SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
YOUR RIGHTS AND WHERE TO GET INFORMATION
Each year that you’ve worked, you’ve paid into the Social Security Disability benefits program, so if and when you need to file for this type of insurance benefit, you’ve paid your premiums. You’re not asking for a handout; you’re only asking for what is reasonable when your inability to work is taken into consideration.
There are a number of pages on the Social Security website where you can get information on how to file a claim, what constitutes a disability, what evidence you need, etc., but it can be a bit confusing. My advice would be to get a knowledgable advocate such as a social worker or Disability attorney to help you. They know what needs to be done and they can help you through the maze of the system.
One additional word to the person seeking benefits: Don’t hesitate to call your local Congressman’s or Senator’s office and ask for help. These types of calls (from the legislator’s assistant to the Disability office) result in your application being flagged “sensitive inquiry” and THAT can be very helpful to you.
Here are a few places to look for information:
Questions About Social Security
The Listing of Impairments (what illnesses or conditions are covered)
Evidence Required Mostly this will be your medical records or reports from professionals whom you’ve seen over the past several years, plus any treatments or hospitalizations you’ve had.
You DO NOT have to see the outside medical consultants who do work for Disability to establish your impairment. This is done only in the case where a claimant has not supplied medical information on their own or has little or no information in what was supplied. Your physician does no good to write a note saying, “Completely unable to work.” It’s meaningless to Social Security. They want hard evidence like examples of inability to concentrate or memory problems or frequent hospitalizations.
People often ask me if panic disorder or severe depression is a bona fide disability. It is if you meet three basic requirements; pace, persistence and concentration. These three things are required to engage in what is termed “sustained gainful employment” which means you come to work every day, work throughout the day, don’t need an unreasonable number of rest periods or days off and that you can do your job with minimal supervision.
Also, you don’t have to be permanently disability to get benefits. As long as you can’t work for a year or more, you can qualify. You can also make up to $900 (check this out) per month and still be considered disabled. You can apply for back benefits if you were disabled, didn’t know you could qualify, never applied, but were out for a year, have medical documentation to back this up and now are back to work. It’s called a “closed period” and you should look into it.
Keep all your medical documentation and be sure to ask for copies of your records whenever you see any medical professional. It’s a good idea to begin a folder with all your lab work, x-rays and reports that are sent to your primary care physician by outside providers. Remember, in most instances, records will not be kept by physicians or hospitals or other resources for more than 7 years, so you are your best source here.
Regarding the attorney’s fees, they’re set by law, so you won’t see a big chunk of your benefits go into paying this fee.
I was a Medical Consultant to Disability for 12 years, so I am quite familiar with how Social Security Disability determinations are made and what has to go into an adequate evaluation.