I just reviewed the case of a claimant (we'll call her P) who first got hurt in 1998. P worked until the end of 2001 and claims that she became disabled in February 2002. The problem is, P never filed for disability benefits until August 2008! She came to us in March 2009, after her claim was denied and she filed for a hearing.
Almost half of all the cases we win are won on the initial application. We actually win over half of the initial applications we file ourselves---but, but of course many of our clients, like P, don't come to us until after they have filed the initial application on their own. On its face there's nothing wrong with that.
The real issue is when the claim is filed. Even if a claimant is getting other benefits, or "planning" to return to work, I still don't understand why some people wait years before even filing their claims. Not only do claimants lose out on years of potential benefits, but the longer a person waits to apply, the harder it may be to obtain the medical records necessary to show disability while they are still covered for benefits.
Getting back to P: now it's our job to show that her disability began before the end of 2006, when her coverage ended for Social Security Disability. Some of the records we need are no longer available, because medical records only have to be retained for seven years. More recently, there is also a gap in the medical evidence, due to P's lack of insurance and her frustration over lack of recovery. The result is that her claim is going to be a lot harder to prove than it would have been had she applied within a year or two of stopping work, while still seeing her doctors regularly.
Even if we are successful at P's hearing, her retroactive benefits can only go back a year from when she applied. P has lost six years of benefits! It's a scenario we see over and over again. Statistics show that having an attorney improves your chances of success. Our statistics show that we at Insler & Hermann can help you win sooner than the averages. But no one can win if they don't apply! I'd rather tell a prospective client he or she is calling me too soon than have them call too late for me to help at all!
You can always go back to work, even with a claim pending, but you can't backdate when your claim is filed. Waiting to apply not only costs time; it can also cost you money.