Q: "What can I do to speed up my disability application?"
A: If your disabling condition is preventing you from continuing to work, you may want to apply for disability benefits through Social Security. In most cases, doing so involves a thorough process of determining your eligibility, medical condition and ability to work. Because we look so carefully at so many cases - more than 3 million each year - it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible.
Processing times on that initial claim 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 sources
Whether we need to send you for a medical examination to obtain evidence to support your claim
There are things you can do to help speed up the process. The more information you provide up front, the less time it will take us to obtain the evidence we need - and the faster your
claim can be processed.
Q: What type of information do we need?
A: Any medical records or documentation you have is helpful. We can make copies of the records you have and return your originals
The names, addresses and phone numbers for any doctors, medical facilities, treatment centers or providers related to your disabling condition
The names, addresses, and phone numbers for previous employers and the dates worked for each employer
Workers' compensation information, including the settlement agreement, date of injury, claim number and proof of other disability benefits awarded
Names and dates of birth of your minor children and your spouse
Dates of marriages and divorces (if any)
Checking or savings account number, and the bank's 9-digit routing number, so we can deposit your payment electronically
Name, address and phone number of a person we can contact if we are unable to get in touch with you
If this disability application is for a child, we need the name, address and phone number of the schools attended and any school records.
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 Kit" in the left column. There, you'll find more information and starter kits for both adults and children.
You can apply online for disability benefits (the easiest method), or you can make an appointment by phone or in a Social Security office. The choice is yours.
(For Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, you cannot apply online, but you still can complete the Disability Starter Kit to prepare for the interview and speed up the processing time.)
If you're considering an application for disability benefits, the place to go is www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org