Here are the most common mistakes made by otherwise deserving claimants. Avoid these problems and your chance of winning goes up dramatically.
Mistake #1 – failing to appeal your denial within the 60 day deadline. This applies to all appeals – from your appeal of the initial claim denial, your appeal of the reconsideration denial, and even your appeal of a hearing denial.
If Social Security denies your claim, you must appeal within sixty (60) days. If you miss the deadline you will have to start over, which may result in thousands of dollars of lost benefits or, in a worse case scenario, you may lose your rights to benefits altogether. Social Security does have a procedure whereby you can petition SSA to accept a late filed appeal but acceptance is not guaranteed.
Sixty days can go by quickly so don’t miss your appeal deadline.
Mistake #2 – choosing the wrong onset date. When you apply for benefits you will be asked to choose your “onset date” or the date that you believe you became disabled. Often, a reasonable onset date will be the date that you were last able to work full time.
Often we see cases where disability claimants use the date of their application for an onset date, or they may choose a date from 20 years ago. Sometimes, an applicant chooses a random date that has no association with a former job or a medical event.
If you do not go far enough back in time when choosing your onset date you could be giving up thousands or tens of thousands in past due benefits. A recent onset date might also take you out of consideration for SSDI benefits because your coverage may have lapsed.
If you choose a date in the distant past, yet you were able to work for months or years after that date, your claim will not merit a second look because you will not be deemed believable.
When you file for benefits, think about a date that reflects a time when the medical evidence will support your contention that you were not able to perform the duties of even simple full time work.
Mistake #3 – not understanding what you have to prove to Social Security in order to win. Social Security defines “disability” in terms of your inability to perform the duties of a simple, entry-level job – such as:
- packing ink pens in a box
- monitoring security cameras
- taking tickets at a movie theatre
Disability for Social Security purposes means more than not being able to perform your past work. Yes, you have to prove that you can’t handle the duties of your past work, but you have to go further. You have to convince a judge that you could not successfully handle any type of job.
- meet a listing
- meet a grid rule
- prove that your capacity to function at a job has been so diminished by one or more medical problems that you would not be reliable at work
You can present one, two or all three of these arguments but you need to do so clearly and with reference to specific pages of evidence. Simply walking into a hearing with a stack of medical records and putting the burden on the judge to figure it all out will result in a denial 99% of the time.
Mistake #5- = not understanding that you have to prove why and how you are disabled. Many disability claimants feel that because they have paid money into the system (through taxes) that they are somehow entitled to get money out if they become disabled.
This is not the case. You are eligible, but not entitled” to disability if and only if you can prove to a judge that you meet SSA’s definition of disability. If you to into a hearing unprepared to make a compelling argument and to offer medical evidence in support of that argument, you are going to lose.
Even more importantly, you must not show an “attitude of entitlement.” You need to present yourself as a fighter – someone who hates the idea of filing for disability and who would return to work in a minute if his/her health improved. If the judge senses that you have given up and decided that you are disabled, then he may find you less than fully believable.
Mistake #6 – insufficient medical records. In the current environment, disability judges will not approve cases where a claims file contains minimal medical records, where records do not document a serious problem or where there are gaps in treatment.
It does not matter that “there is nothing the doctor can do for me, so why should I go,” or “I have no insurance and cannot afford treatment.” You have to find a way to get regular treatment – if not, you are probably going to lose.
Mistake #7 – not having objective evidence of an impairment in your record. Our experience has been that Social Security judges are a lot more comfortable awarding claims where the medical problems can be identified by objective testing – tests such as an MRI, CT scan, myelogram, nerve conduction study, echocariogram, doppler study, etc.
Tests that allow doctors to see or measure a severe medical problem tend to get approved, while more subjective illnesses (such as fibromyalgia, CRPS, myofascial pain) tend to be discounted.
Obviously there are exceptions and some subjective impairments will be approved but those claims face an uphill battle.