Top 5 Things To Avoid in a SSD Claim
By Luis Gracia
The Social Security Disability (SSD) claim process is both complicated and difficult. Trying to understand the multitude of Social Security regulations, standards and procedures can be a daunting task for any potential claimant. Although attorneys and representatives handling disability claims often give advice as to ways to maximize the chances of getting a claim approved, many times applicants with solid claims are denied because of things that they should not have done, or things that they should have done but failed to do. These are the 5 most common mistakes that I see claimants making which hurt or eliminate their chances of being awarded disability benefits.
1. Waiting too long to apply.
The quicker you apply for disability after recognizing that you will not be able to remain in the workforce, the quicker your period of eligibility for disability benefits is protected. Waiting too long to apply for benefits can result in the loss of your disability insured status; meaning that even if you are physically or mentally disabled, you will not qualify for benefits because you will not have enough credits to be insured. Although you may still qualify for disability under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, strict financial requirements have to be met for eligibility under SSI. Also, upon approval, claimants that apply for SSD are only entitled to receive retroactive (i.e., back) benefits not exceeding 1 year before their application date regardless of the date they are found to be disabled. (Those that qualify for SSI are only entitled to receive benefits from the date of their application) Therefore, promptly applying for disability benefits may result in receiving a larger back benefit award.
2. Not giving Social Security complete information.
Frequently, I see disability denials where the information used by Social Security to evaluate the claim is obviously incomplete. Make sure you disclose all of your medical providers and their contact information in the application. Social Security is not going to be doing your work for you. In addition, disclose all of your medical conditions. Too often I see claimants that focus only on a specific condition that they believe is causing them the most problems. However, the social security administration is required to consider all of your medical conditions, individually and in combination, to determine whether you are disabled. Be sure to be specific as to the symptoms you are experiencing for each condition. Finally, when it comes to your past relevant work, be detailed in the description of your physical and mental activities.
3. Focusing on medical conditions and not limitations.
The magic word in the world of real estate is location. The magic word in Social Security Disability law is limitations. You have to be specific as to the physical or mental limitations that you have as a result of your medical conditions. Do not confuse medical conditions with limitations. Quite frequently I see claimants who tell me that the reason why they believe they cannot work is because of their bad back, heart, depression, etc. Those are not limitations. Those are medical conditions. Limitations are the individual physical and/or mental restrictions caused by the symptoms flowing from your medical conditions. Why are limitations so important? Because depending on the degree of your limitations the most important factor in performing and keeping employment will be eliminated: Reliability. If you are not reliable to perform a job as it is normally performed, you will not be able to keep competitive employment. So, remember to focus on your physical or mental limitations.
4. Relying on your own “common sense” to win the case.
You have to prepare your case according to what Social Security is looking for and not what you believe makes sense. Believe me, common sense is not necessarily required in the pursuit of Social Security Disability benefits. In fact, the following “common sense” issues are irrelevant (i.e., do not count) in the disability review process: 1) That you cannot think who in their right mind would give you a job with the medical condition(s) you have; 2) That the possible, hypothetical, job Social Security says you could do pays very little; 3) That you have never done that hypothetical job in your life and have never trained for it; 4) That the hypothetical job Social Security says you can do does not exist in your city, county or state and even if it does there are no openings for it; 5) That the hypothetical job Social Security says you can do is something that you have never even considered doing. All of these factors do not come into play when Social Security is evaluating your case. Instead, concentrate in proving why you cannot be expected to complete a work week without physical and/or mental interruptions.
5. Not using time to your advantage.
It is true that it can take a long time from your initial application to the adjudication of your claim. However, you should do your best to use the amount of time it takes to process a disability claim to your advantage. Don’t just sit back and wait. Time gives you the opportunity to develop your claim. If your claim is weak on specific limitations, use the time to strengthen that aspect of the case. A rather weak claim at the time of the initial application can be made into a strong claim by the time your case is ready to go be heard by a judge. Always remember that if your claim is approved you will be entitled to receive back benefits. That means that the government has to compensate you for the time you spent going through the process to receive your approval.