In the United States, workers who were disabled due to an injury or illness can apply for financial support through the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. If you are helping your client file for disability benefits, you will need to complete all the forms and obtain all the necessary documents to support their claim. Doing so will ensure a smooth and successful application process.
In this blog post, we will discuss the documents that you will need to file a successful claim.
Medical qualification-related documents
The Social Security Administration (SSA) assesses applications based on two types of qualifications: medical and technical.
To medically qualify for a disability claim, your client must be able to prove that their illness or injury is severe enough to qualify them as disabled. To do this, they must submit the following documents:
Your client’s medical documentation (e.g., hospital records, doctor’s notes, prescription lists) must clearly describe their condition and include the following information:
- Description and date of diagnoses
- Date your client started experiencing symptoms
- Date their medical condition began to affect their work capacity
- Names and contact details of all treating healthcare professionals and institutions
- Names and dates of all medical tests, surgeries, and other procedures that your client went through and which healthcare professional required these
- Names of all your client’s previous and current medications, who prescribed these, and why
Your client's disability claim is more likely to be successful if their medical records show that they have exhausted all means to address their medical issues. This is especially true in cases where normal treatment methods have proven ineffective.
Treating physician testimony
To improve your client’s chances of getting their disability claim approved, you can ask their primary care physician to testify to your client’s disability. The physician’s expertise and knowledge of your client’s case make their opinion highly valuable during the SSA's assessment of your client's application.
To obtain the physician's testimony, request an official recommendation of disability from them. Alternatively, ask them to fill out a residual functional capacity form, which officially documents a patient’s ability to function and can objectively show disability.
Previous employer/supervisor/colleague testimony
To show the degree to which your client's disability hinders them, you can ask their former employer, supervisor, or colleague for a written statement that contains the following:
- Dates when your client was employed (up until the time they became disabled)
- Number of hours they worked per week
- Description of their work duties, including any physical activities that they were required to perform (e.g., lifting heavy objects)
- Description of how the disability has made it difficult or even impossible to carry out their tasks or report to work at all
If your client is unable to perform their assigned tasks, they may no longer be qualified for the same job. In such cases, the SSA will assess your client’s ability to do other tasks, which your client could do while disabled. The better you can prove that your client is unable to work, the more likely they are to receive benefits.
Technical qualification-related documents
To determine whether your client meets the required technical qualifications for disability benefits, the SSA will need to review the following documents:
Work history records
The SSA needs detailed records of your client’s work history for the past two years. If your client was employed, they must submit their W-2 or IRS 1040 forms. These documents should show the following information:
- Employer name
- Start and end dates of work
- Total earnings
However, if your client was self-employed, they must submit Schedule C or SE forms, which indicate your client’s business type and total net income. Your client must also provide records that show what kind of work they were doing in the 15 years prior to their becoming disabled.
Income and personal assets-related paperwork (for SSI only)
To qualify for SSI payments, your client must prove that they have limited funds and resources. This requires you to gather all your client's financial paperwork, such as:
- Proof of income (e.g., W-2, Schedule C)
- Bank statements
- Titles/Registrations for any vehicles your client owns
- Details about your client’s living arrangements
- Life/Disability insurance policies
- Investment records
- Settlement agreements
- Burial contracts
- Records of other types of benefits your client has applied for and/or is currently receiving (e.g., SSDI, worker’s compensation)
Citizenship or alien status records
Your client must be able to prove their citizenship or legal alien status by providing documents, such as:
- Birth certificate
- State ID
- Driver’s license
- US passport
- Naturalization certificate
- Immigration documents
Social Security Number (SSN)
Your client will need to present their Social Security card as proof of identification. The SSA may use this to gather additional tax information related to your client’s previous work history. Your client’s SSN may also help determine whether your client’s family is also entitled to dependent benefits.
Marital status-related paperwork
Having information about your client’s current or former spouse will help the SSA determine if your client is eligible for benefits on a Social Security record other than your client’s or if someone else could be entitled to benefits on your client’s record. You will need to obtain records that include the following information:
- Name of current/former spouse
- Spouse’s date of birth
- Spouse’s SSN
- Beginning and end dates of marriage (if applicable)
- Details on where the marriage took place
Your client’s previous schooling may enable them to engage in different kinds of work, which the SSA will factor in when they evaluate your client’s application. Therefore, you should gather records that show the following details:
- Highest completed grade in school and the date your client completed it
- Names of any special job training and vocational/trade schools your client accomplished and when
- Name of educational institution, city and state, and date of completion for any special education schooling your client accomplished
US military service records (if applicable)
If your client served in the US military, they may be eligible for other veteran-specific entitlements, especially if their disability is linked to their military service. They must submit paperwork that shows these details:
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