Tips for Getting Approved for Social Security (SSI) Disability

If you are one of the many people waiting to hear back on your Social Security Disability case or about to apply, then we have a few tips for you right here on getting approved!

The disability process for Social Security disability can take a very long time. It can be close to a year until you get a decision on your initial case or even a few months. The thing is that there is no set time and it depends on the caseworker and the individual. However, there are certain things you can do to speed up the process. Only around 36% of those who apply are approved during the initial application. If you are denied, then you will have to go through several appeals processes and might eventually have to get a lawyer and go before a judge. So make sure you do everything you can to improve your chances of approval during the initial application. Or you could wait years before you might get approval!

FIRST, make sure you have a medical listing that is covered by SSI DISABILITY, here.


If you are applying for SSI Disability then your case has better results if you have stopped working completely. They require you have to have been out of work and disabled for at least 5 months as a prerequisite to be able to apply for disability. You can get back pay from the onset of disability, but there is a five-month waiting period, where you get nothing for those initial 5 months. After the 5 months, then every month after that you had to wait to hear back from disability, you are entitled to back pay on those months once approved. So if you stopped working on June 01 then you need to wait until after October 01 of that same year before applying. Then however long it takes to come to a decision on your case, rather it be 3 months or a year, you will get back pay for all of those months. But waiting 5 months after you become disabled then applying, helps speed things along in your case. Also, do not work any during the time you are disabled. Working even a couple hours a week can hinder your disability case because they can come to the conclusion that you are capable of some type of work for a certain amount of hours, and you will be denied! To get SSI Disability means you are not able to work at all. So you have to have someone who can help you with housing and other necessities while you wait. 


Even if you meet the medical requirements for SSI, you have to meet the income limits as well to be approved. This means you have no more than $2,000 in the bank for an individual. And you can only have one car and your house, after that all other assets will be counted against you, and will likely result in you being denied SSI Disability benefits. Also, if you are married or living with someone that could be considered a spouse, they will count their income and assets as well. This means that if they make it over the threshold for the asset limits, then you can also be denied for SSI Disability. If you share a home with a friend or family member and are not contributing your fair share in regards to bills, then they will also deduct the amount of SSI benefits you receive after approval. If you receive money in what they call in-kind benefits, such as money from someone who pays for food, shelter, etc, or gives you money for these things, that also reduces the monthly benefits you receive. SSI has a complex set of formulas for you to get approved and how much you will receive in monthly benefits. However, if you borrowed money and/or took out loans to take care of your expenses, then loans or borrowed money does not count against you, and you will get the full monthly benefits you are entitled to. So before applying make sure you are not over the $2,000 in money and asset limit, not counting (1) car that you use as the primary mode of transportation and your house. And that you are not married or living with someone that could be considered a spouse who puts you over the limit. If that is the case, then you will not be approved for SSI Disability. 


The Social Security office gives you the option to allow them to gather all of your medical documents for your disability case, but this will add on several months of waiting for your case. It is a much slower process for them to gather your medical records than if you just gathered them yourself. And you never know until after a decision if they gathered everything they should have for your case. You will want strong medical evidence showing your disability and how it impacts your ability to work. If you have no medical records documenting your disability, then you need to start making appointments with your doctor to start to document your disability. Having these records will greatly help your case to be approved. You have to prove that your disability has lasted a year and/or will last up to 12 months from the onset date. So if you have yet to document your disability with medical records, then from the onset of your disability, use those initial 5 months to start going to doctors and getting up monthly accounts of your disability from medical professionals before applying. The SSI office looks more favorably toward those applicants who have been able to gather a statement from their doctors documenting their disability and how it impacts their ability to work. And this can lead them toward approval in your case. 


When SSI starts to investigate your case, they will want to know about every aspect of your daily living and the limitations you face. From the onset of your disability, start a journal. Document everything you do in a day from the time you wake up until you go to sleep. Document how you are limited in getting yourself to medical appts and if someone has to drive you, if someone helps you shower, prepare food, and anything else you experience in a day. You will want to document your physical and/or mental limitations throughout your day. If you are disabled, then you are going to have trouble with the simplest of activities and SSI will want to know these setbacks in your day. Your caseworker may also send you a Residual Functional Capacity Form (RFC) to fill out and make sure you document all of that on this form. If you are not sent one, request one to be sent, because this will help your case dramatically. It also helps to not only fill one out for yourself but to have someone that has witnessed your daily life fill one out as well on your behalf. It also helps your case to get written statements from friends, family, and ex-coworkers on how your disability has impacted your daily living and ability to work. When it comes to ex-coworkers, they can state how your work performance started to be impacted and what limits you had before you completely became disabled and what you couldn't do after that. It will come up towards the end of the SSI Disability process if you can work in any capacity in any other type of job. They will first want to make sure you can no longer do the type of work you have in the last ten years and that you can no longer do any other type of sedentary or low-impact job. This is when your journal with all of your limitations will come in handy. Make sure you detail everything that would hold you back from being able to work again. 

Make a list of your entire work history for the last ten years before the onset of your disability alongside your job responsibilities for each job with start and end dates. Then list all of the reasons you can no longer do those jobs. You will be asked for this information toward the end of the SSI Disability process, so be prepared.


You may be asked to attend medical exams conducted by doctors on behalf of the SSI office. Remember these doctors are not on your side or there to specifically help you. Most likely, they want to find anything they can that could help them deny your case. They may watch your behavior upon entering and exiting the office to see if you told the truth about your limitations. If you drove yourself or someone else did to the appointment. They made run blood tests to make sure the medications you are supposed to be on show up in your blood. They may run physical tests to gauge your strength, ability to stand or sit, or other tests to test your physical status. Or they may ask questions to determine your mental status if applying for depression or anxiety. These exams can help your case if you are truthful and the tests show that you are in fact limited due to a disability, rather physical or mental. Make sure you have a list of all of your conditions, no matter what they are, with a full list of your medications, dosage, and daily usage. Also in this list make sure to include all surgeries and hospitalizations. These doctors are usually not sent anything from SSI about your medical history. They are sent something simple like you are applying for disability for heart failure, depression, cancer, etc. That is all they send them with your name, social security number, and basic contact information. Then these doctors will perform certain tests in regards to the condition you are applying for disability for to see what your limitations are. So to have a small list of your medical history can help them have a better look at your condition alongside the tests they perform that day. These exams are usually very short around 10 to 30 minutes. So make sure you give detailed information for them to document in the short time you have with them. They may not ask the right questions on your behalf, so make sure you have your medication list and you tell them what you suffer with. 


Your caseworker is the person who will decide rather you are disabled or NOT. Keeping a good relationship with your worker and checking in periodically can also help your case. Don't assume they will constantly be in contact with your doctors to get your updated medical information as your application is processing. Make sure you have their phone number and address in order to send them updated monthly reports or to call in your updates. However, these workers have a lot of cases, so they may not answer and it may seem impossible to get them on the phone. THIS IS WHEN you send in letters and medical records via mail. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. Leave that paper trail. And send your mail with tracking and keep copies of what you mail. This will help if you have to go to court in an appeal case if you are denied. 


You can APPLY and check for updates for SSI Disability here: Application Status | SSA

This site will tell you where you are at in the SSI Disability application stage. But they are very SLOW to update this information. It could take weeks to a month for it to appear online. Say they approved you in February, you might not even know it until a month or two later. If you are approved, it may appear online first or you might get a letter first. There are several different departments that are over these updates and it just depends on how long it takes that department to update your information. And no your caseworker or SSI will not tell you this information over the phone, you HAVE TO WAIT for the letter in the mail. They love making you WAIT! Then even after being approved, be prepared to wait another month or two before you get your first payment. And the back pay will take EVEN longer. Another department will go back to do their own investigation to make sure everything that has been said in regards to your income and that you weren't receiving SSI payments in any other states before they will send you a letter stating how much back pay you will get and when. It is never paid in one lump sum either. 

Be prepared to wait months or up to a year before you finally get that approval letter! But follow the steps above, and you will be more likely to get approved in a shorter amount of time!

Note: These tips are provided by an actual SSI Disability claimant, under the age of 40, without the help of a lawyer, got approved during the initial application stage in under a year.

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