Here are five tips to help you get ahead of the curve and give you a better chance of successfully getting your claim approved the first time you apply for SSI or SSDI benefits.
Get All Your Medical Records Together and Copied
Your medical records are primary sources of evidence in your Social Security Claim. And if you end up in appeal, these records will be some of the items your social security attorney will be relying on to make your case as strong as possible. For this reason, one of the very best things you can do up-front in your social security claim is to both request whatever records you are able to and to make copies.
Even better than this is to either obtain a digital copy, by request – or take your records to an office supply store and ask that they create PDF copies for you. In this manner, you can print off as many as you need, if ever asked!
Talk To Your Doctor About Your Social Security Claim
Getting your symptoms into your medical record can truly help your Social Security claim. The easiest and best way to do this is to talk to your doctor openly and honestly about any of your challenges. For instance, you may be unable to work because of hand injuries, however, if you leave it at just that – a lot of speculation could arise about your ability to perform other tasks. If though, you have hand injuries and significant associated pain, the total impact of your disability changes.
This means, don’t clam up in discussing all the symptoms and physical/mental health barriers you’re experiencing when your doctor asks how you’re doing. Ask them to make a note of your response too, if you feel like you’re not being heard. You don’t want someone to say at a later date that you created a set of symptoms when in reality you’ve been experiencing them the whole time.
Be Honest About Your Symptoms
After the last point, this one bears discussion. It’s tremendously important that you get your symptoms noted in your medical records. However, you have to make sure you’re being completely honest about them too. Don’t overstate your symptoms, the last thing you want to pop up in your claim is a fraudulent statement about your personal barriers. On that note though, don’t understate your symptoms. This is a classic situation that hinders many excellent claims. If someone asks how you’re doing, answer truthfully and fully. If you’re having a bad day, say so. If your stomach is upset say so. If you didn’t’ get any sleep, say so. And so on.
It’s not always easy to be honest with someone about physical or mental health barriers. But with your doctor, employer, and lawyer, you should lay it all out. Especially with a Social Security claim in the discussion.
Seek A Statement From Your Doctor
A doctor’s statement will have a very significant impact on your claim. Or rather, it could have a significant impact if they frame it in the right context.
In reality, a doctor, or several doctors will already be giving input on the severity of your disabling conditions. And by their very nature, doctors will often shy away from judging how it will impact your life, in lieu of just describing the limitations imposed. If you are able to discuss it with your doctor, having them draft a statement that covers both what is wrong and exactly how it impacts your ability to work, will be very helpful.
To understand why, you have to get into the mind of a Social Security decision-maker for a minute. They are tasked with understanding your claim, looking at the evidence, and trying to understand how the two are related – all within a small amount of time. Without an expert’s opinion, they have to formulate an opinion based on what they have. However, if you do have an expert’s opinion, your doctor, it eliminates the subjective basis of the adjudicator’s determination. For them to counter the doctor’s opinion they need another doctor’s opinion or a more significant understanding of the facts of your claim. Make their job easy and provide a medical opinion in your favor up-front.
Record and Provide Detailed Records of Your Work History, If You Have One
The basis for this tip is different depending on whether you’re filing for an SSI claim or an SSDI claim. However, the fundamental value is the same.
If you’re filing for SSI because of a disability, you want to show any work history you may have had, even if it’s 15 years ago. If you were able to work successfully prior to your condition, then you can demonstrate there’s a difference between the you that is claiming, and the you that was able to work successfully in the past. With the difference being your disabling condition, presumably.
Likewise, if you’re filing for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, detailing your recent work history will demonstrate exactly how your disabling condition has been affecting your ability to maintain employment. Or how it stops you from being able to do what you’ve been doing.
It’s tempting to try to discount employment or to play it down, but if viewed in the right manner, a full and detailed employment history often plays favorably into a claim for SSI or SSDI benefits.