Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans with a physical or mental condition apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and more than 11 million Americans already receive SSD benefits for their qualifying disability. If your medical condition prevents you from working, earning an income, and is expected to last for at least a year, you may be eligible to receive SSD benefits. While the application process can be long and arduous, here are some tips to help you successfully file on your own:
Start Applying Immediately
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), if you qualify to receive disability benefits, you will not receive any until the sixth full month of your disability, therefore it’s important to apply as soon as you are unable to work due to your medical condition. Although your qualifying must last for at least twelve months, you can start applying early as long as your disability is expected to last at least a year.
As soon as you submit your application, make copies of all of the documents you sent in with your application and take detailed notes of dates and the names of any one you spoke or met with.
Be Organized and Prepared
Since the application process can be complicated, it’s important to be organized and submit as much accurate and detailed health and employment information as you can when upon applying. If you fail to submit crucial information, your application may be denied and/or delay the process even more. If you don’t have access to all of your medical information prior to applying for disability benefits, take some time to get organized. You will want copies of detailed reports of all doctor’s appointments, whether they are consultations or treatments. Additionally, it may be helpful and a good idea to include a residual functional capacity form with your application.
The residual functional capacity form is filled out by your doctor and discusses your prognosis and limitations, such as questions about whether or not you are able to sit or stand for six to eight hours a day or perform other duties such as lifting and reaching.
Be Ready for Waiting and Denial
While every applicant hope that he or she is deemed eligible immediately upon applying, the initial decision can take up to a few months. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of first time applicants are denied to receive SSD benefits. While a denial letter can be disheartening, understand that it is a common occurrence and you should definitely consider appealing SSA’s decision, however, don’t wait too long as you have about two months to appeal. Many applicants also decide, upon denial, that maybe their disability is not as “severe” as it is. If you are in pain and are unable to work, you should be able to receive compensation; don’t give up.
If at any point, you don’t understand the application process or are struggling to find or provide the right information, seek assistance from a SSD lawyer or someone else who can help you with the process.