Its vacation time and the question as to whether a Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability Claimant should go on vacation, while his or her claim is pending, keeps popping up. Unfortunately, most claimants are not even aware that going on a trip could adversely affect their chances of winning disability benefits. This issue is fairly controversial among disability lawyers. Here are my thoughts:
I believe that part of the confusion regarding this issue stems from the fact that some people see vacation time as the direct opposite of working. Many think that the ability to vacation has no bearing at all in the determination as to whether someone can work or not. This notion is totally wrong. In fact, most Social Security judges routinely ask claimants during the hearing whether they have gone on a trip during the period of disability. In the past few hearings that I have been to, it looks as if the judges read this question out of a script that someone else has given them. I have also noticed that vacations and trips are very often mentioned by long term disability insurance companies as a basis for denial of LTD benefits. Therefore, be aware that if you go on vacation while your claim is pending, you are complicating your case unnecessarily. Don't complicate your case. If you want to err on the safe side, stay home.
However, if you don't want to follow my advise and want to go on vacation despite my recommendation, at the very least, you have to be smart about it. First of all avoid, at all costs, calling your trip "a vacation". Remember that a vacation is considered by many as a time of entertainment for those who work. If you are not working because of a serious illness or condition, it might be a good idea to use a word other than "vacation" when you describe your trip. Call your trip "a special time to recover and rest". Without being overly dramatic, you can state some reason for your trip that reiterates the fact that you are suffering from a disabling condition. For example, you can say that your bad health made you think of your own mortality and made you want to go back to a special place such as: your hometown, the place were you met your spouse or the place where you went to college. You can also combine your vacation with some form of therapy or retreat.
Finally, document everything that you did during your trip. If you needed special accommodations during the trip such as special carts and wheelchairs, document it. Keep receipts and other documentation and take pictures. Be very careful on what you say to your doctors about your trip. Remember that your doctors will transcribe everything that you say during a medical appointment. Don't cancel or postpone a medical appointment due to your trip. Moreover, if you are going on a trip due to a death in the family or a family emergency, make sure that such an emergency is reflected on your claim file.