DIY Social Security Disability
Every year thousands of applications for Social Security Disability are filed and many of those applications don’t need the assistance of an attorney or a representative in order to be successful. However, several things must be considered when setting out to handle your own Social Security Disability case.
When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability?
You should consider applying when your physical and or mental conditions significantly impact your ability to engage in normal activities of daily living and this has lasted for a full year. The full year here is important, because if you are applying for either Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income the condition must last at least one year or you don’t qualify for benefits. However, if your medical records support that the condition will last at least 12 months, you may still be entitled to benefits even if the condition hasn’t yet lasted at least one year.
What if I am Still Working?
Working will be considered as evidence that you are not disabled. So in general, if you are working, you will not be considered disabled. However, if you are working and earning less than a specific monthly amount, known as Substantial Gainful Activity, than that work may not count against you and you could still receive benefits. In 2016, the earnings for Substantial Gainful Activity are a gross monthly income of $1,130. By gross income, we are looking for the total amount you earned before taxes or anything else is taken out of your check. Keep in mind, if you are earning more than the level of Substantial Gainful Activity, you will not be eligible for benefits.
Where Do I go to Apply?
You can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. When you start the application online you can save your progress and return to the application as time permits, but please keep in mind that your application needs to be as completely filled out with as much detail as possible to have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
When I Apply, What Will I Need?
During the application process you will need the following: Your date and place of birth, as well as your social security number. You will also need the name, social security number, and date of birth of your current and any former spouses. Have the dates of marriage and dates of divorce or death of any former spouses as well. The names and dates of birth of any of your minor children will be required. Also, you will need your bank’s Routing Transit Number and your account number where you want your benefits electronically deposited.
You’re not done yet, you will also need the name, address, and phone number of someone who knows about your medical conditions and can assist with your application. At this point in the process having detail about your medical conditions is important too. So have a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers of your doctors. As well as your patient ID number and the dates of treatment. Be sure to include any medicines you have been prescribed and which doctor prescribed them to you and the dates of any medical tests you have been sent for like an MRI or other diagnostic screening.
Almost there! You will also need information about the work you have performed over the last 15 years. Have a list of your employers this year and last and how much you earned. If you served in the military, have your dates of service available. Also, be able to list up to 5 jobs you have had over the last 15 years. If you received workers’ compensation benefits during this period or you plan to apply for these benefits you will need to include that also.
Will I Have to Submit Any Documents?
You may be asked to provide a birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship, discharge papers from the military, some tax records, and any Workers’ Compensation awards. Another very important series of documents will be critical at this state as well, your medical records. Be sure to include all medical records including test results, MRI reports, doctor notes or dictation.
Ok! I Submitted My Application, What’s Next?
After your application is submitted, you will receive notice that it has been received either electronically or via mail. Your application will be reviewed and if more information is needed, you will be contacted. Then a decision will be mailed out to you. Generally, you can expect a decision on your application in approximately 30 to 90 days.
Wait A Minute! My Application Was Denied, What Do I Do Now?
If your application was denied, don’t get discouraged and give up. Perhaps as many as 60% or more of all initial applications are denied. There can be many reasons why your application was denied, maybe the medical evidence you submitted wasn’t given appropriate consideration or perhaps some evidence wasn’t properly submitted. No matter what the case, you have 60 days to after you receive your initial denial to request reconsideration of your claim.
After Initial Denial Should I Get a Lawyer?
Up to this point in the process, it is completely reasonable to handle your own application and of course you can continue to represent yourself through the reconsideration process and ultimately the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. However, for many applicants, getting an experience Social Security Lawyer involved at this point makes sense. As you move forward following the initial denial, you don’t have another chance and will need to make sure that all the evidence you need to submit has been submitted properly. Also, an experienced Social Security Lawyer will meet with you in person at your initial consultation to review the best path forward for a successful hearing, which may include a follow up with your treating doctors. A few weeks before your hearing, an experienced Social Security Lawyer will meet with you again to get you ready to testify at your hearing as the best evidence will be your testimony.