The Herald Bulletin

April 22, 2013

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

By Charo Boyd
For The Herald Bulletin

— 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:

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:

We also ask you to sign release forms that give us permission to obtain the information needed from third parties to make a decision on your claim.

The best place to start is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. Select “Disability Starter Kits” in the left column. There, you’ll find important information to help you with your application.

If you prefer, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your application over the phone.

If you are approved for disability benefits, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to work again. In fact, Social Security has special rules called “work incentives” that allow you to test your ability to work.

Learn more about disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

Charo Boyd is Social Security public affairs specialist for east central Indiana. Her column appears every other Monday on the Business page.