Few things are more frustrating and stressful than applying for social security disability. Here I offer some tips to make it less stressful, more likely that you or a loved one will get accepted, and help you avoid the disability dance.
I worked for four years as a peer support specialist at National Alliance on Mental Illness in Clackamas County, Oregon. During that time I helped dozens of people apply for disability due to their mental illness. The majority of people I helped were approved. Why is that? What made the difference?
The first and most important step is making sure you qualify. To receive disability one has to be out of work due to their mental illness and unable to work for at least the following twelve months.
I had people come to me to help them apply who had been laid off from work due to budget cutbacks. I had people come to me because they did not want to work. And I had people come to me who were still employed but who, because of their diagnosis, thought they would qualify.
None of these people met the first test of applying for and being approved for disability. I told them that, explained why, and helped them plan for a future without social security disability benefits.
However many people who deserved to receive disability came to me not knowing how to apply to give themselves the best chance of being approved. This was because for many people the process is daunting. But it does not have to be.
One can apply for disability online, over the phone or in person. None of these methods gives one more of a chance than the others. Information on all these methods is available on the social security disability website. The same rules and requirements apply to all methods.
The second most important step to being approved is understanding that one does not have to get all their medical information from their providers and send that in with the application. The rule is that one send in medical information that they have on hand.
If all one has on hand are the name, address and phone numbers of their providers, then that is all that needs to be sent in. The Social Security Administration will contact providers for any information that is required. The information will be sent directly to Social Security.
One of the most stressful parts of applying is when one gathers tons of records, doesn’t know what is relevant and ends up with a box of records they copy and mail in.
The third step to applying is keep it simple and be concise. Provide only relevant information about your current mental health condition.
Many people write pages and pages telling their story from their teens to the present. The person reviewing your case has to wade through it all to get to the relevant points. One should not make the reviewer’s job more difficult.
Again, the important info is why one’s medical condition makes them unable to work and why the condition will last for twelve months or more. When telling them that, be concise. What is the medical condition? How does it manifest itself? By this I mean one can’t leave the house without breaking down making it impossible to work, mania makes it impossible to control ones thoughts and actions in order to work or overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks makes it impossible to interact with anyone. A short relevant, recent example for each tells the reviewer what they need to know.
Finally, be patient with the process. The idea that social security is always denied on the first application is not true. Many people who quality, are concise and stay on point and provide short examples of how the condition makes it impossible to work and will that condition last through the next year are approved. A rambling ten page application does not help the process and many times hurts it. Provide relevant information and let the reviewer do their job. They will gather all necessary medical records and contact anyone they need to provide evidence of one’s qualification.
I hope this information helps folks with a mental health condition and their family and friends know when and how to apply so they can avoid the disability dance.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community