When applying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits be sure to avoid the following in order to give your case a better chance of being approved:
Use or abuse drugs and/or alcohol
The use or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol can easily result in a denial of benefits. If your drug or alcohol use is deemed to be contributing to your physical or mental limitations then you will not qualify for benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does a materiality test. This test will determine if you were to abstain from all drugs or alcohol if your conditions would continue to be as severe. If the answer is yes then your drug or alcohol use will be deemed non-material to your disability claim. However, if your drug or alcohol use is exacerbating your physical or mental conditions then your use will be material and your case denied. The best practice is to abstain from all drug and/or alcohol use. Any drug or alcohol use holds a negative connotation, which can affect your credibility with SSA. If SSA views you as a liar it will be a lot more difficult to obtain SSD benefits.
Be Uncooperative with SSA employees
For SSA to make a determination about your disability claim they need to contact your medical providers and review your medical records. If you refuse to give SSA access to your records they will ultimately be forced to deny your case. I recently had a client who told me they were seeing a certain doctor, but when SSA tried to obtain the records from that doctor they were told the client had never treated there. Someone at SSA called my client to ask about the doctor, the client then yelled at the SSA employee and refused to give the correct information to SSA. Unfortunately, being rude or refusing to help SSA obtain the necessary information for your case will result in a denial. Keep in mind it is you who asked SSA to consider your claim for disability. They are not required to approve the case, so it is in your best interest to be polite and cooperative with anyone who may contact you from the office.
Abstain from treating with your doctor
Medical records are the main piece of evidence used to prove you have a disability that falls under SSA’s definition. If you lack medical treatment because you just have not gone to the doctor you will most likely be denied. SSA follows a general belief that if you are not seeking medical attention then your condition is not severe enough to be disabling.
It is just as bad to have medical insurance but to abstain from going to the doctor or treating with them just because you don’t like what the doctor is saying. Again, medical records are an extremely important part of your application. Without them, or without you following the doctor’s recommendations, SSA could interpret that as you not really having that severe of limitations. The general thought is if your limitations or conditions are as severe as you say they are then you will be seeking medical treatment to improve your conditions. SSA will make some exceptions if you are unable to follow the medical recommendation due to financial constraints or similar reasoning. But the best practice is to trust your doctor and to follow their medical recommendations.
Lie or exaggerate on SSA questionnaires
Lying or exaggerating on any form you submit to SSA will cause problems in your claim. First of all, it will affect your credibility with SSA. Meaning, SSA will have a hard time figuring out what to believe and what not to believe. The other difficulty with exaggerating on your forms is if you need to have a hearing before an administrative law judge the judge will want explanations as to your exaggerations. So instead of during the hearing spending time hearing your case and analyzing the medical records, the judge will be focused on clearing up any inconsistencies in the record.
Be as truthful as you can be to SSA regarding your conditions. If inconsistencies are noted in your file it will not only negatively affect your credit but can ensure your claim will take longer to process.
Not report any wages or earnings
Some individuals get nervous about reporting any earnings they may receive to SSA thinking that just because they are doing some side work they will not be approved. This is 100% not true. For SSDI if you are earning more than substantial gainful activity (SGA) then you will not be eligible for the program. For 2014, the SGA amount is $1,070. So if you are earning more than $1,070 per month in 2014 you will generally not be eligible for SSDI. Anything under that amount and you are fine.
Not reporting any earnings is tantamount to fraud. If SSA finds out you lied about your earnings, and they always do, your benefits will be terminated immediately and you will have to pay back the amount you received. Depending upon the situation you may even receive jail time.
If you haven’t been approved for benefits yet and SSA finds out you lied about your earnings you can pretty much guarantee you will be denied. Your credibility at this point has been shot. Meaning SSA will no longer believe anything you say to them about why you cannot work. Making your case that much is harder to get approved.
It is just not worth it to hide any earnings you may receive. The best policy is to be forthcoming with SSA.
The major theme is, to tell the truth. Do not lie to SSA. If you do you will be making it that much harder to get your claim approved. If you cooperate with SSA, always being respectful, you will be setting yourself up for a better position than if you are argumentative or uncooperative. And if you don’t think you can manage your temper or abstain from the five things noted above get an attorney to help you with your case. You will most certainly need someone who can navigate the system and help with any of these “problems” as noted above.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact us. At the LaBovick Law Group, we will make sure you comply with SSA’s requirements so you have a better chance of getting your claim approved.