Wednesday, April 30, 2008

“Fully Favorable” Decisions

Just because a Social Security Disability hearing decision is entitled “fully favorable” does not mean that the claimant will receive all the benefits to which he or she is entitled. Not infrequently, there is an error regarding the disability onset date or application filing date that reduces the amount of the claimant’s retroactive benefit.

I represent a 60 year old court reporter who received a “fully favorable” decision today that in fact, is not fully favorable. While the ALJ issued the decision with the correct onset date, he neglected to cite the correct application filing date. This has the effect of reducing her retroactive benefit.

At the hearing, I pointed out that April 27, 2007 was the wrong application date because I had filed it via certified mail on February 19, 2007. Not only did the receipt show that date, but an administrative exhibit confirmed that the application was submitted on February 19, 2007. Moreover, I gave the ALJ a blank application claim form sent by a person from the district office, with that person’s initials and date of July 27, 2006 handwritten on the form.

The claimant stopped working in June 2005. Therefore, regardless of whether the actual February 19, 2007 filing date, or July 27, 2006 protective filing date, is used, the claimant is entitled to additional benefits. These circumstances require a letter to the ALJ to revise the decision; otherwise, an appeal needs to be filed.

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