Proving that mental illnesses cause you to be completely disabled is challenging to begin with. When you miss your hearing date because you are in jail for threatening to hurt or kill representatives of the Social Security Administration (SSA) because of how they’ve handled your claim, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Louis Jerome Smith of Hattiesburg found himself in exactly that position. He claims that his threat to “do something I might regret” was intended to convey the idea that he would hurt himself rather than that he would harm SSA officials. Apparently, the SSA representatives took his comments a bit personally and had him arrested for threatening harm.
Smith was unable to attend his hearing before an administrative law judge because he was in jail during his hearing date. Hearings can be rescheduled if there are causes beyond your control which prevent your attendance. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in this case apparently did not feel that Smith’s absence was beyond his control.
The sad part of this whole story for Mr. Smith is that he missed his best chance at having his benefits approved. Had he been working with a qualified Social Security disability lawyer, his counsel would have told him that having his initial application denied is nothing unusual. In fact, 70% of applications are denied, yet many of these denials are overturned at the hearing phase of the process.
While applicants are not required to attend their hearings, they have a significantly higher chance of having their benefits approved if they do. The hearing before an ALJ is an applicant’s one opportunity to speak with a real person who can exercise some degree of judgment regarding whether or not they believe the claimant is disabled. At other stages, the decisions are more strictly guided by SSA disability listings.
Fortunately for Mr. Smith, not everyone agreed with the ALJ when he denied the claim due in part to Smith’s absence from his hearing. US Senator Cochran stepped in and took the steps necessary to ensure that Smith does receive another opportunity to plead his disability case before an ALJ.
Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that Smith will receive Social Security Disability benefits. It does guarantee that he will be able to make his case for why he should be considered completely disabled and unable to perform any kind of available work.
According to Smith, his main reasons for disability are mental disorders which prevent him from keeping a job due to being unable to get along with others. So, who knows? His behavior towards SSA representatives may even help to prove his point in the long run. However, can’t imagine it helps, that he’ll be standing before an ALJ who has been required to reconsider the case despite having denied it once.