DISCLAIMER: The Blog Posts that appear on this website reflect the views that are personal to the attorney who wrote them and do not necessarily reflect the views of Gateway Legal Services.  The information you obtain through this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  If you have legal questions about your case, please call, e-mail, or write to us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How not to win your disability case

This blog entry is, of course, completely tongue-in-cheek.  No one who files a disability claim really wants to lose it.  But from the way that some people deal with their alleged disability, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s exactly what they want.

So, just as a way to provoke thought, and maybe open some eyes, here is my list of 10 of the best ways to make sure you lose your Social Security disability or SSI claim.

1.      Don’t get medical treatment.  This will help ensure that you have no medical evidence to back up whatever you say about your condition.  If you can’t afford treatment, don’t look for help.  Don’t apply for Medicaid.  Don’t look for coverage through the Affordable Care Act.  Don’t ask your county health department, your local legal aid program, any social workers you may know, or anyone else about sources of low-cost, sliding-scale, or even free medical care that may exist in your community.  After all, you want to lose, right?

2.      If you are prescribed medicine, don’t take it.  There are few better ways to persuade a judge that you are not serious about trying to get better.  And if you have a good reason for not taking it, such as (for example) it gives you nausea or makes you stay up all night, be sure not to report that to your doctor.  If you do report it, your doctor might come up with an alternative that did not have those side effects.  And of course, since you want to lose your case, medicine that helps your condition is not what you want.

3.      If you are getting treatment, skip your appointments at the slightest excuse (or for no reason at all except you don’t feel like going that day).  Even better, don’t call the doctor’s office ahead of time to let them know.  That way, your doctors will conclude that you are rude and inconsiderate.  Eventually they will get tired of dealing with you and stop seeing you.  Then you will have moved from method # 3 to method # 1 (see above).

4.      If your doctor recommends that you do something, don’t do it.  Don’t discuss it with them.  Don’t explain why you don’t want to do it.  Don’t ask if there are any alternatives or other ways of doing what your doctor wants you to do.  Just don’t do it.  After all, who knows more about medicine, your doctor or you?

5.      If Social Security schedules a physical or mental examination for you, don’t go.  Be sure not to let anyone know in advance that you aren’t going.  If the time or place scheduled for the exam won’t work for you, don’t tell anyone and ask for a rescheduling.  Just don’t go.  Failure to cooperate with Social Security while they are deciding your claim is one of the very best ways to lose your case.  In fact, it’s almost guaranteed.

6.      Exaggerate your complaints.  Make things sound worse than they really are.  This will help ensure that no one believes anything you say about your condition.  If you truly want to lose, persuading the people who are deciding your case that you are untrustworthy is a really good way to start.

7.      Lie.

8.      Don’t cooperate with your lawyer.  If your lawyer asks you for information, be sure not to provide it.  If your lawyer wants to meet with you before the hearing, be sure not to go.  If your lawyer leaves you a phone message, don’t return the call.  These tactics will help neutralize your lawyer and reduce or even eliminate his ability to help you win.

9.      Whine and complain to anyone at the Social Security office who has anything to do with your case.  Be sure to explain to them in detail how badly you think they do their jobs, and tell them you resent how they are wasting your tax money, even if you don’t pay any taxes.  Announce to everyone within earshot that you are absolutely entitled to benefits.  Demand to know why all those other perfectly healthy people are getting benefits, while you, who are in such horrible condition, are being denied.

10.    If you are at the point where a hearing has been scheduled for you with an administrative law judge, skip the hearing.  Don’t let anyone know ahead of time that you are doing it, and don’t explain afterward.  Not only will your case probably be dismissed, but you will have the pleasure of knowing that you have delayed someone else from getting benefits who could have used the hearing slot you were given and did not use.

 

Okay, that’s enough of that.  In reality, of course, you should do none of the above things.  Generally speaking, you should do the opposite, because in reality you want to win your case, not lose it.  You should stay in treatment.  Take the medications you are prescribed.  Keep your appointments.  Follow your doctor’s advice.  Go to any exams that Social Security schedules for you.  Be absolutely honest with Social Security, your doctors, and anyone else about anything relating to your claim.  Cooperate with your lawyer.  Cooperate with the people at the Social Security office and respect the work they do.  If you have a hearing, make sure you go. 

Doing all of these things will not guarantee that you win your case.  But it will give you your best chance of doing so. 

And if you are going to make the effort to file a disability claim, and to persevere with it, isn’t it a bit silly not to do the things that will give you your best chance of success?

4:35 pm | link 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Social Security announces 1.7% increase in benefits for 2015




The Social Security Administration has announced a 1.7% cost-of-living increase in monthly benefits for 2015.

 

The increase will begin on December 31, 2014, for SSI recipients.  For Social Security disability recipients, the increase will begin with their January 2014 payments.

This increase means that the maximum monthly SSI payment for an individual will rise from $721 in 2014 to $733 in 2015.

2:57 pm | link 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Social Security announces 1.5% increase in benefits for 2014



The Social Security Administration has announced a 1.5% cost-of-living increase in monthly benefits for 2014.

 

The increase will begin on December 31, 2013, for SSI recipients.  For Social Security disability recipients, the increase will begin with their January 2014 payments.

 

The increase also means that the maximum SSI monthly payment for an individual will rise from $710 in 2013 to $721 in 2014.

3:21 pm | link 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Free tax preparation help


We don’t handle tax matters here, but this information seems worth passing along.  It may save you money.

 

Gateway EITC Community Coalition (no relation to Gateway Legal Services) is offering free help with tax preparation for people in the St. Louis area, including Metro-East.

 

If your household income in 2012 was $51,000 or less, you can qualify for free tax preparation through Gateway EITC and can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  The EITC can reduce the amount you owe, or make you eligible for a tax refund.  Filing through Gateway EITC can also save you a lot of money.  The organization estimates that the working poor in St. Louis pay an average of $260 in tax preparation fees, electronic filing fees, and check cashing fees each year.

 

To find out if you qualify, or to find the nearest site, you can call 800-427-4626.  You can also file your taxes online for free through the organization’s web site at <www.GatewayEITC.org>.

3:33 pm | link 

Monday, January 28, 2013

What can I do to improve my chances of winning my disability claim?

I’m sometimes asked what a person can do to increase his or her chances of winning a claim for Social Security disability or SSI benefits. 

 

Here are a few suggestions:

 

(1)        Make sure you have a lawyer who is experienced in handling Social Security disability and SSI claims. 

 

(2)        If you need medical treatment but aren’t getting it, start.  Don’t wait around – get back into treatment today.  I can’t overstate the importance of this.  If you don’t have a doctor, ask someone you trust for a referral.  If you think you can’t afford a doctor, check with your local health department.  Many towns have low-cost or sliding-scale health providers.

 

Why is this so important?  Simple:  under Social Security’s rules, a disability decision must be supported by medical evidence.  Even if the judge believes you 100%, the judge must be able to point to medical evidence supporting your claim.  In addition, for the sake of your own personal health and well-being (as well as your disability claim), if you need medical treatment, you should get it.

 

(3)        If you aren’t taking medicine that your doctors have prescribed, start taking it immediately.  If you don’t, then the judge is likely to think that you don’t really need it.  It’s a short step from there to thinking that you don’t really have a problem, or that even if you do have a problem, it’s not as serious as you say it is.  In addition, of course, if you’ve been prescribed medicine, it’s usually for a reason.   

 

If you aren’t taking medicine because you can’t afford it, cut out all unnecessary expenses.  Are you paying for cable TV?  Internet?  Cigarettes?  Movies?  Any of a hundred other things you may not need as much as you need medicine?  If so, then stop paying for those things and put the money you save toward the cost of your medicine.  In addition, many drug companies (and some health providers) have programs that let you get medicine for very little or no cost. 

 

(4)        If you’re drinking too much, or using street drugs at all, stop.  Under Social Security’s rules, if either alcohol or street drugs are contributing to your disability in a significant way, they have to deny you benefits even if you are disabled.  If you can’t stop without help, get help.  Don’t wait --- get help now. 

3:38 pm | link 

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