt Romney has such and such position on social security, and if he’s elected, he will try to appoint XYZ justices who would do ABC to Social Security. Or he would use his political heft to influence lawmakers to enact such and such a modification of the program, et cetera.

Likewise, you can go through hypothetical situations with respect to President Obama.

•    Your prognostications might be right.
•    They might be incomplete.
•    They might be off base entirely!

It’s important not to oversimplify. These programs have been around for decades. There are literally millions of stakeholders. The rules and regulations are vast and diverse. Even the experts who have read the relevant documents often find themselves at loggerheads on even the most basic policy issues.

In other words, it’s probably a bit ridiculous to make the case that a particular presidential election result will have an easily predictable effect on social security disability.

Okay, so if the prognosticators are taking too much liberty, and if the situation really is as chaotic as we’ve discussed, what can you do, if you’re trying to just get benefits to pay for care, protect yourself against problems, and keep your life together?

The soundest strategy you can follow is your own, customized, well informed one.

Fortunately for you, you do not need to solve the riddle of the social security disability – or prognosticate the election – to get a suitable outcome for your disability benefits question. By retaining a competent, highly skilled and experienced social security disability law firm in North Carolina, for instance, you can make massive progress.

More Web Resources:

Which President will be better for social security disability? President Obama or President Romney?

Santorum Drops Out, Making Mitt Romney the Presumptive GOP Nominee

52 New Conditions For Compassionate Allowances Program – Will Your North Carolina Social Security Disability Case Be Affected?

April 20, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’ve been trying to collect social security disability in North Carolina, you are undoubtedly aware of so called Compassionate Allowances program.

This is a special program run by the Social Security Administration, which allows people with certain illnesses or diseases to get on a fast track for benefits. According to common statistics, approximately 3 million people try to get social security disability benefits annually. Only 5% or 6% of those applicants get fast tracked through the Compassionate Allowances program. The SSA has now added 52 new conditions to this program, based on research conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

Here are a few of these conditions and diseases:

•    Alpers disease
•    Child Neuroblastoma
•    Histiocytosis
•    I Cell Disease
•    Kufs Disease Type A and B
•    Malignant Brain Stem Gliomas-C

You can follow the link at the bottom of this blog for a full list of all 52 conditions.

Even if you’re not one of the 60,000 or so people who can qualify for fast track assessments through a special program, you can leverage powerful resources, such as a social security disability law firm in North Carolina, to get superior results and stay focused on your goals.

Sure, you can “go it alone” and succeed with your disability quest. Conversely, you can work with a law firm and get denied. But if you are looking to improve your odds, achieve a more certain outcome, and side step some of the most common and tragic mistakes that would-be beneficiaries make, it makes sense to get help before you encounter significant problems.

More Web Resources:

52 New Conditions Added to Compassionate Allowances Program

The History of the Social Security Administrations Compassionate Allowances Program

Young, Beautiful… and on North Carolina Social Security Disability?

April 13, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Conjure an image of the typical beneficiary of North Carolina social security disability.

You might think about an elderly woman who needs benefits to pay for medical care related to her hypertension and diabetes. Or you might think about a great uncle who suffers from advanced stage dementia and requires round the clock care. Whatever image you chose, odds are, it wasn’t of a young, vibrant, and seemingly healthy looking person.

But in fact, many people who apply for Social Security Disability in North Carolina are young!

Illness can strike at any age, as can debilitating accidents or emergent genetic diseases. It can be truly awful to deal with a long term medical crisis, if you’re just starting your career. A woman who goes on Social Security Disability at the age of 67, after working a long and rewarding professional life, may still be struggling to make ends meet financially. But a woman who is 38 and suddenly afflicted with a rare genetic disease that forces her to take 18 months off of work may be in a very different — and more vulnerable! — place in her life.

Moreover, if you are a senior and you need benefits, you don’t necessarily feel “out of the loop” or “behind your peers.” In fact, if you’ve lived a long, rich life, you may be grateful just to get to keep living your life and seeing your grandkids, etc. But if you’re a young person whose peers are healthy, raising their families, earning good wages, etc, you may feel quite left out and frustrated.

It’s normal to make social comparisons with your peers, even though most people admit that this behavior is somewhat destructive and petty. One key to resolving some of your stress is getting a deeper understanding of how the Social Security Disability system works and what you should and should not do to maximize your benefits.

To that end, talk to a time-tested social security disability law firm in North Carolina now.

More Web Resources:

The Isolating Experience of Being Young and Ill

Being Young and on Social Security Disability

North Carolina Social Security Disability – The Bear Bones Basics

April 10, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you discovered the hard news that your 58-year old mother has early onset dementia, or you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease that’s compelled you to take substantial time off of work, you are interested in learning about North Carolina social security disability benefits.

This blog often addresses the challenges facing applicants and beneficiaries of programs like social security disability and supplemental security income. But it’s never a bad idea to review the key basics. To that end, here is a summary to help you understand a little bit more about what this program is… and is not.

SSDI – A Little Bit Like a Government Insurance Program

If you worked for certain amount of time and paid FICA taxes for about a decade or longer, you may qualify to receive a monthly stipend called Social Security Disability, if/when a mental or physical problem prevents you from earning a living. You can collect this income irrespective of whether you got hurt at work or not. In other words, this is not like worker’s comp: you can pick up a rare disease on a vacation to Africa, for instance, and come back and still collect benefits. You don’t have to prove that you got sick at work or anything.

Your past earnings will help to determine how much money you can get. When you apply for Social Security Disability, you will have to wait a certain amount of time before collecting benefits. Your filing deadline (or lack thereof) will depend on when you last worked. Be wary of deferring the application process. If you delay, the concept of “date last insured” can come into play and cause you problems. (Follow the link bottom of the page to learn more about the date last insured concept).

The vast majority of SSDI applications are turned down – approximately 2/3rds. The government publishes guidelines to help you speed the process along and improve your chances of collecting the money. But the situation can be quite overwhelming, even for people who are young, healthy, and cognitively capable. If you are struggling with your application, it really may be worth your while to pass the baton to a friend or a family member who has the time, experience, and resourcefulness to walk you through the steps. Alternatively (and/or) you may wish to connect with a law firm in North Carolina that specializes in Social Security Disability benefits.

Note that SSDI may be a safety net, but the program is structured to encourage you to return to employment if/when possible. To that end, you need to be prepared to provide periodic evidence that you remain disabled or sick – and these checks can be somewhat intrusive.

To make the process work for you, invest time in educating yourself about SSDI – what it means, what the common pitfalls are, what the experts recommend, etc. Yes, the concepts and bureaucracy can be confusing. But it’s well worth your time to learn more and thus augment your chances of success.

More Web Resources:

Date Last Insured

FICA Taxes

Who Can Qualify for Social Security Disability in North Carolina?

April 7, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’re a North Carolinian who is confused about Social Security Disability insurance benefits, this post will hopeful clarify key concepts for you.

In order to qualify for these benefits, you must prove to the government that you are disabled due to a mental or physical health problem. The definition of “disabled enough” has been left pretty ambiguous by lawmakers. You must show that you are incapable of conducting “substantial gainful activity” due to your physical/mental health issue.

You also need to have paid enough into the system. If you haven’t earned enough “work credits,” you may be deemed ineligible for benefits. This can be a problem for freelancers, entrepreneurs, stay at home moms, and young injured people.

There is a silver lining. The amount of money that you earned in the past – or your current asset portfolio – does not come into play. You can be relatively well off and still access substantial Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina. With other government programs, such as Supplemental Security Income or worker’s comp, your assets and/or income can come into play and determine (and, in some cases, restrict) your benefits.

How do you prove that you are unable to work?

According to 2010 rules, if you can make over a thousand dollars a month (the number is slightly higher for blind people – $1,640), then you are out of luck. You need to be so disabled that you cannot even earn $1,000 a month. In addition, you need to show that your time off of work will last at least 12 months or will end with your death. It is not enough, in other words, merely to show that you have a dire diagnosis. You need to show that the diagnosis radically impacts your ability to earn.

Social Security Disability officials want to see proof that your mental and/or physical limitations will seriously restrain your ability to make money. Note that you don’t have to show that you’re totally incapacitated. For instance, maybe you’re very fatigued, due to fibromyalgia and spinal problems. But you can still work 5 to 10 hours a week. Assuming that those 5 to 10 hours a week only add up to about $900 of income a month – and you can prove this – you should still easily qualify for SSDI benefits.

Of course, the rules get complicated, and the system is often inflexible, surprising and unfair. It can help you tremendously to connect with a North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm to discuss what you might be able to do to improve your odds.

More Web Resources:

Substantial Gainful Activity

Who qualifies for social security disability benefits?

The Many, Many False Beliefs about North Carolina Social Security Disability

March 30, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Are you thinking critically about your potential to get fair and easy North Carolina Social Security Disability benefits?

If you’re like most people out there, the answer is simple: almost certainly not.

How can we be so sure? Because so many patients out there – even surprisingly well-informed ones – operate based on obviously false beliefs about how the Social Security Disability application and follow-up process works. These false beliefs hamper them at all stages – Reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing, and elsewhere throughout the process.

The Big False Belief Holding You Back?

There are many false beliefs we can talk about – and this blog has gone into some depth on other posts about them. But far and away, the biggest problematic belief is the belief (hope) that the system will “take care of you.” In other words: if you just do the appropriate action steps — if you have a legitimate claim, and you can provide effective documentation — then you’ll get a fair result. You’ll be on track to receiving the right benefits at the right time without much stress.

The reality is that the system is infected with many fundamental flaws and nuances that can cause you to fail – or at least to be less than optimal in your pursuit of the benefits you need to pay for your healthcare, your housing, your home’s upkeep costs, your rehab, etc.

As a claimant – or a potential claimant – you have two basic ways of dealing with this challenge. Number one, you could try to teach yourself “the rules” using government pamphlets, free resources on the internet, etc. There is some logic to this approach. You can learn a lot online and elsewhere for free. (But discerning the “good stuff” from the “bad stuff” is harder than you might realize). At the same time, you’re likely sick, struggling financially, confused, and overwhelmed by your situation. Do you really have the time and wherewithal to sort the wheat from the chaff and figure out which experts to listen to and which experts to ignore?

A second way to go is to connect with a Social Security Disability law firm in North Carolina. You might balk at that idea at first – do you really need to pay a lawyer to help you with your claim? Won’t that cut out some money you desperately need to deal with your financial problems? The answer is not necessarily no or yes. It depends on your situation. In some cases, applicants can do fine just working the system themselves, using good guidance from trusted resources. In other cases, a law firm can be an absolutely crucial ally. A good law firm can help you cut through red tape and reduce your level of stress and uncertainty at a time in your life when things just seem so overwhelming and out of control.

The broad takeaway here, whatever path you choose, is that you must be mindful of the potentially destructive beliefs you hold about how the Social Security Disability process works – particularly question your faith that the system will “take care of you” without your having to advocate, perhaps forcibly, for your own rights and fairness.

More Web Resources.

Good Free Info on Social Security Disability

More Savvy Online Advice about Social Security Disability

When North Carolina Social Security Disability Money Seems Out of Reach…

March 27, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you’re struggling to secure Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina or elsewhere, you probably feel like you have a lot in the line. You probably spend a fair amount of time thinking about how much you need the money, ruminating about what you’ll do with that money, and “catastrophizing” about what you’ll do if you don’t get enough benefits. You can get so caught up in both the hopes and the fears – the hopes that achieving your SSD goals will liberate you somehow and the fears that not getting that money will be your downfall – that you can lose perspective and make irrational, careless decisions.

As important as the money could be for you, it’s critical that you moderate your thinking about the subject. Business theorists have shown, again and again, in different arenas that success or failure at any endeavor – including financial management – is almost never caused by a single action. Instead, it’s an ongoing process of either getting better or getting worse – either moving closer towards your goals or moving away from them. This isn’t to say that there can’t be enormously powerful events that can rocket you forward or create a massive obstacle in your way. And perhaps your North Carolina Social Security Disability challenge is one of those crucial turning points in your life. But don’t necessarily count on it.

After all, according to theorists like Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, these big catastrophic, “profound-seeming” events in our lives are often not apparent to us prospectively – only in retrospect can we really acknowledge the impact.

That’s all a little theoretical. So let’s break that down a bit. Think about winning the lottery. That would be a big event, right? You’d think that the moment you won the lottery would be a major tipping point in your life – pushing you towards great wealth. But studies show that’s not necessarily the case! Many lottery winners blow their money, and some even wind up bankrupt. This is because they never developed frugal habits of saving and investing, etc. So in retrospect, the Lotto win was not necessarily a big turning point in the Lotto winners’ life – it didn’t really affect his ultimate financial trajectory. Likewise, your quest for Social Security Disability may in retrospect turn out to be less important than your quest to recover from other more fundamental financial or emotional problems.

The moral here is there is really no way to know in advance whether a potential decision in your life is going to be monumentally impactful (either positive or negative) or, over the long term, pretty neutral and unimportant. That being said, when you treat big challenges in your life with awareness and attention, good things generally occur. For instance, if you’re currently financially struggling and worried about your welfare, you may benefit hugely from talking to a North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm – not only to get help with specifics like your Administrative Law Judge hearing or Reconsideration but also to get a broader understanding of your options and planning resources.

More Web Resources:

Nicholas Nassim Taleb

People Tend to Focus on the Wrong Things

Confronting Your North Carolina Social Security Disability “Worst Nightmare”

March 20, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Many who apply for North Carolina social security disability benefits panic. They panic because they fear the bureaucracy, they fear rejection, and they fear going bankrupt. They panic also because they fail to think through whether or not their most catastrophic thoughts are rational or not. This is a complicated thought, but it’s a key one. So let’s unpack it.

Taking a Good, Hard Look at the Worst Case Outcomes

As the late great author Madeleine L’Engle once illustrated so beautifully in one of her science fiction stories, the key to dealing with the nameless horrors in our lives is to use the power of naming. Uncertain, amorphous fears are almost always more scary and threatening than our worst fears articulated. Philosophers like Ernest Becker have suggested, for instance, that our fear of mortality is intrinsically terrifying simply because it’s so difficult to understand what death might be like or what may come after death. The uncertainty of death creates our terror about it.

On the flipside, when you actually sit down and confront your fears – name them and work through them, intellectually – you might be amazed at how “unscary” they can become.

For instance, let’s consider a typical worst case scenario for the North Carolina social security disability beneficiary. You are very sick with a potential life threatening illness. You go through the social security disability process, get rejected and struggle through all the different appeals processes – reconsideration, the ALJ hearing, and so forth. At the end of the day, your benefits are denied. Now you don’t have money to pay for your home, your bills, and your medical care.

Sounds pretty rough, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, situations like this are the reality for far too many North Carolinians, which is why it’s so important for would be beneficiaries to connect with a responsible North Carolina social security disability law firm early on the process. But even in that dire scenario, consider that the person would still be alive, and would still potentially have options for care, including government assistance, help from friends and family, and help from other programs. If you anticipated that worst case scenario and planned for it appropriately, perhaps you could protect some of your savings, find alternative care, and generally make the landing as “soft” as possible. Life would go on, in other words, even if life got uncomfortable for a while.

Moving out of the abstract, it might be useful for you to take some time and think for your own “worst case scenarios” for social security disability and then test them against reality. What are the actual odds of these nightmares? What would you do if they did come true? You will find that just by writing this stuff down and reconciling with it in a rational way, you will take a lot of the emotional charge out of it.

More Web Resources:

The Works of Ernest Becker

Writing Down and Dealing With Your Worst Fears

The Numbness Problem and the Challenges of North Carolina Social Security Disability

March 15, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

You’ve been chasing North Carolina social security disability benefits for some time now. Perhaps you’ve tried to get help from programs, people, or institutions. No luck. You’re feeling frustrated and possibly angry. And the weeks, months, or even years of fruitless searching have led to a different level of emotional resistance. You are beginning to feel numb. This is a bad sign. But it’s understandable.

The Roots of the Numbness

We were all raised to believe in the American myth – that if you work hard enough, play by the rules, and show discipline, inventiveness, and passion, then you will be rewarded richly. But your struggles with the bureaucracy of social security disability in North Carolina have demonstrated that the system does not always “play fair.”

•    Maybe you got sick or injured because you received bad advice about how to take care of your body or protect yourself at work.
•    Maybe you got completely overwhelmed by insurance regulations or other bureaucratic rules and missed out on your chance to obtain benefits easily.
•    Perhaps you did everything right but still suffered because an insurance company or uncaring bureaucracy erred or even broke the law somehow.

In short, you tried to be a good citizen, but you encountered brick wall after brick wall. Who wouldn’t grow a bit “numb” in that environment? The numbness is a protective mechanism, psychologically speaking. If you cannot face your anger, fear, and frustration appropriately, you repress those feelings. Repression isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if it prevents you from making functional choices, obtaining help, and moving toward positive action, than it certainly is.

Escape from the Numbness Cycle

Moving beyond the numbness is more difficult than the typical cheery advice would have you believe. It requires sustained and progressive practice. You did not arrive at this state spontaneously after one set back. This numb state resulted from accumulated setbacks. So, step one is to appreciate that there is no magic bullet. Step two is to appreciate that your current view on your situation – your potential to recover, medically, financially, and psychologically – may not be accurate. With the right mindset, right resources, and right actions, you can recover more than you realize.

At the same time, do protect yourself. There are unethical people and companies that may try to take advantage of your vulnerable state and send you further down the numbness spiral. Ensure that whatever resources you use are trusted, vetted, credentialed, and appropriate for the kind of help that you need.

Desperate Straits: Whom Can You Trust About Social Security Disability in North Carolina?

March 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

If you are suffering a serious illness or injury, you need a respected guide to help you understand how Social Security Disability in North Carolina works. You don’t want to guess. You don’t want to take advice from an uneducated (albeit well intentioned) friend or relative. Nor do you want to “trust the system” blindly.

On the other hand, you can’t be overly picky. You have an urgent crisis in your life. You are not feeling good. You don’t have much energy. Your resources – financial and otherwise – are limited. And you are not functioning from your best mental state. Perhaps the illness or injury has even affected your ability to make good judgments or deal with critical life logistics.

To top it off, as this blog recently discussed, North Carolina Social Security Disability recipients often are bombarded with conflicting advice about what to do and what not to do. The cacophony of noise online (and even offline) can be so deafening that it leads to analysis paralysis. This inaction can, in turn, create indirect problems.

So what’s the fix?

Given that there are the ratio of “chiefs” to “Indians” is something like a million to one – in other words, everyone appears to be an “expert” — how do you make progress?

Consider these principles:

Principle #1:

Be skeptical of all “non-experts.”

Would you take medical advice from a baseball player? Would you take financial advice from your dentist? You could. And the baseball player might have some really interesting and true things to say about how to take care of your body. And the dentist might have some very legitimate ideas about how to grow and nurture your wealth. But why take the risk? Why not just go to a doctor for medical advice and a financial advisor for a financial advice?

That said…

Principle #2:

Be skeptical of all “experts” too!

Just because an authority boasts conventional legitimacy does not mean that authority will effectively solve your problem. Not all experts are created equal, in other words. Some experts may be vastly more qualified to deal with your situation. One North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm might nearly effortlessly solve your problems and help you obtain the compensation (and fair treatment) that you need and deserve. Another law firm may yield only fair to middling results.

Principle #3:

When patients and clients take responsibility for their futures, good things tend to happen.

Taking responsibility for a situation is different from taking total control of it. You need and you want to cultivate relationships with professionals, mentors, and other authorities who can guide you. But you also want to look out for and protect your interests. No one is going to care about your problems more than you will.

Principle #4:

Write it down!!!

The more you objectively record any and all relevant information about your Social Security Disability case, treatment, and experience, the better and more diverse lessons you can learn from what’s been happening to you.

More Web Resources:

What Distinguishes the Real “Experts” from the Fakers?

Principles for Living in a Confusing World.

The Madness That Is the Debate Over North Carolina Social Security Disability Reform

February 15, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Do you have the answer to how to reform Social Security Disability in North Carolina and elsewhere in the U.S.?

Hopefully, you answered “no” to that question. The concept that any one person – or even one institution – could “solve” a crisis as big as Social Security Disability is laughable on its face. It would be like expecting one person to figure out how to colonize Mars, in nitty-gritty detail. The breadth and depth of the knowledge that you would need would make you the smartest person who ever lived a million billion times over.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t powerful ideas out there – even ideas that can fundamentally change the system for better (or for worse). But there is a BIG difference between proposing solutions (or hypothesizing the causes of problems) and asserting that you “know” the answer is the only and best one.

The culture of Social Security Disability reform in North Carolina and elsewhere is essentially a swamp of competing egos. Read articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or in the blogosphere about Social Security Disability reform. You will find extremely inventive, creative, logical thinking. But what you won’t find a lot of is humility.

Opinion writers, pundits, policy wonks, lawmakers, and other “A list players” are often partisans more than they are rational problem solvers. The common methods that we use to frame the debate – debates on talk shows, editorials and magazines, etc. – create this corrosive intellectual atmosphere. The atmosphere makes it seem like solving a crisis is an all or nothing deal. Your solution is right; the other guy’s is wrong. But the main problems of Social Security Disability are complex. Perhaps multiple solutions exist…or maybe none do!

Complex problems are extremely hard to solve, if not impossible to solve, using conventional tools of logic, math, science, etc. It’s understandable why we wouldn’t want to try to wrangle them. But when we boil things down too much – when we try to squash a complex problem like SSD reform into a simple binary problem – we are proverbially banging a round peg into a square hole, so we shouldn’t be surprised if and when the fit is terrible.

For help getting through your crisis, connect with an intelligent, compassionate, well-engineered North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm.

More Web Resources:

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Going way, way, way beyond what the science tells you

Is the Obesity Epidemic the Cause of the Stress on the North Carolina Social Security Disability System?

February 11, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The Social Security Disability system in North Carolina (and elsewhere) is often dysfunctional (to say the least). Bureaucratic incompetence is surprisingly and sadly nearly ubiquitous. And even though you can find some powerful and respectable North Carolina Social Security Disability law firms to help you and your family recover and meet your financial challenges, the future for this government benefits program often appears surprisingly dim.

But what’s the root cause of this fiscal crisis?

As we’ve discussed previously, theories abound. For instance, knowledgeable pundits have argued that decisive demographic shifts have placed massive new burdens on social programs. You could summarize this as the “blame it on the baby boomers” theory. And there is certainly evidence to suggest that our increasingly “top heavy” demographic profile is playing a role.

Other theories abound. They include exhortations against the indolent (“back in the day, North Carolinians worked through pain – they didn’t ask for handouts!”) This theory is obviously less than empathetic. We can have a debate about as to whether the fundamental constitution of the American character has changed (or not). But it’s hard to see how simple shifts in our attitudes about responsibility could have created the fiscal mess we’re embroiled in.

But rather than reanalyze these various theories, let’s consider the elephant in the room: the obesity/diabetes epidemic that has swept up North Carolina and the rest of the United States (and most of the “civilized” world, as well.)

Let’s say there be no mistake: Obesity, in of itself, costs $147 billion per year. And that does not factor in the cost of diseases and conditions associated with obesity, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and probably dozens, if not hundreds of other ailments.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, if we manage to solve our obesity problem, we could probably fix Social Security Disability in North Carolina and elsewhere. Moreover, if we could fix the obesity epidemic, we could make massive progress towards reducing burdens on our economy. With so many people overweight and sick, is it any surprise that our state and national economies are going through such turmoil?

Conversely, can you imagine the massive positive changes to our economy and to our benefits programs, if we figured out how to cure obesity. It would be incredible – one of the most defining events of the new millennium.

More Web Resources:

Can we fix our economy without fixing the obesity epidemic?

How much does obesity cost America every year?

For North Carolina Social Security Disability Caregivers: Book #4: Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone

January 27, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Being a caregiver for someone who is sick, hurt, or otherwise incapacitated and who needs social security disability in North Carolina is a colossal task. In a four-part series, we’ve taken a look at different books that help caregivers find inspiration, freedom from overwhelm, and patience and calm.

The final book of our series can help you break through your isolation.

You care for someone who is sick or injured. But even though that person provides a certain amount of company and companionship, you’re often left feeling isolated and alone. As we discussed in previous posts, caregivers often sacrifice tremendous amounts of time and energy – as well as personal relationships and fulfillment – to provide much-needed care.

By cutting yourself off from your support networks, friends, family members, and others who might bring joy — or even just a little frivolity — to your life, you undermine your ability to navigate your world and imperil your capacity to deliver compassionate, effective assistance to the person in your life who needs you badly.

Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone is a “must read” if you are struggling alone in the trenches. Ferrazzi’s thesis is pretty simple: Your success, happiness, and ability to solve problems depends on the nature, diversity, and strength of your personal relationships. Even if you’re introspective, shy, or pressed for time, you can still leverage some of the principles and ideas in Ferrazzi’s book to connect with the world, find help from reliable sources, and build your network. Ferrazzi’s book is, in some sense, tailored to professionals and executives who want to “get ahead.” But his general message — the concepts, ideas, and strategies that he discusses — should be useful for caregivers living and working in isolation (or near isolation).

Sadly and ironically, caregivers working in isolation usually recognize the value of good relationships. After all, the work you do is testimony to how much you value human companionship.

You need not struggle on your own. By tapping into your personal network – or by expanding and cultivating it – you can get through a lot of your difficult situations faster. You can even help the person you care for identify better treatment, figure out financial problems, and solve logistical crises (e.g. how she can get to her son’s wedding next summer).

Reach out to an experienced and highly recognized North Carolina social security disability law firm for more assistance.

More Web Resources:

Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone

How other people can help you solve deep and abiding problems

North Carolina Social Security Disability Challenge – Seeing All Events as Opportunities

November 25, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Let’s face facts. Having to go on North Carolina social security disability is no fun.

You would probably much prefer to be back at your job and engaged in productive, creative work, instead of at home or in a hospital or other recovery center battling a scary illness or recovering from a chronic, tormenting injury.

Moreover, once you get hurt or sick, your challenges don’t end. They only seem to ratchet up. The “business of life” doesn’t just go away when you get sick or hurt. Indeed, it’s easy for things to get far more out of control than they used to be – and, chances are, your life was already somewhat out of order and in chaos before the event or illness hit you.

It’s easy to descend into a downward spiral and pessimistic mentality. And what’s so tragic about this pessimistic mindset is that it perpetuates itself. Once you begin to think about yourself as a victim — “someone who is sick or ill” — your brain literally believes it, and it will even filter out contrary information and reinterpret it to support your negative mindset. As we have discussed in previous posts on this North Carolina social security disability blog, “unplugging” from this pessimistic mentality is a challenging, ongoing process.

Here is a tactic to put in your toolbox – to help you think optimistically and proactively about your challenges. The tactic is simple: View every problem or setback as an opportunity.

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve all heard that the Chinese symbol for danger is the same symbol for opportunity. When events happen, whether they’re positive events or “setbacks,” we can perceive them any way we want. Events are simply transitions. Nothing is static. Even though you may feel “stuck” in your current situation; that belief, in some sense, is an illusion of the mind and of perception.

Let’s ground that in a practical example. Say you prepare for your Administrative Law Judge hearing. The day before the hearing, your doctor calls with unpleasant news about your prognosis. You go into a downward spiral. The next day, you lack the energy, self-regard, and “fighting spirit” to present your case to the ALJ, and the path to benefits becomes even more elusive.

Instead of taking the phone call from your doctor as a purely negative thing, you could have seen it as an opportunity to raise your game and be more assertive. Then when you go before the ALJ, you will put up a vigorous, passionate plea for assistance. In other words, you turn what on the surface was purely bad news into something that helps you – in this case fuel for your rhetorical fire.

Arm yourself with good information and good help by connecting with a reputable North Carolina social security disability firm.

More Web Resources:

Preparing for Your ALJ Hearing

The Danger/Opportunity Duality

North Carolina Social Security Solutions: Communicating Your Feelings and Needs More Effectively

November 23, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In several posts on this North Carolina social security disability blog, we’ve discussed how important it is for sick and injured people to stand up for themselves, make their voices heard, and communicate their feelings and needs in clear, concise, powerful ways.

Unfortunately, many of us have been so poorly trained in how to communicate that we blunt our ability to get the help we need — not just from friends and family members, but also from important resources like a North Carolina social security disability law firm.

Why is it so difficult to communicate? Why, despite all of your powerful and painful needs, can you not get them met?

Part of the problem might be the actual language you use – how you structure your requests, criticisms, and even your self-talk.

In modern American society, we tend to conflate observations with judgments and feelings, and we tend to deny responsibility of our own feelings when we say things like we “should do x, y, z” or “we have to.” We also say things like such and such person “made me feel” sad, angry, happy, lonely, etc. In this language of self-denial, we automatically make ourselves the victims. If an Administrative Law Judge hands down a verdict we don’t like, we give the judge power over us by saying he or she “made me furious” or the decision “made me helpless.”

Furiousness and helplessness are states of the mind. Certain actions or events can trigger these states of mind, but the feelings’ roots are internal. Until we learn to separate objective actions from internal reflections about those actions, we are doomed to give up some control and power.

Let’s apply this philosophy to a real life situation. Let’s say that a judge gives a ruling that you don’t like. Instead of saying “the judge made me angry,” or “the judge is idiot” – statements of blame and judgment that really don’t get you anywhere – reflect on your own feelings about what happened. You might say: “boy, when the judge handed down that ruling, I felt humiliated and angry, because I have a need for money to pay my bills and also a need to resolve my North Carolina Social Security Disability situation.”

Notice how, in the second way of thinking about it, we have detached the objective reality (the judge’s ruling) from your feelings (frustration, humiliation), and we have also unearthed two crucial needs – a need for money and a need for resolution of your SSD situation. Now that you know those two needs, you can think strategically about how to meet those needs. In other words, you are no longer helpless: you are empowered.

More Web Resources:

Separating Observation from Feelings

Non-violent Communication

Do You Really Believe You Deserve North Carolina Social Security Disability Benefits?

October 3, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On paper, you could really use North Carolina Social Security Disability Benefits.

Whether you are suffering from a long-term illness that will keep you out of work for at least a year or longer, or you suffered an injury or other medical setback, you lack long-term security. You face annoying medical costs. And you may even be wrestling with emotional demons that are part and parcel of the North Carolina Social Security Disability struggle.

And although you may face logistical, financial, and other concerns, it’s the emotional ones that really rock your boat. The frustration, depression, self-blame, doubt, anxiety, panic, etc.

When you ruminate over the frustrating turns that your life has taken, you can get mired in a mindset that’s less-than-conducive to best results. Specifically, you might come to believe that you in some way karmically “deserve” your misfortune. You may not consciously say, “I brought this on myself.” But you might start to think in those terms, on a deep, inaccessible, subconscious level. And when we start to think that we don’t deserve things in life – social security disability benefits, for instance – we may engage in acts of subtle self-subterfuge.

For instance, instead of putting up a fight at an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing, you may resign yourself to not getting the benefits that you want… before you even enter the courtroom. This defeated posture results in subtle but damaging effects to your ability to actually get the money and help you need. On the other hand, if you go into an ALJ hearing – or engage in some other way with the SSD bureaucracy or system – with your head held high and the right attitude, that confidence and moxie can subtly lead to good results.

This isn’t to say that you should be unrealistic or break the rules or that somehow a shift in attitude is going to solve all your problems. But attitude has a non-negligible effect.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do all the legwork and fighting on your own. A competent North Carolina Social Security Disability law firm can help you achieve good results and make sure that you follow best practices.

More Web Resources:

How Your Mindset Affects Your Outcome

How to Impress the Judge

North Carolina Social Security Disability Quandary: How much does your ALJ matter?

July 7, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina social security disability applicants who take their cases to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) might like to think that all judges are essentially equal — that all judges use a similar standard for accepting or denying appeals.

But a recent expose in USA Today reveals that your choice of judge can profoundly influence your results. The Social Security Administration – which supports 1,400 Administrative Law Judges around the country – only recently allowed the judges’ numbers to be posted on the official government website. The USA Today story says that both the Inspector General at the SSA and the U.S. Congress have noted a huge discrepancy – some ALJs accept WAY more appeals than others. But both authorities are loathe to interfere with the independence of judges.

According to the USA Today article, two outlier judges include:

• Judith Showalter, an ALJ from Dover, Delaware, who denied 82% of her nearly 300 claims this year.

• Huntington West Virginia judge, David Daugherty, who denied just 119 out of nearly 8,400 claims since October 2004. (Incidentally, his radically low rate, combined with an inappropriately cozy relationship with an attorney, led the SSA to put him on indefinite leave).

The whimsical and arbitrary nature of these ALJ statistics create an extra layer of uncertainty for hurt workers who desperately need North Carolina social security disability to pay bills, fund medical treatment, and strive for rehabilitation amid tough circumstances.

If you or a family member you care about has been struggling with how to approach an ALJ hearing or any other aspect of an SSD or SSI claim, a well respected North Carolina social security disability law firm can provide the guidance, resources, and strategic knowledge you need to make the progress you want to make.

More Web Resources:

Administrative Law Judges (ALJs)

Huntington West Virginia judge, David Daugherty

North Carolina Social Security Disability Appeals Process – The Four Steps of Appeal

April 13, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Knowing that you’re eligible for North Carolina Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you’d like to maximize your chances of success.

After all, if you’re sick, injured, and confused, you need all the help you can get to simplify and shortcut the process and sidestep any pitfalls. This essay will walk you through the appeals process and give you statistics to chew over.

Out of 1,000 applicants who apply for North Carolina Social Security Disability (or SSD elsewhere in the country), 350 will be awarded benefits, 338 applications will be abandoned, and 312 will enter the appeals process. Note that, when you request an appeal, Social Security will look at the entire decision pertaining to your situation – they will review both unfavorable and favorable aspects. During the initial review, Social Security can render a variety of decisions:

• Decide you are eligible for the benefits
• Decide to stop your benefits
• Alter the amount of money you will receive

Reconsideration

The first step in the appeals process is called Reconsideration.

A different person from the person who reviewed your application the first time will look over your case. Essentially, it’s like a home base empire reviewing the decision a first base umpire makes.

Out of our pool of 312 people who request reconsideration, 47 will be awarded benefits, 80 will abandon the process, and 185 will head to the next tier of appeal – the ALJ hearing.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing

You can set an ALJ hearing using the web at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeals. The judge will not have had any part in your case thusfar. If you hire a law firm that specializes in North Carolina Social Security Disability, your attorneys can request a hearing for you and bring your case before the judge.

Out of the 185 remaining applicants in our theoretical pool, 102 will be awarded benefits after this process, 46 will abandon their pursuit, and 45 applicants will go to the next tier of appeals, the Appeals Counsel Review.

The Appeals Counsel Review

Assuming that you don’t agree with Administrative Law Judge’s decision on you case, you can ask to have the Appeals Counsel Review your case. Out of the 45 remaining people (dwindled down from our initial 1,000 applicants), 8 will be sent back to another ALJ hearing, one will be awarded benefits, 33 will abandon their quest, and 5 will take their cases to Federal Court. Your odds of ending up in federal court over an SSD case are just 0.5% (5 out of 1,000).

Federal Court Action

The United States District Court will be the first court to hear your appeal, if you disagree with the Appeal Counsel’s decision. Depending on the facts of your case and a variety of other relevant factors, Federal Court action can stretch on and even potentially reach the Supreme Court of the United States… although that’s very, very unlikely.

Of the 5 cases that end up in Federal Court, 2.5 are abandoned, 0.25 lead to awards, and fewer than 2 get returned to the Appeals Counsel.

The application-and-appeals process is complicated, sophisticated, and time consuming. A North Carolina social security disability law firm can protect your rights and maximize your chances of getting the system to deliver results.

More Web Resouces:

www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeals

Supplemental Security Income 101

Stresses on North Carolina Social Security Disability System Increased, Reports Wall Street Journal

April 3, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

On Monday, the Washington Post ran a powerful story — “Claims for Social Security Benefits on the Rise” — that has many pundits within the North Carolina Social Security disability community talking up a storm. Per the March 28th WSJ article, the combination of high unemployment and the graying of the baby boomer generation has led to a massive escalation in new claims. For instance, in just five years time – from 2004 to 2009 — new claims leaped from just 8.2 million to 10 million.

The result of this escalation has been a bureaucratic slog-fest. Thanks to federal agency budget cuts and a swamp-load of new cases, appeals have been “piling up, and administrative law judges who hear these cases [have been] overwhelmed.” Although the Social Security Administration hired a raft of judges and support people to boost turnaround times for appeals – and appeals times have been shaved from a 532 day average back in 2008 to just 390 days today, the backlog of pending hearings is daunting. Currently, over 705,000 hearings are pending.

Although the Social Security Agency “pays out more than $800 billion in benefits every years to retirees, their spouses, dependants and survivors, low income disabled adults and children, and some low income World War II veterans,” according to the WashPo report, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for claimants who have pending appeals to get heard in a timely fashion.

Due to budget cuts and other problems that we just discussed, the Social Security Agency has abandoned earlier plans to open new offices in a variety of states – 8 total (although no North Carolina Social Security disability offices had been in the works).

Stories like these can make potential SSD benefit claimants and their families nervous and fearful.

Fortunately, the reality is that you can compel the system to work better for you – or at least prevent massive injustice – provided that you have good planning and resources on your side. For instance, a law firm that specializes in North Carolina Social Security disability benefits can help you outline a strategic plan to nip any logistical or legal problems in the bud, avoid common mistakes when you file, and answer FAQs you might have about the process.

Having a resourceful legal team on your side can also make you feel less anxious and uncomfortable about your benefits situation. Often, it’s not the lack of benefits that bothers people – it’s the lack of clarity about the situation. Will you or won’t you get the benefits that you think you are entitled to? As long as you live in a realm of “I don’t know,” the situation is a lot more difficult.

More Web Resources:

WashPo article: “Claims for Social Security Benefits on the Rise”

Social Security Agency

 
 

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