We spend a great deal of time educating our Social Security disability clients about filing and documenting their claims. Here is a good summary, provided by guest author Stacey Montgomery.
Although the Social Security Administration states that it typically takes 3-5 months to review an application, it is also a fact that many first time applications are denied. So, it often takes at least 6 months or more for an application to be approved and benefit payments to commence. While there is no formula to ensure that an application is approved, a South Carolina disability lawyer points out that when applying for social security disability benefits there are ways to assemble an application to give the applicant a better chance for initial approval.
- Medical evidence. You must prove to the SSA that you have a medical condition that renders you incapable of working for at least one year. The SSA is not going to rely on your say so. Your claim must be supported by medical records. If you have never been evaluated by a doctor, your claim will not be approved.
- Follow treatment. If your doctor gives you a treatment plan, then you must follow it. Keep records of what you did to follow treatment. If you cannot show that you have followed your doctor’s recommendations in an effort to improve your condition, the SSA is less likely to approve your claim.
- Keep excellent records. Keep records of every healthcare professional you consulted about your condition. Keep their names and contact information. Keep notes on each visit or telephone conversation. Keep copies of any written instructions given to you. Also keep prescription bottles and receipts or other evidence of equipment purchased to aid in your treatment.
- Keep a diary of your symptoms and progress. Keep track of your physical discomfort and level of pain. Write down how various treatments affect your condition. What makes you feel better, what makes you feel worse, what does not affect your symptoms at all?
- Daily living. Write down the ways in which your condition has caused you to be physically limited. For example, are you able to climb stairs, lift heavy objects, or sit for long periods? What activities cause you pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath?
- Organize your information. Make sure it is consistent and accurate. Provide the facts. Do not embellish.
Accurate, complete records of your condition will help the SSA understand your diagnosis, its severity, and its impact on your daily life. It will decrease the likelihood that the SSA will request additional information and therefore, likely shorten the amount of time it takes for the SSA to make a favorable decision. On the other hand, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and omissions will negatively impact your credibility, cause delays, and increase the likelihood that the SSA will deny your application.
It is also a good idea to make sure that you understand the application for SSDI. Read all of the instructions, FAQs, and publications related to applying for SSDI. The better understanding you have of the application process the more likely you will submit a complete application.
It has been reported that close to 60% of initial applications for SSDI are denied. Do you think that this is due to poorly completed applications?
About the Author:
Stacey Montgomery earned a B.A. in political science from Columbia University in New York City. She went on to receive a J.D. degree from Boston University School of Law. While at Boston University, she was an editor for the Probate Law Journal and editor-in-chief for Legislative Services. After graduating Stacey worked at large law firms in Chicago practicing employee benefits law and was an adjunct professor at The John Marshall Law School where she taught legal writing.