As a disability attorney, I am often asked how to improve one's chances of being successful when filing for Social Security disability. While each case and a claimant's medical conditions are unique, there are some steps a person can take to increase his or her odds of success.
First, and likely the most important, is making sure you have adequate medical records to show you suffer from a physical or mental impairment. In order for the Social Security Administration to award benefits, there must be a documented medical condition or conditions from an approved source. Many claimants do not understand this and essentially secure for themselves a denial before they even get started. I cannot stress this enough, you must have medical records sufficient to show you are disabled. Without them, the Administration will likely issue a denial.
Second, it is also essential that a person is able to adequately recall his or her work history from the prior fifteen years. In order for a person to be found disabled there must be a determination that she cannot do any job she has done in the past, and determination that she cannot adjust to some other type of work. Being sick either physically or mentally is oftentimes not enough to be found disabled. The burden is on the claimant to show that she cannot do work she once did and cannot work at some other type of job either. A person helps meet this burden by being able to accurately recall what jobs she has worked at over the past fifteen years.
Third, get your doctor involved. While your doctor does not have the ability to determine whether or not you are disabled, well-written medical records showing a person's inability to walk, stand, sit, concentrate, etc. do allow a finding that a person is no longer able to work. Many times, it could be just a simple conversation with your doctor to inform her you are filing for disability and need her help. This help could be something as simple as making sure all medical records are sent to the disability determination service when requested or writing a letter on your behalf explaining what limitations you currently have and why she feels this translates to your inability to work. In reality, almost any extra help from a doctor who is treating a claimant goes a long way in showing the symptoms are real and the claim is credible.
Fifth, if all else fails hire a Social Security disability attorney. While filing at the first two levels it is not necessary to have legal representation, once a person reaches the hearing stage, it is almost always needed. While an attorney cannot ensure you will be successful at this point in the process, he or she will at the very least know how to present your case to show you are unable to work. Statistics consistently reveal that when a claimant is represented at the hearing level, their chances of being successful greatly increase.