72 Ways to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Social Security Disability Case

Art: Robin Mead

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

Please look here if you can’t afford Medications. Look here if you can’t afford Doctor’s Appointments. Look here if you can’t afford lab tests.

If You Can’t Get to The Doctor

Look here if you don’t have Transportation. If you are homebound, it may be more difficult – there are a few ideas on this page Home Doctor Visits.

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 RecordsSome 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

Be Embarrassing

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

Get Smart!

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 FormsReconsideration FormsAppeal Forms

Answer Tricky Questions At Other Times

Tricky questions you may be asked After You First Apply, At the Doctor’s Office. Here’s two tricky questions that may come up a lot: “What Activities Do You Do?”  and “Why Can’t You Work?”

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

Be Consistent

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:

💮 Before Applying

💮 New Application

💮 Reconsideration

💮 Hearing Appeal

💮 Beyond Hearings 

Special Conditions

🍭 Lyme Disease

🍭 ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

🍭 Fibromyalgia

🍭 Toxic Mold


🍭 Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Special Circumstances

🍭 You are Young

🍭 You are Currently Working

🍭 You are Earning Income Without Working

🍭 You are Applying for LTD (Disability through Your Employer)

🍭 You are Homeless (or at risk) and Diagnosed with Mental Illness

🍭 You Missed a Deadline

🍭 You Have a Problem

🍭 You applied in the past and got turned down at a hearing

🍭 You applied in the past and never went to a hearing

Eligibility Problems

🍭 You have been told you are not eligible to apply

🍭 You have been told you don’t have enough work credits

🍭 You have been told you can’t apply because you are married

Financial Survival

🍭 Apply for Help

🍭 Financial Survival Strategies

Reader’s Survey

🍭  What Documents Helped Your Application The Most?

🍭  What Medical Tests Helped Your Application the Most?

🍭  What Doctor Helped Your Application the Most?

🍭  Lyme Disease: What Diagnosis Helped Your Application the Most?

🍭  What is the One Thing You Know Now that You Wish You Knew Then

12 thoughts on “72 Ways to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Social Security Disability Case”

  1. I totally relate with you, Devi! I thought my 5-yr battle was long. I think some of the ALJs just zero in on ONE thing so they can deny you, hoping you’ll give up. And the stupid psych tests, please! The first time I saw their “psychologist”, I think I was in there 10-15 min TOPS. He just wanted to rush thru the basic questionnaire on his computer so he could get paid his fee and say I was fine. I worked in mental health offices for quite a few years, the way he did that evaluation was far from appropriate. Like you, I paid my lawyer 25% up to the max allowed to be a “face”. I did all the work…obtained records, scanned them in and emailed them to him so all he had to do is forward them to Soc Sec. When my first ALJ denied me, I went thru his denial, and wrote up all his errors he made. The lawyer said, “wow, you caught things I didn’t, could you put that in a letter format for me? I’ll just add the Appeals Board info and sign my name and send it.” That letter got my a very quick 2nd hearing with a new ALJ and the 1st ALJ a 6 page scolding by the board. I really do think they want you to give up, and sadly many do. There’s also a lot of SSDI “attorneys” that don’t keep their clients informed or do their jobs. I have a friend that fought for 10 yrs with an attorney, but never knew that he could see his file, or that his PCP was also being paid by Soc Sec to examine others applying for it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d be glad to as soon as I am able to get up and dig it up. I am currently suffering an occipital headache that keeps me down for up to 5 days at a time.:-(

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I fought the SSA full-time for 7 years. The horror stories I can tell!
    While I was waiting for yet another Hearing, I’d bring in my Medical Records to the local SSA office in Roseville, MI. They got “tired” of me coming in there and dropping off these records, one employee asked me if I was “making up my own diagnoses codes”! No, I’m seeing doctors because I have 25 things wrong with me and while waiting, I lost my Hearing in both ears, got a dx of Narcolepsy, missing time, shaking, falling down, Ataxia, etc. so that is why I have Medical Records.
    I went to their own doctors, the Psychiatrist agreed with ALL of my diagnoses, that I could not work, everything. I STILL had to hire a lawyer and give him 25% of my back pay! Even he had not heard of this, what is the point of going to their doctors then? Only point is to Disprove your claim.
    I have a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling. Being able to tell them who the President is, minus 7 from 100, a current event, analogies, etc. absolutely does NOT say anything about if an individual has ADD, ADHD, Anxiety, Major Depression, a Personality Disorder, OCD, Bipolar, etc. How asinine that they even use those tests, like we’ve not come further than when Freud was around.
    My final time in front of an ALJ, one who they brought out of Retirement because they’re so backlogged, I had to make sure my Lawyer had all of my documents, tests, diagnoses, etc. Asked right prior to the Hearing. He told me that “Social Security has 950 pages of medical records just from YOU turning them in.” Well good!
    Because 950 pages still might not be enough for the SSA, ya know if you can make a bowl of cereal or wash a shirt or dust off a table or add a role of toilet paper, then surely you must be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sleepy Girl. I wish I would have had this site to reference all those years ago when I was applying. I have a question to ask you for a friend who is applying. She was told she might qualify by one org and was referred to another to file for her. Obviously, she was denied initially and they are filing next step. However, she has no idea WHAT DX they are filing for her. Has no idea what was put on the forms, reason for denial, etc. This really concerns me. Shouldn’t they be giving her copies of everything? I suggested she request them or at least find out what they filed for, but this doesn’t sound right to me. I’m guessing her next step is a hearing, however she has no idea on that either. It doesn’t sound like they’re guiding her at all as far as what would help her case, etc. She’s in OH. Thoughts?


    1. Most lawyers do not automatically give their clients copies of anything. However, she can contact them and request copies of what she wants. Hopefully, they will be give this to her. She should be able to call them and ask if she is waiting for a hearing or what the next step is for the case.

      She can also request a CD with a copy of her case file from her local social security office.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, I’m sorry I’m writing this here-i was looking for a specific answer to something but ended up reading a bunch of your awesome blogs! I just got the “approved for medical, non-medical not determined yet” Letter. However, because of my disability I lost my condo last year and had to move in with mom. My youngest daughter is 11 and lives with her dad, girlfriend and new baby and I get her on weekends. Her dad is well off financially owns his own business and doing well for themselves. I was told that he would be getting the checks for her and I know it sounds childish but I felt punched in the gut. It doesn’t seem fair, that because of my disability my ex and his new family get my daughters check, I know very well that entire check won’t go for her expenses only. Is there any way around this?


    1. Hi Dee,

      I totally understand why this would be upsetting. I’m sorry I’m not aware of a way around it, unless there is a change in custody. The dependent benefits usually go to the parent who has primary custody.


  5. Just wanted to let you know that this link isn’t working –
    Read How Violet Won Her Case by Using RFC Function Forms

    🍭 If Violet can do it, you can do it too!

    thanks for this incredible blog – so grateful!


    1. Thank you so much Cindy. WordPress is hell for links. They constantly stop working or seem to change for no apparent reason. I love it when people tell me about bad links, but almost no one does. Thank you!!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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