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Things move quickly when claimants reach out to the Social Security Administration. It’s important to be prepared for your preliminary disability report hearing. There is no orientation course or written instructions. A disability starter kit helps claimants prepare the technical portion of their claims.
3 Parts of a Disability Starter Kit
- Fact Sheet
- Document Checklist
- Disability Worksheet
Disability starter kits give claimants an important jump start on the technical parts of their disability claims. But much like a gymnastic or ice skating competition, technical merit is only part of the final score. How you present the information is just as important. Generally, a Social Security Disability attorney provides the missing elements that all successful claims need.
The disability report starter kit is a user-friendly tool that helps claimants know what to expect at their preliminary hearings. Sometimes, the information in a disability starter kit is often a bit overwhelming. So, let’s break things down.
The fact sheet answers some frequently asked questions about the Social Security Disability process. The fourth question and answer, “How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?” may be the most important. Claimants are entitled to SSD benefits if their medical conditions prevent them from working and their conditions are either terminal or expected to last at least a year.
Most people know to gather all medical records. Many people overlook some other documents, such as an SSA-827 release, bank account information, and personal documents like marriage records and the Social Security number of any minor children. The failure to timely produce these documents delays your case.
For the most part, listing questions regarding your medical history, medication history, and employment history are rather straightforward. Completing this form usually requires some research. Most people do not remember things like discharge dates and employment start dates. If this form is not completely filled out, your case will be delayed.
Disability starter kits don’t include the application for benefits. That comes later, and this document is much more involved. As the name implies, the disability starter kit simply helps you get organized so your claim is pointed in the right direction.
Keep in mind that a doctor’s disability finding is not conclusive. “Disability” is more than a medical term. This word also has vocational, educational, and other defining aspects. Only the Social Security Administration can decide if a person is legally disabled.
What Is an Adult Starter Kit?
The adult starter kit does more than help claimants gather necessary documents. It also tells claimants what the examiner wants to hear at an evaluation.
Unlike a child disability starter kit, the adult disability report assumes the claimant is qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits and has exhausted other possible remedies, such as VA disability or state benefits.
Answer each question as completely as possible. Avoid saying, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember,” because that is not an acceptable answer. As mentioned, presentation is also a significant part of your benefit disability score. So, it’s important to answer all questions the right way. Let’s take a closer look at the SSDI Adult Starter Kit.
The disability checklist only has five lines in this section. But claimants need not stop at five. It’s okay to use additional sheets if they are clearly labeled. This step is important because Social Security Disability benefits often hinge on the cumulative effect of several different conditions that individually do not qualify.
Tie your work activity to your disabilities (e.g. I cannot work an office job because my back pain prevents me from sitting for prolonged periods). Once again, feel free to use additional sheets, but do not share all the details. Furthermore, do not exaggerate the facts, and do not sugarcoat them.
List all jobs you have held in the past 15 years. Failure to completely fill out this section is grounds for claim denial. Once again, job details should relate to physical or mental disabilities. An SSA disability attorney can help you phrase your answers properly.
When listing your medications, be sure to include all over the counter medicines. If you take medical marijuana and such action is legal in your state, add that drug as well. As for prescription information, it’s okay to get this data from the doctor, but you should fill out this portion of the form, not your doctor.
If your state’s disability checklist has this section, don’t leave it blank—but you shouldn’t write a long novel, either. Explain how your mental or physical disability affects your daily life. Do not hesitate to reach out to an SSA lawyer if you need help. This is a small but important section. The remarks you leave here can often make or break your disability application.
As for the interview itself, if your disability is in the Social Security Blue Book, you are presumably entitled to program benefits. However, a significant number of successful applications cite non-Blue Book conditions.
Answer all disability interview questions as completely as possible. When the interviewer asks about your symptoms, be prepared to compare good days with bad days, and use real-world examples. For example, say something like “When my back pain is severe, I cannot walk the three blocks from my house to the bus stop.”
After the adult disability report interview concludes, the breakneck pace of a Social Security Disability benefits application slows to a crawl. Claims examiners usually take several months to make their decisions. Frequently, even if the claimant followed all these disability checklist guidelines, the Claims Examiner issues a Social Security Denial Letter. When that happens, do not be discouraged. If you diligently covered everything and worked with an SSDI attorney, it is much easier to reverse an adverse decision on appeal.
What Is a Child Disability Starter Kit?
Disabled children from birth through age 18 are eligible for SSDI benefits. The medical component of these applications is much the same as an adult’s medical component. However, children obviously cannot work. So, the rules are a bit different on this point.
The fact sheet is relatively straightforward. Pay special attention to the last few questions regarding other benefit programs that might be available. If your child’s disabling condition does not qualify for Social Security, there are other options.
As you fill out the child disability starter kit, skip the document checklist for now. Most of the requested information is in the disability report worksheet. Once the worksheet is finished, it’s easier to go back and gather additional needed documents, such as the early intervention Individualized Family Service Plan.
Be sure to include a detailed description of the child’s symptoms and how it affects the child’s school activities. Here are a few additional tips for filling out this portion of a child disability starter kit.
- Use additional, clearly-labeled sheets for additional information, like the child’s medical conditions.
- Briefly describe any accommodations required (e.g. my brother installed a wheelchair ramp in his van so he can pick up my son from school).
- In section I, list the specific name of the disability or other test, because that name usually raises a red flag.
- List the actual side-effects of all medication the child takes.
Sometimes, it’s acceptable to bring the child to the disability report interview, though sometimes that is against program rules. If possible, bring your child to the disability report interview. Claims Examiners usually issue better decisions when they have a chance to meet the child.
Special Social Security Benefit Rules for Autistic Children
There is a very high demand for autism-based SSDI benefits. However, this condition is not technically a Blue Book condition. While it is possible to obtain Social Security Disability benefits for children with an autism spectrum disorder, the process is not easy.
At the disability report interview, provide specific documentation. The medical records must clearly show the child has significant communications and social interaction limitations. These findings must be evidence-based.
Additionally, the SSDI Claims Examiner must see evidence of an extreme limitation in at least two of the following areas:
- Controlling emotions (adapting oneself)
- Task completion
- Interacting with other people academically or socially
- Comprehending, recalling, and applying instructions
On a related note, child Social Security Disability payments have income limits. The larger your family, the higher the limit.
Should I Partner with a Disability Attorney?
Completing an SSDI disability starter kit is a necessary first step, but for the most part, the disability application process is not claimant-friendly. Claims Examiners might not represent insurance companies, but they are most definitely not on your side.
As mentioned, a disability attorney provides advice and guidance throughout the initial application process. That intervention significantly improves your odds of success. Nevertheless, do not forget that denials are quite common. Many claimants get discouraged and quit. Or, they settle their claims quietly for pennies on the dollar.
Once an SSDI claim reaches the appeal stage, an attorney does more than give advice and assistance. A lawyer reviews your case and then stands up for you during the appeal process. Because of this aggressive stance, most layers can successfully resolve disability claims without going all the way to a final hearing.
Additionally, the Social Security benefits are usually retroactive to the filing date. That could be a significant amount of money.
Disability attorneys also offer advice about other options, such as VA disability benefits. Contrary to popular myth, people can receive both kinds of benefits. VA disability claims include not only cash benefits but also free medical care.
Putting It All Together
The three parts of a disability starter kit for children and adults are designed to jump start your disability claim. Proper completion of these three areas greatly improves your chances of approval. Having a Social Security Disability attorney also helps increase your chances. A lawyer also helps claimants prepare ancillary documents and get ready for their interviews.
Generally, this legal help costs nothing upfront. Most disability attorneys take a small percentage of any cash award as compensation. Since legal representation usually increases the Social Security disability benefits award, this investment is minimal as well.