The Process of Applying for SSDI
How Do I Apply?
I want to get started with my Social Security Disability Claim, what can I do first?
You have two choices when it comes to filing your Social Security Disability Claim.
#1 File Your Own Claim for Social Security Benefits - Please be aware, statistics show that most people who apply for Social Security benefits on their own are initially DENIED.
The first option involves completion of all of your own filing, paperwork, communication, correspondence, court hearings and appeals entirely on your own.
#2 Get Professional Representation to Help You Apply for Social Security Benefits - Statistics show that 90% of qualified applicants get approved with the help of a Social Security attorney, lawyer, or advocate.
Experienced Social Security Disability Advocates are available to guide you if you feel you would like help. These experts know how the system works, and will handle most of it for you. They won't let the Social Security Administration take advantage of you or deny you what's rightfully yours.
With representation you:
- Increase your chances of winning dramatically
- Maximize benefits due (get the most money you can qualify for)
- Let your representative deal with Social Security saving lots of time and frustration
- Have experts to file your appeals, if needed
- Get your paperwork filed quickly and accurately
- Reduce chances of denial based on unexpected technicalities
- Avoid fee payment unless you win
Regardless of the choice that you make in filing your claims, you will be required to present the same documentation and understand the filing process so that you can maximize your benefits. Below is information to help you understand the filing requirements.
Applying The Right Way
If you believe that you are disabled and unable to work, you should apply for benefits as soon as possible. The process of evaluating an application for disability benefits is extensive. Even if approved, your benefits may not actually pay out to you for some time. Consequently, the sooner you apply for benefits once disabled, the sooner you will have the security of Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income.
Filling out the application and forms
There are many forms that must be completed thoroughly and accurately. This is not a process that you should rush through. Making a mistake in your application can delay a judgment for weeks. The application is the first piece of evidence the SSA uses in making a determination for your claim. It is therefore extremely important to understand how to make statements that will help your claim and avoid terminology or admissions that will result in a denial.
Many applicants find the claim forms to be confusing. Not only is an applicant dealing with the stress of becoming disabled, but in order to complete their application they must comprehend a significant amount of unfamiliar terminology. Phrases and words that may seem to mean one thing to an applicant may have a very specific, and perhaps different, meaning to the SSA. This can make the process of proving your disability frustrating. If you are unfamiliar with what is required by the SSA, a hastily completed application will almost definitely result in a denial of benefits.
How to prepare
Be sure to research your disability before you apply. Proving a disabling condition to the SSA requires a significant amount of medical documentation and evidence. This is because disability claims are approved based on the medical evidence provided by your doctors, caregivers, and treatment facilities. However, making an incorrect statement on your application because you do not understand the answer the SSA is seeking could lead to a denial.
Perhaps the important aspect of your application is the Disability Report. Many applicants spend a few days filling out this only this form. This is because it provides the most critical information regarding your disability. These are the statements you will make about your condition and therefore, anything you state on this form will be used by the SSA as a determination of your own assessment regarding your disability. Before filling out the Disability Report it is recommended that you gather your documentation. Your medical records must support anything that you state in your Disability Report.
The application process can seem like an impossible task. For a disabled worker, approval of benefits is essential for making financial ends meet. If you have concerns about filing your application, many attorneys that handle Social Security cases offer a free consultation and evaluation of your disability application.
Documentation - What You Will Need
The process of applying for disability is far more complex than simply filling out an application and waiting for your check. Your application is just the very beginning of a very large amount of documentation that you will be required to submit to the SSA in order to prove that you have been disabled.
With such a high rate of denials, it is important to make your initial application as thorough and complete as possible. This will increase the likelihood of a favorable judgment, or in the case of a denial, simplify the process of an appeal.
The SSA relies heavily on your medical records to determine the eligibility of your disability claim. It is important that you provide a complete medical history with your application. The priority in your medical records should be placed upon the condition that you are claiming has disabled you. The hospitals, clinics, doctors, therapists, and counselors you have visited will have your medical records. Copies of these records are typically sent to your primary physician, so check with your doctor first to see how complete your records are. You must obtain copies of these records and organize them in such a fashion that is logical and easy to read. Your records should document any medications you have taken or are taking, any previous medical conditions or ailments you have suffered from, and any lab reports, x-rays, or other clinical diagnostics that provide evidence of your disability. It is important that you do not omit any health care that you have received.
A typical application documents the past fifteen years an individual has worked. This documentation includes the location and name of previous employers, the duration of employment, and the type of work that you performed in each position. The SSA requires a current W-2 form to be submitted with this work history (for self-employed applicants, a copy of your Federal Tax Return is submitted.
Along with the basic application form, be prepared to also submit the following:
- Documentation of benefits or public assistance you are receiving
- Marriage Certificate, Certificate of Divorce
- An Official Birth Certificate
- Social Security Number
- Military Service or Discharge Records
- Documentation of Child Support Payments
- Documentation of Dependents
Backlog of Claims for Social Security Benefits
The Social Security Administration has been experiencing a significant backlog of claims for many years. In 2007 it attempted to reduce this backlog by decreasing both the wait time for determinations of initial claims and the number of pending hearings over 1,000 days old. The SSA believed it achieved great success by reducing the wait time of an initial claim by 5 days, from 88 days to 83. Furthermore, while it did manage to significantly reduce the number of hearings older than 1,000 days, the average wait time for a hearing of an appeal is 500 days.
The appeal hearing is the third stage of the application procedure and is where the majority of favorable determinations are made. A delay of 500 days for a hearing from the initial request can have devastating effects. By the time an applicant receives a favorable determination, they may have lost not only their income but their condition may have also worsened. In 2007 a reported 16,000 people died waiting for their disability claims to be approved. Applicants waiting an inordinate amount of time often find themselves having to apply for social services such as food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid due to their inability to work. Worse yet, should they finally receive a favorable determination the SSA requires that they reimburse the federal government for the support they have received while they waited for their SSDI or SSI benefits! It is not uncommon for those awaiting an SSA determination to file for bankruptcy or to be the victims of foreclosure due to their inability to make mortgage payments.
As you might imagine, such a situation creates a rather tense atmosphere in the workplace at the SSA. Unfortunately, the SSA has not alleviated these problems. When dealing with SSA employees and representatives, applicants report experiencing many of the following issues:
- Rude and insensitive employees
- Employees refusing to answer questions or provide information
- Unreturned calls
- Unreasonable response times between different phases of the process
- Violations of Federal and SSA regulations by inexperienced or ignorant employees
- Field Officers failing to review medical records
- FRAUD on the part of the DDS teams and representatives
- Lost or purposely misplaced files
- Destruction of files
Grassroots movements to reform the SSA and the application process have lost momentum and failed to make any significant gains toward a reform initiative. As a result, the backlog persists and service at the SSA continues to exhibit an unfriendly and unsympathetic demeanor. Consequently, many applicants choose to secure an attorney or advocacy service to represent their interests in the face of an uncaring government office. To determine if hiring an attorney or advocate is the right option for you, contact us today for a FREE case evaluation. There is no obligation to use the attorney or advocate. If you chose to hire representation, they typically are paid a fee only if the case is won. So there is no risk!
Experienced attorneys recommend that applicants maintain a daily dated journal to document the ailments they experience as a result of their disability. The journal should also include the limitations or changes in your life that have been caused by the disability. In addition, doctors visits, medical treatments, tests, and medications should also be documented to provide further evidence of your disability. Professional SSD/SSI attorneys regularly recommend this practice to make a case more convincing. The ability of an applicant to provide specific details regarding their condition to a judge or the SSA is the best evidence of a legitimate disability.
It is extremely important for a disability applicant to retain copies of all documentation submitted to the SSA. Develop a well-organized system for filing all of your paperwork so that it is easily accessible and immediately retrievable. Document the dates, times, and names of the SSA employees and officials with whom you communicate. Finally, continue to maintain and make any necessary additions to this documentation once your application or appeal has been filed.