Filing for Social Security Disability can be intimidating for anyone. Fortunately, if you understand what to expect before you even start getting your paperwork together, you can go into the process ready to handle anything that comes your way. It doesn’t help that the whole process remains clouded by misconceptions.
In this article, we will look at a couple things that can actually help your case.
1. File Immediately
Whatever you do, don’t wait to file your claim or speak to an attorney. It can take several months at best before you start receiving benefits, and the Social Security Administration only pays retroactive benefits for a period of one year. From the moment you are injured or ill and become unable to work, take note of your symptoms and how they prevent you from working to your best ability.
2. Prepare to be Denied
Over 70% of all initial applications are denied. Denial does not mean that your request has no chance for approval, so do not panic. If your initial request is denied, a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days after receiving your denial letter will need to filed.
If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, your case will advance to the hearing phase.
3. Enlist an Advocate or Attorney
When you have someone to help argue your case, you have a much higher chance of approval. Hearings generally occur after both your initial filing and Request for Reconsideration are denied. At this point, you will have a hearing in front of a judge—an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ.
A social security hearing is not at all like the sort of courtroom cases you see on TV. For one thing, there won’t be a large crowd present. This helps protect your privacy. Typically, there are just these people present: the judge, an assistant to the judge and record keeper of the proceedings, vocational expert, you the claimant, and your advocate or lawyer. Friends and family will have to remain outside in the waiting area for this proceeding.
4. Have Your Documents Ready
Keep your documents all in one place and have multiple copies in case anything gets lost or destroyed. You’re going to need proof of address, identification records like your birth certificate, driver’s license or photo ID, and record of citizenship or alien status.
The filing process will also require details of your work history, your past income, what kinds of jobs you have done compared to what you are now able to do, and the impact of your injury or illness on your ability to work in the future.
Be sure to keep detailed records of your diagnosis, treatment success or failure, any debilitating side effects or limitations of such treatment, test results, and any visits to specialists. If you have records from more than one physician, be sure to keep all of those handy. The SSA may be less willing to accept the medical opinion of just one doctor.
Additionally, have the office addresses and contact information for the doctors you’ve visited, along with the details of your visit. Those handling your claim may want to contact your physicians to ask follow up questions or to confirm details regarding your condition.
5. Always Advocate for Yourself
If filing your initial application without the assistance of an advocate or attorney, don’t rely on goodwill or an employee promise to ‘take care of it personally’—mail your initial application via certified mail to have proof of delivery, or print out the summary page for your records. Make follow up calls or visits to check on the progress of your claim.
Even under the best circumstances, paperwork can be missed or filed incorrectly, or it may fall through the cracks altogether. Being on top of your claim and checking on its status will ensure that it flows through the system smoothly.
6. Be Prepared to Talk about Your Disability
The interview process, whether conducted in person or over a video/telephone conference call will typically last from 15 minutes to over one hour. During this time, the judge (or your advocate or lawyer) will ask you questions about your condition, your previous work history, and how your disability affects your ability to work in the future. Your attorney or advocate may ask you further questions for the judge’s benefit, to give a more complete picture of the situation and to make sure nothing is accidentally left out.
Explain, as honestly as possible and with as much detail as you can, the specific issues that prevent you from working. You may feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, which is understandable. However, this is a necessary part of convincing the judge to rule in your favor. Without such specific details, the judge may decide to deny your claim.
Remember: the employees at the Social Security Administration have seen hundreds, if not thousands of claimants. They’ve probably seen just about everything. Nothing you bring before them is likely to shock them. So try to take a deep breath and remember that nothing is personal!
We’re here to help!
Here at Allums Welsch law firm, your well-being is our top priority. Focusing on Social Security claims, bankruptcy, and family law, we take pride in helping you through some of life’s most difficult challenges. Contact our compassionate staff today to schedule a free consultation, so that we can take the next steps together. We offer telephone and video conference meetings.