Important tips on How to File for Your Disability

by Tim Moore, Disability Representative in North Carolina

Do not procastinate

Because the process of pursuing a claim can be extremely time-consuming (e.g. setting up an appointment for a disability interview, having the claim worked on for several weeks or months by a disability examiner, filing appeals in the event that the initial claim, or disability application is denied, etc), it is never a good idea to put off filing if:

A) You has a severe mental or physical impairment (or a series or combination of mental and/or physical impairments) and

B) That impairment or impairments is making it difficult for you to continue working at a level that earns a livable wage or income (social security refers to this as Substantial gainful work activity, or SGA).

Speaking as a former disability claims examiner for the Social Security Administration’s DDS (disability determination services), as well as having worked in claimant representation, I have found that many disabled individuals often procrastinate when it comes to filing for disability.

Typically, they procrastinate because they find the whole idea of filing for disability intimidating, or because they are unsure if their condition would eventully improve. In some instances, a person will find that their condition will improve making it possible to either stay at work, or return to work. But in a large percentage of cases, the individual will simply find that their condition remains the same or continues to worsen.

In either case, a number of months–sometimes even years–may have been lost. During that time lost, a case could have been won even if it involved having to file appeals.

The basic rule is simply that if a person’s limitations (physical, or mental, or both) make it impossible to either work, or work and earn a substantial and gainful income, they should seriously consider putting in a claim for disability benefits.

Getting a claim started

The first step in the disability process is to contact the Social Security Administration to schedule your disability interview. You may contact your local Social Security office by telephone, or make an office visit, or you can call the toll free Social Security number to have a disability claim taken or scheduled for you at your local office.

SSI is based upon your income or resources.

If you file in-person at a social security office, or start the process with a phone call to a local office (you can also arrange to have the disability interview conducted over the phone if you have mobility or transportation issues), you do not need to be concerned as to which disability program you need to file in, because the claims representative, or CR, at the social security office will address both disability programs during your interview.

How can you help make your disability interview go smoothly?

The most important tip is that you should be prepared. In-person disability interviews can take ninety minutes or more depending upon how prepared an individual is.
You should be able to answer questions with regard to the following:

1. You should have documentation of your birth, citizenship or alien status.

2. Your work history; in other words, the types of jobs that you have had prior to becoming disabled. For more information on how SSA views your work history: What does Social Security Disability Need to Know about your Work History and Jobs?

3. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and treatment dates of all the physicians, clinics, and hospitals that have treated you during your illness. For more information on how SSA uses your medical records in the decision-making process: Social Security Disability, Medical Records, and a Person’s Limitations .

4. Personal information about yourself such as your marriages, divorces–depending upon the type of benefit you are filing for–and children (minors or adult disabled children).

5. The claims representative will also ask questions about your resources (bank accounts, life insurance policies, land, trust funds, stocks, bonds, IRA’s, 401Ks, or cash) and your income (wages, short term disability or long disability benefits, veterans benefits, or any other source of income), in order to assess your potential entitlement to Supplemental Security Income.

If you have your information and documentation ready at the time you apply for disability with the Social Security Administration, you can make the process of filing for disability less stressful.

Additional information:

What you should know about filing a disability claim – When to file, What SSA needs to process your case

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Related pages:

Tips for Getting Disability Approved When you File with Social Security
Tips on how to file for disability
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
What should you say if you go to a Social Security Exam?
Always list all your various symptoms on your Disability Application
List every medical condition, physical or mental, when you file for disability
Never minimize your pain or other symptoms because this can be used against you
Be ready for your disability application before the process even starts
A Tip for Making a Request for a Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Advice from the Wrong Sources
Can the Social Security Office give you Bad Advice on a Disability Claim?
Financial Help When You Are Filing For Disability

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability – How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?