You do not have to do anything special before you apply. You can just jump right in and apply right now.
However, if you want to be a superhero and do some special things to make your application extra great, here are some things you can try.
You don’t have to do everything on this list. Take a look and see if there are a few things that might work for you.
I have met several people who did it this way, and guess what? They were all approved quickly.
Hint: Most lawyers do very little to help improve your case in the first two years. The things on this page are things you can do for yourself.
💙 The number one challenge I have seen with new applications is people who hold onto ideas that hurt their applications. Please read through some of the ideas on this list and see what you are willing to let go of.
💙 If you are able to collect and submit all your own medical records, your Disability Examiner is going to love you! The Disability Examiner is the person who makes the Big Decision. You want them to love you. You also want them to have every record so nothing gets overlooked. (Note: The records you find online may not be your full records).
💙 Social Security is very particular about doctors. If your doctor is an MD or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, you are all set. If not, take a look at this page to find out more.
💙 Talk to your doctor about your disability application and find out if you have their support. If your doctor does not fully support your application, it may be difficult or impossible to get approved – it is better to find this out early while you have options. (If you don’t have health insurance, transportation, or the ability to get to the doctor, read this.)
💙 If you are unable to care for yourself, now is the time to see if you qualify for home care. If you are already in a home care program, now is the time to request your file and send it in with your application.
💙 Read this and burn it into (what’s left of) your memory.
💙 The conversations you have and choices you make in your doctor’s office right now can have an effect on your disability case for years to come.
💙 Some employers offer disability insurance. This is often called LTD. If your employer offers this, please read the steps above. If your employer doesn’t offer this, you can skip this part.
💙 This is a form you can print and bring to your doctor. Many lawyers say this is the single most important piece of paper in your entire case. You want one. In the dream world you could submit this when you first apply or as soon as possible afterwards. Many people get a doctor’s letter instead of an RFC forms. Most doctor’s don’t know how to write disability letters. If you request a letter, please work closely with your doctor to make sure it includes the information Social Security is looking for.
💙 Medical tests can be very helpful for disability applications. Sometimes they take a while to schedule. If you cannot get an appointment for a test right now, do not worry. You can submit your application now, and follow up with your test results as soon as possible. Uber important: Be sure to confirm that all your test results are received and correctly placed in your file. The link above includes testing for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme, Fibro, mental health and related conditions. If you have a different condition, speak with your doctor about what tests would be appropriate for you.
💙 When first you apply, you will have to either fill out forms or answer questions. You may also be asked questions by your doctor or by a Social Security doctor. The way you talk and write about your disability is going to be important. Here’s some tips.
💙 The SOAR program is a huge help with disability applications for people who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless. Most SOAR programs require a diagnosis of serious mental illness, but some programs do not require this. They provide wonderful help and have truly amazing success rates.
💙 All done being a superhero? Great! Time to apply. Please don’t feel you have to do everything on this list. Most people don’t do anything on this list! If you do anything at all you will be doing more than most folks do 🙂
What Can I Apply For?
💙 This is optional. You can just apply and Social Security will tell you what you are eligible for. Or you can check ahead of time. If you are told you are not eligible, do not give up hope! There is often a way to still qualify.
💙 If you are still working or left your job recently, you may be eligible for Short Term or Long Term disability through your employer. If you can get this, you definitely want it. Employer disability is waaaaay faster than Social Security disability.
💙 A few states offer short term disability you can get for 12 months while applying. In addition, some states offer small amount of cash assistance for people who are low-income while applying.
💙 If you are poor, a food stamps application is a good place to start, because it is quick. Food stamps is usually processed in a few weeks or less. If you are already on Food Stamps, learning the regulations can be very helpful, and you may discover you are not collecting the correct amount.
💙 There is other kind of help you can apply for and get while waiting for your disability decision.
💙 Here’s a rather advanced-level trick which you don’t have to do: If you want some more time to collect your medical records, but you don’t want to wait to file – you can start the process now and get a protective filing date. A protective filing date won’t help your application, but it could mean you get some extra back pay money when you get approved.
You may notice that I left “Get a Lawyer” off this list. That is because most lawyers do not do much to improve your case at the beginning. They usually file the basic paperwork, wait two or three years, and then (hopefully) help you more before your appeal hearing.
A lawyer will help you fill out and submit forms. If you feel unable to fill out forms yourself, you can get a lawyer, or you can ask a friend for help, or you can make an appointment at your local Social Security office and someone there will do it with you.
Many lawyers do not collect and read your medical records until several years have passed. This means if there is a problem with your records, you won’t find out in time to correct the problem! If you collect and read them yourself now, you will know so much more.
Some people really like that lawyers can assist you with paperwork and help you feel less stressed and alone in the process. If you want a lawyer, here’s where to find a lawyer.
Super Hero Stories
💙 Sage won his case by ignoring everything Social Security told him. Pretty good strategy. If someone at Social Security tells you something that discourages you from applying, try being like Sage.
💙 Dandelion won her case by firing her doctor. Hopefully, you will never have to do this. But if you do have to, sooner is MUCH better than later.
💙 Sweet Pea won her case by collecting all her records before she applied. She was approved in four months (without a lawyer!). If Sweet Pea can do it, you can do it, too.
💙 Jasmine won her case by collecting her records plus doctor’s letters before she applied. She was approved in six months (without a lawyer!). If Jasmine can do it, you can do it, too.
💙 I suggest that you do not spend too long being a superhero. A few weeks is great. Please do not spend many months or years waiting to apply. If you wait too long, you will get less backpay. Also, if you really wait too long your work credits may expire and then you might not be able to apply at all. Read Bluebell’s story. Be like Bluebell.
The biggest mistake I see people make, and the biggest regret I see people have, is waiting too long.
People wait too long to apply, and then wait too long before making their disability application their first priority. I have met many people whose lives spiraled in chaos and crisis and who wished they could go back in time and do it differently.
Sadly, I am not a time traveler. But happily, you don’t have to be. Now is the perfect chance to start things off in a great way. If you are here reading this section, that means you read all the way through all the things above. Well done! You’ve come to the right place at the right time.