Filing for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be intimidating. No matter what your condition, you’re facing a mountain of paperwork and tons of difficult questions.
The more you understand the process ahead, the easier it becomes to handle. Here’s what you should know:
Everybody goes through the same basic steps
With only a few exceptions for terminal conditions, everybody has to follow the same steps to obtain Social Security Disability:
- You file an application (online, over the phone or in an office), sign medical release forms and submit any documentation you have of your condition.
- You wait while your application is sent to the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) for evaluation. You will probably be contacted again for more information about your work history, your education and the limitations caused by your condition(s).
- Your claim will either be approved or denied. If it’s denied, you have the right to file a Reconsideration within 60 days. When you do, your file is updated with any new information and sent back to the DDS to a new claims examiner for a new decision.
- If your claim is denied again, you have the right to ask for a Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (If your claim is still denied, you may ask for an Appeals Council review and a Federal Court review, although these are not common.)
The biggest question disability claimants often have is, “What takes so long?” The answer is partially the staffing issues faced by both SSA and DDS, but it also has a lot to do with the mechanics of the process.
It can take time for the claims examiner to communicate with physicians and get the information or records they need. You can sometimes shorten your waiting time considerably by providing much of your medical documentation upfront.
A lot of people put off filing for Social Security Disability benefits longer than they should, simply because they’re frightened or confused about the process. Legal guidance can make it easier to put the evidence of your disability together and present a strong case – whether it’s the first time you are filing or upon appeal.