The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

April 22, 2013

Charo Boyd: Can’t work due to disability? Maybe Social Security can help

Disability is something most people don’t like to think about. But if you’re not able to work because you have a disabling condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, then it’s a subject you may not be able to avoid.

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. The application process involves determining 1) whether you have sufficient work to be eligible for Social Security; 2) the severity of your medical condition; and 3) your ability to work. Because we carefully review so many cases — more than 3 million each year — it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.

The amount of time it takes to make a decision on your application can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:

  •  the nature of your disability;
  • how quickly we obtain medical evidence from your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and
  • whether we need to send you for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support your claim.

We do a number of things to speed up the process when we can. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  There are 200 different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.

There are things you can do to help speed up the decision process too. The more information you provide up front, the less time it will take us to obtain the evidence we need — and the faster we can process your application. The types of information we need include:

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