Social Security needs to know that you are you. They need to know your Social Security number (obviously), your birthday and where you were born. They also need to know how to reach you so they need your address. Because you can file for benefits under your spouse's earnings under certain circumstances, they need to know about your marriages. If you're applying for SSI, which is need-based, they also need to know who you are married to because your spouse's income matters. You can also get benefits for your kids so Social Security wants to know about your kids. If you're supporting your parents, they want to know that as well.
Social Security is all about money. They're going to ask for bank information so they can do direct deposit if you are awarded. You can check your earnings statement online at ssa.gov and I suggest that you do. It will show you how much you earned in each year. It will also tell you how much you get for disability and retirement benefits. Just go under the part that says "My Account". If you file for SSI, they will need lots of information about your finances including rent and mortgage payments, what your monthly bills are, who is in the house and how much they contribute, how much is in your bank accounts, property you own and what other benefits you receive.
Your past work matters because Social Security needs to know what you used to do to see if you can still do it physically and mentally. They're also looking to see if your earnings record is correct. They're not going to have access to your most recent tax returns for this year and last year because it takes time to get to Social Security. You need to know about how much you made this year and last year. Then you need to describe your work for the past fifteen years. For this, we're not looking for every employer, we're looking for the kind of work you did. If you worked as a truck driver for seven different employers but basically did the same thing, just lump them all together. All we're looking at is whether or not you can still be a truck driver. We don't care about the employer, we care about the job. What you did, how physical it was, how skilled it was and about how much you earned. You don't need to know when you worked down to the exact day, but try to be accurate.
Finally, we need to know about your medical conditions. Social Security doesn't do partial disability. It's all or nothing. Nor is it only for one condition, so add them all in. Include conditions that don't prevent you from working but might affect you doing some jobs, like asthma or bad vision. You need to see a doctor for every condition that you list. It doesn't matter if you say your back is causing you terrible pain if you don't see a doctor! We need evidence. Go to the doctor!
Then the question comes up of what to include. Often the medical conditions started far before people stopped working. But here's the thing: you were still able to work after that point. We're really only looking at evidence from shortly before you stopped working. My rule of thumb is about a year before you had to stop working. If you never worked, you're only going to get paid from the time you file because that's how SSI works. So go with doctors from about a year before you file.
I know that there are often really important things that happen well before a year before you stopped working. Remember most doctors (except the military) only keep records going back seven years. If you have a copy of these reports like operations or big accidents, just submit those to Social Security separately. We just don't want to have to request twenty years of records because you had an accident when you were eleven. If you have the accident records and you feel they are import, submit them.
Because Social Security needs to request the medical records from your doctors, clinics and hospitals, they need to know when you first started seeing the doctor or went to the hospital and the last time you went. You don't need every visit and you don't necessarily need exact dates although those are helpful. You can say, "June 2015" or even "Summer 2013". As long as Social Security knows about when to request records, you're okay. If you're not sure, use an earlier date. They also want to know about what is in the records. They ask about tests like MRIs, blood work, CTs, EKGs, etc.
You need to include every doctor that has seen you for anything that you are claiming disability for. Your primary care always needs to be included. Dentists, your yearly well-woman appointment, and anything else that would not in any way affect your disability can be left out. When in doubt, include the doctor and Social Security can make the call on whether to request the records. Chiropractors, physical therapists, and naturopaths, counselors and psychiatrists need to be included. Please include all medications, even the over the counter medications and supplements. Often the medications and side effects make a big difference in a case. They only need medications that you are currently taking.
One final note. From time to time I have people who don't want Social Security or me to know that they are seeing a counselor for mental health or taking something for depression. I cannot stress enough that mental health treatment is nothing to be ashamed of. But I would also like to point out that the vast majority of people applying for Social Security disability benefits are receiving some sort of mental health treatment even if just in the form of some low level anti-depressants from their primary care physician. Anyone applying for disability benefits has undergone a big shift in their life and is going through some sort of pain be it physical or mental. Most people need some sort of help dealing with the change in circumstances and it is very normal and a good idea to seek out some sort of assistance. In addition to this, it certainly doesn't hurt your case any. If you think you might be depressed, your doctor is there to help. Just tell your doctor you're having trouble dealing with your situation. There's lots of resources to help.
This is a lot of information to gather. Just think of whether or not Social Security would need the information to decide your case. Social Security and your friendly local attorney can help you apply for benefits. If you have any questions, please contact The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231.