Many Social Security Disability claimants have already been through the Veterans’ Administration disability process, or at least they know someone who has been through that process. For the most part, there is an informal presumption in VA disability matters that the claimant is entitled to something, because of Abraham Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
Generally, the opposite is true in Social Security Disability matters. There is often an informal presumption that the claimant is entitled to nothing. As a result, the SSD initial denial rate is much higher than the VA initial denial rate. Also, social security disability decisions are either/or, meaning you are either disabled and entitled to benefits or you are not disabled and entitled to nothing. There is no percentage disability rating like there is with the VA.
Yet many Social Security claimants do not partner with an SSA law firm and appeal initial denials, frequently because of the excessively long waiting period. SSD claimants in Memphis wait an average of nine months for their appeal dates. Believe it or not, that’s one of the shortest waiting periods in the country.
In a nutshell, if you stay in it, you often win it. At the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, our SSI disability lawyers in Memphis know how to effectively present these appeals. As a result, the outcome usually improves. Moreover, the benefit award is usually retroactive to the filing date. So, a significant amount of money could be at stake. Appeals after an initial denial are the norm for claimants seeking disability benefits. In fact, most claimants who eventually win their claims will end up appealing twice and appearing in front of an administrative law judge for hearing. This fact makes it even more important to hire an experienced attorney when you’re denied.
Clear Up Technical Errors
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many regional offices only do virtual reviews. The setting is informal, so mistakes are more common. For example, the Claims Examiner might use the wrong disability rating chart or overlook a note on a report.
Technical difficulties are usually very frustrating, and that’s especially true in this context. Frequently, these claimants did everything right, and their petitions were still denied. The shock and disappointment to a claimant when receiving an adverse claim decision is often difficult for them to understand and process.
An SSI lawyer near you quickly evaluates these claims and determines what went wrong. At that point, when the SSA is faced with the factual evidence presented by an attorney, these claims can sometimes be approved quickly – but not always.
People who feed children at mealtime are familiar with presentation issues. If the dish doesn’t “look right,” many kids will not eat it, no matter how much their caregivers cajole, bribe, or even threaten them with no dessert.
Your SSD claim is often the same. Claims Examiners are used to seeing things presented a certain way. If something is out of place, it is often overlooked. So, this aspect of a Social Security Disability appeal often goes hand in hand with some of the technical difficulties that an attorney is able to effectively address, as mentioned above.
Additional Medical Evidence
Generally, in a courtroom situation, new evidence is inadmissible at the appeal level. But the Social Security system is different. Evidence which the Claims Examiner did not review is generally admissible if it is:
- New: Additional evidence is admissible if it was unavailable at the time of the lower review. Generally, this standard means the evidence, like a medical report, did not exist at that time.
- Related to the Period Before the Initial Determination: Many people think if their physical condition deteriorates that an Administrative Law Judge will take that deterioration into account. But that’s not true. Evidence related to subsequent events is inadmissible, even if it is new and material.
- Material: Technically, proof is material if “there is a reasonable probability the evidence would change the outcome of the decision.” So, the proffered evidence need not be a slam-dunk game-changer. If it’s enough to warrant a second look at the decision, that’s usually sufficient.
An independent doctor’s review typically satisfies all three prongs. That’s assuming the doctor does not consider the claimant’s current condition, but only the claimant’s condition prior to the initial denial. Frequently, an independent physician has a very different conclusion from a government doctor’s evaluation.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, independent physician reviews are not easy to arrange. Fortunately, most attorneys are able to provide additional advice and support to their clients to help them resolve these types of issues.
A few disabled individuals exaggerate their conditions. People are still talking about Cathy Cashwell, the North Carolina postal worker who claimed she could not stand, kneel, squat, bend or grasp objects. She did all of these things when she spun the big wheel on The Price is Right and went zip-lining on a cruise ship.
However, most disabled individuals downplay their conditions. Because of the way our brains work, these individuals often do not know how seriously hurt they are or how their disabilities affect their daily lives. Living with the difficulties of a chronic daily condition can make one blind to the severity and limitations of the conditions experienced.
So, relevant testimony from friends, family, and coworkers is often compelling. These individuals do not testify about the extent of disability or anything else. They just testify about what they saw and how a disability affects a person. Most of the time, this kind of testimony will be in letter form, and submitted to a claimant’s attorney so he or she can add them to the file directly. Most Judges will not allow in person testimony from lay witnesses without a very, very compelling reason.
Sending a Message
One of the underlying reasons so many claims are initially denied is that Claims Administrators have a job to do and must use their professional skills to make decisions in a timely manner. A partnership with an experienced attorney and an appeal puts the SSA on notice that a particular claimant refuses to simply accept an off-hand decision and they are willing to put the necessary time and resources into their health and well-being. To start your appeal, contact the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. If you or someone you love has already taken steps to file a disability claim and want the power of the professionals, contact us at (901) 244-0057 or fill in our contact form and we will contact you.
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