More than half of all initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD/SSDI) benefits are denied each year, according to data from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
These denials are often based on simple mistakes made in the application documentation. In this post, Tennessee disability lawyer Michael Hartup discusses some of the most common errors made during the SSD application process and how working with an attorney can help you avoid these pitfalls and improve your chances for a successful application.
Incomplete or Inaccurate Work History
One major mistake many SSD applicants make is failing to provide enough contextual information about your employment history and your disability’s impacts on your ability to work.
Your work history is extremely important and will be scrutinized by the SSA as your eligibility for benefits is determined. Providing an accurate and comprehensive work history is crucial to your application.
When filling out your application, it’s important to describe the jobs you performed in the last 15 years in as much detail as possible. This can include information on the physical requirements of the job, such as how much lifting or standing was required. These details along with additional information will help the SSA determine whether you can still perform certain duties related to your previous work, or whether you can perform other jobs that have diminished physical requirements.
Describing your job positions inaccurately can greatly damage your chances of a successful SSD claim. The easiest way to avoid this mistake is to be honest about your job responsibilities and functions in the initial application. Withholding, fabricating or misrepresenting information pertinent to your case can lead to a denial and serious legal consequences.
Incomplete or Insufficient Medical Treatment History
Accurate medical records are a vital component of the Social Security Disability application process, and it’s important that you provide the SSA with a complete record of your treatments and medical providers. You should provide these records from the date your disability began to the present.
The SSA relies on medical documentation to establish your disability and approve you for benefits. Supporting medical documentation may include but is not limited to paperwork from emergency room visits, surgeries, prescription medications and physical therapy.
It is also important to list your primary care provider, as well as any other medical professionals you’ve seen regarding your disability. Equally important is the documentation of any other conditions you may suffer from as well; both disabling conditions and more minor health problems should be included in your application.
Missed Filing Deadlines
Missing deadlines for your SSD application can lead to an immediate denial, as the SSA will refuse to review your application past the specified date.
If you’ve missed a deadline, you will have to show “good cause” for why it was missed. If the SSA decides the cause you provided is insufficient, you will have to start the application process from scratch. This can be especially frustrating for first-time applicants who aren’t familiar with the strict deadlines in place.
If your application was denied and you plan to appeal your SSD claim, you must meet the related appeals deadlines. The SSA typically provides denied applicants 60 days after the receipt of their denial notice to file for an appeal.
An experienced disability lawyer can help you avoid missed deadlines by ensuring that your application or appeal request are properly completed and documented, and filed within the SSA’s established timeframes.
Not Understanding Your Disability Date
Not understanding your so-called “disability onset date” is another factor that can lead to a rejected SSD benefits application. Your disability onset date is the date that you became unable to work as a result of a disabling medical condition.
A precise date can sometimes be challenging to pin down, in part because many disabilities are progressive conditions. However, this date can affect your eligibility for SSD benefits as well as your benefits pay period.
You can change your onset date after applying or prior to the appeals process, but you must notify the SSA in writing. Amending your disability onset date can be tricky, and it’s often best to seek the help of a disability lawyer to do so.
Disability is Temporary
Many first-time SSD applicants overlook the length of their disability, which is a crucial component for receiving disability benefits.
To be eligible for SSD benefits, your disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. If your disability is expected to improve within a year, your claim will be denied.
Engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity
Although there is no hard rule against SSD applicants and recipients working, the SSA does have an income threshold for determining benefits eligibility.
When applying for SSD benefits, you must be able to prove that you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). As of 2019, the SSA defines SGA as earning $1,220 or more monthly from working; for blind individuals, the amount is $2,040.
If you are working when you apply for disability benefits and your earnings exceed this threshold, your claim will be denied. If you are already getting Social Security Disability benefits (not Supplemental Security Income) and you begin working above the SGA level, your benefits could be ceased.
Failure to Follow Doctor’s Instructions
When making a disability benefits determination, the SSA will verify that you have been receiving treatment from a medical professional and determine how well you have responded to treatment.
It’s critical to follow your doctor’s instructions for any treatment prescribed. Not following your doctor’s instructions properly can result in a denial. This includes taking prescribed medications and engaging in rehabilitation exercises as prescribed by your physician.
Failure to Work with an Experienced Disability Lawyer
Although you are not required to hire an attorney to apply for SSD benefits or to appeal a rejected claim, doing so can improve your chances for approval. A recent survey by the legal publisher NOLO found that SSD and SSI applicants who worked with a lawyer were nearly twice as likely to be approved for benefits than those who represented themselves.
A knowledgeable disability lawyer can help you avoid the common errors detailed here by helping you thoroughly and accurately prepare your application or appeal. An experienced attorney understands the evidence needed to support particular disabilities and how to gather sufficient documentation for your application or appeal.
If you live in the greater Jackson, Tennessee, area and you need assistance applying for SSD benefits or appealing a denied claim, please call The Law Offices of Michael Hartup at 731-424-5559 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.