Blog

Failing to comply with your doctor’s treatment can affect your case

Social Security’s decision to award you benefits depends a lot on the credibility of your statements. In other words, Social Security needs to believe that you truly are disabled. They need to believe that you experience the symptoms you claim to experience, in example, pain, weakness, or memory loss. They also need to believe that your symptoms make it impossible to carry out daily tasks entailed in basic work situations, as in, walking, sitting, lifting, or communicating.

Continue reading

The most important thing to know about disability claims

When someone receives a denial letter or letter informing them their disability benefits are going to be terminated, there is one important step that should follow immediately – checking your deadline to appeal the determination.

One of the most important things to remember about your disability claim is that there are deadlines to appeal determinations and statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits. It is very important that you never miss your deadline to appeal or go beyond your statute of limitations because if you do, your claim for disability benefits could be lost forever.

If the letter from your insurance company does not provide your specific deadline for filing an appeal, you should contact your case manager for such information. If you claim is denied, contact our firm so we can discuss the next steps available to you and help ensure you do not miss your deadline.

 

4-1-1 on appeals

Appeals are offered to claimants at all levels of decisions – except if your current claim is denied at federal court the option at the point for claimants is to start a new claim. Generally, you have sixty days after you receive the notice of decision to ask for any type of appeal.

The first appeal available to a claimant is the reconsideration – which may be requested after the denial of initial claim. The second appeal available to a claimant is the hearing before an admistrative law judge. A hearing may be requested after receiving reconsideration denial. The Appeals Council review process of an admistrative law judge decision begins after an application for benefits has been denied at the initial, reconsideration, and hearing levels. On average, initial and reconsiderations are completed in four months or less, and hearings before a judge are granted about nine months to twelve months after a hearing is requested.

Although appeals process can be a frustrating and lengthy – it’s important to not give up – you must appeal within sixty day deadline to ensure your claim is processed as soon as possible.

Perspective

We talk a lot here about the critical importance of getting medical care to support your disability claim. What is sometimes not understood, however, is that we still need you to tell us about where you have been. Nearly all medical treatment you receive is likely to have some sort of impact on your claim, but if we are not aware of it, the Social Security office probably will not know about it either. Just as an example, we once had a client who had a double hip replacement but did not tell us until six months later. Why? He thought his back was the only condition Social Security would approve him for. Fortunately we were still able to have the SSA get those medical records, and he eventually won his claim. People tend to have the misconception that they can only be approved for one specific physical or mental limitation, so they often do not inform us of care that is outside the scope of their “main” diagnosis. This is a huge mistake! Social Security can and does approve claims for a number of reasons, whether they are physical, mental, or both combined. Please do not make the assumption that a certain doctor’s records or a procedure is not important to your case – by withholding that information, you could be doing irreparable harm to your claim! Be sure to review your treatment records so we can verify the Social Security office has everything they need to fully develop your claim.

 

Getting affidavits notarized

Why is it important for my family or friends who write an affidavit on my behalf to have their affidavit notarized?  This is a question I have heard quite a few times from clients. An affidavit by definition is “a written declaration upon oath made before an authorized official”.  Without the notary public’s signature as a witness the affidavit is simply a statement. The notarized document becomes, in a sense, the testimony of your loved ones who know you and your disability or disabilities and how these impairments have affected your daily life.  It significantly increases the credibility of your loved one and yourself to the Administrative Law Judge reviewing your claim when their words have been sealed by a Notary whom is an appointed public official.

Although, it may seem inconvenient for your chosen family and/or friends to have their document notarized and may seem like an unnecessary cost to them, it really is a very resourceful tool in advancing your chances of your claim being approved.

Why you need a disability lawyer

A Social Security disability attorney is a guide to making the disability process much simpler for you; from the initial application, appealing denial to preparing for an administrative hearing. An experienced disability attorney can protect you from making common errors that can harm chances of approval.

Another advantage to having a competent attorney is to help tell your story, your personal struggle with medical conditions, which can be a powerful advantage at an administrative hearing. Your attorney will help prepare you for testimony as well as represent you at your hearing and explain why your impairments prevent you from sustaining employment.

Using an attorney that is familiar with the process can make the difference between a successful and failed claim. Obtaining necessary medical evidence to support you claim, help with filing appeals, assistance in completing SSA forms, and ensuring you are paid correctly when your claim is approved are all benefits of hiring a disability attorney.

Social Media

When filing a disability claim or in the process of receiving disability, it is important to watch the pictures and things you say on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others. It is possible that some administrative law judges could look at things you put on the internet. If this happens it could possibly be detrimental to you disability claim and even result in a unfavorable decision. The next time you are on a social media site be careful what you are writing and the pictures you may post for they might hurt your disability claim. We would recommend that you refrain from using any social media sites until you claim has been approved.

 

Updating personal contact information with your attorney

It is important to always inform your attorney or any other Social Security representative when you move and change phone numbers. If we are unable to reach you in a timely matter, it can have a detrimental impact on your case as we at certain times need to update your medical information, schedule meetings and confirm evidence in your file. Please remember that in order to have the best chance of winning your case, it is important that you communicate with your attorney whenever your contact information changes.

 

The importance of regular medical treatment

One of the most important strategies in proving a disability is by having medical evidence to support your claim. In times when you cannot work and finances are a major struggle you may think it is too much to continue to see your physican(s) but it is extremely important to continue to do so. Your physician who has seen you throughout this time, who knows your disability from a professional medical stand point, can be the defining factor between approval and denial of your claim.

The best and most effective way to show their support is through the medical source statements we request they fill out for us. These forms are crucial in showing the ALJ what your limitations are and describing your condition medically.

In the end having continued to regularly see your treating physicians, and following their medical advice, will make a huge difference in your case.

 

Compassionate Allowances

I found myself surprised recently as the Social Security Administration recently held a hearing and added more conditions to their Compassionate Allowances list. I find it difficult to swallow that the SSA has any level of compassion, but that is my personal opinion. The Compassionate Allowances program was launched in 2008 to help expedite processing of claims which fall under certain medical criteria and include diagnoses confirming any one of 50 medical conditions. This list has since grown, and effective August 2012 will total 165 conditions. Many of the conditions are genetic, various types of cancers, heart or respiratory conditions but for the most part fall within “terminal” outcomes or at least considered permanent with no full recovery expected. Most are rare or obscure at the best, but some would be familiar to most laypersons. There have been measures put into place so the Disability Offices will be able to better recognize and process claims for individuals who have any one of these conditions. The catch though is to be sure there is a formal diagnosis and to notify the Disability Office of the conditions either through your initial application with the SSA or by notifying the Disability Office of the condition as soon as it has been diagnosed. For a full list of the Compassionate Allowances, you can search the SSA’s website or follow this link: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm