Nobody likes to think about becoming disabled. When it happens to you or a family member, however, it helps to know what your options are.
If you’ve been injured or diagnosed with a medical condition that renders you unable to work—temporarily or permanently—you might be considering Social Security Disability. Benefits from SSDI can help you pay your bills, get the medical treatment you need, and support yourself.
We want to help you understand what to expect. The SSDI claims process can be complex, but it’s not impossible—particularly if you have help from knowledgeable Social Security Disability lawyers.
Below, we give an overview of the application process for Social Security Disability, from determining whether you qualify through getting a claim approved.
Do You Qualify?
Before filing a claim, it’s important to determine whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability.
To qualify, you must satisfy two criteria: you must have a medical condition preventing you from working for at least one year, and you must have worked recently and for a certain number of years. (This is because SSDI is a federal program funded by payroll taxes, meaning that you have to have worked in order to get benefits.)
The Social Security Administration has a list of medical conditions, called the blue book, that qualify for benefits. If your condition is not included, you may still get benefits if the condition is “medically equivalent.”
If you are disabled and unable to satisfy the SSA’s work requirements, you may want to consider applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. Like SSDI, SSI provides benefits for individuals with disabilities, but it is a needs-based program. This means that you can receive benefits if you can show that you have limited income.
Can Your Claim Be Expedited?
It can take up to one year to get approved for SSDI benefits. The length of time you have to wait will depend on several factors. If your claim is initially denied, for example, it will take longer to appeal and approve your claim.
On the other hand, there are a few scenarios in which your claim may be expedited. You may qualify for special treatment if you have a very serious condition: the SSA has a list called “Compassionate Allowances” which includes conditions that are so serious that the claimant gets special treatment to process the claim as quickly as possible. You may also be able to get your claim expedited if you are facing eviction or home foreclosure.
What Is the Average Process Like?
If your claim is not eligible for special treatment, what does the process look like?
You will need to file your claim with a local SSA field office. Your claim can be filed in person, over the phone, or online. The claim should include evidence of your medical condition, treatment, and other relevant information.
The SSA field office will verify certain eligibility requirements, like your age, employment history, and Social Security coverage. After this is done, the claim is then sent on to a state agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS). The DDS then looks at the medical evidence in your claim and determines whether or not you qualify as disabled under the law.
The DDS will typically request information from your own medical provider first. However, if the evidence from your health care provider isn’t enough, the agency may also arrange for its own medical exam (called a “consultative examination”). The exam and additional tests (like x-rays, EKGs, etc.) are usually done by your doctor.
Depending on the evidence, the DDS may approve or deny your claim.
If your claim is approved, the Social Security Administration calculates the amount of benefits you will receive and begins your payments. Your payments will continue for as long as you have a disability; however, the SSA will periodically review your case to see if you are still unable to work. If your condition is expected to improve, the review may take place as soon as six months later. If your condition is uncertain or not expected to improve, the SSA will wait to review your case for several years.
If your claim is denied, all is not lost. You can appeal your claim. To do this, you will need to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Here, you might consider hiring an attorney (if you hadn’t already). A qualified Social Security Disability attorney is a great asset to have when persuading a judge to approve your claim. After the hearing, the judge may approve or deny your claim. If denied, you also have the option of appealing at the federal level through a civil lawsuit.
Throughout the claims process, it’s a good idea to check on the status of your claim regularly. You’ll want to know, for example, if the SSA didn’t get one of your documents in the mail or if the SSA is waiting on your doctor to send medical records. Keeping on top of the claims process will help your claim go more smoothly and make sure that you aren’t denied for a preventable reason.
Call Us Today
Do you still have questions about the process? We’d be happy to answer them. Contact the Social Security Disability attorneys at Casper & Casper to talk about your case and learn your options. We offer free consultations and have offices in Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, and Middletown for your convenience.