October 31, 2014

What Does it Mean When a Judge Wants to Change Your Onset Date

As I noted this past November, I am starting to see more instances when a judge will want to change the “onset date” for my client’s disability.  What does this mean and should you be concerned?

Your onset date (called your Alleged Onset Date or AOD by Social Security) represents that date that you allege that you became disabled.  Usually your AOD will be the day after you last worked, although in some instances I have been able to argue for an AOD that was two or three months prior to my client’s last day of work if my client had changed from full time to part time, if the job had become a “make work” situation or if my client was missing days or parts of days.

Similarly, I have tried cases in which the AOD was several months after the last day of work.  This happens when a person is laid off because his employer is cutting staff and the medical evidence shows that the employee’s disability began at some point after the layoff.

In general, however, as rule of thumb, the last day of work is a good choice for your Alleged Onset Date.

Why, then, would a judge change your onset date?  Usually, a Social Security judge will try to associate your onset date to a specific medical treatment record.  For example, if the basis of your disability is back pain and an MRI showing a herniated disc is dated September 28, the judge may choose September 28 as the onset date.  Obviously in this example, your disc was herniated on September 27 and probably on August 27 and July 27 as well, but September 28 is a date on which there is objective evidence of a medical problem consistent with your testimony. [Read more...]

How Can Waiting to Apply for Benefits Cost You Money?

Recently, I came across a very relevant blog post written by New York Social Security disability lawyer Lew Insler entitled Waiting to Apply for Social Security Disability Can Cost You Money.  Attorney Insler comments “I still don’t understand why some people wait years before even filing their claims. Not only do claimants lose out on years of potential benefits, but the longer a person waits to apply, the harder it may be to obtain the medical records necessary to show disability while they are still covered for benefits.

I think that Mr. Insler’s point is very well taken.  When you apply for Title II disability benefits, you can only get paid up to one year prior to your application date, even if your disability began two, three or more years ago.  In a Title XVI SSI case you can only get paid as of the date of application.

Another problem that can arise if you want relates to your insured status for Title II Disability.  Unlike retirement benefits, which are calculated based on your lifetime earnings, Disability benefits look at your earnings during the 10 years prior to the onset of your disability.  Generally you have to show that you worked for 5 out of the past 10 years.   When you stop working, your coverage will therefore remain in force for the next 4 to 5 years.  You need to show that you became disabled while you were covered. [Read more...]

What is my “Date Last Insured?”

Back in January, I answered a question from a blog reader about Social Security disability credits.  That reader wondered why Social Security had advised her that she had “run out of credits.”

You earn credits based on earnings during the approximately 10 year period prior to filing for disability.  If you wait too file or if you allege disability as of a date where your credits have run out, you cannot recover disability benefits (you could recover SSI, but SSI benefits are usually lower than SSDI and SSI will be offset by household income or assets).

When you file for benefits, Social Security calculates something called your “date last insured.”  As long as the judge or adjudicator finds you disabled on or before your date last insured, you will receive disability benefits.  If you are found disabled after your date last insured, you will not qualify for SSDI benefits.

In my law practice, one of my first tasks with any new client is to determine that client’s date last insured.  I have learned the hard way that if I am successful in proving disability, but the onset date used by the judge is after the date last insured, my client won’t receive any benefits and I won’t get paid for my efforts.

My colleague Social Security lawyer Tomasz Stasiuk in Colorado, recently posted a very well written explanation of the date last insured issue.  Take a minute and read Tomasz’ post because it clearly discusses and explains the major issues related to your date last insured.

Disability Applicant Asks About Auxiliary Benefits for Her Children

I am disabled due to Avascular necrosis, fibramyalgia, and arthritis, I have undergone 7 surguries in past 4 years and have several more to go. I am an RN, so I made good money before moving to part time work then to being unable to work. My husband makes between 65,000-70,000 a year, we have 2 children ages 2 and 4, will I be able to collect benefits for them?

–Jamie

Jonathan Ginsberg responds: If you are eligible for Title II benefits, then your dependents would be eligible for auxiliary benefits. As you may know, SSA looks at the ten years prior to the onset of your disability to determine eligibility. If you have at least 20 covered quarters during this ten year period, you would be eligible. I have written more about the earnings requirements for Title II here.

You describe “moving to part time work,” but you do not say how long that process took or how it impacted your earnings. What you need to find out here is something called your “date last insured” for Title II. Sometimes you can get this information directly from Social Security by phone, or you can request it in writing using a Form 7004 – Request for Statement of Earnings & Benefits, which you can download at my law firm web site.

If you can show SSA that the onset date for your disability is before your date last insured, you are in good shape for Title II.

My concern here has to do with part time work. As I have noted before on this blog, part time work tends to muddy the water when it comes to disability. SSA often sees things in black and white, and some fact finders (adjudicators or judges) take the position that if you can work part time, you could also work full time at a less demanding job.

On the other hand, the medical problems you describe seem serious enough that you ought to be approved for benefits. Hopefully, you will not have any problems qualifying for Title II as your husband’s income would eliminate your eligibility for Title XVI SSI.