Here are some things I have now learned. Some of this is from real-life experience of loved ones, some of my own research, and some from the seminar. I'll try to explain in later posts how we plan to accomplish some of these things.
Getting a reliable lawyer helps a lot. My sis did that, and her app was approved rather quickly. My stepdad and Jane did not and it took 3 years. At the seminar, they said that if we do it ourselves, we can overlook technicalities and other issues which can slow it down or stop it completely. They have the experience to run it through.
The lawyers cannot charge more than 25% of the first lump sum payout, and that cannot be more than $6000. Ours would be considerably less and we certainly do not mind the commission if it speeds it up and if it moves it through without difficulty. They do not get any money up front - it comes from the lump sum check.
Older applicants get approved oftener than younger ones. Reason: 40-ish folks with college degrees are considered more likely to be able to be trained for other occupations; older folks with less education are less likely to be able to do this.
Get as much medical documentation as you can before applying. Having a doctor state that this person is disabled and not able to earn a gainful living is essential. Having something to document the first time this disability caused either loss of work or the inability to work is also essential.
It helps to have a condition that is recognized as a disability by the SS administration. See the massive list at this website. Having one of these does not guarantee an approval. It must be severe enough to keep someone from working at a reasonable job.
No applicant can be paid for any more than 12 months of back-dated benefits.
The goal is to avoid having the SS administration send you to their doctor for an evaluation. They have a list of doctors. However, they do not necessarily send you to someone who specializes in your condition. Someone with an orthopedic problem could be sent to a doctor with a completely different specialty.
It helps to find a legal firm in which the lawyer you see is dedicated to disability cases. In this way, they know both the federal and local system and judges, advocates and all the other authorities involved.
The applicant MUST have worked at least 5 out of the past 10 years in jobs covered by social security deductions.
There are other things I picked up but these stand out. Hopefully, I've shared something with you that you didn't know before.