Receiving disability benefits can be life-changing for many Americans living with severe disorders. Unfortunately, applying for disability benefits can be a struggle. What do you do? How do you know what to prepare? And how do you even know if you qualify in the first place?
Below, we will go over the basics regarding disability qualification and what you can do to make the application process as painless as possible.
Using the Blue Book
When looking for a disability qualification, few resources are more important than the Social Security Blue Book. This “book” (which can be found online on the SSA’s website) gives detailed descriptions of every disorder that qualifies for benefits. To see if your condition qualifies, this is the best place to start.
Navigating Blue Book listings
Listings are broken up into 14 different sections, each corresponding to different categories of bodily disorders. Each of these sections contains various listings for specific disorders, as well as the requirements of each to get benefits. For instance, let’s look at how you would check the requirements for kidney disease.
Kidney disease falls under Section 6.00 of the Blue Book: “Genitourinary Disorders.” If we look here, we see that subsections 6.03, 6.04, and 6.05 deal with various forms of kidney disease. If you are looking to apply after going on dialysis, then section 6.03 states you can qualify for benefits by providing evidence of this.
Those who have had a kidney transplant qualify for one year after their surgery under section 6.04. All others with kidney disease can refer to section 6.05, where various test results are outlined for you to determine if you qualify.
Speaking with your physician
While the Blue Book is very helpful, it can also be confusing to those who are unfamiliar with certain tests or medical terms. In this case, it is a good idea to speak with your physician to determine how your diagnosis compares to its Blue Book entry.
If your disorder is not represented in the Blue Book, this does not mean you don’t qualify — speak with your physician to see if your symptoms may qualify you under a separate similar listing, or if your disorder may be severe enough to qualify as an exception.
Preparing for the Application
If you believe your disorder qualifies you for benefits, then start preparing for the application. Compile all of your medical history and paperwork so you can see what you do and don’t have for your application. It's often better to prepare more evidence than less to give the SSA the best understanding of your condition.
This means you’ll need MRIs, CT scans, medical tests, general check-up history, therapist evaluations, boss or coworker testimonies, or any other evidence that gives an idea of your disorder’s severity. Financial paperwork, tax history, and other logistic information must also be included, so have that ready as well.
When you feel comfortable starting the application, you can begin on the SSA’s website or in person at your local Social Security office.
Considering a Disability Attorney
Disability applications can be overwhelming, especially when coping with your severe disorder through the process. While there are many resources available to help, a great one to consider is a disability attorney. They can keep paperwork in order, stay in contact with the SSA, and potentially get your application seen faster.
Should you need to go to a hearing later on, they can be especially helpful when presenting your case in court. And, perhaps the best news of all: attorneys are required by federal law to only take payment if they succeed in getting you benefits.
Before starting your application, think about scheduling a free consultation with a disability attorney near you.