Initial Claim for Social Security Disability

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a complex and overwhelming endeavor. Many people do not know where to begin or what will be needed in order to apply for disability benefits. The following information will describe the initial Social Security Disability claim process and what will be expected of you.

Your Chances of Success

The first thing you need to understand when filing your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits is that nearly 70 percent of disability claims are denied by the Social Security Administration during the initial claim process. If you want to increase your chances of being among the 30 percent of applicants whose claims are approved, there are some details that you will need to pay attention to and steps that you will need to take.

Discuss Your Plan with Your Doctor

First and foremost, be sure to discuss your intention to file for Social Security Disability benefits with your primary treating physician. Your doctor's help can go a long way in helping you obtain disability benefits. If, for some reason, your doctor is opposed to you filing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle. This is largely due to the fact that the SSA will be contacting your doctor for information and written statements regarding how your disability interferes with your ability to perform gainful work activity.

Gathering Sufficient Medical Evidence

The medical evidence that you submit along with your claim for Social Security Disability benefits can either make or break your initial disability claim. If your doctor is supportive of your decision to apply for disability benefits, he or she can help you gather the medical evidence that will be needed to bolster your claim.

It is very important that you have a complete copy of your medical records ready when preparing your Social Security Disability claim. This will include your treatment history, lab records and written statements from your treating physician. All of these documents will carry weight in an adjudicator's decision regarding whether or not to approve a Social Security Disability claim.

Applying for Benefits

Once you have your medical evidence in order, it is time to begin your disability application. There are a number of ways in which you can begin the initial application process for Social Security Disability benefits. You can either begin the claim process online, over the phone or at your local Social Security Office. All methods of application are equally effective and will not increase or decrease your chances of a successful outcome.

Completing the Initial Disability Claim Forms

When filling out your disability application, make sure that you answer all of the questions presented on the forms with detailed and in-depth answers. The goal in answering these questions is to help the adjudicator who is reviewing your file understand how your disability prevents you from performing any type of work activity. Simple “yes” or “no” answers will not suffice and will likely result in your claim being denied. Provide as much detail as possible when answering any question presented by the Social Security Administration.

Attending a Consultative Medical Exam

At some point during the initial disability claim process, you may be asked to attend a consultative medical exam that will be performed by an independent physician. This often happens when there is question as to the exact extent of your disability and how it does or does not interfere with your ability to perform substantial gainful work activity.

If you hope to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you must cooperate and attend this consultative exam. It is important to note, however, that written statements from the physicians who have been treating you in the long-term are usually given more weight during the initial claim process than the results obtained during an applicant's consultative exam.

Expected Response Times

From start to finish, it will take somewhere between three to six months before you receive a decision regarding your application for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are denied benefits by the Social Security Administration, you have 60 days to appeal the decision and further pursue your disability claim. It is in your best interest to retain the services of a qualified disability attorney or advocate if an appeal will be needed.

Additonal Resources

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