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finding a needle in the haystack

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to understand the Social Security Administration's disability program despite the enormous amounts of free SSA information? Well, remember the old adage, "if you really want to hide something, place it in plain sight."

Social Security currently supplies so much public disability benefit  information that the information has become meaningless to all but a few who are specifically trained to use it.

Guardian Advocates designed this page to locate, organize and present key points to help you better understand the SSA application or appeal process. Armed with these key points, you then can either:

  • apply for SSA disability benefits or appeal an existing case on your own or;
  • v CALL v  us for in-depth assistance that will provide you stress-free application or appeal representation and peace of mind.

In order to achieve this goal, Guardian Advocates offers the following    3-STEP GUIDE  to winning SSA disability benefits approval:

STEP 1 walks you through questions and answers designed to put you on the right path to winning SSA disability benefits approval. Just click on any of the questions below to learn more:

v  What is it v

v  How does it work v

v Am I qualified for it v

v How do I get it v

v What should I DO when trying to get it v

v What should I NOT DO when trying to get it v

v What should I do if they say NO v

v What help is available v

Our goal for this first step is to allow you to pursue your SSA disability benefits with the conviction that it is rightfully yours and due.

STEP 2 provides you a choice of v DOCUMENTS TO DOWNLOAD v  and v FAQ v  (frequently asked questions) to pertinent SSA-related disability information to expand your under-standing of the entire process. All of the document downloads also are available by mail.

The goal of step two, with these materials, is to help you obtain your benefits either on your own or with assistance.

STEP 3 outlines Guardian Advocates' representation service as your alternative to self-application and/or appeal. You are directed to the remaining pages of this web site to review and consider using our representation   v SERVICES v  for assistance.

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Now, let's begin Step 1 by answering those simple questions:

Social Security Administration Disability Benefits are monthly payments made to you due to one or more impairments you suffered that prevent you from working. SSA determines your right to receive these monthly payments based on certain factors that can include the severity of your impairment, the length of time your disability is expected to last, your inability to work, your work history, your age, your education and your income and resources.

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Actually there are two programs for SSA disability benefits: 1) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and; 2) Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

For both programs, SSA defines "disability" as ... "the inability to do any substantial gainful activity [work] by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months".

For most people, the medical requirements and determination process to establish disability benefits are the same for both programs. Further considerations are given for each program as described in the next two paragraphs.

The first, SSDI also called Title 2,  provides benefits for any disabled person who is unable to work, due to the severity of their impairment(s), but has a previous work history. Your Social Security payroll deduction or self-employment tax, when you could work, created your entitlement. Yes, you already paid into this program so, if you qualify, the benefits are rightfully yours.

The second, SSI also called Title 16, provides benefits for any blind, disabled or elderly person (65 years of age or older) who meets certain resource and income rules. Your work history is not a factor. Your financial need for benefits becomes the SSA guideline. As an American citizen and qualified applicant, you are entitled to these benefits and should employ any and all resources to collect what rightfully is yours.

For more information about these two programs, be sure to click on v DISABILITY PROGRAMS v  Also, click on v LINKS v  or additional SSA information.

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If you have suffered one or more impairments that prevent you from working (SSDI) and/or you meet certain financial need qualifications (SSI), you can receive SSA disability benefits until age 65. When you reach age 65, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.

In addition, certain members of your family may qualify for benefits on your record. For further information regarding family members seeking benefits, be sure to read v SSA PUBLICATION No. 05-10029 v   Also

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You have two choices:

  1. If you are recently disabled, helpful information is available by reading v HOW TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS v on the SSA web site. Learn as much as possible about the application process discussed. When you are confident that you can pursue your own claim, then apply in person at any v LOCAL SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE v.


Or while exploring your options:

  1. Continue touring our web site by visiting our
    v SERVICES v
    page, reviewing how we can help, considering our promise, and then v CALL v .

Please note that in the case you're filing a claim some time after you've become disabled ... while you may receive back benefits from the date you became disabled, they are limited to one year before the date you filed for benefits.

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Disability claims generally take much longer to process than other types of Social Security claims ... from 90 to 120 days or longer. If you decide to apply on your own, you can help shorten the process by taking certain documents with you. For a list of these documents, click on v HOW CAN I SPEED UP MY CLAIM? v of the SSA Publication No. 05-10029.

In addition you can  lean about v THE DISABILITY REPORT FORM GUIDE v on the SSA web site. This is the most important document used in your application for disability benefits.

In review, if you decide to go it alone, search the web, investigate sources regarding your impairment, read, make notes and ask questions of any available source. We welcome calls and emails regarding any and all SSA-related disability benefit determination processes. You cannot be well enough prepared.

If you discover that the do-it-yourself path to SSA disability benefits is just too challenging, v CALL v us. We will keep our promise to you and help put cash benefits into your hands sooner.

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Learn how not to assassinate your own application. There are five (5) most common mistakes made by disability applicants that can literally kill the chances of receiving SSA disability benefits:

  1. Depending upon the good will of the Social Security Administration regarding the development and evaluation of a claim.

Social Security will not seek out additional information that might help your claim unless they are specifically made aware of it. If you allege only one impairment, SSA will evaluate only that impairment. This is true even if you suffer from multiple impairments that collectively could prevent all forms of work. SSA will not go out of its way to find additional impairments that may help your case. Therefore, it is your responsibility and that of your representative, if you choose one,  to make sure that SSA is aware of all serious impairments that collectively may result in an allowance determination.

  1. Spilling your guts to Social Security Administration

Social Security will ask and should be told all pertinent information concerning your case. However, this does not mean that you are obligated to supply information that would damage your chances of receiving benefits.

For example, during many years at Social Security, a Guardian Advocates' mentor and trainer would interview a claimant by asking questions concerning his usual daily activities. You would be amazed at how many applicants would foolishly admit to levels of activity that clearly showed that they were indeed capable of work. SSA would then use the applicant's statements as a means of denying the case.

  1. Not collecting all pertinent evidence prior to application.

Collecting all pertinent evidence prior to application can favor you as the applicant in a number of ways. First, it allows you or your representative to develop a presentation strategy before submitting evidence to SSA. It also eliminates SSA's need to request medical evidence of record.  Removing SSA from the case development loop can cut months off the time it takes to complete a standard disability case.

  1. Giving up after the first denial decision.

This is extremely common and for good reason. If you, as the applicant, have traversed the disability process and have been found not disabled, you were probably very frustrated and intimidated by the system. As a result, you may have given up, feeling that there is absolutely nothing you can do to reverse the decision. Nothing could be further from the truth!

  1. Not seeking representation at the first application level.

Look! No one is forced to hire a representative when applying for Social Security disability benefits! As a matter of fact, if you follow the guidelines we suggest in this web site and do your homework, you may have more confidence to go it alone.

However, given the complexities involved in this process, it makes no sense not to seek help as soon as possible. Early use of a Guardian Advocates professionally trained consultant will help you avoid the common mistakes that often result in a denial of benefits. This means that, with representation, you may get your benefits sooner and without facing the usual lengthy appeals process.

Armed with this information, you have the ability to improve your application chances and not assassinate your own application.

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"No" means you have been denied the benefits for which you initially applied or "No" may mean you have been denied, again, benefits for which you appealed an initial denial.

In the first case (denial of benefits after initial application) you will receive a letter notifying you of the denial with an explanation that may or may not make a great deal of sense. Here again you have two choices:

  1. If you go it alone in Alabama; Alaska; Colorado; Louisiana; Michigan; Missouri; New Hampshire; Pennsylvania; North and West Los Angeles, CA; Albany and Brooklyn, NY; you will have sixty days to appeal the initial denial. Be sure and read
    No. 05-10141)
    v on the SSA web site. For other state residents, the time to respond is the same. Please read v THE APPEALS PROCESS (SSA Publication No. 05-10041) v

  1. Or v CALL v Guardian Advocates for a free consultation with your initial denial. Do not give up under any circumstances.

In the second case (denial of benefits after reconsideration or hearing before an Administrative Law Judge), if you are convinced you still are entitled benefits, you should proceed only with representation. Presentation of information beneficial to your case will need review and restructuring by a trained benefits advocate.

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You are entitled to a representative at any time during an SSA disability benefits case. Even the government acknowledges that the probability of winning benefits is improved when a representative is involved. We recommend your reading v YOUR RIGHT TO REPRESENTATION (SSA Publication No. 05-10075) v.

With Guardian Advocates' assistance, we promise that your will:

experience stress-free
application or appeal representation
and peace of mind

We encourage you to visit our v SERVICES v page to better evaluate how we can keep that promise.

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