Social Security Disability has very specific rules and guidelines that are very important to receiving disability benefits. Often I see people with genuine and substantial disabilities making mistakes and being unable to collect Social Security Disability benefits. Read these common mistakes carefully to protect YOURSELF and YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS:
- You Must Apply for Disability After You Stop Working. Social Security gives you a window of opportunity to apply for disability if you have stopped working due to a disability. Generally, this is five years. If there is a gap in your work record, this window of opportunity is shorter, like one or two years.
- You Must Have Worked Enough Quarters. You may have to continue working in order to gain enough quarters to qualify for disability if you have worked very little and Social Security has said you do not have enough quarters.
- Social Security Disability Insurance provides coverage for people who contributed to the Social Security system, usually through payroll deductions or self-employment taxes. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, you must have earned enough "quarters of coverage" (also called "credits of coverage") to meet the minimum requirements.
- "Quarters of coverage" are based upon your annual earnings and you can earn up to four credits each year.
- Your Disability Must Last Longer Than 12 Months. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must prove that a medical condition will keep you out of work for at least twelve months. You're not required to prove you are “permanently disabled,” but it's your responsibility to provide the Social Security Administration with information that shows the extent and duration of your condition.
- Most people are initially denied, so be prepared to explain your case and present persuasive evidence. It's wise to apply as soon as you become disabled. Waiting until you have been out of work for a year or more may cause you to lose benefits. In fact, if you wait too long, you will no longer qualify.
- You Cannot be Employed When You Apply. You are probably not going to win your case if you think you can work part time and still qualify for Social Security. Earned income is considered an automatic disqualifier in most cases. Working part time shows that you have the ability to work.
- The Social Security Doctor will Probably not Declare You Disabled. Doctors selected by Social Security rush through the examination like an Alabama running back to the end zone. The examining doctor may not have the expertise to understand your medical condition. Assuming these doctors will find you disabled is a common misconception.
- You Fail to File a Timely Appeal of a Denial. At the initial level, only about a third of claimants are granted Social Security. After the denial, you have 60 days to appeal. If you do not appeal the decision, your case cannot be given additional consideration.
- Call your lawyer as soon as you receive the initial denial from the Social Security Administration so that your case can be appealed within the 60 day time limit.
- You Fail to get Medical Treatment. A common problem is failing to get steady medical treatment for your symptoms or condition. Most Social Security Judges will not give consideration for your symptoms or limitations if you have not sought consistent medical treatment. If you suffer from chronic pain, make sure you see a physician on a regular basis.
- You Fail to Have Your Own Doctor's Support. A lot of weight is given by the Social Security Rules to well written opinions by the claimant's own treating physician. Consult with your own doctor for his opinion if you believe you are disabled.
- You Fail to Consult a Specialist. If you have an impairment that requires the opinion and treatment of a specialist, you need to see one. For example, you may need to see a cardiologist if you have heart problems or an orthopedic or a neurologist if you have disc problems in your neck or low back.
- You Fail to Consult a Social Security Specialist. You need to see an attorney who specializes in Social Security Law because it is a unique area of the law.
Retaining an experienced attorney to represent you in your Social Security claim can be a small expense that provides you with significant benefits for many, many years.