DID YOU KNOW……….?
65% of all SSDI applicants will have their initial claim denied.
3-13% win on reconsideration (based on location)
46% will win at the hearing level.
46% sounds like pretty good odds, but the wait time from filing the initial application to getting in front of a judge can take up to 3 years. And it can take up to an additional 6 months or more to start receiving your benefits.
14.5% win at the Appeals Council, but even if they are successful, they will go through several additional steps and may wait two years or longer before they ever see a disability payment.
The better prepared you are when starting this arduous process, the better your chances of prevailing. Remember, disability benefits are what you have earned through years of work.
SEVEN COMMON MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID MAKING THEM
1. BEING UNPREPARED
Some people believe it’s just a matter of filling out a few forms, sending them in and waiting for their checks. They would be surprised to find out just how complicated the SSDI process really is.
The Social Security Administration follows a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if an individual qualifies for disability benefits including:
– You must not be gainfully employed, which is defined as earning $940 a month or more,
– Your condition is severe, meaning it interferes with basic activities of work,
– Your condition is on the Social Security Administration’s list of disabling conditions, or medically equals one of the disabling conditions on the list, and you will be disabled for more than 12 months,
– You are not able to do the work you had been doing before the impairment, and,
– You can’t perform any other type of work.
You have to meet the first two criteria before the Social Security Administration will consider your claim. If you’re a 40-year-old construction worker who hurt your back, the Social Security Administration may find that you are not disabled if you can do desk work. You may not think you can, but if you don’t provide compelling evidence of why you can’t, they will deny your claim.
2. GOING THROUGH IT ALONE.
3. EXAGGERTING YOUR DISABILITY
Too many want to make their condition appear worse than it is. For example, a man who uses a cane at a hearing before an administrative law judge but doesn’t normally use a cane would be over-representing his condition. If the judge asks to look at the cane and sees the tip is not worn, the claim is immediately suspect, even though the claimant may have had a legitimate case if he’d just stuck to the unexaggerated truth. It is important to elaborate, but not exaggerate.”
4. FORGETTING TO DOCUMENT YOUR DISABILITY
Records, Records, Records. Before filing, make sure your disability(ies) is documented. (Read Why? here). Speak to every physician’s office and inform them you are applying. Get a copy of your records, tests, hospital visits; keep every appointment, follow up on every medical recommendation and take your medications whether you are filing for a physical or mental disability. And continue to follow this during the process. If you’re not using an attorney, don’t forget to file the records timely. If you don’t have supportive records, hold off filing until you have had time to create a document trail of your disability.
Note: When you complete the disability form, make sure you enter the correct contact information for every medical professional/hospital etc including the fax number for medical records and if appropriate, contact person. Make it as easy for SSA as possible. (If you retain an attorney, they will do all this for you).
5. BEING VAGUE ABOUT YOUR WORK HISTORY
Knowing what the expectations are for your work, and showing accurately from the outset why you can’t perform this work any longer, is an essential part of qualifying for SSDI benefits.
For example, a plumber might be required to drive for extended periods as part of the job. “If your impairment means you can only drive for 10 minutes without experiencing extreme pain, yet your job requires you drive in 60-minute stretches, you need to make it clear on your disability application what the work expectations are and what your limitations are.
Otherwise, you may end up in double jeopardy: Your disability claim is rejected because the Social Security Administration believes you can still perform your work. But you’re out of work because you really can’t meet the requirements of the job.
6. MISSING FILING DEADLINES
The Social Security Administration denies more than 60 percent of all initial SSDI applications, but there is a formal appeals process with three levels. If you are rejected at any level, you have only 60 days to appeal to the next level. If you miss the deadline, you need to start the process from the beginning.
If you’ve applied on your own and received a denial, it’s not too late to choose an SSDI representative to handle the appeal and continue with your case. Taking this step may make the difference in experiencing further delays to receiving your SSDI benefits.
7. GIVING UP
The process can be excruciatingly long and cumbersome. Nearly 750,000 people are waiting for a hearing before an administrative law judge, which is only one level of the SSDI appeals process. For individuals already facing significant physical or mental disabilities, this delay can add to the difficulty. Remember that receiving SSDI is a benefit that individuals with disabilities and their families have earned if they meet the SSDI requirements. An SSDI award also is essential in securing other forms of financial support, including Medicare benefits and retirement protection.
Stay focused, get good advice, representation, and don’t give up. You’ve earned this.