Friends, family or others may have told you that obtaining benefits from the Social Security disability insurance program is nearly impossible. It is true that many people receive denials of their initial applications, and this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the Social Security Administration remains sensitive to fraudulent claims. They tend to err on the side of denial rather than granting an unnecessary request for benefits.

In many cases, the application itself may not be what presents the problem. The evidence substantiating and supporting a disability is often lacking. Failing to include appropriate and thorough documentation could easily result in a denial. The challenge is knowing what constitutes enough and appropriate evidence.

Evidence of a medically determinative impairment and its severity

You will need to provide the SSA with medical evidence to substantiate your condition. This objective evidence must come from what the SSA deems an “acceptable medical source.” Those medical sources, and non-medical sources for subjective evidence, must show that your impairment is severe enough to prevent you from obtaining gainful employment. Non-medical sources include the following:

  • You
  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Employers
  • Caregivers
  • Clergy
  • Personnel from public and private social welfare agencies
  • Neighbors
  • Educational personnel

These individuals can provide their own opinions and observations regarding your condition and its severity.

What constitutes acceptable medical evidence?

Acceptable medical evidence comes from the following sources:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Other health care facilities

To help you determine where to gather evidence, consider including anyone who has ever examined, evaluated, diagnosed or treated you for the condition that prevents you from working.

What kind of evidence does the SSA need regarding my symptoms?

In evaluating your claim, the SSA will review the following information regarding your symptoms:

  • Aggravating or precipitating factors
  • Duration, intensity, location and frequency
  • Your daily activities
  • Medication types, effectiveness, dosage and side effects
  • Non-medication treatments
  • Alternative relief measures
  • Other functional limitations

Your medical records should reflect these factors and any other relevant information regarding how your symptoms affect your life and the measures taken to relieve them. The SSA may request that you submit to a consultative examination in order to substantiate your claims. Specific rules must be followed regarding its completion and the report provided.

Where to find support

If you get the impression that applying for SSDI benefits is a complex process, you are right. Fortunately, you do not have to go through the application process — or the appeals process if you receive a denial — alone. Legal resources here in New Jersey may provide invaluable assistance to help you obtain the benefits you need as quickly and painlessly as possible.