You do not have to do anything special when you first apply for disability. You can just jump right in and apply right now and see how things go.
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 good ideas collected from our readers.
You can do the things on this list any time. Before, during, or after you apply. Of course, sooner is always better!
The typical disability application takes 2-3 years, but some of our readers have found that by taking extra steps early in the process, they were able to get approved more quickly.
ONE: FIND A DOCTOR
If you do not already have one, it will be a great help to Find a Doctor who supports your disability application and can help with disability documentation. Tip: This is not the same thing as a doctor who is good at treatment. That’s a different thing. If you can’t get to the doctor because you are too sick or too broke: “I Cannot Get to the Doctor”
TWO: CHECK THAT YOUR DOCTOR IS ACCEPTABLE
Social Security is also particular about what kind of degree or license they would like your doctor to have. An MD, DO, psychiatrist, or licensed psychologist is always acceptable. For other practitioners: Check That Your Doctor is Acceptable.
THREE: FIND OUT WHAT YOUR DOCTOR THINKS
It’s a good idea to find out if your doctor supports your disability application. Trust us, you want to know sooner, not later. How to Tell What Your Doctor REALLY Thinks
FOUR: COLLECT & 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! Collect Your Records. Don’t forget to get all the secret doctor notes
FIVE: HAVE GREAT DOCTOR VISITS
Many of our readers report that early in the process they unintentionally hurt their disability application because they were too shy/embarrassed/confused/sad to be totally upfront with their doctor about everything that was happening: How to Stop Hiding From Your Doctor
SIX: GET A DOCTOR’S FORM OR LETTER
An RFC is a form you can print and bring to your doctor. Here’s how you can work with your doctor to Get a Great RFC Form. Another option is to work with your doctor to get a great doctor’s letter. If your doctor doesn’t want to fill out disability paperwork, check out: How To Get Your Doctor to Fill Out Paperwork
SEVEN: GET TESTED
You do not need a million tests, but it’s really helpful if you have at least one test that shows some kind of abnormal outcome for each condition you are applying for. For CFS, ME, Lyme, Fibromyalgia, and related conditions: How to Get Medical Tests.
If you haven’t yet applied, now is the time! You can apply online, on paper, in person, or through a lawyer. There are a few things it may help you to know: How To Apply. When you first apply, you may be asked some tricky questions! Tricky Questions When You First Apply
NINE: AFTER YOU APPLY: MORE QUESTIONS!
You may think you’re done, but no! In the first six months after you apply, you may get some: More Tricky Forms and More Tricky Questions
TEN: AFTER APPLYING: CHECK YOUR FILE
We have heard many tragically sad superhero stories lately: People who got great medical documentation, but those documents never made it into the hands of the person making the decision! Happily, you can avoid this fate by taking a look here: How to Submit Documents for Initial Applications.
It can also be really helpful to contact your Disability Examiner to ask what they have and have not received: How to Stay In Touch
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.
Am I eligible? What am I eligible for?
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.
Who can help? And how can they help? Doctors?Lawyers? Advocates? Social Workers? Case Workers? Friends? Family members?
ADVANCED READING LIST FOR SUPER SUPERHEROES
Here’s a rather advanced-level trick which is rarely used. A protective filing date can give you some extra time to submit everything without lowering your backpay.
Social Security policies that can expedite an application.
By disability lawyer Jonathan Ginsberg. Sample copies and step-by-step instructions for filling out forms. It is expensive (but cheaper than hiring a lawyer). You can also find links to samples of completed forms here: Sample Disability Applications
MORE STUFF YOU CAN APPLY FOR
Please read this if your employer offers disability insurance. There are a few important things you really want to know.
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 are lots of other kind of help you can apply for and get while waiting for your disability decision. Food stamps, medicaid, transportation programs, affordable housing, student loan discharges, and much more.
Ideas for staying afloat while applying for disability. Not easy! Not impossible!
A list of many different kinds of disability programs.
Thanks for Reading
This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability
Page Updated: 8/1/19
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