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Improving Social Security disability eligibility

Americans pay FICA taxes over the life of their careers and have the right to file Social Security disability claims when they cannot work because of a disabling condition. But, eligibility for Social Security Disability is strict, and claimants need to take several steps to increase the chances of meeting government requirements.

First, claimants must meet the legal requirement of a disability contained in the Social Security Administration's blue book. Generally, this consists of a severe impairment that is anticipated to last at least 12 months and restricts the ability to work, or an impairment may lead to the claimant's death.

Before applying, claimants should prepare the presentation of their medical evidence. They should assure that their doctors are ready to send their medical records and other documentation to the SSA after their request is made. Claimants may also expedite the process by taking their own records to the SSA after they apply for disability benefits.

Claimants should also ask their physicians to prepare to support their application. Even though the SSA does not have to accept the doctors' conclusions and diagnosis, it must consider this evidence.

If a claimant has a disabling condition that prevents working, application filings should be made as soon as possible before their savings are exhausted. It may take the SSA up to three to six months to review the first application and reach a decision.

Up to two-thirds of initial applications are denied by the SSA, according to the Government Accounting Office. Claimants should be prepared to appeal any denied claims which takes even more time.

An attorney can help prepare applications and recommend any supporting evidence and documents that must be submitted to the SSA. Claimants should also seek legal representation to help them through the SSA appeal process.

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