The importance of catching mistakes in your Social Security file
We recently had a situation during a client’s hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) where we needed to correct a clerical error that wasn’t our claimants fault. Our effort during the case paid off in the end. And by getting the error corrected at the hearing, we were able to greatly impact our client’s benefits.
Our client had to stop working in March 2012 due to increased pain from severe scoliosis in the lower lumbar spine, causing excruciating pain and difficulty with walking. She hoped a few months off work would ease the pain, but unfortunately the pain continued. She originally filed her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits, based on her work record, on November 1, 2012.
When she originally filed her application she did not complete all the required paperwork. When we were hired approximately a month later and took over the case, we attempted to supplement the file repeatedly over the next two months to fix this oversight, but the Local District Office was ignoring both our calls and the clients’.
Finally, in March 2013, the file was closed with a technical denial as it was deemed incomplete. This meant our client would have to restart the entire application process. The Social Security Administration told our client the next available slot for filing a new application would be over a month in the future. We had her march right down to the Local District Office that day and file a new application, and that’s what she did.
When she filed her original application in November 2012 she alleged her onset of disability—the day she became unable to work—was March 2012. However, given all the confusion with the first application and the immediate need to file her new application, the case manager at the Local District Office mistakenly entered the claimant’s alleged onset date of disability as March 2013. Once we were listed on the case with the Department of Disability Services in Springfield, we were able to see the mistake, and set about correcting it. But once again, we came up against a brick wall of government indifference and they refused to change the date.
However, because we had diligently pressed forward with the issue, not allowing government bureaucracy to interfere with our client’s rights and potential back pay amount, we were able to get the mistake corrected. When we presented before the ALJ, she understood how we fought for our client despite the many obstacles in our way; appreciated that several mistakes had been made by Social Security through our client’s application process; and she agreed to allow benefits going back to the March 2012 date.
The moral of this story is that while we can’t always change the government’s ways of handling cases in a “business-as-usual” fashion, we have enough experience and willpower to continue to fight for the our clients’ right.
We made enough of a record of the issue that once we got in front of the judge she knew it was not an empty argument we were making in some kind of money grab scheme, but a persistent and strategic tactic to demonstrate how our client had been wronged.
It’s not just a matter of simply getting approved for benefits, and at Nash Disability Law we know how much you rely on any back wages you might receive, as well as how any Medicare benefits you are eligible for will be affected by your approval date. Had the original March 2013 onset of disability date stuck, our client would have had to wait and extra year to be eligible for Medicare. But because of our persistence, we were able to secure her an additional year of back wages as well as ensure she was immediately eligible for Medicare insurance.