Drawing on my own experience as a disability examiner for the Social Security administration’s North Carolina DDS (Disability determination services, the agency that makes decisions on both SSD and SSI claims), and also my experience in the area of disability representation, I can provide the following list of things to keep in mind when an individual is attempting to get disability benefits approved for themselves.
1. If you have a medical condition that interferes with your ability to work, or simply has the effect of reducing your ability to work a normal job schedule, consider filing a claim.
It would be better, of course, not to procrastinate on this.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to many individuals who told me that they had spent months and even years thinking about filing for disability, only to keep putting it off. In some cases, this was because they were hopeful that their condition would improve. In other cases, this was because they felt reluctant and even embarrassed about filing a disability claim.
Regardless of the reason, however, the end result was just that they had not gotten their case in the “pipeline”, something that would’ve saved them perhaps months and years of time.
So, the first step, of course, is to just get the claim filed.
2. When you file your claim for disability, don’t bother with the online SSA website.
The online filing process is very often not very helpful at all. Instead of using the online system, you should probably contact your local Social Security office and arrange an appointment for a disability application interview to be set up, in person or over the phone.
Either way, this will allow you to have your claim taken by a live person. You’ll be able to ask them any number of questions about the application appeal process, as well as questions about what to do in very specific situations. This may have the effect of allowing you to avoid mistakes in your claim later on, which may save you considerable time and frustration.
3. When you file your claim, or rather have your disability application interview to file your claim, do the following:
Before you even get to the application interview, make sure you have written down a list of all the jobs you have performed within the prior 15 years, including the names of your jobs, the duties performed for each job, and the time frames for each job performed.
Also write down your complete medical history, including the names of all your diagnosed conditions, your symptoms, any complaints of pain you have, the names and addresses of all your sources of medical treatment, and the names of all the doctors who treated you.
The great majority of Social Security Disability and SSI disability claim decisions are made on a medical-vocational basis. Translation: getting disability benefits in North Carolina will involve a consideration of the requirements and skills associated with your past work, as well as whatever functional limitations can be extrapolated from your medical records.
Depending on the level of your claim, a disability examiner, or disability judge, will use both the information from your medical history and your work history to determine if you no longer have the ability to go back to work, either one of your past jobs, or at some type of other work that utilizes your skills and education.
Therefore, it is very important that you provide accurate and detailed information when you supply your medical history and your work history. And, of course, it will be much easier to do this and reduce the possibility of leaving out important information if you write down these histories beforehand.
At disability application interviews, people very often get nervous when they are talking to the Social Security claims representative (CR), and it is not uncommon for individuals to forget details, forget important information, or simply to give the barest amount of detail, mistakingly assuming that this is sufficient.
However, in actuality, the more information you provide at the time of filing will result in a better chance of your claim being properly evaluated and, consequently, of qualifying for disability benefits.
4. Prepare yourself for the unfortunate “reality” that your claim will be denied.
In North Carolina, only 33% of all applications for disability are approved. Close to 70% are turned down. At the first appeal level, the request for reconsideration, approximately 87% of claims in North Carolina are denied for a second time. It is only at the hearing level in NC, that claimants who have been denied at these first two levels will have a fairly good chance of being approved.
Current statistics indicate that about 54 to 55% of claimants are approved at hearings. This is an overall statistic. Claimants without representation tend to win about 40% of the time, while claimants with representation tend to win between 60 to 62% of the time.
These two items form the core of the definition of disability used by the Social Security Administration.