Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a nerve-wracking process. If you know people who have applied for disability benefits in the past, you know that it can take a long time to be approved and that many people are turned down the first time that they apply. Waiting and worrying about whether or not you'll be approved can be frustrating. You can give yourself some peace of mind by avoiding common mistakes that sometimes delay approvals or lead to denials. Take a look at some mistakes that you'll definitely want to avoid.
Working or Collecting Unemployment
It's perfectly understandable that you'd want to work or collect unemployment benefits until you're approved for your disability benefits. After all, you need money to live on, and it has to come from somewhere. But if you want to be considered for disability benefits, you need to show that you're too disabled to make your income without it. If you're bringing in more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit set by the Social Security Administration ($1,170 a month for non-blind applicants as of 2017) then you won't be eligible for benefits. You'll need to scale back or quit entirely.
As for unemployment, claiming it sends the wrong message to the claims examiners and administrative law judges that review Social Security Disability claims. When you apply for and accept unemployment benefits, you are stating that you're ready and able to take on a job if a job that you're qualified for becomes available. But when you apply for Social Security Disability, you're stating that you're unable to take a job, even if one is available. This conflict can raise questions in the minds of the people who approve or deny disability claims. Officially, claiming unemployment doesn't automatically disqualify you from approval, but claims examiners and administrative law judges are allowed to consider unemployment payments as one part of the picture when deciding your claim. That means that taking unemployment benefits can definitely increase your risk of a denial.
Being a Noncompliant Patient
If you're not following your doctor's orders, there's a good chance that you may be turned down for benefits. Why? Because one of the things that the Social Security Administration considers when deciding your claim is your credibility. And if you claim to be in pain or physically limited, but you aren't doing the things that the doctor recommends to help you, then your credibility is damaged. If your doctor prescribes medications, therapy, or surgery, it's in your best interest to agree if you want to be approved for disability benefits.
There are a few conditions where noncompliance won't harm your case. You don't have to accept any treatment that is against your religion, and you can turn down a treatment if the side effects of the treatment are worse than the symptoms of your disability. Also, if you can't afford treatment and you either don't have insurance or don't have sufficient coverage for your treatment, and you have no access to free or reduced-cost medical care, then you won't be penalized for not complying with treatment. If you have one of these good reasons for not accepting recommended medical treatment, make sure that you provide it to the Social Security Administration, along with any needed documentation.
Not Hiring a Lawyer
A Social Security Disability lawyer really can get you through the application process faster and help you avoid a denial. If you've already been denied, a Social Security Disability lawyer can help you win your appeal. Consider that you'll probably only ever deal with your own Social Security Disability benefits claim, but a lawyer who specializes in Social Security Disability deals with many such claims, and knows tactics that you don't.
Don't assume that you can't afford a lawyer, either. Most lawyers who deal with Social Security Disability work on contingency. That means that they don't get paid until you do. What's more, they're limited in what they can charge you. The law only allows them to take 25% of any past-due benefits you receive, and their fee can't exceed $6000. No matter what your financial situation is, you can find a Social Security Disability lawyer you can afford.
Avoiding common mistakes can help you avoid the pitfalls that you've heard about when it comes to Social Security Disability claims. You'll worry less while you wait for a decision if you know that your claim is as error-free as possible.
For more information and assistance, talk with a lawyer, such as those at The Nelson Law Firm LLC.