Potentially costly errors

Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits is often difficult, even for people in Illinois who suffer from seriously debilitating conditions. Mistakes during the benefit application process are a leading reason for claim denials. People who seek benefits without the help of a Social Security attorney may be especially at risk for making the following missteps.

Undermining credibility

The Social Security Administration evaluates how credible a claim is by considering the applicant’s work history, medical history, current activities and more. When applying for SSD benefits, applicants must not give the impression that they are capable of gainful employment.

Collecting unemployment benefits can hurt an applicant’s SSD claim. Unemployment benefits are awarded to people who can perform work but cannot find employment. SSD benefits are awarded to people who are physically incapable of substantial gainful activity (SGA), or work yielding over $1,070 per month, for a period of at least 12 months.

Similarly, people who are engaged in SGA when they file an SSD claim cannot qualify for benefits, regardless of how the disability affects ability to work. These people would need to reduce their hours or quit working to become eligible for benefits.

SSD applicants must provide records showing they have sought reasonable treatment for physical or emotional health problems. If an individual has not visited a doctor, the SSA may assume the condition is not truly disabling. Relatedly, if an individual has not tried all prescribed treatments, the individual cannot prove the condition is unlikely to improve. The SSA recognizes some valid reasons for failure to seek treatment, including:

  • Financial constraints
  • Religious beliefs
  • Adverse side effects of treatment

Outside of these circumstances, however, a lack of documented treatment can hurt an individual’s claim.

Staying with an unsupportive doctor is another common error. A doctor can provide statements that attest to a patient’s disability, which often act as decisive evidence. A doctor who is busy or doubtful of the disability may be reluctant to complete paperwork, supply records or dedicate adequate time to the claim. In this case, patients should see another doctor.

Filing mistakes

When filing for SSD benefits, applicants should document all disabling conditions. Many people experience mental health issues, such as depression, in conjunction with physical conditions. In some cases, the physical condition may not be severe enough to warrant benefits, but the physical and mental condition together may be considered disabling.

Finally, when filing or appealing a decision, many applicants assume they cannot afford or do not need a Social Security Disability lawyer. However, SSD attorneys work on a contingency basis; they only collect payment if benefits are awarded. Furthermore, working with an attorney can greatly lower an applicant’s risk of not receiving any benefits.