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Five steps to follow when applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), around one in four Americans will become disabled by the age of 67.

The SSA offers two programs – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – to provide financial assistance to American citizens with disabilities.

The problem? Successfully applying for Social Security Disability Benefits is easier said than done. It’s a lengthy, complicated and stressful process that typically ends in denial.

Make no mistake: each year millions of Americans apply for disability benefits, but only a portion of those applicants (approximately 22%) are approved.

To help potential claimants better prepare for the disability application process, here are five tips from Sampson Dunlap LLP’s stellar attorneys, Keith Kinzebach and Lucinda Dunlap.

1. Be honest about whether you qualify

If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability Benefits, the first thing to ask yourself is this: am I actually eligible?

To qualify for both SSDI  and SSI, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disability. This means that:

You must be suffering from a severe impairment

  • You must have had or expect to have your medical condition for at least one year, or it is expected to result in death
  • Your medical condition means that you are unable to work.

On the latter point, Lucinda has this to say: “A lot of applicants don’t get that it’s not about whether they can perform their past work. Rather, it’s about whether they can perform ANY work.

“If you have transferable skills and can work in an American state in some capacity,  your claim is redundant.”

Keith confirms: “Clients often say ‘But I only know how to do this one thing.’ Social security doesn’t care.”

Let’s take Stephen Hawking – who was both one of the world’s most famous scientists and most famous disabled people – as an example.

Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his early twenties but never let his disability interfere with his work.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hawking remarks: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

Our message? Educate yourself as to what the SSA’s definition of disability is. Then “make sure you meet it and really believe, in your heart of hearts, that you can’t work another job in the national economy,” says Keith.

2. Medical matters

If you think you fulfil the SSA’s definition of disability, the next step is to speak to your doctor and see if they are also of the opinion that you are eligible.For, as Keith puts it: “If you can’t convince your own doctor, you ain’t going to convince social security.”

Talk with your doctor and be confident that they support your claim for disability. Should your doctor fail to agree with your claim, seek a second opinion.

“Doctors are the most important part of the process,” confirm Keith and Lucinda. “You’ll need their support and a lot of information from them throughout this process.”

It’s also essential that you follow your doctor’s recommendations for medication and treatment. If you don’t uphold your doctor’s orders and presumptuously assume that a diagnosis is enough, chances are that the SSA will simply deny your claim.

We can’t stress this enough: you must seek treatment for all of your conditions.

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3. Prepare your dossier

Make sure you have all the paperwork required to submit your initial application. This includes:

  • A birth certificate or equivalent documentation
  • Proof of status as a current U.S. citizen or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • W-2 forms, or equivalent tax documents if self-employed, for the previous year
  • Records of any and all workers’ compensation or other compensatory benefits you’ve received – both permanent and temporary ones
  • Information on your medical treatment sources (name, address, telephone number, approximate treatment dates)

A word on the last point. Since having extensive medical evidence is one of the most crucial pieces of a successful Social Security Disability claim, ask your doctor to provide you with plenty of documentation that describes your disability.

“It’s not helpful for a doctor to merely write ‘I believe my client, John Doe, can’t work,’” elaborates Lucinda.

“It doesn’t provide any colour or give any information for the judge to review. It’s too black and white.”

Instead, ask your doctor to kindly prepare a detailed medical source statement that describes your condition, treatment dates and the specific reasons why you can no longer work.

Also consider who else may be able to submit a letter on your behalf that confirms your disability. Keith says: “Ask yourself if you have other people in your life who support your claim and believe in you – because one doctor isn’t going to make or break your claim.

“It could be co-workers, former co-workers, a caregiver, John the postman… it doesn’t matter. Do you have people who believe in you?”

4. Get ready for a lengthy process

Far too many claimants embark upon the SSI/SSDI Disability Claims Processes uneducated. They believe it’s just a matter of filling out a few forms, sending them into the SSA and then sitting back and waiting for their SSDI or SSI benefits check to arrive in the mailbox.

Big mistake. Only once they have started their claim do they discover just how arduous and complex the Social Security Disability claims process really is.

Getting a decision on your claim can take a long time. Approximately 63% of SSDI applications are rejected, after which applicants can file for reconsideration – and have the SSA review their entire case again.

If your request for reconsideration – which must take place within 60 days of receiving notice of the SSA’s decision to turn down your claim – is denied, you will need to appeal and have your case referred to an administrative law judge (ALJ).

“It’s so emotionally taxing that you have to equip yourself for it,” says Keith. He adds: “Otherwise you are not going to make it, because Social Security doesn’t care about you. Social Security is not your friend.”

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5. Ask for help from the offset

Most applicants turn to an attorney after their claim has been denied. However, in actuality, you want your network and support system in place before you apply.

The Social Security application process is stressful, anxiety-inducing and, in many cases, can make applicants’ health worse – in addition to eradicating their self-esteem and confidence. So why start such a demanding process on your own?

Sampson Dunlap can support you through the entire process from the very start. We have specialized in Social Security disability claims for over 30 years, meaning we know how to file your Social Security application in the most likely way to have benefits approved for you.

You don’t have to go it alone. Keith and Lucinda understand that dealing with a disability is hard enough as it is, and they will fight from start to finish to help you secure the disability benefits you both need and deserve.

Let Sampson Dunlap put our extensive experience to work for you today.

Stop struggling with a system that does not care. We are here to support you. That is why you do not pay for our services until we win. Don’t wait any longer. Take control of your life and speak to our friendly team today.

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We are here to support you. That is why you do not pay for our services until we win.