So, you can’t work any longer due to a medical impairment. Maybe you’ve recently suffered an injury that isn’t going away anytime soon, or maybe you’ve been dealing with health issues that have gotten so bad that you can no longer handle the strain it puts on your body, and you’ve been forced to stop working. While none of us want to be in this situation, sometimes it’s unavoidable. So, what are some things that make a good, winnable social security disability case? There are several important facets of a claim for social security disability benefits (SSD) that make some claims better than others. That said, just because your situation doesn’t fit all of these criterion doesn’t mean you aren’t disabled and won’t be approved for SSD – these are just some important factors that can increase the odds:
- Lots of medical treatment. The SSD rules require the corroboration of any assertion of impairment by medical professionals. What this means in plain English is this: the more medical treatment and records you have accrued, the better it looks to the social security administration (SSA). The SSA will look at records dated a little bit before you stopped working due to disability, and all records since you stopped working due to disability. If you’re able to obtain medical treatment, more is better. If you’re unable to obtain treatment because of financial difficulties, that doesn’t mean you can’t be found disabled.
- Being over 50. Age is a big consideration for the SSA, and the older you get, the easier it becomes to claim disability. For everyone under the age of 50, the SSA must find two things in order for the claim to be successful: Firstly, that you cannot perform any of the work you have done in the past. Secondly, that there is no other work, anywhere in the nation, of any kind, that you are able to do full-time. I call this the “flip burgers” question that claimants typically have for me. In essence, no matter what type of work you’ve been involved with in the past, no matter your experience level, no matter your education level, if you can “flip burgers” or something even simpler and more sedentary – you’re not disabled according to the SSA. There are certain situations where this is not the only criteria used, and an experienced attorney can explain this in depth. For those claimants over 50, there are favorable rules that come into play that can make it a little easier to win the claim.
- Impressive work history. Not everyone has 35 years at the same company doing the same thing, of course. However, SSA does consider a long and consistent work history – particularly Administrative Law Judges should the claim reach a hearing. This is not to say that folks who have struggled with impairments their entire lives and who don’t have a stellar work history cannot be found disabled – they certainly can and do. Nevertheless, a long and spotless work history can be a nice foundation for a disability claim.
- Medical source statements. These are statements from a doctor who is familiar with your impairments, organized in a particular way in order to outline what you can and can’t do on a daily basis. Some doctors will fill these forms out, and some won’t. It’s always helpful to explain to your medical treatment professionals that you are working through a disability claim, and that a treating medical source statement would be valuable to your claim. In my experience, doctors are far more likely to provide these to a claimant and less so to an attorney. The SSA does not have to follow the doctor’s recommendations, but they can certainly be helpful. After all, your doctors know your conditions the best.
If your claim doesn’t fit these categories, don’t despair. There are many more things that can and will be considered, which is why it’s always helpful to consult an experienced, local attorney.