I have been representing Social Security claimants for over 30 years. Initial consultations are absolutely free. Cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis with our fee being paid out of retroactive benefits found to be owed you on appeal. If we are unsuccessful, you owe us nothing. Attorney Theodore Koben
Social Security Runs Two Disability Programs
Social Security provides payment not only to retired individuals but to people who, as a result of injury or medical conditions, can no longer support themselves in any capacity for at least one year. The federal Social Security Administration runs two separate disability programs – SSI and Social Security Disability. Both programs offer ongoing monthly cash assistance and are exceptionally similar in nature. Social Security disability benefits are greater than those available under SSI. SSI is a welfare program for people without a job history and little by way of assets.
How to Apply For Benefits
Most Social Security disability claims are initially processed through a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State agencies (usually called Disability Determination Services or DDSs). Subsequent appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided in a DDS or by an administrative law judge in SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. You can also apply online by going to https://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-16.html
Social Security representatives in the field offices usually obtain applications for disability benefits in person, by telephone, by mail, or by filing online. The application and related forms ask for a description of the claimant’s impairment(s), treatment sources, and other information that relates to the alleged disability. (The “claimant” is the person who is requesting disability benefits.)
Usually, the DDS tries to obtain evidence from the claimant’s own medical sources first. If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, the DDS will arrange for a consultative examination (CE) to obtain the additional information needed. The claimant’s treating source is the preferred source for the CE, but the DDS may obtain the CE from an independent source. After completing its development of the evidence, trained staff at the DDS makes the initial disability determination.
Then, the DDS returns the case to the field office for appropriate action. If the DDS found that the claimant is disabled, SSA completes any outstanding non-disability development, computes the benefit amount, and begins paying benefits. If the claimant was found not to be disabled, the file is kept in the field office in case the claimant decides to appeal the determination.
How Does Social Security Evaluate Who Is Disabled And Who Is Not?
For each of the major body systems, SSA maintains a list with categories of Impairment so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. If your condition is not on the list, they decide if your condition is of equal severity to a medical condition that is on the list. If it is, they will find that you are disabled. If it is not, the process continues.
If your condition is determined to be “severe” but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then SSA determines if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously. If you cannot do the work you did in the past, SSA considers your medical conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have to make a decision if you are able to adjust to other work that exists in the national economy. If they decide you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied. You have 60 days to appeal further.
Appealing a Disability Denial
There is then a two step appeal process. Engaging an attorney knowledgeable in the process is essential. The first level of appeal is called a “Reconsideration” of your claim. If you are denied once again you have another 60 days, from the date of decision, to appeal the denial to an Administrative Law Judge. “Reconsideration” occurs within Social Security. Appeals to an Administrative Law Judge are conducted with an actual hearing that you will attend with your attorney. Representation by legal counsel is essential.