Social Security Disability ' when to file

If you have a medical condition that has caused your health to deteriorate to the point that you are unable to work, or to work enough to make a living wage, consider filing a claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) sooner rather than later.

You should not hesitate, as far as when to file, for one very important reason: The process of applying and being granted Social Security Disability benefits is generally long and drawn out. Most claims are denied upon first application (70 percent), and even upon first appeal (85 percent of first appeals, or requests for reconsideration, are denied as well).

It will take months for your application to be processed, and several more months for your case to work its way through an appeals process. If, like most claims, yours is denied at the first two levels, the next step would be to request a hearing before an administrative law judge, which can take as long as two years to materialize.

In other words, the sooner you file for disability, the better, so begin immediately gathering your medical and work history details and putting them in writing for the claims rep (CR) at the social security office who will be assigned to your case. The more detailed your medical and work history, including all relevant names, dates, locations, and contact information, the less chance there is that your case will be delayed because the CR does not have all the information needed to process your claim.

Even if you do not currently qualify for Social Security Disability benefits because you are earning more than the monthly or yearly maximum amount allowed by social security for those receiving SSD benefits, if you have a medical condition that is affecting your ability to perform your job, and you believe your condition to one that is likely to deteriorate over time, it's a good idea to begin documenting your medical and work history now so that you are ready to begin the process when the time comes.

It's also a good idea to find the closest social security office near you, so you know where to go to file your claim or who to call for more information.

There are Social Security Disability (not SSI) applications and information available online, but a visit or phone call to your local social security office is almost always more productive and informative.

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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