April 23, 2014

Claim Approved “On the Record” With Amended Onset Date – Should I Appeal the Changed Onset?

Jonathan, I was recently approved for ssd by the ALJ. I had my 3 heart attacks, the last on May 5, 2005.   At that time I became disabled to work. This has been my Doctors statement all along. Like a lot of people trying to get ssd, my financial situation got serious. I filed for an "on the record review" and after 6 months recieved a full favorable decision.

However they moved my onset date to Jan. 1 2006 and did not explain why. I had worked the first 3 months of the 05 and made about 26,000 dollars. When I applied thru the Hospital that took care of me, they also applied  for Medicade and SSI.

Now I cannot get an answer from the SSI people if they are going to pay me for the months of Jan-May ’05. It seems to me to be ploy to keep me from appealing the AJL decision until the 60days are over and then deny me the SSI benefits. Can you give me your 2cents worth on what you have seen the SSA do to people in this situation?


Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  Bob, a couple of thoughts occur to me.  First, when you say that someone at the hearing office changed your onset date, you need to make sure that you are not confusing the "five month waiting period" with a changed onset date.  In a Title II disability case, you do not get paid for the first five full months of disability.  In your case, if the onset was May 5, then you would not get paid DIB benefits for the remainder of May, June, July, August, September, or October of 2005.   Your first check would be for November, 2005.

If your onset was moved to January 1, 2006, then you would not get paid until June, 2006 as the five month waiting period would start in January.

A claimant can, by the way, get paid SSI during that five month waiting period – although, remember, SSI is an income and resource dependent program – if your spouse works or if you have any sort of significant resource, you may not be eligible for SSI at all.

Let’s assume that someone in the AJL’s office identified this case as an on-the-record candidate and did, in fact, change your onset date from May 5, 2005 to January 1, 2006.  Often this happens because the staff attorney at the ODAR (Office of Disability and Review) did not see specific evidence in your record that your condition was "disabling" until January 1, 2006.  Some judges (and by association their staff) will not assume anything into a record.  Logically, if a person has a third heart attack, a reasonable person would assume that the patient was not particularly healthy between the time of heart attack #1 and #3.  However, if the medical record does not specifically talk about activity limitations until the time of #3, then some judges will conclude that the patient’s condition did not get really bad until heart attack #3.  It is silly and ridiculous, but it happens.

You can appeal a favorable decision but the risk is that a hearing judge might reverse the decision entirely.  Obviously, if you do appeal, you will want to get a narrative report or a form filled out by one or more treating doctors to support your May 5 onset date.

By accepting the amended onset date, you are giving up six months of benefits.   You have to decide if the risk of an outright reversal and the time and energy investment is worth the risk.  Generally I am not inclined to appeal a partially favorable decision but I have had clients do so.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.