Applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a confusing process to navigate. Even though SSD insurance exists to help people who can’t work due to their disability, there are common aspects of the claims process that can trip up applicants who should otherwise qualify for benefits.
Luckily, having an awareness of these difficulties can help ensure that your application for SSD benefits is as strong as possible. Even if an error has caused your initial claim to be denied, there is still hope. Many claimants go on to receive the benefits they deserve through the appeals process.
The SSD lawyers at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons in Oklahoma City explain the 6 most common mistakes in a disability claim below. Contact us for a free consultation if you are having trouble with your social security disability application or appeal.
6 Most Common Mistakes on an SSD Form
Most of the questions on SSD claim forms are relatively straightforward. Nonetheless, there are certain pitfalls that many applicants encounter. Unfortunately, these pitfalls can cause a claim to be denied.
Knowing what these problems are and how to avoid them can make the difference between an accepted and a rejected SSD application. Here are some of the most common mistakes made on disability forms.
1. Inaccurate or unclear date of disability onset
Question number 9 on Form SSA-16-BK will ask you to identify the onset date of your disability. For the purposes of the form, this is the date when “your condition(s) became severe enough to keep you from working (even if you have never worked).” This question is very important, as it affects how much back-pay you will be eligible to receive for your lost work – but it can be confusing and costly for many applicants.
Make sure to consider your answer to this question carefully and ensure that it is honest and verifiable for the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you were forced to quit a job due to your disability, it’s a good idea to put down the date following your last day of work. An earlier date – from a time when you were still doing the work that you claim you cannot do – can look suspicious to SSA reviewers and harm the credibility of your application.
2. Lack of details and thoroughness when describing your condition
One of the primary mistakes made on SSD forms is naming a condition without thoroughly describing it. In order to be approved for disability benefits, you need to demonstrate that your condition keeps you from working for a livable wage. It’s very important to be specific and detailed in your description of your condition and to note how this condition inhibits your ability to work.
This means that, when a form prompts you to describe your medical condition, it’s not enough to write “rheumatoid arthritis.” Instead, try something along the lines of: “I have severe rheumatoid arthritis in my knees, ankles, and wrists. I require a walker to walk even short distances and am unable to do the lifting required by my previous job.”
If the provided space on the application isn’t big enough for your detailed description, add any continued comments to the “Remarks” section on the final page of the form.
3. Underestimation or downplaying of your symptoms
Some applicants might provide plenty of details on the form, but nonetheless provide an inaccurate account because they underestimate or downplay their symptoms. For some, this can be a knee-jerk reaction to being asked about symptoms. It might feel like complaining or a “lack of toughness” to describe these symptoms to their fullest extent. Other people still may not even fully accept the breadth or severity of their symptoms.
It is important to remember that no one will view a thorough, complete description of your symptoms as weak or whiney. On the contrary, your honesty and thoroughness are essential for application reviewers to get a complete picture of your situation.
When you are asked to describe the symptoms related to a condition, carefully consider all the ways that the condition manifests itself. Be honest with yourself, and then be honest with SSA.
4. Exaggeration of your symptoms
On the other hand, some applicants err on the side of exaggeration of their symptoms. This tendency often comes from the sense that more extreme-sounding symptoms will be more likely to yield SSD benefits.
However, exaggeration is a misguided strategy that can harm your credibility and result in the prompt denial of an application. Remember that SSA officers will obtain copies of your medical records to verify the statements on your claim. If your account of your symptoms exceeds what appears on those records, SSA may deem your application illegitimate.
5. Failure to list and describe all of your health conditions
When a form asks you to name the conditions that affect your ability to work, it can be easy to fixate on what you view as your main health issue. While it is important to thoroughly describe that condition and its effect on your life, it is also important to note any other impactful conditions.
You should list and describe every one of these conditions, no matter how minor they may seem. Application reviewers understand that a series of small ailments can pile up to make work impossible. They need to know each of your conditions in order to fairly evaluate your situation.
This includes diagnosed mental conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and others that can seriously add to difficulty at work. Some applicants discount their mental health conditions on their SSD claims, but this is a mistake. Good mental health is a crucial component of workability. If you have a diagnosed mental condition, you should absolutely note that on your application.
6. Poor description of work/education history
Some applicants may thoroughly describe their condition but fail to demonstrate how it keeps them from working. This could be the case when someone doesn’t detail the requirements of their most recent job or other work experience they may have.
For instance, if SSA discovers that you have extensive work experience in a field that you could seemingly reenter, this may call the credibility of your application into question. It is much better to address all of your past training and work experience yourself so that you can personally explain why you are now wholly unable to work.
Key Terms to Know When Filing for Social Security Disability
To help steer clear of the common mistakes listed above, you should make sure to have a strong understanding of certain terms that will come up during your application process.
Here are a few of the key terms you should know when filing for disability:
Disability – The meaning of this term may seem obvious, but it’s important to have a firm grasp on SSA’s specific definition of “disability” when applying for SSD benefits. The Adult Disability Report (Form SSA-3368-BK) states: “You will be considered disabled if you are unable to do any kind of work for which you are suited and if your disability is expected to last (or has lasted) for at least a year or is expected to result in death.” This definition of disability hinges on your workability and the length of time that your condition has affected you.
Onset date – The onset date is the date when your condition(s) first stopped you from working. Another way to think of this date is the first day you would qualify as “disabled” according to SSA’s definition of that term.
Back pay – The term “back pay” refers to the retroactive benefits you are eligible to receive based on the onset date of your disability. This pay equals what you would have received if you’d hypothetically earned SSD benefits immediately upon becoming disabled.
Substantial gainful activity – Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is SSA’s standard for measuring an individual’s ability or inability to work for meaningful pay. Someone can make a minimal amount of money per month and still qualify for SSD benefits, but this person must be unable to perform SGA – that is, work activity that earns a substantial amount of money. As of 2020, the SGA limit was $2,110/month for blind individuals and $1,260/month for non-blind individuals.
Award letter – This is the letter you will receive from the Social Security Administration if your SSD application is approved. It will include the monthly amount you will receive in benefits, as well as the amount of back pay you can expect to receive.
Contact the SSD Lawyers at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons
If you are struggling with your application for disability benefits or are unsure of how to even begin the process of applying, contact Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons law firm today. Since we were founded in 1984, we have assisted countless clients in and around Oklahoma City with their SSD claims.
Our Social Security attorneys are highly focused in this practice area, and will provide you with the one-on-one attention you need to succeed in your claims process. Partner Philip Ryan has even written a book on applying for SSD benefits. Mr. Ryan also currently sits as the Chairperson of the Disability Law Section of the Oklahoma Bar Association.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced disability attorneys at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons for your free consultation today. If you decide to work with us, know that we only charge fees in disability claims cases when our clients are approved for and begin to receive benefits.
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