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Social Security disability: game plan to get benefits

Simple strategies can help you navigate the disability

Simple strategies can help you navigate the disability benefits labyrinth, experts say. Credit: Getty Images/courtneyk

You spend years shelling out your money for Social Security, yet if you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits, there’s a good chance you won’t get what you’ve paid for. According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, about two-thirds of initial claims were denied.

How can you increase the odds that you get what you deserve? You need a game plan.

Determine if you are eligible: To be eligible to apply, you must have a severe impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months. If you are expected to recover or die during that period, there may be no need to apply.

Talk to your doctor before applying: You want them to be ready to send your medical records when SSA requests them (or better, to provide them to you to take directly to SSA at the time of the application for a faster decision).

Get their support. “Although they don’t have to agree with your doctor’s conclusions, SSA can’t ignore them. There are special rules about the increased weight that SSA has to give to your doctor’s conclusions and reports about your functioning,” says Michael Liner, an attorney specializing in Social Security disability with Liner Legal in Cleveland.

File immediately: “If you have a qualifying disability, don’t just sit around and let your life savings be drained away,” says Joseph Roseman, managing partner of financial services firm OWRS in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Your initial application can take 3 to 6 months to be reviewed.  Since you’ll likely need to appeal a denial, settle in for the long haul and consider getting a lawyer.

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