This is the third article in a series designed to explain the Social Security and SSI disability application process and to provide helpful information to individuals applying for those benefits. To review briefly, Social Security and SSI disability benefits are available to individuals who are unable to work for at least 12 consecutive months due to physical or mental impairments, or both. An application for benefits should be filed as soon as the person believes he or she will not be able to work for medical reasons for at least 12 consecutive months. You can apply for disability benefits through Security Security’s website: www.ssa.gov or by calling Social Security’s toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213.
Is there any general advice that you can give me about my Social Security disability application?
Yes. When you complete your disability application, be sure to mention all of your health problems, not just the one that is most severe. This is because in evaluating your case, Social Security will look at all of your health problems together. Be honest about the severity of your symptoms. Avoid the temptation to minimize them. Also be sure to include in your application the names, addresses and phone numbers of all of the doctors, therapists and hospitals where you have been treated. When asked about your daily activities, be sure to describe them the way you are able to perform them now, not the way you wish you could perform them or performed them before your medical problems became severe. The key point is to make your application comprehensive and detailed. You want Social Security to get an accurate picture of why you are no longer able to work.
What is the role of my treating doctor(s) in the application process?
Social Security will always contact your doctors as part of the disability review process. At a minimum, they will ask your doctors to supply them with copies of your treatment records and test results. Sometimes they will ask your doctor to complete a short medical assessment form. The cooperation and support of your treating doctors is critical to the success of your disability case. You should discuss your intent to apply for disability benefits with your doctors either before you apply or as soon as possible thereafter. Ask each doctor to confirm his or her support for your disability application and his or her willingness to provide the medical records and medical assessments that may be necessary to support your application. If any of your doctors would be willing to write a “custom” letter to the state agency in support of your application, they should be encouraged to do so. The letter should emphasize abnormal test results, clinical findings and your functional limitations.
How are emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression considered as part of the application process?
These symptoms are very common and will always strengthen a disability application if the individual has been reporting these symptoms to a doctor and receiving treatment for them. If you experience these symptoms even occasionally, you should include them in your disability application. If these symptoms are severe (bothering you on a daily basis), your disability application will be strengthened if you begin treatment with a specialist (such as a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist or mental health center).
Would you recommend that I engage a lawyer to represent me at the state agency level?
Attorney representation is an option at any level of the disability application process. In general, the sooner you engage an attorney the better prepared your case will be and, therefore, the better your chances for success.
If you or someone you know has any questions about Social Security disability benefits, call the Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek for a free consultation at 215-886-0398 or email us at [email protected]. The Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek maintains offices in center city Philadelphia and Jenkintown, PA. The Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek focuses its law practice exclusively on Social Security disability matters.