This is a great thread!
I am a disability examiner, and if more people could read this thread it would make my work (and their claims, ultimately) so much less painless!
May I add my two cents, from the "other" side of the process?
Being detailed on the activities of daily living form is so, SO helpful to us. Be as detailed as possible. Please please PLEASE write as legibly as you can, in dark pen. Don't cram too much onto one little line - if you want to write more, you can write or type something out on more paper and enclose it with your form. In fact, I'd much rather you do that then try to read tiny cramped handwriting squeezed into one line.
I will be honest - I know the form is a pain to fill out, especially for those poor folks with carpal tunnel or tremors or those who have mental illness which impedes concentration. Please try your best. Have a friend or relative help. They can fill out the form for you if you can't write. Take breaks and just tackle a few questions a day if you need to. Call your examiner with questions if you have them. But please don't write just one word answers or leave whole pages blank. "What do you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed?" "Nothing". That is what many people write. It might be true, but how does that help me or your claim? Do you have to stay on the couch because of pain? Do you try to read but lack concentration? Do you do chores sitting down (on the days you feel up to doing chores)? Be specific! TELL ME WHY YOU CAN'T WORK. Show me a day in your life. So many illnesses and impairments have multiple symptoms and limitations; which ones apply to you?
The work history form - you may receive a form which asks you to describe your past work. Be detailed. If you were a truck driver, for example, don't just write "truck driver" and leave it at that. Were you a long-haul driver? A delivery driver? What did you deliver? Did you have to load and unload the truck? Did you have to do any maintenance on the truck? How long did you do it for? We need details. Again, as above, if you need more paper, add it on. How I explain it to my claimants - "Pretend I am absolutely clueless and take me through your day at work as if I have no idea what your job title is".
Keep in touch with your examiner. Maybe call him or her once a week or two, to see how things are going and to see if there is any additional information he or she needs. Sometimes doctor's offices take a while to send us records, but if the claimant calls the records "mysteriously" show up within a day or so
Be involved in your claim! One thing that can prolong a claim - not sending in the forms, not returning calls. If we call you, please call us back!
Keep us updated with phone number changes and address changes. Make sure we can get in touch with you if we have to.
One big, big thing that prolongs so many people's cases - make sure I know which doctors you are seeing. I do not know this unless you tell me. Don't just list the specialists you see - who is your family doctor? Have you ever been to the ER? Are you seeing someone new now that you weren't seeing when you first applied? Update me! I have no way of knowing unless you tell me. SO many people forget to list all the doctors they are seeing. I want to hear from your doctor! I'd rather not send you to an exam if I can help it. Your doctor knows you and knows your history! If your doctor wants to write me a letter to advocate for your disability, great! I want it!
I hope that some of these tips help you in your journeys. I wish you all the best of luck!