Applying For Social Security Disability–Some Tips to Remember

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1. Do some preparation before you apply.

To make your application process go more smoothly, and to make your claim more successful, you should spend some time thinking about and gathering information that the Social Security claims representative will be requesting at the time of your application interview. This includes information concerning your past work, your medical conditions, and the names and contact details of providers that treat you for those conditions. A little time spent planning for your application interview will go a long way to improve the chances that your claim will be thoroughly reviewed by the disability examiner.

2. Be certain to report ALL of your impairments when applying–not just the one that you believe to be the most disabling.

Disability applications are almost never won on the basis of a single impairment. It is important that you list in your application every impairment and related symptom that you suffer from that prevents you from sustaining full time work. Spend time prior to your interview writing down your limitations in sitting, standing, walking, stooping, bending, balancing, reaching, lifting, etc. Also, consider any problems that you are experiencing with your memory or your ability to concentrate.

3. Be sure to list ALL of your medical providers.

On your application you will want to list every facility that you have been treated at for your disabling conditions along with the name of each medical provider that sees you on a regular basis. It is helpful if you have the provider's full name and contact details available for the claims representative at the time that you apply. I suggest to my clients that on their next visit to the doctor or clinic they ask for their doctor's business card, so that they have an easy method of conveying this information to Social Security. It is well worth the extra effort here to make sure that Social Security orders all of your medical records when considering your claim.

4. Make a list of all jobs that you have held in the past 15 years.

You should write down in advance your work history going back for the 15 year period prior to becoming disabled. This is the time frame during which Social Security considers your employment activity as "Past Relevant Work."

Taking the time to think about and list any jobs performed during this time frame will hopefully make your application process less stressful.

5. Do not exaggerate or minimize your symptoms and limitations.

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to exaggerate or minimize your symptoms or how they impact your ability to perform daily activities. This is important to remember when you see your own treating doctor, when you are speaking to a Social Security representative about your claim, or when you are seen by a Consultative Examiner ("CE") that Social Security may send you to. Very few applicants are aware of exactly how their statements and actions can be used against them during this process. This is especially unfortunate for those who are embarrassed about their condition and answer "no" or "not too bad" when they are asked about certain symptoms or limitations. On the other end of the spectrum, Consultative Examiners have been known to comment specifically about an individuals presentation being overly dramatic, or even watching them from the window as they walk to their car to see if the applicant is faking or "malingering." You will maximize the chances of having your claim properly considered if you are honest at ALL times with your treating doctor and any other medical source when speaking about your symptoms and limitations.

6. Obtain a narrative medical report from your treating physician.

Medical records have the greatest impact on your case, and this is especially true about those that come from your treating physician. Unfortunately, your doctor may not specifically reference your functional limitations in your medical records even though this is precisely the information that Social Security is looking for when reviewing your claim. It is extremely helpful if your doctor can provide a narrative letter articulating the length of time you have been in treatment with them, your specific diagnosis, and all of the limitations that prevent you from sustaining full-time competitive employment. Social Security understands that your treating physician is the most familiar with your condition and limitations, and will frequently give your doctor's opinion "controlling weight" when deciding your claim.

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