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PFA Tips: Social Security – Tips on the Application Process

By Social Security Administration and Tessa Walker


Because applying for Social Security can be an extremely long and drawn-out process, a person considering filing for disability should not hesitate to get an application for disability started.

It is important to understand that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two distinct programs and the rules and eligibility requirements are specific to each program. However, the application for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) require the same processes and documentation.

The Social Security Administration, via its field offices, will advise applicants to expect a notice of decision within 120 days. However, the simple truth is that there are no deadlines for Social Security applications based on disability. In other words, the processing of an application may take a couple of weeks or six months (or more) to process.

To apply for SSI, contact the Social Security office closest to where you live. You can actually get your Social Security disability started online. (If you are filing a SSI claim for a child under the age of 18, you need to visit the Social Security field office to file a claim). However, if you want to ask questions about the process, you may want to visit your local Social Security field office. You can also schedule a telephone interview to apply for disability.

After you file a disability claim for SSI at the field office, the disability claims and supporting evidence are sent from the Field Office to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) located in the state where the claimant resides. The DDS evaluation team obtains necessary medical evidence from your treating sources and other sources. DDS is responsible for making the disability determination.

Application Tips
If your disability examiner calls you for additional information, return the phone call as soon as possible. If you get a notice from the disability examiner requesting that you contact them, or you get a form in the mail from your examiner (such as an activities of daily living questionnaire), respond quickly. Complying with information requests can reduce processing time on your claim.

Always keep a copy of any paperwork that you send in to the Social Security office or DDS office just in case paperwork is lost or not received by the disability office that is handling your claim.

Read instructions carefully before submitting documents and forms to the disability determination services. Instructions on how to complete and submit forms are included with the packet that you receive from the disability office.

Take time to complete the activities of daily living and work history forms but keep in mind that paperwork should be completed in a timely manner to avoid delays in your claim. If additional time is needed to complete forms, call your disability examiner and ask for more time or assistance to complete the forms.

Provide a third party contact in case your disability examiner is not able to contact you.

Inform your doctors that you are applying for disability.

Submit copies of medical records if you have them in your possession (physical and mental examinations, test scores, IEP, report cards).

Provide plenty of documentation for your claim. Make sure you list all impairments (mental and physical) and all relevant details regarding your medical treatment providers. When it comes to processing SSDI and SSI cases, more is better. Providing complete information on an application can reduce processing time.

Write down your medical history in detail, including where and when you have been treated, what you have been treated for, and include all contact information. The decision on a disability claim comes down to what your medical records say about your condition and limitations. You need to supply your dates of treatment because if you have not been to a doctor within the last six months to a year, the disability examiner may need to schedule you for a Social Security medical examination. This examination is known as a Consultative Examination or CE. If you are scheduled to attend a CE by DDS, attend all CEs or let your disability examiner know that you cannot attend an exam with at least 24-hour notice. Failure to do so can result in your claim being denied. DDS pays for all CE appointments. You do not have to pay for these examinations. DDS do not provide transportation to the examination, but DDS will reimburse you for reasonable transportation costs after you have completed the appointment. (A travel reimbursement form will be included with your consultative examination letter).

24 hours cancellation notice is required to avoid paying a broken appointment fee and 72 hours notice is required if the CE is scheduled for Monday or the day after a holiday. (DDS still has to pay for appointments if you do not give adequate notice or do not attend the appointment.)

If you are scheduled to attend a consultative examination by DDS, make sure that you know the location of the appointment ahead of time. If you are late, the CE provider may not see you. Contact your examiner immediately if you are late for the examination and the CE provider declines to see you. Talk with your examiner to see if you can get a rescheduled examination. Again, missing an examination causes delays in your claim.

If you have any work experience, Social Security requires that you provide a detailed work history of the jobs you have held in the last 15 years before you became unable to work because of your illnesses, injuries, or conditions. This information gives Social Security insight about the kinds of work you did, including types of skills you needed, and the physical and mental requirements of each job.

If you are denied on the initial claim, you can file for reconsideration. Get the appeal filed immediately. Your reconsideration appeal must be received at the Social Security office by the deadline date, which is 60 days from the date of denial plus five additional days for mailing. Make sure to indicate relevant information on your appeal paperwork, such as new dates of treatment, a change in your condition, or a new diagnosis.

For more information on Social Security Disability and SSI, visit your local Social Security office or visit the SSA website.

Pathfinders gratefully thanks Tessa Walker for contributing this article.



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