Tuesday, July 23, 2013

First understand your disability – then fill out the Social Security forms

Let's assume you can't work and must apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To win benefits you must explain to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in practical terms the things about your illness that keep you from working. And you must provide evidence. If you want benefits it won't do to only say things like "my heart attack keeps me from going back to work".

To understand your disability the SSA decision maker (a disability examiner or administrative judge) needs to know the specific limitations your health imposes that keep you from working. For example, describe things like severe leg pain when you walk more than a few feet, difficulty concentrating and remembering, and taking multiple medications with side effects that take away your energy and ability to complete tasks.

You, yourself, need to understand and practice explaining in practical terms the changes that your health limitations have imposed on your previous lifestyle since you became disabled. You need to have this understanding BEFORE you fill out the SSA forms. 

The SSA forms don’t help you organize your thinking about your changed lifestyle. For this you need a resource like the Worksheets in the Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants. Completing the six detailed Worksheets helps you think this through. They also become a valuable reference any time you talk with SSA and when you complete SSA forms like the SSA 3368 BK (Disability Report-Adult), SSA 3373 BK (Function Report-Adult), and SSA 3369 BK (Work History Report).

While practicing law I created the Worksheets because people I represented told me how hard it was to understand and complete SSA disability forms. To help my clients I developed a set of Worksheets much like those included in the Disability Workbook.

Before designing the Worksheets I sent a survey to disability examiners throughout America, and received replies from examiners in 14 states. From these replies and SSA laws, regulations, and policy I developed the Worksheets. The Worksheets have received approving comments from disability examiners and administrative law judges when filed along with official SSA forms. They have helped SSDI applicants win benefits.

When you buy the Disability Workbook in print or in Adobe Acrobat® ebook format you get the Worksheets and an Internet address for downloading additional copies.

We think the Disability Workbook and Worksheets bring disability applicants better understanding, better organization of their evidence, and greater confidence than SSA materials. In our mind that means better prospects for winning disability benefits.

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