It’s hard enough when you’re dealing with health problems and can’t work. Now you face a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process with dozens of rules and a separate legal system. Plus, most people get denied the first time they apply.
We know how stressful this process is, so we do everything possible to help you through this complicated system. To give your disability benefits application the best chance for success, we’ve gathered a list of five common mistakes you should avoid when applying for SSDI benefits.
Abusing Illegal Substances and Alcohol
Judges avoid awarding Social Security benefits to people who abuse illegal substances and alcohol. This is because they are concerned these applicants will spend the money on illegal drugs. It is up to you and your Social Security disability lawyer to prove your addiction is irrelevant to your SSDI benefits.
If you previously had a substance abuse problem but have since quit, be specific about what you did and when you quit. Joining a rehabilitation program could help you in confirming dates. In addition, it will demonstrate that you’re actively working to heal from your addiction and have people to hold you accountable who can testify as witnesses if necessary.
How a Drug Addiction Could Affect Your Social Security Claim
When you have a past drug addiction, there’s always a chance that you could be denied benefits. However, according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Code of Federal Regulations §416.935, the Administration bases its decision on whether your addiction is a contributing factor to your disability.
The general rule is that if you stopped using drugs or alcohol and still have a medical condition, your case will likely be valid. But if you still use substances that could contribute to your condition and could even be a cause of it, your application will most likely be denied and you’ll have to file an SSDI appeal.
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Working While Claiming to Have a Disability
Because the application process can take over two years to complete, you may wish to attempt to work during that time. That’s understandable; however, working undermines your chances of obtaining Social Security disability benefits. Furthermore, if your income is too high, your disability claim will be rejected.
“Under the Table Work” May Harm Your Claim for Disability Benefits
All work, whether “under the table” or not, should be reported. Any work performed could be evidence of your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.
Judges dislike vague answers about doing a little work “here and there,” so keep records of any work you’ve done.
It’s also important to remember that providing false information to the SSA, including the failure to report work and income, can result in severe penalties – including criminal prosecution.
Failing to Undergo Consistent Medical Care
In determining disability, your medical file is more important than other evidence. First, you need to obtain reports of your doctor’s observations. Next, you need to have test results, such as laboratory findings, x-rays, or MRIs.
Medical evidence helps the SSA confirm your health problem, so the decision to award you benefits is more meaningful and the program is stronger. People can’t just go to a hearing, describe their symptoms, and expect to win benefits.
To persuade a judge, you must also receive care consistently and follow your doctor’s orders. Don’t miss doctor appointments or fail to take medications; the judge might not believe you need help. If you’re struggling with insurance or Medicaid eligibility, you should explore the possibility of attending a free medical clinic.
How We Can Help You Avoid Making This Mistake
While our team can’t help you get medical care, we can ensure you have reliable medical evidence to present in your case. We can do this by collecting your medical records and other documents related to your treatment history.
We can help you make a solid first case for social security disability with your initial application. Our social security disability attorney will help you gather all the relevant medical evidence inasmuch as we understand that the costs of getting medical evidence can be a barrier. We can help reduce the costs of gathering medical evidence for our clients.
Understating the Demands of Your Past Jobs
Avoid downplaying the difficulties of your previous jobs. Sometimes people fail to provide enough details on their past responsibilities, leading the SSA to determine whether they could return to their previous work and perform the same duties.
For example, avoid just listing “store manager” without explaining that the job required you to perform the tasks everyone else did. Instead, remember everything, including how much lifting, standing, bending, and climbing you did.
The more information you include about your work, the more evidence you have supporting your case. Our social security lawyer can help you organize your evidence into a strong comprehensive case.
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Failing to Work with a Local Disability Lawyer
An experienced disability lawyer knows how to identify exactly which of your health limitations will meet the SSA’s qualifications for benefits. Plus, a local lawyer knows how to present your case to give you the best chance of securing SSDI benefits. Here are a few other reasons why working with a local lawyer may help your disability benefits claim:
- Personal Relationship: Local lawyers are often more able to develop personal relationships with their clients, which can lead to a more personalized representation. They’re more likely to understand your unique circumstances and can better prepare you for what to expect in your hearing.
- Familiarity with Local Courts: Local lawyers are often familiar with the local court system and the administrative law judges (ALJs) who preside over these hearings. They can tailor your case to the particularities of the local court and anticipate the judge’s inclinations.
- Accessibility: Local lawyers are typically more accessible for face-to-face meetings. This can improve communication and help you feel more comfortable and confident about your case.
- Continuity: Some larger firms may assign a different lawyer to represent you at your hearing, sometimes just a few days in advance, which can lead to a disconnect in understanding your case. With a local lawyer, you’ll likely have the same person working with you from start to finish.
In addition, if a firm can’t tell you who your lawyer will be for an upcoming hearing, it may be a sign that they won’t provide the personalized and consistent representation you need. Always ask a potential lawyer about their approach to representation, familiarity with local courts, and whether they will handle your case personally.
Learn More About Social Security Disability Application Mistakes
At Pilzer Klein, we understand that applying for Social Security disability benefits can be stressful. Making mistakes can easily delay or even prevent you from receiving the benefits you need. That’s why our experienced Greenville, SC, Social Security Disability attorneys are here to help guide you through the process and avoid common pitfalls.
We can assist you with understanding the application process, advise you on potential mistakes to avoid, and review why a previous claim may have been denied. We aim to ensure you have the best chance of getting your benefits approved. Contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your needs.