It's Friday, so let's make this quick....
If you're going to file for Social Security disability benefits, here are some things you really need to know:
1. Know whether or not you qualify for SSDI or SSI or both.
SSDI is under Title II benefits. SSI is under Title XVI benefits. If you have worked for a long time and you just stopped working, then you will likely only need to worry about SSDI. These are the benefits you pay into each time you receive a check from your employer and taxes are taken out. On the other hand, if you have a spotty work record, have not worked in more than 5 years, or you are a few years older than 18, then you are really going to have to consider SSI benefits.
What's the difference?
Well, if you qualify for SSDI, then you can continue to work as long as you make under what is called Substantial Gainful Activity. If you will "Google" this term, it will tell you the amount each month you are allowed to make. Be sure to remember this is "gross" not "net."
If you only qualify for SSI, then you will only receive up to $735.00 per month, and if you earn money while on disability benefits, it begins to greatly subtract from what you will receive each month. Also, your assets and income (personal and/or family) come into play as well. Therefore, you could meet the medical requirements for being disabled and still not receive benefits.
Therefore, it is important to know what benefit you will qualify for.
2. File your claim electronically.
By doing so, it is kept in SSA's computer and your paperwork does not risk being lost at the local office. In fact, any time you file your initial claim or any appeal, make sure you do so on a computer. At the appeal stage, an e-mail can be sent back to you confirming your submittal.
3. Read everything you receive from SSA.
After filing your initial application, it is very likely SSA will ask for follow-up information. If you do not send the information back to your local field office, your case will not be transferred to the local Disability Determination Service (DDS) office. If that happens, your case will actually sit at the local office until you fulfill what is needed. If you wait too long, then SSA will send you a letter denying your case without ever looking at your medical evidence.
4. Prepare before your file.
SSA provides a checklist online to prepare you to file your disability claim. Be sure and get the dates correct for your medical treatment and work history. It is really important you list all work you have performed in the past fifteen years so SSA can take it into consideration when determining if you are disabled.
5. Be sure to do your Work History and Function Reports.
Everybody hates them, including disability attorneys. However, they have to be done and done on time. Also, be sure and fill them out fully and completely and with detail. If you have trouble buttoning your shirt or pulling up your pants, things like that relate to your ability to do basic work activities, and so SSA needs to know this. Also, don't embellish your symptoms. If you do, SSA will know it. Everyone is capable of doing something for themselves during the day.
6. Call you caseworker at DDS, but don't be a pest.
Yes, call your caseworker and ask if he or she needs help getting any medical records. A lot of times your doctor is going to be slow to respond to a request for medical records. Follow up with him or her to help get the records to DDS so your case can be evaluated fully and quickly. However, calling every day is just going to make matters worse. It's a slow process, you are going to have to understand that.
7. When you get denied, appeal within 60 days.
Be sure and get your appeal done on time and do so on your computer through SSA's website. Again, you don't want your paper appeal sitting in the mail room at your local SSA office.
8. Talk to your doctor before you file for Social Security disability.
Many doctors are on board for you receiving disability benefits, while many other think you have to be paralyzed from the neck down to deserve any amount of help from the government. If you have a doctor that does not think you should be applying for disability, then you need to think about finding a new doctor.
9. If you can afford it, go to a specialist.
Sure, we all know you love your family doctor. But, you really need to be seeing a specialist in the field of your disabling condition. This goes a long way in convincing SSA you have a severe condition. If you can't afford a specialist, then do the best you can.
10. Once you have a doctor, stay with that doctor. Don't jump around from one doctor to the next.
SSA considers your doctor's opinion and assessment of your condition much more seriously than a doctor who has seen you only one or two times. For people who have seen a doctor over the course of many months or years, it improves your chances of being approved. This is especially true of that doctor is a specialist in the field in which you have a disability.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need our help, please always feel free to call: (888) 780-9125.