When you initially apply for Social Security disability benefits, you are required to undertake an initial disability report that requires you to spell out the medical conditions that you believe disable you from working, the treatment you’ve received, your work history (including when you last worked and why you stopped working), along with your educational and training history (among other items). Assuming one faces a denial of their claim, at each step of the subsequent proceedings (in Maine, this would be the reconsideration and request for hearing processes) you are required to provide an updated Disability Report that spells out to the Social Security Administration how your things have changed. Your Maine Social Security Lawyer should be there to assist you with this process to ensure the Social Security Administration (SSA) is being provided with accurate answers that allow them to fully and fairly assess as to where you now stand.
We find that one of the more confusing aspects of the Social Security application and appeals process is the on line disability report (which many individuals will fill out in paper form, by addressing form SSA-3441 ). One of the questions required to be answered is whether there has been any change, for better or worse, in your medical conditions since you last told us about your medical conditions. The reason for this question is that SSA needs to consider whether your medical condition(s) might have, for instance, worsened to the point where you may now be found disabled from working (whereas, perhaps, your condition may not have been serious enough to meet SSA’s requirements at the time of your earlier report: whether it be at your initial filing level or reconsideration level)’. The natural tendency is for one to explain how severe one’s conditions are, without regard to the fact that they may have been severe at the time of the prior disability report. This can be misleading to SSA and cause them to believe that perhaps your condition was not severe, or as severe, at the time of either your initial application or your subsequent appeal. Needless to say, one needs to be cautious in how one answers this question. We advise our clients that for each comment provided one should ask themselves: and so, am I able to say that my statement truly constitutes a change or is it simply an attempt at restating what I’ve previously stated to SSA for emphasis. If the latter is the intent, then this should be avoided as it does address the purpose of the question.
The same concern exists for the question on the form as to whether there are any new physical or mental conditions since the time you last told SSA about your conditions. The tendency is to once again reiterate conditions that have already existed, or, for that matter, to provide what are new “diagnoses” of ones conditions versus providing what are one’s new conditions. This is an important distinction as, many times, one is getting newly diagnosed with a condition that they have been suffering from for quite some time. In such an instance, one would not wish to advise SSA that this is a new condition.
Another common mistake made by claimants (which mistake can also be caught and fixed by a diligent Maine Social Security Lawyer) is that they will provide a list of any and all medical providers they’ve seen for their condition rather than limiting the list of treatment to only those providers they’ve seen since the time they last notified SSA of their treatment. While this would mean there is the need to list once again all of the same medical providers that were listed on the initial application, if in fact these same providers have not been seen since the time of the prior disability report, these same providers should not be listed once again.
Finally, one of the last questions on the form has to do with whether there have been any changes in your daily activities due to your physical and/or mental conditions since you last told SSA about your activities. Once again, there is the natural tendency to simply notify SSA about the extent to which your daily activities are limited. Unfortunately, by failing to distinguish what are changes and what have been problems all along, one may be unwittingly stating to SSA that these were not problems when they last filled out a disability report. We find that many claimants would only be sabotaging their claims by providing such statements.
Needless to say, there are many reasons to have an experienced and diligent Social Security Disability Lawyer to assist you with the various forms and procedures as you attempt to navigate your way through the disability claims process. Contacting Maine Social Security Lawyer Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 will help ensure that you have the advice and assistance you need.