Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government benefit program designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who suffer from a permanent disability that prevents them from achieving gainful employment.
In order to qualify for SSDI, individuals must be able to prove that they are permanently disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and must have earned sufficient work credits to be eligible for Social Security benefits.
If an individual believes they meet these requirements, the process of attempting to claim benefits can begin. There are 5 potential stages to the SSDI application process:
Initial Application Stage
The initial application for SSDI can be submitted by mail, online, over the phone, or in person at a local Social Security office. In this initial stage, your application is reviewed by the SSA with the help of a state Disability Determination Service (DDS). Once a decision is reached, a letter will be sent to you containing the results of your claim.
Due to the overwhelming volume of disability claims in recent years, the denial rate for applications in the initial stage is well over 60%. In addition, it is not uncommon for the SSA or DDS to make errors or lose information during their evaluation. If you believe that the decision of the SSA in the initial stage of application is incorrect, you may move forward into the Reconsideration Stage.
In the Reconsideration Phase, your disability claim will be reviewed by an SSA representative who was not involved in the initial decision. At this point, any or all parts of the previous decision may be overturned.
Denial rates for claims in Reconsideration approach 85%, however, so if you wish to pursue your claim further you will likely need to escalate the case to the Hearing Stage.
In the Hearing Stage, you will be required to go before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to answer questions and present further evidence to support your disability claim. At this point, it is advisable to get representation if you have not already done so, as you may be required to present medical evidence, produce and questions witnesses, and be prepared to answer questions from the Administrative Law Judge.
After the hearing, you will be sent a letter from the SSA containing a copy of the judge's written decision.
If you disagree with the judge's decision after your hearing, you can take you case before the SSA Appeals Council for review.
At this point, the Appeals Council can decline to hear your case, send the case back to an administration law judge for review, or hear and decide your case itself. You will be sent a copy of the Appeals Council's decision or course of action.
Federal District Court
Should you disagree with the decision of the Appeals Council, the only remaining recourse is to file a lawsuit in Federal District Court.
The SSDI appeals process can be complicated and extremely time consuming. Attempting to appeal a denial without appropriate representation is unwise and can cripple your chances of success. Having a qualified disability attorney help you organize medical records, properly submit paperwork, and prepare for hearing can make all the difference when it comes to claiming your benefits.
The Law Office of Steven P. Brendemuehl currently handles Social Security disability cases in all 50 United States. With over 25 years of legal experience, Mr. Brendemuehl has a proven track record of delivering successful representation to his clients to ensure that they receive the full, fair disability benefit they deserve.
If you applying for, or have been denied, Social Security Disability benefits, contact the Law Office of Steven Brendemuehl today.