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Getting Social Security Disability: Your 9 Step Individual Action Plan


A Book Synopsis


Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two programs of the Social Security Administration (SSA) available for persons who have medical disabilities which prevent them from working.

The disability can be a physical one or mental one or a combination of both, but it must be expected to last at least one year or be terminal.

Many who apply for Social Security disability benefits from the federal government are denied upon initial application and reconsideration appeals.

Here are nine steps, in brief, that you can take that might assist you with getting more comfortable with the disability determination process, and might assist you in getting a faster, more accurate decision on your SSDI or SSI claim application.

1. Prepare yourself mentally for dealing with a governmental bureaucracy. Realize that the average wait time for a decision on your claim is 90 days. That means your claim could take even more time than that. Try not to think about the possibility that your claim might be denied because that only dissipates energy. Instead use the law of attraction to focus on seeing your first check coming through the mail or visualize seeing the amount listed on your bank statement.

2. When you describe your illness, focus on using words and phrases related to how you are no longer able to "function" on your old job. For instance, someone who used to be employed as a hotel maid might write:

"My job as a hotel maid involved being able to stand on my feet for 6-8 hours each day. I had to lift 15-20 lbs on a regular basis and had to sometimes move beds and other furniture weighing 50 lbs or more when it was out of place. Given my current heart disease and resultant bi-pass surgery, my doctor has advised me to lift no more than 5 to 10 lbs occasionally and says I should not return to this job."

You will note only a brief mention of the actual medical condition in the above description. Why? Because claims examiners only register your functional limitations, as your medical records will prove or disprove the rest.

3. You should periodically check the status of your disability claim. To do this you should contact your state Disability Determination Service or Disability Adjudication Services office approximately 30 days after they receive your claim. At that point, try to find out if all your medical records have been received by the examiner, and offer to assist in getting them if they have not. Other times to check the status of your claim are included in a great online article. (Please see below).

4. If your medical condition is a severe one, ask your claims examiner if you might qualify for expedited benefits while you await a decision on your claim. SSA offers a "Presumptive Disability" (PD) program available to claimants who apply for SSI or a combination of SSI and SSDI. Singular Social Security Disability Insurance claims are not eligible. To get these expedited benefit payments, your examiner must feel strongly, in advance, that your claim will be approved once all your medical information has been gathered. Even if your claim is later denied after all your medical records are received, you will not have to repay any monies your received under the PD program. Benefits are payable for up to 6 months while your disability claim is being processed.

5. Since medical records are the heart of your disability claim, you should do all that you can to ensure your claims examiner gets most if not all, of the records you have out there. This is true for all claims, but especially true for claimants alleging a mental disability where historical records might be crucial to proving your claim. Disability examiners -- and the medical consultants who they collaborate with - in issuing a decision on your claim require current medical records to establish any current functional limitations you might have. They also need a good description of all the jobs you have held in the past 15 years or so. Because their ultimate decision on your claim is whether you can or can not return to any past work or can adapt to any other type work, you should be very thorough in completing the questions on the work history form which you are asked to complete.

6. Try to determine if your medical condition is one that SSA will consider a severe impairment. This can be hard to do since you obviously think your medical condition keeps you from working or you would not have applied for disability or be thinking about applying. Still, some conditions may be severe but they may be expected to "resolve to non-severe" within a year's time. For instance, if you break an arm, or a leg, while it is true that you may not be able to do your job now with such a condition, it should not take you a year to heal, and therefore your claim will be denied. For those who have a medical background, you might try locating your particular condition in the online SSA Blue Book (www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook). The language is extremely technical, but it does list what things need to be present with your medical condition if you are to "meet a listing" to qualify for disability benefits. When you have an idea as to how SSA is viewing your impairment, it could cut down on the amount of anxiety you have regarding your upcoming claims decision.

7. Sometimes, while claimants await a decision on their disability application, money becomes an issue. They run low or run out, so they begin to think about whether they are allowed to work part or full time while they await a decision. Sort of like a trial work period. You should check with your claims examiner to find out what happens to your claim application if you start to work. The answer might shock you!

8. So you have received your "Notice of Decision" letter from SSA. You are approved. "YES!" You are denied. "Oh, no!" Whether you are approved or denied, you need to look for clues in the letter to determine how to proceed with your claim. For example, if you are approved, did SSA approve you from the date you claim your disability started, or have they set your disability start date at another date? If they have, did your approval letter include an explanation as to why? It should. And if you are denied, is it because they say you can do other work, or have they stated that you can go back to your same job? If it is determined that you can no longer do your present line of work, did you know that this is a much more favorable position to be in when you file for a reconsideration or appeal of your denial than if the letter says you can go back to your old job.

9. Finally, what do you do in the event that your claim is denied? After you have read all the clues in the denial letter, where do you turn for help if you decide to appeal? While you are deciding what to do, go ahead and request an appeal so that you do not run out of time. You can always change your mind later and withdraw your request for an appeal. The difference, financially, between filing a new application and filing an application for an appear or reconsideration of your denied claim, can literally mean thousands and thousands of more dollars in your pocket if your claim is subsequently approved. Always file your request for appeal timely to avoid potentially losing out on that $$$. You can even hire an attorney who will accept your claim at a discounted fee rate (in any state); you just need to know where to look :)-

Applying for and getting Social Security Disability or SSI when you can no longer work can be a laborious task, to say the least, but once gotten it can enable you to take care of yourself and your family and allow you to focus on other more immediate things, like figuring out the best way to deal with your debilitating impairment. Following the above nine steps will help you better manage your disability claim and might even assist you in getting approved for disability benefits that are rightfully due you.

Here's the link describing when and how to check your claim status:

Checking the Status of Your Disability Claim

Good luck with your claim.


About the Author: Loretta Crosby served as a Social Security Disability Claims Examiner for several years in two southeastern states. She was certified as a "Single Decision Maker" at the Disability Determination Services office, allowing her to decide certain physical disability claims without the input of a medical consultant. Crosby is the editor of Claims ESP, a monthly newsletter attached to her popular site, Social-Security-Disability-ESP.com (Examiner Speaks Plainly). For a more in depth look at the 9 steps to getting disability book, visit http://book.9steps2disability.com/

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