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Practical steps you can take to help move your Pennsylvania Social Security disability benefits claim through the application and appeals process

In our work as Pennsylvania Social Security disability lawyers, we are often asked, “Why does this process take so long? Isn’t there some way to move things along?” While you may not be able to make the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration churn faster, there are some simple steps you can take to ease your frustration and make the application and appeals process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

1. Create a filing system for your medical and employment records

To complete the initial application for Social Security disability benefits, you must provide detailed medical information related to all the doctors who have treated you and all the hospitals and clinics where you have received treatment. In addition, you are required to provide employment information related to the jobs you have held in the past five years. In order to accurately provide complete information, you (and/or your Pennsylvania Social Security attorney) will need to obtain your medical and employment records. Once you have these records in hand, create a filing system that makes sense to you and store these records in a safe place. These records quickly pile up. Get organized at the outset and stay organized.

2. Regularly update your medical records

Keep your medical records current. For example, when you visit a new doctor, add his or her business card to your files, so you can quickly locate the doctor’s contact information in the future. Keep track of your treatment and your medications. One easy way to monitor your treatment is to keep a calendar on which you record only medical appointments. An easy way to monitor your medications is to keep all of your empty prescription bottles. You will need to refer to your medical records throughout the disability benefits application and appeals process. If your records are not current, they will be of little help to you.

3. Comply with your doctors’ orders

The Social Security Administration expects you to take reasonable steps to get better and return to work. Accordingly, you are expected to see your doctors and follow their orders regarding treatment. With limited exceptions, failure to do so will be detrimental to your case.

4. Keep a symptom diary

The Social Security Adminstration will be keenly interested in how your symptoms (fatigue, pain, difficulty breathing, etc.) impact your daily life and limit your ability to work. The more details you can provide on this subject, particularly at your disability hearing, the stronger you case for benefits will be. A “symptom diary” can help in this regard. A “symptom diary” may take many forms – a calendar, a handwritten journal, a spreadsheet on your computer. Whatever form you choose, make a habit of regularly updating your symptom diary. This written record will be persuasive evidence of the impact of your impairment on your daily life over a period of time.

5. Plan ahead for your hearing before an administrative law judge

Because most initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied, you should anticipate that your case will end up before an administrative law judge and begin preparing for this hearing early in the Social Security disability benefits process. Educate yourself about the hearing process. The articles listed under Your Disability Hearing are a good place to start. Next, jot down some notes to review (with your Pennsylvania Social Security attorney) before the hearing: Make a list of your prior jobs and job duties; make a list of potential witnesses who might be willing and able to testify on your behalf; make a “before and after” list that illustrates how your disability impacts your daily routine. What are you no longer able to do, or do on your own, because of your disability – e.g., dress yourself, brush your teeth, cook for your family, work in the garden, go on a daily run?

Contact the Pennsylvania Social Security disability lawyers at Black and Davison

The Pennsylvania Social Security lawyers at Black and Davison are available to help you through every phase of the disability benefits application and appeals process. We can help you gather records; obtain additional evidence from medical or vocational specialists; prepare for your hearing; and much more. We will work with you, as a team, to keep your Social Security disability claim moving forward as swiftly and efficiently as possible. If you would like to talk with us about your claim for disability benefits, please tell us about your situation using the Free Claim Evaluation on this page, or call or email us directly. We wish you success.

Black and Davison
Pennsylvania Social Security lawyers

82 West Queen Street
Chambersburg, PA 17201