I represent a 55 year old former truck driver with a bad back whose application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits was approved after two months. The severity of his back condition was bad, but no more so than many other claimants with failed back surgery who seek SSD benefits. It was the presentation of the vocational evidence that made the difference.
If a claimant is unable to “communicate in English,” then special rules apply that make it easier to obtain SSD benefits. The question is what does communicating in English mean? Even if a person has a limited ability to speak and understand English, if also unable to read and write English, then that person could qualify for SSD benefits under special rules that would preclude benefits for a person with the same medical circumstances who were literate.
In light of the above, it is important to make sure that a claimant is able to read and write in English. If not, it should be made clear to the state agency when initially applying that the claimant lacks the ability to do so, and to spell out the implications of being unable to read and write when submitting medical evidence. The result should be a quicker approval than usual.