You do not have to do anything special before you apply for disability. 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, this page includes a list of things you can do.
You can do the things on this list any time. Before, during, or after you apply. But sooner is almost always better!
Many of our readers have found that by taking extra steps before applying (or immediately after first after applying) and then submitting everything at once at the very beginning, they were able to then get approved quickly and (somewhat) easily.
EIGHT SPECIAL SUPERHERO TRICKS
You don’t have to do all eight things on this list. Please take a look and see if there are a few things that might work for you.
Insider superhero tip: Most lawyers will not do most of these eight things. Or they will wait two years and do them before your appeal hearing (instead of doing them now, so you don’t have to appeal!) This list is things you can do for yourself. If you’d like to also hire a lawyer, great. A lawyer will help fill out and submit the application forms, and that will be one less thing for you to have to worry about.
If you have a friend or family member who is willing to help you, that can also be a great support. They do not need any special training to do the things listed here, and many people report that their best help came from loved ones.
ONE: COLLECT YOUR RECORDS
How to Collect Your Records – If you are able to collect and submit all your 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. (Important: If you have a lawyer, do not assume your lawyer is doing this, unless you have seen every record yourself with your own two eyes.)
TWO: READ YOUR RECORDS
How to Read Your Records – Social Security will be reading your records and this is how they will make a decision. Don’t you want to know what they will be reading? Of course you do! (Important: The records that you are given online or at the front desk are usually visit summaries, not your full records and treatment notes. You want full records.)
THREE: CHECK YOUR DOCTOR
How to Check That You Have the Right Kind of Doctor – Social Security is very particular about doctors. If your doctor is an MD or a DO or a licensed psychologist or a psychiatrist, you are all set. If not, take a look at this page to find out more.
FOUR: TALK TO YOUR DOC
How to Have “The Talk” – It’s super important to talk to your doctor about your disability application and find out if you have her support. If your doctor does not support your application, it may be difficult or impossible to get approved – it is much 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 don’t have your doctor’s support, check out What Do I Do If My Doctor Doesn’t Support My Disability Application?
FIVE: HAVE GREAT DOCTOR VISITS
How to Have Doctor Visits That Create Accurate Records – Read this and burn it into (what’s left of) your memory.
SIX: GET AN RFC FORM
How to Get a Great RFC Form – 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. Many people get a doctor’s letter instead of an RFC forms. Most doctor’s don’t know how to write the correct kind of disability letters. Please see this link for samples you can share with your doc. If your doctor doesn’t want to fill out paperwork, check out: How To Get Your Doctor to Fill Out Paperwork When Your Doctor Won’t Fill Out Paperwork
SEVEN: GET TESTED
How to Get Medical Tests – You do not need a million tests, but it’s really helpful if you can have at least one test that shows some kind of medical evidence for each condition you are applying for. If you cannot get an appointment for a test right now, you can submit your application now, and follow up with your test results as soon as possible. The link above includes testing for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME, Lyme, mental health and related conditions. If you have a different condition, please speak with your Doctor about what tests would be appropriate for you.
EIGHT: GET READY
How To Apply & How to Answer Questions – All done being a super hero? Great! You can jump right in and apply. Please remember: You do not have to do everything on this list before you apply. Many readers report having greater success by preparing things ahead of time, but it is certainly not required. You can apply online, on paper, in person, or through a lawyer.
BONUS: MAKE A MEDICAL OUTLINE
How to Make a Medical History Outline – This takes time, and you do not have to do it, but if you want to do it, it’s a great way to hand Social Security everything they need to quickly and easily approve you. For advanced-level superheroes only.
I’M A SUPERHERO! NOW WHAT?
Now that you’ve collected all this great stuff, what do you do with it?
When you apply, you can make a copy of everything you have from the list above and/or any other materials you have that in any way document or relate to your disability. If you apply in person, you can bring all of this with you. If you apply online or by paper, you can mail it in.
There is a chance that someone who works at your local Social Security office may discourage you from submitting your own records. They may not want to process or deal with a lot of papers. Keep in mind: this person has nothing to do with you getting approved and may have very little understanding why so many people get turned down. The disability decision gets made by a different person, in a different office, probably in a different part of the state. Stick to your plan, and give them everything. If you run into a problem, request to speak with a supervisor.
If you have already applied, you can wait until your case gets assigned to a Disability Examiner and then send everything directly to that person.
Either way, it is very important that you talk directly to the person handling your case (this person is usually called a Disability Examiner). Make sure this person has all of your records. Submitting your records to your local office does not guarantee that those records will wind up in your files.
Optional extras: If you are in any kind of disability-related programs or you receive any kinds of services or accommodations related to your disability, or you have applied for a different form of disability, it is great if you can request a copy of your case file or documents from that agency as well. The more records you can get the better: Doctors, hospitals, clinics, labs, tests, agencies, home care, medical equipment, etc. A letter from a caregiver can also be included, but is not required.
SOONER IS BETTER
You are not required to collect everything at the beginning. You are allowed to continue to collect and submit your medical records any time, but….
If you do submit everything together all once at the beginning, this seems to magically make a big difference in some cases. When records and documents keep trailing in throughout the process, they sometimes get lost, overlooked, put in the wrong person’s file, or they arrive after the decision is already half-made and then things do not get turned around.
For mysterious reasons, submitting everything all together at the same time seems to increase chances of approval for many people.
SUPERHERO READING LIST
A few things you might enjoy reading while embarking on your quest:
💙 Super smart people who did super smart things to get approved for disability the first time they applied. Ten stories.
💙 Before going to great lengths as a superhero, you might want to check and make sure you are eligible to apply. Most people are eligible for either SSI or SSDI or both. In rare cases, someone is not. If you have not worked for several years, and you are married to someone who has income, you may run into difficulties.
💙 Lots more info on what does (and doesn’t) help you get approved at the beginning. How lawyers and case workers can (and can’t) help.
💙 One of the biggest challenges people face at the beginning holding 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.
💙 Read this to learn more about how the conversations you have and choices you make in your doctor’s office can have an effect on your disability case.
💙 Read this to learn more about where to find lawyers and what lawyers do (and what lawyer’s don’t do). Some people get lawyers at the beginning, and other people wait until appeals. There is no charge up front for a lawyer.
💙 Some employers offer disability insurance. This is often called LTD. If you are still working now, the link above has some good info on things you can do to protect yourself.
💙 By disability lawyer Jonathan Ginsberg. This book gives sample copies of completed disability forms along with step-by-step instructions for filling out each form. It is expensive (but cheaper than hiring a lawyer). You can also find links to samples of completed forms here: How to Fill Out Forms and Answer Questions
💙 Find out!
MORE HELP FOR SUPERHEROES
💙 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.
💙 There is lots of other kind of help you can apply for and get while waiting for your disability decision. Food stamps, medicaid, transportation programs, student loan discharges, and much more.
💙 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.
💙 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.
💙 If you are already in some kind of home care or home aide program, it can help a lot to collect and submit your case file. If you unable to care for yourself and don’t have home care, it may be worth looking to see if you qualify.
💙 In certain circumstances, Social Security will move you to the top of the list and give you a decision more quickly. Circumstances include: dire need, public safety, veterans, compassionate allowance, terminal illness, and presumptive disability.
After you apply, here’s a list of great things you can do while waiting for your disability decision.
Many people who follow the steps above report success. You are not required to do more, but if you want to keep being a superhero, here’s a rather long list of more things you can do after you apply, if you wish: How to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Disability Application
Updated January 2018. Please comment below with your questions, stories, input and ideas. Also: kindly let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you liked this page, please share with others by pressing one of these magic buttons: