The statistics surrounding disability are staggering. Becoming disabled is rarely something we think about in our day to day lives. If and when it happens, the effects can be far reaching. More often than not, an unexpected disability can have dramatic effects on your physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being.
How to apply for disability
Do You Qualify?
In the unfortunate case of a disability, you will need to make a Social Security disability claim. In order for you to qualify for a disability claim, you need proof that shows your impairment will last for at least 12 months. In some cases, your ailment may not be on the list of approved impairments and disabilities. If this is the case, then you will need to provide medical evidence. The justification should show that the illness or injury is severe and debilitating.
Qualifying for SSDI is not easy. Following the steps below will go a long way towards making the process as straight forward and stress free as possible.
The Application Process
Most importantly, don’t wait to apply for benefits!
It is advisable to apply as soon as you become disabled. While proper preparation can reduce the amount of time you will wait for your claim to be processed, two to five months is not unheard of.
You can apply online through the administrations website, via phone or in person at one of over 1400 local field offices.
In the event that your disability is visually apparent, it may be worth your time to apply in person.
Things You Should Have Ready Before Applying
Before you begin the claim process, take the time to be well prepared. This means you need to assemble all of the required information including the following:
- Make sure you bring your Social Security number. It’s also a good idea to bring the numbers for your spouse and dependents as well.
- Your marriage certificate if your spouse may also be entitled to benefits
- Your original birth certificate
- A package containing all the official documentation from caseworkers and professionals who have treated or helped you including doctors, specialists, physiotherapist, hospitals and any other medical professionals
- Include in the above package a list of dates and details for each of your past appointments. The more specific you can be the better.
- If any of the professionals listed above have performed tests, have a copy of the resuts wherever possible
- If you are on any prescription medications, bring detailed information
- Assemble a complete history of your past employment
- A copy of your most recent W-2 Earning Statement or Federal Tax Return
- If you are a Vetran, make sure you have a copy of your military discharge papers
- Have you made any other disability claims? If so, have detailed information
The Importance of Preparation
Approximately 12 million people go through the application process annually and almost 70% of the claims fail in the initial application process. It takes about 2 to 5 months to process an initial claim. The appeal process for rejected claims also takes a similar period. Often a case can drag on for as long as a year and a half.
During this period, your financial obligations continue and pressure mounts. This is why it is so important to be well prepared before you begin the application process. Don’t risk unnecessary delays because you failed to assemble the required information or keep accurate records.
How to accelerate your claim application
Continue getting consistent medical treatment and care even during the period of your claim. This will help you to justify your claim by having complete medical records as well as ongoing input from physicians and caregivers. Where necessary, you will have to exhaust all available mainstream medical options. Demonstrating best efforts to seek treatment work in your favor and will help to validate your case.
Confirm with your doctor and any other medical specialists that your claims are correct according to their opinion. Maintain a close relationship with your case examiner and supply them them with all the details of your case as well as any other medical condition that arises after your claim application. Do this in a prompt and timely manner.
Use an attorney
If there is any doubt as to whether or not you will qualify, it is worth considering hiring a social security disability attorney. Having a lawyer represent your case increases the odds of being approved on your initial application. Your lawyer should have experience with the application process. Your attorney will assemble all the paperwork and assist you in conforming to all related deadlines for submission of claim details. It will be the responsibility of your lawyer to work directly with your examiner on the case, on your behalf.
When you are selecting an attorney, opt for one whose law firm will work on the case without pay, up to the point at which your claim goes through to an approval. Attorney fees may be too high for you to afford without the assurance that your claim will succeed, so a little caution goes a long way in cushioning your income at this critical time.