Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Ten Years of Experience with Disability Claims
How do you know if you are disabled – If you have a physical or mental impairment or condition, the condition limits what you can do at work and at home, your impairment will last or has lasted more than 12 months, and your doctor agrees with the limitations, you should apply for disability.
How does Social Security look at my case – The SSA definition of disability is very strict. It doesn’t matter if you can’t find a job or if you won’t get hired because of your disability or the medications you take, or even if you can only do work that doesn’t pay enough to live on. SSA does not consider these problems in deciding if you are disabled.
What evidence do I need – Medical records are the most important evidence to support your disability claim. SSA believes that if you are so sick you cannot work, you would see a doctor for tests, diagnosis and treatment. Many people do not have insurance or health benefits and have difficulty getting the necessary treatment. As your lawyer, I will provide you with a list of free or low cost clinics so you can get treatment and medical records.
SSA looks for symptoms vs. diagnosis – SSA will look to your doctors for your diagnosis but then will look to you for the details about your symptoms. Whether your disability is a mental illness or physical pain, SSA will determine how severe it is by how it affects your life. In a case where the disabled person is in pain, SSA wants to know if the pain is constant, sharp, stabbing or a dull ache. Does the pain or the medication cause fatigue? In a case of mental illness, SSA wants to know whether you can follow instructions, get along with others, focus and concentrate for periods longer than one hour.
Physical limitations – SSA wants to know what you can’t do from a physical or mental standpoint. How long can you sit? Not long? Be specific. ‘Not long’ for you may be different than everyone else. The same applies to standing, walking, using your hands, and stooping or bending, among other things.
SSA wants to know about your daily activities – How do your symptoms affect your ability to take care of your personal needs like bathing or shaving? How do your symptoms affect your daily activities like driving or cleaning the house? In cases of mental illness, the questions are the same.
Be honest and consistent – Throughout the application and appeals process, SSA has you fill out forms that ask you questions about what you do during the day, whether you go shopping, whether you drive, whether you still do the things you enjoyed before you became disabled. It is very important that you answer these questions carefully. Any contradictions, mistakes or discrepancies hurt your credibility. As your attorney, I review every document that is submitted to SSA to ensure that this does not happen.