Preparing To File A Disability Claim
Filing for Social Security Disability can be an intimidating process. There are some basic steps that an applicant can take to make sure that he or she puts their most persuasive foot forward.
Put All Your Eggs In One BasketIn other words, gather as much of your medical information together as you can. It is helpful and can speed up your case if you can get your actual medical records together, but do not pick and choose. If it looks like you have manicured a doctor's chart and have not submitted everything in full, Social Security will start over and this will cause delays.
Social Security is generally interested only in evidence close to the time when you stopped working. I recommend that you obtain evidence up to one year prior to when your disability forced you to cease work. If you are going to do this on your own, obtain all treatment notes and hospital records for this one-year plus time period. If you have significant hospitalizations that precede the date you last worked by more than one year, you should still obtain these records if they are relevant. For example, if you stopped working because of back pain and had back surgery five years ago, get those records.
If you are unable to obtain your records on your own, put together a list of all your doctors, and hospitals and their addresses. The goal is to make obtaining the evidence as quck and easy as possible.
Do It Right The First TimeThere are many ways to file a claim - online, over the phone or in person. If you are going to file online, make sure you go to www.ssa.gov. There are phony sites so be careful. If you want a phone appointment, call 1-800-772-1213. If you want to file in person, go to your closest Social Security office.
There are benefits to all three. If you file online, you are given a re-entry code so you can take a few days to complete the paperwork and say all that you want to. When you are done, make sure you hit complete at the end. You would not believe how often this doesn't happen and then after a few days all your work is lost. Calling to file a claim is helpful if you are insecure on the computer or don't read well. The problem is that Social Security will have to schedule a phone appointment with you after you call and this can take up to a month. This is troubling because the goal is to minimize delays. You can go into your local office if you do not have a computer or a reliable phone. This is generally discouraged due to low staffing and Social Security may try to have you use a computer in their office or schedule a phone appointment.
Be careful though - at this time, an online application works only for disability. If you need to file for Supplemental Security Income, you should call and/or go into your Social Security office.
Get Help When You Need It.Many people like to try filing for disability and getting the first decision on their own. This is reasonable since Social Security attorneys generally charge a 25% fee based on your back benefit award and if you can win on your own, you should. However, if the process is overwhelming for you or if you are having difficulty obtaining your records, retain the legal help you need. If your case can be won quickly, the fee is small - so it is a good investment in your future. Decide what works best for you.