The Social Security Disability (SSD) application process can be a lengthy, time-consuming, and stress-inducing experience – even more so if your application is denied and you choose to appeal.
The SSD application seems relatively straightforward – complete some forms, gather your medical records, and send them off to your local SSA field office for review – but it’s easy to get tripped up by the Social Security Administration (SSA) rules and regulations regarding what qualifies as a disability and the documentation needed to support the diagnosis.
Common Social Security Disability application mistakes
Overlook these details, and your SSD application will be one of the 66% that are denied. You can increase the chance that your application is approved at the initial stage by avoiding these common mistakes.
Not understanding the SSA’s disability rules
Many SSD applications are denied for one simple reason – people do not understand what the SSA considers a qualifying disability. Disability benefits are only paid for total disability. That means the disability must either 1) have lasted, or be expected to last, 12 months or, 2) result in your death. It must also make you unable to participate in substantial gainful activity. In 2021, that means an inability to earn more than $1,310 per month (or $2,190 for individuals who are blind). If your disability does not meet both of those criteria, your application will be denied.
Providing an incomplete picture of your disability
It’s sometimes hard for people to admit that they can no longer work and need help. This causes them to downplay the extent of their disability and the very real limitations it imposes on their ability to perform basic, everyday tasks when completing their SSD application. While pride is understandable, now isn’t the time for it. Letting your pride get in the way and downplaying the very real limitations your disability has on you will do nothing except prevent you from getting the benefits you need.
When completing your application, be honest and describe all the everyday tasks you cannot do, or the accommodations you need to perform them, as though it were your worst day. For example, if you can walk across a room without the use of a cane 1 out of 10 times, don’t say, “Can walk without the assistance of mobility devices.” That will lead the disability examiner to believe that your disability doesn’t interfere with ambulation. Instead, say “I need a cane to walk across the room 9 out of 10 times.” That’s not only honest but paints an accurate picture of how the disability affects you.
It’s also important to make sure you describe any limitations in terms of work-related tasks. For example, if you cannot lift more than 10 pounds, but your job requires you to regularly lift 50 or more pounds, you would say “I cannot lift more than 10 pounds which makes me unable to move wood beams and concrete blocks at my construction job.”
Failing to list all of your medical conditions
It is rare for an SSD application to be approved based on a single disability. But an application can be approved if your medical condition meets or exceeds a disability listing. For example, if you experience back pain and suffer from depression, you may not meet the disability criteria for either of those conditions. However, when the symptoms of both of those conditions are looked at together, the SSA may find that they interfere with your ability to work and approve your application.
Failure to see a doctor
People don’t see their doctor for many reasons – lack of insurance, lack of transportation, or a belief that no treatment can help. But not being under a doctor’s care can actually hurt your chance of getting approved for SSDI.
The SSA expects that someone with a disability that impacts their everyday life would be under the regular care of a physician in an attempt to, if not cure the condition, alleviate the effects with pain medication, massage, or physical therapy, for example.
It is therefore important that, to the best of your ability, you schedule regular appointments with your physician. Even if the prescribed treatments don’t work, having it in your medical record that you have tried certain treatments, and the reason or reasons they were abandoned, shows the SSA that despite your best efforts, the disability continues to negatively impact your life.
And if you are unable to see a doctor regularly, make sure to explain why in your application. Just don’t leave the SSA with the impression that you have willingly chosen not to be under a physician’s care.
Not hiring a social security disability attorney or advocate
Can you successfully obtain disability benefits going through the SSD application process without the help of a social security disability attorney or advocate? Yes. But is it advisable? No.
Think of applying for SSD benefits as a DIY home improvement project. Some projects, like replacing a faucet or re-caulking your shower, are relatively simple and hard to mess up. But others, like installing new pipes or building a deck, require a bit more know-how and skill. Sure, you could figure it out by turning to Google and YouTube. But in the end, the project would take much longer to complete than if you’d hired a professional, and the chances that something goes wrong are much, much higher.
Applying for SSD benefits is the same. On its face, the social security disability application is easy to complete. But it’s easy to get it wrong, either by providing not enough information or even the wrong information. Social security disability attorneys and advocates live and breathe this area of the law. They understand the nuances of the SSA regulations, what information to include in your application, and the right way to present it. Choosing an experienced disability attorney or advocate can save you the time and hassle of applying on your own.
Even better, social security disability attorneys and advocates to work on a contingency fee basis. That means you don’t pay them unless you are awarded benefits. Even then, the SSA caps their fee at 25% of your SSD backpay award or $6,000, whichever is less.
If you or a loved one has questions about navigating the Social Security Disability process we can help. Consider the Good Law Group for your representation – call (847) 577-4476.