It's a common misconception that disability benefits are difficult or impossible to obtain. For those who have experienced a qualifying injury, submitting an application or filling out a few forms is just the tip of the iceberg. The overwhelming majority of social security claims are denied after the initial submission.
The primary reason for most of these denials isn't that they weren't deserving of benefits, but that the application or supporting documentation for their claim didn't meet the exacting standards of the disability examiner assigned to review the claim. While an application for social security benefits has several components, one of the most often overlooked aspect is a thorough and complete record of your qualifying disability or injury. Here are a few basics you should know when it comes to documenting your disability in an SSDI case.
Does Your Disability Match the Government's List?
While you or your doctor may feel that you are unable to perform activities that would allow you to engage in normal work, this doesn't mean that your specific condition qualifies for benefits under the law. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of qualifying impairments which they consider severe enough to allow those affected to qualify for benefits. Many claimants fail to refer to this document, instead listing off generic pain or injury. Classifying your injury correctly is a critical element to a positive outcome for your social security claim.
What if Your Injury is “Equivalent” to a Listing?
If your specific impairment, diagnosed by your doctor, isn't included on the government's list of qualifying disabilities all hope is not yet lost. Many conditions have the same symptoms, pain levels or limiting affects as those on the government's reference list. The list can't include every known ailment and examiners have leeway to approve a claim for benefits if the claimant's condition is equivalent to a listed one. If your condition isn't on the approved list, consulting with a professional such as a lawyer experienced in social security benefits, may help you identify approved conditions that would be considered equivalent to your injury or disability by an examiner.
What if Your Injury Isn't Listed at All?
In some cases, applicants may suffer from an injury or disability that is neither listed or equivalent to a disability on the list of impairments. In these instances, examiners are allowed to approve a claim if the applicant has shown that their disability is so severe that it limits your movement or ability to function so severely that you are unable to work. This is often a harder determination and requires a great deal of documentation of the specifics of your injury or disability along with reasons why they prohibit you from normal function.
Keeping a Journal and Records of Your Disability or Injury
As you can see, many of these determinations are highly fact-based. The specifics of your injury will be required to be documented in minute detail. Doctor's notes, medical histories, employment records and job skills should all be written down and compiled for submission with your applications.
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to track this information is by keeping a journal or folder of your office visits, treatment and diagnosis. Your journal should include specific dates for the onset of injury and subsequent doctor care, including dates when you received your final diagnosis. These dates will also be important for proving other elements of your social security case.
Seeking Professional Help
If you're thinking of submitting a claim for social security benefits or are among the many claimants who have had their initial applications denied, know that you are entitled to seek legal help for your claim or appeal. An experienced social security benefits lawyer, such as those with Justin McMurray, P.C., knows the ins and outs of the social security process. They can and will help applicants put together the various supporting documentation for their claim, appeal or case, and can serve as their legal representative through all stages of the claims process. Contact our offices today for a free initial consultation and to discuss how we can help you properly document your impairment or disability in your SSDI case.