It’s not easy to make the decision to file for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits after a lifetime of working and providing for yourself – but you had no choice. Your condition has simply made it impossible for you to remain gainfully employed in any substantial way.
Now that you’ve made that leap, however, you need to be careful you don’t sabotage yourself and destroy your own claim. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) tries to decide claims fairly, the reality is that the claims examiners are overworked and overwhelmed, so rushes to (poor) decisions do happen.
Here are the easiest, most common ways people end up ruining their own chances of an SSD approval:
1. Not following your doctor’s recommendations without a good reason
A lot of people worry that they don’t have enough medical information in their records to get approved for disability benefits, but that’s not nearly as much of an issue as not following your doctor’s orders.
It’s generally presumed that, if you’re sick, you want to get well again. If you’re medically non-compliant without good cause, that basically allows SSA to deny your claim on the basis that you might recover with proper treatment.
What kinds of things does SSA consider “good enough” not to follow your doctor’s order? Every case is unique, but you need to be clear with your physicians if you are refusing treatment based on religious prohibitions, anxiety over the potential for addiction to painkillers or due to the inherently invasive and dangerous nature of the procedure (like surgery) itself. You should also tell your doctor if you simply can’t afford your medication or care.
2. Not responding to SSA’s requests for more information
Filling out the initial application for benefits probably seemed like a lot of work – but you’re not done. After your claim has been submitted, you will most likely receive numerous requests for additional information from the Disability Determination Services, where they make the decisions.
These requests will likely include medical release forms that need to be signed, questions about your education, training and certifications, questions about your job duties when you were working and questions about how you manage everything from getting dressed to feeding yourself. You may even be asked to attend one or more consultative examinations with an independent physician.
Make sure that you respond promptly to all communications. If you do not, the claims examiner will make the decision based on whatever is already in your file, and that’s unlikely to go your way. If your SSD claim has been denied, it may be time to learn exactly how legal guidance can help.