April 24, 2018

Are You Considering an Initial Application for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Starting an initial application for Social Security Disability benefits can be a daunting task.  First, you must determine which program or programs you may be eligible for.  Several different programs make up Social Security Disability.  The two main programs are Retirement Survivor Disability Insurance (RSDI or SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Both programs are Social Security disability benefits, but you become eligible in different ways.  For RSDI, you are required to have enough work credits to be eligible.  If you have worked at least five of the last ten years and paid taxes on those earnings, you probably have the necessary work credits.  Your monthly benefit amount is based off your past earnings.  To be eligible for SSI benefits, you must have limited household income and resources.  Less common Social Security Disability benefits may come from Disabled Widow(er)’s Benefits or Disabled Child Benefits.  While you may be eligible for more than one program, Social Security will only award monthly benefits for the program that pays the highest amount.

Next, you will need to decide how you would like to apply.  You can apply online on Social Security’s website, call Social Security at 1(800) 772-1213 to set up a phone appointment, or visit your local Social Security field office.  For SSI claims, you will need to talk to someone at your local Social Security office, either in person or by phone, to make sure you meet the resource requirements needed to apply.

When applying for disability benefits, you should gather together some information that Social Security asks for in every claim.  This information includes:

  • Places you have received medical treatment- Including date ranges, reasons for treatment, and contact information for the providers
  • Places you have worked in the last 15 years- Including dates of employment, how much you were paid, and what your job duties entailed
  • Information about your family- Including information about current or former spouses, your minor children, your children 18 or 19 still in secondary education, and children with disabilities

Claimants applying for disability benefits may have received treatment from many different providers and trying to remember each one can be overwhelming.  Even so, it is important that Social Security knows about each provider you’ve seen for your disabling conditions, because those providers may have medical records that help your case.  One common complaint we hear from claimants who receive initial application denials is that Social Security did not obtain or evaluate medical records the claimant thought would be important in understanding their limitations.  If you have any medical records you feel are significant, you may want to submit those with your initial application.

When our office helps claimants with initial applications, part of our job is letting Social Security know about important information from the start. If we think there are relevant limitations or arguments to be made, an initial application is our first opportunity to present them to Social Security.  Information can always be added to your claim later, but we want to advocate for you as soon as we can.

If this process sounds overwhelming, you are not alone.  If you have stopped working and think you would like help with your initial application, call our office for a no cost consultation with an attorney.  We have experience helping claimants complete their initial applications.  Having an attorney complete your application does not guarantee initial approval.  However, having an experienced attorney can provide peace of mind that you have an advocate from the beginning.  We can talk to you about what to expect from the disability process and make sure your initial application contains all relevant information.  Once the initial application is completed, an attorney can work with the reviewer handling your claim to develop your record, assist you in completing questionnaires that Social Security may send you, and keep track of deadlines related to your case.  Most important, we can answer any questions you have about the Social Security disability process to simplify this complex process.

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