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This page is a simple guide to winning your Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) benefits. This is a quick summary of the most important things you can do to win your SSDI or
SSI claim. This page is not a substitute for doing further research on Social Security Disability or SSI but I will
attempt to give you some solid advice while pursuing disability. I will not discuss the law or get into procedure on
this page but rather I will give five tips on things you can do to help your disability case.
TIP to help give yourself your best chance of winning is to make sure you submit ALL relevant medical records to
your attorney or Social Security. Relevant medical records are those that pertain to your illness or injury from one
year prior to the date you became disabled up through the present This includes all tests performed such as MRIs, X-Rays,
blood work, EMGs etc.. Your records should include your doctor's treatment notes, any emergency room visits and hospital
admissions. If you have a doctor, who believes you are disabled, try to get him or her to give you a detailed written
report of your condition and how it affects you. This can be extremely persuasive in helping you win your Social Security
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) forms
, also called Ability to do Work Related Activity forms, can be the difference between winning and losing your SSDI or
SSI claim. You can obtain this form from Social Security or your attorney. My firm has specific RFCs
for particular ailments. Contact us via e-mail me
about your disability and I will send you the appropriate RFC. Physical RFCs should go to the doctor treating
you for your physical problems and Mental RFC's should go to you psychiatrist.
The SECOND TIP to
help increase your chance of winning is to get yourself a journal. Take some time to yourself and write down how
your condition limits you on a daily basis. Have this journal available to you at all times so that if you
experience a difficulty during the day you can make a note of it. Begin this journal BEFORE you apply for Social Security Disability or SSI
benefits. If you are reading this after you already applied, then start now.
Now that you have
this journal, it is time to fill it. You want to include how your disability keeps you from performing your past
work. Make sure to note things like side effects from your medication, how your disability affects your sleeping
patterns, the amount of pain you have doing certain things or even at rest. Think about other activities and how they
are limited or perhaps you are unable to do certain things at all. How does your disability or medication side
effects affect driving, shopping, seeing family, taking care of family, walking, standing, sitting, remembering appointments,
cooking, dealing with stressful situations, dealing with other people etc. Think about things you used to be able
to do and can no longer do and jot those down. Perhaps there are things you can do but only for limited periods of time
due to fatigue or pain. This includes difficulty using your hands, concentration problems, inability to sit long,
memory problems, constant pain, etc. Please, keep in mind these are examples. Do not use these examples in your
journal if you are not experiencing these issues. You want your journal to be personal and specific. So, you want
to write down your issues, concerns, problems, limitations, and pain.
Because many claims will be decided
on whether you can do a sit down (sedentary) job or not (especially for those under 50 years old,) think about
and write down why you could not even do a sit down job (sedentary jobs are sit down jobs where you do not have to lift
greater than 10 pounds.) Sedentary Jobs are explained more in the GRID Rules
section of this site.
After you write and maintain this journal, show it to your attorney.
The THIRD TIP to help increase your chances of winning is to continue to get medical
treatment and take your prescribed medication(s). Many claims are denied because claimants stop seeing their doctors
or stop taking their medication. Social Security, when making a disability determination, will frequently make the wrongful
assumption because you are not getting treatment and/or you're not taking your prescribed medication that your condition must
not be that bad. The rules state that Social Security must consider why an individual is not following a
prescribed treatment or medication regime. However, my experiences have shown that lack of treatment or failure
to take your medication only hurts your chances of winning Social Security Disability or SSI benefits.
reasons that many people don't take their medication vary. Often times it is simply financial. It makes sense,
if you cannot work because of your disability, then you cannot afford to continue to get treatments or medications. However,
as you know, it is extremely important for both your condition as well as your claim that you get regular treatment.
Do the best you can to get treatment, there are numerous programs that you can get help from such as medicaid and
charity care, if you qualify.
When you do see your doctors, make sure you tell them that you are
pursuing Social Security benefits. Be sure not to go overboard. When I am reviewing medical records
in a Social Security disability claim, there are few things more disheartening than seeing (in a doctors treatment
notes) that the patient is obsessed about getting disability. Finally, when you do see your doctor make sure
that you tell your doctor your problems and how they are affecting you.
The FORTH TIP to
help improve your chances of winning your claim is to ensure that Social Security has as many of your records as possible
before you go for a Consultative Exam (CE). Chances are Social Security will send you for a Consultative Exam (CE)
or two. Before you go, make sure Social Security has as many of your records as possible before your exam date.
If you just got some of your records or you recently sent them in to Social Security bring them with you to the exam
to ensure they have them and give them to the CE doctor.
The FIFTH TIP is for the consultative
exam. Tell the CE doctor all of your medical conditions. If it is a CE for physical problems he will perform a
physical exam. Keep in mind he or she is observing you the whole time you are there. If it is a CE for a
mental condition you can expect to be asked a series of questions and he or she will be observing everything from how
you answer the questions, your mood, your demeanor, and your appearance such as how you are dressed, are you showered,
is your hair done, are your nails painted etc. When answering the questions keep in mind that these doctors have seen
hundreds if not thousands of claimants trying to get disability benefits don't try and fool them by purposely giving
ridiculous answers. If you do, chances are that the doctor will note it in his report that your answers were contrived.
Not only is this dishonest but this could be fatal to a disability claim.
Another piece of advice on how to win
Social Security Disability or SSI is to remember if you don't meet a listing and you are under 50 years old or you are 50
years old or older but had past relevant work that is considered sedentary your non-exertional limitations become even more
important. You will have to show that you can't even do a significant number of sedentary
jobs. Some important examples of limitations to show this are: an inability to sit for long, any mental limitations
(difficulty with concentration, memory, dealing with people, etc.), limitations in reaching and use of hands and inability
to stoop. Saying you have these limitations is not enough it must be supported by the medical evidence. RFC from
your treating doctors can help here.The most important thing to remember
is that medical
evidence including Residual Functional Capacity Forms (RFC forms) also called Ability to Do Work Related Activity Forms
is the key to winning Social Security Disability or SSI. It is the responsibility of the person trying
to get disability to show that he or she has an impairment and how severe that impairment is. The Social Security
Administration will help in getting evidence but don't leave it up to them. Your medical evidence should come from
"acceptable medical sources". Acceptable medical sources include licensed physicians (medical or osteopathic
doctors), licensed or certified psychologist, licensed optometrist, licensed podiatrist, and qualified speech language pathologists.
Additional evidence not from an acceptable medical source such as a Chiropractor will be considered, but it is given
considerably less weight. In other words, if for example, you have a back problem. If you are seeing a chiropractor,
make sure you are also seeing a medical doctor and preferably an orthopedist. Both will be considered, however, the
orthopedist will be given considerable more weight than the chiropractor. Social Security will also want hospital, clinic
and other health facility records. Your most important medical evidence will come from your treating sources. If
you want to win your disability benefits make sure you have evidence from your treating sources. Social Security places
special emphasis on evidence from treating sources. A well written report detailing your condition and treatment along
with your treating sources treatment notes and an RFC from him or her will go a long way to improving your chances of winning
your Social Security Disability or SSI benefits.
If you want to win your disability benefits continue to read
this site and Social Security's website and become as knowledgeable as possible about winning Social Security Disability benefits.