More than 75% of Social Security Claims are denied on the first application of the claimant. Once the claimant appeals the initial decision and opts for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, the percentage of successful outcomes increases dramatically. There are many major factors when considering whether you have a good Social Security Disability (SSD) claim. Arguably, the most important factor to consider is your age. If you are older than 55 years old, then the federal government assumes that you can no longer work and you have a much better chance of winning. In fact, the federal government presumes you cannot work, which is a good thing.
Every Social Security Disability claim begins with a disability application – three out of four of which are denied. Do not be discouraged, this is part of the process in South Carolina (and in most other states). If you need disability benefits, do not give up simply because your initial application has been denied. Your first and best line of defense in fighting for your claim is building a strong case that is substantiated by your complete medical records, which amount to medical evidence for your claim.
The initial disability-application can be filed online in South Carolina, but this approach has some distinct disadvantages. For example, you will not be able to file your SSD claim concurrently with a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, which is often advisable. Additionally, you won’t be able to ask pertinent questions as they relate to your unique claim, including crucial questions about the submission of your medical and vocational evidence. Finally, with an online application, you won’t have access to personalized guidance throughout the application process. Instead, applying for SSD at your local Social Security office – or via a phone interview – is usually the best approach.
If you do forego the online application and choose to apply through your local Social Security office, your claim will probably begin with an interview – the primary purpose of which is for you to succinctly provide all the relevant information that is necessary for processing your SSD claim. This information should include your complete medical history as it relates to this claim for disability. In other words, all current medical-treatment sources should be well represented – but so should any past medical-treatment sources that relate to the onset of the disability that you are alleging.
To make sure that your medical information is complete, you should list all treating physicians and medical providers, facilities where you were treated (and their addresses and contact information), and any diagnoses received. Providing complete and accurate information can be crucial to your case. The examiner assigned to your case will use the information you provide to obtain the necessary medical records to support your claim.
Additionally, you will need to provide a complete and accurate detailed work-history for the 15 years prior to the advent of your disability. This list should include not only your workplaces, their addresses, and your supervisors and their contact information but also a thorough description of the work you performed and the skill level you performed it at. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers this timeframe to be the relevant period regarding your disability claim – work done prior to this will not be considered transferrable with respect to obtaining new work.
The SSA will evaluate your medical information to determine whether you can be classified as currently disabled and to establish when that disability manifested (to calculate any back payment that you may be eligible to receive). It’s to your advantage to collect your pertinent information and coherently organize it before you have your interview. Make sure your medical and vocational history tell your complete story; an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you hone your records and personal information and strengthen your SSD claim.
Once you’ve provided the necessary information to your local claims representative (CR), your claim will be transferred to the state disability agency, which is also known as disability determination services (DDS). At DDS, a disability examiner will be assigned to your case and will begin to request and compile your medical records. Because obtaining medical records can be time consuming, this often accounts for the lengthiest delay in the SSD claims process.
After the necessary records are obtained, your CR will investigate your condition to ascertain whether it’s in the Social Security Disability official list of impairments (known as the blue book), which could lead to immediate approval. However, because the requirements for the listed disabilities are highly specific and because many medical conditions are not included in the book, very few claims are approved in this way.
In the next phase, your CR will assess your physical and/or mental functional capacity and will determine any limitations that you might be experiencing. These can include such things as the physical inability to sit, stand, lift, carry, and/or reach and the mental inability to effectively remember, concentrate, and/or interact socially. Any such limitations will be calculated on a residual functional capacity (RFC) rating, and your rating (or ratings if you have both physical and mental restrictions) will be evaluated in comparison to the demands of your recent work-history.
This compilation of information and comparison amounts to your medical-vocational evaluation, and its determination will directly relate to your claim’s outcome. A medical-vocational evaluation that approves your SSD benefits, will determine that you have physical and/or mental limitations that effectively prohibit you from engaging in work at a substantial level of gainful earning. This determination will relate to both your ability to perform your previous work and your ability to perform other work that the combination of your education and job skills might indicate.
Every product liability case involving pharmaceuticals is unique, and it’s important that you carefully and appropriately identify all potential defendants in your claim. This includes identifying the chain of distribution of the medication or medical device in question. This chain refers to the path that a product follows from its inception to its intended consumer:
- The pharmaceutical manufacturer is usually a large company that does the heavy lifting regarding research, development, manufacture, and distribution of new drugs. These companies, however, are notoriously proactive in terms of aggressively defending against product liability claims.
- Testing laboratories also play a role in drug safety – most drugs process through an elaborate maze of tests before they arrive on the market. Such a laboratory – especially if it is independent of the drug manufacturer – might be a viable defendant in your complaint.
- Pharmaceutical sales representatives are often employed by drug manufacturers to meet with medical prescribers and to market that manufacturer’s medications by touting their advantages and making drug-usage recommendations. Such sales representatives might be indicated in your claim if they played a significant role in recommending the injurious drug in question.
- Your prescribing doctor, as an important link in the drug’s chain of distribution, might also be liable in your claim – especially if your doctor failed to provide adequate instruction or to warn you about the drug’s potentially dangerous side effects.
- The hospital or clinic where you were treated, because it is another link in that chain, might also bear liability.
- The prescription-filling pharmacy is usually the final link in the distribution chain before your medication reaches you, and your pharmacist’s counseling regarding your prescription might share liability in your prescription drug claim.
Bringing a prescription drug claim is obviously a complicated legal process that demands careful attention to the details and legal ramifications of your individual case. It’s never a good idea to attempt this process on your own. If you or someone you care about has suffered the negative side effects of a medication or medical device, retain experienced legal counsel with expertise in defective products cases that focus on medications. The Hartman Law Firm, LLC has the skill, experience, and expertise to guide your case toward its most favorable outcome. We care about your prescription drug case, and we can help – give us a call.