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Would it help my disability claim to get a statement from my employer about my problems at work?

By   /  March 3, 2016  /  20 Comments

See how your last employer’s observations of your physical or mental health can help your Social Security Disability claim.

disability-claimEmployer Observations of Physical Symptoms for Your Disability Claim

Your employer shouldn’t be expected to make a statement that you are disabled, but your employer’s observations of problems on the job could fill in some information gaps in your disability claim, especially if you have scant medical records. If you were having noticeable problems at work, then asking your employer for a letter that describes signs of your apparently health-related problems could help your claim. Some things that employers notice are excessive absenteeism, reduced mobility, loss of dexterity, reduced stamina, and the inability to sit or stand for long periods. They may have also noticed that your production has gone down or that you have difficulty completing tasks.

Employer Observations of Mental Symptoms for your Disability Claim

If you are claiming disability based on a neurological or mental illness, then your supervisor’s letter might include observations of your emotional, behavioral, or cognitive problems, such as conflicts with other employees, poor impulse control, or memory lapses. Your employer might have noticed that you were having difficulty following directions or multi-tasking in a manner required by your job. Also, if you were getting unusual assistance with your workload, that would be a good thing for your employer to mention.

The Social Security Administration rarely contacts your employer for such information so it will be up to you to request a letter. If this is uncomfortable for you, you may wish to hire an attorney who handles Social Security Disability claims to assist you with gathering appropriate information for your disability claim. Visit our article “How Does the Social Security Administration Apply Social Security Disability Laws to Determine If I Am Disabled?” for information on how Social Security attorneys can help you communicate with, and gather information from, people who know about your disability.

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  • Published: 11 months ago on March 3, 2016
  • By:
  • Last Modified: December 1, 2016 @ 9:16 pm
  • Filed Under: Apply for SSD
  • jonahmichael

    Hi, Kay.

    I’m a 36 year old male. I started my application back in April of 2016 but didn’t make progress on it until about a month ago when the person assigned to my case called me and left a message nudging me to finish filling it out online. I initially applied for PTSD, depression, anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome, agoraphobia, and arthritis.

    I have been in a psych ward 4 times in the last 9 years, the most recent being about a week ago where I was treated for Bipolar II with psychotic elements and suicidal ideation (which I always experience but am usually not impulsive enough to feel like a danger to myself), which I hadn’t included in my initial application because I’ve had the psychosis more or less controlled for the past few years.

    While I was inpatient, my disability examiner contacted my significant other urging her to send in her RFC report on me, which she did. After I got out, I sent in my forms and my work history form.

    My disability examiner is very kind and listed off the agencies/doctors/psychiatrists that had not yet returned her calls. I contacted a few and got those taken care of. I apologized for taking so long to get this all done and said that getting the questionaires had been part of my stress and she said she understood.

    So, with all of this, all I’m doing is waiting for a hospital I had an inpatient stay in almost ten years ago and for my most recent psychiatrist to get back to her (psychiatrist is out of her office for medical reasons for a month, so there is a possibility her temporary replacement will have to assess my file and do the work for her, as I understand it). I have not been asked to see a doctor for any other evidence. I think my most recent hospital stay and the one prior to in two years ago when I first became too disabled to work any more than about 20 hours a week may be the most compelling evidence.

    I’ve had several friends whom I’ve met online and in person say that all of those things, which are documented, make a good case for me getting approved first time around. I am trying not to read too much into my examiner’s attitude, but I *do* have mental illnesses and am prone to “magical thinking.”

    To you, does it seem as though I have a good case? If I get denied this first time, should I get a lawyer or wait to get a lawyer if I get denied after the appeal process?

    Thank you for any insight you might have.
    Jonah

    • jonahmichael

      I’d like to add that I have sparsely worked this year, 2016. I have probably made about $8000.

      • Kay Derochie

        Dear Jonah,

        Please see my response of a few minutes ago to your first post. With regard to your work in 2016, you may be asked for your pay stubs to show whether any months reached substantial gainful activity (SGA), which is usually $1,130 gross. If you don’t have the pay stubs, work on getting duplicates or a printout of hours and earnings from your former employers. If you were working below SGA level or were at SGA for only scattered months, you can claim an earlier date of disability, possibly back as far as the hospitalization two years ago. Claiming the earlier date will open up the potential opportunity for retroactive benefits.

        Sincerely,
        Kay

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Jonah,

      There is a possibility that you could be approved if the hourly wage in occupations you can perform is not so high that you would be able to earn enough working twenty hours a week that the work would be “gainful,” that is $1,130 or more gross a month. Having a nice, kind claims examiner is a real plus, but it will not affect the outcome of your claim.

      If you are denied, I recommend getting a copy of your claim file so you and your attorney can see the exact rationale for the denial and tailor the appeal to those reasons. So, yes, I do suggest having legal assistance with the first appeal.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • I applied online but had an appointment in person scheduled. A few days before the appt, they called & said I didn’t need to come in & were sending to medical examiner. About a week later, I got a function report. My mom did too. We both sent them back. About a week later I got a letter asking if I drink or use drugs. I have a drink every couple weeks with friends but that’s it bc it sedated me. I make sure I eat something with it too. Does this mean something is in my record about drinking or drug use? I’ve always been honest w treatment team, so they know I have a drink here and there & once in awhile might smoke pot at a party or something. I do not have a substance diagnosis nor have they ever expressed concern there is one. Should I be worried? Is it because of my bipolar diagnosis? I worry if I say I have a drink here & there, but my record says something bad about alcohol that I’m not aware of, they will deny me. Does this mean they think I have a problem? Wouldn’t my providers have told me?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Allen,

      The question is being asked to help determine whether alcohol or drugs are causing your disability, because benefits are not paid for disability attributable to alcohol or drug use. Answer the question honestly, that you occasionally drink or smoke pot in a social setting and not to excess. It is possible that there is something in your medical records that prompted the question. If you are denied, get a copy of your claim file to ascertain the exact reasons for the denial and the records and evidence on which the denial was based.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • tom

    To add to the last comment I am 57 years old

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Tom,

      Please see my response of a few moments ago to your first post.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • tom

    I drive a tractor trailer for a living with also working as a security guard in a school. I have diabetic neuropathy in both feet which I receive injections in both feet 4 times a year and increasingly getting more sensitive and harder to step on the gas and brakes. I have arthritis in my right shoulder from rotator cuff surgery, arthritis in my left elbow and right wrist also have diabetes along with 24% hearing loss in one ear and 14% in the other. I have problems standing for long periods and walking is getting harder. Do you believe I would qualify for SSD.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Tom,

      You do not say how old you are, but if you are fifty or older, I’d say you could have a good chance of approval. If you are younger you might be approved, but it is less certain. You can apply if you stop work or reduce your work hours so that you are earning $1,130 or less. If you file a claim, explain how each of your medical conditions, including the hearing deficit, affects your ability to do the kind of work you have done in the past.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Caroline

    I had a kidney transplant in 9/15. I was on short term disability through my employer (not ss) from 9/16-12/16. I went back to work 1/16, but have been having increasing problems with swelling (feet/legs/torso and arms), muscle pain/weakness, fatigue from long hours and being in my feet for long periods. Will I qualify now to go on short term, then long term disability? I have done this job for 18 years and am 50 years old

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Caroline,

      Your short-term disability (STD) policy will tell you how long you have to be back to work for a new period of STD to apply. Or if you did not use up your entire STD benefit period, you can probably go out again and use the remainder of it before applying for LTD. You can get a copy of the STD policy (not a brochure, but full policy) from your insurance company. If you stop work or reduce your hours so you are earning less than $1,130 gross per month, you can also apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI). If you stop work before being back on the job for six months, you can claim the date you first went out as your disability onset date.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • belinda

    I have been treated for major depression, panic attcks disorder, chronic anxiety since i was 17. Although it goes way back to at least starting school. I just hid everything. I ran away from home at 15 and never returned. That was my 4th attempt. Very abusive mother. Dad mentally ill and an alcoholic. When i was first dianosed i didnt know what it was. I was told im sure. Took meds for about 6 months then stopped. At 19 i ended up in emergency room because i thought i was dying or having a heart attack. Was seen by cardioligist/ internest and i ended up staying in hospital several days, i had stress test and other tests, i was having severe panic attacks, major depression, anxiety and a memory impairment of some sort plus prolapsed mitral valve syndrome. I seen the heart dr for i think 5 years but i never knew what he was talking about and i couldnt describe the way i felt. I was very awkward and shy. It wasnt even 2 years later i came down with the flu and my new dr kept saying i got another flu because it went on for about 6 weeks and i lost over i think more than 35 lbs. I could not function i thought i was dying. My husband took me to another dr and he was shocked. My stomach lining was bloody with soars spastic colan, something else, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, severe anxiety. Said i probably had flu to begin with but that i would not have lived much longer. It took me about 2 years to feel like i might get better again. Seen him for about 7 years. Felt better. Got sick again. Seen new dr. Always acting like it was all new to me. 2002 for whatever reason i wanted to divorce my husband and he committed suicide. The dr i was seeing knew i was getting worse and nothing was helping. Finally refers my to a phyciatrist. All i could do was always the same. Im sad i feel better i remarried without even thinking it thru. He was mean so at least i could talk about that to just get focus off my problems. During all these years i was fired from every job i ever had except one. I could never learn or was too nervous or whatever they felt like saying. Its an awful thing to try so hard and fail and not understanding why. We moved so i thought i could do home health. Lost insurance. Waited until i had money to see a dr. Same diagnosis only for about a year and a half ive had horrible back pains. Thought i had flu for about 4 weeks and went to dr for it and pain. Kept working but it was almost impossible. I missed i woukd say 6 weeks of work in a year. Usually a week at a time. Lost over 30 lbs. Found out i had skin cancer and have about 5 inch scar on chest. I finally had gotten insurance again. Dr has dianosed me with everything ive mentioned plus adhd again and bipolar and chronic fibromialgia. I dont have a dime coming in. We are barely making it. I never realized none of this is ever going away or that was the reason i lose jobs. Never had had an adult friend. Just 1 friend in school who was a neighbor but 4 years older. I went to a neuropsycoligist and he said i would qualify for disabilty. But almost made it sound like a joke. I had at least 13 years worth of ongoing medical reports thst he never looked at. How he had to tell me to stop talking. What he was asking questions about i couldnt answer. I finally am trying to say look i really am sick and i get that. All this has taken its toll on me. Plus the extreme guilt i feel and seeing my girls without their father. The dr kept saying because of her insistence that she thinks she needs disabilty. I think i said it once and tried explaining why. My dr has had me on medical leave since the last week of Feb. I have no benifits to collect for sick leave. Any advice? I have never in my life thought about disability. I have just finally realized why i cant keep a job or remember anything. What do i do?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Belinda,

      I suggest that you file Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claims. The SSDI will be screened first to see whether you have enough work credits at the right points in time to be insured for benefits. The SSI claim will be screened to see whether your family income and assets are within the SSI limits. If you meet those non-medical requirements for either or both disability programs, your claim will undergo a medical and psychiatric disability review. For the disability review be sure to give your extensive history and as much information possible about your medical treatment and providers through the years. Also, try to list all the jobs and the reasons you were fired. If asked to go to a consultative examination, be sure you attend.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Mary T.

    I had an aneurysm in 2011. Initially I was fine for the first few months after surgical clipping. I have been struggling cognitive, mentally and physically. I have simple partial seizure/complex, I have a thoracic aneurysm and aortic valve regurgitation and other heart issues. I have been diagnosed as bipolar/schizoeffective. I am at the end of my hope and have considered hanging myself. I’m tired and can’t get help. I work part-time and yes earn above $1090. I want to reduce hour and feel that it would help tremendously but can’t afford to walk away from financial obligations. I am/have run out of what to do. I attempted to file for SSD under the advise of my Cardiologist and therapist. I tried filing but was denied before I could even submit an application. I’m tired, my production/performance at work is declining daily. I can’t do this anymore. I have told my employer that I need help getting work load done. I can’t focus and when I try I still make major mistakes. I’m tired and I need help. My husband help make up the difference for my bills since working part-time. I’m killing him, he works overtime just to make ends meet. What else am I suppose to do. I don’t want to die trying. I want to rest. I want to get better, but I can’t. Suicide seems to be my only means of getting rest… I have no choices. I’ve worked so very hard all my life. They’ve taken my money faithfully. The reassurance of getting help sustained my future, they have burried me allive. I’m tired, and I need rest. I can’t live like this any more.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Mary,

      First dial 211 and get the number of a suicide hot line or look one up online so you can get some emotional and moral support. If you can manage to reduce your hours so that you are earning below $1,090 gross in all months including those in which you have an “extra” paycheck, you can apply while working. If you have a second bedroom, maybe you could take in a roomer for a while to make up for your reducing your hours.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • What do I need 2 do, if I applied for disability and was denied twice based on obesity and having severe problems and pain, but was not enough 2 declare me being disabled?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Annie,

      Whether or not you are disabled due to your obesity and pain depends on how much and how those conditions limit you and on your work history, education, and age. That said, I suggest that you request a copy of your claim file so you can see the exact reasons you were denied and so that you can check what medical and vocational information was being reviewed. Also contact an experienced Social Security attorney to review your claim and to assist you in filing a hearing appeal. Be sure not to miss the sixty-day deadline for the appeal.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • ANNETTE SMITH

    I FIRST APPLIED FOR SSD BACK IN 2010, NOW THAT WAS MY FIRST LAWYER AND I HAD TO DO MY OWN WORK. I HAD TO GO GET MY MEDICAL RECORDS ETC AND SEND THEM TO HIM JUST TO SAVE SOME TIME. I GOT TIRED OF DOING MY OWN WORK SO I GOT ANOTHER ATTORNEY WHO DID THE SAME OR LITTLE TO NOTHING. I CONTACTED THE AGC AND THEY FILED THE PAPERWORK FOR ME BUT I WAS DENIED DUE TO THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS WHICH I DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT. I FILED AN APPEAL WITH THE AJL AND I’M WAITING ON AN ANSWER. MY QUESTION IS WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THE TWO ATTORNEYS WHO WAS AT FAULT REGARDING GETTING MY PAPERWORK DONE ON TIME BEFORE THE STATUTE OF LIMIATIONS?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Annette,

      I am not familiar with a “statute of limitations” as related to Social Security disability claims. As far as the attorneys go, if the second one is still your attorney of record, you can discuss with Social Security whether and how you can terminate the representation agreement. You might also review the agreement to see if it has a clause for termination.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

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