Fighting for disability benefits isn't always easy. The process is time-consuming and requires gathering and presenting medical evidence in such a way that clearly shows the claims examiner why you need disability payments. While certain steps you take – or don't take – can keep you from getting disability benefits, there are things you can do to improve your chances of winning your disability case.
Tip #1: Hire an attorney. A disability attorney can help you navigate a complex and often confusing SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) claims process. The Social Security Administration's (SSA) rules for filing a disability claim are strict and require that you fill out lots of paperwork and meet filing deadlines. Submitting an incomplete form or even making a simple mistake on a form can be enough for SSA to deny your disability claim. But a Social Security disability attorney knows how to prepare and file the necessary forms and supporting documentation as well as follow the required laws and regulations.
If you're worried about not having the money to pay an attorney, usually, an SSDI attorney only gets paid if he or she succeeds in getting you disability benefits. Since Social Security disability law regulates how much an attorney can charge you for services, the fee may not be for more than 25 percent of the disability back pay benefits you receive. If you win your case and are entitled to back benefits, the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly.
Tip #2: Avoid relying 100 percent on your doctor's opinion. While your doctor's opinion can weigh heavily on SSA's decision whether to give you disability benefits, you must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disability. Typically, the way to do this is to meet the requirements of one of the medical conditions stated in SSA's listing of impairments. If your doctor believes you are disabled, he or she can help you win your case by supporting that opinion with medical evidence, particularly evidence that points to a medical condition on the impairment listing.
By providing accurate information that shows you meet the requirements of one of the medical conditions on SSA's listing of impairments, you automatically will be approved for disability regardless of your age. But if your medical condition – no matter how severe – does not meet the criteria of one of the health conditions or illnesses on SSA's listing, it can be more difficult to win your claim, especially if you are younger than age 50.
Tip #3: Don't give up if your initial claim is denied. An average of 53 percent of disability claims are denied – with more than 70 percent of SSDI claims denied at the initial stage. Therefore, if SSA denies your claim for disability, it's important not to let your emotions get in the way. Since the claims examiner is never going to meet you, submitting medical records that show clear evidence of your diagnosis, prognosis, and functional limitations helps increase your chances of getting your claim approved.
As part of the review process, the claims examiner will have a medical or psychological consultant at Disability Determination Services complete an RFC (residual functional capacity) form which rates your ability to perform normal activities of daily living based on your physical and/or mental condition. However, your treating physicians who have first-hand knowledge of your medical knowledge may be better qualified to offer an opinion related to your disability.
If a treating doctor or mental health professional completes an RFC form for you, the information he or she includes on the form, especially in regard to the severity of your limitations, must be consistent with the medical evidence you provide SSA.
For a social security disability lawyer, contact a law firm such as Duncan Disability Law SC.
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