There are many myths and realities in a Social Security claim. Most are learned from non-attorney friends and family. And most of them either heard from someone else or had their own unique experience in their claim.
Listening to other people’s experiences can give you a glimpse of what you could expect in your own Social Security claim. However, relying on that information alone can lead you to a path that can hurt your claim in more ways than one.
If you wish to start on the right track, you’ve come to the right place.
Oh, and I also created a course for those who wish to file for disability and want to start on the right track. And you get a free “sneak peek” before you buy. Simply click here to check it out!
But, for now, let’s talk about these myths and realities and what to do to avoid damaging your case with misinformation.
Myths and Realities of a Social Security Claim Deciphered
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Pre-filing Myths and Realities:
“My neighbor (cousin, uncle, etc) gets disability but I see him walking without any issues. If he can get it, why can’t I?”
Your neighbor may be suffering from an “invisible illness” like Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Seizures, etc.
He may also have a bad back that you can’t tell from the “outside” that he is hurting inside. Finally, his disability may be a “mental” one where he walks normally, but he suffers from debilitating Anxiety, PTSD or Depression, and getting out of the house may be his only activity.
Stop comparing your case to your neighbors or cousins!
You just don’t know their medical records enough to know how that person won his/her case. Also remember that even if by a miracle that person was able to “fool” the system, it will eventually “catch up” with him during a future review.
“I had a heart attack (or any serious diagnosis) and I can’t work for the next few months. I will apply now and it should be a “slam dunk“.
While those diagnoses are very serious, they won’t necessarily give you a “slam dunk” or immediate approval.
If you have a heart attack today and file tomorrow, you will more likely get denied since it’s too early to tell how long your impairment may last.
There “kicker” is:
The 12-month rule regarding the duration of your impairment.
To put it simply, you must prove that your condition has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more…from the time you stop working!
You can read more about the 12-month rule in my post How do I know if I qualify for disability.
Some of the conditions may coincide with the time you were forced to stop working. And those are easy to tell when they started.
However, other impairments are gradual and they start long before you think about quitting your job. Eventually, these impairments become so painful or difficult that you can’t work anymore. These ones are a little trickier to “set the clock” to start the 12-month countdown.
That’s why the date you stopped working should be used as the date of onset (beginning of disability). Examples are Fibromyalgia (gradual) or degenerative spinal issues (gradual).
There is also the issue of “temporary disability“:
While a mechanism exists to pay for a “closed period“, by the time you return to work your case may still have not been decided.
Social Security will rarely pay temporary benefits unless they can tell right away that it will take over 12 months to recover. One example is some types of cancers.
Obviously, some diagnoses clearly show things will not get better for you, but they need to be assessed in regards to severity and not as much in regards to the diagnosis.
Focus on the date you stopped working and start your 12-month counting. Then you have two choices if you still want to file but are unsure about when to file :
- You can file right away and accept the fact you may be denied. The only positive is that you get your place in line earlier.
This is not usually recommended because it’s too early to file and you also risk reaching the hearing stage before you reach the required 12 months. Or,
- You wait just a few months from the date of onset to file. By the time they issue the first decision you are already at the 12-month mark.
Say you had a heart attack on January 1, 2018, and you stopped working that day.
If you file right away (days after the heart attack), you may see a decision around the 4-6 month mark from the onset date.
Not good, because it has not been 12 months since the onset.
But what if you waited 6 months after the heart attack to file?
This is better for several reasons:
First, after 6 months of rest, you may see that you feel better enough to go back to work.
Second, if you are still far from “feeling better” and you decide to file at the 6-month mark, by the time they issue a decision you will be closer to or at the 12-month mark.
At that point, they may be more likely to approve you if your records support your disability.
Oh and don’t worry about the back benefits. You can still claim your date of onset no matter when you file (for SSDI only! Not SSI).
The only “kicker” is that your benefits will be calculated starting no earlier than a year before filing.
Unfortunately, in SSI claims the benefits only start from the date of the application and not the onset.
To learn more about how the backpay works you can read my post about Understanding How Social Security Back Benefits Work.
Third, even if you get denied the first time at the 12 month mark, you may have a better chance at winning on the second round, simply because now you are way past the 12 month mark and Social Security can actually tell that you are unable to work.
If this is too confusing, be sure to consult with a local attorney to check the best timing to file your claim. They can’t charge a consultation fee anyway.
Why not take advantage of that?
Post Filing Myths and Realities:
“I filed for disability after my spine doctor told me I am disabled because I can’t be a truck driver anymore” (or Insert your profession here).
Lots of claimants file for disability after their doctor said they can’t do their job anymore.
So in the above scenario, the doctor told this claimant that he was disabled simply because he could not be a truck driver anymore.
The problem is that most doctors don’t really know how the Social Security System works. To file for disability you have to prove that you cannot do ANY JOBS. Not just your old job.
If Social Security finds a job that you can do even with your impairments, your claim is over.
It doesn’t matter that you are not trained for it, or that it doesn’t pay as well as you are used to.
In the “truck driver” scenario, he may not be able to be a truck driver anymore (according to the doctor) but what about other jobs?
Say, for example, a “Monitor job” (the person looks at a monitor all day)? or a “Parking lot cashier job (no heavy lifting, sit/stand whenever you need/want to)”? Or a “Customer Service working remotely (no need to type, you can work while you are in your recliner)”?
Something a little easier.
When asking your doctor if you are disabled, the question should be, “are there any jobs you think I can do with my impairments?”
If the doctor says “no way” then you are on your way to a much better claim.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about the medical records and how you will need him to really document not only the treatment and symptoms but also “his own observations”.
This is VERY IMPORTANT because your doctor’s observations are the key to a winning claim, whether it’s a physical or a mental impairment.
Take a closer look at your medical records.
Do they have an “Objective” or a “Physical Examination” title listed? If so, pay very close attention to what the doctor is saying. This is where he writes his observations and this is where winning cases are born!
Try to read them with the eyes of an outsider. If an outsider looked at that portion of the records, would he/she think right away that you are disabled? Or at least that you are in severe pain or exhibiting severe mental symptoms?
Also, if the best notes are coming from the “History or Background” part of the medical records, you have to make sure that it’s the doctor reporting his observations and not YOU reporting your symptoms.
If you wish to learn how to read your medical records like a pro, look at the end of this post for my Medical Records 101 Course. Free “sneak peek” included!
“I want to go to school while I wait for my disability claim to be approved so at least I have something to do in the meantime”
NOOOOOO! No, no, no!
If you are strong enough to handle school, even if part-time and with accommodations, you WILL very likely be denied.
Trust me, I learn that the hard way.
One of my clients who was visibly disabled but insisted on going to school (without telling me), claimed he was only studying 4 hours a day. The judge denied him saying that because of those hours he could not tell how disabled the claimant really was.
That case should have been a win but going to school cost my client his case and it was too late for me to fix anything!
Remember that to win Social Security you have to prove you cannot do ANY JOBS.
If you physically and/or mentally can handle school you could potentially be seen as “able to work”.
Even in a part-time situation, there is always going to be a question, “if that person can do part-time schooling, what prevents her from doing it full time”.
The same goes for working part-time. There is always going to be that question.
I know there are those claimants who just HAVE TO work or they would starve. but be sure to be working very few hours during the week or it will affect your ability to win your claim.
If you are going to school while your claim is ongoing, know the risks, of course. And be sure to tell your attorney early on!
If you still wish to go to school, be sure to be attending very few classes (less than 2 hours a day). Also be sure to gather documentation about accommodations provided by the school such as online courses, or self-paced classes.
This will ensure that you can demonstrate to the judge that despite attempting to learn a profession you are doing this more as a hobby that may never translate into work or anything.
If you get better you could apply your diploma towards a new profession and that’s honorable. But be aware of the risks since any physical or mental activity that can translate into work can and will be used against you in your claim.
Now that these myths have been deciphered, do you have any other “gems” you heard from a neighbor or friend that you wish to share with me?
If so, pop into my Facebook page and share with other readers so we can debunk even more myths together.
Until next time,
Courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims.com
You learned how timing and medical records are key to a winning case.
If you wish to learn how to read your medical records like a pro, I created a course called Medical Records Reading 101 just for that purpose. For only $9.99 you will learn how to read your records, how to organize them and how to create a timeline so you never lose track of your treatment.
When it’s time for your hearing, you will have everything properly organized. And during the time you are waiting for your hearing date, you will be able to make corrections and get full support for your disability by getting your doctors to write the correct information on your records. Simply click on the image below and you will be directed to the course page:
Other courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims.com
If you were denied disability and you are looking to appeal with “better” evidence, I created a course on how to use a Residual Functional Capacity Report to add to your medical records. This is a form you can take to your doctor to complete in support of your claim. And you can submit it to your file in your next appeal or hearing.
The course includes forms for physical or mental impairments and instructions on how to ask your doctor to complete them. You can take a “free sneak peek” to see if this course is for you. Click on the image below and you will be directed to the course page:
Also, if you are looking to file for disability and don’t know where to start, I created a course called the “5 Day File your Disability Claim” Guide. In this course, I teach you every step you should take to file your claim.
Simply click on the image below and it will take you directly to the course page. Take a “free sneak peek” of the first lesson to see if this course is for you.
You know the blog, now you can take one step further and learn the process of preparing and filing your claim.
As a thank you, you will receive a Nifty disability checklist. This is where you can write down all your medical information to keep track of your case.