Making an Application: The first step in applying for Social Security disability benefits is to complete an interview with the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). You can schedule an interview with SSA by calling them at 1-800-772-1213. You will have the option of completing your interview in person at your local Social Security office or requesting that a telephone interview be conducted by SSA. The process is generally faster and more convenient if you request that a telephone interview be scheduled. If requesting a telephone interview, SSA will schedule a time and date for one of their representatives to contact you at home, via the telephone. Upon completing the interview, SSA will send you a number of forms for your review and signature. Have a look at social security online office for more info on this.
Initial Decision: Once you have completed the initial application, it may take SSA up to 120 days to process your claim and make its initial decision. Please note most claims, approximately 75 percent, are denied at the initial level. If your claim is denied our office will complete the appeal form (Request for Reconsideration). As there is only a 60 day time period in which to appeal an unfavorable initial decision, it is important that you contact an attorney right away once you receive an unfavorable initial decision.
Request for Reconsideration: If your claim has been denied, you have 60 days from the date of the initial decision to file an appeal. The first appeal is called a “Request for Reconsideration” and involves submitting an appeal form and ensuring SSA is apprised of any updated medical information. Once SSA has obtained any updated medical information, your claim will be reviewed and a new decision will be made. It typically takes SSA four-to-six months to make a decision at the Reconsideration level, and approximately 95 percent of all cases are denied at this step. If your claim is denied at the Reconsideration level, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You have only 60 days from the date of the Reconsideration decision to file an appeal; therefore, it is important if you do not already have a representative that you contact an attorney right away once you receive an unfavorable Reconsideration decision.
Request for Hearing: If your initial claim and Reconsideration appeal were denied, the next step is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Most claims for Social Security disability benefits – over 70 percent – are approved at the hearing level. The hearing process is very informal. The judge and your attorney will ask you questions about your daily activities and how your disability limits you. These questions will be very simple and similar to the questions our office has already asked you about your disability. A medical expert and vocational expert hired by Social Security may also be called to testify at your hearing. These experts are not there to testify for or against you, but to give their opinion about your disability and how it would impact your ability to work. The hearing will be very short. Typically, a hearing lasts 30-60 minutes. Most of the talking will be between the judge, the attorney, and the experts. You may be answering some questions for 10-20 minutes during the hearing. The hearing will likely be far less frightening than you will imagine it to be. Any questions the judge asks you will be about you and what you can and cannot do because of your disability; there are no right or wrong answers. As I often tell my clients, there is no better witness about how your disability limits what you can do than you.