Sunday, September 09, 2007

Social Security Disability Advice - Bad Advice

On my original site, Disability Secrets, I have a section that offers several bits of advice for individuals who are filing for social security disability or applying for SSI. If you'd like to vist that page, here's the link:Social Security Disability SSI Advice.

However, mentioning that page is not really the point of this post. Recently, I've come across a site that offers advice for individuals who are attempting to win benefits. Is the site actually useful? In this case, I'm not really sure that it is. In fact, I will debate some of the disability advice that is offered by it.

1. You shouldn't drive to the social security office because the "workers" there will believe you are not disabled if you do. In all candor, this is one of the worst pieces of disability advice I have ever read. And it nicely portrays the fact that people who have NOT worked in the social security disability and SSI system (as representatives, claims reps, or examiners) may not be the best candidates for giving advice. Because...if the individuals dispensing this particular advice had ever worked in the system, they would realize that disability claims are not medically evaluated by individuals who work in social security field offices, but, instead, are processed by disability examiners who, typically, never meet disability claimants (yes, you can visit the state agency in your state and meet the examiner, but, in the vast majority of cases, this does not happen).

2. Complete a medical release form for each of your doctors to show social security you are on top of things and to save time. Again, this is not one of the more useful pieces of advice I have yet encountered. Sending in completed release forms tends to irritate the individuals who receive them, whether the recipients are disability examiners or disability attorneys. Why? Because the individual requesting the medical records (an examiner or attorney) needs to determine who to request records from, not the claimant. In fact, when I was an examiner, every time I sent out releases I sent along a note that said "sign only, do not complete". And when they came back completed by the claimant, in total disregard of my instructions, I had to throw the releases away and send out new ones. Later, when I became involved in disability claimant representation, I found another reason to have to throw away releases that claimants had decided to fill out. What was that reason? The fact that they had dated the releases. You see, when a disability attorney gets medical releases, he often holds onto them for many months, only using them prior to the time of a disability hearing. Obviously, if the claimant has dated those releases, they will become unacceptable to any hospital or doctor's office that receives them months later (releases need to have recent dates to be considered valid by most treatment sources).

3. Don't get a lawyer. Sure, don't get a disability lawyer if you can handle your own paperwork at the initial claim and reconsideration levels. However, if you follow the advice of not getting representation at the hearing level, then you may deserve what you get. Statistically, it is a proven fact that individuals who are represented stand a much greater chance of being approved for disability following a hearing. Why? Well, ask yourself the following questions:

A. Do you know what the grid is?

B. Do you know what substantial gainful activity is?

C. Do you know what the relationship of past work and other work is to a disability claim?

D. Do you know what a closed period is?

E. Do you know what an RFC form is?

F. Do you know how to respond to a vocational hypothetical question or how to illustrate a hypothetical scenario?

G. Do you know what the impairment listing manual is?

H. Do you know what a med-voc allowance is?

I. Do you know what light work is?

J. Do you know what medium work is?

K. Do you know what the significance of being age 50 or age 55 is?

L. Do you know what medication compliance and non-compliance is?

M. Do you know what materiality and immateriality are?

If you don't know what any of these things are, you probably won't do yourself a favor by showing up at a social security disability or SSI hearing unrepresented.

People are free to give out advice, of course, but, if you are applying for disability, appealing a denial, or are simply thinking of filing for benefits, be very careful about where you get your information and advice.

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