If you are a longtime construction worker or nurse whose severe back pain now is keeping you from working, you may eligible to file a Social Security disability claim.

However, the disability claim process is very complicated. Plus, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies many first-time claims. In Mississippi, only about 25% of claims are approved on the first review.

Yet, you can increase your chances of having your claim approved by following these six tips:

  1. Hire an attorney. You want to have an experienced attorney working for you right away. They can help you complete your application accurately and fully and file an appeal immediately. They also can advise you on presenting a convincing claim.
  2. Complete your application thoroughly. As part of your application, you will need to be able to provide proof of your citizenship, birth, marriage and divorce history, as well as the names and birthdays of your children. In addition, you need to document your job history for the past 15 years and your education and training. You also must fully document your medical conditions, the treatment for them, what hospitals and clinics you’ve visited as part of that treatment, as well as provide your physicians’ names.
  3. Keep your own detailed medical records. Keeping your up-to-date medical records in your hands will save you time and effort. You can submit those directly to the SSA and better ensure the agency receives your complete records.
  4. Foster a good relationship with your physicians. You may need your physicians to submit a detailed description of your condition and how it affects your ability to work. So continually visiting the same doctors throughout your treatment will help them better understand your disability. If you work with a doctor at the SSA, you can get a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation, in which your capacity to work is evaluated and helps solidify your claim.
  5. Follow treatment plans. You need to show that you are following your doctors’ treatment plan. This shows the SSA you want to improve your condition and indicates how serious it is.
  6. Stay updated on your claim’s status. The SSA processes millions of claims yearly. You routinely want to know the status of yours. Call in and ask questions about your claim and make sure you don’t miss any deadlines about filing an appeal if needed.

It may take several months before the SSA rules on your claim. However, with a good attorney and solid documentation of your disability, you will be in a better position to qualify for benefits — even if that doesn’t happen on the first try.