So you’ve talked to a lawyer, visited your local Social Security office, gathered your paperwork and submitted your application for Social Security disability insurance to the relevant authority. Now what? The next step is out of your hands: Your application will go through an extensive review process by one or more evaluators, who will try to determine whether your case should be approved or not.
Understanding this process can be helpful when filling out your application, as it can allow you to know what the evaluators are looking for and therefore craft your case to have a better chance of getting it approved.
To start, know that evaluators are looking for evidence of two things: that you have a medical condition that fits the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability, and that this condition prevents you from working and earning a living to the point that you need SSDI or SSI benefits to maintain a healthy standard of living.
After checking your eligibility requirements (like work credits and/or age and income) to make sure that you can actually apply for the benefits you’re asking for, evaluators will search for medical evidence that supports both claims, which means that you need to make sure you have all relevant paperwork attached to your application and that everything helps prove the point you are trying to make.
Evaluators will look for doctors’ files explaining what your symptoms are and how they fit the symptoms listed on the SSA website as disability-related conditions; they’ll also look at hospital or treatment center records for evidence that you attempted treatment before you applied for a disability. They’ll want evidence that you are no longer able to work, which will usually involve a note from a doctor that explains why working (or at least doing the job you held previously) is impossible for you.
After your disability evaluation is complete and your application has been accepted or denied, you should receive notice by mail within 60 days. At that point, you have another 60 days to file an appeal, and if you choose to do so, your application will be reviewed once more, by a different evaluator — like a “do-over” that allows your case to be seen with fresh eyes, in case the first evaluator made a mistake.
If this still does not result in approval of disability benefits, you can file another appeal that will allow you to have a hearing before a judge, who will rule on your case and whether or not you should receive benefits.