If you have become disabled and are unable to work, Social Security Disability may be an option for you. Unfortunately, obtaining benefits is an arduous process. In fact, about two-thirds of applicants are denied benefits when they first apply, often because of a lack of medical evidence.
An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you navigate the process and improve your chances of approval right from the start.
We put together this resource guide because we know you have questions right now. We update the guide frequently with new content, so visit our site again if you have more questions. And as always, feel free to contact us for a free consultation, where we can talk about the specifics of your case.
This post includes:
- Getting Started on Your Application
- Determining Eligibility for Social Security Disability
- Required Documentation for Your Application
- Reasons for Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Other Social Security Administration Links
- What if My Application is Denied?
Getting Started on Your Application
You should see a disability lawyer as soon as you become disabled. Your attorney can guide you through the application process. You can apply in several ways:
- Online, through the SSA website
- By phone at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 if you are deaf or hard of hearing
- In person at your local SSA office. [Find your SSA office.]
Ask your disability attorney what application method is the best in your case and when to apply. You aren’t required to hire an attorney, but we recommend consulting a lawyer before you submit the application. Here’s why: Your application and supporting documents will become the heart of your disability case. Even small mistakes or oversights on the initial application can cause you problems all along the way. In addition, there may be information in your application that needs further explanation, even if the SSA doesn’t explicitly ask for it.
Determining Eligibility for Social Security Disability
To decide whether you qualify for benefits, the Social Security Administration considers five key questions:
- Are you working?
- Is your condition “severe”?
- Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?
- Can you do the work you did previously?
- Can you do any other type of work?
The SSA evaluates this evidence carefully. But most people don’t know how to apply for Social Security Disability. If your application is inaccurate or incomplete, it will be denied. The frustrating part is that even if your application appears to you to be accurate and complete, you could be missing key details and expertise that would improve your chances of success.
Required Documentation for Your Application
A complete application requires a host of information from various sources. Gathering the documentation and organizing it properly is one of the most difficult parts of the process. It’s one of the ways a social security disability attorney can help.
You’ll be required to submit several documents, including:
- A 15-year work history. This includes employers, dates of employment, job responsibilities and more.
- Your medical records that pertain to the illness or injury that caused your disability. A complete medical record, including your diagnosis, treatment plans and descriptions of any limitations your healthcare provider recommends is absolutely critical.
- Your birth certificate or other proof of birth
- Proof of United States citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
- United States military discharge paper(s) if you had military service prior to 1968
- W-2 forms(s) and/or tax returns for the previous year
- Evidence of any temporary or permanent benefits you’ve received since you became disabled
What If My Application is Denied?
A full two-thirds of initial applications for Social Security Disability are denied, which means your chances are pretty good of getting a “No” the first time out. No worries. There’s a four-level appeal process that allows you an opportunity to make your case again. The tiers of the appeal process are:
- Administrative Law Judge
- Appeals Council
- Federal District Court
Reasons for Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
Of the millions of Social Security Disability applications that individuals submit each year, the SSA approves only about one-third. The reasons for denial vary, but here are the reasons we see the most:
- Lack of medical evidence
- You’re earning too much income
- Your disability isn’t severe enough or won’t last long enough
- You fail to follow prescribed treatment from your healthcare provider.
- You refuse to cooperate with the SSA, or they can’t get in touch with you.
- Your disability is exacerbated by your drug or alcohol use.
Hiring a Social Security Disability Attorney
While you are not required to hire a Social Security Disability attorney when you apply for benefits, doing so before you apply will increase the likelihood that your application will be accepted. However, many people are reluctant to contact an attorney because they think they won’t be able to pay for legal representation. After all, they’re already facing a loss of income, so legal fees are probably not in the budget.
Fortunately, most Social Security Disability attorneys do not charge upfront fees. They only get paid if you win. And when they are paid, fees are set by the SSA. So concerns about paying the legal bill shouldn’t keep you from hiring a lawyer.
Other Social Security Administration Links
- Information You Need to Apply for Disability Benefits
- Adult Disability Starter Kit
- Disability Planner
- Faces and Facts of Disability
- Social Security Disability Claims Process Video Series
- More Publications
If you’re disabled and need Social Security Disability benefits, you already have enough on your mind. Let us help you through the claims process. Call Joyce & Bary Law or complete the form below to schedule your free consultation.