With the clock ticking towards six months since you applied for Social Security disability benefits for a musculoskeletal condition like rheumatoid arthritis, you wonder if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will ever get to your claim.
The prolonged approval process can generate a considerable amount of stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to the second guessing game of “Did I send the SSA enough pertinent evidence.”
The application process itself is full of potential potholes that can lead to mistakes the SSA does not view favorably. Just one wrong digit in the Social Security number section can send your disability application to the “Denied” pile of applications.
You can also receive a denied application because you have not been sick or injured for the SSA required 12 consecutive months period. By working with a Social Security lawyer, you should be able to prevent mistakes from turning a valid disability application into an application the SSA denies.
Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are disorders that affect the bones, muscles, and joints. Conditions such as carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, or various forms of arthritis are all disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system.
While some people are capable of finding positive treatment for their disorders, others experience severe symptoms that affect their ability to work or live independently.
If your MSD keeps you from living your normal daily life, then Social Security disability benefits may be able to help.
Continue below to learn the three best tips for qualifying for disability benefits with an MSD.
Tip #1: Receive (or redo) tests to determine the nature of your MSD.
There are many disorders in the United States classified as MSDs. To better gauge how you will qualify for benefits, it is important to understand the specifics of your MSD through medical tests.
Depending on your condition, different tests may be more beneficial when demonstrating your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
For example, if you have osteoarthritis, you should look into receiving (or renewing) MRIs, CT scans, and muscle tests of the affected bones and joints. Because most severe cases of osteoarthritis also affect the spine, scans of this area are important even if you are unsure if your condition has spread here.
In essence: speak with your doctor about your particular diagnosis, receive updated tests, and provide every piece of evidence you can to demonstrate your case to the SSA.
Tip #2: Refer to the SSA Blue Book
When you purchase a car, an operating manual comes with the car to help you keep the vehicle in pristine condition. For musculoskeletal disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, the SSA has created what is called the Blue Book to list the symptoms associated with the potentially debilitating medical ailment.Officially called the “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” the Blue Book should be used by your Social Security attorney to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.
You should access the online version of the Blue Book because the digital version receives real time updates that ensures you comply with new diagnostic guidelines.
The hard copy version represents a solid starting point to help you understand what the SSA wants to see in terms of a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Any Social Security disability application that is submitted without referring to the SSA Blue Book most likely will end up in the agency’s application rejection folder.
Tip #3: Mistake-Free Disability Application
You did not need to score 100 to receive an A on a test in high school or college, but you definitely need to make your Social Security disability application perfect to receive approval from the SSA.
Even the most minor mistakes can turn a convincing application into one that carries little credibility. Make sure to submit the right Social Security number, as it is the gateway the SSA uses to access all your information.
Although medical documentation is the most important evidence you need to receive approval for a Social Security disability application, you also need to send the agency documents that demonstrate your earning power before you began suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Attach your W2 forms for the previous two years that preceded the diagnosis, as well as the W2 form for the year that you lost wages because of a reduction in work hours. You should also submit copies of your federal income tax forms to confirm your claim of lost wages.
Tip #4: Gather testimonies from physicians, prior bosses, or friends and family.
Aside from medical test results, the SSA also values others’ perspectives on your ability to work and function with your disorder. These can be from anyone in your life who has experience with you and your condition, be it a physician, therapist, coworker, old boss, close friend, or family member.
Testimonies provide a valuable insight into your personal life and functional ability in ways that medical results often can’t.
In general, the more information you provide on your application (medical history, testimonies, etc.) the more likely you are to receive benefits.
Tip #5: Continue to update the SSA on any changes in your condition.
Due to the sheer number of applicants every year, the disability benefits approval process can be lengthy. In the months during which your application is being reviewed, it is common for applicants to experience changes in their symptoms, especially those with flare-up disorders like MSDs.
Some believe that these changes are too late to include after their application has already been submitted — however, the SSA actually encourages applicants to send updates as new symptoms arise.
The more up-to-date the SSA is on your case, the more likely they are to understand the entirety of your case and award you benefits.
Contacting an Attorney
The Social Security application process can be tedious for anyone, especially when it is so vital to include a variety of information in just the right format to qualify. If you are considering applying for benefits, try scheduling a free appointment with a disability attorney first.
Their legal experience can turn the application process into a much more manageable feat — and, thanks to federal regulation, they are required to only take payment for their services if you win your case. To give you the best chance at receiving benefits for your MSD, consider speaking with an attorney today.