People hire attorneys or representatives to help with Social Security Disability claims because they want help with the process, and we’re glad to provide that! But there are some things that clients (or claimants who choose to handle the process on their own), can do to relieve the stress of applying and to make things run more smoothly. These tips won’t necessarily speed things along or guarantee benefits, but they will prevent unnecessary delays and avoid complications. So whether you sign up with a representative or go it alone, here are some things to keep in mind.
Be prompt. Attorneys have other clients, and so do Social Security offices, so please be courteous and arrive on time. This also means less chance of being rushed during your appointment. It’s always better to schedule an appointment rather than walk in unannounced. With law firms, this means guaranteeing someone is available to answer your questions; with SSA, it means a shorter wait time for you.
Be compliant. Some actions will be required on your part, such as attending disability exams or completing reports. Not cooperating in this means at best, longer delays and at worst, outright denial of your claim.
Avoid last-minute deadlines. Don’t wait until a few days before your appeal is due to file. If you’re looking for an attorney or other rep, the first one you see may not be able to take your case. And remember SSA offices have shorter business hours: until 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and until noon on Wednesdays. The process can take long enough as it is, so don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Have your act together. By this, we mean gather your paperwork. If you’re sent a form to complete before an appointment, don’t bring the blank form with you to the appt. and expect to fill it out there. If you are given a list of required documentation, gather the papers days early so you know exactly where it is and can bring it with you.
Fess up. Don’t try to make your claim sound more valid by exaggerating details (or omitting them), or not admitting you were turned down by a previous rep if you’re asked. Just because someone else declined to represent you doesn’t mean everyone will. Medical records are the backbone of your claim, so all details will come out in the end.
Keep us posted! Don’t try to avoid the inevitable by not telling your lawyer, rep or Social Security about important changes, such as if you return to work. One of the worst things is finding out close to a hearing that a client has been working.
Stay on topic. Whether it’s on a disability report or in person, stick to a brief explanation about your conditions. More is not necessarily better! Also avoid complaining about the disability process. You may have valid points, but both your rep and/or Social Security personnel are focused on getting your claim processed, not making sweeping changes at that point in time.
See doctors! Nothing is more important. We know it can seem impossible without insurance, but whether it’s free clinics, Medicaid, etc. — medical records are a must.
Too many cooks… Obviously, some disability applicants will need people to drive them to appointments or need a friend or family member to accompany them to help recall details or ask questions, or lend moral support. But having other people tagging along often is not necessary and sometimes unwieldy. Have someone watch your children if at all possible, unless you know that a particular office is set up for kids.
Can’t we all just get along? Most reps and Social Security employees are doing their best to help you, but sometimes mistakes are made. Please understand when that happens. If you encounter unacceptable behavior, ask to see a supervisor.
Coming next month: what YOU have a right to expect from a Social Security Disability attorney.