When you begin disability claim application process, you are required to collect lots of documentation, including supporting medical evidence for your disability.
This can quickly get overwhelming, and it can be easy to miss critical information and documentation, resulting in a denied claim.
We’ve put together a list of five tips to make collecting information and documentation easier. Using any or all these tips can cut down on overwhelm and make it easier to build your disability case.
Tip #1: Keep a personal record of your medical condition
Take some time every day to record how your disability affects your daily life.
Even if you spend only five to ten minutes jotting down an entry each day, over time you will have a significant amount of evidence showing your disability’s impact on you.
Many experienced disability attorneys recommend this practice to help you build your case. Buy a notebook specially designated for this purpose. Mark every entry with the time and date, and take note of the following:
- What activities are you no longer able to do because of your symptoms? Give as much detail as possible about the reason you can no longer do certain tasks and activities.
For example, if have a herniated disc in your lower back that prevents you from bending down, include your pain level when you have attempted the activity, what sorts of situations require you to bend down, and what your doctor has told you about what is happening in your body that is making bending down painful.
- How much pain are you in today? Is it external or internal pain? What does it feel like? Try to be descriptive.
To use the herniated disc example, you can say things like, “I feel a severe burning sensation going up and down my legs when I am standing,” or “The bottoms of my feet feel like there are pins and needles in them.”
If you decide to call the doctor because of the severity of pain, make a note of that as well when you are able.
- Are there side effects from medications that are affecting your day-to-day life? For some medical conditions, such as mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, side effects from medication can make it difficult to function and work at full capacity.
Take note of those side effects, how they make you feel, and how they affect your daily activities. For example, if you have fatigue that makes it difficult to complete tasks, write down what it feels like, how long it lasts, and what kinds of things do not get accomplished due to your fatigue.
- Have you had any incidences related to your disability recently (e.g. seizures, manic episodes, migraines, etc.)?Note the date and events surrounding the incident. You can record things such as symptoms you were experiencing and whether you had to cancel plans, go to the emergency room, or were admitted to an inpatient program.
Again, the key to keeping a record of your medical condition is including as much detail as possible.
If you have multiple medical conditions, take note of how they impact each other and work against you. This is especially important for multiple mental illness diagnoses, as the symptoms of one mental disorder can trigger symptoms for another.
Feel free to also record the emotional impact of your disability and the impact it has on your loved ones. You want Social Security to see the human side of having a medical condition beyond just the paper trail.
What you are doing when you begin the disability claim application process is building a case for yourself. Documenting your day-to-day experience can help Social Security see, in a very concrete way, why you need disability benefits.
When looking at the requirements for disability on the Social Security Administration website, it’s natural to feel unsure about whether you qualify. The language used for Social Security’s disability evaluation of listed medical conditions can be hard to parse through.
Despite recording your painful experience in detail, you may still feel doubtful about how Social Security will view it.
At BenefitsClaim.com, our team of legal professionals conducts free online disability case evaluations for those who want to apply for disability income. A case evaluation specialist can help set you at ease about whether you qualify and what next steps are.
If you’re unsure whether your medical condition qualifies you for disability benefits, consider taking our 1-minute survey and filling in the contact form. Someone will get in touch with you about your online disability case evaluation.
Tip #2: Create a spreadsheet to keep track of information
The purpose of creating a spreadsheet for all the information Social Security requires is to have everything “at a glance.” There are several items on the Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application. They are:
- Date and Place of Birth (with Permanent Resident Card if you are not a U.S. citizen) – you will also be asked for your Social Security number and a Medicaid number if you have one
- Marriage and Divorce – including spouse/ex-spouse birth date and Social Security number
- Name, Birth Dates, and Social Security Numbers of Children – who became disabled before age 22, are under age 18, or are aged 18 or 19 but still in secondary school.
- U.S. Military Service – branch and dates of duty
- Employer Details for Current Year and Prior 2 Years (not self-employment)
- Self-Employment Details for Current Year and Prior 2 Years (if applicable)
- Direct Deposit – account and routing numbers
- Alternate Contact – name and phone number of someone SSA can contact if they cannot reach you
- Information About Doctors, Healthcare Professionals, Hospitals, and Clinics - The Social Security Administration will want names and contact information for all the doctors who have treated you and all the medical facilities where you have been treated.
They will also ask for dates of treatment by each doctor and facility. You may also be asked for your patient ID number from each facility.
- Information About Other Medical Records and Medications – including name and dosage of medication
- Job History – a list of all the jobs you’ve held and the dates you worked for 15 years prior to the onset of your disability
- Education and Training – your degree level, field of study, and names of schools
Rather than trying to remember what you do and do not have, you can simply look at your spreadsheet. This also ensures you have everything ready before filling out the application.
You can create a spreadsheet by hand if you wish, but Microsoft Excel is an excellent spreadsheet tool to use as well.
You can create separate sheets for different kinds of information. For example, you can have work history on one sheet and medical history on another. You can also include links and login information to healthcare portals as well as contact information for doctors and clinics.
A nice feature of Microsoft Excel is that you can organize all your information by date using the “sort” function. Just make sure you freeze the first row with all your column titles before sorting by date.
Tip #3: Keep a log for telephone calls related to your Social Security disability case
You should log the information for every phone call you make and receive regarding your disability case.
This will help you keep track of where you are in the process. It also prevents the frustration of racking your brain to recall conversations you had days ago.
Whenever you make a phone call related to your disability case, note the following:
- Telephone number
- Name of the doctor’s office, clinic, agency, or other organization
- Name of the person(s) you speak to
- Reason for calling
- Result of the call
You can even create a call log in a spreadsheet if you wish. If you want to keep separate logs for calls regarding medical documentation, work history, and follow ups from SSA, you can create different sheets within the same file (as suggested for all your case information).
You can sort calls by date from newest to oldest. You may also sort them by organization or office in alphabetical order. The search function may be of great use when trying to find information for a particular call.
If you would rather use a paper log, buy a spiral notebook specifically for the purpose. That way, you have the information all in one place where it won’t get mixed up with other notes.
A sample entry in your call log might read like this:
“4/12/2022 – 9:00 a.m. – (123) 456-7890 – ABC Medical Group. Talked to Marie at Doctor Robert’s office and requested records for 2010-2015 when he saw me. She said they should have those together by next week and to call back on Monday.”
If the result of your call is that you need to take a next step, such as checking back or calling another number, put it in your calendar as soon as you finish logging the call. You can use a calendar app like iCal or Google Calendars to do this.
If you want to use a paper calendar, buying a separate calendar only for your Social Security disability case may be better than fitting everything on to one you use for your regular activities.
Tip #4: Use an organizing system for important records
Social Security asks for a lot of records and documents, including copies of:
- Any medical records you’ve saved
- Doctor’s reports about your diagnosis, limited functionality, and evidence they have seen while examining you of impaired function
- Your birth certificate
- Citizenship and residency papers (if you were not born in the U.S.)
- Any military discharge papers
- Your most recent W-2 Form or tax return
- Workmen’s compensation records
It would be overwhelming to try to find any of the records you have obtained for your disability case without having an organizing system in place.
To keep everything together, you can use a three-ring binder with sheet protectors, an accordion file, or a combination of the two.
For example, you could have a three-ring binder for copies of medical records and doctor’s statements and an accordion file for identifying records and citizenship/residency papers.
If you have multiple medical conditions, you can either use separate binders or put binder tabs in a larger binder to separate records and statements for your different medical conditions.
The day you receive a document, put it in the appropriate section of your binder or accordion file. Don’t let your records pile up unorganized to sort through later.
Keep all your disability case documents in a specially designated drawer or file cabinet. The last thing you want is to lose a record that you spent hours trying to obtain over the phone. If you hire a disability attorney, be sure to make copies of all the documentation you give to them for your files.
Tip #5: Get disability benefits assistance
If possible, one of the best things you can do to increase the likelihood your disability claim will be approved is to hire a disability attorney.
The reality of Social Security disability benefits is that about 64% of applications are denied.
We have a great article about some of the reasons for a denied application. One of the reasons is supplying insufficient or irrelevant medical proof.
It can be hard to know just how much medical documentation Social Security requires to approve your case. Equally difficult is knowing what kinds of medical information to include in your case and what to leave out.
This is where an experienced disability attorney can help. They are experts at building compelling cases that are more likely to result in an approved claim.
Even if you knew exactly what Social Security wants to see in your application, the whole process is still tedious, time-consuming, and emotionally taxing. Having a knowledgeable person walk with you on the journey can be immensely comforting and less of a headache than doing it alone.
If you’re not sure where to find a disability lawyer, you have a couple options with BenefitsClaim.com:
- You can take our 1-minute survey to get your free disability case evaluation conducted by a legal professional
- You can contact us by filling out this form.
Whatever you choose to do, someone will reach out to you to talk about your case and pair you with a legal professional who can help you. Our mission is to provide you with the support you need at no out-of-pocket cost to you and help you receive the benefits you deserve.