Guest blogger Tom Nash (Nash Disability Law) gives a how-to guide to aid those applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Benefits: How to the Start the Application Process (Guest Post)

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Here at I strive to provide multi-faceted emotional support to my peers with cerebral palsy and those with different disabilities. While important, other supports prove equally valuable. You should certainly possess the knowledge regarding available resources, for example Social Security Disability benefits. Said information you best to glean from an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer.  

Wondering where you could come across such a professional? Great news! Just keep reading. Today Nash Disability Law’s Tom Nash contributes a guest post. He will explore what you should know to start the process applying for Social Security Disability benefits. Tom Nash founded Nash Disability Law, a Chicago law firm that for three decades has helped people with Social Security Disability benefits     

You can’t work due to a serious health issue. It’s causing you significant financial and emotional challenges. You need to find resources to help you survive. What you might not know is this: Social Security runs the largest federal government programs that provide financial assistance for people who can’t work because of disabilities. These disability benefits could provide much-needed relief for your financial strain. But the programs are large and complicated. If you don’t know much about them, it’s a lot to take in.

Tom Nash founded Nash Disability Law, which has helped people with their Social Security Disability benefits for three decades.

Tom Nash

At my disability law firm in Chicago, we’ve helped thousands of people navigate this process. I even started out my career in disability law by working as a staff attorney for a Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative law judge. If you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits, the following compiles the basics on the program to get you started.

First, What Kinds of Benefits are There?

Social Security runs two major disability benefits programs:

When you win disability benefits from Social Security, you get monthly payments to help you cover basic costs of living. It doesn’t always look like a lot, but it can be a lifesaver when you can’t work.

How much you receive in SSDI depends on your past work and earnings. The national average in 2017 is $1,171 per month.

SSI has a uniform amount for everyone, which changes over time. For an individual it’s $735 per month in 2017.

In many states, you could also receive supplements to SSI from your state government. Or if you have certain kinds of income, it could reduce the amount you receive.

How Do I Know if I Qualify?

Social Security generally considers that you have a qualifying disability if:

  • Your health problems stop you from doing work you’ve done before.
  • You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical conditions.
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or lead to death.

The SSA maintains a guide called the “Blue Book” outlining eligibility rules for disability benefits. In it you’ll find:

  • General Information – about the SSA’s programs and processes
  • Evidentiary Requirements – what you’ll need to confirm your disability
  • Listing of Impairments – specifics about what sorts of medical issues qualify adults or children as having a disability

How Do I Start My Social Security Disability Benefits Application?

You can apply for benefits online, by phone or in person at a Social Security office. To apply online you should review the “Adult Disability Checklist provided by the SSA for an overview of what you’ll need to complete your application. Pay close attention to the instructions from Social Security.

You’ll then complete a Disability Benefit Application and a Medical Release Form. For your application you’ll need:

  • Personal Information about yourself and your family – birth date, place of birth, Social Security number, information about your spouse or children and more
  • Medical Condition Information from health care providers or others familiar with your health problems, including details on your illnesses, injuries or diagnoses and information about treatment you’ve received
  • Work Information about your earnings the last two years, any military service, jobs held in the past 15 years, any disability benefits you may receive from other sources and more
  • Eligibility Documentation that shows you’re eligible for benefits, such as birth certificates, proof of citizenship, tax returns for the last year, medical evidence, pay stubs, information about any worker’s compensation benefits you’ve received and more

The SSA accepts photocopies of some documents, while it requires originals of other things, such as your birth certificate. The SSA will return your originals. You can mail the documentation required for your application, or bring it to a local Social Security office. But Social Security warns you NOT to mail birth records or documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Those documents need to be presented in person so they can be examined and returned immediately.

What’s Next After I Apply?

If you apply online, you’ll get confirmation of your application, either electronically or by mail.

After you send your application, officials in your state’s Disability Determination Services office will review it and send their findings to your Social Security field office. Claims examiners will contact you if they need more information or documentation. They’ll tell you if other family members may be eligible to receive benefits based on your Social Security record, or if you’re eligible to receive benefits on another person’s record, such as a spouse or parent. Once your application is processed, the SSA’s decision will be mailed to you.

Five Practical Pointers

After 40 years working with disability cases, here are five pointers I recommend you consider as part of your application for disability benefits:

  1. It’s your case, not someone else’s. People are approved or denied for many reasons. Be sure your unique story is heard.
  2. It’s critical to get the right evidence in front of the right person at the right time.
  3. Social Security may lose certain documents or claim it never received them. Get written confirmation from the SSA that important documents were received, to make sure your application stays on track.
  4. Talk with your doctors about your health problems and limitations, and make sure they know how your work and everyday life are affected by your disability.
  5. If you lost jobs because of your health problems, explain the details. It’s not the time to be embarrassed or to hide them.
Tom Nash of Nash Disability Law advises Social Security Disability benefits applicants to not feel embarrassed about jobs lost due to a disability.

Tom Nash’s fifth pointer to consider when applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Process Can be Hard

You need to know the SSA doesn’t approve disability benefits for everyone. In fact, most people are turned down when they initially apply.

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be confusing. The system has many steps and long forms. A misunderstanding of a small detail on your application can trip up your case.

The Social Security Disability system involves thousands of rules, regulations, and procedures. Even unwritten ones! You can be denied for any number of reasons, often through no fault of your own. For example, you may be denied benefits if your doctor doesn’t know what’s important to your particular claim. Or if a Social Security employee does not obtain the right medical evidence on your behalf. Or if your appeal of a denial is handled improperly.

You Can Get Someone to Help

Lawyers who are experienced with Social Security cases know the system and how it works. A lawyer can help you avoid common mistakes and make sure you qualify for the maximum benefits possible. At my firm, we can put together your application for you.

Most Social Security law firms are generally paid the same. They only get paid when you win and only a portion of the back benefits you’re awarded. Most offer free evaluations of your claim to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing. And good disability lawyers know what I’ve learned over the years, that it’s not just about your benefits. It’s about your life!

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