Don’t Make These 10 Big Mistakes on Your Social Security Disability Claim
1. Rush through the disability claim paperwork.
If you rush through the Disability Claim Report – Adult, Activities of Daily Living Report, and Work History Report at the beginning of your claim, you will leave out important information.
Disability Report – Adult
The purpose of this report is to give the adjudicator the big picture about your claim.
- The date your disability began is called the Onset Date. This is the date that your impairments kept you from working full time.
*If you were injured, received treatment, went back to work, but could not meet the demands of work and had to stop working shortly after returning to work, your onset date will be the first date you stopped working.
*If you were ill and used all of your vacation, leave, holiday, and personal days in the last few months of work, your onset date will be the last day that you were consistently working full time, not the last day of work.
- The physical and mental impairments that keep you from working are considered in combination, list everything.
*Even if you suffered an injury or illness that suddenly stopped you from working, you should list all of your health problems in this report. Every health problem is relevant, including obesity.
- You must list all the names of your doctors and the hospitals where you have been treated for all physical and mental conditions.
*List all doctors, clinics, hospitals, and testing facilities, even if you are not still being treated there.
*If you do not provide the name and address, the adjudicator will not get the records and the decision maker will not have a complete file to base a decision on.
*You have a duty to identify all evidence that relates to your disability.
Activities of Daily Living Report
The purpose of this report is to show the adjudicator how your impairments affect you in a typical day. Many claimants lose their disability claims because the adjudicator concluded that the claimant could perform his or her activities of daily living and therefore could work a full time job. It is up to the claimant to show that this is not true.
- Household chores- if you need to take breaks or depend on help from others, describe how long you can perform the chore, the length and frequency of the breaks you take, what you do during the break, and the help you need in detail.
- Driving—if you have changed your driving habits, describe how they have changed and explain why your impairments forced you to change them.
- Shopping—if you need help getting to the store, walking through the store, putting items in your cart, putting items into your car, taking the items into the house, describe the help you need and explain why you need this type of help.
- Hobbies—if you have had to give up or modify the things you do for recreation, describe in detail how you have changed. Did you give the hobby up completely? Do you take frequent breaks? If you claim that your hands keep you from typing, but you still do needlework, the adjudicator simply will not believe you. If you claim your knees hurt too bad to stand and walk at work, but you still go hunting and fishing, the adjudicator will think you are not believable. Describe these activities in a way that shows the adjudicator how your impairments have limited them and why you cannot work even though you engage in these hobbies.
Work History Report
The purpose of this report is to help the judge decide if you can do your past work or if you have skills from your past work that you could use in other jobs.
- Many people leave out jobs that overlapped with others and jobs that did not last long. This is a big mistake. If you cannot remember all the jobs you have had in the past 15 years, ask the caseworker to print a detailed earnings report so you can refresh your member. Don’t forget to list self-employment.
- Many people underestimate the amount of weight they lifted, carried, pushed, or pulled at their job. If you are not sure, ask someone who still works there what things weigh. If you cannot do that, describe the object in detail.
- Many people exaggerate their supervisory responsibilities. If you were a working supervisor, make that clear in your description of the job. If your job demanded tasks from two or more different job descriptions, explain this in detail.
2. Miss the consultative examination.
If you miss the examination that Social Security arranges with a doctor or psychologist, your case will be denied immediately. This could delay a favorable decision by 6 -18 months.
3. Call the adjudicator for a weekly chat.
You will receive notices containing the name and phone number of your adjudicator. You should only call to provide updated information to the adjudicator. You should not call frequently to find out the status of your case. In many cases, the adjudicator will make assumptions about you that are very damaging based on comments you made on the phone.
4. Leave out information about a worker’s compensation claim
You have an obligation to provide the Social Security Administration with all information that relates to your disability. This includes information about current and past workers’ compensation claims. Provide your attorney’s contact information as well as the claim number(s). Provide a copy of the settlement agreement and weekly payments if you have that information.
5. Work for cash and try to hide it.
Working for cash “under the table” will come back to haunt you. If you try to work, keep a detailed log of what you did, who you worked for, how long you did it, the help you received, and how much you were paid. When you are asked in the Disability Report – Appeal whether you worked, provide these details and explain how your impairments limit you to this work instead of full timework.
6. Ignore your doctor’s advice.
If you do not follow your doctor’s advice, your claim can be denied for failure to seek appropriate medical treatment.
- If you have side effects from a medication and stop taking it, return the unused medication to your doctor and ask the nurse or physician’s assistant to document the problems you had.
- If you decline a surgical procedure because of the risks involved, describe the reason you did not want to have the surgery and ask your doctor to note that in the medical records.
- If you think you cannot afford a procedure or a test, look into financial assistance with the medical provider. Explain to your doctor that you cannot have the test or procedure done at this time and ask your doctor to document that in your medical records.
- If your doctor recommends that you stop smoking and you try a smoking cessation method, ask your doctor to document this in your medical records.
- If you tell the judge at your hearing that you cannot afford medication while you are still spending money every week for cigarettes it will seriously damage your credibility and possibly result in a denial of your claim.
- If you miss your doctor’s appointments, the judge will assume your problems are not very severe.
7. Start babysitting your grandchildren full time.
Most judges will assume that if you can supervise one or more children on a daily basis, you could work full time outside the home.
8. Go on a big vacation.
Most judges will assume that if you can go on a long vacation, you could work full time. If you do travel, keep a little notebook to jot down the things the changes in the plans you had to make due to your health problems, especially if your travel companions were able to enjoy activities that you could not take part in.
9. Post photos of your big vacation on your Facebook page or Twitter.
In some cases, a decision maker can look at your social media posts. Your credibility will be severely damaged if you claim that your impairments interfere with your ability to work and take care of your personal needs while your social media posts show you having a great time with friends and family.
10. Rate your pain as a “12” – on a scale of 1 to 10.
When you are asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, if you say anything higher than “9” you are probably damaging your credibility with your doctor or ultimately, the judge.
More claims are denied because of damaged credibility than any other reason. By the time your case goes to hearing, the judge will review hundreds of pages of records about you and decide whether you are believable. Avoiding these 10 common mistakes will help you avoid damaging your credibility.