Advice and tips for trying to Win and get approved for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits in Texas

Having to file a disability claim for either Social Security Disability or SSI benefits in the state of Texas is no easy matter, though it should be. In a recent year, approximately 32 percent of all individuals filing for either SSD or SSI were denied at the initial claim level, i.e. on a disability application that was filed at a local Social Security office and then processed by a disability claims examiner at DDS (disability determination services, the agency that makes decision on claims for the Social Security Administration).

Ideally, if a person is unable to work and sustain themselves due to their condition or various conditions, the system should be set up so that an applicant's records can be quickly gathered and evaluated and a decision can be made.

But that would be ideal. The reality is that, for most disability claimants, their claim will be denied at the basic disability application level and, to eventually win SSD or SSI, they will have to go through the social security administration's appeal process. The majority of claimants will find that they will have to find a lawyer in Texas who specializes in SSD and SSI or non-attorney disability representative (you can be represented by either, and you are not required to have representation if you decide to go without), particularly if the case goes to the level of a hearing before an administrative law judge.

This process is one of the most drawn out and exasperating experiences that a person can go through. And not only is it exasperating, it is financially damaging and medically disadvantageous. How so? Well, it is not unusual at all for disability claimants to lose their savings and find themselves in danger of losing their home. And many claimants who are still waiting on a a disability appeal have already lost their health insurance, making it extremely difficult to obtain quality medical treatment of any kind.

Common questions about filing for disability in Texas
Considering the situation that many applicants for Social Security Disability or ssi may face, it would be best to try to avoid certain mistakes and look for ways to possibly speed up a case. So, here are a few pieces of advice with regard to that end.

1. When filing a claim, try to do so in person at a local SSA field office. At the very least, do this over the phone. In either case, you will be able to speak with an SSA claims representative. If you use the online process, something that SSA highly promotes, you will not have the chance to ask direct questions about the process of filing. You will also not have the chance to file for SSI which does not have an online process currently. A claims rep may help you to properly indicate what your onset date is (when your condition became disabling) and may also help ensure that you list all of your conditions, small and large.

2. Make sure that when you apply for disability in Texas, you remember to submit complete information about your history of medical treatment and your work history for the 15 year period prior to becoming disabled. SSD and SSI decisions are usually made as "medical-vocational" decisions, meaning that your age, functional limitations, work experience, and education will be figured into the determination of whether you can A) go back to your old job and B) if you can find some type of other work to perform.

The accuracy of the information you provide includes the following: where and when you received treatment, what type of treatment you received, job titles, good descriptions of what was done on any job you worked. Failing to give good descriptions for jobs you have held puts you in the position of having your work history misidentified, which can have an impact on your case, possibly leading to a denial when the case should have been approved.

3. Consider reviewing your medical records before you even file for disability. There are occasions in which individuals have assumed that their treating physicians were more supportive in their office notes...than actually turned out to be the case. You may even wish to consider speaking with your doctor(s) to see if he or she would be willing to support your case with a medical source statement submitted on your behalf.

4. If you are applying for either SSI or Social Security Disability, do not assume that you will receive a decision on your claim for several months. In fact, do not assume that your claim will be processed within any deadline cited by the Social Security office. The truth is simply this: there are no deadlines that apply to disability cases and timeframes that are routinely cited by SSA employees are only speculative estimations based on averages. Often, these average timeframes are fairly close on the mark, but, often, "averages" can be very misleading and not particularly helpful. So, don't count on them, particularly when it comes to planning your finances around them. You may get a decision on your social security or ssi claim in one month, four months, or more than six months, but there will be no way to forecast exactly how long the decision will take.

5. Though approximately 30 percent of initial claims are approved in Texas, this still means that the majority of claims are initially denied. Figure this into your financial planning when you file a claim for disability benefits. The unfortunate reality is that most individuals will have to file one or more appeals.

6. If you have access to regular medical care, make sure that you go. Even if your condition is such that you have reached MMI, or maximum medical improvement, you should continue to be seen by a medical treatment source at least once every 2 months. Why should you do this even when your doctor tells you that your condition will not be subject to improvement? Because disability claim approvals are based completely on a review of your medical records. And not only that, SSDI (Social Security Disability insurance) and SSI approvals can, in most cases, only be made when an applicant's medical records indicate that their condition is currently disabling according to SSA criteria.

The information obtained from medical records demonstrates essentially two things. The first is that you meet the definition of disability used by SSA and are currently disabled. The second is how far back you became disabled so that A) your back pay amount can be determined and B) the commencement of your medicare eligibility can be determined (this applies to SSDI, not SSI which involves medicaid instead of medicare).

For this reason, current objective medical record documentation is of the utmost importance, meaning that regular doctor/hospital/clinic visits should be maintained.

7. If you have any way to reduce your outgoing bills at the time you begin your disability claim, try to do so. Many applicants for Social Security Disability and/or SSI benefits are absolutely stunned when it becomes apparent just how long a claim can take in Texas. And too many claimants wind up in the position of no longer being able to make the payments on a second car that, perhaps, should have been sold months before a disability application or appeal was begun. If you can rid yourself of excess monthly financial obligations when you enter into the SSA disability process, do so to avoid financial and monetary complications later.

8. If you receive any type of correspondence or letters in Texas from either the social security office, disability determination services, the hearing office (the office of disability adjudication and review), make sure you open it, read it, and understand it. This is crucial because certain letters sent from these agencies will require that a claimant perform a particular action by a certain date. For this reason, if you receive a written letter from any one of these offices and are not exactly certain what the letter means (or is asking you to do), by all means contact the office that sent the letter. You may feel slightly embarassed about asking what the letter means, but, as the saying goes, it is far better to be safe than sorry. And this is doubly true when it come to Social Security Disability and SSI benefit claims.

9. If your claim is denied, get a Social Security Disability lawyer or a non-attorney Social Security Disability representative (many non-attorneys are former employees of the Social Security Administration, or are even former disability claims examiners who made decisions on cases for years and, therefore, know intimately how the system actually works). And the reason for this is simple. If a claims for either SSD or SSI disability is turned down or denied, the person applying for benefits will, most likely, eventually have to have their case heard at a disability hearing by a federal judge. And a hearing is not something an applicant for disability benefits should consider going to unrepresented.

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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