Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is provided as a benefit to disabled citizens or legal residents with an approved physical or mental disability. To apply for SSDI, you must complete SSA’s disability and submit an application, along with requested documentation to Social Security. SSA reviews your application and decides your eligibility to receive SSDI benefits. In general, your doctor(s) play a limited role in preparing and submitting the SSA disability benefits application. Your doctor’s professional opinion about your disabled status isn’t as significant as the SSA review of medical records and documents.
Your doctor or medical team’s role is that of “medical treatment” in the SSA disability determination process. That said, you must see a physician on a regular basis before filing for SSDI benefits. You must present comprehensive medical records as part of the application. Although you may ask one or more doctors to present a letter along with your records regarding your condition and/or his or her opinion about your ability to seek gainful activity, such a letter isn’t as important as medical notes, tests, and records kept by your doctor’s office, hospital, clinic, or treatment facility.
SSA Criteria to Determine Disability
When you submit an application for Social Security Disability Income, SSA’s reviewers compare your medical or psychological condition to a list of conditions that are known to impair the individual’s ability to function and work. The comparison is used to consider the applicant’s impairment and disability.
SSA does not rely on a doctor’s letter about your disability to approve SSDI benefits. It relies on your application and presentation of the medical record and condition. Even if one or more of your doctors declares you’re totally and completely disabled, it won’t affect SSA’s decision. Only a review of your records and documents will convince SSA of your eligibility for SSDI benefits.
Lengthy SSDI Application and Approval Process
If you become seriously ill or disabled and have private long-term disability through an insurance company, you may begin to draw benefits in a matter of weeks. Applying for Social Security Disability Income is a lengthy process and, regardless of the urgency of need, you must be prepared to wait months (or years) for approval.
It’s important to fill out the SSDI application with care. Errors can cause your application to be delayed or rejected. Plan to provide SSA with a complete medical record for at least a year or more if possible. Provide radiology discs if you’ve had MRIs or radiation therapy.
Social Security law firms can help if you need assistance in gathering and submitting the information required to SSA.
In addition to your medical record, SSA will ask questions about your employment record. Even if your SSA account and earnings credits are accurate, SSA will ask about the kind of work you did, how long you worked, what you earned, and more. You may be asked to meet with a psychologist as part of the process. He or she wants to know if it’s possible for you to perform some other kind of gainful activity now, even if you can’t do the same kind of work you did in the past.
SSDI and SSA Appeals Procedure
At least 60 percent of applicants are denied disability benefits on the first attempt. If SSA denies your application, you may appeal the decision by requesting an administrative hearing. This hearing occurs in the presence of an administrative law judge (ALJ). He or she re-evaluates your medical or psychological condition.
You may request witnesses at the appeal hearing. Your physician(s), psychologist, social worker, nurse practitioner, radiologist, or other individuals you choose can testify at this time. It’s also possible to engage a Social Security attorney for the hearing.
SSDI and Your Local Social Security Administration Field Office
It’s possible to submit an initial SSDI application online. SSA says the initial application takes most people about two hours to complete. If you need assistance, it’s possible to ask a family member, friend, or attorney to help.
After SSA receives your application, the local field office will contact you by telephone. If necessary, the SSA reviewer will ask for additional information. Gather and submit the information as quickly as possible.
In addition, SSA may send additional forms for your doctors to fill out by mail. The forms are lengthy and many doctors delay in filling them out completely. Make sure your doctor or doctors fill out the forms by the deadline provided by SSA. If you hired a Social Security attorney, he or she will review the forms filled out by your doctor(s) before they are submitted.
Hiring a Social Security Legal Specialist
Because Social Security is understaffed and many people request disability income, it’s likely that your application will be rejected or delayed on the first try. Hiring a lawyer may be a good idea if you can’t manage the process alone.
However, if you’re organized and detail-oriented, you can prepare an SSDI application by yourself. If you don’t have medical records on hand, go to your doctor’s office or hospital and wait for the records. It is possible to retrieve these materials in a day if you’re determined to do so.
Ask doctors, nurses, and other medical team members for copies of medical records and notes after each appointment. Let Social Security know about the results of each appointment by sharing the medical treater records.
If your health declines during the SSDI application process, let SSA know by sharing records and original notes from your providers. For instance, it’s not enough to say that your vision or hearing is becoming worse. Present your doctors’ records and notes that define the vision or hearing loss. If possible, ask your state commission for the blind or deaf to certify results.