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How to Get Approved for Disability the First Time


When someone who has worked most of their lives becomes disabled from an injury or illness, their life gets turned upside down. When the disabling impairment is long-term, they feel immense pressure to replace the income they’ve lost and will continue to lose for the foreseeable future. That’s why Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) benefits exist.

Unfortunately, many people who file for disability benefits don’t win approval during their initial application process. They need to appeal. The bright side is that more than half of SSD claimants who appeal their initial denial win a reversal and are approved for full benefits retroactively to the date they became disabled.

At London Disability Advocates for Social Security Disability, we would prefer that no one be denied the first time they apply for SSD benefit payments. Very few people file disability claims without good cause, and unnecessary delays due to unfair or unsupported denials only add further frustration and anxiety to the lives of people who desperately need the benefits they worked for.

What Can You Do to Get Approved for Disability the First Time?

There are several reasons that so many disability claims are denied the first time they are submitted, many of which you can change. They include claims that are submitted with incomplete medical records, or the inexperienced claim preparer failed to include required information about the multiple impairments the person suffers with that combine to render them disabled under the strict definition used by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Other disability claims get denied because the applicant failed to establish that they treated persistently and followed recommended treatments and medication protocols.

Still others are denied merely because the first official to review the file was overwhelmed with a large backlog of cases and responded to the situation by paying too little attention to the details of each file. Instead, files may have been scanned quickly and important facts supporting the claim were overlooked.

While there is nothing you can do to reduce the pressure of a file backlog in your state’s Disability Determination Service Center, there is something you can do to make it easier for the reviewer to recognize the validity of your individual disability claim package.

Establish a Compliant Treatment Record Over Time

The Social Security Administration defines a qualified disability as follows:

A medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last 12 months (or result in death) and prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities (SGAs).

Some physical impairments are clearly long-term or permanent enough to satisfy that part of the requirement. Stage four cancers, end-stage renal failure, or ALS are all serious illnesses from which recovery within one year is not common. Therefore, if a disability claim were based on one of these obviously severe, long-term impairments, an extensive treatment history going back years is not necessary to support the claim’s validity.

But other illness and injuries are less obviously “disabling” and require a fuller medical record to supply medical evidence. For example, a severe anxiety disorder combined with a depressive disorder may or may not become a long-term disability. The nature of anxiety and depressive disorders includes a possible progression of symptoms. Only with the support of a substantial treatment history during which the claimant complied with recommended meds and therapy would a case reviewer be able to recognize the severity of the impairments.

That means keeping up with doctors’ appointments is imperative to a successful disability claim, whereas repeated missed appointments and long treatment gaps will undermine a claimant’s chance of first-time approval of their disability claim.

Organization of Records In an Orderly Disability Claim Package

Ensuring that all medical records are included in a disability claim package is only one part of a good application. The records MUST be presented in a logical order, with proper tabs, labeling, and highlighting of significant materials to enable the person reviewing the package to easily identify the data they need to approve the claim. A busy, disability determination worker facing a large file backlog is not likely to spend extra time looking for information in a disorganized claim package.

Hire a Professional Disability Attorney or Trained Disability Advocate to Help with Your Claim

Preparing and filing your own SSD claim package or asking an inexperienced person to help is an invitation to initial denial in most cases. Professional Disability Lawyers and Specially Trained Disability Advocates prepare, organize, highlight, and advocate for disabled claimants’ benefits claims every day.

No fees are collected from disability claimants during the entire preparation, filing, and advocacy process until the applicant is approved for full benefits, and then the government caps the fee at a modest level. The expertise of professional Disability Advocates is invaluable. They will collect all the documents from your treating physicians, get clarification from a doctor if necessary to decipher the meaning of a treatment note, and organize all the material into the form that is favored by the people who will be responsible for reading, reviewing and deciding whether to approve the claim.

If you need help with your disability claim, let London Disability Advocates for Social Security Disability help you get the benefits you deserve.

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