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INTRODUCTION

The process of filing and pursuing a Social Security or SSI disability claim can be daunting at best, especially if one has not dealt with the "System" before. There are a myriad of forms and procedures, and it is easy to get lost in the process. The unfortunate result many times is that your case is delayed or not enough information is received by the evaluators to determine fairly what your condition is.

It is important, first of all, to understand that there are two types of disability claims administered by the Federal government. The first is Social Security disability, which depends on the amount you have worked and paid into the system to determine your eligibility to apply. Basically, if you have worked enough in twenty of the last forty quarters, you are covered for Social Security disability benefits. The second kind of benefits is Supplemental Security disability benefits, which do not depend on how much you have worked, but on an "income and resources" formula to determine if you are eligible to apply. Under both programs, the rules of disability are the same, and the two are often applied for and evaluated at the same time.

What is disability? To be considered totally disabled (and there is no other kind under these programs), you must have a medically determinable impairment that prevents you from doing any kind of significant work for twelve continuous months, or that would be expected to result in your death. There is no percentage of disability under these programs-you are disabled or you are not.

What do you do to file a disability claim? This process starts at your local Social Security office, where they will assist you in completing the proper forms. After you have filed the application, it is put into a folder and sent to an agency of the state in which you live, usually referred to as the Disability Determination Services or DDS. In your state it may be referred to by a different name, but in all states the same standards are used. When your folder reaches the DDS, it is assigned immediately to an evaluator. The evaluator may also be called different things in different states, but the process is exactly the same everywhere. The evaluator will then begin the actual process of collecting your medical records and obtaining the other evidence needed to determine what your condition is. Based on over 25 years of experience in the process of disability evaluation, I offer the following tips to smooth the process for both you and your evaluator. Consider these not just as suggestions, but as good advice, for they will make a difference.


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