Applying for Disability: SSI and SSDI
Did you know that you can submit an initial application for disability benefits on the internet, over the phone, or in person at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office?
Assuming you filed everything correctly and the SSA can easily gather your medical records, you match a listing in the SSA's Blue Book, you should receive a decision within five months. If you make a mistake on the application, or your application gets “lost in the masses,” you may need to wait a year or more to hear back from the SSA regarding the decision of your application.
If the SSA approves your claim, your benefits should begin within a few months. If you waited for more than five months to get approved, you will be awarded back pay on top of your monthly benefits.
Back pay is a lump sum of the total amount of monthly benefits you should have received had your application been processed in a timely fashion. Additionally, if you waited to apply for disability benefits but were too ill to work, you could be entitled to additional past-due benefits known as retroactive payments. Depending on how long you wait to be approved, you could be entitled to a five-figure back pay settlement.
But what do you do if you are denied benefits? Fortunately, you don’t have to give up. The SSA has a thorough appeals process available for the qualified applicants who’ve slipped through the cracks.
The Complete Social Security Appeals Process
There are four levels to your Social Security disability appeal process. Each has a different acceptance rate. The four appeal processes you could progress to are Reconsideration, an ALJ Hearing, the Appeals Council, and Federal Court.
- In the Reconsideration stage, you can simply go online and ask the SSA to review your claim a second time. This stage is even harder to win than the initial application. Just 15% of claimants are approved during Reconsideration, so it is likely that your case will require a Hearing.
- In the Hearing stage,you’ll need to present your case in front of a judge. You’ll be allowed to plea your claim in person, and use medical experts, witness testimony, and legal assistance to help win your claim. You will also need to answer any questions fielded by the judge or vocational expert to confirm your illness is disabling. This is the easiest stage to be approved, as nearly 50% of claimants who present their claim at a hearing are awarded disability benefits.
- If you are denied at your Hearing, the appeals process becomes more challenging. At this point, you’ll need to bring the decision to a Social Security Appeals Council, which will review the judge’s ruling on your claim. The Council can either approve or deny your claim itself, or send your claim back to an ALJ for another hearing. Keep in mind that you cannot submit any new medical evidence from here on out.
- If you’re denied during the Appeals Council, the final option in your appeal is to file a lawsuit in Federal District Court. You are required to work with an attorney at this stage in the process, and these claims are very hard to win.
The Benefits of Getting Legal Representation
You can have an attorney or disability advocate represent your case at any stage of the process. Because the application process is so overwhelming and confusing for many applicants, you may want to speak with a disability attorney before even applying.
Having a the aid of an advocate or attorney who practices Social Security Disability law can go a long way in increasing the chances of your claim’s approval. An attorney or advocate can help you in numerous ways, from ensuring your application was filled out correctly, to submitting new medical evidence to the SSA, to defending your claim in court if needed.
Finally, if you’re worried about affording an attorney, you should know that an attorney or advocate is not paid unless you win your claim. If you win your Social Security disability claim and you are entitled to back pay, an attorney could receive 25% of your back pay, or $6,000, whichever is less. You will never need to pay an attorney out of pocket, nor will your monthly benefits be affected by working with an attorney.
If you would like to start the application process, you should first fill out a no obligation disability case evaluation to have your claim reviewed by a disability advocate or attorney in your area today.