Social Security Disability Application: Managing a Mountain of Paperwork

July 15,2008
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While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can provide crucial assistance to persons who are unable to work due to disability, the process of obtaining benefits can be long, complicated and aggravating. In fact we have found that many people give up without even completing their application when they realize what is needed. Representation at this critical point can help many people win claims that they might not even file if left on their own!
Some of the information required to process a claim is simple: background facts like date and place of birth and Social Security number; bank account and routing number (for direct deposit); the name and address of current and recent employers; and the amount of money that the claimant earned in the current and previous year. But even this information may be difficult for people to obtain, or to focus upon, depending on their medical conditions.
Additionally, the SSA may request specific documents, including an original birth certificate or other proof of birth, original citizenship or naturalization papers, U.S. military service paper(s) (if applicable) and tax returns.
Even more important to a claim is the medical information and documentation that directly proves that the claimant is entitled to benefits. These include medical records, doctors’ reports and recent test results as well as other detailed information about the claimant’s illnesses, injuries or conditions and work history which may need to be obtained from medical providers or other third parties.
The problem is that most claimants do not have these records and Social Security’s attempts to obtain them are limited. An attorney’s office that handles a significant amount of Social Security Disability claims will be set up to obtain records for their clients.
The claimant also must complete various forms related to his or her medical conditions, such as a Disability Report, Work History and a Daily Activity Questionnaire.
While a person seeking SSDI benefits may submit an application or claim by telephone, mail or online without assistance, claimants should be aware that the initial application is the most difficult and confusing part of the process and the point at which a good Social Security disability attorney’s help can be invaluable. An experienced lawyer knows what information must be included in the initial application. An excellent lawyer will not only guide his or her client through the process but also file the application for the client.
Furthermore, after submitting an application, the a claimant should not simply sit back and wait to be approved. The SSA may request additional information from the claimant’s physicians and other treatment providers and it is crucial to contact treating sources and make sure not only that they provide the requested records and opinions, but that those records or opinions are presented in such a way as to lead the SSA to the logical conclusion that a claimant is disabled.

Attorneys experienced in handling Social Security Disability claims know what the doctors need to focus on when providing their opinions and know how best to present that information to the SSA decision maker. If a hearing is necessary, attorneys who have received advocacy training are much more likely to persuade judges who might be on the fence over how to interpret certain evidence in the claims record.