Applying for Disability
The Injustice of Delay of Social Security Benefits
Depending on the region of the country in which a person lives, it takes on average 9 – 27 months after filing to receive a first check. Some people wait over 3 years to receive the benefits they are entitled to.
Most people are unprepared for the financial disaster that comes from an unexpected disabling condition. Since they can no longer work, people turn to using their life savings to pay their bills. They are forced to choose between medication and food, or paying the water or heating bills. They sell their cars, and borrow from friends. Once their savings run out, they are evicted or lose their homes.
Cause of the Delay
Under-funding is the root cause of the delay. Due to the aging population of baby boomers, more claims are filed today than ever before, yet budget allocations to the SSA have been frozen for years. Staff levels are far below what is necessary to process the huge increase in new cases every year.
It is a myth that the SSA doesn't pay cases, or delays the application process intentionally, to reduce benefits payable to claimants. It is also a myth that judges or the SSA wrongly deny cases in order to save the government money. The simple truth is that Congress has not provided sufficient funds to properly staff the legal and administrative teams to process cases.
What Can Be Done to Fix the Problem?
Join in efforts to lobby your Congressmen and Senators to approve legislation to provide adequate funding to the Social Security Administration. Write to your local representatives, urging them to support bills that will help the Social Security Administration remedy the delay. We all need to make clear that fundamental decency and fairness require that we provide adequate means to keep our contract with people with disabilities.
What Can Be Done if You Have a Social Security Disability Claim?
If you believe you have a legitimate claim for disability benefits, you should not delay in filing your application. Since the backlog continues to grow, filing at the earliest opportunity reduces the time you have to wait before receiving benefits.
Preparation is critical to getting a claim approved quickly. First, be meticulous in completing all of the required forms and supporting documents. Be sure you get treatment for your condition and get copies of the records every time you visit your health care provider. Then, be sure you submit all of your records promptly.
Getting an Experienced Social Security Attorney to Represent You Makes a Difference!
Getting your case approved is not an easy task and many people are not well enough to fight the system alone. According to Richard P. Morris, the former President of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, getting legal representation improves your chances of winning by over 24%. Lawyers who specialize in this area, like Disability Group, know the details of the process and how to improve your chances of winning your case.
Call (800) 997-1338 today!
The Initial Application:
To begin the process, (whether SSI or SSDI) you must file an application. You can go into your local SSA field office, where an agent will assist you, you can communicate with SSA over the telephone, you can get a form from an SSA office and mail it in, or you can download the necessary paperwork from www.ssa.gov. Or your attorney can do it for you. If you need help, be sure to contact Disability Group for assistance! A phone call will preserve the filing date, but the SSA form must be completed.
If you believe you may be eligible, you should file an application as soon as possible, to preserve your application date. SSDI benefits are only payable for one year prior to the date the application is filed. There is also a five-month waiting period – so be sure to complete the application as soon as possible!
It is important to remember that the application is just the first step. Many claimants are denied on initial application. In fact, about 70% of initial applications are denied. SSA is a complicated bureaucracy and many legitimate disability claims have to be appealed all the way to an Administrative Law Judge before being awarded. Your best strategy is to ensure you have the most accurate and detailed medical information possible so your claim can be handled in a timely manner.
Proving Your Disability:
You, or your attorney, must provide medical evidence showing that you have an impairment(s) and how severe it is during the time you say that you are disabled. You must provide evidence showing how your impairment(s) affects your functioning during the time you indicate that you are disabled, and any other information needed to decide your claim. If asked, you must provide evidence about:
- Your age
- Your education and training
- Your work experience
- Your daily activities both before and after the disability
- Your efforts to work
- Any other factors showing how your impairment(s) affects your ability to work
The Appeals Process:
If your claim is denied, your file will be returned to SSA where it will be held to give you a chance to file for reconsideration. At this time, you can also ask that you (or your attorney) be allowed to review your file in order to understand why you were denied.
After initial denial, there are several levels of appeal. There have been recent changes in the law such that some levels are being omitted or replaced now. As for now, the appeals process in most areas is as follows:
- Request for Reconsideration
- Administrative Law Judge Hearing
- Appeals Council
- Federal District Court
Claimants can appeal using a one-page form that asks a few brief questions, or your attorney can help guide you through this process. If you need help, be sure to call Disability Group! The claimant has the opportunity to submit any new medical information during the request for reconsideration. A different member of the SSA staff will take a second look at your claim. Keep in mind: there is a 60-day time limit in which to file an appeal, plus 5-days for mailing, in effect giving you 65 days to file an appeal. Claimants who fail to request an appeal in a timely fashion must show good cause for late filing or the case is dismissed.