Winning Your Social Security Disability Claim: The Stakes Are High (Part 2)
Please review my previous post for the first part of this discussion.
Blunder #8 – Assuming that the SSA forms you fill out will win your claim.
These forms are important, don’t get me wrong. But they can also hurt your claim. I often see people overstating their disabilities or overstating what they can still do around the house. Either way, the SSA will rely more heavily on the medical records in your claim and will also compare what you say are your disabilities with what the medical records say.
The SSA assesses your credibility, that is – do they believe you – at every step of the way. If your claim goes to a hearing and you tell the judge something different that what you filled out on the forms, the judge might not believe you. My advice: always be truthful and accurate when filling out the forms. Don’t overstate or understate your disabilities.
Blunder #9 – Assuming that your medical and/or psychological diagnosis is enough to get you approved.
All too often I talk to people who don’t understand why they haven’t been approved because they have “-“ condition. The truth is that while having a diagnosis is mportant, what judges really look at is how that condition limits your ability to work and affects your daily life. Disability claims are won based on your symptoms and limitations, not your diagnosis. We’ve talked before about the importance of keeping your medical treatment updated. You need detailed medical records that document your limitations and conditions.
Your disability attorney will talk to your doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists to ask their opinions on your specific limitations. Your attorney understands what information
the judge is looking for to assist in making their decisions, and often this is the most critical part of your claim. The judge will also have to determine whether he or she believes these opinions, or in their language, how much “weight” should be given to the opinion. More weight will be given to your doctor’s opinions if your treatment is continuous and consistent. An experienced disability attorney knows the right questions to ask your doctors.
Blunder #10 – Not getting the right kind of medical care.
The SSA and judges have rules they need to follow when reviewing your medical records. According to the rules, only certain types of medical providers are
considered to be “medical sources”. Judges are more persuaded by mainstream doctors (like MDs and DOs). Certainly, if alternative therapies like chiropractic or acupuncture is helpful to you, I don’t mean to tell you that you can’t get this treatment. But a judge will not take a chiropractor’s opinion as seriously as he or she will take into consideration your MD’s opinion.
I understand that in certain communities, the only kind of care you might be able to get is with a nurse. My advice is to make sure you know whether or not your doctor is truly a doctor and if not, see if you can get treatment with an MD, or have an MD oversee your treatment. If all else fails, make sure you have a longstanding history of treatment with the nurse. The same goes for mental health treatment. If you are only able to get counseling with a social worker, make sure there is a psychiatrist on staff who knows about your situation and will sign off on your treatment.
Blunder #11 – Assuming that your doctor will support your claim for disability benefits.
He or she may not, and worse, some doctors just flat out refuse to get involved in the process with the mistaken thought that they might get dragged into court. You can assure your doctor that the judge will not need to talk to them, but that their attorney will be asking some very specific questions about your limitations. Many doctors don’t know what the SSA rules are and they think that someone has to be bedridden to
qualify for disability benefits. It is important to let your doctor know that you have applied for disability benefits and to ask your doctor whether they support you claim. If your doctor refuses to support your claim, you might want to consider finding another doctor.
Blunder #12 – Assuming that if you lose your claim at a hearing, you can re-apply right away.
If you lose your claim before a judge and then reapply, SSA will know that you already lost your hearing. They will look at the judge’s decision and look at your application even more critically. If you lose and reapply, you will need to present a new disability or at least prove that your conditions have become significantly worse. The stakes are too high to not be fully prepared and have the best representation the first time around.
The above information is NOT a substitute for legal advice and should not be interpreted as the dissemination of legal advice. It is only meant as general guidance on various issues which may be applicable to your situation. It is critical that you
consult with an experienced attorney before taking any legal action or have specific questions addressing your particular case answered.