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Getting Approved: The Top Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability

In 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid out disability benefits to 10.2 million people. 88 percent of those people were disabled workers. During the same year, the SSA terminated benefits for 820,372 workers.

Applying for disability is trickier than it should be. The SSA asks for a high burden of proof, and it doesn’t hesitate to stop and investigate further. 

Will you get approved for disability benefits? Read these tips before you apply to increase your chance of getting the check you believe you deserve.

1. Gather the Right Documentation

If you qualify for Social Security disability payments, then you need all the essential documentation to prove it. That means providing medical evidence demonstrating both the existence of your disability and the severity of it.

When you apply, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will ask for records from physicians and hospitals for review. They particularly want to hear from your current doctor (one who knows your medical history) via a medical opinion, which tells them more about your past and current situation than just the records.

Remember: the SSA only gathers documents from “acceptable medical sources.” Your GP, optometrist, podiatrist, and speech pathologist count. However, chiropractors and psychologists do not.

2. Fill Out Your Paperwork Early and Correctly

You must be out of work or not have worked in a significant capacity for one year before applying for disability. That means you can’t earn more than $1,220 per month or have significant assets, like disability income replacement products from

Once that year is up and you have, apply right away.

The SSA’s initial review takes 30 to 90 days to approve or deny your claim. Your waiting period depends on the records needed, how quickly you provide them, and your ability to fill in all the relevant forms correctly.

Any delays translate into waiting longer for your check.

3. Don’t Stop Your Medical Treatment

Your treatment plays a significant role in your case.

If following your prescribed treatment won’t restore you to full working health over the long-term, you have a robust application.

Quitting your medical treatment – whether by choice or due to cost – damages your chances.

If your records lapse or you discontinue treatment, doctors will inform the SSA during the process. Most disabilities recognized by the SSA do require long-term treatment, and if you stop following the protocol, it casts doubt on your application. The SSA can deny you benefits if they find you are “treatment non-compliant.

Regardless, failing to attend appointments and take prescriptions as directed can be detrimental to your health. Given that many disabilities are progressive in nature, you should understand that allowing treatment lapses can be fatal.

4. Seek Legal Help if Necessary

If the SSA continually denies you or you have concerns about getting approved, consider seeking help from a disability lawyer.

Statistics show that when everything else is equal, you are more likely to get a disability check when you have legal representation. Your lawyer will take 25 percent of your backpay, but for some, it is better than not getting a check at all.

Don’t Let the SSA Stop You from Applying for Disability

Applying for disability isn’t easy. The SSA aims to keep people who can work in their jobs. It doesn’t hand out disability benefits, and it will take them away if you no longer qualify.

Are you looking for more employment-related content? Check out our Careers and Jobs resources for more helpful information.

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