Social Security Disability Benefits written in a notebook

There is not a guaranteed, or easiest way to ensure that you are approved for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. However, using an experienced disability attorney will ensure that you are maximizing your chances at early approval. There is a complicated and lengthy list of qualifying conditions and supporting documentation that you’ll need to provide. Your attorney will be able to help you secure the required documentation, and provide it in the manner preferred or required by the SSA.  

Knowing the minutiae of details and protocols is, perhaps, the most valuable asset an experienced lawyer can bring to the table. Working through the system with an attorney as your guide can definitely be the easiest way to get disability.

What Conditions Are Considered a Disability?

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of conditions that are considered worthy of disability benefits. In addition to this list, there are a couple of paths for approval of conditions that aren’t currently on the list. Your Social Security disability lawyer will be the best person to help you determine if you have a condition that fits within the current definition used by the SSA, or if you have a condition that might be approved with certain, specific, documentation provided by a physician.

What Are the SSA’s Requirements for Disability Benefits?

For your disability to be approved, your condition needs to be on the list of approved conditions maintained by the Social Security Administration. Any condition you have been diagnosed with will need to be considered severe before you will qualify for disability payments. The Social Security Administration defines severe as a condition that will prevent you from working or making substantial gainful activity for a period of at least 12 months.

In addition to the definition of disability requirements, you’ll also need to have accrued at least 40 work credits in the Social Security system. Of those 40 credits, 20 will need to have been earned in the past 10 years. 40 credits equates to 10 years of work where you earned at least $6560 per year. If you are a younger worker who has become disabled, there are ways to qualify with fewer credits.

How to Increase Your Chances of a Disability Claim Approval

There are 5 crucial steps involved in ensuring your disability claim has the best chance of approval. The necessary actions you need to take are:

  • Complete an application
  • Provide accurate medical documentation
  • Develop communication with doctors
  • Track your status
  • Follow up 

Complete Application

The Social Security Administration’s disability application is a long and complicated process. Making a mistake could mean you went through all the stress and trouble of submitting an application and going through the entire process, only to find out that your application was incomplete or incorrectly submitted. This is a long and committed process you’re beginning, and you should take steps to ensure you have the best possible chance of success in the end, so make sure your application is filled out completely and correctly.

To help ensure you provide all required documentation, the SSA has a checklist that you can use to make sure you’re providing all required information. You shouldn’t limit your application to only required information, though, or you are risking denial of your claim due to lack of sufficient medical, or other, of evidence. Providing as much information as possible, including more than the application requires, can improve the success of your claim.

Complete and Accurate Medical Documentation

The medical documentation you provide as part of your application will likely make or break your claim.  Because of that fact, you’re going to need to have the most complete and accurate medical documentation possible.

You should begin with the checklist provided by the SSA and start contacting your treating physicians right away to give them time to provide the documentation that you will need. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to collect, inventory, and organize all the medical documentation pertinent to your claim and submit it as a complete collection to the SSA as part of your application. Ensuring the SSA has all the information they require will be a key part of the process.

In addition to the medical records you are collecting for past visits, you’ll need to start keeping a record of every medical professional interaction at present and in the future. Get copies of the records forwarded after each lab visit, test, x-ray, or doctor’s visit. It can also be helpful to start keeping a journal of every interaction with a healthcare professional going forward if you don’t already. Even if the interaction was for someone not necessarily related to your disabling condition, you should enter it into your journal, and save copies of the records.

Relationship and Communication with Doctors

In the past, your treating physician’s recommendation was given tremendous weight in the decision-making process of the SSA for your disability claim. New rules have changed the amount of weight that your doctor’s opinion may carry when compared to facts as they are laid out in the records, but you’ll need to maintain a good relationship with all of your treating physicians in any case. You’ll need to let them know that you’re submitting the application, so they can start to prepare themselves, and their staff, for the process of securing and forwarding your records.

In addition to providing records, you may need to ask your doctor to complete a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation to help enhance your claim. You could even ask them to be an expert witness at a later date if your claim requires a hearing. Maintaining a relationship and open lines of communication with your treating physicians will help to make all of this happen.

Track Your Status

Because the SSA handles millions of claims every year, it naturally takes a bit of time for them to give your application the attention it deserves. If you feel that it has been too long with no forward progress, you can always contact a claims representative to check on the progress. However, checking regularly on the status of your claim will also allow you to see right away if your claim is denied. Knowing you’ve been denied right away is important because you will have a very limited amount of time to appeal the decision.

Follow Up

Follow all of your doctor’s treatment recommendations for your condition if possible. From medication prescriptions to lifestyle changes recommended to help improve your condition, following treatment plans provides proof of the significance of your disabling condition. Along with showing up for all of your appointments both with your regular treating physicians, but also any appointments made by the SSA for you, this will help make your claim stronger.  Not following up on doctor’s recommendations or appointments could be the cause for a claim denial by the SSA.

The Easiest Way to Get Disability Benefits Is with an Attorney

The process of getting disability benefits is complicated and time-consuming. There are checklists available from the Social Security Administration, so how can a social security disability lawyer help you get benefits?

A disability lawyer can help you manage the complex application process. In fact, there isn’t really a part of the Social Security Disability application process that retaining an experienced disability attorney won’t help you with.

Your social security disability attorney will be able to help you determine in advance if your condition will qualify for disability, or if you’ll need to take extra steps to apply if it doesn’t appear on the list. Once you’ve determined your condition is, indeed, on the list and that your level of disability is severe enough to qualify for disability in your opinion, your lawyer can help you with the application. Social Security disability lawyers know how each aspect of the application needs to be completed. They also know how much medical documentation is going to be required to strengthen your claim with the SSA.

The disability lawyer you choose will, likely, then help you to collect and organize all of your medical records for claim submission purposes. He or she will even be able to help you by developing a relationship of his or her own with your physician and opening lines of communication about what to expect during the process. If your claim requires the testimony of an expert witness, an attorney can help you retain one.

Your attorney will help you track the status of your claim and, if it ends up being denied, will be able to immediately review the reasons for the denial. If they see an opportunity to correct part of your submission or strengthen your case in some way, you’ll have a better shot at winning your appeal than you would if you were filing an appeal without an attorney.