By Dennis L. Plank, Attorney
Pennsylvania workers who suffer from an injury or medical condition that leaves them unable to work may think their need for Social Security Disability benefits is obvious, but securing those benefits is far more difficult than it may seem.
On average since 2008, the Social Security Administration awarded benefits to only 22 percent of those submitting Social Security Disability claims for the first time. Fortunately, applicants can appeal a denied claim, often with a better result.
Applying for Social Security Disability is a complex and lengthy process, so it’s not surprising that one of the most common reasons for a denied Social Security Disability claim is a paperwork mistake. Seeking the help of an experienced Lancaster attorney before completing the application can help individuals avoid many of the pitfalls, from missed deadlines to missing documentation.
Before filing a Social Security Disability claim, take the time to prepare and consider these important factors:
Make Sure You Meet the Requirements for Social Security Disability
While people often make paperwork mistakes that result in a denied Social Security Disability claim, sometimes the biggest mistake is failing to understand eligibility requirements. Not everyone qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits. To be eligible for benefits, someone must be 18 or older and have a physical or mental condition that will leave them unable to perform “substantial gainful activity” for at least a year or that may result in death. The Social Security Administration defines “substantial” work as employment that will earn $1,260 or more per month, before taxes. For someone who is blind, that amount is $2,110 per month. Additionally, an applicant should not currently be receiving benefits on their Social Security record and cannot have been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.
Compile Documentation for the Application
For those who do qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the road to receiving those benefits can be a long one, and it starts with proper documentation. Applicants must provide information about themselves and their families. Documentation to have on hand includes a birth certificate or other proof of birth; proof of U.S. citizenship for those not born in the United States; U.S. military discharge papers; W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns; job and educational history; marriage and divorce records; bank account and direct deposit information; proof of any other temporary or permanent workers’ compensation benefits; medical records, doctor reports, and recent test results.
Set Aside Several Hours to Complete the Form
When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, Lancaster County residents also may have to complete an Adult Disability Report, a 15-page form requiring detailed and sometimes lengthy answers to a variety of questions, from work history to medical treatment. It is important to answer every question as accurately and completely as possible. Once complete, double-check all information to make sure answers provided on one form do not conflict in any way with answers provided on another. Even a seemingly small error, such as a misspelled name or a transcribed phone number, can delay the application process or possibly result in a denied Social Security Disability claim. An experienced Lancaster disability attorney can help applicants complete the paperwork, ensuring that they answer questions properly and include information that could be helpful to secure the benefits they deserve.
Include Copies of Medical Records With the Application
Not surprisingly, medical information is a key detail when evaluating an application for Social Security Disability benefits. Medical records can either support or refute an individual’s claim that they are unable to work. A Social Security Disability application should include documentation of all diagnosed medical conditions and any complications an individual has experienced as a result. An applicant should also detail all medications and other treatments, their purpose, and dosage, as well as how the individual responded to the treatment and whether there were any side effects. Other required medical information includes detailed records of laboratory tests and results, and names and addresses of all doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that provided treatment, along with the dates of visits. Knowing, for instance, that an individual has made numerous trips to the emergency room due to their condition may help illustrate the debilitating effects of their condition. Again, avoid any minor mistakes in details, such as addresses or the spelling of doctors’ names.
While applicants must fill out much of this medical information on required forms, whenever possible they should also secure copies of all medical records to include with their application. Examiners who decide Social Security Disability claims will often request medical records but waiting for those records can cause lengthy delays in the decision-making process. Worse yet, some may simply deny a claim if they feel they have sufficient information without those records.
Seek Help From Your Doctor to Secure Social Security Disability
While Social Security does not specifically require a doctor’s statement, it can be helpful to include with an application for disability benefits. The statement should say more than simply that the patient is unable to work. It should include specific details of the patient’s condition, diagnosis, and symptoms along with any cognitive, sensory, or physical limitations. Also helpful is the doctor’s evaluation of the patient’s ability to due many functions of their work, including sitting, standing, walking, balancing, using their hands, lifting, reaching, or performing simple repetitive tasks. A doctor’s statement often carries more weight than a consultative exam completed at the request of a disability claims examiner.
Seek an Attorney’s Help for a Denied Claim
The initial Social Security Disability application process typically takes three to five months. When the Social Security Administration denies a claim, an appeal for reconsideration can take an additional three to five months, so it is important to contact an experienced Lancaster County attorney as soon as possible to appeal a denied Social Security Disability claim. Without the help of an attorney, many individuals fail in their appeal due to missed deadlines, paperwork mistakes, and a lack of understanding of the appeals process.
When someone has experienced a denied Social Security Disability claim, the Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster can evaluate their case, gather the necessary evidence, fix common mistakes, resolve delays and processing errors, and prepare them for the appeals hearing to ensure they receive the benefits they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our representation is free unless we recover costs.
Want to find out more about Dennis Plank? Read these articles and blogs:
Or click here to discover an even wider range of topics in our legal blog.