As a Social Security lawyer handling the Reconsideration process in Maine and Massachusetts (New Hampshire remains a pilot project state where a claimant goes directly to hearing), it is difficult to inform our clients of the low chance of success at the reconsideration level. However, the work to be undertaken at this level is just as important as the initial application level and can pave the way for a smooth hearing down the road (which is the likely eventuality if one has been denied initially, whether it be in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire).
At the initial level, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will ask that you address an initial, comprehensive application that spells out such matters as what your disabling conditions are, when you went out of work and why, what medical providers have treated you (asking for their names and contact information) as well as some of your past work history. This information is then passed along to the state agency responsible for developing the claim, along with the signed medical authorization form (SSA-827) you provided SSA at the time of the application: this agency is called Disability Determination Services (DDS) and they remain responsible for further medical development of the claim. They will be responsible for obtaining the medical records from the providers you list on your application. The Maine office for DDS is in Augusta, the New Hampshire office is in Concord and the Massachusetts offices are located in Boston and Worcester. They will not only gather the medical records you listed on your initial application (or what is referred to as your disability report), but will many times request that you complete additional forms called the Function Report – Adult (SSA-3373-BK), a Work History Report (SSA-3369-BK) and potentially other reports such as a Report on Pain: likewise, they may ask that a third party fill out a Function Report – Adult – Third Party Form (SSA-3380-BK).
Upon filing a Request for Reconsideration, DDS will look to see if you were asked to fill out these forms previously and, if not, will likely send you one if not more of these forms to address. Even if you have filled out these reports previously, they may ask you to fill out the function reports once again if it’s been a number of months. The importance of filling out these forms completely and accurately states your circumstances cannot be understated. When filling out the Function Reports, it is important to understand that SSA will be looking to see the extent to which you are capable of performing activities on a regular and continuing basis: not simply on an occasional, or as you feel up to it basis. Thus, many mistakes are made by claimants who do not understand the importance of pointing out the extent to which there may be bad days or bad times of the day where the activity cannot be undertaken, or, for that matter, the extent to which breaks are needed. Should the case need to proceed to hearing (and the vast majority of cases at the reconsideration level do result in a denial and the need to proceed to hearing), the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to hear your case will be looking at this form as a guide as to what you believe your functional limitations have been. Thus, the failure to provide essential details can prove quite harmful to a proper analysis at hearing.
Likewise, the Work History Report is meant to provide SSA with a sense of how difficult your prior jobs were, both from a physical and a mental demand standpoint. An accurate reflection of the extent to which you were required to sit, stand, walk, bend, crouch, use your hands for gripping and grasping, etc. (not to mentio the extent to which technical skills may have been required for a semi-skilled or skilled position) is essential so that SSA (and, ultimately if necessary, the ALJ), is provided with a proper sense of the requirements of your past jobs. SSA is tasked with determining if one remains capable of performing their past relevant work as part of their sequential evaluation process. Moreover, if you’re over the age of 50 and you’ve primarily worked jobs that required you to be on your feet or which required a great deal of exertion, you may find that you meet what is called a Social Security Grid rule. If you fail to properly provide the work requirements of your past work, you may see that an improper decision takes place in your case.
The value of having an experienced, zealous Social Security disability lawyer cannot be stressed enough: the favorable result in your case may very well depend on it. Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 to ensure your case gets a proper consideration.