If you're not able to work because of a serious medical condition, you may be able to get social security disability benefits. What you may not realize is it is often a long and complicated process to get your case approved and start receiving monthly checks. One way to possibly speed up the process is to hire a professional attorney, like those at R.J. Marzella & Associates, P.C., to help you file your claim rather than do it yourself. Since the process is slow, any mistakes you make will only slow it down even more. Here are a few things that affect how soon you'll receive your benefits.

Obtaining Medical Records

Before you are approved for disability benefits, your medical records are thoroughly reviewed to make sure your medical condition qualifies. If you obtain the records yourself and submit them with your initial application, it may speed things along. However, your doctor may not want to release the records to you, you might not be physically capable of collecting all your medical records because of your illness, or you may be charged fees for copies of the records you can't afford to pay.

If you don't submit your records with your application, then your caseworker requests them from your doctors and the hospital that cared for you. Your case will stall while you wait for all your medical records to be sent to your caseworker. Also, if you don't provide full and accurate information about the doctors and facilities that treated you, that will slow down the process as the errors are ironed out.

When You File

You should file for disability as soon as it becomes obvious you won't be able to go back to work. The longer you wait, the longer it takes to get the process completed. Under the best case scenario, assuming your claim is quickly approved, payments won't begin until the sixth month after you became disabled. However, it's possible it will take longer than six months to be approved for benefits.

As many as 70 percent of initial claims are denied. That means you'll probably have to appeal the decision. First appeals have an even higher denial rate. It's not until you go to a disability hearing that you have the best odds of winning your case. It may take many months or even a couple of years to go through this whole process. However, when you finally win your case, you may be eligible for back benefits based on the date you filed for disability. So, the sooner you apply, the more money you will eventually receive when your case is approved.

Your Medical Condition

If you have a medical condition that's so severe that it's obvious you are in need of disability payments, you may be eligible for a compassionate allowance that expedites your case. This includes things like a traumatic head injury or terminal cancer. You'll still need to submit medical records and go through the application process, but because of the severity of your condition, your benefits could be approved in a matter of weeks.

Medical problems that are more difficult to prove, such as mental illness or chronic pain, take longer to go through the process, since medical records have to be examined more thoroughly, and you have to prove you are no longer able to work.

It's stressful to be sick or injured and out of work too. You have to worry about finances as well as your health. Therefore, you want to get your claim for benefits approved as quickly as you can. Hiring an attorney won't guarantee you'll speed through the process, but at least you can be sure you'll go through it as quickly as possible and won't lose time due to errors made by trying to do it yourself.