Applying for Social Security benefits can be a difficult, and somewhat intimidating, process. It usually requires strict adherence to complex rules regarding both eligibility and the application itself. Completing the required forms accurately can be overwhelming, or maybe even confusing. But completing them properly can improve your chances of being approved the first time. The Social Security Administration will make an initial determination based solely on the information you provide in your application. You need a Social Security Disability attorney to help you from the start or you may not be successful. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on this topic.
Q. Should I collect unemployment after I submit my application?
A. Most people do not realize that applying for unemployment benefits creates a serious conflict with a claim for social security disability. When you file for unemployment, you are required to confirm that you are ready and available for work, but you just can’t find any. However, when you file for Social Security disability, you are stating the opposite, that you are unable to perform substantial work activity for twelve months or more. As you can see, these two statements are mutually exclusive. As such, collecting unemployment benefits is likely to jeopardize your disability application.
Q. What am I required to prove to support my disability claim?
A. You are considered disabled “if you cannot do work that you did before and we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s).” The Social Security Administration expects that your disability will last for at least one year or result in death. However, the Social Security Administration does not actually make the decision. Your Social Security Disability attorney can help you prepare your claim right the first time.
Q. Who determines whether I am actually disabled?
A. When your disability application is submitted, your file is turned over to a designated state office that actually reviews your medical records and any other documentation you submit along with it. In Arkansas, this office is called the Arkansas’s Disability Determination for Social Security Administration. In Missouri, it is known as Missouri Disability Determination Services. These state agencies determine medical eligibility for Social Security disability for their residents. However, the process has been standardized throughout the country.
Q. Can I keep working while my application is pending?
A. Like collecting unemployment benefits, it is better to stop working, since you are claiming your disability prevents you from working. If you don’t quit your job entirely, you should at least cut your hours substantially, in order to not jeopardize your eligibility for disability benefits. Social Security actually determines the amount of work you can do, while still being eligible for benefits. This is known as the SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity). If you earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity limit, your claim will likely be denied. In 2011, the SGA is $1,130 for non-blind disabled applicants, and $1,820 for blind applicants.
Q. What is a Residual Functional Capacity assessment?
A. In order to determine what you are capable of doing after suffering a disability, a Residual Functional Capacity assessment should be submitted. A Residual Functional Capacity assessment is a detailed report from your doctor that describes the limitations you have as a result of your condition. It also addresses how those limitations affect your ability to do specific work-related activities. Unfortunately, some doctors are unwilling to complete the Residual Functional Capacity assessment form, which makes it difficult for your disability claim to be approved. If you are having this problem, discuss it with your Social Security Disability attorney.
Q. Why won’t my doctor help support my claim?
A. There can be many different reasons why doctors are reluctant to help disability claimants. Some reasons include not understanding what is expected, not agreeing with the disability program, or not believing that you are truly disabled. Some doctors simply don’t have the time or money to provide the assessment. Trying to get your doctor’s support depends on the reason they don’t want to help in the first place.
Q. Does it matter if I don’t comply with all of my doctor’s instructions?
A. Yes, it matters. Another way Social Security assesses the validity of your complaints is whether you have complied with the doctor’s recommended treatment by following your doctor’s advice, taking your medication as prescribed, using assistive devices as ordered, and keeping your medical appointments. Otherwise, your failure to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment, may lead Social Security to conclude that your condition is not as severe or limiting as you have represented.
If you have questions regarding social security disability concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 465-4969.