By Dennis L. Plank, Attorney
Pennsylvania workers suffering from a disabling injury or medical condition may think that their need for Social Security Disability benefits is clear, but when it comes to actually getting those benefits, things can be more difficult than first meets the eye.
On average, less than one in three initial disability benefits requests receives approval from the Social Security Administration. However, applicants who have been denied shouldn’t lose hope. Denied claims can be appealed, often with a better result or more complete benefits.
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be an extremely complicated process. Getting approval requires navigating many layers of bureaucracy. Unsurprisingly, paperwork errors are one of the most common reasons for denied claims. Seeking the help of an experienced Pennsylvania attorney before submitting an application can help applicants avoid many of these common mistakes, from missing documentation to skipped deadlines.
Before filing a Social Security Disability claim, make sure to prepare and consider the following crucial factors:
Make Sure You Meet Social Security Disability Requirements
Paperwork problems aren’t the only reason people are denied for their Social Security Disability claims. Sometimes applicants misunderstand eligibility requirements. Eligibility for benefits requires the applicant to:
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Have a physical or mental condition that leaves them unable to perform “substantial gainful activity” for at least a year or a condition that may result in death.
- Not currently receive benefits on the applicant’s Social Security record.
- Not have been denied for disability benefits in the last 60 days.
In this instance, “substantial” work refers to employment that earns $1,260 a month before taxes, or $2,110 per month in the case of blindness.
Get Your Documents Together
Even for those who qualify for benefits, actually getting approved is usually a difficult task. That task starts with proper documentation. Applicants must provide information about their families and themselves. When applying for Social Security benefits, applicants should have a number of documents and information at hand, including:
- Birth certificates or other proof of birth
- Proof of U.S. citizenship if not born in the U.S.
- Any military discharge papers
- W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns
- Job history
- Educational background
- Marriage and divorce records
- Bank account and direct deposit information
- Proof of other temporary or permanent worker’s compensation benefits
- Medical records
- Doctor reports
- Recent medical test results
Set Aside Enough Time to Complete the SSD Claim Form
When applying for benefits, Pennsylvania residents may have to complete an Adult Disability Report. This form is a 15-page document requiring lengthy and detailed answers to a variety of questions, ranging from work history to medical treatment. It is absolutely crucial to answer every question as accurately and completely as possible.
Once the form is complete, go over all information again to make sure the answers provided on one form don’t contradict information given on any other form. Even very small errors, such as misspelled names or improperly transcribed phone numbers, can delay the application process or even result in a denial of the claim. Experienced disability attorneys can help applicants complete the paperwork and ensure that all answers given are consistent and include any information that helps get approval.
Include Medical Records With the Application
Medical information is a key detail when evaluating a disability claim. Medical records can confirm or deny a claim of inability to work. A Social Security Disability Claim application should have complete documentation of all diagnosed medical conditions as well as any complications that an applicant has experienced as a result.
Although applicants need to fill out a lot of this information on required forms, whenever it’s possible they should also get copies of all medical records to include with their application. The people in charge of approving or denying Social Security Disability claims often request medical records and waiting for those records typically delays the process.
Seek Help From Your Doctor
Doctors’ statements aren’t explicitly required for a Social Security Disability claim, but it’s helpful to have one. This statement should go beyond simply saying the patient can’t work; it should include all relevant details of the patient’s condition, their diagnosis, symptoms, and any cognitive, sensory, or physical limitations the condition causes. The doctor’s evaluation of the patient’s ability to perform specific functions of work can also be helpful, such as:
- Using hands
- Performing simple repetitive tasks
A doctor’s statement adds more value and credibility to an application than a consultative exam completed at the disability claims examiner’s request.
Seek an Attorney’s Help for Denied Claims
The Social Security Disability application process takes an average of three to five months. Denied claims, when appealed for consideration, can take an additional three to five months, so it’s important to contact an experienced Pennsylvania attorney as soon as possible for an appeal claim. Without the help of a professional, many applicants fail their appeal.
The law offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, can evaluate the case, gather evidence, fix common mistakes, resolve delays and processing errors, and even prepare them for an appeal hearing to make their case. Contact us today for a 100% free consultation; representation is free unless we recover costs.
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