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How to Apply for Social Security Disability Income

In our page Social Security Disability Insurance page, we described the basics of SSDI. In this page, we present basic information on how to apply for the benefit. Since lymphedema is not listed in the Social Security Bluebook of recognized disabilities, we may need to take some special actions and build our case on the disabling factors of our condition.

I also want to mention an important point when apply for SSDI. While you should never exaggerate your disability, neither should you under rate it either. So many of us with LE have had to fend for ourselves for so long that we take great pride on our independence. For example, if asked, “Can you maintain your home?” Think carefully about the answer. In my case, in self-pride, I would want to say, “Well, yes. If may take me hours to vacuum one room but eventually I get the job done.”

That is not taking care of your home. Stopping several times to rest and breath hardly rates as maintaining anything. Think carefully whether or not you are answering from reality or what you would want to be reality.

With lymphedema document all accompanying medical conditions and focus on loss of the ability to do normal activities (limitations), loss of range of motion, the pain.

Pat O'Connor

June 20, 2008

Disability and Lymphedema - Benefits and Filing

There are two types of lymphedema, secondary lymphedema and primary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is a congenital disease, while secondary lymphedema usually is the result of an injury to the lymphatic system. Both types of lymphedema are characterized by excessive lymph fluid collection in the soft tissues of the body (usually arms and legs). This fluid retention generally results in severe swelling. Treatment options for lymphedema usually involve some type of manual drainage, massage of the affected areas, and compression dressings. There is no cure for lymphedema, and if left untreated lymphedema may result in severe infections, ulcers, cellulitis, or lymphangiosarcoma.

Can you win social security disability or SSI disability benefits on the basis of lymphedema?

Answer: The Social Security Administration's disability evaluation system does not focus on a claimant's diagnosis, but, rather, on the functional limitations a claimant has. In other words, the name of the condition is not the chief consideration. How the condition “affects and limits” the individual is the primary concern. So, yes, disability benefits can be won on the basis of nearly any condition provided that the condition is sufficiently limiting.

Tips for a Person Applying for Social Security Disability

1.) Apply as soon as you and your doctor consider you disabled.

2.) Keep a diary.

3.) Don't understate your condition, but don't exaggerate either.

4.) Fill out in detail every question on the forms . Add extra pages if you need more space to be complete.

5.) Be descriptive about your condition and how it affects your life . . . give specific examples.

6.) Keep a record of all medication changes, any reactions you may have, how often you take the medications, etc.

7.) Follow medical advice.

8.) Keep a record of how much time you spend traveling to and from the doctor or clinic, how many days a month you do this and how long you wait in the office to be seen.

9.) When something is wrong, don't delay in seeking the doctor's advice, or speaking to the nurse; this way it will be entered into your medical record.

10.)Make sure that all medical evidence about your condition is on file.

11.)Remember the Primary Treating Physician's opinion carries the most weight! The Social Security examiners have never seen you.

12.)Have your doctor do a complete examination and write a letter explaining your condition in detail.

13.)If you're turned down on the initial application, you are entitled to go into the SS office and copy both the medical and non-medical file, but there probably will be a copying charge.

14.)If you are turned down, do not become discouraged, You will probably do better if you appeal and have the appeal handled by a lawyer specializing in appealing such cases. the fees of such lawyers are determined by the Social Security Administration, and are moderate.

Special Tips from Disability Secrets

Tip 1: Take everything you are told about your Social Security Disability claim with at least one grain of salt.

Tip 2: Get copies of your medical records and supply these with your SSD or SSI disability application.

Tip 3: Respond to letters and notices regarding you disability case promptly–from social security, DDS, or your attorney.

Tip 4: The rule of three always applies–for those who are applying for benefits or appealing a denial.

Tip 5: If you are denied for Social Security Disability or SSI, you will need to file an appeal.

Tip 6: Call DDS for updates on your SSD or SSI claim, not the local Social Security office.

Tip 7:Representation will increase your chance of winning Social Security Disability or SSI benefits.

Tip 8: If you have dire financial problems and have a Disability case, let people know.

Tip 9: If you have representation on a Social Security Disability or SSI disability case, keep your attorney or non attorney representative fully informed.

Tip 10: If you have child support obligations which you cannot fulfill, ask your attorney or representative to help.

Tip 11: Contact your congressman or senator to help you with your Social Security Disability or SSI claim.

Tip 12: If you have been approved for Social Security Disability or SSI, you will receive…

Tip 13: Get your doctor to write a supporting statement for your Social Security Disability or ssi case.

Tip 14: Make sure your doctor REALLY DOES support your SSD or SSI disability case.

Disability Secrets

If you are going to apply for Social Security Disability Income

Richard & Gail Stokes

God Awful Headache!


I am putting this information together in hopes that it will help aneurysm victims and their family get their entitled benefits with as little complication as possible. This is my way of trying to give back something for all of the support my wife and I have received from the support group. I have been an accountant for 20 years and have over the years prepared a few disability claims for my clients. These claims though few in number have been sucessful upon first application. I hadn't any idea I would be preparing one for my wife. I cannot guarantee your end result, only help you along the way.

To Qualify For SSDI:

If you worked 5 of the last 10 years and accumulated, what Social Security calls, 20 credits and cannot work you should be entitled to Social Security Disability Income. You must be disabled 6 months to qualify and will be disabled at least 12 months to receive benefits. If you have dependent children living at home they may receive dependent benefits too.

What are credits?

Simply put, if you have earned at least $1,700 per calendar year as an employee or self-employed and those earnings were report to the Social Security Administration by your employer or on your income tax return as a self-employed person, you should have received 4 credits for that calendar year.

Presentation and Preparation:

I can't express this enough! You will need to spend several hours when it comes time to preparing the actual Social Security forms. This is part or possibly all of your financial future you are dealing with, be patient and thorough in preparing the forms. It would be a simple process if you could meet face to face with the decision makers, but you won't meet them face to face! The only time you would meet with the decision makers, would most likely be upon the “second appeal” process! By this time many months have gone by and you would probably need to have legal counsel at this hearing, costing you money. If the forms are properly prepared and you present you answers properly and thoroughly, all that can be avoided. You can be receiving benefits in 60 to 90 days instead of 14 to 16 months and several dollars later.

Before You Contact Social Security

Get copies of ALL medical records from the beginning, whether you started in an emergency room or with your family doctor. Get EVERY DOCUMENT, they have to give you copies of your records, it is your right by law. The victim will have to sign the request letter, state the victim's name, date of birth, social security number, dates of treatment, the doctor's name(s), etc. List specifically what reports you want, i.e. “diagnosis, clinical, operative, post operative, radiology, lab and any other reports relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.” You will also want to get copies of all post operative follow visits. The more information you provide, the less hassle you will have because you are dealing with records clerks who aren't familiar with your case. If there is a processing fee, pay it. Some places charge a copying fee and some don't. Keep after it and don't get frustrated, it may take awhile to get the copies. Case in point, my wife was in 5 hospitals after her aneurysm ruptured and they discovered a second one. It took 3 months to get the records from one of the hospitals' but I knew we had to have them. If you don't get the records in 2 weeks time, call them and keep calling every couple of weeks. BE CALM AND POLITE to the records clerks no matter how frustrated you are, to act otherwise could cause you additional problems!

Keep the records separate by institution and/or doctor, get to a copy machine and make copies. I would suggest several copies of each.

Contacting Social Security:

Anyone can assist the victim with the application process, that is the victim's right! They may want authorization from the victim, this is the person they want helping them. Usually, a verbal confirmation is all that is required.

ALWAYS CALM AND POLITE, tell SSA who you are, that you are helping (name), social security number, “in applying for social security disability.” The representative will ask a few simple questions and will probably set up a time for an interview. It may be possible to do the interview by telephone. During the interview, ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE, have all the information at hand including the victim. You will need to know everything possible about the victim's employment and benefits i.e. wages, sick leave, etc. Chances are you already know this information. The interview is easy, nothing to be uptight about! After the interview you will receive some paperwork to fill out, this is where the work begins, patience and thoroughness are a must!

Disability Report-Adult-Form SSA-3368-BK

There are 2 very important forms to fill out, this is the first. The representative you dealt with will forward this form on to a Disability Examiner when you return it to SSA. Presentation and Preparation are everything, that's the whole ball game. By that I mean, answer every question honestly, thoroughly and neatly. There are questions like, “What are the illnesses, injuries or conditions that limit your ability to work?” and “How do your illnesses, injuries or conditions limit your ability to work?” You cannot answer these questions on the two or three lines provided and give a thorough answer. Indicate on the lines after the question “See Attached Narrative” and on a sheet of paper (typed is good) list the section, question number, state the question and give your narrative answer. A thorough narrative answer, even if it takes more than one page and be detailed. There aren't that many questions you need to do this for. When you are done, make copies of your answers you may need to submit the narrative answer with another form, this will save you time in having to do it over again and you maintain consistent answers.

This form requests information on hospitals and doctors. Give complete names, addresses, phone numbers, what ever is needed. Again if there isn't enough space use a separate sheet of paper following the format above.

This is where your diligent effort in collecting all the medical records comes into play! You will send copies of those records with this form. If you don't the disability examiner will have to request all the records from the institution or doctor and that can take alot of time and delay.

Daily Activities and Symptoms Report:

This is the second form you will have to fill out and will come from the disability examiner. The examiner will probably be from a different branch and may be in a different city. You may feel that some of the questions on this form are stupid and/or invasive! Put your feelings aside, this is just part of the game, you have to answer the questions remembering ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE! Also remembering, this is the victim's financial well being future you are representing!

Answer the questions thoroughly, you probably won't need to do the additional sheet of paper answers. However, if you need to use a sheet of paper use the format I mentioned earlier, section (if applicable) question number, state the question and give your answer.

This form will ask for 3 persons who know you and you authorize to give information about how your condition(s) effects you. It would be best to list 3 good friends instead of family members because they are unrelated independent sources of information. Tell these people you have listed them, so they aren't surprised if they receive a call or letter. This doesn't mean that they will be contacted, only maybe.

When you receive this form it will probably identify the disability examiner assigned to your case. Call the examiner and ask if there is any additional information he/she would like. This may be where additional copies of your earlier narrative answers may come in handy by sending them along with this form. In particular the answers to the 2 questions I identified earlier. AGAIN, ALWAYS BEING CALM AND POLITE, no matter how stressed, tired, frustrated or irritated you may be. To act otherwise will only hurt you!

In Summary

If you are reading this, then you have been down a very difficult road already! Applying for and getting social security disability benefits are just a small bump on that road, you have gotten past the big bumps. You are dealing with a huge impersonal bureaucracy through their employees, who are human beings like you and me, that have to follow massive complicated regulation manuals. Be kind to them, help them want to help you.

If you have specific questions or need clarity on something feel free to email me at, I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Good Luck, you can do this successfully!

Apply for Disability Benefits - Adult (Age 18 or Over)

To apply for disability benefits for an adult, you will need to complete an application for Social Security Benefits AND an Adult Disability Report. The report collects information about your disabling condition and how it affects your ability to work. You can complete the forms online, or you may call us to schedule an appointment and we will help you in person or by phone.

How to apply

Please follow these steps:

Step 1. Review the Adult Disability Starter Kit. This kit answers common questions about applying for benefits and includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you need.

Step 2. Fill out the online application for Social Security Benefits. (If you've never worked, skip this step and contact us after you complete Step 3.)

Step 3. Fill out the online Adult Disability Report. At the end of the report, we will ask you to sign a form that gives your doctor permission to send us information about your disability. We need this information so we can make a decision on your claim.

NOTE: If you previously started an online application or online disability report but did not finish it, you can:

Use your confirmation number to return to your online application. Use your re-entry number to return to your online disability report.

Contacting Social Security If you don’t want to do this online or need help, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Apply for Disability Benefits - Adult (Age 18 or Over)

Applying in Person or Over the Phone

If you prefer not to do this report on the Internet, you can use any of the following ways to complete a Disability Report:

Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. Explain that you don't want to use the online disability process but do want to set up an appointment to apply for disability benefits. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call our toll-free “TTY” number, 1-800-325-0778. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact your local Social Security Office and explain that you do not want to use the online disability process but would like to set up an appointment to apply for disability benefits. If you live outside the United States, see Service Around the World. You can find more information on how to apply for disability benefits and the claims process.

Questions and Answers Regarding Social Security Disability Income

From Social Security

Can a person with a terminal illness qualify for disability benefits?

Yes. The requirements for disability benefits are the same for a person with a potentially terminal illness as for a person with a non-terminal illness.

We make every effort to identify a case involving a person with a potentially terminal illness as early in the claims process as possible and we have special procedures we follow to process the claim as quickly as possible. We may become aware of the potentially terminal illness through statements from the person claiming disability, or from the person’s friend, family member, doctor or other medical source. Or there may be an allegation or diagnosis of AIDS, or indications that the person is registered in a Medicare-designated hospice or is receiving hospice care. Regardless of the potentially terminal illness or how we learn about it, we tightly control the case throughout the claims process and make special efforts to assist the person in providing necessary evidence.

I am receiving Social Security disability benefits. Will my benefits be affected if I work and earn money?

We have special rules called “work incentives” that help you keep your cash benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. For example, there is a trial work period during which you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment.

The trial work period continues until you accumulate nine months (not necessarily consecutive) in which you perform what we call “services” within a rolling 60-month period. We consider your work to be “services” if you earn more than $670 a month in 2008. For 2007, this amount was $640.

After the trial work period ends, your benefits will stop for months your earnings are at a level we consider “substantial,” currently $940 in 2008. For 2007, this amount was $900. Different amounts apply to people who are disabled because of blindness. The monthly substantial amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2008 is $1,570; for 2007 this amount was $1,500.

For an additional 36 months after completing the trial work period, we can start your benefits again if your earnings fall below the “substantial” level and you continue to have a disabling impairment. For more information about work incentives, we recommend that you read the leaflet, Working While Disabled-How We Can Help (SSA Publication Number 05-10095).

I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. My disabilities have worsened and I have other health problems. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?

No. Your Social Security disability benefit is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before your disability began and not the degree or severity of your disability.

For more information go to: How Much You Will Receive

How long does it take to get notified of a decision about disability benefits?

The length of time it takes to receive a decision on your disability claim is from 3 to 5 months. It can vary depending on several factors, but primarily on:

  • the nature of your disability;
  • how quickly we obtain medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source;
  • whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support your claim; and
  • If your claim is randomly selected for quality assurance review of the decision.

If you have further questions, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778. Our representatives will be glad to help you in any way they can.

Does Social Security use a list of impairments to determine if I can get disability benefits?

For an adult to be considered disabled by Social Security, you must have a medical condition that prevents you from working and that is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. We use a five-step process to decide whether you are disabled. As part of that process, we check to see if you have a condition as described in the listing of impairments. If you do, we consider your medical condition to be disabling. Even if your particular medical condition is not on the list, you may still be found disabled.

For more information about the disability decision process, we recommend that you read the booklet, Social Security Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029). The booklet explains the requirements for receiving disability benefits and the five-step process.

You also can find descriptions of the conditions that appear in our Listing of Impairments in the publication, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security” (SSA Publication No. 64-039), also referred to as “The Blue Book.” This publication is intended primarily for physicians and other health professionals.

If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my disability benefits?

No, the Social Security Administration has several work incentives that may help you to return to work without losing your benefits.

For more information about Social Security's work incentives you should: - call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213; - contact your local Social Security office; or - visit our special ”Worksite”. For more information on SSA's work incentive rules, see also the Red Book on Work Incentives.

Review Of Criteria And Qualifications For Social Security Disability Insurance Income / SSDI

Definition Of Disability

Specific criteria must be met to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Income (SSDI). The Congress of the United States has defined disability, for purposes of entitlement to disabled worker's benefits as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

A person must not only be unable to do his or her previous work but cannot engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, considering the persons:

  • age
  • education
  • work experience

It is immaterial whether such work exists in the immediate area, or whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether the worker would be hired if he or she applied for work.

“The worker's impairment or impairment's must be the primary reason for his or her inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, although age, education, and work experience are also taken into consideration in determining the worker's ability to do work other than previous work”.

5 Step Process To Determine Disability

1–Are you working? If you are and your earnings average more than $860 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. Note: This amount increases annually. See: What Is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

2–Is your condition severe? Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered.

3–Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? Social Security maintains a list of impairments for each major body system which are so severe they automatically mean you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, Social Security must decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on the list, and if so, the claim is approved.

4–Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition is severe but not of same or equal severity with an impairment on the list, Social Security determines if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim is denied. If it does, further consideration is given.

5–Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do the type of work you did in the last 15 years, Social Security determines if you can do any other type of work with consideration given to age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills. If you cannot do any other type of work, your claim is approved. If you can, your claim is denied.

What Is Residual Functional Capacity?

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is the total of what one is left capable of doing after impairments have taken their toll. Social Security identifies the level of work capability in categories of:

sedentary work light work medium work heavy work

Sedentary work

Sedentary work is defined as “involving lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting and carrying articles like, docket files, ledgers, and small tools”. Although sitting is primarily involved in a sedentary job, walking and standing should be required only occasionally. Standing and walking should total no more than 2 hours per 8 hour workday, while sitting would total about 6 hours per 8 hour workday. Most unskilled sedentary jobs demand good manual dexterity for repetitive hand and finger motions.

Light work

Light work is defined as “lifting no more than 20 pounds at one time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds”. A good amount of standing and walking, approximately 6 hours of an 8 hour workday, is usually required of jobs in this category. Good use of hands and arms for grasping and holding is important also. A seated position which involved extensive pushing and pulling of hand or foot controls would be included in the light work category too.

Maximum RFC

In the age group 18-44, the maximum residual functional capacity allowed is “less than sedentary”. For literate people of all education levels between age 45-49, the maximum RFC allowed is also “less than sedentary”.

Above age 50, with consideration given to education, and previous work experience, the maximum RFC increases to sedentary, light, or medium.

How To Guides on Social Security Disability

External Links

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Updated Dec. 22, 2011

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