When applying for Social Security disability benefits, one of the most important things to do is submit a clear and comprehensive application. Make sure the Social Security Administration has everything it needs to accurately assess your disability.
Before you start the application process, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with some of the most common mistakes people tend to make when going through the SSDI disability claim process. Knowing where applications typically fall short can help you keep from making some of the same mistakes.
- Conflicting Information
- Going It Alone
- Incomplete Information
- Missed Appointments
- Failing To Meet Deadlines
- Collecting Unemployment at the Same Time
- Not Fully Describing Symptoms
- Failing to Get Adequate Medical Care
- Losing Hope
- Not Filing an Appeal in Time
- Failing to Check Status
Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be a lengthy and frustrating process. It’s important to present the best possible case for yourself on the very first try. Taking the time to ensure that your claim is as clear, accurate, and complete from the very beginning may greatly increase your chance of having your claim approved without having to engage in the appeals process.
It’s important to research the types of benefits that may be available to you, learn everything you can about the qualifying criteria for those benefits, and make sure you have all your documentation well organized in advance. Once you have taken these steps, try to avoid the following common mistakes.
When juggling the sheer volume of information required for your Social Security disability claim, it can be easier than you think to include information that is conflicting in some areas. You or an attorney should take the time to carefully review your full claim application. Ensure that all information is in alignment and presents an accurate impression of your medical situation, especially when it comes to specific diagnoses, medical test results, and dates.
For example, if you include statements that contradict one another or present inconsistencies regarding your medical condition, it can create problems during your review.
Many people try to navigate the Social Security disability claim process all on their own. While it’s possible to win a claim by yourself, your success is much more likely with a disability attorney or advocate at your side. Working with a qualified and trusted disability lawyer from the very beginning can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, along with guiding you through the complex appeals process if your claim is denied.
You may feel daunted at the idea of hiring a disability attorney, or think that you can’t afford to if you’re not working. However, keep in mind that disability lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means you owe them nothing unless and until they help you win your case.
Disability attorneys must follow rules set by the federal government. After a claim is approved, the maximum amount an attorney can charge is $6,000. Since most Social Security disability claims are denied on first review, it may make sense to work with an attorney who can help guide your claim through the application process.
Many Social Security disability claims are denied upon first review simply because they are incomplete. Forms may be left out or questions left blank or medical documentation simply not supplied. You must answer every single question included in any form.
Tip: If a question doesn’t apply to you, answer it with “N/A,” but never just leave it blank. The SSA won’t know if you chose not to answer that question or simply made an oversight. You may feel frustrated by the fact that the same information is requested in multiple ways and in multiple places, but be sure to complete it anyway.
You may be asked to participate in discussions or examinations while your claim is being reviewed. Failing to show up at any of these appointments can greatly endanger your claim.
Of particular note is the consultative exam. If you miss that appointment and fail to reschedule it immediately, the SSA will decide your claim without that vital piece of medical evidence. This all but guarantees that your claim will be denied for lack of documentation. The same is true for any hearings, meetings, or other appointments the SSA schedules for you. Contact the SSA immediately if you can’t make an appointment and try to reschedule. The worst thing you can do is simply not show up without an explanation.
You must meet any deadlines set forth by the Social Security Administration related to your claim. Failure to do so can result in a denied claim.
Deadlines are especially important during the appeals process. For example, if you miss the initial 60-day deadline for submitting an appeal, you will not be able to continue with the appeals process. Instead, you will have to start over with a new claim from the very beginning.
If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, you can expect to be denied if you are also collecting unemployment insurance benefits at the same time.
The two programs are designed to meet very different needs. Unemployment benefits are for people who can work but need help while they look for a new job. SSDI benefits are for people who are unable to work due to disability.
Eligibility requirements for each program are in direct conflict. When you file for Social Security disability benefits, you are claiming that you have been unable to work and expect to be unable to work at least for 12 months. But when you apply for unemployment benefits, you are claiming exactly the opposite – that you are able and willing to start new employment.
If the SSA sees that you are accepting unemployment benefits, your claim for disability benefits is likely to be denied. In some cases, you could even be held responsible for paying back any duplicate benefits you have received.
It’s important to give the SSA a full and comprehensive understanding of your disability and its effect on your daily life. While you don’t want to exaggerate your symptoms, it’s important not to downplay them or fail to describe them accurately. Your physician and your medical documentation can help provide the SSA with an objective and clinical description of your medical condition.
One of the most important aspects of your claim is the medical documentation. In addition to providing evidence of a medical condition, you must show how it has progressed, how you have been treated, and how your condition affects your ability to work.
If you are too sick to work but fail to get appropriate medical treatment, your claim will likely be considered incomplete for failing to show adequate medical documentation. Obtaining comprehensive proof of a long-term disability requires timely and consistent medical care. The SSA is especially interested in your most current medical documentation. You may be asked to participate in a consultative exam so that the SSA can ensure the most recent medical evidence possible.
The Social Security disability claim process can be frustrating and exhausting, but don’t lose hope. By some estimates, you can count on the process lasting anywhere from 6-24 months. During that time, you must complete countless forms, answer questions, meet deadlines, and more. It can feel like a lot of work for nothing, but don’t give up. Just remember to take things one step at a time.
If your disability claim is denied upon first review, keep in mind that you have only 60 days to file an appeal. If you miss this deadline, you will not have the opportunity to appeal the SSA’s decision for your claim. Instead, you will have to start over from the beginning and file a brand new disability claim.
It’s important during the claim review process that you make a habit of checking the status of your Social Security disability claim. This allows you to notice any mistakes or red flags along the way and bring them to the SSA’s attention, rather than waiting until the end of the process.
Be sure to check the SSA for accuracy. The administration processes millions of claims each year. Unfortunately, it’s common for portions of claims to be lost or incorrect.
Keep an out for status changes and notifications. As time goes on, it can be easy to forget to check the status of your claim. To verify the status of your claim, simply log in to SSA.gov. You can also call your local Social Security office to speak with a claims examiner.
You can work with a disability lawyer at any point in the Social Security disability claim process. Many people find it helpful to work with a disability lawyer from the very beginning. An attorney can assess the strength of your claim and help you get the medical documentation you need to strengthen your overall claim.
If your disability claim is denied, it’s often extremely helpful to work with a disability attorney. An experienced lawyer can effectively navigate the appeals process and increase your chances of winning the appeal.
Winning Your Disability Claim
If you can avoid these common mistakes, you may have a better chance of winning your claim. Keep in mind that your chances increase exponentially when you choose to work with a trusted and knowledgeable disability attorney.
Social Security disability benefits provide valuable financial support for those who are unable to work due to a disability. While the process of applying for benefits can be daunting, it is possible to submit an initial claim that provides all the information needed to win your claim.