The Social Security Disability process is often a long and mentally exhausting process. Generally, the process can take a minimum of six to eight months to two years. Because of the appeals process and wait times, most claimants will end up closer to the two year wait before they see a light at the end of the tunnel.
What are some things that you can do that would be beneficial to your case?
1. DON’T WAIT TO FILE FOR DISABILITY.
I often hear of folks putting it off, because they mistakenly believe that they have to wait a year before they can apply. This is not true. The best time to file is either:
a. When you have to stop working because of your disability. This means that you could file the very next day after you stop work or;
b. When your earned income drops below substantial gainful activity (SGA). There are several factors that are considered when SSA is looking to see if your income is SGA. The most prevailing factor is an actual dollar amount. For 2017, that amount is $1170 per month for non-blind applicants and $1950 per month for blind applicants. These figures are gross amounts, not what you actually bring home. When you have significant health problems, many times your income will suffer. Are you taking off of work a lot more because you are calling in sick? Are you having frequent hospitalizations that are keeping you from working? Did you have to reduce your hours significantly because of your condition or;
c. If you are not working because of your condition but are drawing accrued employee benefits, i.e. vacation pay, sick pay, PTO, personal days, short-term disability, or long-term disability, you need to go ahead and apply.
The timing of filing a claim is very important in regards to an applicant’s credibility. In general, a person who is genuinely disabled will not put off filing a claim for months or years. The law does not look favorably on a person who sits on his rights. If you are unsure if you need to go ahead and apply or if you would otherwise qualify, call me.
2. TELL THE TRUTH.
When you apply for disability, it is important to always tell the truth. Never exaggerate or minimalize your condition or symptoms. SSA looks for inconsistencies in your allegations and how they compare to medical documentation and forms that they send you to find out more about you. If you complete one of their forms and describe that you are unable to lift 10 pounds, but your medical records show that you are a competitive power lifter; it doesn’t make sense. Either you are lying or your medical records are wrong. Guess which way a judge will see it?
Your credibility is a huge factor in your case. Once they catch you lying for one purpose, they believe you are lying about the entire thing. I agree with their reasoning on this.
Don’t minimalize your condition, either. As a nurse, I know first-hand that in the medical arena, if it doesn’t get written down, it didn’t happen. Charting is crucial to painting a clinical picture of what is going on with you. If they ask you how you are and you say, “Oh, I’m fine,” are you really fine or do you feel like telling them everything will make you seem like a complainer? They need to know what is really going on with you so that they can help you. SSA is quick to turn your, “I’m fine,” into you are obviously not disabled.
3. COMPLETE FORMS IN A TIMELY MANNER.
SSA will send you forms to complete. As soon as you get them, you need to complete them and mail them back. Do not put them on top of your refrigerator to collect dust. Do not use them as a coaster on your coffee table and spill coffee all over them. These documents are very important. They are asking very specific questions about your ability to function and your work history. There are no wrong answers. Be honest. Don’t exaggerate and don’t minimalize your condition.
If you have any questions about these forms, call me.
4. CONSULTATIVE EXAMS.
Sometimes, SSA will ask you to see one of their doctors. If they do, you must go. It will be a local doctor, and they will pay for the visit. Be early or on time. Bring your medicines with you. Also, take them as prescribed the day of the exam. In other words, do not skip a dose of medication in an attempt to seem worse to the doctor. One, skipping medication can be dangerous to your health. Two, it’s dishonest. They are going to watch EVERYTHING you do. They will watch how you walk into the office, how you get on and off the exam table, your demeanor, and if you appear to be giving your best effort- whether it’s a physical exam or a mental exam.
If you are apprehensive about this exam or have any questions, call me.
5. CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.
The process was designed so that a layperson should be able to handle a claim on his own. While this process is considered non-adversarial, it’s very easy for your words to be misconstrued, your records to be misinterpreted or not obtained at all, or regulations to be misapplied in your case. Social Security law is undergoing major changes. Claimants who are legitimately disabled are getting caught in the crossfire. Winning this claim usually means income and health insurance benefits. That’s too important to leave to chance in an area of law with significant changes this year.
When choosing an attorney, ask:
1. Do you offer free consultations?
2. If you think you can help me, will I get a face-to-face meeting with you?
3. Do you keep your clients informed about the status of their cases?
4. How many cases like this have you handled and have you been successful?
5. Do you file the initial application? Do you file the appeals?
6. Will you show up to court with me or will you send one of your administrative staff members to court? I personally believe that if you are paying for a lawyer, you should get a lawyer. Period.
Experience matters. Results matter. Choose wisely.
The disability process can be a very difficult and lengthy process. In the midst of a health crisis, you are dealing with enough; let me fight this battle for you! Contact the Law Office of Jennifer L. Foster, PLLC at 731-506-4006 or 901-866-9495 to discuss which legal strategies will get you the benefits you deserve, or visit us online at www.tndisabilitylaw.com.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.