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In this video we’ll cover three important things you must know about applying for social security disability. The goal is for you to understand each stage of the disability process, what you can expect and how long the process will take.
Although the individual application and processing times vary from state to state we’ll cover how long it will take on average for Social Security to process your claim.
Next we’ll go over the Application Checklist and explain how this document will help you successfully organize the information you’ll need to file your claim.
The last topic we cover in this video is your mindset. You may not realize it but the way you think about your disability and the way you answer Social Security’s questions directly affects the outcome of your claim. We’ll share specific examples of how your mindset affects your disability application which will help you answer questions in the best way possible.
Please watch the entire video before you begin your application. This information is very important and will make a real difference in how Social Security views your claim and whether it gets approved or denied.
The Application Checklist can be found in the forms section of RepresentMyself.com. Pause this video now and go to forms section and print the Application Checklist. When you have printed the checklist, come back and press play to resume the video.
The application checklist will help you organize the documents Social Security requires you to complete when filing your application.
As you collect each item on the list check it off and place the papers in a folder you create called Disability Application Documents. You’ll need all of this information in order to complete your online application so make sure you keep these documents together.
It’s important for you to understand how long each stage of the disability process will take. Let’s go over each step and what will happen at Social Security.
The Initial level which is your application, the Reconsideration level which is your first appeal, and the Hearing level which is your second appeal.
Once you file your claim online it’s received and processed by your local branch office. Then the file is sent to the Disability Determination Services Office or DDS. DDS reviews your file and requests your medical records based on the information on your application.
If DDS doesn’t have enough information from your medical records to make a decision, or if they feel they need more details, a Consultative Exam or CE as it is called by Social Security, may be scheduled. A CE is an appointment with a doctor Social Security chooses to evaluate you. The doctor will send Social Security a report based on their appointment with you along with any medical records they have access to.
When the file is complete and all of the available medical evidence has been processed, a Medical Examiner will then make a decision. DDS sends the file back to the local branch office and the decision is sent to you. Generally it takes about 4-6 months to receive a decision at this level and it is regretfully it is estimated that 70% of the people who apply are denied.
Once the Reconsideration appeal has been filed, the file is again sent to DDS for a decision. They review the information to determine if anything was overlooked and also to gather any new or additional evidence. They will then request that a different Medical Examiner make the decision. This step takes approximately 3-5 months and the estimated denial rate at this level is 90%.
Once you filed your Request for a Hearing, your file is sent to the local Hearing office which is called the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review or ODAR (please say the word ODAR, do not spell it out) After several months a hearing is scheduled and you’ll need to appear before an Administrative Law Judge. The judge will make a decision based on medical records and testimonies from any expert witnesses. The decision is then sent to you and your file is sent back to the local branch office.
This process takes 6-18 months, longer in some states, but has the highest success rate. Over 50% of the cases that go before a judge end favorably with the judge granting benefits. Using the tools we’ve supplied you with at representmyself.com will significantly increase your chances of approval when you go before a judge.
Now that you understand the process of filing your claim here is what you really must know which will greatly influence the outcome of your claim.
Whether you’re filing your application or an appeal, going to a doctor’s appointment or standing before a judge at a hearing you must always answer the questions you are asked in the best way possible. The answers you chose to give Social Security present a picture of your disability and will make a real difference in how they view and process your claim.
Remember you are filing for disability benefits which means you are telling Social Security that you are disabled. If you’ve ever been to a job interview, you know that you’re supposed to put your best foot forward and present yourself as a very capable and competent person. Well this is not a job interview, it’s a disability interview. You need to talk about the medical problems that keep you from working.
We like to use back injuries as an example because they there are so many different types of questions Social Security or a judge can ask to find out if your back is as bad as you say. When you are at a hearing and the judge asks you, “Who does your laundry?” Don’t say, “Well I do!” without elaborating. The judge knows that in order for you to do your laundry, you have to bend over the washing machine and put in loads of clothing. Once the load is washed, you have to pick up the wet and heavy clothes and bend over and throw them into the dryer. Remember, this is the opposite of a job interview. When you answer this type of question at any stage of your claim, focus on the things you can’t do. Instead, answer the question fully and truthfully by saying, “I really can’t do the laundry without help. It’s too difficult to bend over to put in and take out the clothes and if I were to try and do a load, my back would really hurt badly for the rest of the day.”
See how we took a positive question you were asked and turned it into a negative answer. Everything we said was absolutely true, but it focused on the negative things; or in other words, the things you can’t do.
Think about the last time you had a really bad day. Think about how bad you felt and how little you were able to do that day.
Whether you are answering questions on your initial application, the appeal, or at your hearing, think about how you feel when you are having a bad day and then answer the question.
If you are suffering from depression you may spend 3-4 days at home often locked up in your room, and you can’t possibly leave the house.
Then there are the other 3-4 days of the week that you feel better and you’re able to go out and do simple errands. When you go to see your psychiatrist, you’re having a good day. You were able to get out of bed and you made it to your appointment.
When you’re asked, “How are you are doing with your depression?” don’t say you are doing pretty well. The truth is, you may not be!
Instead think about the bad days you had that week and then answer the question truthfully.
“My life is terrible. I spend 3 to 4 days each week so sad and depressed that I can’t even leave the house. I spend most days crying because I feel so useless and hopeless.”
You can see how this answer focused on the bad days. It explained why you can’t work.
When you focus on your bad days the answers you give paint a clear picture of how your disability affects your daily life. This is exactly what social security is looking for you to do.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, how would you describe your pain level?”
Remember….think about your bad days and then answer the question.
If a person is in a lot of pain they would rate between a 7 and 10 on the pain scale.
Often people will tell the judge that they rate their pain a “5” out of “10”.
If that’s true, then fine, but don’t downplay your pain when you rate it. Think about what you feel on a bad day and then answer the question
Now that you’re prepared to answer questions1 successfully, let’s move on to the next section.
But before we do,
First we explained how long Social Security will take to process your claim and what you can expect.
Next, we reviewed how to organize the information Social Security requires when you submit your online application using the Disability Application Checklist.
And lastly, we showed you how your Mindset directly affects the outcome of your case. Just remember that this is the opposite of a job interview. Always think about your bad days before you answer any question.
In the next video, we’ll show you a real online application and we’ll review the areas which you’ll need to pay special attention to when you file.