Tips on Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits – Navigating a Slow-Moving Process

Health issues that prevent you from working can cause much stress and many things to worry about. In the midst of medical appointments and trying to get through each day, filing a Social Security disability claim is often the last thing on a person’s mind.

It should be one of the first things you do when you stop working, however. Disability claims can take a long time to process, so the sooner you file, the less hardship you will have to deal with later. The machinery of the Social Security process moves slowly and you are best served to get that process started as quickly as possible.  Following are some tips for claiming your Social Security disability benefits:

Act fast. Apply as soon as you and your doctor determine you are disabled in order to get your claim under way. You are considered disabled under Social Security law if you pass the following steps of the application process:

  • Step 1: Are unable to make more than $1170 per month (after deductions). Unsuccessful work attempts of up to 6 months generally don’t count against you.
  • Step 2: Have a physical or mental medical condition that limits your ability to work. You must have suffered or are expected to suffer from your impairment for 12 months. Claimants with symptoms that wax and wane may still qualify if the active periods of illness keep them from working.
  • Step 3: Have any of the specific medical conditions outlined by the Social Security Administration as automatically constituting a disability. If your condition does not appear on this list, you’ll go on to the next step of the qualification process.
  • Step 4: Can no longer do any work that you have performed in the past 15 years.
  • Step 5: Are found unable to do other work that exists in the national and local economies in significant numbers. In this part of the process, the older you are, the more likely it is that you will be found disabled.

Get ongoing medical attention. Try to be seen by a medical provider at least once every two months. Your disability claim will be evaluated based on your medical records, so it’s important that you have current medical records available to substantiate your claim. Additionally, your physician will be more likely to cooperate by providing a supporting statement if he or she has seen you recently. If you lose your medical coverage before your disability claim is approved, try visiting a free clinic, county health department or emergency room.

Keep meticulous records. The more information you can provide when filling out your forms, the better. It’s a good idea to utilize the following practices:

  • Maintain a diary, which will help you in providing specific examples of how your condition affects your life.
  • Comply with all medical advice from your provider, and keep a record of doing so.
  • Keep a detailed record of medications you take, how often you take them, reactions you may have, and any changes in medication.
  • Keep track of time spend traveling to and from your medical care provider, how many days per month you do this, and how much time you spend in the waiting room.
  • Anytime something is wrong, speak to a doctor or nurse about it to ensure it is entered in your medical record.

Request reconsideration. If the initial decision on your application is unfavorable, you should request reconsideration. Don’t get discouraged — many applications are not granted until they reach the hearing stage of the process. Your request for reconsideration must be filed within 60 days of the day you receive your denial.

Seek legal help. A staggering number of applicants fail to properly complete their paperwork or fail to submit forms before the deadline. If you have any difficulty completing the paperwork for your application, you can seek the help of an Oregon disability lawyer, who can guide you through the process.