Getting to yes: five ways to improve your SSDI claim

Permanent disability can cause devastating economic results and significant changes to your ability to work (or end it altogether). To assist in these cases, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), was created to provide life-long financial support to workers who become disabled.

Although SSDI benefits are designed to help, the application process can be frustrating, as it involves filling out numerous forms, tracking down medical records and speaking with many people about your disability. In the end, many applications are rejected. If you are applying for SSDI benefits, there are certain steps that you can take that will maximize your chance of being approved.

Verify your claim

In order to improve your chances of being approved, it is important that you stay on top of your claim. When you are providing your documentation to the SSA, send it certified mail with return receipt requested. As the administration receives many SSDI applications on a given day, be sure to follow up periodically with the SSA to check on your application's status, to prevent it from falling through the cracks.

Don't be discouraged by denials

It is a fact that over 70 percent of applications are denied initially. Denied claims are part of the process. Many claims that were initially denied are approved on appeal. To minimize your chance of being denied, make sure that your medical records accurately document your diagnosis, prognosis and functional limitations.

Document your disability

Many people have their applications rejected because they failed to adequately document their disabilities. A doctor's opinion that you're disabled, while helpful, is not sufficient alone to qualify you for SSDI benefits. Any medical opinion must be supported by medical evidence that clearly shows your functional limitations (e.g. mental or physical limitations) and how they impact your ability to work.

Do not delay in filing

It is important to apply for SSDI benefits as soon as you are disabled, as delaying can cost you significant benefits. If your application is ultimately approved, the SSA is only allowed to pay you for up to one year prior to your application date.

Consult an attorney

The SSDI application and approval process is very complex with many pitfalls for the inexperienced and unwary applicant. Although no one can guarantee that your application will be approved, an attorney who is experienced in SSDI claims can help you navigate the complex process, ensure that your best interests are protected throughout the process and improve your chances of approval.