Written by: Luis R. Gracia, Esq.
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 disabled individuals 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.
Below are the 5 most common mistakes that I see individuals filing for Social Security Disability make which hurt or eliminate their chances of being awarded disability benefits.
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 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.
Not giving Social Security complete information
Frequently, I see disability denials where the information used by Social Security to evaluate the claim is incomplete. First of all, make sure you disclose all of your medical providers and their contact information in your initial application. Social Security is not going to “hunt down” this information from you if it is not provided to them in the beginning.
Secondly, disclose all of your medical conditions to the Social Security Administration. 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.
Focusing on medical conditions and not on 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 disabling medical conditions.
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. These medical conditions are not limitations. Limitations are the individual physical and/or mental restrictions caused by the symptoms flowing from your medical conditions. In other words, in what ways are you limited in doing certain activities as a result of 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.
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.
The following “common sense” issues are irrelevant (i.e., do not count) in the disability review process:
That you cannot think who in their right mind would give you a job with the medical condition(s) you have
That the possible, hypothetical, job Social Security says you could do pays very little
That you have never done that hypothetical job in your life and have never trained for it
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
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.
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. 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 Social Security 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.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra, and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.