When you have a disabling condition that hinders you from being able to continue working, it can seem counter-intuitive when someone tells you to wait before filing for disability. After all, you’re hurt now. You need money to live on now. Chances are, you’ve heard (correctly) that the Social Security disability claims process can take a long time.
In many cases, though, filing for Social Security disability too soon will cost you time and money. It’s better to make sure that you have a qualifying condition and have adequate work history in order to be approved.
Your disability must be expected to keep you out of work 12 months. Also, it must prevent you from doing the work you have done in the past or any other type work.
When to Apply for Disability Benefits
With that being said, you can and absolutely should notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your intent to file immediately after you suffer from or become aware of a potentially disabling condition.
Doing so establishes a protective filing date, which will be used to determine how much back pay you are entitled to should your claim eventually be approved.
What the SSA Looks For
When you actually file for Social Security disability benefits, however, you set a process in motion which can be difficult to deal with if you don’t already have everything you need to make a solid case.
The SSA has its own definition of what does and does not constitute complete disability, and it doesn’t always agree with the definitions used by you, your employer, Worker’s Compensation, insurance companies, or even your doctor.
One thing the SSA looks at when determining whether to approve your disability claim is how long your condition is expected to last. To qualify for benefits, your condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least twelve full months.
Work with a Social Security Lawyer
Before filing your disability claim, be sure to consult with a disability attorney. An attorney will be able to give you a free case evaluation and let you know whether you have a good claim or not.
Experienced disability attorneys know the ins and outs of the Social Security disability system, and (short of an actual SSA adjudicator) they will know better than anyone else what you need for your claim to be approved and how long you should wait to file it for the best chances of an approval.
Another reason why it’s often better to wait to file your claim is that the medical documentation will be more complete. Often, claimants make the mistake of assuming that if their doctor says they are disabled and should stop working, the SSA will automatically fall in line and agree with that prognosis.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the system works.
What Happens Next
After you file your claim, it will usually take three to six months before an SSA adjudicator will even look at it. If your claim is denied (and most are, especially if they’re filed too early before adequate supporting documentation can be gathered), you will need to wait several more weeks or months for each step of the appeals process.
Obviously, it’s much better to get all the details of your claim right in the first place. Take your claim and medical documentation to a Social Security disability lawyer before you file it.
Your disability attorney will review it with you and tell you if your claim is likely to be approved as is or whether you should wait. He will also be able to advise you regarding what kinds of medical documentation you will need to gather before filing your claim to give you the best chance for an early approval.