Understanding the Social Security disability process
Filing to receive disability from Social Security is easy. Getting your application approved is not.
According to the Social Security Administration, denied disability claims have averaged nearly 59% over the last ten-year period ending in 2012.1
Let’s start with the easy part. To file for Social Security disability benefits, you simply need to go to the Social Security Administration’s website (ssa.gov) and click the link for applying for disability benefits online. This will bring you to your disability application.
After you’ve completed the application, a Social Security Administration representative will contact you if he or she has any questions. If you do not hear from a representative, you may want to call the Social Security office to confirm their receipt of your application.
A determination of your eligibility to qualify for disability payments may take months.
If you are denied benefits, you have access to an appeals process. However, the percentage of applicants awarded benefits following any appeals average between 2% and 11%.2
If your initial application is denied, and you want to appeal, you must do so by the deadline provided to you. This first level of appeal is referred to as a reconsideration. A reconsideration may be requested within 60 days of the date of denial. (Some states have eliminated this reconsideration review.) You should seek to determine why your case was denied. Very often, your application is denied because of a lack of medical evidence proving your case. Learning the reason for the denial will position you to better address the problems with your application in the appeals process.
The second appeal level is to obtain a hearing before an administrative law judge, which can be scheduled after the denial of a reconsideration. The request for a hearing must also be made within 60 days. Be aware that a hearing may take one and sometimes up to two years after the initial application.
Third and final appeal levels are available to you, and are heard in the Appeals Council and a federal district court, respectively.
You may want to consider hiring a disability lawyer or a non-lawyer representative (many of whom are former disability claim examiners or claims reps) from the outset of your disability application. Their experience may help your chances of a successful application or appeal. Of course, if you need to go as far as the Appeals Council, a lawyer is strongly suggested.
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2022-136990 Exp. 04/24