How Can I Get Approved for Disability the First Time I Apply?

Artwork: Robin Mead. 

The typical disability application takes 2-3 years. However, there are many things you may be able to do to increase your chances of a fair decision a lot earlier in the process. While there are no guarantees in this world, and it does not work in all cases, many of our readers have found that by taking steps to improve their applications at the very beginning, they were able to get approved in 6 months or less.

Can A Doctor Help Me Get Approved More Quickly?

Yes. If you have the right kind doctor and the right kind of medical documentation right from the beginning, there is a much better chance you can get approved the first time you apply.

Can I Help Myself Get Approved More Quickly?

Yes. This page has a detailed list of things you can do before applying (or just after applying) to help make sure Social Security has everything they need to make the right decision

Can Friends or Family Help Me Get Approved More Quickly?

Sometimes. Many of our readers report that they got their best help from friends or family for a new application.

Can A Lawyer Help Me Get Approved More Quickly?

Probably not. Lawyers can be great, and they can help get your paperwork done, but most lawyers do not do much to improve your chances in the first 1-2 years. Magnolia used to work at Social Security making decisions about disability applications. This was her experience:

Can a Social Worker or Case Worker Help Me Get Approved More Quickly?

Maybe. Social Workers can help you fill out and submit the basic forms, but many Social Workers are not trained in techniques to improve disability case. However, there are special forms you can bring your Social Worker that can help:

Can Anyone Else Help Me Get Approved More Quickly?

If you are homeless or at risk, see if the SOAR is in your area. Most SOAR programs work with people who have a diagnosis of serious mental illness. SOAR is a special program just for disability applications. They do amazing work and help many people approved quickly.

Should I Hire a Lawyer? Where Can I Find a Good One?

Some of our readers chose to hire lawyers from the very beginning. Others wait until they at the hearing stage. Some lawyers will not accept clients until after they have been denied. If you would like to hire a lawyer, there is no charge upfront:

Read On

🌷Don’t Kill Your Application – Try not to do these things

🌷 How I Got Approved for Disability QUICKLY – Super smart stories from super smart readers who took super smart steps to get approved super quick:

🌷 How to Request Reconsideration – Sometimes someone does everything perfectly, and still gets denied. Often because records went lost or missing or got dismissed or overlooked. Don’t worry, if this happens, you get a second chance!

🌷 How and Where to Apply for Disability – How to get started.

Thanks for Reading

🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌷 Page Updated: 8/1/19

What Do You Think?

🌷 Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions.

🌷 Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

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7 thoughts on “How Can I Get Approved for Disability the First Time I Apply?”

  1. Thank you so much for writing such helpful articles! I have CFS and hope to soon have a diagnosis. I am just now looking up how to apply for disability.

    I was feeling really anxious when I was looking it up, but it’s so great to have access to articles like yours that lay out so clearly how to do things–that list your options and can break down what you need step-by-step. It makes it far less


  2. I applied online myself. I didn’t need to track a lawyer down to do this. I’m still waiting on the decision. The lawyer may or may not even file your stuff right away. No one needs a lawyer in my personal opinion unless you get denied and need to appeal. Most lawyers wont even take your case til you are denied anyways.


    1. I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (non-ischemic, 18% ef..) a little over a year ago. I was approved for and began receiving SSDI in four months on my first attempt (thank God!). Here are the Golden lessons I took away:

      1.) Get a Disability Advocate!!! If you are truly devestatingly ill and can no longer work – theses advocates are worth their weight in gold.

      1a.) Follow up and stay in touch with your disability advocate. PARTNER WITH THEM!! If your advocate is not comfortable being your “partner” – find someone else!!

      2.) Go to EVERY SINGLE doctor’s appointment, lab, test, surgery, follow up… Everything. Immediately after each visit, print a copy of the visit records for yourself, Disability, and your Advocate. In the four month span of time it took for me to be approved, I accumulated a little over 1000 pages of medical documents.

      3.) Know your condition better than anyone else. As good as Social Security was with me (and, honestly they were great, unsung heroes), they kept insisting that I’d never had an Echo. I knew I had had five full Echos and two bedside Echos – I knew where the records were and I was able to get them to Disability quicker than even the hospital could.

      4.) The Squeaky Wheel gets the grease!! Speak Up. But, bear this in mind: My experience was that when I was at my most desperate and I lashed out at either Social Security or my Advocate or both, they were beyond sympathetic. And, I was 1 of 100’s of clients who literally were struggling between life and death while waiting. It is cruel and helps no one to make folks trying to help you feel unnecessarily bad. The suffered along with me. When I cried, often they cried.

      I hope this helps someone.


      1. Wonderful post! Thank you so much. This is very helpful.

        I would also add that it’s great if people can request all their records through the records manager at their doctor’s office. The doctors do not tell people this but… records that people view online are not the full records, so many people think they are seeing everything their doctor writes and later discover they haven’t been.


  3. Hi, Yes wonderful website. Only would like to have found less than 3 years ago when I applied for SSI. As i’m reading through your site i’m seeing things making me respond with puzzled look. Such as, you said the quicker your approved the less an attorney get’s. I was approved after 7 months with no denials or court. SSA still gave them $1900 of backpay. The way I figured it. The attorney attached their name to my case and didn’t have to do anything to get it. They received the standard percentage for it. I’m asking because this site said ” They can sometimes receive nothing. That seemed more appropriate to me being a layperson.


    1. Hi Tammy,

      Very glad to hear that you were approved so quickly.

      Attorneys can get up to $6,000 (sometimes higher at higher levels).

      So, if your case had gone on longer, your backpay would have increased and the atty fee would have increased.

      You make some good points. If an attorney really did nothing, someone can contest their fee. Though I have not actually met someone who has tried that.


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