You read that right. At the initial review level, two-thirds of all Social Security Disability applications are denied. In plain English, most Disability Examiners are looking for a way to deny petitions, regardless of the claimant’s health issues.
Frequently, the SSA denies applications before the Disability Examiner even takes a good look at the medical records. Bureaucrats often claim the applicant refused to cooperate during the disability review process. This pejorative label usually means the claimant missed a doctor’s appointment or filing deadline. Often, just being late counts as failure to cooperate.
These issues are especially common during the coronavirus outbreak. During normal times, people with physical disabilities have a hard time getting from Point A to Point B and people with mental disabilities often miss appointments. These hurdles are even higher during the COVID-19 era. Transportation networks are often inaccessible and Social Security offices have been closed in multiple regions.
At the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, our SSA law firm does more than stand up for you at an initial review of appeal hearing. We assist with the nuts and bolts of your disability claims. Unlike the Social Security Administration, we are always available and we are always on your side.
Social Security Disability claims are about as document-intensive as they get. That’s especially true of medical reports.
If the government doctor’s conclusion is unfavorable, most claimants do the sensible thing and get a second opinion. Frequently, Disability Examiners do not read these documents. Instead, they scan them, looking for magic words, like:
- “I Reviewed the Entire File”: If the doctor, especially an independent doctor, does not say s/he reviewed the entire file, the Disability Examiner often concludes the doctor’s opinion is not credible. If the medical reports does not contain this phrase, the examiner might discount it out of hand.
- Conclusion’s Explanation: The doctor must outline a factual basis for a conclusion. Otherwise, the examiner will dismiss the conclusion as speculative and without foundation. That’s especially true if the doctor did not review the entire file.
- Address Contrary Opinions: Doctors do not like to say their colleagues are wrong, so this language is often missing. The doctor must not only say the other physician’s opinion was wrong. The doctor must also explain why it was wrong.
So, before you submit an incomplete document to the Disability Examiner, make sure a Social Security Disability lawyer reviews it. If you are located in the Mid-South, Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm can do this for you. Otherwise, the document might do more harm than good.
There are also some magic words that claimants should use during interviews. More on that below.
Many regional offices are somewhat forgiving in this area, especially during this coronavirus pandemic shut down. If a report or supplemental application arrives a day or two late, there is no penalty.
But that’s not always the case. Many regional offices are very strict in this area, because as mentioned, bureaucrats are looking for an excuse to deny claims. That’s especially true regarding initial application filings. A missed deadline is a very easy and objective way to support a failure to cooperate denial.
In most cases, a disability lawyer takes care of the legwork. If a paper needs to be in a certain place at a certain time, we make sure it gets there. Frequently, we use electronic delivery and filing systems which are unaffected by partially closed offices and other physical barriers.
This part of a Social Security Disability claim is usually the most inconvenient aspect. The doctor’s office is frequently far away from the claimant’s home. And, the office schedules appointments based on the doctor’s availability schedule, and not on the claimant’s. Additionally, if the appointment happens to fall on a bad day for the claimant, the whole thing could come crashing down.
Most people do not associate attorneys with transportation services, but if that’s what it takes to get our clients to doctors’ appointments, then gentlemen, start your engines and call an Uber Driver or relative/good friend. One no call/no show appointment almost always torpedoes a disability claim. We definitely do not want this to happen.
As mentioned, most Disability Examiners only scan medical reports and other documents. They do the same thing with hearing transcripts, at least in most cases. Some magic words which usually catch the Disability Examiner’s eye include:
- “Severe” pain,
- “Bad” symptoms, and
- Specific examples (e.g. “I cannot walk down the block to the bus stop when I experience severe dizziness”).
Of course, magic words alone do not guarantee approval. But they do put your interview transcript in a more favorable light. Our professional team gives you additional assistance in this area.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, hearings also have some technical issues. In normal times, claimants must show up at the office on time. But during these times, claimants must occasionally attend a virtual hearing.
This requirement is a problem in rural areas. About a fourth of these residents do not have a reliable broadband connection.
There are specific issues as well. Many disability claimants are unfamiliar with Zoom, Skype, and other digital meeting platforms. These technical problems could lead to a dreaded and feared “failure to cooperate” label.
Occasionally, the SSA allows friends or family members to be in the same room during a virtual hearing, so they can provide technical support. This is up to the individual Judge assigned to the hearing. An attorney can be even more helpful. More importantly, an attorney will help claimants build a record which puts their condition in the most favorable light. An attorney will also file a legal brief prior to hearing, laying out the technical arguments for disability. Most importantly, an attorney will prepare the claimant for the hearing from start to finish, and be present during the hearing to make sure everything goes properly.
During the pandemic, however, all hearings are being conducted telephonically. As opposed to an in-person hearing, the telephonic hearing is conducted completely over the phone, and the rules apply in the same way. Telephonic hearings can make it even more important for claimants to be properly prepared for the hearing.
For help with your disability appeal, call the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. We are committed to helping clients in the Greater Midsouth area assess their social security disability claim conditions both pre and post submittance to the Social Security Administration. We can be reached at (901) 244-0057 by phone or text or you can send us a message here.
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