While it is always a good idea to be honest, honesty becomes even more crucial during the disability claims process. Because of its complicated nature, the claims process can last for months and even years. As a disability benefits applicant, you will be involved in filling out paperwork, working with evaluators, and possibly testifying before an Administrative Law Judge.
It is of the utmost importance that you be completely honest with your doctors, your attorney, the Social Security Administration, and any judges or legal officials that you work with or speak with. Nothing ruins a case faster than dishonesty.
Now, we understand that you probably have no intention of blatantly lying to a judge or inventing stories to tell to your attorney. While most people do not lie outright, disability applicants can be guilty of a certain type of deception. The most common form of dishonesty in disability cases is far more subtle: exaggerating your disability. It may seem tempting to exaggerate your symptoms and pains in hopes of receiving additional financial benefits or speeding up the claims process, but this behavior will come back to haunt you.
It is absolutely essential to provide a completely accurate, untainted description of your medical circumstances when you communicate with your doctor and the SSA. It is unwise to believe that you will successfully fool a judge—someone who sees enough cases to know when they are being lied to. If you are straightforward and honest about your condition, you will not have to worry about whether or not you are being trusted.
In the Summit Disability Law Group publication, “The Utah Social Security Disability Handbook,” we discuss the following hypothetical situation.
“Picture a scenario where someone applies for Social Security disability and has progressed all the way to the hearing stage. The individual is sitting in front of the Administrative Law Judge giving testimony about his/her disability and functionality. The judge looks at the medical records and application which say that the individual can’t sit for more than ten minutes. He then asks the individual how long he can sit. He says, “I can’t sit for longer than about ten minutes.” The judge goes on with his questions and then later asks if the person drove to the hearing. The person answers “yes.” The judge then asks where they live and how long it took to get to the hearing. The person answers “sixty minutes.” The judge will then ask how it is possible for a person who can sit for only ten minutes to sit in a car for sixty minutes, or for that matter, sit through a forty-five minute hearing without getting up. In this scenario, the judge would likely end the hearing and deny benefits.”
This story illustrates what can and will happen if a judge determines that you are exaggerating the severity of your injuries. When a judge meets you for the first time or listens to your testimony, they are assessing your believability and credibility. You prove to be someone who is honest and believable by telling the exact truth.
At Summit Disability Law Group, we will teach you to speak openly and candidly with your doctors, SSA officials, and judges. You need to do everything you possible can to give yourself the best chance at being awarded benefits, and that includes accurately representing yourself. Otherwise, you run the risk of severely damaging your claim.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Potter.