Anatomy of the Perfect Disability Claim

Here is one individual's description of how he filed the paperwork to apply for disability and then was approved  very quickly. Mind you, he did this without all knowledge of medical SSA disability criteria or the Social Security disability requirements for approval based on his impairments.  

1. He filled out his disability application in detail. He didn't do what far too many claimants do, which is to submit a barely completed application that leaves long gaps in treatment and fails to sufficiently address the nature of an impairment or even list all impairments that a claimant might have.

2. He submitted a very detailed work history. A  disability determination decision from Social Security is both a medical and vocational decision. In other words, your medical records will be used to establish whether or not you are disabled according to Social Security standards, but so will the vocational factors of your case...such as your work history. After all, how can a disability examiner or disability judge determine if your present condition and residual functional capacity (what you can still do despite your condition) will allow you to return to your past work if it isn't clear what your past work was? Remember, past work doesn't just include the very last job you did, but potentially every job you did in the past work relevant period, which is the last fifteen years.

3. He submitted the medical records to Social Security himself. By his account, he submitted all his records, including his oldest records and most recent. This, by itself, probably went a long way toward getting a quick disability decision. Why? Because, as I've said many times, the wait for a disability decision is mainly a factor of how long it takes a disability examiner to gather a claimant's medical records. Usually, it takes weeks to get the records. Sometimes, it can take months. If you supply them at the time of application, you can obviously save a lot of processing time.

4. He submitted a very detailed statement from his doctor (called a medical source statement). This statement did not simply say "Patient is disabled and unable to work." It stated in clear detail how his condition affected and limited his ability to engage in daily activities and work activities. In other words, it was a useful statement that was backed up and substantiated by fact. This was the kind of statement that a disability examiner or judge could actually use in pushing a case toward an approval. Letters from doctors, by contrast, that contain only a one-line assertion that a patient cannot work...are more or less useless.

Now, will every person who does this win disability fast? Not necessarily. Remember, Social Security, on average, denies 70% of all cases at the application level. However, speeding up the process by doing the above things can either:

  • result in a quicker approval, or
  • allow a claimant to start filing an appeal much sooner (many individuals who are denied at the application level are later approved on appeal).

Written by: Tim Moore, former Social Security disability claims examiner

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