Tips for dealing with the Social Security Administration


1. If you are denied, don’t despair.  Most applicants are denied at the initial application and reconsideration levels of the process.  The most important thing for you to do is to stick with it.  Be aware that you have 60 days to appeal a denial, otherwise you need to start the process over.  One of the biggest mistakes applicants make is starting over from scratch in lieu of appealing their denial.  Remember, most claimants who win their claims, do so at the Hearing level.

2. Keep copies of anything you send to Social Security.  Think of your local Social Security Administration office as the forgetful twin sister of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Most SSA offices are overworked and understaffed, it is not at all unusual for your paperwork to get lost.  When in doubt, follow up with your SSA worker to make sure a document has been received, and if it hasn’t, be prepared to send it again…and again.  Don’t stop until you have received confirmation.

3. In the case of important documents, it’s always safe to send it certified.  That way, you can prove that the document was sent and any mistake was on their end.

4. The Social Security Administration will decide whether or not you are disabled based upon the medical records they will be requesting from your treating physicians.  Therefore, if you are not seeing a doctor regularly (or at all), there will be nothing for Social Security to base a favorable decision upon.  In the case of a claimant who is not treating regularly, SSA will defer to what their doctors — who, if at all, have examined you once during a fifteen minute consultative examination — think.  While CE examiners are supposed to be impartial, unfortunately, their opinions are almost never favorable.

5.  If you are unable to afford treatment, do the best you can.  Many claimants who go through the process and end up winning their claims are in the same position.  We suggest getting in to see a free clinic as much as you are able (though we suggest at least every 3 to 4 months).  If you would like, we can research clinics in your area.

6. Remember, disability as defined by the Social Security Administration, means that, not only can you not perform your past work, but that you can’t do any other work under their rules.  To go into much more detail as to the particulars of the Social Security Administration’s process for determining whether a claimant is disabled would be overly complicated, but just keep in mind:  it’s not enough to say you can’t do your past work.  You must also prove you can’t do any other work in a fulltime capacity.  As you get older, Social Security has additional rules to account for the fact that learning new trades and skills becomes more difficult with age, but as a general rule, if you think there’s a job out there you could do in a fulltime capacity, then you might want to try it before applying for disability.

7. Just because a firm boasts they’ve worked on thousands of disability claims, or perhaps have “won more disability claims than any other law firm,” this does not mean they are doing quality work.  The fact is, many firms bank on the fact that they know a certain percentage of claims will win regardless of the work they put into a claim.  That means you may be unhappy with the work done on your claim — or as the case may be — not done on your claim.

As a rule of thumb, if you speak to a law firm regarding the viability of your potential disability claim, and it seems like the person you’re talking to can’t answer all of your questions, the likelihood is that the firm by and large uses paralegals and legal assistants to do the bulk of the work on your claim.  While such staff members may end up doing fine work on your claim, they have experience only in a small part of the process, and, chances are, they don’t fully understand the bigger picture.  As a consequence, you will not be getting the best work on your claim, because, essentially, the people doing it won’t have the knowledge or the experience to do what you’ve hired them to do:  answer your questions and ease your worries, provide you guidance and advice, and when it’s necessary, fight to make sure your claim is handled properly under the rules.