Applying for Disability Benefits
Applying for disability benefits is unfortunately a time-consuming and technical process. While some individuals may able to navigate the system, an experienced attorney can be extremely valuable and increase the likelihood that you receive a favorable benefits determination. An experienced lawyer is familiar with the workings of the Social Security Administration and the types of things disability determination agents and administrative law judges look for.
The Initial Consultation
Typically your pathway to Social Security benefits begins by meeting with you prospective attorney. You will probably discuss your injury, illness or impairment. Your attorney may also ask you questions about your finances. In some situations where the deficit is a neurological one, your lawyer may ask if you have had any objective tests performed. Your lawyer will probably want to know the ways in which you disability limits you and how the disability prevents you from doing your previous work.
Further, because there are effectively income limitations for both SSD and SSI, your attorney is likely to ask you questions about your finances. These questions are not meant to pry into your life, but rather to ensure that you are likely qualify for benefits before taking action.
Obtaining Evidence Proving Your Condition
After the initial interview and work-up, your attorney is likely to ask you about the places you received medical treatment, underwent rehabilitative surgery, received your education and more. Generally speaking, the medial records like notes by a physician, hospital records, and impatient treatment logs can reveal many of the signs and symptoms presented by the individual’s impairment. Educational records and testimony of those close to you are more likely to reveal the functional impacts of your impairments. For instance, a mother may testify that due to a severe ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder her son is unable to conform his behavior to the social situation and often lashes out at authority figures. If the claims examiner finds this testimony credible, it reveals problems the child is having in his daily life.
Submitting your Application to the Social Security Administration
Once your attorney has obtained evidence that supports your severe impairment or combination of impairments, he or she will prepare your case and application. Your attorney will attempt to present your situation in the most favorable light while still presenting an accurate picture of your disability and its impacts.
Following your application’s receipt by the Social Security Administration, it will be reviewed by a claims determination specialist. The Administration may contact your attorney if it feels additional information is needed or if other family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits. The Administration processes your application and can send its determination by mail or e-mail.
Disability Determination and Appeals
It is not uncommon for a Social Security benefits application to take several appeals before a favorable determination is granted. At the appeal level your attorney analyzes the decision looking for mistakes of law or fact. Because there are four levels of appeal, the appeal process can be a lengthy one. However a lengthy process is certainly preferable to benefits being foreclosed. Should your application require an appeal, there are four levels:
- Reconsideration – Your application is reviewed in full by a person who did not participate in the initial determination.
- Hearing before an administrative law judge – The hearing is held before an ALJ who did not participate in the original determination. At the hearing the judge may ask you questions about your condition and its impacts. Your attorney can guide you through this process.
- Appeals council review – The appeals council can review decisions after review by an ALJ. The council can decide the case itself or remand it to an ALJ for further inquiry.
- Federal court review – At the final level of appeal you may file a suit in federal court.
Applying for disability benefits through Social Security can be an extremely complex process. However the benefits paid by SSD and SII can markedly increase an individual’s quality of life. For a confidential initial consultation contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law by calling 479-439-1843 or contact us online.