Here are five more quick tips to give you a better chance of success when filing for Social Security disability benefits:
1. Tell you doctor you are filing for disability benefits and you need him or her to help you out as much as possible.
If you do so, you will likely receive one of two responses: (a) we do not get involved with Social Security disability cases, or (2) we will do what it takes to help you or your attorney win your case.
If it is the second response, you have a great doctor and his or help will be invaluable. Ask your attorney (or you can do it yourself by finding one on the internet) to send your doctor a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment (either physical or mental) and make sure the medical records reflect such answers your doctor will give. This alone could help your chances of receiving a favorable decision, especially if you are already at the hearing level.
If your doctor gave you response (a), then at least ask him or her to write legibly in your medical records so they can be read and at least put something in there regarding what limitations your conditions have on your ability to work, partake in daily activities, drive, do chores around your home, etc.
While you would certainly prefer a doctor who wished to help you with your current plight, the very least the doctor could do is not hurt your chances of success. There have been times when a judge reviewing the case will disregard certain medical evidence simply because he or she cannot read a doctor's handwriting.
2. If you have to work because you live in a state with absolutely no social net (Texas, for example) keep it under Substantial Gainful Activity levels if you possibly can.
If you can't, then you will be deemed capable of working and no matter how severe you state your symptoms are, you cannot and will not be approved for benefits. As of 2016, for a nonblind person, you cannot earn more than $1,130.00 per month and still be considered disabled.
While it would be best if you did no work while waiting for your claim to be approved, the reality is that many people simply cannot afford to do so. Again, in states like Texas, there is little if any social net to fall back on. However, states like California, will allow its residents up to one year to receive state benefits while waiting for their claim to be approved. Can't work at all? -you might have to consider moving to another state if you can, or preparing friends or family in advance that you may be a new addition to their household.
3. Realize if you have a bad case and go back to work.
Do not hold onto the idea that just because your neighbor receives Social Security disability and "there is absolutely nothing wrong with him," that you too should receive benefits. The reality is that his case is completely unique and different from yours and it is actually irrelevant that he receives benefits.
Also, recognize that some conditions are going to be more successful than others in winning benefits. First, if you have a physical condition, odds are you will be more successful than someone with a mental condition. Physical ailments are easier to be seen and quantified and tested. Mental conditions are often hard to determine. Also, limitations such as bipolar disorder have become the new hyperactive disorder. Social Security is aware of this. If your are someone who becomes angry when someone insults you, you do not have bipolar disorder, you have anger issues and you likely can control them.
Thus, recognize that some conditions will likely still allow you to work even though you may consider yourself disabled.
4. Realize there actually may be jobs in the economy you are capable of performing.
There are some jobs the Social Security Administration comes up with that drives me crazy. Jobs such as a "Silver Polisher" are absolutely ridiculous, but are assigned to people applying for disability benefits nonetheless.
Here's a good tip: Before filing for Social Security disability, go to your local state employment agency and tell them what limitations you have and have them help you find a job. If you cannot do one of those kinds of jobs, then this will at least help you know whether or not you are capable of transforming to some other type of work.
I'll give you a good example: Take a fifty year-old man who has been a plumber all his life. He is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and struggles severely with it. The main issues he has are: (1) he would have trouble working around a lot of coworkers due to his tendency to lash out; (2) he would be susceptible to bouts of what is called decompensation, where he would miss a couple of days of work per month due to depressive or manic issues; and (3) he probably would have some concentration issues due to his mental instability until his medicine could level him out.
Is he disabled? The answer is probably no. There are some jobs out in the economy where he could likely work mostly alone, away from the public, where his job duties were simple, etc. Thus, just because he doesn't know he can actually find work accommodating his limitations, doesn't mean that such work is not available. So, by going through a state employment service, he can better understand what he is capable of doing.
5. Understand this process could take a very long time.
More and more applications for benefits are being filed every day. Social Security has seen a surge in disability claims over the last few years. Understand this, if you do have to go to a hearing, it is very likely you will be waiting up to two years or more (two being the minimum if you have to go to a hearing).
Again, this takes us back to going to work if you really can do so. Don't put yourself and your family through this unless it is absolutely necessary. I tell my clients on the day we file for a hearing, expect it to take 14 months to see the judge and discuss your case, and expect it to take three to four months after that to receive a decision.
If the decision is unfavorable, you could then be looking at an additional year for the Appeals Council to render a decision and remand your case right back to the judge that denied you benefits at your first hearing.