The answer to the question of when it is best to apply for disability benefits, which includes applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) or both, is not simple. For each case, the answer is different.
There are many factors that can affect the application process. One of the most important is knowing when your “date last insured” would be. The term “date last insured” is a term of art used by the Social Security Administration in awarding benefits in Social Security Disability claims, but it does not apply in Supplemental Security Income claims.
To be eligible for a Social Security Disability claim, you must allege and prove that you were totally disabled from performing any type of substantial gainful activity based upon your age, education, and work experience prior to the expiration of your date last insured. If you prove you are disabled after that date, you receive no benefits for Social Security Disability.
Therefore, one of the first things that needs to be addressed in any Social Security claim is to determine whether or not the date last insured is going to be an issue. This is one factor to consider when determining when to apply for benefits.
Additionally, there are tactical decisions to consider that are best addressed by an attorney related to when is the best time to apply for SSD or SSI.
For instance, because one of the requirements of disability is a durational requirement that one must have been or will be disabled for 12 months, it is often best to delay filing until one is close to the 12-month durational requirement. This prevents Social Security from denying a claim simply by saying that they think you may get better before the 12-month period expires.
Additionally, in a Social Security Disability claim, if you are found to be disabled, you do not receive any benefits for the first five months you are disabled due to a waiting period established by Social Security. This means there are no benefits under the disability program payable until the expiration of the sixth month after you became disabled. Because of that, one does not lose anything by delaying an application and may, in fact, enhance the chances of approval.
There are a lot of other factors that enter into these decisions, including a person’s age, their work history and earnings, the medical treatment they have undergone, and a host of other questions.
Out of these, the most important factor is the status of their medical records and how well the medical picture of their disabilities has been developed. The majority of the claimants we represent have a woefully inadequate medical history at the time we are contacted which hurts their chances of winning.
This is partly because not all medical records and treatment are considered equal by Social Security. For instance, things that are not usually considered to be particularly significant are notes from a person’s personal physician, chiropractor notes, nurse practitioner notes, psychiatric counselor notes, and any medical records not completed by a physician or clinical testing directed by a physician.
The first thing our firm usually does when talking to a client is suggest what additional testing might be appropriate, both for their physical or mental health and to better document their problems. This invariably necessitates seeing specialists in certain fields or having certain tests such as MRIs performed. Once again there is no easy answer, only a task to be done.
At Drummond Law, we have over 40 years of experience handling and winning these disability claims including representing clients at all levels of the disability process including in the federal court system if necessary. There is no fee charged unless we win.
If you or someone you know is considering applying for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, feel free to call for a Free Consultation at (800) 842-0426.