Knowing who you are talking to, and what that person’s role in processing your application for Social Security Disability Benefits is, can be critical to a successful application.
In this post, I will go over how the Social Security Administration initially collects the information that will be used to decide your eligibility for benefits prior to a hearing. These suggestions are made in order to maximize the admittedly small chance of approval prior to a hearing.
An application for Title II benefits (benefits based on your work history) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) begins, typically, with an online application or a paper application that is submitted to the Social Security Administration. An application for Title XVI benefits (benefits available regardless of work history)or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)typically begins with an in-person interview or a telephone interview. In either case, it is important to realize that the information is not transmitted directly to the person that will make the decision regarding your benefits.
The application is just the first step in gathering the information that will be used to decide your claim. It is, therefore, extremely important to include as much information about your disabling conditions as possible at this step.
If you told the interviewer that you saw three Doctors, but could only remember the name of one, and the interviewer told you that it was not a problem, that is because it is not a problem for him. It could be a big problem for you. If you did not include an address for a Doctor that provided treatment for your disabling condition, the Social Security Administration will not get those records.
The importance of being thorough in the information that you provide to the Social Security Administration becomes clear once you recognize that the individuals that you are interacting with have no influence on the outcome of your claim and no responsibility beyond filing the information that you provide or that they are able to recover based upon the information you provide.
Everyone that you speak to prior to the hearing is merely gathering information that will be provided to the Single Decision Maker (SDM). The Single Decision Maker will not have any direct communication with anyone that you have spoken to; he will only look at the evidence in the file.
To make sure that the file consulted by Single Decision Maker contains as much information as possible, focus on the following points:
1. Make sure you have included all Doctors and Facilities (hospitals, medical clinics, health departments, schools, jails, etc.) that have provided treatment related to your disabling condition. Research this information ahead of time. Libraries or other publicly available computers can make this easier. Get complete addresses and phone numbers to make it easy for the Social Security Administration to obtain your medical records.
2. Provide as much information to the Social Security Administration as possible when they send you a questionnaire. This is the only instance that you control what information the Single Decision Maker consults. Write a draft and re-read it later to make sure it relates what you want to explain. Take your time and give as much information as possible in complete sentences. Again, you’re making it as easy as possible for the Single Decision Maker.
In the next post, we will discuss what is and, more importantly, what is not in your medical records.