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Social Security Disability and SSI applications can be done partly online and partly through physically submitted documents. There are a series of forms that encompass the minimum requirements for a completed application.

If you wish to have an attorney represent you, a “1696” must be submitted. The attorney and the claimant must sign this form. It contains the contact info for both including the addresses to which mail will be sent. The address on this form will most likely decide which court and district office will be handling the adjudication of the claim for benefits.

Social Security will also require the claimant to sign an “SSA-827”. The “827” allows Social Security to acquire your medical records from the doctors from whom you’ve receive medical treatment. It is essential to notify Social Security of the various places you currently seek medical treatment, but also the sites you have treated in the past. In this regard, it is generally better to put too much than too little. Do not omit a clinic or doctor’s office because you feel the treatment received wasn’t related to your disability. Let your attorney and Social Security decide what is relevant to the claim.

You will be asked to describe your past work. This is where a lot of claimants make a mistake, and it often costs them dearly. In most cases, Social Security will decide whether the claimant is capable of performing his/her past work.

Generally speaking, if a claimant is capable of performing his/her past work, then a finding of non-disability will be issued. Frequently claimants describe their past work as easier and than it was performed. One of the most common examples is that of a “caretaker.” A caretaker cares for other disabled people. Most of the time isn’t spent lifting or carrying. For this reason, when described, many claimants represent the job as requiring minimal lifting. They forget they needed to help the person they cared for stand up or get into a bathtub or shower. When doing this task, the caretaker was required to brace the weight of the disabled client. This is well over 50 pounds, usually. Although this task was necessary only a few times a day, it remains an essential component of the job. Therefore lifting that amount of weight was part of the job’s duties and the occupation could not be performed without the capacity to raise a substantial amount. When a claimant leaves out the job required to lift 50 pounds and instead describes the duties as lighter, this can often lead to an unfavorable decision.

Social Security may send you to a medical evaluation called a “consultative exam.” The exam is intended to be a thorough evaluation of your health and capacity to perform work. In my opinion, it will be a rushed exam done by a subpar doctor. The doctors who do these exams get paid per exam, not by the hour. This motivates them to squeeze in the most amount of exams possible in a day, and this is done by spending very little time per patient. The consultative exams are one of the reasons it’s necessary to treat frequently. Your treating physician’s opinions and records can be used to contradict the findings of the consultative exams.

Eventually, the claimant will receive a letter with either a finding of disability or denial for disability benefits. If a denial is received, the next step is filing an appeal. If an appeal is necessary the claimant is on track to plead their case in front of an administrative law judge.