A long, long, long, long, (long!) of things you can do to make a great, great, great, great (great!) difference in your chances of getting approved.
Tip: Don’t try to do everything. You will die. Pick a few things that will work for you and try them. If possible, ask a loved one for help.
Don’t Listen to People Who Discourage You
Whatever happens, don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not possible to get approved if you are young. Or that it’s not possible to approved in less than two years. Or it’s not possible to get approved if you have ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Lyme Disease. Or that disability is totally random and some people just get lucky. Not true. Not true. Not true. Also: Not true.
Find a Supportive Doctor
Tips for finding a doctor that is helpful with disability documentation How to Find a Doctor to Help With Disability Documentation
If You Can’t Afford to The Doctor
If You Can’t Get to The Doctor
Start Seeing Your Doctor Regularly
Start seeing a doctor on a regular basis. How often is ideal? The frequency depends on your condition and what your doctor recommends. Many people see their doctor every two months while applying for disability. (Or every month for mental health). If you have a gap in treatment: How To Explain Why You Haven’t Been to the Doctor
Have “The Talk”
It’s a really great idea to talk with your doctors about your disability application and find out their opinion: How to Talk to Your Doc About Your Disability Ap.
Figure Out What Your Doctor REALLY Thinks
Not sure if your doctor supports your application? Think you know, but don’t know for sure that you know what you think you know? How to Tell What Your Doctor REALLY Thinks
Get a Great RFC Form
Many lawyers say this is the single most important piece of paper in your entire case. Here’s a bunch of tips for how to Get a Great RFC Form. Some disability lawyers and advocates create their own RFC forms customized for specific conditions. Here’s where you can find some Sample RFC Forms.
Get a Great Doctor’s Letter
Many doctors do not know the Social Security regulations or what needs to go in a letter. Here’s how to work with your doctor to make sure your letter is helpful. Get a Great Letter. Here’s where you can find Sample Disability Letters from Doctors
Follow Doctor’s Orders
Social Security will look to see that you are following your doctor’s treatment recommendations. There are a few exceptions. How to Please the Social Security Gods.
If Your Doctor Won’t Fill Out Paperwork
Lots of doctors don’t like paperwork. Sometimes this is a problem you can solve! Please read this if you have A Doctor Who Won’t Fill Out Paperwork.
Get a Lawyer or Representative
A lawyer or representative can help your application and will not charge anything until you are approved. Here’s where you can Find a Good Disability Lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, it is still possible to get approved. Here’s how to Apply Without Lawyer
Don’t Leave Everything to Your Lawyer
There are many things a lawyer can do to help your case. However, there are also many things only you can do to help yourself. Learn more about How a Lawyer Can (and Can’t) Help. Many lawyers wait several years into the process before collecting and reading all your medical records. Patty wanted to share her story to help others: Patty’s Lawyer Never Told Her What She Needed to Know
Make Sure You Are Seeing The Right Kind of Doctor
Social Security is particular about what kind of doctor they would like you to see. Here’s how to Check if You Are Seeing The Right Kind of Doctor.
Get a Co-Sign
This can be helpful if you have a doctor who doesn’t like to complete paperwork. Or if you have an important form, letter, or report from a doctor who is not the right kind of doctor: How to Get a Co-Sign
Submit Things the Right Way
You can get the best medical documents in the world. But these documents will not help at all if the person making the decision never sees them. Sadly, we have heard from many readers who got turned down for this reason. How to Submit
Stay In Touch with Your Disability Examiner
This is only for new applications and reconsiderations (Does not apply to hearing appeals). Many people get denied because their important records never made it to their disability examiner. Don’t let this happen to you. Here’s how to Stay In Touch with Your Disability Examiner
Get Ready for The Social Security Doctor
Social Security will likely contact you and send you to an appointment with one of their doctors. This is called a Consultative Exam. This most often happens 3-6 months after you first apply. It occasionally (but rarely) happens during appeals. Here’s what to expect at The Social Security Doctor.
Check Your File
It is common for records to be missing or incomplete from Social Security files. Most people do not learn about the missing records until they read their denial letter, and some people never learn about it. Even people with lawyers can have this problem. Here’s how to Check Your Social Security File
Be Careful About Your Local Office
Please be especially careful about submitting documents to your local Social Security office. We have heard from many readers recently who got denied because these documents never got to the person making the decision. Always double check directly with the person assigned to handle your case.
Have Great Doctor Visits
Every single thing you say and do in your doctors office is important. Every thing. Every time. How to have Great Doctor Visits that Create Accurate Records. Some people who apply for disability later have regrets about how they handled things in the doctor’s office. Luckily this won’t happen to you! Here’s how to Go to the Doctor Without Regret
Collect Your Medical Records
One of the most important things you can do to help your case is get all your medical records. Yourself. In your own two hands. Here’s how to Collect Your Medical Records. Make sure you don’t just see the records online or the summaries handed to you at the from desk. Get all your records including the Secret Medical Records
Read Your Medical Records
Now that you have all your medical records, you really want to read them. Here’s What Happens if I Don’t Read My Records?
Correct Your Medical Records
We hope your records will be accurate. But just in case: How to Correct Medical Records
Use the Blue Book & Rulings
Here’s an extra special, super duper, advanced method for getting approved for Social Security disability. When it works, it can get you approved easily and automatically! How to Use the Blue Book
Get Medical Tests
Here’s a list of Medical tests for ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lyme, and related conditions. Some people go overboard on medical tests. It is not good to have no tests. On the other hand, it is not necessary to have a million tests: How Many Medical Tests Do I Need?
Get Home Care (if you need it)
If you are unable to care for yourself, you can see if you qualify for home care. This can help you care for yourself, and may also help your disability application if you have an aide who can assist with scheduling doctors, driving you to appointments, making phone calls, mailing documents, etc.
Document Home Care (if you have it)
Your files from your home care can be a huge help for your disability application. But Social Security will never see these files unless you get them yourself. Learn more: How Your Home Aide Programs Can Be a HUGE Help For Your Disability Application
Get Medical Equipment (if you need it)
Medical equipment can include things like walkers, canes, wheelchairs, hospital beds, toilet rails, shower rails, mobility scooters, and any other kind of equipment you need. In some cases, you may also look into modifications to your home or assistive technology to help you communicate. How to Get Medical Equipment.
Document Medical Equipment (if you have it)
Assessments for medical equipment can be a great help to your disability case. But it will not be helpful unless you document it and submit those documents to Social Security: How to Document Medical Equipment
See a Specialist (if possible)
You can ask your doctor for a referral. The type of specialists you see will depend on your condition. Examples might be: Rheumatologists, Psychologists, Infectious Disease Specialists, Cardiologists, or pain clinics. Some readers report that assessments from Rehabilitation doctors and Occupational Medical Doctors were particularly helpful.
Don’t Just Sit Around and Wait
There are so many more interesting things you can be doing: Eighteen Things to Do While Sitting Around Waiting for Your Disability Decision
Many people unintentionally sabotage their cases because they are too shy, polite or subtle. Don’t let this happen to you: How to Stop Hiding From Your Doctor
Things you can read that will help you feel smarter and less confused. The Sleepy Girl SSA Policy Library
Collect Support Letters
It may be helpful to collect support letters from friends, family, or caregivers. Focus on medical records first. Then your support letters can support those records!
Get Help From People Who Love You
If you know someone who might be able to help, you may wish to share this page with them: How Can Friends or Family Help My Disability Application? Jamesia helped her friend get approved in two months. Great advice from Jamesia: How to Help a Friend Get Approved for Disability
Get Neuropsychological Testing
If you have problems with memory, focus, or concentration, this type of testing may be helpful. Social Security may send you for this kind of test, but it is really important/helpful to arrange your own test as well. How to Get Neuropsychological Testing
Make a Medical Outline
Social Security has a lot of paperwork, and important information sometimes gets overlooked. Here’s something you can do yourself (or with help from a loved one) that can be a help in making sure you get a fair decision: How To Make a Medical Outline
Create a Medical Summary Report
The SOAR program has an incredibly high success rate in helping people get approved for disability quickly. Although they only work in certain areas, with certain populations, you can use some of their techniques yourself. How to Create a Medical Summary Report
Get a Social Worker’s Form
If you have a Social Worker, Counselor or Case Manager, you can ask them to help you fill out and sign a Social Worker Disability Assessment Form. If you don’t have a Social Worker and want one: How to Get a Social Worker
Reach Out for Help
If you know someone who cares about you, this is a wonderful time to ask for their support and assistance. Many of our readers report that a friend or family was the greatest help for their case. You can ask for help in making phone calls, scheduling appointments, copying documents, mailing things, or you can look through this page together and ask if there is anything they want to help with.
Learn From the Pros
Meet the Flower Girls. These smart, creative, persistent women all got approved for disability. They wanted to share their stories to help others. We have learned more from these stories than from any disability book we have ever read: “How I Got Approved for Disability.” Plus stories of quick approvals: “How I Got Approved for Disability in Six Months or Less”
Answer Tricky Questions on Forms
Tricky questions on disability forms. If you are not filling out forms yourself, you may be asked these questions by whoever fills them out for you: New Application Forms, Reconsideration Forms, Appeal Forms
Answer Tricky Questions At Other Times
Get Ready For Your Hearing
If you are heading towards an appeal hearing: How to Answer Questions at a Disability Hearing
Get a Student Loan Disability Discharge
You do not need to be on disability to get a disability discharge. You do need your doctor to complete a form. This form can also help your disability case. Keep a copy and submit it to Social Security. How to Escape Student Loans
Include Mental Health
If you have any kind of mental health symptoms, it is incredibly important to include this. Many people hate being labeled as having a psychiatric illness and try hard to prove that their condition is physical. Doing this may make you feel better emotionally, but it can hurt your disability case. How to Include Mental Health. (Exception: Special rules if you are applying for LTD. Please see link).
Document Mental Health
If mental health is part of your disability claim, please also take a look at How to Document Mental Health
Fill out an Adult Function Report
Social Security will send you this form at some point (or maybe at several points) during your application process. Here’s some tips: How to Fill Out an Activities of Daily Living or Adult Function Questionnaire
Social Security looooves consistency. They will be looking to see that everything in your file is consistent. Here’s how to Paint a Consistent Picture
Check the Compassionate Allowance List
Compassionate Allowance Conditions get approved quickly and automatically. These conditions are usually very serious or life threatening. See if you have one: How to Get Approved for a Compassionate Allowance Condition
Enroll in Vocational Rehab (Maybe)
Vocational Rehabilitation programs help people with disabilities find jobs. They can also offer free vocational testing and assessments. This can either help or hurt your disability case (depends on the outcomes of the tests!) More about Vocational Rehabilitation Programs
Document Other Services
There are many services you may be able to apply even if you are not yet on disability: paratransit programs, disability parking placards, emotional support animals, Independent Living Center programs, meals on wheels, home modifications, etc. The documentation from these programs can also help your disability application: How to Document Support Services
Submit Workplace Files
Learn more about How to Collect Workplace Documentation.If you made any disability accommodation requests at work, you can submit a copy of the any documentation from your employer, along with any letters or forms filled out by your doctor.
Get a Letter from Your Current or Past Employer
You can also request a Support Letter from Your Employer
Learn a Few Important Regs
It is really helpful if you know The Difference Between SSI and SSDI and which one you are applying for. If you are applying for SSI, it’s a good idea to learn a few super important financial regs. If you are applying for SSDI, it’s a good idea to Check Your Date Last Insured
Learn Even More Stuff that Will Make You Feel Even Smarter
Check out The Sleepy Girl SSA Policy Library
Get a Quicker Decision
Some special circumstances may be able to help you get a decision more quickly and (sometimes) more easily. These include: veterans, suicidal or homicidal, dire need, terminal illness, specific medical conditions, and compassionate allowance cases: How Can I Get Social Security to Move Me to the Top of the List?
Track Your Symptoms and Limitations
A symptom diary can help you when you talk to your doctor or fill out forms for Social Security. How to Keep a Symptom Diary. Please note: This is not considered medical evidence, it is a tool for you.
Change Your Mind
Many people unintentionally hurt their own applications by holding onto false beliefs. Luckily, you are not going to be one of those people. Come by and learn How To Kill Your Social Security Application
Know What to Expect
It may be helpful to learn a bit more about where you are in the process and what comes next. Here’s a Typical Timeline for a Typical Disability Case
Improve Your Chances
Special strategies for different stages of the process: