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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for SSD Benefits

For those who have become disabled and are considering applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, there are a number of common mistakes that we seek to help our clients avoid. Time and again, we see claimants make the same errors or omissions in the application and review process. In our experience, the most common missteps include:


Failure to Obtain Professional Legal Representation


The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) process for reviewing and approving a SSD benefit application is highly technical and complex. Approvals, particularly those of first-time applicants, are unfortunately quite rare. And if your claim needs to go to a hearing, which most do, you’ll be before a judge to present your case and evidence. Consequently, the biggest mistake people make is trying to handle the process on their own. The assistance of a social security disability attorney simply cannot be underestimated. At ADL, our entire practice is dedicated to providing Social Security Disability claimants with the counsel and assistance they require. We are there for you, representing you before the Social Security Administration (SSA), its employees, and the judge, putting forth your best case and making every effort to get you the benefits to which you are entitled.


Filing the Initial Application on Your Own


As we previously stated, getting approved for benefits after the initial application is rare. It is even more rare for those claimants who attempt to complete and file the initial application on their own. At ADL, for many reasons, we prefer to assist our clients in filing the initial application. For example, the smallest error or omission in the application can significantly delay the process or even cause a denial. Having ADL prepare your application for you allows us to ensure that it is completely and accurately completed. It also allows us to present you in the best light from the start and put the application in our words, rather than the words of a Social Security employee who takes your application over the phone. In our experience, being involved from the very beginning of the process increases your chances of a favorable resolution.


Failure to Complete All Forms and Questionnaires


The SSA requires applicants to fill out a number of forms and questionnaires after the filing of the initial application. Neglecting to complete any of this paperwork, or brushing off questions you feel you may have already answered, is a mistake. At ADL, we assist our clients in completing each and every form they receive. If the SSA requests information, we want to make sure its provided in detail and according to the exact specifications.


Providing Incomplete or Inadequate Medical Documentation


Complete medical documentation is required as part of SSD review process. Failure to provide detailed evidence of your condition, from a respectable source, increases the odds of a denial of benefits. Licensed physicians, certified psychologists, licensed optometrists, licensed podiatrists and qualified speech-language pathologists are all viable sources.

Documentation of medical condition should include:


  • Medical history

  • Clinical findings (from physical or mental exams)

  • Laboratory results

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment (including all prescriptions)

  • Prognosis


A statement from one of these sources should also be included detailing your physical and mental capabilities and functional limitations. The SSA wants to know exactly what you are still able to do, despite your impairment. This statement will provide the SSA with a clear insight into how your disability affects your day-to-day life. (If you suffer from any other significant physical or mental impairments, be sure to include these in your medical documentation. While the impairment you have may not be eligible per the SSA criteria, it may still prevent you from being gainfully employed and be a contributing factor in your current application.)


Medical jargon and records can be extremely confusing. ADL helps its clients in gathering and organizing this medical information and documentation and in presenting it to the SSA and hearing judge in the best possible light.


Neglecting to File An Appeal Within 60 Days of Your Denial


Because the SSA initially denies most SSD benefit claims, applicants will usually have to appeal the SSA’s decision. The SSA’s appeal process has very strict deadlines. If you want to have any chance of obtaining benefits after failing to get an allowance for benefits, you will need to meet the legal timeline or lose the opportunity to appeal. Working with a skilled attorney can expedite the process and get your appeal properly filed within the 60-day deadline.


Failure to Properly Prepare for Your Disability Hearing


A hearing before an Administration Law Judge (ALJ) is a type of mini-trial, where evidence is presented and arguments made regarding your qualification for benefits. Properly preparing the for hearing is therefore vital to success. Obtaining updated medical records, getting a more complete statement from your doctor or other qualified specialist, and conducting a thorough review of your case file are advisable before the hearing. ADL has the litigation experience necessary to prepare for the hearing and present its clients’ cases.


Continuing to Work or Collect Unemployment Benefits


Qualifying individuals can seek SSD benefits as long as their monthly income does not exceed $1,350. While some people may believe that continuing to work and bringing in a part-time income, or collecting unemployment benefits, will not affect a SDD application, that is usually not the case. If you are able to work, or able to collect unemployment benefits, then it is likely you are capable of maintaining gainful employment. Many claimants have destroyed their eligibility for benefits by taking a job either during the application review process or after obtaining benefits. For more information about working while receiving benefits, see https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf.

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