shutterstock_96365117More than 57 million Americans live with disabilities, and over 14 million collect Social Security Disability benefits, according to U.S. Census data. However, many people in Illinois who suffer from worsening conditions believe they are unlikely to become disabled. These people may struggle to qualify for SSD benefits later. People who may someday need benefits should stay proactive and take steps to prepare for the claim process before the condition becomes disabling.

Documenting the condition

Documentation of the disabling condition often determines whether an SSD claim is granted or denied. Medical records, including diagnoses, doctor’s observations, prescriptions and other courses of treatment, are the most compelling type of documentation. People with potentially disabling conditions should seek regular medical treatment and ask for detailed evaluations or notes.

In addition to establishing a medical record, people with worsening conditions should collect copies of all medical documents. Medical records and other documentation should be kept organized. For every treatment or exam, information such as the date, the patient ID number and the name of the treating physician should be readily available. Contact information for all physicians should be kept with the relevant records.

Though medical records are crucial during the SSD claim process, these records may not fully represent the extent or nature of the condition. People experiencing worsening conditions should consider keeping a personal journal with notes on all of the following:

  • Symptoms associated with the condition, such as pain, limited mobility or fatigue.
  • Changes in the severity of the condition or signs that the condition is progressing.
  • Prescriptions and treatments tried, along with improvements or undesirable side effects.
  • Functional limitations associated with the condition, both during work duties and daily tasks.

This record can help establish the longevity, functional effects and progression of the condition.

Handling administrative issues

People who anticipate applying for SSD benefits should familiarize themselves with the application process. This makes collecting necessary paperwork, such as employment records, easier. Potential applicants should also research the way the Social Security Administration evaluates the specific condition. Some disabling conditions may match an SSA impairment listing or qualify for a special program, such as Compassionate Allowances, which can result in expedited claim processing.

Finally, if the condition becomes disabling, applicants should consider working with a Social Security Disability attorney to prepare the claim. Once the claim is submitted, applicants should follow up regularly with the claim examiner. This can help applicants ensure that all necessary documentation is provided and a claim decision is reached in reasonable time.