To be awarded disability benefits , you first have to prove you have earned them. You do this by filing an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can do this by:
- Visiting your local Social Security office;
- Calling toll-free at 1-800-772-1213; OR
- On the internet at www.ssa.gov .
Once you have filed an application, the SSA will turn it over to your state's division of Disability Determination Services (DDS). This is an organization dedicated to evaluating Social Security claims and determining whether or not a person is disabled for purposes of receiving government benefits. Questionnaires, doctors' evaluations, medical records, and testimony from your family and friends may all be gathered for consideration.
Once they have all of this information, a decision will be made as to whether or not you are disabled, and Social Security will send you a letter informing you of the decision in writing. If you are approved, you will start receiving benefits. If you are denied, it does not necessarily mean you are ineligible. You can appeal your claim for reconsideration.
If your initial application is denied, you can file an appeal, known as a Request for Reconsideration, within 60 days of your denial. You must go through this process if you want to have your claim properly heard. Once you have filed this appeal, your claim goes through the same evaluation process it went through during the initial application; however, a different set of evaluators makes the decision. This reconsideration process takes roughly 4-6 months and only about 14% of applications at this level are actually approved. If you are denied again, you can file the next appeal in order to continue your claim.
If your claim has been denied at the reconsideration stage, you have 60 days to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. This judge handles Social Security claims and knows the regulations involved in the disability process. This judge is also not bound by the previous denials in your case. He or she will evaluate all the medical evidence in your file and make a new decision in your case. After requesting a hearing, Social Security will schedule a date and time for you to appear in court where you will have the opportunity to tell the judge in person about your impairment and how it affects you on a daily basis. It can take 1 to 3 years or more to have a hearing; this is often the longest stage of the disability determination process.
Appeals Council and Beyond
After the hearing, the judge will normally issue his or her decision in writing. Many cases that are denied in the earlier stages are approved at the hearing level. If your claim is denied by the administrative law judge, your case may not be over. You have the opportunity to appeal your case to the SSA Appeal's Council, which has legal authority to review decisions and determine whether or not the judge has made a significant error in deciding your claim. If the Decision Review Board fails to review your case, or denies your case, you may have the option to go to federal court for a reversal of the denial or a new hearing. You may also have the option of filing a new claim.
If you have been denied social security disability benefits and believe you may still be eligible, you can contact an experienced SSDI attorney to help you with your claim. Contact the social security disability legal team at George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers for a free consultation .