Saturday, October 21, 2006

Quick General Tips to Help Win Your Social Security Disability Claim

This is the first day of my blog. I will attempt to give some general tips that can help you win your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income Claim.

Tip: Make sure you give all of your relevant medical evidence to Social Security or if you have a lawyer give it to him\her.

Even if you have a lawyer, it is important to help the lawyer get your medicals records. Many times doctors will ignore letters from lawyers. So, if your attorney is having trouble getting your records, take it upon yourself to request them from the doctor. When you request you medical records, you will want your treatment notes, any tests performed (MRI, XRAY, blood work, etc.), possibly a report, and maybe most importantly a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form.

Tip: An RFC form will show how your medical conditions limit you in doing certain things. Make sure you get one from YOUR doctor.

You can get the form from either your attorney or your Social Security local office. Some attorneys have specific RFCs for particular conditions. Bring these RFCs to your doctors preferably on a scheduled appointment.

There are many types of RFCs. Social Security generally uses a physical RFC or Mental RFC. Physical RFCs go to the doctor treating you for your physical conditions and a mental RFC would go to your Psychiatrist if you suffer from a mental condition. A physical RFC will show the doctors opinion of things like how much you can lift, how long you can stand, limitations in using your hands and many other physical limitations. A mental RFC will show the doctors opinion of how you are limited in things like ability to complete tasks, get along with supervisors or co workers and too many other areas to list here.

Why are RFCs important? Because Social Security bases its decision larglely upon these forms. If you don't have an RFC from your treating doctors, then the only RFCs in your file will be from Social Security employees and Consultative doctors that Social Security has you examined by. I will explain in later posts how these RFC forms are used to determine if you are disabled. I have run out of time but I will try to post some tips as often as possible.

Social Security Disability Hearing Tips

If you have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, here are a few tips:

1. When you are in the waiting area do not talk about your case with anyone but your lawyer. You do not want something you said to be over heard by a Social Security employee that might be misiterpreted.

2. Don't over dress. If you come into the hearing dressed as if it were a job interview the ALJ might make an initial wrong impression that you could get a job.

3. You will be nervous but try not to smile too much when answering questions. An inappropriate smile may give the impression that you are being less than truthful.

4. Try to relax and be yourself. If you are being your normal self, your testimony will be more credible.

5. By the time you get to the hearing, you will have waited a long time and dealt with all the frustrations in the Social Security Disability process. Don't let yourself complain about how long you've waited or how bad the system is to the ALJ. This will not help your case.

6. Try to answer all the questions asked of you. It is OK to say that you don't understand a question. If you don't understand what is being asked, get clarification. Don't just answer what you think the Judge or lawyer was asking. If you are asked a date that some event occured and you don't know the exact date, say that you don't know the exact date but try to give an approximate date.

7. It is OK to cry. In fact, in my experience, I would say about half of the claimants at a Social Security Hearings do. If you need time to get yourself together, ask for it.

8. If you are uncomfortable sitting due to back pain or some other reason, feel free to stand and sit as you need to. Many people testify to only being able to sit for a 20 minutes and then never get up during the hearing because they don't think they are allowed. I can almost guarantee you the ALJ will put in the decision that you said you could only sit for 20 monutes but you sat through a one hour hearing.