Applying for disability benefits through any program is a complicated process. To help you navigate it, keep the following three pieces of information in mind:
- Each program has its own adjudicators (individuals who know all the rules and regulations and determine whether the information in your claim meets those rules and regulations).
- Each program has its own medical, psychological, and vocational experts who review the information you submit and decide whether you are able to perform competitive work.
- Although the adjudicators and review experts (and sometimes your employer’s human resource representatives) are not necessarily your adversaries, they are also not your advocates. It is your job to obtain your benefits — they will not do it for you. You will need to prove your case. And remember that the rules of evidence for proving your case are the same for STD, LTD, and SSDI.
With this in mind, be certain you know the rules of the game, and be certain you ask questions about those rules. You might ask the following: What exactly do I need from my medical (or psychological or psychiatric or vocational) specialists to get benefits? What other information do I need? Can I appeal the decision if benefits are denied? How do I appeal a denial? If I don’t qualify, will you tell me why? Do I need an attorney?
There are no “dumb” questions. Ask anything that helps you get benefits and helps you get on with your life.
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to know what you have to do and how you have to do it. Applying for and obtaining benefits is difficult enough without having to deal with outdated and incorrect information. You don’t want to be denied benefits because you didn’t follow the correct procedures.