By Kelsey Greenfield, Attorney
The process to obtain Social Security disability benefits can often seem daunting due to the average wait times to receive a decision or to get to a hearing. However, I can assure you as a disability attorney in Kansas City, MO, that there is no rule that states some sort of quota to meet prior to receiving benefits. The moment Social Security finds a person disabled depends on the contents of the person’s medical records and whether or not those contents meet the requirements of the regulations. An attorney can help you understand how the regulations define “disabled” so you are making the most of your application for benefits. Some people are found disabled on their initial application and some have a lengthy wait, but there are a few things everyone should do to give themselves a chance at obtaining benefits in as little time as possible.
First, you cannot continue to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA—working and earning more than $1,040 per month in 2013). http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/sga.html. Some clients come to me while they are still working in order to “plan ahead” for when they will be unable to work. You could apply one time or one hundred times while still working over SGA and be denied every single time, not just the “two or three” that people often think will happen. Social Security disability benefits are available to those who are no longer able to engage in substantial gainful activity. Therefore, one way to avoid multiple denials is to first file for disability benefits when you have actually stopped engaging in substantial gainful activity due to your impairments.
The second way to help get your benefits as soon as possible is to provide Social Security with evidence to support your allegation of disabling impairments. The Administration’s and the judges’ decisions may be reviewed at any time to make sure that they made the right decision; therefore, they need evidence on which to rely that supports a finding that you are unable to work. Medical records are the best and main way to prove that you have impairments that keep you from working. It is best to apply for benefits once you have obtained consistent and continuous treatment for your impairments.
There are many other factors that can help strengthen your claim, so it is helpful to obtain representation at the beginning of the process in order for them to personally inform you of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. If you are not engaging in SGA and you are getting regular treatment, you are well on your way to obtaining a favorable decision, quite possibly on your first claim.