The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability programs offer monthly support to help you cover your bills, living expenses, and medical costs.
Benefits are often available to dependents as well and can keep your family above water even when a serious medical condition stops you from working.
While the disability application process is long, involved, and can be confusing for some, applying for benefits is well worth the effort. If you need help applying for disability benefits, you can get help with your claim from various sources, so you don’t have to go through the process alone. Attorneys, advocates, family members, doctors, and SSA representatives can help you when filing for disability.
If you are unable to work because of a medical condition and you plan to apply for disability benefits form the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may need help to get through the process.
Many people need help during the claims process, and you can get help from someone throughout the process. You can enlist the help of a disability advocate or an attorney, or you can have a friend, relative, or caregiver get your application together and filed.
Enlist the Help of Friends or Family
Friends or family members can help you get ready to apply and can even help fill out your disability forms. With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, online application is offered, and someone else can fill out your forms with you or for you.
If a friend or family member applies on your behalf, the SSA will follow up with you to have you sign appropriate documents.
It’s important to note that you can use the SSDI online application to start your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application too. The SSA will accept these online documents and will contact you to finish up your SSI claim.
A friend or family member can help with this too and can even be present during the required SSI phone or in-person interview.
Tap into Social Service Options
Social service workers, disability advocates, and others can help with disability applications in some cases. For example, in many states, family social services staff often assists parents and guardians in applying for SSI benefits on behalf of a disabled child.
Use SSA Resources
Representatives at SSA field offices are available to help you apply for SSI and/or SSDI benefits and establish if you may qualify. You can make an appointment by calling 1-800-772-1213 or you can stop by your local office.
A friend, family member, or Social Security advocate or attorney can even attend your local office meeting with you, if you feel you need additional assistance.
The SSA also understands that disabled persons aren’t always able to attend their own application meetings. Someone else can apply on your behalf and the SSA will follow up with you to obtain signatures and consents for filing your claim.
Work Closely with Your Doctor
Your doctor is a primary partner in not only your medical care but also your disability application. He or she can review the Blue Book listing with you, help you gather evidence, fill out forms, and submit required records.
The SSA will likely request information and records directly from your doctor too, so be sure to communicate openly with your physician about your disability application and request his or her assistance as needed.
Representative Payees and SSDI
If you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the SSA can appointment a representative payee for individuals who either cannot manage their own money, or who cannot take care of all their own finances.
This person can be a caregiver, a relative, a friend, or someone who has agreed to take on these responsibilities as needed. The representative payee has several responsibilities when they take on this task.
The main responsibilities of the representative payee are to use the benefits to take care of the current and the future needs of the beneficiary. They must properly save any proceeds that are not needed at the present time to take care of the individual’s current needs.
You must report how all payments are spent and maintain records and receipts that show all the funds were spent for the claimant. You should be able to determine the needs of the beneficiary and then make sure the funds are used to meet those needs.
You will be required to complete an accounting report and submit it to SSA to show how you used the funds, and you should return any money to the SSA that the beneficiary wasn’t entitled to receive.
How To Choose A Representative Payee
You want to choose a trustworthy person, who is best qualified to manage your funds, as the representative payee. This could be your relative, friend, caregiver, or even your legal guardian or attorney. The claimant can propose his or her own representative payee or the SSA may appoint one for you.
You would want to take the individual that you recommend as your representative payee with you to the SSA office. A form will need to be completed and submitted along with copies of identification.
If you want to change your payee at any time, you will need to contact the SSA. You will go to the local field office and request a change of payee. You will be given a form to complete so you can make the request. A SSA representative can provide the guidance that you need if you need help completing the form or if you have any questions about the process of switching representative payees.
Using The Blue Book
The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine if an individual meets the medical criteria to be approved for disability benefits. The person who is helping you with your disability claim can help you review the Blue Book and determine which listing or listings are applicable to your situation.
They will then help you determine if you meet the criteria of a listing so your claim can be approved. You will want to provide supporting evidence that shows your condition meets the criteria of a listing.
The person who is helping you can help you gather supporting documentation and evidence for your claim. That evidence may include medical records, surgical notes, test results, treatment files, statements from co-workers and managers, your work history, and details that show any treatment you have undergone and how you responded to the treatment.
You will want to talk with your physician. The wording of the Blue Book is very technical, and a physician will be able to determine if your condition meets the listing and whether he or she believes you would qualify for disability benefits.
Your physician can also provide a letter and other supporting documentation for your claim and to help you be approved for disability benefits. It is very beneficial to have your physician’s support throughout the claims process.
Your physician can provide the necessary documentation and evidence that you need to ensure your claim has the evidence that Disability Determination Services (DDS) needs to fairly evaluate your disability claim and to determine as to whether you qualify.
You will need to keep track of your work history. This means that you will need to come up with a detailed list of all the jobs that you have worked in the last 10 years up until you became disabled.
You will need to include the name of the employer, the address and phone number, your job title, and your work responsibilities. Disability Determination Services (DDS) will go through the evidence to determine if you are able to return to the same line of work.
Seek Legal Help with your Claim
A disability lawyer or advocate can assist you throughout your entire claim, from start to finish. He or she can help gather evidence, counsel you on application and documentation strategies, and represent your interests during the review and appeals stages, if necessary.
Even if you have a team of others helping with various steps in the disability review, your lawyer can be your go-to person for understanding SSA processes, disability documentation and eligibility, and denial and appeal procedures.