We speak with a lot of people looking at filing for Social Security disability in Missouri or Arkansas or wanting to appeal a disability denial.
Most people honestly believe that their disability is obvious.
But is it? Look at how others looking at your case from the outside may view your claim. Remember that sometimes your friends and family don’t want to tell you they think you could work to avoid upsetting you.
Are you being consistent in what you are saying and what you are doing?
- Are you missing a lot of doctors appointments? Sometimes a missed appointment is unavoidable, but consistently missing doctors appointments or canceling because you have other things to do looks terrible. Here’s why: those things go into the medical records. I was reviewing a prospective client’s file recently and the medical records were full of the following type comments “Patient called and cancelled the appointment because he had too many things to do around the house”. Now ask yourself, if someone that didn’t know you was looking at that record would that sound like someone who was disabled?
- Are you taking trips? For instance if you say you are depressed and anxious around people and never leave the house but the medical records indicate you then went and jumped on a plane to somewhere, does that sound consistent with someone who is too depressed to work? Your back hurts but you drove to Florida from Missouri or Arkansas multiple times? You are probably going to have some explaining to do.
- Have you not sought treatment for the conditions you claim are disabling for long periods of time? Gaps in treatment are things that every social security judge will zero in on. No insurance? What have you done to try to find treatment? Nothing? Is that consistent? How would someone on the outside looking at your case view this?
- Are you still actively participating in hobbies or social events? If you can hunt or fish, do you think it is reasonable someone would question your claim? If you don’t like to be around people but are going to a mega church 3 days a week, does that sound consistent? Those are only a couple of examples.
- Could you do anything else (even if you don’t want to) than what you have done in the past? We speak with people all the time and when they are asked “what would keep you from doing a sit down job?” say “nothing”. Unless you are over the age of 50, you are going to have to show there is absolutely NOTHING else you could do work wise.
- Filing for unemployment while waiting for your hearing. ALJ’s take a much harder view of this than in years past. They used to accept “my family needed the money” much more readily. By filing a claim for unemployment benefits you are signing a document with the State of Missouri or Arkansas stating you are ready, willing and able to work. Filing a claim for SSA benefits you are signing a document with the Federal government that says, “I can’t work”. This is inconsistent on its face.
- Going to school. If you are a full time student or approaching full time, an ALJ is likely to assume you can work.
- Wages after onset date of disability or working part time. If you made money working after you claim you became disabled there will be questions the judge has for you to answer. For example, sometimes it is deferred pay such as commission payments that you were paid after you quit working. While the standard SGA amount of monthly income ($1180 in 2018) is a hard cap, part time work can be difficult to explain away. If you get over 15-20 hours a week of part time work regardless of how much you make, this could be trouble.Working while waiting for the appeal will certainly be an issue if your part time work is a physical job and you are claiming physical limitations. If you are digging ditches 20 hours a week it is not unreasonable to assume you could do 40 hours of something easier physically.
- Not following doctor’s advice. If your doctor says to quit smoking, you need to try. (I frequently appear in front an ALJ who absolutely hates when this is in the file) Take the medication as prescribed. Don’t take other people’s medication. Show up to Physical Therapy and give your best efforts.
- Taking care of small children without significant help from family or friends. If you are able to take care of a toddler or two, this indicates you could do something to many ALJ’s. The ALJ will likely believe you could work at a day care for instance.
- Drugs and Alcohol. You need to be able to explain your pattern of drug / alcohol use and any periods of sobriety or relapse.
Are your claims of disability consistent? Don’t be so sure. Any inconsistencies will hurt your claim and make it more difficult for your Social Security disability lawyer in Missouri to win your case.
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