Tips for filing an Application for Disability Benefits

The decision to file an application for disability benefits is always difficult. Aside from the many complex tasks involved and forms to complete, there is the emotional aspect of acknowledging that outside help is necessary. Anyone who has dealt with insurance companies knows it can be a less-than-supportive experience.

When you have your appointment, with SSA or with a lawyer, have this information prepared:
• Your doctors’ names, addresses and phone numbers, last date seen.
• A list of all prescription medications, with dosages. Sometime a pharmacy will print this out for you.
• List of all hospitals, clinics or institutions, dates treated and addresses.
• Names, addresses and phone numbers of any medical social worker or therapist who knows about your case
• List of all employment for the past fifteen years. This can be general
– for example, “waitress work, 1980-85,” or “self employed contractor” if you do not have the employer’s name and address.
• Proof of birth dates of spouse and children. You will need proof of age for yourself – Social Security needs to see an original proof such as a birth certificate, which they will copy and return to you.

Social Security has the obligation to obtain records from any treatment source you name. As a practical matter, any records that you can supply to them will make your claim move faster. You will also be assured that Social Security actually has received the records if you send them yourself. Overworked doctors’ offices can be very slow or even unresponsive to requests for medical records, and Social Security will give up after several attempts. In large medical practices, with many specialty areas, there might be records missing from an essential department.

While this list of information is daunting, it is less so if completed at your own pace in the month before your appointment. If you go prepared to the interview, you will not be staring out the window trying to remember a doctor’s phone number, raising your stress level as well as that of the interviewer!

If your doctor is willing to write a letter to Social Security supporting your claim, it is essential that this letter include diagnosis, symptoms and clinical signs, and functional impairment detail. A simple statement that a patient “is disabled” is nearly worthless to Social Security if explanation and supporting medical records are not supplied. They want to know how your functional ability is impacted.