Social Disability Benefits

By: Becca

Applying for any government program can be overwhelming. However, hundreds of thousands have navigated the confusing waters of Social Security, and you can too. Below are eight steps to success:

1) Decide if you want representation or if you want to represent yourself. Is it possible to get benefits with no legal help? Absolutely. However, your chances of being approved can jump significantly with legal representation. This may be because attorneys must be efficient at reviewing a claim, deciding what is needed to strengthen the case, and presenting it in the best way to show it fits the Social Security guidelines. If you are reluctant to make the commitment right away, you can always contact a disability center that completes the application for you for free.

2) Complete the application online or call Social Security's toll free number. Make sure you complete the application in its entirety, with signatures in the right places and with all the information you can provide. Incomplete applications may result in being delayed or even denied.

3) Check up on your application and its status frequently. Social Security may send you letters asking for more information or to send you to see a doctor. This is because the evidence that determines your eligibility is mostly medical records, doctors' notes, and employment information. If you have not seen a doctor recently, they may send you to see one funded by Social Security. If this is the case, it would be a good idea to find your own doctor to show a different opinion. Choose one who is respected and knowledgable in your medical condition. Tell him or her you are applying for disability and ask for an opinion. You can also have your medical records copied for you and/or sent directly to Social Security. If you have hired legal help, much of this will be handled for you.

4) If you are denied, don't give up. Many, and in some areas most, applicants are denied at first. File your appeal immediately (don't wait until after the deadline or you will have to start the process all over again). If you have hired an attorney, he or she may have some advice for you on what is needed to strengthen your case. If you are still representing yourself, continue to gather all the evidence you can. If you are at the hearing level, make sure to get all evidence in to Social Security long before the hearing date and show up on the hearing date on time.

5) Once you are awarded benefits, keep careful records of what you are paid and when. Keep all letters sent to you by Social Security. If they determine at any time that you have been overpaid or that your disability has ended, you will be required to pay back that amount.

It is a long and sometimes frustrating road, but it is possible. Best of luck.

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