Perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of winning a Social Security (SSA) disability claim is completing the array of forms during the process. A question you will inevitably ask is, “Does SSA look at my forms and can they alone win or lose my case?”
SSA and/or judges don’t usually approve your case based on what you say on the forms. However, they often use what is said in the forms to support a denial of your claim. This is because if SSA or a judge is going to approve your claim, they will base it on more compelling objective evidence such as medical records and/or treating physicians’ opinions regarding your inability to work.
The inherent problem you have as a claimant is twofold. First, with all due respect, you don’t know what you need to prove in order to win your case. Second, you have spent the past several months or years consistently downplaying the severity of your medical problems to anyone you thought was listening (i.e. your employer, family, friends, doctors and SSA). Even though you are constantly in excruciating pain or exhausted; nobody wants to be viewed by others as a whiner.
Disability Forms Filling
Studies consistently show that Americans are more productive and annually work longer hours than workers in any other country; consequently, it isn’t fashionable to complain. Instead, Americans “grin and bear it” or we follow the British and keep the proverbial “stiff upper lip.”
All too often, your denial mechanism rears its ugly head when you complete SSA forms. The result is that you consistently overstate what you are capable of doing and understate the severity of your symptoms and limitations. Does this also sound familiar?
The problem is that the aforementioned disability strategy may likely kill your chances of winning your SSA case without you even knowing it.
By following these tips when completing SSA’s forms you should significantly reduce the likelihood of making a serious mistake that comes back to bite you in the you-know-what!
- Certainly you remember the advice your parents gave you as a teenager – the more you say, the more its gets you in trouble! This is not the time to become a novelist! This clearly applies to completing SSA forms. SSA does not give you a lot of room to answer the questions and that is good. Limit your answers to the space that has been provided in the question and do not write in the margins or attach additional sheets of paper.
- Always answer the question honestly, but keep your answers brief and to the point.
- Remember, a critical issue in a social security disability case is always what activity level are you capable of sustaining on a regular and continuing basis (i.e., a 5 day work week). The issue is never what you can do for only one day. Clearly, almost everyone is capable of performing some activities for one day such that it would make them appear to be capable of working. Never forget…the issue is always what level of activity you can sustain on a daily basis, week after week.
- Another critical issue in a social security disability case is your symptoms and limitations (e.g., pain, fatigue, concentration problems, inability to maintain any activity for a reasonable period). Always remember, you are unable to work due to the frequency, severity and duration of your symptoms and limitations, and not due to a diagnosis. You should mention all the diagnoses that have even a small impact on your inability to work, but you should use 5% of the allotted space to reference diagnoses and 95% to discuss The Big Three and how they limit not only your ability to work but also your ability to function on a daily basis.
- If psychological issues play even a small part in preventing you from working, you must allege them on the forms. Although the primary reason you are unable to work may be due to a physical diagnosis, don’t overlook the psychological issues that often arise after years of dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. You want to win your case anyway you can, whether it is due to physical or psychological problems, or quite frequently, a combination of both.
Judges like to have several medical conditions to choose from if they want to approve your claim. For example, if a judge believes your claim is not strong enough to be approved based only on your physical diagnosis, they want the option to approve your claim based on another diagnosis, perhaps psychological.
What prevents the judge from simply approving it based on a psychological diagnosis? The problem is you never told SSA on any of the forms you completed that you believed a psychological condition was at least in part responsible for why you can’t work!
Thus, a door that could have used to approve your claim does not exist; consequently, the judge has no choice but to deny your claim. This scenario is terribly unfortunate because your claim was denied when the judge was looking for a way to approve it!
The solution is to tell SSA early, often and consistently that you believe a psychological diagnosis plays a part in your inability to work. It is fine to state that it is “secondary to” or “as a result of” dealing with your chronic physical symptoms and limitations.
Remember, proper preparation as well as understanding what you need to prove and how you need to prove it are critical to winning your case. By following these tips, you should avoid making a mistake that you later regret.