Thursday, January 22, 2015

10 Tips for Winning a Social Security Disability Claim

1) See more than one doctor for treatment on a regular basis. While SSA takes your input into account, they really want to see evidence from more than one medical expert. One doctor saying you are too ill to work is helpful, but evidence from more than one doctor will help your claim gain much more credibility. Many claimants are not able to afford health care, or can only receive low-quality, low-income care. This suggestion may be difficult for many to execute, but it can help a lot.

2) Always follow-up. If you send documents to SSA or attorney, call them a few days later to make sure they got it. Call your local SSA office (not more than once every other week) to check the status of your claim. Don't just leave it up to your attorney's office, because you're able to be as involved in your claim as you want to be. The more involved you are, the better your shot at winning.

3) If your doctors cooperate, give them RFCs to fill out. These forms will give your doctor the chance to officially state his/her opinion on your conditions and how they limit your ability to work. This can be REALLY helpful, especially if you go to a hearing. Ask your attorney about these.

4) Anytime your contact info changes, call both your attorney and your local SSA field office to update that information immediately. Address and phone number changes cause a lot of trouble when offices try to contact clients and can't reach them. Missing mail or phone calls could mean you miss something important for your claim, such as a denial, a request for forms, or needed information.

5) Follow through on your treatment plan and stay away from illegal substances/abuse of substances. If your doctor notes that you haven't been taking your meds or following his/her instructions, you will likely be denied for "non-compliance" of treatment. Also, if SSA finds out about illegal substance use, that will probably hurt your chances of winning.

6) Immediately after going to a doctor's appointment, call your attorney and SSA to report your appointment. This ensures that your claim doesn't get decided without considering certain medical records. Basically, if you don't report your appointments, neither your attorney nor SSA will have any clue that they need to get records. If you're representing yourself, order medical records after your appointments and send them to SSA.

7) Keep track of your medical information. Keep a folder with business cards, discharge papers, and any other paperwork that will allow you to keep track of detailed hospital and doctor contact information, appointment dates, medication changes, and any other info related to your treatment. When you're speaking with your attorney or SSA, if they ask you for information about your appointments, you will be prepared. Saying, "I gave that to you already!" or just not knowing the info and not telling them will NOT help your chances of winning. You will probably have to repeat some info many times; please be patient.

8) Keep mail from SSA in a separate folder. Don't throw away mail from SSA! Records and dates are important, and at some point you'll want to know when SSA sent you a particular letter and on what date. They'll be sending you denials, explanations, forms, decision letters, and other important information. All of these are important to keep close at hand for when you need to refer to them. Many claimants are careless with these papers, throw them away, or will even store important mail in their storage units... this isn't helpful or smart.

9) Complete all forms from SSA with detail. Do not leave any blanks. Some of the forms have some weird questions--if you have trouble understanding them, ask your attorney. Don't expect your attorney to fill out your paperwork for you--their job is to check it over and make sure you didn't write any answers that will hurt your chances of winning. It's not their job to answer everything for you (the claimant should know their situation better than anyone else, unless they don't have the mental capacity to comprehend). If you have a difficult time reading and writing, get a family member or friend to help you.

10) Communicate with your attorney. Understand that they provide services to lots of people just like you. If you don't hear from them, call them about once a month to check status and update your information (call them after every appointment, though). Take control of your claim; understand that working with your attorney to make sure SSA has everything they need is about all you can do. At the end of the day, your claim is in SSA's hands -- and they take a long time! Unless you are truly in a worse situation than most other claimants, SSA is not going to hurry on your claim. Please be patient. Work with your attorney and SSA, not against them.

Want more tips and inside info about disability claims? Visit for the disability blog series, which explains the process, popular misconceptions, and tips for winning. Get the posts e-mailed to your inbox by signing up here:
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