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MISTAKES IN APPLYING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS WHEN UNREPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY

1. APPLYING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY WHILE YOU ARE STILL WORKING FULL-TIME 

May workers apply for disability benefits before they stop working.  This is understandable. No one wants a gap in income or to quit a good-paying job(even if they can't perform the work). However, Social Security automatically denies these applications. 

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step analysis in evaluating disability claims. Step one in this analysis is: "Are you performing substantial gainful activity?" In other words, "Are you working?" If the answer is "yes," then the claims examiner will never get to Step Two of the analysis.  Your claim will be denied, and you will not be awarded disability benefits.

You are performing substantial gainful activity if you monthly earnings are above a minimum threshold($1,260.00 a month currently in 2020) or you are performing full-time, competitive work. If your earnings or work schedule is consistent with substantial gainful activity, you should not apply for benefits yet. It is best to wait until you are no longer working or your impairments have caused a reduction in your hours before filing. (If you are self-employed, different rules apply. Consult with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer before filing.)

2. APPLYING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS WHEN YOU ARE COLLECTING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS 

 When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you assert you have a severe medical impairment that prevents you from working. When you apply for unemployment benefits, on the other hand, you assert that you are able to work, but have been unable to find work after being terminated from your employment. This contradiction, is difficult to reconcile.  If you are able to obtain any income by claiming you can work, you may be disqualified  from disability benefits.

3. FAILING TO COMPLETE THE REQUIRED FORMS  

A social disability application involves a lot of information and a small mountain of paperwork. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. However, if you fail to complete the required Social Security forms accurately and promptly, or you provide limited or incomplete information, your claim is likely to be denied(or, at best, any award of benefits will be delayed).

4. OVERSTATING YOUR JOB DUTIES OR EDUCATION

  In evaluating your claim for benefits, Social Security assesses your ability to perform both your past work and other full-time available in the national economy.  If you inflate your work duties and/or overstate your education, the claims examiner will take you at your word. He or she will translate your exaggerated resume into an ability to work and deny your claim for benefits.

5. BASING YOUR CLAIM FOR BENEFITS ON YOUR WORST MEDICAL CONDITIONS ONLY

 When assessing a claim for benefits, Social Security must consider the combined impact of all your impairments.  For this reason, it is important that you list all your serious medical conditions when you apply for benefits, not just your worst problem.  For example, if you suffer from chronic pain you may also frequently experience depression and anxiety. If considered alone, your depression may not be disabling. However, it may cause problems with concentration, focus, and fatigue. Social Security cannot consider these impairments and resulting symptoms in isolation. It must determine how your combined physical, mental, and emotional limitations impact your ability to work. 

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