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May, 2015: Scott’s Case and the Importance of One’s Date Last Insured and How it Might be Extended

Every now and then a case comes along that might be overlooked as a viable claim for an individual: that is, if the attorney does not take the time to undertake a complete and proper evaluation of the claim.

In Scott’s case, he came to our office indicating that he had been denied his Social Security disability income case on two occasions as he longer remained insured for benefits. Scott had worked as a self-employed individual for many years as a handyman and landscaper. Unfortunately, there had been some lean years with the work such that he didn’t earn a profit every year. Consequently, when he had applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits he was told that he was a few quarters of coverage shy in his Social Security disability taxes. Stephen had come to our office after being denied representation by a number of other lawyers. He was scheduled for a hearing at the time he called us.

Our first step in the evaluation process was to obtain a copy of his Social Security taxed earnings to see how many quarters shy and to see if there might be something we could do on his behalf. Having dealt with this little known IRS rule in the past on a number of occasions, I knew that self-employed individuals were allowed to in essence buy quarters of coverage for a year or two years if they met certain requirements (if they had net self employment income in 2 out of the 3 years preceding the year they were attempting to use the optional method of self-employment income reporting). Scott happened to meet this requirement such that he could undertake a single year of amending his tax return (and for a cost of simply a few hundred dollars) such that he would receive 4 additional quarters of coverage for that one year (and would consequently be insured for disability insurance benefits going forward). We were able to guide his accountant as to which year he would be qualified to amend, and the manner in which he wished to amend his tax return. By providing proof of amended tax filing and payment, we were able to get Scott’s local office to amend his dated last insured such that it was no longer before the time he became disabled from working. Likewise, we were able to show that the little amount of pay that Scott received after his alleged onset date constituted less than gainful wages. In turn, the Administrative Law Judge agreed that the prior denials should be overturned (as it was based on Scott not being insured for benefits): Scott was allowed to proceed with his claim and with a determination by Disability Determination Services as to whether he was indeed disabled from working.

Indeed, DDS determined that Scott was totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment as a result of severe degenerative disk disease of his cervical spine, impacting his spinal cord, going back to his initial alleged onset date. Benefits were deemed payable going back 1 year prior to the date of his application (which is as far back as Disability Insurance benefits are payable). Unfortunately, the Agency made an error by establishing his claim filing date incorrectly. We were able to ensure for Scott that the Social Security Administration used the first date he had contacted them about filing a claim (rather than the date the case was sent back by the ALJ for a disability determination). This meant an additional $6,500.00 for Scott and his family.

Needless to say, when considering filing an application for Social Security disability benefits, it’s important you have an experienced and conscientious Social Security disability lawyer take a look at your circumstances so you can obtain the advice you need right up front. The Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith as been advising individuals throughout Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire of their rights for thirty (30) years, and we’re happy to speak with you.