On Navigating Through the Social Security Disability System

When faced with the decision of applying for Social Security Disability, several factors should be kept in mind. Aside from the fact that the specific reasons you are applying for Disability makes your situation unique, there are a number of commonalities that need to be considered for all cases. I’m also assuming that your case is legitimate and not a claim based on maligning or simply an attempt not to work. The idea is to make your case as strong as possible and avoid the traps that the Social Security System specifically sets to deny your request for benefits.

Social Security, from the perspective of the administrators of this social service, doesn’t want to make it easy for you to get disability. Their reasoning goes that unless you are not capable of ANY type of work, they will not approve your application. The statistics show that most people who apply are turned down the first time they apply for benefits, regardless of their legitimate need. So it is up to you to appeal and continue to appeal regardless of how many times you are refused.

The process begins with an appointment at your local Social Security Office, after you have made your first telephone call to the general SS office (1-800-772-1213). They will send you forms (by mail) to be completed by your personal physician, with any documentation that supports your claim for total disability (regardless of your profession), with an appointment date and location.

When you go, don’t dress up. In fact, dress down. Take all your prescription medications (which you will be asked to document), put them all in a shopping bag and bring them with you, as opposed to a list of medications. It’s far better to take the bottles because it makes your claim that much more tangible.

If you are going alone, go by cab and get a receipt. If you live in a city, you will be asked how you came to the office. They reason that if you can negotiate the public transportation system, then you can work. Show them the receipt. This is especially true if you live in a large city like NYC which has a fairly accessible public transportation system.

They will do all the lab-work at this appointment, take blood, urine, x-rays or other procedures they feel are warranted. You will also see one of their physicians who will examine you and verify your claim. If you have any hospital x-rays or documents from previous hospitalizations, bring them to show the doctor. This appointment is the place to bring all “the stuff” you have to support your claim. It is your responsibility to make sure you present as strong a case as possible.

You will also see a psychiatrist who will question you on the impact this disability has had on your life and your ability to work at ANY job. You will be asked questions like, how much weight you can lift, can you do your own housework, can you take care of yourself, such as dressing, washing yourself. All sorts of things to see if you have any capability whatsoever to do ANY sort of work, or do anything independently. So, how you answer these questions will determine whether your request is approved or denied.

Another important question they will ask you is if you can type, do you have a computer. The idea here is that if you are capable of typing or using a computer then you can do some type of work. You need to anticipate the motives of each question you are being asked and be very careful to not do anything to jeopardize your claim. If you’re not sure what they are asking, you can always (depending on your claim), say you don’t understand, you don’t remember what they asked, or you didn’t hear them.

When you apply for Social Security Disability, it’s presumably because your claim is real, and you need it because your disability has affected your way of life, the quality of your life and you are not able to work. These pointers are to make your case as strong as possible. It’s not to lie or to make a claim that is not legitimate, but remember that Social Security measures your disability by your ability to do any work at all. They will use this criterion to question you and will not hesitate to use your answers to refuse your case no matter how real and legitimate your disability is. About ten days to two weeks after filing your claim, you will receive a response. It will be either an approval or a denial. If it’s denied, appeal, appeal, and appeal. Most times when you appeal, it will be approved, but they won’t make it easy. If you’re in real need of benefits, don’t give up and don’t get discouraged by the first denial.