Social Security Disability Deadlines: Don’t Let Them Add to Your Stress

deadlineFolks in Texas and throughout the nation that are applying for social security disability benefits have a load of stress to deal with.  Government deadlines in the disability application process can add to that stress level.  Hiring an experienced, local social security disability lawyer can aleviate this worry: your attorney is responsible for making sure deadlines in your case are met.  For many, however, government demands – for example, that a form be completed and returned in 10 days- are stressful, even if they have an experienced lawyer.  Moreover, many are not sure the attorney got the same “demand” they did, or that their attorney is in fact going to meet that deadline. For an attorney, missing a client’s deadline can have real malpractice and state bar grievance implications.  Many national disability firms, however, are not law firms and do not have the same ethical responsibility to disability clients as do attorneys.

Disability claimants understandably have a lot of time on their hands (since they are not working) and rightfully treat their disability claim as their highest priority.  Due to the relatively low attorney fees in disability cases, disability lawyers must have many clients to survive, and may not be able to respond to the government’s demand immediately.  Many disability claimants can feel like their attorney is in fact ‘slowing them down’ as they wait for their lawyer to get back to them, thinking if they were reponsible for that form disability wants they would do it immediately.

The stress is compounded by the fact that social security loves to throw deadlines around.  It is often unclear which deadlines are really serious.   Many times the deadline is intended to help the government disability analyst move the case along, and there is a minimal effect to missing these deadlines.  For example, disability analysts at the Disability Determination Services ask that a Work History Report or Adult Function Report be returned in 10 days, or they will make a decision without that information.  Few disability analysts, however, enforce this deadline strictly, and will always accept these report late if you call and let them know it is on the way.  While there is no real harm in returning that form in 15 or 20 days, it is always best to meet government demands as soon as possible. There is no real evidence that returning forms in days rather than weeks makes any difference either in outcome or the time it takes to get a decision.

Other deadlines, however. are very important, and must be timely met.  The most important deadlines are appeal deadlines.  Failure to meet an appeal deadline in most cases means you have to start your case all over again.  Not good.  It is true that social security can find you had ‘good cause’ for missing a deadline, and a late appeal will be accepted.  ‘Good cause’ for missing a deadline, however, is usually limited to very extreme circumstances, such as an extended hospitalization of failure to receive the denial due to social security’s failure to send the denial to the right address.  You simply don’t want to be in the situation where you are trying to ‘talk the government into’ accepting your late appeal.

Ways to minimize your ‘deadline’ stress

  1. Hire a competent, experienced, local social security disability specialist.
  2. Trust your attorney to meet your deadline.
  3. If you are worried about your attorney meeting a denial appeal deadline, simply  write a short letter to the social security office saying you are appealling the denial, and keep a copy of that letter.
  4.  Complete all forms immediately.  If either you want your attorney’s review of your answers, or if your attorney has instructed you so, wait for your attorney to get back to you.

In our office, we have implemented several procedures to reduce ‘deadline stress’.  First, we have all clients complete the Work History Report and the Adult Function Report – the two most commonly requested forms at the initial and reconsideration stage so we can immediately provide them to social security if requested.  For appeal deadlines, we have created an automated appeal software application, so that all appeals are made on the day of day after a denial is received.



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