Social Security Disability - Getting Started
I remember the classic cartoon line: Watch that first step, it's a doozy. That first step of a Social Security claim is a doozy but not because it's dangerous. Everything seems hard before we begin. The key is to find a lawyer to help and take those first steps.
The Timeline of a Social Security ClaimApplication - The application can be completed online or in person at an SSA field office. As you can imagine, my preference is to complete the application for my clients to ensure we build the strongest case possible from the very first steps. I can meet with you in person or by phone. Once the application is filed, SSA will usually approve or deny in about 90-120 days. But, be ready if the application is denied. Any denial must be appealed within 60 days.
Reconsideration - If the application is denied, the next step to appeal is to request reconsideration. The reconsideration decision is usually provided within 90-120 days. But just like the application, if your reconsideration is denied, you must appeal within 60 days.
Request for Hearing - If the reconsideration is denied, the next step is a hearing with Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). I have met so many ALJs and they are good people. However, they are busy and review many cases. They key is to emphasize the key factors of your claim as well as ensuring the ALJ is not distracted by information they don't need. Over the years, I have fine-tuned a process for ensuring the ALJ knows the essential information about a claim. I try to make it easy for them!
Appeals Council - It is very frustrating to be denied by an ALJ at a hearing, however, there are appellate steps after the hearing. The Appeals Council (AC) has very strict rules about what factors will allow them to overturn an ALJ's hearing decision. However, the main thing I need is a copy of the detailed decision the ALJ wrote regarding the hearing. I can read through the ALJ's decision to see if the ALJ made any errors that affected the case. When I see anything that could help reverse the decision, it's time to take action. But just like the other stages of the case, the deadline is just 60 days from the date of the decision.
What Information Does Social Security Need?Understandably, SSA needs medical records to make determinations about a claim. If a person does not have health insurance or has not obtained any medical treatment prior to the claim, it is important to discuss this. There may be local, free medical sources to help in these instances. Over time, I have compiled a directory of many free sources around Virginia, Maryland and DC.
They key to winning is to build the strongest case possible from the earliest moment of the claim. And of course, it's important to respond to any and all calls and letters SSA might send as they review the claim.
Keep in mind that for every medical condition that contributes to disability, there must be medical records on which SSA can rely.