Are you unable to work due to an illness or injury that causes you significant mental or physical impairment? If so, you should consider filing for Social Security disability. But, you may wonder, what’s the first step you need to take to apply for disability? We have the answers.
First Things First
If you feel you likely qualify medically for disability benefits, then you’ll want to apply for benefits. But, applying for benefits really involves more than just the application process.
If you can arm yourself with knowledge and the information you’ll need that will lead to a successful approval, that’s a great first step!
Ideally, your first step should involve a conversation with your physician about applying for disability. If you can get any medical documentation concerning your disability beforehand, this can get you the medical evidence you’ll need.
Ask your doctor if he/she can provide a written statement about your medical condition and their opinion of the depth of your disability. A good statement will offer an example of the type of work you shouldn’t or can’t perform.
For example, if your previous work required that you stand for long periods of time, and your condition now prevents you from doing so, a statement from your doctor can help. If you have more than one doctor managing your health, gathering statements from each doctor can greatly increase your odds of being approved.
You’ll also want to gather all of your medical records including any hospitalizations, procedures, and tests that are relevant to the condition that is causing your disability.
What’s the Next Step?
The next step is actually applying for disability. You can do this by making an appointment at your local Social Security office. Alternatively, you can also apply by phone or online.
If you apply in person or by phone, your disability interview will likely occur at that time. This is when they will ask you for the information you should have gathered from your doctor. If your doctor didn’t release some items directly to you, you can sign medical release forms to get the required documentation released to the SSA.
When applying, remember two things: Complete each question and never leave a question blank; be thorough but concise in your explanations and avoid “yes” or “no” answers unless it specifically asks for it.
In any case, the more information and documentation you have when you apply, the better the chances of approval are for your application. Once you’ve applied and had your disability interview, your application will be reviewed for approval.
How Long Will it Take?
The SSA can take three to six months to determine if you meet their disability qualifications. At that time, they will notify you on whether you’ve been approved or if your application has been rejected.
If your application is rejected, don’t lose hope. Many, if not most, disability applications are denied the first time. However, once an application is denied, you have a short window of time to file an appeal. You should consider hiring a lawyer who is experienced with disability claims.
In fact, you may want to contact one early in the process to help improve your odds of a quick approval. A lawyer is well versed with some of the most common causes of initial rejections and can help you take a proactive approach to filing for disability.