You will be asked the questions we are going to go over no matter how you apply. Some of the questions will catch you off guard if it was not for this article.
What Is Your Disabling Condition?
It is recommended to include on these form all conditions that affect your ability to function in any way. It can be especially helpful to include mental health, depression and psychological struggles, even if these are not your primary condition as they can be the difference maker.
What doctors, providers, and hospitals have information about your condition?
List every provider including:
- emergency room,
- medical test, and
- specialist visit you have had since becoming sick.
For physical health, Social Security will attempt to collect records from all doctors starting one year before your onset date (the date you listed as becoming unable to work). For mental health, they will attempt to collect records form all doctors from two years before your onset date.
It is only an attempt, and it is common that they will not get all the records and may make a decision without them. It is important that they get the records, generally the more records the better. After your application is received and processed, it will be assigned to a Disability Examine at DDS. Many people find it helpful to contact that person, see which records were received, and try to help them get the missing ones by going to the provider and making sure they get sent in. Betz and Baril takes great pride in making sure records are complete so SSA can evaluate your claim fairly.
What is the Contact Information for Your Doctor?
It is very helpful if you provide Social Security and provide your lawyer, Betz and Baril with complete contact information for all your doctors. Try to include all phone, fax and physical addresses.
If you don't give them full contact information, they may do something weird like write to your doctor's home address or a doctor that has the same name. These things can happen more often than you think. The easier you make things or your lawyer makes things for the DDS workers and SSA the better off you will be as a general rule.
Do You Have Children?
If you are applying for SSDI, it is important to write down the names of your children on your application, even if they do not live with you. If you become pregnant or have more children while applying, it's important that those children get added to your application as soon as possible and that you keep written proof of your request to have them added. (This matters a lot for SSDI only, it is not important for SSI).
Why Can't You Work?
First saying things like:
- it hurts
- a while
- not long
These are all words that mean many different things with everyone and these type of answers do very little for your case. Use specific amounts of time, quantify your pain, but stay away from filler words.
Why you can not work is extremely hard to explain but the kind of restrictions below usually eliminate all work by themselves and I think they are important to look at and understand the position of the agency that is determining your ability to work or not work. Every person is different. We all know when we can not do something describing it accurately is entirely another matter.
Your reasons for not doing sedentary work (depending on age, exertional level, education and a few other factors can make it easier than eliminating all sedentary work) will be unique to you and your illness. We have seen these restrictions eliminate all work:
- Some people are unable to do sedentary work because their medical records show that cannot sit up long enough to do this kind of work.
- Some people have medical problems that make use of their hands difficult, so they cannot do any kind of tasks with their hands for an extended time. Occasional use of the hands tends to eliminate all work.
- Taking more than the customary breaks allotted throughout the day will eliminate all work. Some people are unable to do sedentary work because their medical records show that they need to take too many breaks, they cannot sit in one place for an extended period, or they need to lie down throughout the day.
- Some people are unable to do sedentary work because they have too many cognitive problems, with memory, focus or concentration. Many sedentary jobs require some level of focus or concentration. We see these kind of issues with Traumatic Brain Injuries quite often.
- Missing more than two or more days a month consistently will erode the job base. Some people are unable to do sedentary work because their health creates so many absences and no employer would allow this many absences.
- must elevate legs while seated above knees
- A lay down option as needed,
- can't crouch, stoop, or bend, or
- must lie down and/or sleep during the day due to fatigue,
- cannot follow short, simple instructions
- cannot interact appropriately with supervisors and co-workers
- cannot maintain attention and concentration for extended period of time
- will miss two or more days of work per month for medical reasons, or
- will be off-task for more than 15% of a workday, excluding customary breaks. Some Vocational experts go as high as 20% before eliminating all work and one vocational expert I know will disable the petitioner for as little as 3%.
Are Your Working?
Answer honestly. If you are earning under SGA, you are eligible to apply for Social Security, though you may need an extra strong application. If you are self employed, they will consider the amount you make after business expenses and deductions.
Some readers have reported that when they checked “yes” to the working box, the online system did not let them continue the application. Or you can try checking “no” and then in the remarks section make a note that you are working, but you are earning less than SGA so you checked no.
Now some exceptions to this that will not count towards SGA is if your employer is making significant accommodations and it matches with the restrictions your doctor says you have. However, winning on these facts are tougher and more often than not the petitioner will get denied.
Another is if you are trying to return to work. It must be a meaningful return to work so if it lasts a month or two it will be considered a failed work attempt and this may actually help you because it shows you want to work and that you are not taking advantage of a situation.
Call an attorney for assistance. Even better call Betz and Baril at 865-888-8888
What are Your Dates of Employment and Past Jobs?
Do the best you can you will not be denied because you were off on dates a bit. SSA will know the dates, don't worry unless you didn't pay taxes. Ideally, what you write here should be the same as what is on your taxes. If you do not know when or where you worked, you can submit a Request for Social Security Earnings Information Form to Social Security. Some people put estimates for dates and then write in the remarks section if there was anything they estimated.
If you were technically employed, but stopped working (out on extended sick leave or disability leave) during the end of your employment, then list the last day you actually performed work. In the remarks section, make a note with the dates you were employed but out on leave and not performing work.
If you worked repeated small jobs or odd jobs, this is what the SOAR program does in this situation. They write something general such as: “odd jobs/housework/cleaning 2010-2012” and then explain in the remarks section that dates are estimated to the best of that persons memory.
You can also see a simplified version of your earnings record if you create an online account at SSA.gov. This will not have the same level of detailed as a full earnings information request.
Do You Intend to Apply for SSI?
This question appears on the application for SSDI. If you are poor right now or do not know, always check “yes.”
Do You Have Any Remarks?
Write down things that will help such as:
- Terminally Ill.
Make sure your case is flagged as a priority case for homeless, veterans, or terminal illness. If you needed assistance to complete this application, you can note this here. You can also add if there is anything important they need to know about your application. It is OK to leave the remarks section blank, only add things that are beneficial to your claim or that the DDS needs to know to make a fair decision.
When Did You Stop Being Able to Work Because of Your Disability?
Usually your alleged date should be the day after the last date on which you were able to work at any job at a full time bases. Do not put 6 months before you quit working full-time. At best that will have no bearing on your case and may negatively affect the outcome. Remember DDS workers and Administrative Law Judges listen to people complain about a variety of things and they are more likely to pay people that are honest about when they became disabled and those that do not exaggerate their conditions.
Why Haven't You Been Going to The Doctor?
This question does not appear on any forms. However, if you have been unable to see a doctor regularly, someone from Social Security may call you to ask you why. Or you may be asked this by your doctor or by the Social security doctor. Frankly, not going to the doctor unless your disability results from amputations, paralysis, or the like will make it extremely difficult to win your case.
These cases are won and lost off of medical evidence and not having consistent medical evidence will almost always hurt your case. Consistent medical treatment varies depending on the condition and who is evaluating your claim but going to the doctor less than 4 times a year begins to become very problematic.
No matter how long it has been since your last doctor appointment, and no matter what the reason is that you stopped going to the doctor, the very best next step you can take is always the same: immediately start seeing a doctor again, if you are at all able to.
Betz and Baril is always available call us 865-888-8888 and let the winning begin.