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, 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.
Many of our readers have reported that they followed things on this list and got approved the first time around.
Hint: Most lawyers will not do most of the things on this page. 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!). These are things you can do for yourself.
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.
💙 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. Missing or lost records are very common in disability decisions. (Important: If you have a lawyer, do not assume that your lawyer is doing this for you.)
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: Do not get visit summaries and do not print your records online. See link above to get full records with all treatment notes).
💙 Social Security is very particular about doctors. If your doctor is an MD or a licensed psychologist or a psychiatrist, you are all set. If not, take a look at this page to find out more.
💙 It’s super important to 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 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 Dandelion’s story.
💙 Read this and burn it into (what’s left of) your memory.
💙 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.
💙 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 evidence for each condition you are applying for. It’s.a good idea to list every single diagnosis you have, and try to get at least one test for each one. Sometimes tests take a while to schedule. 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, speak with your Doctor about what tests would be appropriate for you.
💙 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. You can always apply and then follow up with more things later. For some reason, people who take steps before applying sometimes have a more successful experience, but please don’t get hung up and wait forever.
What’s a Superhero To Do?
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 listed above and/or any other materials you have that in any way document or relate to your disability. If you are in any kind of disability-related programs or you receive any kinds of services or accommodations related to your disability, makes sure to request a copy of your case file or documents from that agency as well. A letter from a caregiver can also be included, but is not required.
It’s super great if you can submit everything all at once in one envelope right at the beginning and then call to make sure it has arrived and been correctly placed in your file. Or make an appointment and apply in person and bring it all with you to submit right then.
For mysterious reasons, submitting everything right at the beginning seems to increase chances of approval for many people. Here’s a few superhero stories that may give you hope:
Superhero Food For Thought
A few things you might want to read and think about:
💙 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.
💙 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.
💙 Lots more info on what does (and doesn’t) help you get approved at the beginning. Please read.
💙 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.
More Kinds of Help
💙 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. 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.
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