There are a lot of restrictions on who can and who cannot receive Social Security Disability benefits. Because Social Security doesn’t have any provision to pay short-term benefits or “temporary” disability, the government has what is called a “duration requirement” on claims. Essentially, applicants must prove that their condition has either lasted 12 continuous months or is expected to do so before they can claim their entitlement.
So what does that mean for you? If you’ve only recently been diagnosed with a disabling condition, here’s what you need to know:
Focus on the symptoms, not the diagnostic date
You may have been functionally disabled well before your doctors figured out what was causing your problems. If so, your medical records and employment history will likely reflect your struggle as your symptoms worsened.
When you file your claim, focus on providing the agency with as much information as you can about when your symptoms first started and how they’ve been disabling, rather than the day you were diagnosed.
Understand the nature of your condition
If your condition is something chronic, like rheumatoid arthritis or emphysema, you will have a much easier time meeting the duration requirement than someone who, for example, has been in a car accident and been left with two broken arms and two broken legs. Bones usually heal within a few months, while chronic conditions are usually expected to worsen over time.
If your condition is the result of an accident, it helps to make the decision to file for disability after a consultation with a doctor — especially if that doctor is willing to state that your injuries are catastrophic and likely to take more than a year to heal.
Make use of your appeal rights
If your Social Security Disability claim is denied because your condition isn’t expected to last, you may have no choice but to appeal the decision. The ongoing nature of your disability is likely to become more apparent during the appeal.