Applying for Social Security disability can be a challenging endeavor, especially since the process is never truly black and white. There are many factors taken into consideration by the Social Security Administration (SSA), including work history, medical condition, and more.
To make your application process a bit more straightforward, we’ve put together our top 5 tips to keep in mind when applying for Social Security.
1. Claims Are Often Denied
We want to set a clear expectation – it is very common for your initial SSDI claim to get rejected. It could be related to any number of reasons and doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t qualify, so try not to feel defeated if this happens to you.
A few reasons your claim might get denied could include:
- Incomplete medical records or records that don’t support your claim
- Errors or inaccuracies with your application
- SSA isn’t able to get in touch with you
The best thing you can do if your claim is denied is to either appeal or reapply, which we will discuss in more detail later in this article.
2. Don’t Wait to File Your Application
The longer you wait to file your application, the longer it will take to (hopefully) be approved. It’s common for the application review process to take anywhere from 3-6 months, sometimes even longer.
Since it’s not guaranteed that you will be approved the first time, you’ll want to prepare as best as you can to wait it out. If you get a second denial, you may get a hearing, although to be seen in front of a judge can take more than a year.
Basically, the sooner you can get your Social Security benefits application submitted to SSA, the better!
3. You Can Appeal If Initially Denied
If your Social Security benefits claim is denied, you will still be able to submit an appeal, though you’ll want to keep in mind the deadlines for appealing are relatively short.
There are a few steps included in the process:
- Reconsideration – Your same application is reviewed by a new disability officer. This must be done within 60 days of your initial denial.
- Request a Hearing – If your second application has been denied again, you can request a hearing before a judge, called an administrative law judge (ALJ). This must be done within 60 days of the denial.
- Claim Reviewed by Appeals Council – This council will review the decision made by the ALJ to determine next steps.
- File Lawsuit in Federal District Court – This is the final step of the process, although most cases never make it to this point.
Whatever you do, don’t panic – though this may seem discouraging, there’s a decent chance your claim may still be approved farther along in the process. That said, it’s in your best interest to file as soon as possible to get the ball rolling. If you don’t file an appeal within the deadline, you won’t be able to appeal with SSA.
4. Document Your Condition Thoroughly
Your medical condition is the most important factor considered when applying for Social Security benefits, so accurate documentation is critical for a smooth application process. Well-organized and detailed documentation can even help strengthen your case!
It doesn’t have to be formal – keep it simple yet detailed. Note how you’re feeling and how your current condition affects your day-to-day life. Make sure to tell all medical providers, counselors, case managers, etc. about these things. Some important details you’ll want to document could include:
- Any illness or pain that you’re experiencing
- Details of the occurrences related to your disability, such as:
- Date and time
- Type of incident (i.e. seizures or migraines)
- How long each incident lasts
- Circumstances that trigger each incident
- List of medications you’re taking due to condition
- If any, side effects of current medications
- Description about the nature and severity of your pain – it’s important to be as detailed as possible when describing your pain, as generalization is often not enough to get the point across
By being able to effectively describe your medical condition and the pain you’re experiencing and making it part of your medical record, you can significantly improve your chances of being approved for disability benefits.
5. Hire a Social Security Attorney
Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be difficult to tackle on your own. If you’re planning to apply, appeal, or reapply for benefits, it’s best that you work with a disability attorney who can help you decide on the best approach to take. Having a professional disability attorney who understands the system can guide you through the documentation filing process, which can put you in a better position to receive disability benefits.
The professional attorneys at Woodruff & Mathis are available to help you develop your claim. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!