Everyone who has ever filed for Social Security disability benefits has heard the adage that everyone is denied at least once before they are approved. How I wish this were true. In reality, there are many who are never approved for disability benefits and many times they could have done some very simple things to improve their chances of success.
So, try these before filing:
(1) Go to the doctor.
Sounds simple, right? I cannot tell you how many people attempt to file for benefits who have not seen a doctor within twelve months or more before attempting to file.
Here is the simple truth: (a) no matter how severe you state your condition(s) is, the Social Security Administration has warned that it will not approve a claim without proper medical evidence to back up a person's allegations; and (2) that medical evidence must be relevant, i.e., it must be within the last two years of a person's onset date (as a general rule of thumb).
Thus, if you are too ill to work, you need to at least be going through a county ER to have medical records documenting your condition. I tell my clients this: Your case is just like a murder scene. We must have proper medical evidence to back up our case. Think of going to the doctor just like producing evidence to win our case.
(2) Appeal your denial.
Yes,the adage is partly correct. About 75% of all first time cases filed are denied. Persistence does oftentimes pay off.
When you first file your claim, the Disability Determination Service in your state cannot see or hear you. Many times, decisions are made without truly understanding how a person's condition limits his or her ability to work. However, when that same person has the opportunity to sit in front of an Administrative Law Judge and explain how he or she is unable to stand for more than ten minutes at a time, sit for less than one hour, etc., it personalizes their condition.
However, this still goes back to having good medical records. You can't just go to your hearing and tell a good story.
Evidence, evidence, evidence.
(3) Do what you are asked to do.
If you need to read and sign and send back in a piece of paper, then do it. Many times, the Social Security Administration will want to see copies of pay stubs, bank account paperwork, etc. Do what is asked of you. If you don't you're only hurting yourself. Plus, your procrastination will only delay your case further.
Also, don't fight the system. You will lose. If you are required to go to a Consultative Examination, then make sure you arrive on time. Be a good claimant and it just may pay off in the end.
(4) Understand what it really means to be disabled.
Being disabled doesn't mean your are handicap, bedridden, etc. What it means to be disabled, is that there are no jobs in the United States in which you would be able to do.
Many people personalize (and rightfully so) this process. They say, "I cannot believe Social Security does not think I am disabled!" It's not that you don't have a severe condition that may even keep you from working any job you have worked in the past. But, given your age, education, and skills you have picked up along life's journey, there may actually be jobs you are capable of performing DESPITE having these conditions.
If there are jobs that you can do even though you have a severe condition, then you will be denied benefits.
(5) Understand the reasons for your work history.
This is the one area people do not understand. It's not their fault, but your work history can either be a positive or negative to your case.
First, and most important, the Social Security Administration does not care whether you used to work 8 or 12 hours a day at your last job or the fact that you made minimum wage or one million dollars per year.
What the Administration is looking for is: (1) whether you are capable or returning back to one of the jobs you did within the last fifteen years; or (2) did you learn something in which you can now transfer that skill or knowledge to some other kind of work?
When I ask people to describe their last jobs, they are usually very ready to show how important they were to their employers. You don't want to give yourself skills you never actually acquired. In this case, the more you inflate your past abilities, the more likely you are hurting your case. If you stated your were in management, then you may still have management skills you can do in another job despite your back injury (for example).
Therefore, the rule of thumb is this: Be to the point and truthfully state exactly what you did in your last fifteen years of employment and nothing more.
People over the age of 50 are favored when it comes to receiving Social Security disability benefits. Also, physical conditions which limit a person's ability to work are approved more often than mental issues.
Because the Social Security Administration understands that once a person turns 50 (even more so for 55), the number of jobs available in the national economy begins to greatly diminish. Further, physical conditions are must easier to diagnose and see how they limit a person's ability to work.
If you fall outside of these two parameters, you need to understand that your case will not only take longer to decide (you may have to go to a hearing in order to be approved for benefits), but that you also have a higher risk of being denied.