Some of the most common mistakes claimants make when applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are listed below, along with ways you can avoid these pitfalls in your own application.
1. Waiting too long to apply for benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits only to qualified people who are unable to work due to a disability for at least a year. This does not mean that you must wait for a full year to apply. If your condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or end in death, you should apply for SSD benefits right away.
There are a lot of reasons why you want to act quickly. First, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits don’t start until the month after you submit a claim. You cannot get SSI benefits for the months you were disabled but did not seek benefits.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants may receive retroactive benefits, but there is a five-month waiting period before you become eligible for SSDI income. The five-month period begins to run on your established onset date (the date when you first become disabled).
2. Not seeing a doctor who specializes in treating your condition.
The SSA requires medical proof that you exhibit specific symptoms of a qualifying medical condition.This proof usually comes from a doctor who regularly treats you.
The information on your medical problems is most convincing and most likely to be taken seriously if it comes from a specialist (such as a cardiologist for a heart condition or an oncologist for cancer).
3. Continuing to work when applying for benefits.
The SSA provides benefits only to people who cannot work because of a disability. The SSA looks at whether you are engaged in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) as one criteria in deciding your benefits claim. If you make more than a set amount ($1,070 per month, or $1,800 for a blind claimant, as of 2014), then the fact that you are engaged in SGA means your claim will be denied.
4. Not taking medication or undergoing treatments recommended by your doctor.
When determining if your disability qualifies you for benefits, the SSA considers the effectiveness of medical treatments. For example, when assessing whether someone is blind, the SSA will consider the highest level of visual acuity reached while wearing glasses. When assessing a person with epilepsy, the SSA will consider the frequency of seizures while on anti-seizure drugs.
A failure to comply with treatment protocols may prompt the SSA to deny your claim.
5. Failing to appeal a benefits denial on time.
When your benefits claim is denied, there are multiple stages of appeal to pursue. The main stages include a request for reconsideration, a disability benefits hearing, a review by an administrative appeals board and an appeal to federal court.
Appealing a denial keeps you from having to start the application process over from the start.
There is a deadline for appealing. Missing it means you lose your chance to convince the SSA you deserve disability benefits. An attorney can help you meet all deadlines for appealing a denied claim.
6. Not getting help from an SSD lawyer.
A lawyer can provide invaluable assistance throughout the process of applying for SSD benefits and appealing a denial, if necessary. A lawyer can advise you on which benefits program to apply for, help you put together a strong application and assist you in the event you need to appeal a denial.
Disability lawyers charge clients on a contingency-fee basis, and fees are capped by law. There is no need to worry about getting hit with large legal costs.