5 Steps To Avoiding Problems
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1) Talk With Your Physicians , Family and Friends About Your Application.
When you fill out an application for disability benefits, you will be asked to provide the names of your doctors, employers, family and friends who can describe the limiting effects of your medical condition. Social Security will request your doctors provide copies of your medical records. They may also ask your doctors to complete forms detailing the kind of treatment you received, what tests were performed, what medications you received and most importantly, your restrictions. If you have a conversation with your doctor advising you are applying for disability benefits beforehand, you can educate your doctor about your difficulties. You will quickly learn if your doctor will support your claim.
Social Security will also be asking for input from family and friends you list on your application. Make sure the people you list are familiar with your day to day activities and are willing to spend the time necessary to complete the forms sent to them by Social Security. Their comments about your condition are very important to your case.
2) Spend Some Time Detailing Your Work Activities.
During the application process, you will be asked to fill out a form detailing all the jobs you have held over the last 15 years, as well as the physical demands of each job. Social Security uses the job descriptions you provide to help determine whether you remain physically able to return to any of those previous jobs. When doing so, SSA looks at how much you reported as having to lift, bend, push, pull, stand, sit and reach on your former job. If you report your job was sedentary in nature, requiring you lift only light objects weighing less than 10 pounds, then Social Security will look to see if your medical records would restrict you from that type of work.
People applying for benefits often breeze through the work history report, never realizing that once they describe their job, they will be committed to that description all the way through to hearing. Clients may find themselves facing a judge trying to explain why they can no longer perform a prior job that they described as requiring little physical effort. It is therefore important to list any and all physical demands of your prior employment correctly on the work activity form.
3) Describe the Side Effects of Any Medication You Take in Detail.
During the course of an application, there are a number of places where you will be asked to describe what medications you are taking and whether you experience any side effects. When we review our clients applications, many have chosen to leave these responses blank. But when questioned, most clients admit that they experience some adverse side effects from their medication. In some cases, the side effects from the drugs can be worse than the medical condition itself. Don't miss the opportunity to discuss the effects of your medication. The combination of side effects can often impact your ability to stay focused, alert and productive at work. If the medication you take causes drowsiness, nap taking, frequent urination, constipation, palpations, headaches, dizziness or any unwanted symptom, list the effect.
4) Failing to Complete Supplemental Questionnaires.
We will be the first to agree that the application process can be overwhelming. Many of our clients don't feel well, they are mentally drained and the last thing they want to do is fill out page after page of forms. Social Security will often send out, what seems like redundant forms about specific conditions. For instance, supplemental pain questionnaires are common if you have an orthopedic condition. If you have a heart condition, you will receive a cardiac questionnaire.
Social Security has forms for just about every condition, so if you are claiming to have certain medical conditions, you are likely to encounter one of these forms. Do not fail to return one of these forms. The information you provide can help substantiate work restrictions affiliated with your condition. For instance, if you have degenerative disk disease, odds are good you have some type of back pain. But Social Security doesn't know if your pain is mild or severe. They don't know how often you get pain, the location of your pain or what makes it better or worse. The supplemental pain questionnaire gives you an opportunity to tell SSA this information, in as much detail as you care to provide. It is our experience that people in pain can describe their symptoms in detail. They can tell you exactly when they hurt, where they hurt and they can give examples of what makes their pain better or worse.
Again, the information you provide at the beginning will stick with you throughout your claim. Spend the time to give the information necessary to support your claims on these auxiliary forms. If you have an attorney, be sure to submit the form to your attorney for review prior to submission of the form.
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5) Failing to Include Pertinent Medical Doctors
I tell every client the same thing. When it comes to Social Security applications, the kitchen sink is the rule. You may be claiming your disability only started 1 year ago, but are there medical problems that have been haunting you for years? Did you herniate a disk in your back 5 years ago and it still gives you problems? Did you have knee surgery 2 years ago? If there are any medical conditions that limit you in any way, put the records that support those condition into evidence. If the condition is recent, Social Security will obtain the medical records for you. But bear in mind, when SSA writes for records, they usually limit the time period for those records to one year prior to your application date.
If there are older records that support medical problems, list those providers on your application. If SSA doesn't get those records, you need to get them and put them into evidence. If you can't afford your records, hire counsel to get your records. Each and every restriction you claim, must be supported by medical evidence. In other cases, like those involving mental health or fibromyalgia, it may be important to show longstanding symptoms. In those cases, the older records show a pattern of problems. Help your own case. List all of the pertinent medical providers, then make sure those records are part of your claim file.
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