Signing Up For Disability Benefits
What the Social Security Administration Means By "Disability"
How Do I Apply for Disability Benefits?
As soon as you become disabled, you should apply for benefits through any Social Security office; you can file by phone, mail, or by visiting the nearest office. Note that, while you may receive back benefits if you did not file immediately upon becoming disabled, the benefits are limited to one year prior to the date of filing.
How Can I Speed Up My Disability Benefits Claim?
Generally, it takes longer to process claims for disability benefits than other types of Social Security claims; it can take anywhere from 60 to 90 days. In order to receive your benefits as soon as possible, it is necessary to bring certain documents when you apply and to present any other medical evidence pertinent to your disability. These include:
the Social Security number and proof of age for each person applying for payments, including your spouse and children if they are applying for benefits
names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals, clinics, and institutions that treated you and dates of treatment
names of all medications you are taking
medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers
laboratory and test results
a summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did
a copy of your W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement), or, if you are self-employed, your federal tax return for the past year
dates of prior marriages if your spouse is applying
While these pieces of information are essential, do not wait to file for benefits simply because you have not attained all of these documents. The Social Security office will be glad to help you.
Who Decides If I Am Disabled?
After helping to complete your application, the Social Security office will review it to ensure that you meet the basic requirements for disability benefits. They will determine your eligibility based on whether or not you have worked long and recently enough, your age, your relation to the worker, and if you are applying for benefits as a family member. Next, the Social Security office will send your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. The DDS will consider all of the facts related to your case. They will use the medical evidence from your doctors, as well as from hospitals, clinics, and institutions where you have been. Ultimately, they will use this information to decide if you are disabled under the Social Security law.
The medical report forms require that your doctors/other sources provide a medical history of your condition, including:
what is wrong with you
when it began
how it limits your activities
what the medical tests have shown
what treatment you have received
Also, your doctors/other sources are asked for information about your ability to do work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, lifting, carrying, and remembering instructions. However, they are not asked to decide if you are disabled.
The DDS may need more medical information before they can decide upon your case. If certain information is not available from your current medical sources, they may ask you to have a special "consultative examination." It is preferred that your own doctor or someone from the medical facility where you have been treated performs this examination, but, if necessary, someone else may give it. Social Security will pay for the examination and certain related travel expenses.
Once a decision is reached regarding your claim, you will receive a letter. If your claim is approved, it will tell you the amount of your benefits and when the payments begin. If it is not approved, the letter will explain why and describe how to appeal if you disagree.
How Is Disability Determined?
Whether or not you are disabled is determined through a step-by-step process, involving five questions. They are:
Are you working? If you are working in 2002 and your earnings average more than $780 a month, generally you cannot be considered disabled. If you are working in 2003 and your earnings average more than $800 a month, generally you cannot be considered disabled. If you are not working, go to Step 2.
Is your disability "severe?" In order for the Social Security Administration to consider you disabled, your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. If your condition interferes with basic work-related activities, go to Step 3.
Is your disability found in the list of disabling conditions? For each major body system, the Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions that automatically deem one disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the Social Security Administration must decide whether or not its severity equals that of a medical condition on the list. If not, go to Step 4.
Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition is serious but not as severe as a medical condition on the list, the Social Security Administration must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, proceed to Step 5.
Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the work you did previously, the Social Security Administration will determine whether or not you are able to adjust to other types of work. The Social Security Administration considers your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved.
Rules For Blind Persons
According to Social Security laws, one is considered blind if her/his vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in her/his superior eye or if her/his visual field is 20 degrees or less, even with a corrective lens.
A number of special rules apply for blind persons, which take into account how blindness can hinder one's ability to work. For example, the monthly earnings limit for people who are blind is generally higher than the $780 limit that applies to non-blind disabled workers. However, this amount changes each year. For up-to-date amounts and other information, ask for the booklet, “If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision ... How We Can Help” (Publication No. 05-10052).
If My Claim Is Denied
If your claim is denied or you disagree with any part of our decision, you may appeal the decision. When you receive your letter, you have 60 days to file for an appeal. You are entitled to a lawyer who can help with your appeal.
If you or someone you know has been improperly denied Social Security disability benefits, contact us immediately by using our free online consultation form . A Social Security lawyer will review the facts of your claim. There is no charge or obligation for this service. Once we have received your information, a member of our staff will contact you concerning your claim.
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