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How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim—Part 2

Wednesday, 24 February 2016 15: 49
Written by Joni B. Bailey
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In Part 1 of this series, I talked about three major mistakes Claimants often make.

In Part 2, I will share more of my experience as a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability Representative in the past 15 years and representing over 1,500 claimaints.

Here are 4 more ways I live up to my law firm’s mission statement:  “When you can’t work, The Bailey Law Office goes to work for you.”

1. Document why a past job is not “past relevant work.”

You are not disabled if you can perform your “past relevant work.” What does that mean?  Does it include every job you ever had?

No.  Past relevant work has a specific meaning in the Social Security disability adjudication process.  https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0425005015.

  • The work has to be performed in the past 15 years,
  • The work has to generate enough earnings,
  • The work has to be performed long enough to master the skills,
  • The work doesn’t count if it was supported or assisted.

As a Southern Illinois Disability attorney, I help every client describe their past jobs carefully and submit evidence to the adjudicator or administrative law judge to prove that certain past jobs were not “past relevant work.”  In some cases I gather statements from co-workers showing that you had a job title but did not perform all of the tasks normally performed in that job.  In some cases I produce paystubs showing that your work did not last long enough or that some of your earnings were for personal leave instead of work performed.  And in some cases I produce statements from the company owner describing the special accommodations you had while you worked.

2. Explain why you did not follow medical advice.

The judge might not approve your claim if he or she thinks you would be able to work if you had followed medical advice.  Perhaps one of your doctors suggested a surgery or a procedure that you thought was too risky.  Perhaps your doctor suggested that you lose weight or stop smoking.  Perhaps your doctor prescribed a medication that you could not afford or that caused you serious side effects.

Failure to follow medical advice can be used as a basis for denying your claim only if there is qualified evidence that you would be able to return to work if you followed the advice.  https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0423010005.

As a Southern Illinois Social Security attorney, I help clients by proving that there were reasons the doctor’s advice was not followed.  I also help by arguing that the record does not contain a qualified medical opinion that you could return to work if you had followed all advice from all doctors.

3. Correct mistakes in your medical records.

The judge might not approve your claim if there are comments in your records that are not accurate.  What if you doctor made a mistake and said you were abusing alcohol or that you were still working or that you were working for cash or engaging in a hobby like hunting that you clearly could not do if disabled?  This happens more often than you might think. 

I help by contacting the doctor or clinic, bringing the error to their attention, requesting a correction, submitting the corrected copy to the judge, and asking that the other record that contained a mistake be removed from your file.  Developing the record is a key part of your attorney representative’s role in your claim.

4. Explain zero income does not mean you did not work.

Credibility is the foundation of every claim.  Your earnings record can undermine your credibility if there are years that you had no income. Some judges have a hard time believing claimants who have never really worked much and then file a disability claim claiming they cannot work. 

But the earnings record the judge sees does not always tell the whole story. 

I help by talking with each client about the years with low earnings and finding out why that happened.  Perhaps the client was self-employed and had a bad year.  Perhaps the client followed a tax preparer’s advice and wrote off the purchase of equipment in a small business. Perhaps the client took a leave of absence to raise a family or care for a disabled parent or volunteer for a church mission or recover from an injury.  Once I find out the details, I explain what was really going on to the judge and help overcome the prejudice he or she might have had based on the low earnings record.

The advice and guidance of an experienced Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim.

Watch for more blog posts in this series--How a Social Security Disability Attorney Can Keep You From Sabotaging Your Own Claim.

Here are some of the topics yet to come:

  1. Gathering statements from family members and co-workers.
  2. Educating you about the judge’s particular pet peeves.
  3. Keeping you from making stupid mistakes like working for cash, doctor shopping, and appearing as if you are drug seeking.
  4. Making a compelling argument that drug or alcohol use is not a material factor in your case.
  5. Neutralizing evidence that makes a judge think you can work, e.g. taking vacations, hunting, fishing, babysitting for grandchildren, volunteering, or caring for an elderly parent or disabled spouse.
  6. Proving that your disability did not occur in the course of the commission of a felony.
  7. Advising you how not to lose your eligibility for SSI by doing things like buying a second car, putting your name on someone else’s checking account for convenience, moving out of the house you own and renting it to someone else, failing to disclose a life insurance policy with cash value, and getting free room and board.
  8. Advising you how to correct your earnings record where there are missing earnings.

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