Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me today disability representative Noell Black of Gardberg & Kemmerly. Noell how are you?

Noell Black: I’m good.

Cindy Speaker: Excellent. Well it’s nice to have you again.

Noell Black: Yeah. It’s nice to be here. Thank you.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Well we’re going to talk a little, bit about … We’re going to talk again about Social Security Disability, which is your area of expertise. We’re going to talk a little, bit about how employment history affects a Social Security Disability case.

Noell Black: Yes.

Cindy Speaker: So initially, tell us a little, bit about how previous jobs would affect someone’s case.

Noell Black: Well when you file for Social Security Disability, not only do they have to consider if you’re disabled, but they also have to look at the work that you’ve performed, and if you can still perform that work. And then, they also have to look and see if there’s other jobs that you could perform out there in the national economy. So, there’s a lot of questions and issues that can go into deciding if you’re disabled or not.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. And how do they … So, how do they figure that out?

Noell Black:  Well Social Security has to consider the work that you’ve done in the past 15 years.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

Noell Black: … And so that work had to be performed at what they consider substantial, gainful activity, which means you’ve had to have made enough money to either perform the job long enough to learn it. And for 2019, that monthly amount is $1,220 a month. So if you perform a job, for six or eight months, a year, at over $1,220 a month, than that can be considered past relevant work.

Cindy Speaker:  Oh.

Noell Black: And you know? We have to look at those, all of those jobs, that you performed at that level.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Wow. Wow. Well let me ask you this, okay. So suppose we have somebody, he’s a construction worker, he’s disabled, he’s filing for disability …

Noell Black: Yep.

Cindy Speaker: … maybe a few years in the past, he worked as a security guard for a lesser amount of money, does that gonna negatively affect him?

Noell Black: Sometimes it can.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black: When we go to a hearing, which is where most of these types of decisions are made on the vocational abilities of a claimant, we … You know? They may have gotten hurt on the job, maybe they are seriously hurt, and they can’t do the job as a construction worker anymore, but if the work that they’ve done, like I said, in the past 15 years-

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah.

Noell Black:   … is of a construction worker and a security guard, the judge has to decide if they can … If they can’t do the construction work, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re disabled.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black:  They also look to see if they can do any of the other jobs that they performed in the past 15 years.

Cindy Speaker: Wow.

Noell Black: And if one of those was a security guard … You know? That’s not quite as physically demanding as a construction worker job.

Cindy Speaker: Right.

Noell Black:  So all of those jobs have to be considered, and sometimes … You know? Depending on what your limitations are, you may not can do the construction work, but you can do the security guard job.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah. Let me ask you again, did you say that kind of their line in the sand is about $1,200 dollars a month?

Noell Black: Twelve hundred and twenty dollars a month is what Social Security-

Cindy Speaker: It’s not much.

Noell Black: No. But that is what they call substantial gainful activity. So if you are making that much-

Cindy Speaker: Wow.

Noell Black: money, then they consider you gainfully employed.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay. So, that could really … What about if somebody had a whole lot of part time jobs, but they made the $1,200 dollars a month in their part time jobs? Are they all factored in?

Noell Black: Well it … kind of the same rules kind of apply.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

Noell Black: Social Security when determining if you can perform any job-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

Noell Black: … they have to consider a full time basis for those jobs.

Cindy Speaker: Oh they do?

Noell Black: However … Yes.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black: They can’t say that you can go back and do another job part time. They have to say that you are able to perform a full time job. However, when looking at past work … You know? I see so many, and I guess it’s because of our health care regulations that we have now, so many employers only employee people for that, so they stay under that 30, 32 hours a week …

Cindy Speaker:  That’s so true. Yes.

Noell Black:  … so they don’t have to offer benefits to them.

Cindy Speaker:  That’s true.

Noell Black: However, if you make $20 dollars an hour at 32 hours a week, you’re going to be over that $1,220 dollars a month, and that work can be considered past relevant work, even though you only worked part time for a couple of years-

Cindy Speaker: Ah. Right.

Noell Black:  … because, you made gainful activity on the job.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay. This gets complicated.

Noell Black: Yeah. And again, it can be very complicated.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Yeah.

Noell Black: You know? That’s one of our areas of expertise, and that’s where we can come in and help with that.

Cindy Speaker: Right. Right. Well how is it that the Social Security Administration determines if someone is disabled, and therefore qualified for benefits?

Noell Black: Well they have what they call five steps to the sequential evaluation process. The first one is, are you working? And if you’re working presently over that $1,220 dollars a month, you’re not disabled. Second is, do you have a severe impairment? And that is any impairment that limits your ability. They call it a severe limitation in your ability to perform work limitations. The third, is do you meet certain Social Security listings or rules? And those are based on specific impairments, and there’s a lot of those rules and regulations and listings for that. It’s not something your general population is going to know, so that’s something we look at on each of our cases. You can’t loose at step three, but you can’t win at step three.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black: If you do not meet any of those specific rules, then you go to step four, and that is, can you do any of the work that you’ve done in the past. In the past 15 years, is there any of those jobs that you’re able to perform? And if we get past step four, that you cannot perform any of that work, then we go to step five. And that is, can you perform other jobs, which exist in the national economy, and significant numbers based on your limitations.

Noell Black: And so, that is basically the five steps, and if you can’t perform other work, then your disabled.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black: So it’s kind of a long process.

Cindy Speaker: It’s very complicated.

Noell Black: Yep.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Really. So alright, let me ask you this. So can your firm help them figure out what jobs they may be eligible for, because … and the second part of that question is, is the Social Security Administration going to listen to your recommendations, or their recommendations for that, or do they completely make their own recommendations?

Noell Black: Well it just depends. It’s not that they say necessarily that Cindy Speaker can go and do a job as a telemarketer, or something like that.

Cindy Speaker:Okay.

Noell Black: But they pose it as hypothetical individuals with the same limitations as you have.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

Noell Black:  So you know, we are not vocational counselors. We can’t tell you what jobs you are or are not able to do, but it is all based on your medical records and what’s your treating physician say. You know? If we get a statement, and we typically always try to get a medical source statement from a physician, and if that medical source statement says that you’re only allowed to sit two hours a day, and you’re only allowed to stand two hours a day, and you can’t lift more than 10 pounds, then at a hearing, which is where most of these decisions as I said before are made, there will be a vocational expert that testifies at that hearing.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

Noell Black: And so, we pose questions to that expert, based on the limitations that are in your file. And then that expert, is the one that tells us, “Well with those limitations, yes, this person would be able to do their past work as a construction worker, or security guard, or no, they would not be able to do that work.” And then, they may also say, “They can’t do that work, but they can do another job.”

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

Noell Black: Or they may say based on those limitations, there’s no work, that no job exists in the national economy that someone can do that can only sit two hours and stand two hours, but that’s only a four hour day.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

Noell Black: So they have to consider eight hour work day.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. So really, I mean, to work through this, it really sounds as if you need an attorney on board to help. I don’t see how the average person … I don’t think I … I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, it just sounds like there’s so many moving parts to this whole process.

Noell Black: There is a lot of moving parts, and you know? There are people who can go in, and get approved, and they may have a judge that’s sympathetic, and get approved without a representative. But it really is rare case scenario.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. Yeah.

Noell Black: And most of the time when you walk into a hearing, and you don’t have a representative, the judge is going to advise you of that right to representation, and really … You know? Suggest that you find representation and someone to help you to maneuver these things, because you don’t know what questions, and most of the time these claimants are not going to ask a question to the expert. And if the judge doesn’t ask the question that supports your case, then you’re not going to win that case-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

Noell Black:   … and that’s the difference that we can help and make in that.

Cindy Speaker:  Right. Noell how can someone reach out to your firm for help, cause I know you do a lot of these.

Noell Black: Yes. Oh yes. We do.

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah.

Noell Black: It is 251-343-1111 they can call us, or 1-800-332-1529. They can also find us online at www.gardberglaw.com, and call the office, and let us get on board, and start helping you with your case, before you get to that hearing level, before all this information is too much for you to handle.

Cindy Speaker: Right. Right. Well listen, thanks for being with us today.

Noell Black: My pleasure. Thank you.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah. So those of you who are watching either live or by replay, if you have questions or comments, you can put them right on this page. Also, call the office, check out the website, there’s lots of resources there. Whatever you do, if you’re in this position, you’re disabled, you’re trying to get benefits, it just sounds like it’s really a no-brainer to get an attorney involved.

Noell Black: Exactly.

Cindy Speaker: So your goal and I know my goal just in listening is to help people. You want to help individuals get the benefits they deserve.

Noell Black: Exactly.

Cindy Speaker: That’s the bottom line.

Noell Black: Exactly. That is the bottom line.

Cindy Speaker: Thanks everybody. Have a great day.

Noell Black: Thank you.