Connect with us

Getting Approved

Before You Apply: Getting Your Disability Ducks in a Row

If you have a medical condition that will keep you out of work for more than 12 months, or is expected to result in death, you may qualify to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Because it can take time for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to review your claim, you should start the application process as soon as you become disabled and are unable to work. However, there are things you can (and should) do to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Medical Information

Before you apply, it is a good idea to write down any doctors you have seen for your condition, along with their office addresses and phone numbers.

“While supportive medical records will help strengthen your case, don’t worry if you can’t obtain them yourself when you first apply because SSA can help you with this,” said Brock Hunsaker, case manager at Myler Disability. “We will give the SSA the contact information for your medical providers. the SSA will then have another government agency contact your doctors, request your medical records and pay to gather these records. After you file, our office will also contact your doctors and request your medical records as well.”

You might also consider writing down a list of medications you are currently taking for your condition and any testing you have undergone, such as MRIs, x-rays and bloodwork, as these will help the SSA determine which records they will need to gather in order to evaluate the severity of your disability.

It is no secret that getting evaluated for social security disability benefits can take months or even years. One thing you can do that might speed up the process, however, is provide your attorney and the SSA with any medical records you may already have. This can cut down the evaluation time because the SSA no longer has to request and wait for those records to arrive.

You might also consider talking to your doctor about filling out a questionnaire or writing a statement about your disability.

“Having a supportive doctor greatly enhances your chances of willing your disability case,” said Hunsaker. “Once your application is filed, we will send you a questionnaire to take to your doctor. If your doctor is will to write a narrative statement explaining why you are unable to work, it often increases your chances of winning. Even though there is no requirement from the SSA to get a narrative or questionnaire from your doctor, having your doctor provide one will likely be beneficial.”

Employment Information

The SSA will also want to know what work you have performed over that past 15 years. They will use this information to evaluate your ability to work, whether you can keep doing this work or whether you can reasonably be expected to do other kinds of work based on your age, education and work skills.

“The SSA will want to know your latest job title, the type of business you worked in, dates of employment, rate of pay and how many hours you worked per week,” Hunsaker said.

If you have served in the military, the SSA will want information about your dates of service, branch of service and rank at discharge. The easiest way to provide this information is to give your lawyer or the SSA a copy of your DD214 discharge papers. Sometimes military service can increase the amount of social security disability benefits you are eligible for.

Financial Information

After you file an application for benefits, you may want to gather some financial information to demonstrate you meet the income requirements.

In 2015, the monthly earnings limit for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) applicants is  $1,090 for non-blind individuals.

“The SSA will ask for permission to contact your financial institutions, they may also ask for recent pay stubs and bank statements,” said Hunsaker. “They may also want information about any assets or income you have. However, most offices will only need this information if you are approved for benefits.”

The SSA will exclude certain assets, such as one vehicle and the home you live in, when evaluating your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you have more than that, those assets will be counted against the resource limit. Right now, the resource limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

In addition to any income you may earn through limited employment, the SSA will evaluate income you receive from pensions, VA benefits, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation, and any money or resources given to you by friends, family, churches etc. Be aware that some of these income sources may offset the benefits you are eligible to receive.

Spousal/Dependents Information

Along with your medical, employment and financial information, the SSA will want information about any dependents you may have.

If you have ever been married, be prepared to provide the SSA or your attorney with the name of your spouse, the date you were married, their social security number and the date of your divorce if applicable. It’s a good idea to supply the SSA with your marriage certificates and divorce decrees so they can evaluate potential benefits available to your current or ex spouse.

If you have children under the age of 19 (or if they are adult children who were disabled before age 22), you will want to provide the SSA with their full names, social security numbers and birth dates so they can evaluate whether or not they are eligible to receive benefits on your record.

Preparation is key when it comes to applying for social security disability benefits, and getting the proper information in order can help the process go more smoothly. If gathering this information is overwhelming or confusing, you may consider working with a disability attorney or advocate, as they can often help you gather and prepare the proper information for your claim.


Continue Reading

Getting Approved

10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp

It’s back-to-school season again. And even if you’re not heading to classes this fall, there are still lots of ways you can develop healthy habits that improve your thinking skills.

By finding simple brain training exercises to keep your mind sharp over the years, you’ll not only improve overall brain health, but also prevent cognitive impairment over time. To give you some ideas, here are 10 things that have been proven to improve brain function and cognitive skills.

1. Get plenty of sleep—Perhaps not the first tip you were expecting, but getting enough rest does an awful lot to keep your mind fresh and invigorated. Plus getting seven to nine hours of sleep consistency has been linked to improved brain function and a significant increase of memory functions. On the flipside, frequent sleep deprivation is also linked to cognitive decline in old age. The relationship may not be causal, but it’s definitely something to think about.

2. Journal by hand—Here’s an interesting fact: did you know that handwriting, the kind that involves a pen and paper and no technology whatsoever, has actually been shown to sharpen your mind? Studies have also found that when you take notes by hand, you are exponentially more likely to remember them afterwards. So if you want to give your mind a workout and remember something, write it down the traditional way.

3. Drink lots of water—Yes, yes, I know how tired you are of hearing this one, but staying hydrated really does improve every aspect of your health, including your long-term mental health. Water cleanses your body and your brain tissues, and it also helps boost your energy, increase alertness, and curb hunger too. A study published in 2006 actually discovered that people who stayed well hydrated and also consumed a healthy diet of fruit and vegetable juices had a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Always continue learning—It stands to reason that the best way to keep your brain in tip top shape is to use it, especially for older adults. You don’t have to be in school to keep learning, so look around for opportunities to try new things. Attend a local seminar. Learn some new software at your local library. Take a meditation class at a community college. Reading new books and interesting articles online is my personal favorite way to keep learning, so do whatever you find most interesting.

5. Break your routine—This might be a hard one if you’re a just-so creature of habit like me. But learning a new skill or just altering your day-to-day routine is actually a great way to stimulate different parts of your brain and prevent both your life and your internal chemistry from going stagnant. I fully give you permission to break out of your shell and do something a little crazy that maybe you’ve never tried before.

6. Use all your senses—All five of your senses are linked to separate parts of your brain, so using all of them regularly is a great way to both stimulate your cognitive abilities and invigorate yourself. Looking at beautiful art, browsing a fancy candle store, trying exotic new foods, and attending a live concert are all great options. Plus unique sensory experiences also boost your memory. Did you know you’re much more likely to remember pictures and experiences when they’re paired with specific scents? Food for thought . . . or your nose I guess?

7. Get some regular exercise—Physical exercise is another great refresher for the brain and has actually been proven to reduce the risk of dementia. So get moving. Living a generally active lifestyle and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every other day will do wonders for both your physical health and your mental health. Aerobic exercise is also a great break from technology and a good old-fashioned way of increasing blood flow and lowering your stress levels naturally.

8. Stimulate your brain—If you’ve heard any advice about keeping your mind sharp, it’s probably this one. A brain game is a fantastic way to challenge your brain cells and reduce your risk of age-related memory loss. So give some a try. Sudoku is my personal favorite, but crossword puzzles, Mah Jongg, and brainer teasers like these are great too. Remember the key is to introduce novelty to your brain, plus the feeling of accomplishment when you defeat a particularly tricky puzzle is well worth the effort all on its own.

9. Believe in your healthy brain—There are a lot of myths about memory loss wandering around out there, and it’s actually in your best interest not to believe what you hear. Studies have actually shown that people who feel stress about losing their memory or put too much stock into mental decline stereotypes are much more likely to experience mental decline and memory-loss difficulties. So give your brain power the benefit of the doubt.

10. Don’t be too hard on yourself—Along with believing in your brain, be kind to yourself and take it easy on your memory skills. Everyone has little slip ups and moments of forgetfulness, so don’t beat yourself up for being human. Feel free to invest in a good planner to help you remember things, and keep in mind that forgetfulness is sometimes a sign that you’re packing too much into your brain. So give yourself the freedom to forget the little things that really don’t matter all that much in the long run.

Want to read more healthy living tips? Try this one on seven ways to beat your stress or this one about all the virtues of drinking more water. Some of them might surprise you.

Continue Reading

Getting Approved

Quick Tip: List Your Attorney as a Contact for the SSA

As you’re preparing your application for Social Security Disability, one of the best things you can do to help your case is to list your disability attorney. Every application has a section for relevant contacts that the SSA can ask about your case, and who better to have them call than the person who knows the most about getting you approved?

Keeping an open line of communication between the SSA and your disability attorney is arguably the number one thing that will get your application through on the very first try for all kinds of reasons:

1. Your disability attorney is intimately acquainted with your case. Because of this he or she will be able to answer the SSA’s questions in a way that will accurately and effectively represent you.

2. Your attorney knows the SSA lingo. While your close friends or your family doctor might know an awful lot about your condition, your attorney is the one who will know how to translate your case into terms that will make sense to the SSA—and increase your chances of approval.

3. They’ll know how to handle any obstacles that arise. If your attorney is in regular contact with the SSA, he or she will be right there to resolve objections and stop approval-killing obstacles before they become a reason for your application to be denied.

4. Your attorney knows what NOT to say. There are things that will improve your case and also things that will not improve your case. Since your disability attorney is familiar with the ins and outs of approval, they need to be right on the front lines to help you steer your application to success. Why else would you have hired them?

For even more fantastic benefits of working with a disability lawyer, check out this great blog post.

Continue Reading

Getting Approved

Can Social Media Activity Affect My Disability Case?

In the age of social media, nothing is private anymore. Every day, millions of people from older adults to adolescents upload personal information about themselves and their social relationships. Most of the time, we do it without thinking about how their social media posts could be used by others.

If you are filing for Social Security Disability benefits, you should be highly aware of what you are posting on social media sites. Even things that may seem innocuous have the ability to affect a disability examiner or administrative law judge’s opinion about your disability claim and your status as a disabled person.

While the Social Security Administration has official rules prohibiting examiners and judges from searching the Internet for information about disability applicants, that doesn’t mean it never happens. It just means that social media activity cannot be cited as a primary reason for denial in a disability decision. Public information about you could still be found, and could color a case evaluator’s perception of your claim.

We’re not trying to scare you off Facebook and Twitter forever. Social networking and following the right influencers can be a beneficial source of social support within the disability community. We just want to you to be aware of what information is publicly visible on your social media accounts. As long as you’re being honest about your disability issues, mental health, physical activity, and functional limitation on your Social Security Disability application, you shouldn’t have any problems. But just in case, you may want to do an audit of your social disabled community to see what information about you is publicly available.

Delete anything you feel could affect your case for benefits. Even an innocent status update posted in jest such as “love all this free time I have waiting for disability benefits,” could raise some eyebrows by the Social Security employees evaluating your claim.

Once you’ve cleaned up your social media sites, consider making them private if you haven’t done so already. Not just because you are applying for disability benefits, but because it’s simply a good idea for your protection. You never know how people will use your information, and the last thing you want is for it to fall into nefarious hands.

Finally, as you move through the disability process, be mindful of what you are sharing and how a disability examiner or administrative law judge could react to it. While your profile may be set to private, there are other ways it could end up in front of public eyes.

In the end, your social media accounts probably won’t have much of an impact on your Social Security Disability case, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have any concerns about your claim for disability benefits, including whether your social media activity could be hurting your case, you should consult with an experienced Social Security disability attorney.

Curious on what other behaviors might have a negative impact on your Social Security Disability claim? You’ll definitely want to read our article with “10 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Filing for Social Security Disability.”

Continue Reading