Avoid Mistakes When Filing for Social Security Disability

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Education, SSDI representation are key to receiving Social Security benefits

Ed Swierczek

It’s not easy, but don’t give up. Make sure you have an expert disability representative such as Allsup who will continue to work with you throughout the entire process.

It’s an unfortunate fact: Two-thirds of people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will have their initial application denied. According to Allsup, a leading nationwide SSDI representation company, if they appeal—even if eventually successful—they still face waits of two years or more before ever seeing a disability payment.

But there is good news. According to Edward Swierczek, an Allsup senior claimant representative with 37 years of SSDI experience, applicants can shorten the process by avoiding a few common mistakes that can delay their Social Security benefits or have their disability application rejected.

“Social Security disability payments are often the sole source of income for millions of people with disabilities,” Swierczek said. “Unfortunately, the SSDI application and disability appeals process is complex, and many people make errors in the required paperwork. This may result in even more delays, which worsens what can already be a precarious financial situation.”

SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration that taxpayers and their employers fund through payroll taxes. Swierczek points out some common mistakes and offers advice that may improve an applicant’s chances for a quicker, favorable SSDI decision. They include:

Educate Yourself
Many SSDI applicants believe it’s just a matter of completing a few forms and then sitting back and waiting for their checks. That’s just not so—the federal disability benefits program is a very complicated process. According to Swierczek, the SSA follows a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine eligibility:

  •     You must not be gainfully employed, which for 2011 is defined as earning $1,000 a month or more.
  •     Your condition is severe, meaning it interferes with basic work activities.
  •     Your condition is on the SSA’s list of disabling medical conditions (or medically equals a listing) and your condition is expected to last for at least 12 months and/or result in death.
  •     You are unable to perform the work you had been doing before your disability, and,
  •     You can’t perform any other type of work.

“You have to meet the first two criteria before the SSA will even consider your claim,” Swierczek said. “If you’re a 40-year-old ironworker who hurt your back, the SSA may determine that you are not disabled if you can still do desk work. You may not think you can work, but if you don’t provide compelling evidence on why you can’t, they will deny your claim.”

Get Professional Help
It’s also a serious mistake to file for SSDI benefits without help from an experienced representative. Just as many people need help when they file their income tax returns, people with disabilities need professional help when they apply for SSDI benefits.

“Most people just don’t understand the requirements of what’s needed to qualify for SSDI,” Swierczek pointed out. “Sometimes it’s a matter of attention to key details, forgetting to cross a ‘T’ or dot an ‘I.’ An experienced representative knows precisely what information the SSA needs to approve your application, and he or she knows how to present it. We also know that applicants with a professional representative usually receive their benefits quicker with fewer delays.”

Don’t Underestimate Your Disability
Whether it’s pride or simply having lived with a disability long enough to have found ways to work around their condition, many people underestimate how much their disability affects their day-to-day lives.

A good example, according to Swierczek, is a 55-year-old woman who tells the state Disability Determination Service that she can still do her own shopping. “That might be the truth, but it’s not the entire truth,” he emphasized. “Yes, she may go shopping, but she neglected to tell the SSA that a neighbor has to take her to the store because she can no longer drive, and that she has to use a motorized scooter to get up and down the aisles, and then she has to ask a store employee to reach something on the top shelf. Without these details, the SSA doesn’t have the information it needs to make an informed decision on her SSDI eligibility.”

Don’t Exaggerate
Just as bad as underestimating your disability is making your 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 usually use a cane, would be exaggerating his condition. “If a judge asks to look at your cane and sees the tip isn’t worn, the claim is immediately suspect, even though the claimant may have a legitimate case. Elaborate, never exaggerate.”

Be Precise About Your Work History
Knowing the expectations for your work, and showing accurately from the outset why you can no longer perform this work, is crucial. For example, Swierczek noted that a service technician might be required to drive for extended periods as part of his job.

“If your impairment means you can only drive for 10 minutes without extreme pain, yet your job requires you to drive in 60-minute stretches, you must make it clear on your SSDI 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 SSA believes you can still perform your work, but you cannot work because you can’t meet the job requirements,” Swierczek said.

Never Give Up
The SSDI process can be tedious and painfully lengthy. Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for a decision with their disability appeals. For people already facing serious physical or mental disabilities, it can add to the difficulty. But Swierczek pointed out that receiving SSDI benefits is a right that people with disabilities have paid for throughout their working lives.

“It’s not easy, but don’t give up,” he emphasized. “Make sure you have an expert disability representative such as Allsup who will continue to work with you throughout the entire process.”

If you have questions about whether you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, or handling your disability appeal, please contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free SSDI evaluation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 700 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.

Rebecca Ray
(800) 854-1418, ext. 65065
Dan Allsup, ext. 65760


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