In the past, approval rates for Social Security disability benefits was much higher than today. In fact, depending upon how approval rates are calculated (with or without representation), only about 35-40% of all claims are approved. And, this is not taking into consideration the length of time it takes to win your case.
However, here are the top 10 things you can do to increase your chances of success:
1. Go to the doctor or hospital.
Most people at this stage in their life are unable to work full or even part-time. However, there are many low-cost clinics a person can have access to receive medical attention. Take advantage of this, and go to the doctor. The biggest reason why people are denied is because they do not have sufficient medical records to support their allegations that they have an impairment(s) so severe it keeps them from working. Bottom line, get medical attention for your condition.
2. When you go to the doctor, make sure you have your limitations documented.
There are these things called basic work activities. They are sitting, standing, lifting, carrying, walking, bending, squatting, etc. In order for the Social Security Administration to make a determination if you are disabled, the Administration must be able to see that you are severely limited in your ability to perform basic tasks any job would require. Again, bottom line, make sure your medical provider documents what limitations your have.
3. Make sure your medical records are complete.
This is another big one. Many doctors simply do not take the time to send in medical records when requested. Disability decisions are made all the time without all medical records being present. When this occurs, it is often the case is denied. You can satisfy this requirement by calling your case manager and making sure all records were received. If they were not, call your doctor, go by his or her office, pick up the records yourself and send them to your case manager.
4. Do your Work History and Function Reports.
After filing for disability benefits, you will receive these reports in the mail. It is imperative you complete these reports and return them to your state Disability Determination Service. In states like Texas, if you fail to complete these reports, your case will be automatically denied. Don't ignore them, because the Social Security Administration takes them very serious in determining your limitations.
5. Don't work above SGA levels when applying for Social Security disability benefits.
Substantial Gainful Activity is just a couple of fancy words to mean, if you make above a certain amount, then you are not considered disabled. There is no denying that a person can survive for a year or more without income unless they are independently wealthy. Bottom line here, most people have to work at least at some kind of work while waiting on benefits. It would be better if you didn't work, but if you have to, don't earn above a certain amount or you will be automatically disqualified from benefits.
6. Stop trying to cure what keeps you from working.
This is a big one. The Social Security Administration is not so much interested in whether or not your condition can be cured, fixed, etc. That comes later when you come up for review after being on benefits for three or more years. For now, at the initial stages of applying for benefits, concentrate on having complete medical records instead of attempting to cure what is severely affecting you. This means (as stated above) making sure you still go to the doctor even if you can't be cured, and making sure your doctor documents your condition(s).
7. Go to your Consultative Examination.
Make sure you attend your examination to see a doctor the Social Security Administration has chosen for you. First of all, it's free, and second, the examiners really give a lot of weight to the doctor's opinion. Further, when you do go, make sure you really explain to the doctor your limitations. Sadly, however, many of these doctors run these examinations like an assembly line, and are not there other than to do a cursory examination and get you out the door. If you do encounter one of these doctors, there's not much you can do about it, but this is the disability system nonetheless.
8. Appeal your denial.
This could be it's own blog, but if you do not appeal your denial, then you give up all rights to claim you were disabled at the time in which you first stated you were. Therefore, in order to keep your original alleged onset date, you must appeal within 60 days after your denial.
9. Appeal to the hearing level if you have to.
Yes, you will have to wait a year or more to see a judge and explain how you are disabled. But think of it this way: That is at least 12 months of accumulating medical evidence to further prove your claim! Take advantage of the time you will have to wait. Then, when your hearing date does come up, you can put your best foot forward.
10. Hire a good Social Security disability lawyer if you do have to go to hearing!
It sucks you may have to pay 25% of your back-pay to some stinking lawyer, but a good Social Security disability lawyer can really help your case. By the way, don't just choose someone on T.V. or because they're the biggest. There are many independent disability attorneys that will personally handle your case rather than handing you off to a clerk. By the way, make sure he or she is really an attorney and not just an approved representative. If you are denied at the hearing level, you will need to make a legal argument as to why the judge made a mistake in your case. Therefore, you really need an attorney to take your case at the hearing level.
We help claimants fighting for their Social Security disability benefits throughout Texas and California. If you need to talk, always feel free to contact our office at: (888) 780-925.