The fact that a firefighter was found disabled by the fire department does not mean that he must be found disabled by Social Security because the two agencies have different standards. A disability pension from the fire department requires proving the inability to work as a fire fighter while disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) requires proving the inability to do any type of work in most circumstances. Nonetheless, it is important to inform the SSA if a fire fighter has received a disability pension.
There are five steps to the SSA hearing process. The fourth step is can the claimant perform past work, and the fifth is can the claimant perform any other work. While the claimant has the burden of proof at the fourth step the SSA has the burden of proof at the fifth step. Since the fire department is in a better position than the SSA to determine that a claimant cannot continue to work as a fire fighter, it would be nearly impossible for the SSA to issue a contrary ruling. Therefore, the fire department’s ruling effectively shifts the burden of proof to the SSA.
The burden of proof shift is very important. I represent a firefighter who came to me after his application was denied based on the report from the SSA doctor. I obtained reports from the claimant’s doctors that contradicted the SSA doctor. Even if there were a stalemate between the doctors, the claimant would be entitled to benefits because the SSA had the burden of proof. As a result, the SSA approved the fire fighter’s benefits.Previous Next
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