What Not to Say on Your Disability Application


When you’re facing a disability, disability programs like Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and your employer’s long-term disability (LTD) insurance plan can be beneficial. They could provide you with the income, support, and resources you need to pay your bills and move forward with your life. But to qualify for them, you’ll need to accurately complete an application.

That means you’ll need to provide a clear picture of the disability you’re dealing with and how it impacts you. You’ll also need to give supporting information for every part of your application. That can be challenging, especially when you’re struggling with a disability that is affecting every part of your life.

Handling a disability application can be time-consuming and frustrating, but it’s important to get things right from the beginning. Your eligibility and benefits could depend on it. There are certain things that you shouldn’t say on your disability application.

Don’t Exaggerate Any Disability

When people are facing a disability, they may feel like their life has been turned upside down. Activities and work they enjoyed may no longer be possible, and the income they relied on may disappear. But it’s important to know that you must always provide accurate information about your disability and how it has impacted you.

The SSA is strict about which medical conditions qualify as disabilities. And in cases where a disability isn’t on the list, they will do an in-depth analysis to see if your disability qualifies. They’ll look at whether you can do the work you did before, whether you can do other types of work, and whether there are any special considerations they should take into account.

During this process, the SSA will also look at medical evidence such as your treatments and medications. They may review your doctor’s notes and how they stack up against examination records. If there are any inconsistencies, they may deny your claim. That’s why it’s so important to stick to the facts and the evidence around your disability.

Similarly, with an LTD policy through your employer, the administrators will review your application in-depth as well. Since all carriers have different standards, it will be difficult to know what specific details will be required to assure that your disability is correctly represented so you can get benefits. You’ll need to talk with an experienced disability lawyer who handles claims for a variety of insurance carriers to get the best advice. Your lawyer can assist you with filing a claim that has the best chance of success.

Don’t Dismiss Any Impacts on You

Sometimes people may be uncomfortable talking about their disability. And sometimes they don’t want to cause trouble for others. That could lead them to dismiss important ways that their disability affects their lives. Remember that your disability is significant, and you should always be forthright and honest about how it affects you.

If you dismiss the ways that your disability impacts your life, the SSA or your LTD carrier could deny your claim. That could mean you don’t get the income and resources you need during a difficult time. Being honest about your disability means being honest about how it affects you every day.

Don’t Provide Vague Information

Vague information could sink an application for benefits. That’s because the Social Security Administration and other insurance carriers require accurate information and records about topics such as your employment history, health, education, and many others. If you don’t provide enough information or details, your claim will likely be dismissed.

When you’re dealing with a disability, remember that you’re feeling its impact every day. But other people aren’t. They need to see records and details that support what you’re telling them. And if handling all the paperwork and headache of a disability claim is too much, a disability lawyer could take the burden off you.

How a Disability Lawyer Could Help

When it comes to disability applications, accuracy and thoroughness matter. In recent years, the SSA has averaged a final award rate for disabled workers of about 32% and a denial rate of 66%. That means the SSA denied nearly two-thirds of claims for technical or medical reasons.

But lawyers handle disability applications every day, and they know how to prepare a strong claim for the disability benefits you need. They know how to build a disability application from the beginning and how to gather the support it needs. They also know how the appeals process works should the SSA deny a claim. If you need to seek disability benefits, a lawyer could help you by:

  • Listening to you and advising you about your options
  • Explaining disability laws and regulations
  • Gathering key records for your application
  • Handling important paperwork and ensuring your application is accurate
  • Advocating for your rights and your benefits

Contact Us

If you need to complete a disability claim, contact Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. now. Applying for disability benefits can be a confusing and stressful experience, especially when people are facing a disability. But our team of disability attorneys has deep experience in handling disability claims, and we’re ready to talk with you.

So when it’s time to prepare a disability claim, call Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. for the experienced support and in-depth knowledge your claim needs. We offer a free consultation, and we’re available 24/7 for our clients. For your free consultation, call us at 516-496-0400 or contact us online now.

Does My Spouse’s Income Affect My Disabilities Claim?


When you’re facing a disability, income matters. It can help you cover important expenses and take care of day-to-day needs. That’s why the Social Security Administration offers programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

But these programs come with strict rules about how your income and your spouse’s income could affect any benefits. And in some cases, if your spouse has too much income, Social Security could reduce your benefits or deny them completely.

Here is how spousal income affects SSDI and SSI differently and the ways that your spouse’s income could impact you.

SSDI v. SSI

SSDI is an essential source of income for many disabled people. And the good news is that your spouse’s income generally doesn’t affect any SSDI benefits you may receive. That’s because SSDI is a program to help people who have already paid into the system. This means that your SSDI is based on your prior earnings and not on your spouse’s income.

But SSI is a different story, and your spouse’s income could affect your access to SSI. SSI exists to help low-income individuals who need support for a disability. It provides income assistance and covers people who are over 65, blind, or disabled and who have limited income or resources. Benefits are not based on your prior income or work. That can make it important for individuals who haven’t been able to work and earn credits towards SSDI in the past.

Since SSI is income-based, the Social Security Administration may deem that you have access to some of your spouse’s income for SSI benefit eligibility purposes. The amount of income they count will depend on factors such as whether your partner qualifies as a spouse and whether you have minor children in your household. The Social Security “deeming” process can be complicated and confusing, especially if you haven’t had to deal with it before.

Who Qualifies as a Spouse?

One important question for SSI deeming is whether the person you’re with qualifies as a spouse. Under Social Security Administration rules, two people are considered married if:

  • They are living in the same household and are married;
  • They are holding themselves out as married; or
  • One person is entitled, as a spouse, to the other’s Social Security benefits

The Social Security Administration takes the question of who qualifies as a spouse seriously since it can have a huge impact on your benefits and eligibility. If you have questions about whether your partner or household member qualifies as a spouse for SSI purposes, a disability lawyer can review your situation and answer your questions.

What Is Deeming?

Deeming is the Social Security Administration’s process to determine whether your spouse’s income counts as yours for SSI eligibility purposes. This process can be complex, especially if both spouses are pursuing SSI benefits. But in cases where only one spouse is seeking SSI, the process usually follows a few steps. According to the National Center on Law & Elder Rights:

  • First, the Social Security Administration determines your spouse’s income.
  • Then they subtract specific amounts for each child in the household.
  • After that, they compare the remaining income to the eligibility limits for SSI.
  • Finally, they look at whether the couple qualifies for eligibility. They can use any SSI deductions to reduce the spouse’s income for eligibility.

Keep in mind that in 2021, the SSI income limit for a couple is $1,191 per month. That means if your spouse makes more than that, your benefits may be reduced, or you may not be eligible. That’s why it’s so important to understand the deeming process and any deductions or exceptions that may apply.

Contact Us Today

If you need to pursue a Social Security disability claim and have questions about how your spouse’s income could affect you, get in touch with Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. now. For 40 years, we’ve represented disabled individuals and helped them seek the benefits they need. We work with disability claims every day, and we know how to navigate the maze of paperwork and regulations.

Your benefits matter, so turn to Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. for the experienced and knowledgeable support you deserve. For a free consultation about your disability claim, give us a call at 516-496-0400 or contact us online now.

Can Taking CBD Affect My Disabilities Claim?


CBD is a compound found in cannabis that may help people with a wide range of health concerns. It’s been used to help with anxiety, stress, and depression. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it could even help reduce the side-effects of anti-seizure medications. It’s clear that CBD has many potential benefits, but research is still ongoing.

Since CBD use is growing by the day, many people are wondering how their CBD use could impact their rights under Social Security and other disability programs. Here are some of the important questions surrounding the issue and whether CBD could impact your claim.

Differences Between Marijuana and CBD

CBD and marijuana both come from cannabis, but they have significant differences when it comes to how they could affect you. The main difference is the amount of THC in them. THC is a psychoactive compound found in cannabis that can be intoxicating. CBD has little to no THC because CBD should be produced using hemp plants which contain little to no THC. However, marijuana may be high in THC since it is produced using plants that contain significant amounts of the chemical.

Drug Tests Could Confuse CBD and Marijuana

When it comes to widespread use, CBD is a relatively new substance. CBD is supposed to have very low to no THC when it’s prepared correctly. But that doesn’t always mean CBD is free of THC. In fact, when CBD oil isn’t prepared correctly or is prepared from plants with elevated THC levels, it can have relatively high levels of THC. Unfortunately, many CBD producers aren’t careful about their sourcing or their production, meaning some CBD brands may have more THC in them than you think.

That can cause problems on drug tests and has led to organizations firing workers for violating their drug policies. The presence of THC in CBD is a real issue, and that can lead to complications for everyone, even people who are applying for a disability claim.

Legality of CBD and Marijuana

Congress passed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, which allowed farmers to grow and sell hemp plants. Hemp plants are a form of cannabis that naturally has low levels of THC. The Farm Bill also allows the sale of hemp products that don’t exceed certain THC thresholds. That opened the door to the use of CBD across the nation.

However, while CBD is legal everywhere in the U.S., marijuana is not. While many states allow medical and recreational marijuana use, marijuana use is still illegal under Federal law. Specifically, it’s listed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. That means that according to the Federal Government, it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. That means if someone possesses or sells marijuana, they could be subject to penalties under federal law.

How Does CBD Affect My Long-Term Disability Insurance?

It is unclear how insurance companies are handling the issue of CBD use by their long-term disability benefits recipients. If you need to apply for LTD benefits or if you need to update your paperwork with your disability insurance carrier and are worried about the effect your CBD use might have on your claim, you need a long-term disability lawyer to review your situation. They can stand up for you with the insurance company if necessary and argue for your medical rights.

What Are Social Security Rules on CBD?

Currently, the Social Security Administration doesn’t have any clear guidance on the use of CBD. While the use of marijuana is illegal under federal law, CBD products are not. However, the Social Security Administration does have rules against approving disability claims for people whose disabilities are caused by the use of drugs and alcohol. But what that means for CBD users isn’t always clear.

If you need to bring a disabilities claim with the Social Security Administration and you’re taking CBD, talk with a disability lawyer about your situation. They can explain your options, how CBD could affect your claim, and advocate for the disability support that you need.

Contact Us Today

If you are taking CBD for a condition, and you need to pursue a disability claim, get in touch with Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. now. We’ve been representing injured and disabled workers for over 40 years, and we’re ready to handle every part of your claim. From walking you through your options and gathering the records in support of your claim to explaining the law and advocating for your rights, we’re here to help you any way we can.

Many people use CBD to help them through injuries and chronic medical conditions. And if you need to bring a disability claim while using CBD, we’re here to stand up for you.

We’re available to clients 24/7, and we offer a free consultation to answer your questions. For yours, give us a call at 516-496-0400 or get in touch with us online today.

September 2021 Legal Report


By: Milan Rada, Esq. with John Hewson, Esq.

The Legal Report has often covered the requirements of obtaining a ¾ Accidental Disability Retirement pension versus a ½ Performance of Duty Disability pension. In order to qualify for either of these disability retirement benefits the applicant must prove he or she is permanently incapacitated for the performance of the full duties of a police officer, that the disability is causally related to the injury or injuries being claimed, that the injury was suffered in the line of duty and that the injury is the result of an “accident” as this term is used in the Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL), or the result of an incident. What separates one benefit from the other is whether the injury is the result of an “accident.” If not, the applicant will be limited to a ½ Performance of Duty Disability pension.

As we have written many times, within the meaning of the RSSL explanations of what constitutes an “accident” comes from case law. “For purposes of the Retirement and Social Law, an accident has been defined as a ‘sudden, fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact.’ “The Courts have emphasized that “in order for any injury to be considered accidental, it ‘must not have been the result of activities undertaken in the ordinary course of one’s job duties, but, rather, must be due to a precipitating accidental event which is not a risk of the work performed.”

In June 2021, the Appellate Division, Third Department handed down a somewhat different type of a ¾ Accidental Disability Retirement pension decision in that it dealt with an allegation that the disabling injury was a mental one diagnosed as posttraumatic stress disorder, manic depression and anxiety, by the applicant’s physicians and deemed by them to be unable to return to work. The applicant was a State Police Officer.

While we have written a great deal about ¾ Accidental Disability Retirement claims based on physical impairments, such as injuries to the back or knee or shoulder, we have not written frequently about mental impairments causing a disability, if at all. Connecting this State Police Officer’s mental injury to an “accident” within the meaning of the RSSL is necessary in order to qualify for a ¾ Accidental Disability Pension.

The Officer worked as a trooper for a time and then as an investigator. While working as an investigator he worked as an undercover narcotics detective, both here and abroad. He spent much of his time in Columbia working with informants “in an effort to infiltrate drug cartels and curtail the supply of drugs coming into the United States. This work entailed interacting with dangerous individuals and exposed [the officer] to a number of traumatic events, including losing informants who were killed and having to identify their bodies.” Sometime after returning from a mission, the officer suffered a panic attack in his office. Subsequently, he received the diagnoses of: post traumatic stress disorder, manic depression and anxiety. The officer filed an application for a ¾ Accidental Disability Retirement pension on the basis of his diagnosis, which the Officer claimed was a result of his work with drug cartels. The Retirement System denied his application on the basis that the event which the Officer cited to be the cause of his mental injury was not an “accident” within the meaning of the RSSL.

The Court noted that “Initially, the burden is on the party seeking accidental disability retirement benefits to demonstrate that his or her disability arose from an “accident”t within the meaning of the RSSL, and the Comptroller’s determination in this regard will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence.” After going through an analysis and considering all the requirements for an event to qualify as an “accident” as listed above, the Court decided that the cause of the Officer’s injury was not an “accident” within the meaning of the RSSL. The Court wrote “Here, [the Officer’s] mental injuries were a direct result of the stress that he was under while working undercover and interacting with informants and members of dangerous drug cartels. This dangerous undercover work was part and parcel of his regular duties as a narcotics investigator and was specifically set forth in [the Officer’s] job description. Inasmuch as the stress that produced [the officer’s] mental injuries was an inherent part of his job and was not unexpected” the event causing the mental injuries was not an accident.

Interestingly, the Court observed that this case does not benefit from the presumption that benefits first responders to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11. This 9/11 presumption provides that mental impairments suffered as the result of the 9/11 attacks are presumed to be the result of an accident.

As always we hope that you stay safe and healthy. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please email mrada@fbrlaw.com or jhewson@fbrlaw.com. You can reach us by phone at 516-496-0400.

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