Correct Steps for Filing a Social Security Disability Claim

I came across an article titled "Steps for filing a Social Security Disability Claim". The only thing is, it didn't really provide a list of steps for filing a claim, just a list of the application and appeal levels involved in many claims.

Those levels, by the way, are A) request for reconsideration, B) Request for hearing before an administrative law judge, C) the appeals councils, and D) federal district court.

Here's a short list of a few "thinking steps", i.e. things to strongly consider if and when the subject of filing for Social Security Disability comes up.

1. Take consideration of any work activity you may currently be engaged in. If you are working, you can still file for disability, but only if your monthly gross earned income is below a certain dollar amount. In other words, you can only work and earn up to a certain maximum amount and still be eligible to apply for disability. If you are working and earning more than this amount, you will not be eligible to file for SSD. What is this amount? It's called SGA.

2. Consider whether or not your treating physician (you may have more than one) will be supportive of your case. Why? Because if your case is denied at the initial claim and reconsideration levels (i.e. the application and first appeal levels), as most claims are, and you have to appear at a disability hearing, then your attorney will most likely want to request a statement from your physician in support of your case.

How will you know if your doctor will be willing to do this for you? You won't until the time such a statement is either requested...or you discuss the issue with your physician. Of course, if you broach this subject with your doctor and find that he/she is not in support of a disability application, you may wish to consider looking for another doctor.

Is this doctor shopping? No, it is not. The sad fact is, there are a number of doctors who will refuse to complete any paperwork in support of a disability claim simply because doing so consumes their time. From your vantage point, it would be better to discern whether or not your doctor is one of these and, if so, to find another physician.

3. Write down your medical history and in detail, including where you've been treated, when you've been treated, what you've been treated for, and include all the contact information. As I've said before in many posts, the decision on a disability claim comes down to what your medical records say about your condition and limitations. However, the disability examiner who will be reviewing your case after you file a claim will not be able to accurately decide your case without all of your medical records. And these records cannot be requested by the examiner unless he or she is aware of all your medical sources.

4. Write down your work history. This means all the jobs you've done within the "relevant period", which, for Social Security Disability purposes, is the last 15 years. Why should you do this? Because you'll have to do this anyway at the time of application. However, by doing it in advance, you can A) get this task out of the way and B) take time to think about the various duties you have had for each job (since this may affect how your past work is classified by social security which can directly affect the decision on your case).

Tip: since you may be asked to submit your work history more than once, it would be a good idea to keep a copy for your personal records.

Now, after you've done these things, where and how to file for disability? Easy. Simply contact your local social security office and request an appointment to apply for disability. The disability interview can be conducted over the phone, or in person. Can you apply for disability online? Yes, you may. However, since you will have questions most likely that only a flesh-and-blood social security employee can answer, you might as well contact a local office versus filing online.

Can you have an attorney assist you with your disability application? This will depend on the attorney you use. Some disability lawyers prefer to take cases only after a claimant has filed a claim, or even after a claimant has received a denial notice. However, some disability lawyers will assist you with your claim from beginning to end. Of course, the only way to know what an individual attorney will be willing to do is to contact one.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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