How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim—Part 1
An experienced Southern Illinois Social Security attorney can increase the odds that you will win your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim by keeping you from making critical mistakes.
Here are some examples of things claimants often do (or fail to do) that can result in an unfavorable decision:
1. Allege the wrong onset date.
If you are like most claimants, you started your claim on your own by contacting the local field office or filing the claim online. You answered the questions, one of which is “When did you stop working?” How could that be a mistake? Well, that date might be your onset date, but in many cases, it is NOT.
Your last work date will not be your onset date if:
- You were working only part time or taking frequent paid leave days due to your impairments before that date.
- You stopped working after attempting to return to work for a month or two after a medical leave of absence.
- You were working for a family business that was covering for your reduced productivity to keep you on the payroll and keep your health insurance active.
What difference does this make? It can make the difference between being winning or losing your claim. It can make the difference of thousands of dollars of retroactive benefits if you do win your claim.
See the Disability Report – Adult to see what questions you will be asked when you file a new claim. https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3368.pdf.
2. Fail to submit all material evidence.
Many claimants think that they just need to tell the Social Security Administration about the medical or mental health treatment that shows their condition is disabling. They are wrong.
What do the regulations require? “The claimant must inform us about or submit to the agency all evidence, in its entirety, known to him or her that relates to whether he or she is blind or disabled” (emphasis added). See https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/hallex/I-02/I-2-5-1.html.
Attorneys refer to this as the “all evidence” rule. Here are some examples of evidence that relates to your impairment:
- The independent medical evaluation, vocational assessment, settlement agreement, TTD payment records, or depositions of doctors in your workers’ compensation case.
- The records from the pain management doctor who stopped treating you after the date you say you became disabled because he or she thought you were drug seeking.
- The emergency room records following a bar fight you got into while intoxicated after the date you say you became disabled.
- The DOT physical showing you are healthy enough to get your CDL driver’s license after the date you say you were disabled.
- The DOT disabled parking placard application signed by your doctor after the date you say you were disabled.
What difference does this make? Failing to submit all material evidence can make the judge believe you are hiding something. Since your credibility is the key to the weight the judge gives to your testimony and the opinion of your doctors, compromising your credibility compromises your chance of getting benefits. And, even if you get benefits you could still be investigated for fraud or asked to pay back benefits you already received. Here are some examples of what the Office of the Inspector General investigates: http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse/what-can-oig-investigate.
3. Improperly describe your past work.
Before a judge can approve your claim and find you to be disabled, he or she must determine whether or not you can perform your past job or any other job in the regional economy. These are the last 2 steps in a 5-step evaluation process. See https://www.socialsecurity.gov/oidap/Documents/Social%20Security%20Administration.%20%20SSAs%20Sequential%20Evaluation.pdf.
As an illustration, let’s say you are 53, you worked on a construction crew. Sometimes, when the company owner was away from the job site, you were referred to as the supervisor. So, when you listed your past work, you listed the job of “supervisor, construction.” Let’s say that the doctors all agree you cannot do a job that requires you to be on your feet 6 hours out of 8 each day, but you can do a full time job that involves sitting 6 hours and standing or walking 2 hours a day. If the judge believes you could perform just the job of supervisor, he or she could find there are other jobs you could do. You would lose.
A seasoned Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative would carefully describe your past work, compare it to occupations in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, and explain why your past work was a composite job (a blend of two different jobs).
This fact pattern is extraordinarily common. Many claimants lose their claim or lose months of benefits because their past jobs are not accurately described.
The advice and guidance of an experienced Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim.
Watch for more blog posts in this series–How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim.
Here are some of the topics yet to come:
- Documenting why work you have done is not “past relevant work.”
- Explaining to the judge why you did not follow medical advice.
- Helping you ask your doctor to correct mistakes in your medical records.
- Explaining that your earnings record that shows zero income for several years does not mean you did not work.
- Gathering statements from family members and co-workers.
- Educating you about the judge’s particular pet peeves.
- Keeping you from making stupid mistakes like working for cash, doctor shopping, and appearing as if you are drug seeking.
- Making a compelling argument that drug or alcohol use is not a material factor in your case.
- Neutralizing evidence that makes a judge think you can work, e.g. taking vacations, hunting, fishing, babysitting for grandchildren, volunteering, or caring for an elderly parent or disabled spouse.
- Proving that your disability did not occur in the course of the commission of a felony.
- Advising you how not to lose your eligibility for SSI by doing things like buying a second car, putting your name on someone else’s checking account for convenience, moving out of the house you own and renting it to someone else, failing to disclose a life insurance policy with cash value, and getting free room and board.
- Advising you how to correct your earnings record where there are missing earnings.