Staying proactive can increase chances of approval for Social Security Disability

18514796_sMost Illinois residents know qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits can be difficult. The Social Security Administration demands extensive documentation, which can prove challenging for applicants who are not properly prepared. Fortunately, people who stay proactive before applying for benefits can improve their likelihood of approval.

People experiencing medical conditions that are not currently disabling should remember such conditions can worsen. These people can take the following steps to prepare for the possibility.

Planning ahead

People who may someday need SSD benefits should understand the SSA’s criteria for disability. SSD benefits are awarded to people with disabilities that prevent substantial gainful activity (SGA), or employment paying over $1,070 per month. An individual may qualify for benefits in the following ways:

  • Meeting an impairment listing in the SSA’s “Blue Book.” This book includes disabling conditions and standards of proof for each condition. The SSA automatically assumes these conditions prevent SGA.
  • Equaling a listing. When conditions or symptoms are equal in severity to impairment listings, an applicant may receive benefits without direct evaluation of ability to work.
  • Requesting a medical vocational allowance. For all other conditions, the SSA evaluates associated functional limitations and the way those limitations affect the individual’s ability to work.

Potential applicants can benefit from looking up relevant impairment listings to understand what evidence they will need to provide if they seek benefits in the future.

Gather documentation

Seeking medical treatment and establishing an ongoing record is important for anyone who may someday claim disability benefits. Medical tests and observations can establish symptoms or side effects, trace the progression of the disability and prove the victim has sought appropriate treatment. All of this evidence can strengthen an eventual claim. Victims may also want to keep a personal medical journal as a supplementary record.

Individuals should keep physical copies of medical records organized and stored in one place. Contact information for each treating physician should be written down with any evaluations or assessments from the physician. Individuals should also record their patient ID number for every treating facility or hospital.

Potential applicants should additionally start an employment history file. Along with medical evidence, the SSA requires 15 years of work history. The file should include company names, positions worked, employment dates and supervisor contact information.

If a condition becomes disabling, the individual should record the onset date. The SSA automatically assumes the SSD application date is the disability onset date. However, many individuals delay applying for disability to put together a well-documented application that is less likely to be denied. Individuals who apply more than 5 months after the true onset date may be entitled to retroactive benefits, if they have evidence to establish the earlier onset date.